Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tommy Mac - From a friend

This is from a friend. We knew each other in college and we have been fortunate enough to still be in contact with each other.  While he doesn’t collect autographs frequently he does have a few.  When he told me this anecdote, I just had to ask if he’d mind sharing...
 Madison is not blessed with an abundance of dedicated woodworking supply stores but we have a few.  My favorite, the one that happened to be located close to my place of work, found it necessary to relocate and this was their grand re-opening weekend.  Normally, I’d have skipped the potential for big crowds but I got a mailing that Thomas MacDonald, a.k.a. Tommy Mac, was going to be there to meet and greet fans of his PBS television show, “Rough Cut”.  He builds nice stuff and even when I am not interested in what he is building, I often glean useful tips on how he’s building it.  So with a little urging from my wife, we headed over to the store.
Tommy was “holding court” in the middle of the store, sitting on a work bench and chatting with a circle of 15-20 people on whatever topic came to mind.  I listened to the conversation as I browsed the facility, stopping now and then to listen more closely or watch some demonstration.  Tommy’s from Boston (or should I say “Bah-stin”) and was clearly at ease with fans and the crowd.  He talked about what it’s like to do woodworking with a camera crew in your face (“I spent the first year convinced that they were filming the inside of my nostrils”), how they plan out shows, his education in woodworking, etc.
I finally picked up a copy of his book and browsed through it with the wife looking over my shoulder.  It was a mix of projects and helpful tips.  There wasn’t really any indication that there was going to be a formal autograph signing session so I took a cue from someone else who had asked him earlier to sign a book:  I wanted for a pause in the discussion, made eye contact and asked nicely if he’d mind signing the book.
“No problem!  What’s your name?” as he shook my hand and took the book. He signs a quick dedication but before he finishes, I ask, “Can I ask a quick question?”  “Sure.” was his response.  “If you could pick one restaurant in Boston for dinner, where would you go?”  Odd question except that we’re in the middle of planning a trip to New England in May and we’re trying to figure out places we might like to eat.  Who better to ask than a native?!
Without hesitation, Tommy says “Davio’s.” and then continued with “Are you going to be in Boston?”  I replied “Yes, in May.”  “Awesome,” says Tommy, “you should come visit my shop.”  As he writes his phone number in the back of my book he said “Call and leave me a message.  Remind me where I met you and we’ll get together.” I really hope that my mouth wasn’t hanging open as he made this offer.  I’m thinking “Holy crap.  I just got invited to hang out with one of the best known modern woodworkers on the planet.”  My wife was nearly as pleased as I was with both the autograph and the invitation.  When I told her later that I might have to skip the whale watching trip that we were planning with another couple, she said “I was already thinking that is exactly what you need to do.”  I have such a wonderful wife!
Don’t know if I’ll be able to make it work.  After all, he’s probably a really busy guy and I’ve only got a very narrow window of availability during our trip but it’s worth a shot.  At least I’ve got a phone number and can hopefully establish some kind of a connection with him now that will allow for a visit whenever it works.
A great encounter and retelling and I really appreciate his sharing it with me.  Being at the right place at the right time and being friendly is a big part of the autograph hunting. The reward is usually the autograph and maybe a memory -  An invite to a see the studio/woodshop is above and beyond expectations.  I really look forward to hearing more and seeing some photos for the tour; whether it’s from this trip or the next  to ‘Bah-stin’.

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