Thursday, April 7, 2011

Wednesday Missing in Action

Things have been so crazy as of late. Some great stuff has been turning up in E-Bay land. This phenomena resulted in my latest road trip was to Decatur, IL to pick up a cast iron whistle sign. This heavy thing was originally positioned along the railroad roadbed. It signaled the engineer to sound the whistle code for “approaching a grade crossing” which is two long - one short - one long blasts on the whistle or horn of the locomotive. I remember seeing these along the roadbed of the New York Central Railroad which was across the street from where I grew up. These old cast iron signs are quite collectible. The seller had this as a local pick up only. There was a New York collector who was hot for it, but the seller did not want to deal with shipping companies and the like. He held it for me to pick up.

Monday morning I did up the last of my packing and straightening up the house. Stumpy delayed my departure by some twenty minutes hiding out! That bad boy!! The house was locked up and I was on the road at 5:30 a.m.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s in Nashville. Here I stocked up on Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark and bittersweet chocolate, New Mexico Pinion Nut Coffee, Maple syrup, and a case of their Bavarian Wheat Beer.

Back on the road I took I-24 into Kentucky. Kentucky and Indiana were the worst states driving. Not so much for the roads but for the weather. I knew I’d be in for some rain, but I never expected tornadoes to be part of the equation. I finally gave up on trying to listen to the radio as it was just one storm alert after another. The tornado warnings did me no good, as they go by counties. How could I know what county I was driving in?

There were times the rain was so intense I was down to 45 mph with the four ways flashing. I knew conditions were bad when the trucks did not fly by me. When the tornado sirens sounded I got scared. Ever so slowly I drove out of the rain and the sky stayed a lead gray with low hanging clouds. The only clue this was not a chill November day was the faint hint of green in the trees.

I’m truly spoiled with my Garman now. It is such a convenience to not have to drive and look at a map at the same time. That little screen shows what the speed limit is and how fast you are driving so keeping to the limit is so easy. I no longer fret about missing a turn or street sign.

Driving to Warrensburg, IL I had to take a lot of secondary roads. These can be so dangerous: being able to give full attention to traffic and road signs can be a lifesaver.

I arrived to pick up the sign right at 4:45 p.m. some 620 miles from home. This hunk of cast iron is better in person: I’m very pleased. I settled up with Tony and we loaded the beast into the bed of the truck. My next stop was Decatur, IL some eight miles distant.

Cities of this size and location usually lack a Motel Six. I went for the big time and booked a room on-line at the Comfort Inn. I liked the fact a Texas Steak House was just across the road. Outback is my favourite restaurant chain, but Texas Steak is a pretty much in the same league.

Got cleaned up some, put a couple Trader Joe’s wheat beers on ice and headed to supper. Things were not too terribly busy. I settled in at the bar and had a tall Shock Top beer and some hot rolls and butter in no time. My meal tonight was Caesar Salad, small New York strip steak, and fries covered with cheese and bacon. I ordered my steak rare and smothered in onions.

When the steak came out it was totally covered in onions and a small additional bowl of onions was on the side! I was in onion heaven!! It was all so good! When I’m on the road like this it is always more fun to sit at the bar and interact with the bartenders and others. People are a lot more open and relaxed at the bar.

Back at the hotel I was able to shift the sign into the cab of the truck. I really doubt anyone would take the thing from the truck bed, but with the investment I have in it I’m not going to tempt fate! That drive did me in. One beer in the room and I was dead to the world. This boy slept good…..

Today, Thursday April the 7th the phone rang at 5:20 a.m. The conversation went as follows:

Phone: RING RING!!!!!

Jamie: Hey Debbie, I’ll be all set to walk when you get here.

Other end: This isn’t Debbie…..

Jamie: Who is this????

Other end: Let me put Hunter on…..

Hunter: Jamie, are you going to cox today?

Jamie: I’m coxing Thursday. Today is Wednesday…

Hunter: No Jamie; today is THURSDAY…..

Jamie: Oh ***k!!! I’ll be right there!!!

I don’t know what happened to Wednesday. The last thing I remember is this bright green light that enveloped my truck and a little man with pale skin and large elongated eyes who poked needles all over my body…….. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!!!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mend and Make Do

It was the early fall of 1972 I signed on to the midnight sort at United Parcel Service in Lancaster, PA. Working nights loading the delivery trucks on the line and “hogging” in the trailers necessitated having warm rugged clothes. Champion Apparel had a “real” outlet store in Perry, NY. The clothing they sold was true factory rejects. My favourite basketball jersey from that store had a big 16 on the front and a 17 on the back! That shirt drove people crazy when I used to wear it!

It so happened I was home in Lockport, NY before I started that job assignment. My mom, dad, good friend Toni, and I made the 55 mile trip to Perry, NY so I could stock up work clothes. We left early on a bright Saturday morning, driving through the Alabama swamps, the city of Batavia, and the rolling farmland till we reached Perry, NY.

Whenever we made this excursion we would have breakfast at “The Hole in the Wall” restaurant located in the heart of the village. This place was famous in they would always give a serviceman or woman their meal for free if they were in uniform. That tradition began during WWII. My metabolism was off the charts back then. I can still remember the look from my dad when I ordered bacon, eggs, homefries, and a side stack of hotcakes for my meal. I ate every bite!

Going to an outlet store was a big deal back then; I made the best of this opportunity stocking up with lots of heavy sweat pants and heavy sweatshirts. I have two of those sweatshirts remaining from that trip I can still wear. They are so battered and worn I only use them for the really messy jobs I don’t want to risk my better clothes on.

Working on the Graphophone mainsprings this past weekend was one such job where I was wearing the Temple University Football shirt. The cuffs were so ragged even I had to admit they made the sweatshirt unwearable. I did a laundry of my nastiest work clothes Monday. The grease washed out really well from that old sweatshirt; I could not bear to rip it into rags.

Google searches for “sweatshirt knit cuffs” led me to a discussion board. It was suggested that the elastic tops of socks can make perfect cuffs. What a great idea! It was easy to find a pair of socks with the bottoms pretty much worn through to use.

It was easy work to sew the sock-tops to the sweatshirt sleeves. I should be able to get at least another ten years wear out of that garment!

the shreds of the original cuffs and the new "sock cuffs"

This aspect of my life I can’t make sense of. I’ve made playing the “miser” into an art form. But, truth be told, I can get a comparable sweatshirt at the thrift store for a few dollars any time I want. Hell, I can even go to the “yuppie stores” and pay top dollar if I were so inclined. It is not the money aspect. Whenever I wear those old sweats I think back to when they and I were young. The memorable trip with those I cared about that early fall morning to Perry, NY: Working on the loading docks at UPS, doing chores around my first house in Lockport and now my home in Alabama. I always have happy memories wearing those worn out clothes. It is also a good way to annoy people… I’ve got ammo for years now harping on how to make use of worn out socks!!!