E-bay, Bamboo Fishing Rods, and the Lure of Social Capital


The last thing I am focused on when I am fishing around ebay is a replenishing of hope in humanity.  I’m usually looking for something  really great that they don’t make anymore or a “pre-loved” high quality item that I could not afford to buy new.  Ebay is a popular fishing hole for people who are in love with withering pastimes…book lovers, fly fishers, record collectors, Atari buffs…so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by Arnie Superchi’s inadvertent hook up to a rich pool of social capitol in the form of 72 year-old Jennie Parramoure while trying to teach himself how to restore/build a bamboo fly rod.
Arnie pulled the trigger on his first 9 foot antique bamboo rod and realized pretty quickly after it arrived on his doorstep that there were going to be some questions about how to proceed with the transformation.  Naturally, as many of us do when panic sets it, Arnie reverted to the Ebay lifeline (officially referenced as “ the-person-who-sold-us-the-damn-thing”).  Now, when you do this, you are fully aware that the person may not respond as it is possible that they are an “Ebay Dumper” (officially known as the” I’m- so- glad- I’m –free- of- that -damn -thing Ebay-er )  who is relishing in his newly found freedom.  What you don’t expect is for someone to spend 8 months corresponding, consulting, and encouraging you every step of the way as the two of you unknowingly write a 36 page how-to manual on bamboo fishing rod restoration.
What began as a casual inquiry resulted in an amazingly comprehensive and detailed documentation of the bamboo fishing rod rebuilding process.  In the course of Arnie Superchi and Jeannie Parramoure’s correspondence the following topics were addressed;  stripping 101, resetting a ferrule, finding the spline, taping 101, wrapping the rod, straightening a seat, cleaning old guides, cork and reel seats, varnishing, cleaning and shining rods, inscription pens, component storage, and restoration of classic rods.  Included in the discourse are practical and emphatic reminders for which Jennie seems to use all caps for added drama: 

“you will soon find that you will be going through razor blades like s**t thru a goose!!!DO NOT BUY THE PACKAGE AT THE LUMBER YARD OR LOWE’S OR HOME DEPOT THAT HAS THE 100 BLADES FOR $5.00!!!!!!!!  They are not sharp,,,they are coated with oil!!!!!!!!OIL IS A REAL BAD THING,,,REMEMBER—YOUR GOING TO BE CUTTING YOUR FINE THREAD WITH THESE SAME RAZORS…NO OIL,,,OIL WILL SHOW UP IN THE FINISHED PRODUCT AS DARK STAIN, WILL HAVE TO DO IT OVER,,,DON’T WANT TO  DO IT OVER, THERE IS ENOUGH WORK DOING IT ONCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (hahahahahahahahah (but not so funny, I’ve done it 100 times)”

When Arnie runs into a little trouble in the dipping process, Jennie troubleshoots the process with him and moves right into action getting Arnie’s confidence back on track:
“sounds like the varnish was too thick the 1st dipping…..and if you got another rod stripped…dip that puppy!!!!!!!!!!!!!WHAT YA WAITING FOR?????????”

If you are anything like me, I just “CAN’T HELP!!!!!!!!!” but want to get in on this!!!!!  I mean, how could Arnie NOT!!!!!! fall in love will this process?
The practice of rebuilding the rod is, as I read on, extremely technical.  But that’s not what I am left with at the end of the unlikely compendium.  Rather than feeling the pressure of small tolerances like those involved in complex craft, I am eager to enroll in this seemingly playful pastime.  Truth is, what I am really drawn to in this scenario has nothing to do with spending hours/days painstakingly removing toxic, 30 year old varnish from a piece of bamboo the approximate diameter of a toothpick.  In fact, it is the lure of social capitol that has my attention.  While I am fully convinced that I would fancy the experience of sporting my 6 foot bamboo rod in a stream, the value of that experience is also heavily dependent on the presence of others, sometimes in the physical sense and other times in the small pieces of information that I will use that day to troubleshoot the catching of trout.  After all, the greatest body of useable knowledge any fly fisher has is that which she has amassed via the networks and communities of other fly fishers.

For your reference:

What does “social capital” mean?
The central premise of social capital is that social networks have value. Social capital refers to the collective value of all “social networks” [who people know] and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other [“norms of reciprocity”].

How does social capital work?
The term social capital emphasizes not just warm and cuddly feelings, but a wide variety of quite specific benefits that flow from the trust, reciprocity, information, and cooperation associated with social networks. Social capital creates value for the people who are connected and – at least sometimes – for bystanders as well.

taken from Bettertogether.org is an initiative of the Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement in America 
at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.


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