Monthly Archives: November 2012

Grime of Time

All the blow mold stuff was gone.  Sold yesterday to some dude who needs it for a movie set.  I missed it by that much.  Dang!  My sister turned me on to this stuff and for those of you who don’t know, blow mold is the name for all those hard plastic snowmen, Santas, candle sticks, lanterns and nativity figures you see in people’s yards around the Christmas season.  Very collectible these days.  Reminiscent of a simpler time.  Boomer youth.  Now I’ve said too much and y’all will be sanppin’ it up on EBay and in the antique shops.

Antique shops are one of my favorite places to hang out.  Right up there with hardware stores.  There are just so m any things to look at.  Notice I didn’t say buy.  Sure, it’s all for sale.  And you can buy it.  But mostly I look to learn.  When I’m ready I buy, but I like to know what I’m doing.  Gotta know real from fake, good from bad, really valuable form average.  Always buy the best you can afford.

So yesterday’s excursion was a bust for blow-mold, but that didn’t slow me down one bit.  There are a lot of things I look for.  I love colored glass.  Mostly ornamental stuff.  Not so much drinking glasses.  Color fascinates me.  I look for Native American beadwork and silver.    I think I’ve talked about my love of clocks before so I’m always on the lookout for those.  As a veteran I always feel compelled to look over any militaria I find.  Atomic Age stuff is a new thing of mine.  And of course, I love anything Italian.  Anything.  So I was thrilled to find an interesting piece of Italian pottery.  At an incredibly reasonable price I might add.  Score!

There are other things I look for as well.  But I don’t always remember what.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m looking for something in particular.  This is what makes it really interesting while antique shopping.  It’s often that thing I forgot I was interested in that jumps up and grabs my attention.  So much so that I just have to have it.  I tell myself often that it’s not how much stuff you have that counts.  But I do enjoy my stuff.

What frequently amuses me is when I see something that I know my family had when I was a child.  Something we used everyday and threw out with the garbage when it was used up.  And now it’s a valuable collectible!  Some of it was junk then, and is still junk now, but some I certainly do appreciate more now than then.  Look at the resurgence of mid century modern style.  I think my mother still has some of that stuff in the attic.  Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to rummage through her attic and find great treasures to either collect for myself, or sell.  What ever happened to all my G I Joes?

Sometimes what I see makes me a little sad.  Maybe it reminds me of times past.  People or places I miss.  Things that tell me I ain’t getting any younger.  Maybe something I wish I could do over, or more of.  Or less of even.  Such is life.

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  Sure.  So why does it always seem that the stuff I put in garage sales goes unsold?  Garage sales are the wrong venue.  Obviously, the stuff I have is much more valuable so I need to dust it off and put a sign on it indicating that is an antique.  That should triple the price! 

I have a basement full of stuff I need to sell to collectors.  Then I’ll have more room to put the stuff form my mother’s attic.  And to keep the new treasures I buy as my own collectables.  The fact that everyone has different taste is what makes antiquing fun.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?


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Eye Glasses

What musical instrument do I feel like right now?  A big ole tuba?  No, I’m more the shape of a baritone horn.  How about the rolling thunder of the timpani?  Too loud.  I’m a kinda quiet sort.  The sexy, smoothe clarinet.  Well, yeah, always.  But no, that’s not what I’m feeling right now.  At this moment, I’m a slide trombone.  The text is a little fuzzy, hold it closer.  No further.  My eyes aren’t what they used to be.  I need new glasses.

The eye doctor concurs.  His tests are conclusive.  I hate that machine.  Which is clearer, one or two?  One or two? Or about the same.  What if I make a mistake?  Will my eyesight be forever damaged?  Sometimes it’s just too hard to tell.  For some reason, it seemed pretty clear this time.  Pun intended.  It was one, then three, then six.  Viola!  A new eyeglass prescription.

That’s perhaps the easy part.  What about frames? Back in third grade, when I started wearing glasses, the choices were pretty limited.  You could get black, rectangular frames made of plastic.  Or, you could get brown, rectangular frames also made of plastic.  There were also wire-rimmed frames, but for a third grader, these were a little too delicate to be sensible.  I put my brown plastic frames through some rough times. 

Of course, for the girls there were more options, the most notable being the cat eye shaped frames.  Somewhere at my parent’s home lives a photograph of my sister rockin’ such a pair of cat eye glasses.  Her hair was in a bun on top of her head, and she was wearing a ballerina’s tutu.  Very stylish.  Good gracious!

I don’t know how anyone figured out that I needed to wear glasses.  Maybe I had headaches everyday after school.  But the eye doctor confirmed it.  He and his assistant were very old men at that time, both always wearing a dark suit.  I don’t remember the names, but I have clear visual memories.  The doctor recommended that I wear the corrective lenses when reading, but I soon started wearing them all the time.  It was easier, and I really could see better.  Now, life depends on them.

Over the years styles have changed, and so have my glasses.  During the seventies I wore round wire rimmed glasses with dark tinted lenses.  Like John Lennon.  In college I wore big glasses.  Kind of square.  Still plastic.  There was a name for them but I forget what it was.  Schoolboy I think.  I also wore some sunglasses that were a little smaller.  I wore them a lot.  Like all the time for over a year.  A place called For Eyes would sell you a pair of glasses for forty-nine dollars, but I couldn’t afford to get a new pair when I broke my regular glasses.  Plastic frames.

I stuck with the big plastic all through college.  And the Navy.  Now the Navy had a very special deal.  Free glasses.  The only catch was the style factor.  We called them BC glasses.  BC being short for birth control.  No girl would even look at you when you were wearing those rectangular, black plastic frames.  They looked a little like Wayfarers when you got the tinted lenses in them.  But not really.  I didn’t qualify for the Tom Cruise Top Gun Ray-Bans.

When I got out of the navy I tried wire frames.  My dad thought they were more “professional” looking.  Because that’s what he was wearing.   I went back to the plastic.  More recently I went back to the wire frames, but these were round.  And they had cable temples.  Like Ben Franklin.  Very professorial looking.  I thought.  My very favorite pair of glasses however has to be the black wire rims with cable temples.  Round frame with black, black, black lenses.  I still wear them once in a while, even though the scrip is old.

Today I wear a rimless frame.  A pair of lenses held to a nosepiece with some clear fishing line.  It would seem very fragile at first glance, but deep down I’m still a third grader.  I thought about going back to the brown plastic.  My niece, who is very fashion conscious, is wearing brown plastic sunglasses.  Giant round things.  But I ended up staying with what I have.  Partly because of what my insurance would pay for, and partly because I’m not quite ready to make a major metamorphosis.  I’m on the verge, but not quite yet.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Leaves and Crayons

Swirling.  Blowing in the breeze, then fluttering to the ground.  The air is thick with them.  Brilliant colors as they die.  Leaves falling to the ground as the warm days of summer slip into the cooler temperatures of fall. 

Walking down the sidewalk to my office I saw it on the ground.  A scarlet red maple leaf.  All the trees are donning their fall colors.  Yellows and reds galore.  Still some green.  And others, passing straight to brown as they hang delicately, waiting for a gentle breeze to send them to the ground. 

I’ve already been raking the leaves at my house.  In my yard.  And somehow in my garage.  A beautiful sight on the trees.  A plague of locusts on the ground.  I do love the pattern the leaves from my gingko tree always seem to make at the base of the tree.  They must fall straight down, landing with a silent thud.  Always at the base of the tree and nowhere else.  This year a magnificent yellow!

The red maple leaf reminded me of how, as a child, I would preserve a single wonderful specimen.  Finding a perfect leaf, one with no rips or tears, one with eye-catching color, I would carefully put it into my shirt pocket.  No folds or creases.  I would then take it home, put it between two sheets of wax paper and iron the whole thing, sealing the leaf in a coating of wax.  The brilliant hue was slightly dimmed but not much.

Mother would oooohhh and aaaahhhh over my creations.  As mothers always do.  And the great works would lay around for several days and then, without my noticing, would disappear.  I don’ remember if I had any thoughts on this mystery.  I just made more of these natural artworks.

We did the same kind of thing with wax crayons.  Take a crayon, shave bits of wax off of it, place them between two pieces of wax paper and iron.  Viola!  Like stained glass, they were mixtures of color blobs and blurs.  We went through a lot of crayons on a rainy day.  And wax paper.  They too suffered the mysterious fate of wax paper art.

Several years ago I went to the Crayola crayon factory.  Took the kids thinking correctly that it would be a fun afternoon.  There were lots of activities, and studies in color.  Of course we saw how the crayons were made too.  Thousands of colors, billions of crayons.  Four packs, eight packs, thirty-two packs.  And of course the big box of sixty four crayons, with a sharpener built in.  Had to buy a new box of crayons every year to start the school year.  Especially after a busy summer of artistry.

Somewhere along the line it seems to me that the contents of either the wax paper or the crayons themselves changed.  The wax didn’t seem to melt as well.  The colors weren’t as fascinating.  The artworks weren’t as brilliant and cutting edge.  Maybe it was me that changed.  Or my perception, or interest, in color crayon art.  Maybe I moved on to other art disciplines.  Or should I say I added more skills and widespread interests to my repertoire. 

I’ll always remember those wax paper creations.  I don’t know if kids do those things anymore.  I don’t remember if I did them with my kids either.  I believe we did try.    It was my introduction to the fascinating world of art and imagination.  A love of color.  Experiments.  The world was full of wonder.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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A Parade

Can you hear it?  The drums.  It’s the band.  Here comes the parade!  The other night I went into the city for a college homecoming parade.  The streets were closed off to vehicular traffic.  Sidewalks crowded with spectators.  I was sure that many of the spectators had no connection to the college.  They were just there to see the parade.

I love parades.  But I love almost any kind of spectacle.  It has something to do with the bands, the flags, the sights and sounds.  Maybe it’s because parades are mostly happy occasions.  Celebrations of something.  You know, a major victory for a sports team.  Like winning the Super Bowl.  Or some joyous victory, like winning World War Two and the troops coming home.  Astronauts retuning from a moonwalk.  Charles Lindberg.  Or a holiday.

There are parades on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Macys welcomes Santa with the Thanksgiving parade.  Giant balloons representing cartoon characters floating down the streets of Manhattan.  In Philadelphia the New Year is always welcomed by the Mummers Parade.  Fantastically costumed string bands, fancies and clowns.  It’s a local thing.  When I went to college in Washington, DC, no one had any idea what I was talking about.

Memorial Day has to be my favorite holiday parade.  Probably because my birthday is May 30.  That’s when the holiday was always celebrated before it became one of the “Monday” holidays.  My parents always took me to the local parade on my birthday.  Until I was ten or twelve I though the whole thing was in honor of me!  I don’t think there were any Civil War vets in the parades I remember, but there were Spanish American War vets.  And the WWI vets were still far from ancient.  The WWII vets were young men, like my dad, as were the Korean vets.  Vietnam hadn’t cranked up enough yet to have vets.

There were cars full of these men.  All smiling and waving.  High school bands marching.  Flags flying.  And the best part?  The tank!  Yes, rumbling down the streets of the city was a Sherman tank!  I don’t know how they did that without  having the treads tear up the streets.  I’ll never forget that.  Or watching my baby brother sound asleep in his baby carriage while the band marched past in ’64.  Maybe I thought the parade was for me, but I knew it was for something other than just cookouts and a day off from work.

I spent twelve years in the Navy.  A Supply Corps officer.  I’m not necessarily a spit and polish, ramrod straight kind of guy, but I enjoyed the Navy.  I was glad to serve, but that patriotism wasn’t what really motivated me to join.  It was the uniforms and the parades.  The flags.  The crossed swords, medals and gun salutes.  Probably the wrong reasons, but it was enough for me.  Once a week at OCS in Newport, Rhode Island we would do a parade.  Pass in Review.  We’d march as best we could for a bunch of 90 days wonders.  At Supply School in Athens GA we’d have formation every morning, with ranks and columns of uniforms.  On the ship we had formal things like a change of command.  I remember a Marine Colonel with his full dress uniform on.  He looked like a cartoon soldier with a chest just full of medals.  What did it cost him to earn those?

The parades I go to nowadays are a lot more fun.  Sure, they still have marching bands.  And old cars, old tractors, smiling faces.  There are decorated floats and candy flying through the air.  There are people riding horses, bicycles, unicycles and walking.  Costumes galore.  Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and cheerleaders.  Baton twirlers.  Spots teams.  And veterans.  I’ve never been in one of these parades.  My kids have.  And my wife has.  I just watch now.  But I still love a parade, even if there are no tanks.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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Flat Tire History

Oh shoot.  What does that light mean?  It’s always something isn’t it?  Tire pressure.  Low tire pressure.  If it were flat it would be making a thumping noise.  I’ll check it when I get to my destination.  When I got this vehicle a year or so ago the same light was on.  How bad could it be?

Put some air in the tire.  Light goes off.  Cool.  Then, much to my chagrin, the light comes back on in a couple of days.  A cycle that repeated itself several times before I came up with a better solution.  The tires looked new.  Certainly I don’t need new ones.  Lets try this.  I let it go for a few more days to see if any of the tires actually looked flat, or flattened.  Sure enough.  Left rear looks a little low.  Well, it looked a lot low but was still working ok.  At least now I know its just one tire, and not all four.  The light doesn’t say which tire.

Another step in the repair process.  I put new valve stem caps on.  Had to do that for all four tires.  It would have looked funny if only one had the new cap.  Although, one time I lost a hubcap so I bought two the same and replaced the two on the driver’s side of the car.  Passenger’s side was different but you couldn’t tell unless you walked around and looked.  Pretty smart, eh?  The new stem caps improved the looks of the tires a little bit, if nothing else.  Still leaking. 

Ok.  So you wanna play tough.  Here is a can of fix-a-flat for you!  That fixed it.  Until now anyway.  I’ll have to see what happens this time around.  Back a few dozen years ago my father taught me about tires.  Not so much about troubleshooting flats.  More about changing the offending tire.  How to get out the jack and the spare.  Loosen the lug nuts.  Put the new tire on.  Tighten the nuts, just right so they all had equal tension.  Then taking the flat to the tire fix it guy at the local service station. 

Yes, back then we had service stations where they pumped the gas for you, checked the oil and did real repairs.  There are still a few of these, but now its mostly self-serve mega stations.  Repair shops don’t do gas anymore.

Knowing about changing a tire is one of those things its good to be clued in on, but you hope you never have to apply that bit of knowledge.  Kind of like CPR.  But one night I was tested, and glad I could do it in the dark with my eyes closed.  I didn’t want to see what was going on around me.  Night and dark.  Interstate highway in a major city.  My wife was in the car with me when we heard a bang and then the thump, thump, thump of the flat.  I was in the center lane and had to scoot to the shoulder.  I barely made it across the road while dodging the tractor-trailers.

On the side of the road, maybe three feet from the traffic, in the dark of night, I get out the jack.  Of course the flat was on the drivers side.  I had a small car, with teeny tiny warning flashers.  I don’t know if you could see them from more than ten feet away.  The trucks didn’t seem to see me at all.  The blast of wind when they blew past was almost enough to knock me over as I crouched by the car fiddling with the tire.  I finally finished, caught my breath and said a thankful little prayer.

Glad my dad taught me how to do that.  Now, as a dad myself, I thought it was a good idea for my daughters to know how to do this.  I got my chance when they blew a tire on the road.  Not a freeway.  And they were able to get way off the road.  And they had cell phones to call me.  They just didn’t know where they were! 

We got that figured out and I was able to get the tire changed, while they both watched.  And off they went, smarter than before.  They know about jumping batteries, oil changes, checking fluids and all that kind of stuff.  Just some of the basics, but enough not to be helpless.

There is a lot of information to be passed down through generations.  Car repair instructions.  Home repairs.  How to start a campfire.  And yes, the family history.  How much history has been lost due to someone not passing info along?  Where did that missing link fellow go?  You get the idea.  Tell your stories.  Write them down.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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