Train to the Past

Earlier this month marked 14 years since my father passed away. While the anniversary is always a solemn one, the pain it brings is not as sharp as it once was.  Enough time has passed to dull the sadness and allow me to primarily focus on the good times we had.

My family and I went to The New York Society of Model Engineers’ museum today. As we drove up to the address, it was clear house was a better description than museum.  We walked into the tiny locale unsure of what to expect.  My children took one look around and were hooked! They stared in fascination at the model trains and could not get enough of them. While I was impressed with the classic trains, the great lengths of the tracks, and the details of the models/surroundings/stations, they were particularly impressed when Thomas followed by Annie and Clarabell took a trip around the track.

As I watched the trains go round and round, I noticed that the majority of people who were at the museum were men. Sure, there were other families there in addition to us, but if you looked, one would notice the large number of men who stood by fascinated. It was also clear that everyone who worked at the museum (members of the society) were male and many of them were older – 50+.  As I pointed this out to my wife, she noted that this was the cool thing for them to do when they were you. This was their Wii, DS, and PS3. While we, today, may look upon it as nostalgic, it was once the primary choice of entertainment for boys.  In fact, my own father loved models and trains. I remember him setting up a train table in our basement. He would pull out the large green track from the far corners of the garage every once in a while and leave the train up for a few weeks. Whenever he would go through this, he was very excited and always wanted me to watch them with him, and I did. He would stare at the train each time it came around with a smile on his face.

It was not till today that I made the connection between my children’s love of trains and my father’s. I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice for him to be here? Wouldn’t it be nice for my children to have their grandfather? Sometimes despite the passage of time, a loss can still be felt.

Thanksgiving – The Perfect American Holiday

I love Thanksgiving.  It is the perfect American holiday. Many holidays are complicated and deep, but Thanksgiving is direct and to the point.  Be thankful and appreciate what you have and those around you. Who can’t get behind that thought? Yes, it’s something we should do every day, but what’s wrong with a little reminder?  We are all busy days and reminders are helpful – even Ernie used to have rubber bands around his fingers to ensure he would remember important events.   Of course, when Bert would ask him about why he had the rubber band, all he could remember was that he was supposed to remember something. I’m digressing now. The point is Thanksgiving is a reminder and it comes with Turkey, stuffing, cornbread, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, etc. – I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Isn’t that the kind of reminder you could deal with every day? Yes, we have our phones and various gadgets that can be set to remind us of our schedule and plans, but all it comes with is a buzzing noise of some sort – not even vegetables.

Thanksgiving gets most of us two days off from work. It’s like a two for one, and who doesn’t like a good deal?  These days when things are so challenging we have to take the bargains where we can get them. Those days off don’t need to be spent feeling one ounce of guilt such as Veterans Day or Memorial Day when most of us see it as a long weekend rather than appreciate the meaning behind them. I am guilty of this and only consider the seriousness of the holiday while watching the news where they inevitably have the scene of politicians at some event commemorating the solemnness of the day. No, as I said earlier, Thanksgiving is less complicated – be thankful and pass the turkey.

Even in this down year, I love football. I have a lot of company there as it is the most popular American sport and therefore, appropriately three games are played on the most traditional American holiday.  Games are on pre meal, during the meal, and after the meal, so you can watch all day or whenever it is convenient. Isn’t that nice – entertainment along with your Turkey?

I could go on about the parades, but I think you get my point. I love Thanksgiving, the most American of holidays. Happy Thanksgiving to all – appreciate the blessings!

Hip for The Hunger Games

I’ve gotten to the age where I know I’m not cool. It’s not particularly important to me – no need to set trends. I’ll take happy children, a contented wife, and a decent job. I am comfortable with myself. Yet, a part of me likes to look in the mirror and think I’ve still got it.  Yes, I’m a dad in the suburbs, though I don’t own a minivan, so I’m not so typical.  Really, it’s true.

This past week I completed The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. That’s right I’ve read The Hunger Games which happens to be number two on the NY Times best seller list – children’s series (I’d prefer to think of it as young adult)!  My little cousin recommended The Hunger Games to me, and I figured I would read it just to see to validate her choices. I am a good cousin.  Well, I think I validated her choices by reading the first of the trilogy, a nearly 400 page book, over my five day vacation ignoring the clock and going to sleep way past my bedtime.

See, I am not a stuffy 40ish English teacher who only reads proper literature. I am plugged in, on the scene, and in touch.  I read popular novels, which by the way is coming out as movie on Friday March 23rd.  I looked it up and checked out the cast.  Not only did I read The Hunger Games, but I enjoyed it and want to talk about it. I was disappointed when my cousin did not show up at the last family event – I wanted to talk to her and discuss the book and its deeper meanings. I recently found that a friend of mine read the book, and we reviewed the main characters names and the potential symbolism. I keep recommending it to students.  Hey, I still am an English teacher. However, I am more than just a dad in the suburbs. I’m kind of hip, and I’ll take that!


I know, I know. Not everyone is good at everything. In fact our whole economy is like a large scale bartering system. I am good at this so I work here, you are good at that so you work there. We both get money for the work provided and then go and buy the product of each other’s work. So, no more churning butter or baking bread for this guy. Despite this relief of certain responsibilities, there are a few more things I wish I had a talent for.

This past weekend my plan was to put up a new door (the same one I broke out of frustration a couple of weeks ago). I bought the door, somehow managed to get it home on the roof of my Honda Accord – there are times when I want a minivan -, took down the old door, and borrowed the necessary tools from a friend. Sunday morning came, and I put on my work clothes – yes, I have work clothes. I was in the garage sawing by 9:00.  There was grunting, sawdust, and power tools – I felt manly – unga bunga.  However, by 11:00, I had failed – the door did not fit, the screws were not tightening – and I was dejected.  I wanted to overcome my general lack of carpentry skills and through determination and willpower hang the door. I am jealous of those who have these type of skills.

There are many reasons for this desire which has grown since I became a homeowner.  Ever since that day when I went into major debt, I have had a twang of nervousness.  I am nervous for my house – perpetually praying that nothing will break.  This past week we had a plumber come to the house. I was prepared for a big bill – even had some money saved. However, there was that chance that the cost would be outrageous. I held my breath the whole visit till the estimate came. It was much lower than I expected – another bullet dodged. Yet, what if I could do it myself – wouldn’t that be cool? Forget it I might as well churn butter.