My Friend Michael Standish
In 1996, I was a newly-minted assistant editor and Michael Standish was one of the first authors I worked with. He was also one of the smartest. Together we produced articles on portable planers, jigsaws, belt sanders, plywood trim, and dust collection. Michael had a storied past. A man who’d attended both McGill and Boston University to study philosophy, he worked on drilling rigs and on pile-driving crews before morphing into a fine finish carpenter and a woodworker who paid attention to the details. He was hard to edit because his writing was so damn good, and yet so detailed and voluminous that it rarely fit in the allotted pages. Michael pulled no punches, saying exactly what he thought and why he thought it. I’m sure he annoyed more than one tool manufacturer, but I don’t remember getting a nasty phone call from any of them. If Michael said it, he backed it up.
Of all the authors I’ve edited, Michael had the firmest sense of what Taunton magazines ought to be – Detailed, thoughtful, well-written, and relevant. Lest we find ourselves drinking our own Kool-Aide, Michael once showed up at the office with pink T-shirts for the staff emblazoned “Fine Woodhogging”.
Michael loved to talk, to drink a glass of house red wine at lunch, and to smoke Winston cigarettes. He was a fanatic about woodshop dust collection, and I once asked if he didn’t see a contradiction between that and his smoking. He said no, that smoking was something he liked and chose to do, and that he accepted its risks as the price for his pleasure. Wood dust on the other hand, was something he wanted to control because, particularly as a smoker, he believed it added an unacceptable vocational hazard. I could argue his premises, but not his logic.
He didn’t drive. When he visited Taunton for photo shoots, Michael took Amtrak from Boston to New Haven. I would pick him up at Union Station and shuttle him around for the duration of the visit, often sharing three meals a day and evenings on a stool in Newtown’s lamented Fireside Tavern, drinking tap beer and trying to keep up with the conversation. Michael, it seemed, could find common ground with anyone, from the barmaid to the random actuary or mechanic who perched next to him.
A fan of baseball with a deep knowledge of the sport, he once asked before coming for dinner at my house if he could bring a mitt and throw a ball around with my kids. He then talked about how sore that would make his shoulder the next day, throwing out a quote I’ve reused more than once. “Man, it sucks how our bodies betray us as we get old.”
Our professional paths diverged a decade ago, but Michael called or emailed every few months. I last heard from him in May or June of this year. Michael always spoke slowly, in a deep, hollow, tone that minded me of a moving slab of stone, making sure he’d arranged his thoughts as he wanted them. This time he sounded old as well. He’d had some health problems this past winter he said, but thought it was under control. Still, he sounded like something vital had changed, and I was not surprised to hear of his death on August 24, at age 68.
In writing the previous sentence, I first used “passing” instead of “death”. Reading what I had written, I realized that phrasing would have insulted Michael’s memory. “Passing” is the sort of mealy-mouthed evasion that he despised. Dead is dead – Why on earth would you use a different word? That honesty is one of the reasons I loved the guy, and one of the reasons his contributions were so valuable.
Sliante, old friend.
Go here for a partial list of Michael Stanidsh’s articles. Unfortunately, some of his earlier work is not found on our site.