ModelStory: The Crisp Brochure Stage

IMG_2914[1]Thinking about this poor guy loading Mount Samsonite into the rental car – his wife having packed three dresser drawers and half of Best Buy after admonishing the kids to only take what they really need – I was going to write about how some people travel light and others don’t and what that says about such and so, but that lifting is far to heavy for the month of June.

It’s vacation time, man.

The whole summer is before us and Salvation Point is gloriously awash in tourists:

People who set an “out of office” autoreply and so far haven’t broken the promise to themselves not to look at what they’ve autoreplied to.

People who are nervous about starting high school in the fall but the anxiety is on hold until the ride home.

People who’ve never experienced a National Park and when the train pulls away they look across the tracks at Many Lost Ways and are momentarily struck dumb.

You’re never so rich as at the beginning of a vacation. The whole thing is in the bank, you haven’t spent any of it, and Mom or Dad or whoever’s in charge says something like “Let’s just take a minute to get oriented and figure out the game plan.” There’s talk of “getting settled at the hotel” or “setting up camp” and of “maybe after dinner a little drive to get the lay of the land.”

In the vacation lifecycle, it’s the Crisp Brochure Stage.

Someone browses the rack in the depot and grabs four or six glossy tri-folds with great pictures of river rafting and horseback riding and trout fishing. The corners are sharp and pointy and they are spread out on the hotel bed and pored over, and then they are hauled around in a backpack until the melancholy Unpacking at Home Stage, where they are found creased and dog-eared with little white scars where the paper was chafed. They are laden with memory and are not easily discarded.

In August the Departures outnumber the Arrivals and the depot is a different place. People are heading home to face Freshman Year or The Inbox, and the few folks enjoying Crisp Brochure Stage don’t project the same excitement. August vacations have an air of desperation around them – people are trying to squeeze in some magic before school starts and the leaves turn.

That’s when the mood is right to examine who packs light and why.

Let’s not worry about it now. Forget I mentioned it. Enjoy your vacation.

Assorted Herpa, Wiking and Atlas vehicles, custom-painted Model Power figure, hand-sculpted Play-Doh luggage.

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Oh New TV, What Will You Show Us?

IMG_2909When I was in Eighth Grade I saved up enough lawn mowing money to buy my own TV for my own room and when we brought it home and set it up late on a school night the first thing it showed me was “The Tonight Show” – not Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno but Johnny Carson.

It was a Zenith, American-made donchaknow, and I’m frugal so it served me for many years.

I watched the first Gulf War on that TV, Dan Rather and SCUD missiles and Stormin’ Norman Schwartzkopf, the green night vision Baghdad sky and all those images from the noses of the smart bombs, Colin Powell dignified, smart, trustworthy.

I followed Dale Earnhardt every Sunday on that TV, watched him clinch his seventh Winston Cup title with a dramatic win over Ted Musgrave at Rockingham – on my birthday – watched him finally win The 500, and watched on that TV the crash that killed him, then hung my head and prayed for his family.

That TV went with me to college, where it showed me the bombed-out Murrah Federal Building and where it also showed “A River Runs Through It” one night but I wasn’t watching because with me there was a pretty, ginger-haired girl I don’t know anymore who also wasn’t watching – a first for this late bloomer.

That TV brought me Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton, who did not have sex with that woman, Ken Starr and articles of impeachment and that suspicious strike on Afghanistan that sure seemed like a diversion.

It was that TV my wife and I watched for wordless hours on 9/11.

I watched the second Gulf War on that TV, Wolf Blitzer and unmanned aerial vehicles, the rescue fairy tale of Jessica Lynch, WMD or maybe not, the sketchy buildup and testimony at the UN, Colin Powell betrayed, humiliated, wrong.

I fell asleep one evening in front of that TV and my wife woke me up in time to watch Barak Obama announce that Osama Bin Laden was dead.

I never missed “Lost” on that TV, and angrily shut it off after that sham final episode.

If that TV could talk.

I suppose it could, in a manner of speaking. But then one day last week while rearranging some furniture I cranked a little too hard on the cable input, and my trusty Zenith will say no more.

The new TV is beautiful. One of those big, flat-screen HD wall-mount jobs you can see from Venus and when it was delivered and set up on a Saturday afternoon the first thing it showed us was baseball, the home team down by ten runs.

I wonder what else we’ll see. Stay tuned.

ModelStory: The Last Time

???????????????????????????????Big Roger thinks about the Last Time a lot since they moved him to the home.

The Last Time he used his table saw.

The Last Time he fired a rifle.

The Last Time he shuffled out to his own mailbox.

The Last Time with Mae.

The Last Time with Mae – gosh, when was that?

He’s not sure when the Last Time was for any of those things, he just knows they don’t happen anymore.

He remembers the Last Time he drove that pickup, though. It was in the ‘70s and his two oldest were canoeing and he set out to pick them up. He was cutting overland along the railroad tracks toward the river (people did that in those days, though the Last Time was awhile ago) and POW! – a ball joint let go and she went down on one knee like a wounded mule.

The truck was surplus by then, a Saturday beater he never much cared for anyway, so other priorities got in the way of retrieving it. The Last Time he seriously considered it was a weekend that same summer, when his brother offered to drive down from Kanab with his wrecker, but then there was a pileup on 89 and oh, brother made a bundle on the cleanup instead.

So the truck is there and he is here and he wonders, “When was the Last Time I could have gone down there and turned it over?”

The Ford wouldn’t have gone anywhere on its crippled suspension anyway. But he’s the same – a good motor in a ruined chassis – so the wondering is good for his mind:

When was the moment? The Last Time the bearings and gaskets and plugs were all still just good enough, it would’ve cranked and maybe sputtered but the old straight six would have caught, and then the next moment – just a moment’s more corrosion on the points maybe – it wouldn’t have?

That’s the funny thing about the Last Time, he thinks. You hardly ever know it.

When does a disabled truck become a derelict?

When does bread become toast?

When does a man become an old man and then become – well, what sort is he now?

Big Roger remembers when they were young Mae would run her fingers through his hair when she rode with him in that pickup. He loved that, but parenthood doesn’t leave much room for scooting over on the bench seat, so there was a Last Time for that, too, but he’s not sure when it was.

He thinks about a routine he had with the kids at bedtime. Sometimes he would carry them by the ankles and swing them upside down before sliding them under the covers and then one day – who knows when? – the littlest got too big. A giggling child curled up liking how Daddy did that, but it was the Last Time and no one knew it.

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(Modified and weathered Classic Metal Works 1954 Ford F-350, JTT trees, Woodland Scenics field grass.)

$2.50 Rolling Stock!!!

Never skip an opportunity to sift through the bargain bin at your local hobby shop.

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During recent visits to my train monger, I scooped up a pair of Roundhouse Apache Railway boxcars and an Atlas Burlington Northern covered hopper for the basement price of $2.50 apiece.

Out of the box, the models weren’t worth much more than that. The lettering and finish were poor and the running gear was truck-mounted Rapido couplers and ancient plastic wheels. But we can fix all that.

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Here’s the step-by-step for the hopper. The boxcars got similar treatment:

I removed the old trucks and discarded them, retaining the bolster pins. (I’ve found that older rolling stock doesn’t always accept new Micro-Trains pins.) I then gave the car a good spray of dullcoat to give the shiny finish a little tooth.

Using a toothpick dipped in burnt sienna paint, I dappled the sides and ends of the car with random rust spots. I then mixed some rust-colored weathering powder with a little rubbing alcohol to make a thin paste. With a fine brush, I drew streaks of the paste down from each rust spot.

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I then applied a wash of light rust-colored alcohol ink solution to the entire car. With careful downward strokes, I used the wash to soften the rust streaks without rubbing them out entirely.

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When the wash was dry, I patched out the Burlington Northern herald and reporting marks with dark-green paint. Some modelers suggest masking patch outs and spray painting them. I think the rounded corners and uneven edges of my brush painted patches better simulate the quick work of a guy in the car shop wielding a spray gun or roller.

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After the patches dried overnight, I added FCFL reporting marks and car number decals. I set the decals with Micro-Sol and let them dry. I then brushed a light coat of dullcoat over the decals to seal them. When that was dry, I coated the decals with my alcohol ink solution to knock down their bright white. When that dried, the dullcoat and alcohol ink had hazed up so I brushed another coat of dullcoat over the top. The several layers of dullcoat and weathering wash further enhance the spray-gun look of the patches, in my opinion.

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I outfitted the car with my standby Micro-Trains 100-ton roller bearing trucks and Fox Valley Models 36-inch metal wheelsets. I weathered the trucks with powders and painted the wheels rail brown.

There are some very beautiful, very expensive models on the market, but you can fill in your fleet nicely with pretty good, budget-friendly cars from the bargain bin.

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