Connected Memories

The LAWNDALE book has been on sale on Amazon since August 9th. Happily, it’s been selling really well. And for that, I’m very grateful. There’ll be a special blog post about that this Thursday.

But in the meantime, here’s a little bonus story for you all to enjoy.

“Relics may be the literal remains of holy people or objects that the holy people have used or touched. Examples of relics include teeth, bones, hair, and fragments of objects such as fabrics or wood. … Relics are believed to have special powers to heal, grant favors, or exorcise spirits.”

Philadelphia, PA – Lawndale – Late 60s Early 70s

When I was a kid the cool place to hang out at night was down the basement. It was a little chilly down there, so my mom always made us wear our sweaters. There was a nice built-in bar with an old-time working telephone, a pool table, a comfortable old sofa, a chair, and my dad’s desk.   My dad would hang out down there and listen to his music and read after dinner.

My dad liked to smoke the occasional cigar and had a nice wooden humidor where he kept them. I remember he would open it and pull out the little metal screen in the lid and ask me to run it under the faucet in the bathroom. He would shake the excess water out of it and replace it back into the box. The screen kept the cigars moist and fresh.

On my dad’s desk, he had his papers and reports for work or anything else he was attending to. A couple of his hobbies were writing and filmmaking so he always had something he was working on down there.

One of the things that he had that I always liked was this old cast iron ashtray from the 1930s. It was specifically designed for cigars because it had two large grooves in the edges of the tray that would accommodate a couple of stogies.

I have no idea where he got it and maybe it belonged to his father, but its origin never came up. I just thought it was cool because on the tray it had a little man clinging to a lamp post. He wore a yellow vest and a derby hat. He was painted and his eyes were little Xs. I remember asking my dad why his eyes looked that way, and he said that the little guy had too much to drink and was clinging to the pole to steady himself. I always thought he was just holding on because he was in a wind storm, but my dad said he was three sheets to the wind.

It was just a cool, old artifact that was always around and my dad used it to ash his cigars in it when he was down there. Years later in 2016, when my father passed away, the object once again appeared. I wasn’t interested in getting anything out of his house when he passed, but one of the members of my family got in there and started taking stuff. I thought this was wrong because technically the property was left to two other members of the family and this person was trespassing and stealing. (looting!)

I asked if the little ashtray was still around. It was the only thing I wanted. Back then I still smoked and thought it would be a cool nostalgic addition to my desk. I put the word out and the little guy was mailed to me.

I was happy to have him. I cleaned it up, and because it was made from cast iron, it looked exactly as it did when I was a boy. It sits today on my desk in my place in Rittenhouse.

Here he is. (Looks a bit like Andy Capp!)

Philadelphia, PA – 2021

I was working at the counter at the hardware store and an older gentleman was there picking up some string and nails. He handed me the postcard pictured at the beginning of this post. I asked him what it was about and he told me that there are people who collect old postcards from around the world. I thought this was cool and never knew that people did that. But people collect everything so why not postcards?

I took the postcard and told the man I would probably stop over and check it out and say hello.

October 29, 2021

The day arrived and I decided to walk over and take a look. I was just looking for something to do on my day off. It was at the First Unitarian Church over at 22nd and Chestnut next to the Mutter Museum. The First Unitarian Church is cool because it’s open to everyone and has a vision and mission of love and values. But in the basement, they’ve hosted hardcore metal shows in the past, so I was down.

I get there and a guy was sitting outside at a table accepting $5 donations and signing people in. I paid my fee and carefully walked down the stone steps to the basement beneath the old church. I went inside and the postcard show was a very small affair. They only had a handful of tables set up with boxes of postcards from all over the world. One of the coolest aspects of this show was that many of the old postcards had writing on the backs of them. These were real postcards from real people from the past!

I read the words from long-dead people saying what a wonderful time they were having wherever they were, and how they didn’t want to come home. It touched a part of me who came from a time when people wrote cards and letters to each other. This was something I did as a youth in Wildwood. I would meet these girls and go on dates and then we’d correspond all winter until the following summer. It was a cheap, fun way to stay in touch with people you cared about. Calling them on the phone was too expensive and getting a nice letter and photos in the mail was so much more fun.

I found an old postcard from the 30s and it was a picture of the post office out next to 30th street station here in Philly. I read the caption on the back and it stated that it was the only building in the country that you could land a small plane on. The building is a block long and they must have landed the little propeller planes carrying the mail on the roof back then. Amazing!

I noticed one of the tables had a few old typewriters set up and they would let the guests buy a postcard, and type who they wanted it to go to on the back. They even had a list of prominent people’s names and addresses you could send them to. So cool!

I watched as people struggled to use this ancient technology to communicate. It almost seemed alien to them because they can now text and send photos in seconds with today’s technology. I like that technology is so stunning now late in my life, but I’m glad I come from an age when people wrote letters and cards to each other. It’s so much more intimate and romantic.

I happened upon one of the tables and was looking at some old postcards from the 70s from places I knew. I figured I should pick up a couple just for the sake of nostalgia. I also wanted to support the people that took the time to share their collections with the general public.

But then I saw something that caught my attention.

A little cast iron figurine clinging to a pole. But he didn’t look like my drunk ashtray guy. He wore a top hat, tails, and spats. He looked like he’d just come from a classy night out at the theater but maybe had one too many martinis that evening. This object looked to have been manufactured by the same people that made my old ashtray.

I had to have it. 

I asked the man behind the table how much he wanted for it and he said $5. I couldn’t get my cash out fast enough. I handed over the money and he placed the little guy in a bag for me. I told him the story about the ashtray and he told me that one of this guy’s tails from his jacket curls off to the right. It’s a bottle opener!

Now I have a cute set and a companion for my ashtray guy. They’re also a reminder of how I don’t smoke and rarely drink anymore. I’m sure there must be plenty of these types of things all over the country, but I was just so surprised that I ended up at this unique show and found this little guy.

Here he is!

All in all, I think my favorite part of attending this little event was, chatting with the vendors about the past. I can see myself doing this sort of thing when I’m retired. Just go to old antique and collector shows to look at cool stuff from the past, and chat with the people who love them. It just felt good to reminisce with people from my generation about our memories from a forgotten time.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week.

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My Family – Down the Shore with Trains! – Part 1

After our wonderful success at the toy train show in York, Pa a few months ago we invited a few of the collectors to the shore house to look at some other things we had.

(Please read: Toy Train Show – 2017 – York, PA) It’s a six part epic tale.

All we brought to the show was the antique trains. The really old stuff. Mostly standard gauge and pre-war O’ gauge pieces. Out of the thirty-three sets of trains at the show only thirteen sets came home with us. So we had a pretty good haul over those three days in York.

But the best part of all were the wonderful people we met while there. We had built some solid relationships with some folks that really loved toy trains, had deep pockets, and wanted to see what else we had at the house that they could view.

They were interested in some of the pieces discussed but not seen. They knew what they were and wanted them. They were also interested in buying a few of the custom wooden cabinets that my father used to display the best of his collection around the house.

These guys had spent serious money on our stuff at the show and were hungry for more. They were a pair of brothers from Maryland. One was a contractor and the other worked surprisingly for the Securities Exchange Commission, which is a big job.

 

I work at the salon Friday night. I go home and pack. I’ve already reserved a car at Enterprise.

Saturday morning I get up and head over to the car rental. They told me it was better to come at 10am instead of at 9am when they open because it’s less busy.

Bullshit. They have three people working and there are ten people ahead of me. I’m just going to stop there for a moment. I reserved this car last Tuesday. There should be one person handling just those clients. The clients that took the time to plan and prepare for their trip. All they have to do when they come back is show the drier’s license and the credit card and they go get your car.

But noooo… they’re taking each swinging dick that stumbles through the fucking door, that’s never even rented a car and have no idea what they’re doing. Why reserve then? It fucking sucks. It’s hot, and I’m scrunched into a corner in a chair by the door, holding my bag on my lap like some fucking shoobie!

Then this lady comes in with her shitty little dog and starts right in with, “Are they short-handed?”

I really don’t want anything to do with this moron/asshole. I’ve been suffering with stomach disorders for the last two days, and I just can’t deal with her right now.

“All I know is I’m dead last in this room, and you’re after me.”

“I have an appointment.”

In my darkening state all I can think is: No One Cares!

She starts flapping about how she’s a member and made a reservation, etc. I really don’t fucking care. The three employees that are here are working very hard (I didn’t say efficiently) and they are all apologetic and acting professional. So I’m just going to eat it and smile. I didn’t have to get up early on a Saturday and put a tie on and have to be nice to anybody. I just need to get where I’m going.

So bitchface says to me, “I know you. We’ve met.” I just shake my head, if she were on the right side of thirty and not such a hag I could muster a false memory. But she goes on, “Yea at some networking thing through, Keila’s women’s collective.”

Now I really hate her. (See Keila – 2012 to 2017 – Fleas and Ticks)  I cut her off a long time ago. The woman goes and sits down in an empty chair across the room. Just another loser parasite. Her shitty little dog is yipping at some of the people, especially these middle eastern guys that are trying to be nice. Fucking racist little shitty dog.

I finally get to my turn. I’ve been rotting here for a half hour. The girl who is waiting on me is very nice. My transaction takes almost no time because I registered the car like adults are supposed to a week ago.

She give me a Nissan Versa that’s a compact. It’s nimble and clean.

Finally on the road! Acrosss the Ben Franklin Bridge, down Route 42 and then finally to the Atlantic City Expressway. There’s loads of traffic but I’m just happy to be on my way. I still have to get to the Garden State Parkway. Then it’s another forty miles to North Wildwood. I get to the line of traffic all trying to get to exit 7 South for the Parkway. It is backed up two deep for miles. It’s literally bumper to bumper, stop and go just to get to the exit.

Once on the Parkway it’s not much better, but at least we’re moving. The traffic finally begins to clear as I get south of the Ocean City exits.

I finally get to North Wildwood. Without traffic, th trip should normally take and hour and forty-five minutes. I started today at 10am today, and it’s 2pm when I pull into the driveway of the house.

Four hours!

I get out of the car and am greeted with open arms by my lovely sister Janice. Her son and his girlfriend are there too and it’s great to see everybody. I’m a bit wired and burnt at the same time. The collectors aren’t here yet. That’s gives me a little time to decompress, drink some water and loosen up. I have to get into sales guy character to move some more of these trains.

So we’ll see what happens. I hope theses guy brought plenty of cash.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Saturday

I saw this one woman who was easily over 300 pounds. She was walking by and she didn’t even look human. How does one get like that? How does one maintain that kind of weight? What does that do to your skeleton? She looked like an unmoored zeppelin. Then there was this other fat guy that almost ran someone over as he sped by on his rascal. Speeding and on his cell phone? Security should have hopped on their battery carts and chased him down until they could pull him over and give him two tickets!

Saturday was the final day of the show. I pack up my gear and head to the elevator. I get in and hit the button for the lobby. I hear giggling approaching and a dainty hand grabs the door before it closes. Seven teenage girls that appear to be on some sort of sports team all squeeze into the elevator with me. They’re all attractive and fit so maybe this is a sign that today will be a good day.

Janice arrives a few moments later in the lobby and we check out. We head over to the fairgrounds and I’m relieved that this is the final day. I’ve made a couple of grand here already and hope to close out strong today.

We get to the hall and go to our tables. We grab some breakfast sandwiches and chat. Today the show ends around 4pm. I suppose it’s so people can break down all of their stuff and get home at a reasonable hour. It’s a massive show and I’m sure there will be folks here into the night. Speaking of “massive” I am appalled at how many people are overweight and out of shape at this show.

I saw this one woman who was easily over 300 pounds. She was walking by and she didn’t even look human. How does one get like that? How does one maintain that kind of weight? What does that do to your skeleton? She looked like an unmoored zeppelin. Then there was this other fat guy that almost ran someone over as he sped by on his rascal. Speeding and on his cell phone? Security should have hopped on their battery carts and chased him down until they could pull him over and give him two tickets!

After breakfast I headed to the Men’s room because, well, middle age. You eat in the morning the digestive system kicks in. But my God, I’m in the stall and the place is full of dudes in the other stalls,  I kid you not. The place smelled horrible and it sounded like a high school marching band warming up in there. Or think of a guy with Parkinson’s disease trying to unload a set of drums from the back of a van. It was that bad in there! I got back to our table as fast as I could.

“Hey, Jan…What if we wrapped up a train in paper and simply called the package, Mystery Train?”

“You’re crazy. We’re not doing that.”

I have noticed something during this whole experience. On day one we were full of piss and vinegar thinking we had the greatest antique train collection around. We had price tags on everything and knew that dad’s stuff was all nice and worth every penny of what we were asking. But we’re at the biggest train show on the east coast right now. There are thousands and thousands of trains and collectors here. We sold a couple of things day one, but it’s a huge event and it takes a couple of days for people to see everything. These are toy train collectors. They know what stuff is worth. Yo, on the other hand, always think your stuff is worth top dollar. By day two I told Janice to remove the price tags.

“We can’t do that. Everything has to be marked.”

“Okay, then how about we just move the price tags to the bottom of the trains. The tags are still on them but they have to ask. That shows interest. It also opens the conversation and creates a dialogue so that I can sell them.”

I’ve worked in sales my whole life. It should work. Also by day two we started to feel a little desperate. Sure that train set is worth $1200 in its present condition. But to whom? My dad? He’s dead. We should probably negotiate the prices a bit.

“But…”

“Do you want to haul all of this shit back to the house with empty pockets or do you want to liquidate these assets?

“You’re right.”

“Let’s blow out some fucking trains!”

And blast them out we did. My father left us with one important rule when it came to selling trains: Sell only complete sets. (That means engine, tender and the cars.) But there was a moment on day two when we had a flurry of sales and after the dust settled we both looked at each other realizing we had broken up some sets and only sold engines and tenders and left behind a bunch of cars.

I raised my hands up to my face. “Janice…I think we just did some very bad things.”

“I know… We broke dad’s cardinal rule.”

But here’s the great part. We ended up breaking up some sets. But we actually sold off all the cars that had been left behind by the end of the show! So the “crimes against toys” that we committed had some how been righted by the gods!

I’m not going to collect trains. My daughter doesn’t want them. If someone offers me $350 for something that I don’t want and have absolutely no use for, they should have it. Maybe we think about not selling the trains but putting these beautiful toys into the hands and homes of the people who really will love them. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas story to me. That’s how we’ll live with ourselves for what we’ve done.

So we blow out more sets of trains today. We had one guy from New York walk away carrying four boxes full of our trains. My pockets were bulging with cash. We had guys we chatted with that were really wonderful people. We’d see them everyday. They loved trains and had lots of money. We discussed some post war O gauge stuff we had at the house. They were very interested in those pieces as well as the cabinets in the house my father had custom-built to house all of these beautiful sets of trains. These guys were serious collectors with houses full of goodies.

Put them in the hands of those who love them so that they can continue to live on and bring joy to people. They won’t be just all in a box somewhere like ashes in the ground. They will continue be immortal. Just like our father’s memory in all of our hearts and minds. He won’t ever really be gone until the black wings of death scatter our days.

We came here with 31 sets of trains and we’re only leaving with 13. That’s a pretty good haul. But the best part of this entire three-day odyssey was the time with my sister. She’s been wonderful and we’re really good travel buddies. It’s rare when you grow up together, then you both go off and live your lives. She goes off to college, and I go off to L.A. to play rock. She gets married and you get married. You live in different places and maybe only see each other once or twice a year at the holidays. You have your own lives and friends and children just like most people do. But then there is a death in the family. That tragedy brings you all back together. Well. I suppose I shouldn’t call it a tragedy. Death becomes us all.

But there is an event like this where you are called upon by your closest sibling to come to her aid thirty-five years later and you both get in a car and travel somewhere and sell a bunch of trains. You’re with that person all day for three days. You eat together, hang out, and laugh your asses off like you’re both back in high school again. Those three days with Janice in York were some of the very best days of 2017.

We say goodbye to Lenny and his lovely wife and I load what’s left of our stuff back into the SUV. We drive back to Philly, both a bit richer. Not by the Benjamins in our wallets but with love in our hearts.

Can’t wait to get home to my beloved city!

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Friday – Part 2

I’m thinking my sister Janice is like my dad at York and I’m more like his brother Jack. Jack was my uncle. They used to come here every year when they were both alive. Janice knows a lot about the trains and eats well. She’s brought her own healthy food and sandwiches, etc. I’m like Jack, eating trash food all day and drinking booze. Plus, I’m the funny one like my uncle was.

I sell an orange 256 to a really nice guy named Forrest for $400. He’ been a return client and we love that.  Bo cruises over to look at our trains again. He works his shit again and says we’ve already sold everything he wanted. The odd thing is a guy named Vince came over and bought all those trains that Bo had his eye on. Now I’m thinking Vince was one of Bo’s minions and Bo got exactly what he wanted at the price he wanted it for. He takes me over to show me his 10 tables of stuff. It all looks pretty lame to me but I don’t really know what half the stuff is worth I’m looking at.

Back at our table I’m thinking my sister Janice is like my dad at York and I’m more like his brother Jack. Jack was my uncle. They used to come here every year when they were both alive. Janice knows a lot about the trains and eats well. She’s brought her own healthy food and sandwiches, etc. I’m like Jack, eating trash food all day and drinking booze. Plus, I’m the funny one like my uncle was.

One irony was I met a guy who is with his son from Long Island. It’s the son that like pre-war O guage and it’s the son that got his dad into trains and found out about this annual show here at York. I’m not saying there’s hope for the train collecting market. It’s that a kid got his pop into trains and not the other way around.

I go outside to smoke a cig I meet a black woman and light her cig for her. Her name’s Barbara, and she tells me she works all of the events at this place all summer just for fun and extra cash. She said she likes that when there are concerts out here she gets to see all of the acts for free.  She also goes on to say she gets a widow’s pension of $2000 a month.

“I’m sorry.”

“Worth it for all he put me through.”

Then I run into Forrest and his father and son. Three generations standing right in front of me. I tell him how it must be good luck that I keep running into him, because he keeps buying stuff from us. He tells me a story about how he was once in Korea and he saw a beautiful model sailboat in the window of a shop. He went in and inquired about the ship. The merchant told him $100. He told him thanks anyway, but he had to catch a train and go to the airport. But there is an old korean superstition that if the first sale of the week is on Monday, you’ll have good luck the rest of the week. So the guy is chasing him all around the store trying to sell the boat to him.

“No. It won’t fit on the plane. I have to catch a train. No, thanks.”

“Ok. $20.”

Cut to: Forrest sitting on the plane back to the US with a big model sailboat on his lap.

Forrest also collects fans. Actual plug-in fans to keep a room cool. Those kinds of fans. He shows me photos in his phone of his fan collection.

“You should say to people, Hey, wanna see a picture of my Fan Club?”

We all laugh and head back inside. He looks at the Hiawatha. “$500? I’ll sleep on it.”

He also looked at a little silver streamlined train, and walked away from it. “I’ll sleep on it.”

Later his son came back and bought it himself! We gave him a junior collector discount. We love these guys and find out that they’re staying at the same hotel we are. They go off and tour the show some more.

But then we later realize as we’re shutting down our table that we forgot to give Forrest the boxes that go with the trains he bought from us. But that gives me an excuse to go to the front desk and talk to hot Angelica again!

When we do finally get back to the hotel, I scamper up to the front desk and tell Angelica my plight with the boxes. She tells me she’ll call Forrest and let them know we left them for him.

I head up to my room for a cocktail and some Nat Geo on the tube.

An hour later Janice is at my door ready to go to dinner. Tonight we decide to dine out at this little hick diner at the foot of the hill. I love a good diner and Jan tells me this is where dad and Jack would always eat, so it must be good. I earned more in sales today than Janice so the rule we made up is, winner buys dinner. So I order a steak and we have a lovely and lively dinner.

Later on I’m up in my room having a nightcap and decide that after this episode of dateline, I’m going downstairs for one smoke and then off to bed. Downstairs I walk through the lobby and out the front door. I smoke my cig and there’s just one drunk guy out there. He doesn’t say much because he is more than half in the bag. I walk back in and check out the snack bar.

“Hey!”

It’s Angelica! We start chit chatting and I’m loving her. She’s going to school to be a police officer. I’d love her to snap the cuffs on my and take me in for some rough interrogation. She could strip search me anytime. But I digress. She also tells me her fiance wants to open a fitness center. I tell her about the salon and how we’re putting a gym in it. She likes that story and then I go into the real reason we’re here in York. She finds the story touching and listens intently. I tell her she has been one of the high points of this trip for me. (Not really, but what can I say, I’m charming.)

“Take my picture so you’ll remember me.”

Done.

What a sweet beauty right? You are looking at the hottest girl I’ve seen in this God forsaken town the entire time I’ve been here. Now I can go back upstairs to more dateline, a drink and then off to bed. It’s been another wonderful day.

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am EST.

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Friday – Part 1

I’m selling off your favorite stuff, dude. The jokes you used to make about me at your funeral blowing out your 260E Pre War O Gauge set on Ebay is happening! This isn’t vengeance. I’m helping my sister because I work in a sales job that allows me a flexible schedule. Janice needs this stuff away because we don’t know what to do with it. We miss you. We miss your voice, and your smile. We miss mom too. Let’s not leave her out of this.

Friday begins with me sitting in the lobby. Asians are gone. They must have found rooms for them all. Today is key. We’re here on day two and we need to hit it hard today.  Janice is on point as always and rolls into the lobby on time. It’s 8:30 and we need to get to the fairgrounds by 9:00am. Gotta get it done today. It’s critical. We don’t want to haul these trains back home with nothing to show for it but grinding failure. I know we’re both worried, but today’s a new day, and the sales guy in me is positive as usual. We’ll do what we have to do to move the product.

We hop in the SUV and head to the show. I hate this part of the country. Just lines of strip malls and zero culture. This place must have been something at one time.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/York,_Pennsylvania

Apparently they have some decent history but I didn’t like that “Unchallenged Ku Klux Klan rallies” part. If for some reason I was banished to this purgatory I know within a month I would stuff a pistol in my mouth and eat a bullet just so I wouldn’t miss.

I love my father, but the audience that collects toy trains is for the most part a sick looking bunch. But he and his brither were true elegant collectors of the art and nostalgia that is toy trains. They would rip on all of these monsters just as hard as me and my sister are going to today and tomorrow.

We get to the hall before 9am and pull the sheets off the trains on our tables. But here’s the worst part. Before the show officially starts, everybody has to stop what they’re doing, and they make some announcements. Then they play the National Anthem. But they did that shit yesterday. It was painful enough to stand there with my hat off and my hand over my heart surrounded by these God-fearing, flag waving sheep and play along. but today they played this horrible sanctimonious defecation:

 

I just want to get a breakfast sandwich and start my fucking day here. But here I am standing around a bunch of redneck, inbred, nigger hating, Trump loving, fat, ignorant, fucking imbeciles and I have to act like I love America with the rest of you shits and all the shitty racist kids you’re going to make. This is a song that is just a huge pile of lies and when I put that gun in my mouth and pull the trigger the only thing that would make me happy that when the bullet exits my head taking everything with it that I am, that somehow by some miracle Lee Greenwood is standing behind me, and it hits him square in the fucking forehead for writing this steaming pile of feces.

I hate this place. My mission is to separate the targets from their cash, move the product and go.

I love this country, don’t get me wrong. But it’s a fucking toy show, not a Presidential Inauguration! Oh wait, that was a fucking joke too.

So that puppet show ends and I can finally get a shitty breakfast sandwich. I know by now I may have lost some followers but I don’t really don’t give a shit, but that’s what’s up people. It’s awful here. I don’t belong here. But we’re on a mission and I am the right person for this job. It needs to be done. Love and guilt and nostalgia aside, we don’t want to load 31 sets of trains back in the car and go home. We need to sell some stuff today.

I’m hanging at the table with Janice. It’s early. Will we get some nibbles? 9:30 comes and Jan sells a train. Small fish. $50. Then a dude comes by 15 minutes later and wants her O Gauge Comet. He says he’s been looking for it for 10 years. It’s a lovely little toy that looks like it’s been restored. The whole set is wrapped in newspaper and bagged up and sent to another family for $450. I watch as the man carries away a piece of my father’s history without his permission, but I know this puppy is going to a loving family and today that is all that matters. He’ll surprise his family and friends with this lovely little toy train and have a story to tell, and for this moment as my sister and I stand by and watch dad’s beautiful birds fly away, we can only smile. It’s going to a good home. It’ll run around the Christmas tree for the first time in forever. That’s what it was made for. To chug and puff and delight those around it.

Take it home, Sir.

I think of my father. All of his teachings and words, and ideas and all that is good, bad and wonderful inside of me as I stand here blowing out his train collection. I don’t know what Janice is feeling, but I know we’re both troubled. But we’re having a great time while doing it.

When do you get to hang out with your sister at middle age and go to what basically is a flea market and go sell a bunch of stuff for thousands of dollars? It’s surreal and elegant in the same moment. But as siblings, we’re close. Closer than we realized. Our lives have taken different directions, but like I always say, you can’t stop rock and roll, and Janice and I have a very rich history. Our family is strong and honest. We don’t need to be together all of the time to be close. This proves we were raised right. We can all be apart for long periods of time but when we come together we are money. That’s good parenting. All of my best friends are that way. I can not see them for years and when we hang, it’s right back to when we were kids again. That’s the real deal. Everybody wants that but not every family can achieve it. Some don’t even know what it is.

I’ve been around families and they don’t get it. You notice it mosly at the dinner table. The contrived conversation. It just never feels real. I noticed this when I was married to my ex. The whole conversation just sounded like a scripted dialogue over a shitty movie. What that means is that Dad is hiding something and you have all of these kids and the whole marriage is a sham. Yea. My In laws. I knew it. My Dad knew it. We discussed it but never told anybody. But that’s my ex in laws. Fuck them for now. Their great but their not in this story.

I can stand between three tables of my dad’s favorite stuff and make my sister laugh. I feel like that’s why I’m here more than to sell these lost antiquities. I could say I know how much she loved my father but that would be a fucking lie. Because no one on Earth will even know that.  That belongs to them. I don’t know that. My Mother doesn’t even get it. I understand all of the moving parts of this family because I have always stood on the outside. So the clarity is automatic. Funny… cast out but you get to see everything. I’m the only boy so Dad is going to tell me all of the shit he did and make me swear I never tell my sisters, but by telling me that shit it’s out there. You were a great dad but we all have feet of clay. We’re all even in the end. I’m going to end up where you are. Tell me everything. I’m you’re son. I love you. You have given me SO much. More than you can imagine. You’re the greatest man I’ve ever met and you used to hit me.

I’m selling off your favorite stuff, dude. The jokes you used to make about me at your funeral blowing out your 260E Pre War O Gauge set on Ebay is happening! This isn’t vengeance. I’m helping my sister because I work in a sales job that allows me a flexible schedule. Janice needs this stuff away because we don’t know what to do with it. We miss you. We miss your voice, and your smile. We miss mom too. Let’s not leave her out of this.

Remember the old 8mm film from before we were born that you guys made? It was an elegant home movie of mom pulling a box out from under the bed at Christmas and just pulling endless goodies out of it.  You guys were loving and playful back then. I like that couple. That’s a great film. I love that you had the movie camera and you did something cool with it. You were always a cool filmmaker. I’ll write about all of that at another time but I love that you made a fun surprise christmas movie with your wife. You loved her. I loved her. I miss her. She was amazing. She was tough and patient and tolerant and a good mom to me and my sisters.

But my sister and I am here in a place I would never want to go to voluntarily moving your most beloved possessions and you don’t even have a voice to help us do it. I know you want us to do it. But we could sure use your help, dad. This is your history. Your mythology. Janice and I are systematically dismantling and getting rid of all of your favorite stuff. I’m sorry, dad.

We loved you. We miss you. It’s hard for the senior members to go and do this to your stuff. I wouldn’t like it. If my daughter Lorelei let my 1979 Ibanez Iceman go for $200 I may rise from the grave and come after her in the afterlife. (I know she’s afraid of ghosts) But we have to deal with this.

But dad… This is just stuff.  You loved your trains. But the best part of your life was just what you said it was. Meeting Mom. Your kids and your books. You always told me that. Over and over again.

I know you suffered. I know you better than anybody. You love Jan, but I’m your son and I know I get all of the good and bad. I’m fine with that. I’ve had plenty of my own. I love you forever and forgive you as I hope my own daughter will forgive me for my feet of clay.

I was writing this tome to document an adventure that I got to have with my sister I never saw this coming. It’s a welcome surprise. I was praying the trip to York wouldn’t just be a transaction. I just want to understand more and go forward and be a better person.

Dad, don’t worry. We’re fine. I forgive you and you’re dead so I can’t worry if you forgive me. I just hope that you weren’t too disappointed in me. I tried my best and always tried to be true to myself.  I know I’ve made mistakes in my life when it came to matters of the heart. mine cost me $125K in child support, but at least you always told me your stuff and I really know you and what happened in your life to make you who you are.

I know you know that I’m more like mom’s side of the family. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me and I’m going to go forward in life and follow your message. The one you never got to fulfill.

“Go through life and hurt as little people as possible.”

Living it. Your grand-daughter Lorelei is away from her mother and has lived with me since half way through her senior year. She just got a raise at her job.

I know you liked Michelle. She moved to San Francisco and married her high school sweetheart.

“That never works.”

“You can’t say that, Dad. You’re dead.”

“Yea, I know, but that shit never works.”

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Thursday – Part 3

It doesn’t matter what we ate or drank, it’s the time spent together and the words exchanged and the feelings felt and the shared experience of this one of a kind journey that will mark me forever.

So here we are on day one of this journey and we haven’t sold anything yet. We know our product is good but we haven’t had any offers yet.  But I’ve noticed that every time I leave the table to go to the bathroom or get something to eat or smoke a cig, a bunch of old dudes swarm our tables.

“Janice, I notice whenever I leave the table, a bunch of old guys come prowling around looking at the trains and chatting with you.”

“So?”

“Well maybe tomorrow we raise the hem on your skirt, or maybe put on a little lipstick, or open another button…”

“Are you pimping me out?”

“Do you want to sell these trains, or have to pack them all up and cart them back to the shore house?”

By this time she is laughing hysterically to the point of crying. I’ve always been able to make my family laugh and today is no different.

I’m learning more about toy trains than I ever knew before. One guy told me that the new toy trains have loads of electronics in them, so they’re nearly impossible to repair if something fails in the unit. In the old days, you could open the toy and repair the mechanics in a simple way.

During the afternoon this black guy stops by and checks out our trains. He’s especially taken by this set of Marx we have. It’s really a cute set of trains. It’s all in the original box. It even has the transformer and track. He tells me about when he was growing up the only toy trains his parents could afford were Marx. The Lionel and American Flyer were too expensive.

Now I get it. That’s why there are hardly any black people here at the this gigantic train show. African-Americans couldn’t afford train sets for their kids because they were too expensive. And when these toys were built black people didn’t have the opportunities they do now. They couldn’t justify spending $50 on a toy for their kid when they could get him five decent toys for them for that price. The Marx train sets were more affordable back then so that’s what they bought.

Interesting.

There are a lot of characters at York. This one particularly notorious one is a guy named Bo. He’s really rich and has tons of trains. He’s got like ten tables here at the show! He plays it like he doesn’t know stuff but he’s super shrewd and can’t be trusted. He comes over and looks at all of our trains and sees what he likes but acts like he’s unwilling to pay that much for any given train set. He’s knows exactly what they’re worth. He’s been in the business of train collecting for decades. My dad didn’t like him and neither does Janice. I think they just didn’t trust the guy. He just seems full of himself. Sort of a blowhard.

He starts telling me how much he liked my father and all to get into my good graces. He starts telling me a story about a friend who in 1975 bought a beautiful lithograph for $700. He later sold it for $2500 a few years later, but I guess missed owning it so he bought it back for $2700. Then Bo buys it from him for $3200 and decides to hold onto it for a while. Then many years later he sells it to some Wall Street broker, for $25,000!

I reckon he’s a guy who when he isn’t talking about himself, and trying to swindle trains away from hapless sellers, he likes to tell stories that involve money.

He continues to tell me he arrived earlier in the week and hung out with some of his friends. He said apparently one of his cronies, a guy that was around 70 had a stent near his heart. Apparently Bo doesn’t know what a stent is because he’s describing it to me and he’s getting it completely wrong.

The guy didn’t tell anybody he had a stent, and he went to dinner with Bo and the boys on Monday and after that the stent collapses and the dude dropped dead. Not really a good opening story when you meet someone for the first time.

Bo goes back to whatever hole he slivered out of, or maybe just back to his 10 tables full of trains. Some other guy (One of the good guys) comes over and puts his arm around Janice and says “Bo won’t try to steal from you, but he can be a ruthless wheeler-dealer. So beware.”

Janice knows Bo is a snake in the grass that will find a way to get what he wants at this show, but we’ll do what we can to fend him off.

Like I said before, there are several other halls on site that are full of dealers and trains, but for some reason they all close at 5pm, but the one we’re in stays open until 6pm. So once 5pm arrives, our hall is flooded with people from the other halls.

We get a sudden flurry of activity and start blowing out sets of trains. The blood scent is in the air, and people are giving us fistfuls of cold hard cash. It’s the strong close we desperately needed at the end of a somewhat abysmal first day out here.

We wrap it all up at 6pm and drive back to the hotel. I notice there’s a hot Puerto Rican girl working the front desk. All of the people who I’ve seen here looks so awful and old and fat, that she is a site for my sore phicklephilly eyes. She’s the first attractive woman I’ve seen all day. (Except for my sister because I know she’s going to read this!)

We check in and I see our hotel has a bar and grill so that’s clutch. We go to our respective rooms and we agree to freshen up and meet in an hour for dinner. Being on my feet and selling has taken a toll on me and I need to just chill for a bit.

My room is beautiful. Cool air conditioning is on and the room is tight. King sized bed, clean bathroom, and flat screen TV. I get a bucket of ice down the hall and fix myself a vodka club. I don’t have cable and don’t watch TV really, so I enjoy watching Nat Geo for an hour while I unwind and sip.

In a while I change and head downstairs to dinner with sis. We hit the hotel dining room. Food was okay. Janice said her asparagus were cold. We had some really great conversations about dad. It was all very heartfelt and I know the only person in the world that could fulfill this mission with me is my closest blood relative sitting across from me. I really admire Jan so much. More than she knows. She’s been through so much pain in this final odyssey, and hopefully this will give us all some more closure in the wake of our father’s death.  As guilty as we both feel selling off his beloved collectibles, we know they were HIS trains. He loved them. We kept what we loved, but there is just so much, it’s just a part of the estate that should be put in the hands of the living who love these trains. So maybe these toys actually get a second life.

It doesn’t matter what we ate or drank, it’s the time spent together and the words exchanged and the feelings felt and the shared experience of this one of a kind journey that will mark me forever.

After dinner we step outside of the hotel lobby and I have a smoke. Some Kenny Rogers type dude is just standing out there playing guitar. Where the hell am I? I miss the city. I can’t be away from Philly for very long. I need to get through this and get back to my city soon.

What was strange, was when we first came out here we noticed that the lobby was full of about 60 Asian people. I have no idea where they came from or why they were all camped out in the lobby. Maybe there was some other convention going on in town, but there was a busload of them in the lobby.

Jan heads up to her room for the night. I tell her I’m going to linger at the snack bar to check it out. I see the latin beauty is still working. She smiles at me and says hello. I need this. I don’t give a shit about the snacks. She’s a snack to me. I interact with lovely women everyday in Philly. In this wasteland of ugly I need a little fix before bed.

I introduce myself and she tells me her name is Angelica. (Of course it is. She’s an angel!) She says she’s only been working at the hotel for four days! I tell her that it was a wonderful hire on the part of the hotel. Angelica is like an ice-cold beer on a hot day in this godforsaken place.

At this point I wish she could give me some room service.

After some small talk with baby, I retire to my room because I’m a gentleman.

Tomorrow is another day of selling!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Thursday – Part 2

My father loved Lionel trains. Lionel made the best toy trains. Then there was American Flyer. Their trains were okay, but just looked cheaper. Then there was Marx trains and they were even cheaper still. Lionel made the good stuff.

I know this’ll be a spectacular journey.  We arrive in York at the fairgrounds on time. There are some fields around, but we’ll be in one of several very large halls. There’s plenty of security and law enforcement out and about. I feel good about this because we’re hauling thousands of dollars in antiques into this hall and there’ll easily be millions of dollars in antique trains in this one hall alone.

Check it out: http://easterntca.com/

My sister hands me a badge I need to wear to get access to the show. It has her husband’s name on it. It’s paid for so I don’t care, I’m just here to help move these trains.

Janice parks and heads inside to look for the dude that hooked us up with the three tables, and where our tables will be. (Lenny)  I start to unload the containers and place them on the hand truck. I balance a good stack and roll it inside. I stop and say hello to Lenny and his wife and their chatting with my sister. Lenny shows me where our tables are and I dump the boxes on the floor (Not dump…gingerly place) and head back outside with the hand truck to get more. I’m assuming I’m the hired muscle for this trip. I’m kidding… Janice has put this whole operation together and literally has done everything to make this mission happen.

I get everything in and we start to unpack it. We meet the guys in the booth over from us. I suppose we should all be on good terms because we’re going to be spending the next three days as neighbors at this show. Janice introduces me by my real name, and the one dude asks why she calls me that if my badge says “Tim”. She tells him that’s her husband’s legit badge but he couldn’t come because of work, and I jumped in to help at the last-minute in the clutch. (Bold faced lie. We planned this a month ago.) The badge is paid for and I’m her brother. Close enough right?

This fucker waits until we get everything unpacked and set up on our three tables. The tablecloths, the 31 sets of trains set up. Everything in place. It’s a shitload of trains.

That’s when this piece of shit gets up in my face and tells me that if I don’t march right over to the main office immediately and pay for my own badge he’ll report me and we’ll have to pack up all of our shit and get out. And I’m like… what a cunt. But being the civilized man I am, I thanked him for helping out and spelling out the rules to me and to please direct me to where I should go to take care of that right away. What I really wanted to do, was throat punch this fucker and hide his body under our table. But again, we’re here to sell some trains, and I don’t want Janice feeling stressed. I’m a good diplomat and I’ve dealt with the likes of “walking piles of shit” like this before. I want to have a good time while I’m here and I don’t want any problems.

Once I step out of the building and start to walk across the field I can feel that this is going to be a good three days. I’m not even upset about that clown at all. I’m actually feeling kind of hungry, and this is a chance for me to eat.

The place is a sprawling property. There are several halls all with different things going on in them. I ask a couple of people where I go to get a registration badge and they direct me accordingly. Apparently “Sheriff Know It All” was wrong about where to go to get a badge. I am directed by some nice ladies in one of the buildings and I pay and show my ID and they make me a new one with my name on it. This whole process has taken about a half hour. But I got up way early today, and I don’t eat that much when I am traveling, and I’ve been cooped up in a car for the last two hours.

On the way back to our hall I decide to stop at one of the many vendors. I buy a hotdog and soda. It’s a lovely day. I need this fuel to get me through the long day ahead selling trains. I finish eating and light a cig as I walk back across the grass to the hall we’re in.

I wonder where all the black people are? I really haven’t seen any since I got here. I live in Philly and we have plenty but I haven’t seen any here. I wonder about this for a bit not knowing that the answer will reveal itself later today.

I get back to our table and my sister is sitting there and a bunch of old dudes are hanging out looking at our trains. They’re chatting with Janice and I’m hoping we sell some stuff.

Janice is super pissed at the douchebag next door to us. I tell her I’ve encountered worse and to let it go. Just because he’s alone and has a little dick he’ll always act like an asshole who will probably never get laid again if he doesn’t pay for it. We’ll just play nice and move forward.

Having never been to the biggest train show on the east coast, I didn’t know what to expect going into it. There is an enormous following connected to collecting toy trains. But who’s here selling stuff? Anybody that’s around my sister Janice and my age are probably the kids of the guy who collected toy trains and are simply liquidating an estate.

Most of the people here are mostly old men. Old guys collect toy trains from a bygone era. But here’s the thing. The people interested in these collectibles is slowly dying off. Once they’re all dead, this event will shrink to probably just one hall instead of five. I already heard several times that each year the attendance is going down. People are simply dying off and fewer people are collecting toy trains.

My father loved Lionel trains. Lionel made the best toy trains. Then there was American Flyer. Their trains were okay, but just looked cheaper. Then there was Marx trains and they were even cheaper still. Lionel made the good stuff.

It’s like when I was growing up. Mattel made the best toys. Their stuff was just superior to everything else. Hasbro? Kenner? Marx? Mostly crap toys. Lego and Tonka were pretty solid though. Same with the trains back in the day.

Let’s hope we sell some of this stuff today.

Tune in tomorrow for the continued saga.

 

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Thursday – Part 1

Janice is the type of person that if shit’s going down, she’ll hold it all together for everybody and be fully prepared. Like, if there was a zombie insurrection, she’d have all the weapons, the transportation, the place we’re going to hide mapped out, and she’d even bring sandwiches in case anybody got hungry from killing the undead all morning.

I’m taking a break from the usual dating stories this week. I wanted to tell the story of when my sister and I went to the biggest toy train show on the east coast to sell off our collection of antiques. I loved writing this almost as much as I loved spending a few days with my sister. Her birthday is next week so this is my gift to her. Happy Birthday, Jan!

 

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this ever, but my parents have passed away. Lost Mom four years ago, and Dad two years ago. My father was a huge toy train collector.  His collection was brilliant. I’d say it was even nicer than the collection at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

But since Dad has passed, we’re stuck with all of these sets of trains that we don’t know what to do with. We kept the sets that had intrinsic value to us, but we’re going to sell the rest. What am I going to do with a bunch of toy trains? My daughter Lorelei isn’t interested in them, and neither am I. It was my father’s thing. It was fun running the trains around the tree at Christmas when I was a kid, but once we got our toys, we didn’t touch them again.

I have three sisters. Janice, April, and Gabrielle.  Jan is 18 months older than me, April is 4 years younger, and Gabbie is 8 years younger. So Janice has been the Matriarch of the family for several years. She’s a school teacher, and is very organized. She’s the type of person that if shit’s going down, she’ll hold it all together for everybody and be fully prepared. Like, if there was a zombie insurrection, she’d have all the weapons, the transportation, the place we’re going to hide mapped out, and she’d even bring sandwiches in case anybody got hungry from killing the undead all morning.

She’s really that good.

Janice goes to our house at the shore. She packs up 31 sets of antique trains. There are many more sets, but these are just the antique trains. (The really old ones) She brings a price guide and finds the current value of each set and prices it into a range where we could sell them based on their value and condition. I will just say, all of my dad’s stuff is nice. He never bought any “rats” as he called them. Rats are beat up old trains that are not in good shape. Like comic book collectors, most people want stuff that’s really nice.

She asks me if I can go with her to the biggest train show on the east coast to try to sell some of the trains. I leap at the opportunity. She knows I have mad selling skills and will blow out as many sets as possible, and we’ll make a nice chunk of change.  Plus, with someone else there with her, it just makes the day better.

Many years ago, Janice would go to York with my father. My Uncle would go with them as well. It was like a big party. They’d get a table and buy and sell trains. My dad and my uncle loved toy trains. Janice loved my dad and was instrumental in helping him acquire some of his collection. I never went to York until this final trip. I had no reason to. I would have been bored out of my mind, and besides, I had zero interest in toy trains. (However, I loved my late Uncle. He was my dad’s brother and was one of the coolest, funniest, and smartest men I’ve ever met.)

The show runs for 3 days. A friend of the family and fellow train collector, hooked us up with three tables, so we can fit a load of trains on them at the show. Janice has thought of everything. She wraps all of the trains in paper and packs them into big plastic containers for easy transport. Her husband loaded it all into his SUV and even included a hand truck so it would be easy to roll all the boxes into the hall when we got to the fairgrounds in York.

Janice lives an hour or so away from me in New Jersey. The SUV was packed the night before. She wants to be in York by 9:00am. She leaves her place around 6am and then drives up to Philly and picks me up at 7:00am. So she’s already been up for hours by the time she reaches my place.

She texts me that she hit a bunch of morning traffic coming up Route 42 in Jersey.  This adds another 25 minutes to her trip, but the show doesn’t start until 10am. We’ve got some wiggle room. By the time she gets to my place it’s 7:30. Her vehicle is packed with so much stuff I have to jam my suitcase behind my seat. There was literally nowhere else to stick it.

I’m happy to see her. Janice lets me know that we can stop anytime I need to and she has snacks. (Prepared for my usual travel anxiety!) I tell her I’m all good, and off we go to York!

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day at 8am EST.

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