Luke Goodstein | October 19, 2006

If I were a technician on the $6 million man project, he would be running around with a garbage can for a leg and a tennis racket for an arm.

Since I was young everything I came in contact with was taken apart. It was not, however, put back together; that would be like asking the family doctor to perform brain surgery. (Maybe that's when I started saying, "What am I, a doctor?")

It was the insides of VCRs, computers, record players, and so on that intrigued me. Of course I knew nothing about the parts or how they were supposed to be taken out, so they were ripped out, broken, smashed, eventually to wind up in my hands for observation.

The trickiest part of the whole process was avoiding getting caught. I was good at not getting caught in the act, but what I was not good at was hiding the evidence. I would always try to weasel my way out.

My grandfather was always the victim; he was an electronics guru, but not in the mechanical sense: He just liked to buy the stuff. He always wanted the newest equipment so he could just look at it; he never used it. This drove me crazy, seeing all of those shiny, new, elaborate machines just waiting to be taken apart.

"Don't touch it, you're gonna break it!" he would always say to me, but I did anyway.

Eventually VCRs and record players were not of interest to me. I moved on to bigger things: car stereos. This was a whole new world of fiddling. Unlimited discovery and use of the imagination, what with the different-colored wires, trial and error, and, of course, the satisfaction of watching the stereo light up and hearing music emanate from speakers that were wired backwards.

It was a new approach for me. I was not only taking things apart but now I was doing the unthinkable: putting them back together. You always have to start somewhere, and I started on my first car, a 1988 Volkswagen Golf.

I ripped everything out of it. Wires were everywhere. When I started I told myself to take it slow and remember where each wire came from, but I was lost. The next thing I knew, the dash lights, headlights, interior light, and fuses all went.

So there I was, stuck with a rat's nest of wires and no idea where to go next. I didn't know what a constant or switched power wire was (which would cause some serious issues later on). Should have been a lesson learned for me, but it wasn't. After hours of cursing, screaming, and kicking I got the stereo in (though it did need to be manually disconnected every time you turned the car off), and the speakers hooked up, but the dash lights never returned.

Every morning I would wake up and try to undo my mistakes, try to make it better than it was, and every time I would make more of a mess than when I started. I tried hooking up house speakers in the car. Imagine driving around with floor speakers shoved in the back seat; what was I thinking?

I thought I had it down. Nothing could stop me and every car would be a walk in the park. When a friend asked me to help him put in a stereo for him it was Armageddon. I couldn't find the constant and switched power wires, and when I thought I did, sparks would fly. All cars are not the same, as I soon found out, and his car would never be the same.

But fear not! I have indeed become good at installing car stereos, and wires are now my good friends. I have learned that patience and will power can complete any job, no problem. Unfortunately, frustration is a hard thing to overcome.

I realize that my sister will eventually read or hear about this and finally find out what happened to her two record players. So I will take the time to say I'm sorry (although I think she always knew).

Everyone in the family has fallen victim to my destruction of their beloved electronics, but because of that I now know more than ever, and with each passing day I strive to do as little damage as possible in reconstruction. You will still, of course, have to sign a waiver if I do any work on your vehicle.

Luke Goodstein works in The Star's front office.