To Handworks, With Fear in My, Uh, Heart


Handworks 2015. Day 1. There’s a reason I have that look on my face.

Warning: This blog entry contains medical information that might make you uncomfortable. If you are squeamish, here’s the executive summary: Yes, I’ll be at Handworks.

Perhaps because I have a lot of German blood, my body is like juicy, meaty clockwork. In the early 1990s, I used to attend and write about a political event in Western Kentucky called “Fancy Farm.” The problem: Every year I attended, I came down with an embarrassing and debilitating infection in my nether regions (the area of the body we call “The Good China”).

My doctor was puzzled but gave me this sound advice: “Don’t go to Fancy Farm anymore.” Since then I’ve had many other clockwork medical conditions, such as the “Thanksgiving crash” after turkey day.

Fast forward to 2015. During the last Handworks, I missed the entire second day of the event. The word among the snarks was that I was too hung over, due to to a beer bender.

I wish it had been a hangover. Hangovers last about a day.

Instead, I ended up in the emergency room in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, dehydrated with a high fever and unable to eat or drink. Oh, and I should mention that I had the runs. Using the term “runs” here is an understatement. Like saying Catherine the Great “kind of liked horsies.”

I was diagnosed with c. difficile and sent home to recover (thank you Megan Fitzpatrick for driving me home on what we now call “The Trail of Smears”). It took me eight months of treatment and tests to get clear of the bacteria. And another three months after that to feel like a normal person.

So I am not looking forward to Handworks next month like I should be. It really is the greatest woodworking event I’ve ever attended or been involved with. If you aren’t going, I hope you have a good excuse (such as c. difficile).

I’ll be there – and I hope I’ll be there for both days. Though I’ll be bracing for the worst.

During the 2015 Handworks it was so crowded that John and I were unable to go to the bathroom. Every time we took a step away from the booth we got mobbed. This year if you see one of us headed for the men’s room, you might just want to steer clear.

Just sayin’.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to To Handworks, With Fear in My, Uh, Heart

  1. gtrboy77 says:

    I’m sure it’s probably very easy to pick up a bug at one of these events, with all the hand-shaking and everyone handling the tools. I’d bring a quart of hand sanitizer and still be very diligent about washing my hands. Good luck and see you at Handworks!

    • colsdave says:

      Apparently c. difficile sneers at such stuff: “The organism forms heat-resistant spores that are not killed by alcohol-based hand cleansers or routine surface cleaning, thus, these spores survive in clinical environments for long periods. Because of this, the bacteria may be cultured from almost any surface. Once spores are ingested, their acid-resistance allows them to pass through the stomach unscathed. They germinate and multiply into vegetative cells in the colon upon exposure to bile acids.”

  2. marvthompson says:

    No hand shakes, I’ll just wave and say Hi. Should be a great event I know the first two were. Now, to try and stay in budget……

  3. ne8il says:

    I came down with c.diff my junior year of high school after some improperly prepared meat at the local Mongolian bbq. It was, uh, a shitty weekend, the least of which being a colonoscopy at the ripe age of 17. I don’t think i realized at the time how serious it was aside from the nurse wearing a hazmat suit and being effectively quarantined at Riley. Glad you recovered and hope you remain bug free this year.

  4. gilgaron says:

    You will resist infections like that a little better with frequent probiotics, like a live culture yogurt.

  5. Erik Pearson says:

    I have 10 month-old twins and a 16yr old. Leaving my wife alone for 2-ish days might be hazardous to my health.

    • colsdave says:

      Oh, I don’t know. If you left her truly alone and took said 3 chillens with you, a hall pass might well be granted.

  6. As a microbiologist, I rather enjoyed this gross article, but I’m so sorry you had to deal with nasty C. diff. Did you end up having a fecal transplant? If it comes back, that seems to be the way to treat it successfully. (Sorry I just added to the ick factor!)

  7. nrhiller says:

    This post made me laugh out loud. It was the “Trail of Smears” that did it. Well done on turning a horrible (not to mention dangerous) experience into humor. The comments, too, are precious.

  8. bsrlee says:

    So, a gallon of disinfectant, a couple of slabs of bottled water, a case of mixed MRE’s, a lock up case to hold the second and third items. And given the first problem, maybe a bale of disposable seat covers for the porcelain bus.

    As for getting mobbed on the floor, a pair of cheap glasses that C. Schwarz would never be caught wearing (look up ‘Dame Edna’ for an idea and laugh), maybe a janitor’s coat and mop.

  9. Having take someone dear to the ER for ordinary vomiting and diarrhea, and having seen how important getting two liters of water back in her bloodstream immediately was to her well being, I appreciate your sharing this, and the heads up to your community.

  10. mrogen says:

    Uh, Chris, please disregard my email sent earlier! Although, bizarre as your case was, I think I can come up with at least 2-3 that are as weird and as dangerous. What a journey that would be!

  11. franktiger says:

    Man that sounds rough I have to stay away from the northwest, something in the air around the great lakes gives me bronchitis every time visit.
    On another note(off topic) checked my email and Roman worbenches shipped tuesday and tracking the book is simple to understand with the new setup.

  12. Mark Baker says:

    Hope your feeling better

  13. Mark Baker says:

    Chris , see if you can get some ‘fresh’local bee pollen , some Wasabi Hot Mustard , a serving of saimin soup . Make your soup as hot as you can take it with the ‘wasabi[the hotter the better] , add 3 tbs. pollen . Be ready to be relied from both ends . Your burb loudly and pass gas just as loud within 5-10 minutes , but it will be a blast of relief !

  14. LOML got c diff from a contaminated well. She went through hell and back getting rid of it.
    People are dangerously contageous. Might I suggest a water mister to spray anyone who gets too close. 😈

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