Mr. Tinker Tries to Make a Deal

Heartbreaking but beautifully written.

tin hats

Waiting for life to load…

A message appears on his Skype.  Malcolm Staples wants to discuss some property.  Who is Malcolm Staples he thinks.  A veterinarian is supposed to be here in a few minutes, but the vet will probably be late, so maybe there is time for a quick call.  The man dials Malcolm’s number.  The phone rings and a young voice answers.

“I’d like to speak with Malcom Staples please.”

“Yes, this is he.  Is this Mr. Tinker?”

“The same,” he says.

“I’m glad you called back Mr. Tinker, I went by your houses, the ones for sale across from the football stadium, and I just wanted to ask a few questions.”

“Sure,” the man said, “but first who am I speaking with?”

Malcolm tells his story.  He is a developer/builder/real estate agent who used to work for one of the biggest home builders in Texas, but has…

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#ThursdayDoors: Siberia

My friend, who just returned from a trip to Russia, China and Tibet, said these doors and windows reminded her of me.  How sweet!  Thank you Mary Alice!  

She was in Irkutsk which is the capital of Siberia. According to Wikipedia, many journalists, writers and artists were exiled to this city in the 19th century because they irritated the factions currently in charge.

I won’t even attempt to fathom the history of Russia.  Whites, Reds, Bolsheviks, Communists – it’s like trying to sort out the history of British Royalty.  So many rebellions and power struggles.  Ugh.

The dissidents were sent to Siberia because it’s remote and the weather can be brutal but they certainly do have a lot of style.

According to Mary Alice, these are wooden windows. She did a great job on this shot, don’t you think?  Nice reflection.

I googled Irkutsk and was amazed by how many famous people were born in Siberia, Arguably the most famous was Rudolph Nureyev, born here in 1936.

This is an interesting little cabin.  From some reason, it made me think of Lincoln Logs.

 

Check out other doors from around the world at Norm’s Place.

 

 

 

Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor #ThursdayDoors

My husband has two passions: cooking and trains.  Today he’s making his signature dish, wickedly good Garlic Mac and Cheese, and so I was able to sneak into his train room. For those of you who aren’t involved in that particular hobby, modeling is extremely detail oriented work, particularly when you’re talking about the smaller gauges.  Above is an HO gauge model of the Pacific Fruit Express which is approximately five inches long and two inches tall. It was built from a kit, as were all the trains and buildings I’ll be showing today.

Above are some of the more complicated trains that he’s put together recently.  But there are thousands more.  Believe me.

The passenger trains even have passengers however, they don’t look very healthy.  This must be the Train of the Damned.  

Can you spot the conductor at the door?  He looks like he’s either waving or trying to get out.  Perhaps he’s realized the passengers are all zombies.

The one thing model railroaders are absolutely fanatical about is realism, which means weathering. They’ll spot a rusted building on the side of the road and have to stop to take pictures.  Then they obsess for days over how to achieve that particular look.

Realism also means that buildings must have lights. This factory along the tracks contains over thirty little tiny lights that had to be hand-wired.

I’m not sure but I think this is a loading dock of some sort. I’ve been to model railroad conventions and met women every bit as gung-ho as their partner but that’s not me folks.

Actually, I lied.  I’ve only been to one convention and it was in Redding California back when the romance was fresh, if you know what I mean. If you’re not into trains, you have to be really in love to go to a model train convention. The layouts and exhibits are great but sitting through a one hour forum on  “ways to support your train guy,” well, it’s just not for me.

Below is the Cameramadoodle Ding Dong Candy Factory.

Named for our son Cameron.  Model Railroaders aren’t that imaginative and if you live with one, you’re gonna end up on a marquee.  Did I mention the second floor of Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor is a brothel?  I guess my clients enter through the back door. I don’t know how they get up to it.  I guess they must be awfully horny.

And here, just for Norm, the conductor of the ThursdayDoors challenge, is a door.

 

Maybe it doesn’t matter

I haven’t been blogging lately because I’ve been editing a story I started way back in 1998.  I have no idea how many times I’ve edited this particular story but after years and the countless renditions, there are only a few sections I can reread without finding a word or a phrase that stops me in my tracks with it’s banality. Any sensible person would have given up and moved on to puzzles they know the answers to but not me.The story is based on the contentious relationship between my grandmother and my Auntie Dottie who had more in common than they would ever have admitted during their lifetimes.  Both were on their own emotionally from an early age; both were not shy about giving their opinions, and both were far braver and willing to take risks than the men they married. 

They spent the majority of their lives in a small town that, on the surface, is postcard perfect New England.  However veer off Main Street and the stray dogs scrounging for food will tell the story of a town that strains to stay true to the qualities once so important in small town America:  respectability, civic duty, and charity. The decline began after WWII when the mills and factories supporting the town began closing. Many of the young men who went off to war, didn’t return.  They moved to larger cities where their GI benefits went further.  The situation worsened when increasing crime and corruption rates in nearby Springfield Massachusetts made the hills surrounding the town appealing for commuters. The resulting increase in property values forced families who’d been squatting peacefully in the woods down into town and on welfare. You can probably guess the rest. 

My grandmother was born in the town during its years of prosperity but her parents were fresh off the boat.  In fact, they probably jumped off the boat. Letters from relatives in Sweden suggest that Great Gramps was in trouble with the Swedish military. Since he was a milliner by trade, maybe the Swedish army didn’t like his hats.  Who knows?  Great Gramps was a man of few words and none of them Swedish.  When his wife died young leaving him with a teenage daughter, he promptly boarded the girl at a “teaching” hospital in Springfield where she would learn a trade and not be a burden on him.  Years later she would return to the town with her husband and daughter to take care of him and there she would stay the rest of her life.

Dottie showed up on my grandmother’s doorstep in the early 1950s, married to her soft-hearted son and pregnant. She hid her painful past with a laugh that could trigger a tsunami and lived life in fast gear as if knowing she would die young. Any money she and my uncle earned was immediately spent on gaudy, flashy items which were far out of the arena of necessary.  In my grandmother’s time the things Dottie became legendary for would have gotten a woman shunned and ostracized. But the town was changing. 

I spent the summers of my youth in the twilight of my grandmother’s world and the emergent reality of my aunt’s.  I’m not sure if it’s the story of a relationship or the story of a town.

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

Do you ever keep returning to a story again and again knowing you may never get it right?

Riding the Zephyr: #ThursdayDoors

Dirty back window of the Zephyr

From time to time I have to travel to Reno Nevada for family business, both pleasurable and otherwise. Reno is a four hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area that used to be a fairly pleasant.  You’d pass orchards, cow pastures and rice patties before hitting the always dramatic Sierra Nevadas.  However, over the years the orchards and cow pastures have been replaced with housing developments and industrial tracts leading to massive traffic headaches. So we opt for the train when possible.

The Zephyr departs from Oakland California and travels due east to Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha and finally ends its run in Chicago three days later. It is considered one of the most beautiful routes in the world. Below is Donner Lake as taken from the back of the train.

I’ve taken the Zephyr as far as Helper, a sooty outpost smack dab in the middle of Utah so named because it’s where “helper” engines are often added to give coal carrying trains the extra oomph they need to get through the Wasatch Mountains.

We generally catch the train in Martinez, the last point of departure in the Bay Area.  Martinez is an antique-shop town overlooking the Carquinez Strait.

From there the train crosses an old iron bridge and heads inland, passing low-lying swamps which provide homes for all sorts of species of birds and ducks.  It’s one of my favorite stretches, particularly in the Spring.

Another favorite stretch is just beyond Roseville as the train begins to climb up into the mountains.  The foothills are home to many ranches and on a Spring day, nothing beats the sight of horses romping through green pastures with their tails in the air.

In the mountains, the train passes through dozens of tunnels, many built to provide refuge during heavy snow storms.

For my husband, who is crazy about trains, we had an especially interesting trip through the mountains.  On Amtrak you’re assigned seating based on your destination.  Sometimes passengers for Reno are seated at the front of the train and sometimes they’re seated at the rear.  This trip we were seated in the very last car.

We’d just reached Colfax, a town in the high foothills, when the engineer ran past us on his way to the back door.  Then he opened the door and grabbed a hose.”Set to release?” he asked over the walkie talkie.  The next moment smoke erupted from the hose with a loud hissing sound that startled all the passengers.

It turns out there was a disabled freight train on the tracks ahead.  We would need to back down the track and switch over to the westbound track to get past the disabled train.  The engineer had been testing the brakes to prevent a runaway train.

Check out other exciting door adventures over at Norm’s Place.

 

Legally Bombed on the Poop Train

In the sixties cult classic, The King of Hearts, a Scottish soldier played by the late Alan Bates is dispatched by his commander to a small French village to diffuse bombs left behind by Nazis.  Once there, he tries to convince the townspeople of their imminent peril but they could give a rat’s ass.  Instead they insist on dressing in costumes and holding a carnival in the streets. 

At some point he realizes that he’s actually dealing with the patients of the local insane asylum. The other villagers fled to safety before his arrival, leaving the crazies behind.

Last Friday, aside from the usual “Trump fumes in tweet threat,” this was the headline in our local paper that first caught my eye: “Legally Bombed.”  It referred to the annual 4/20 Fest happening in Golden Gate Park.  This festival has been going on for years but this was the first time it was officially legal.  Yes, finally Gram and Gramps can smoke their weed in peace and we don’t have to worry about posting bail.

  

Then my eyes fell on this gem: “S.F. toilet monitor becomes a hero.” In San Francisco, public toilets or “pit stops” are so notorious for drug overdoses that they must be monitored by an actual human being.  So if you’re in SF and decide to use a pit stop, be aware that someone is counting how long it takes you to pee. I’m not sure what the accepted norm is, but don’t dawdle. Despite my snarkiness, this was actually a sweet story about an ex-con who saved the lives of two alleged junkies and was honored by the city.  No ticker tape parade but a commendation and a new uniform.

The next scratch-your-head-till-it-bleeds headline came from the great state of Alabama where they just executed an 83 year old man for the mail-bomb slaying of a federal judge back in 1989.  If they’d had him in prison for so long, why wait until he’s got one foot in the grave anyway? It just doesn’t make any sense to me. The last sentence of the article was the kicker:  He did not respond when an official asked if he had any last words.  Indeed.

But, boys and girls, I’ve saved the most bizarre news item for last. In addition to executing 83 year olds, Alabama is the final resting place for New York City’s poop. The residents of tiny Parrish found this out the hard way when one of the “poop trains” used to transport the shit sat on tracks outside their town for two months.Ten million pounds of poop left sitting in Alabama’s humid climate. It must have smelt heavenly. There is a plus to poop, of course. Shit processing provides jobs which the state desperately needs. But, who did the residents of Parrish blame the stench on? Lax environmental laws? The fact that their officials had no plan to transport the shit from the trains to the landfill?  No. You got it. The elite liberals of New York.  I can’t wait till Trump finds out.  What do you think he’ll tweet?

It’s time to find that insane asylum, folks, and beg for admittance.  By the way, Happy Earth Day. May you never find a poop train in your backyard.