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Model train madness. November 26, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood and our friend Ben are pretty maniacal when it comes to collecting. Between the two of us, we collect stamps, marbles, Pueblo pottery, cookbooks, quilts and coverlets, even antique chesspieces (and much, much more). Our friend and fellow blog contributor Richard Saunders has never met a book or magazine on Colonial and Federal America that he didn’t have to have. Even if we don’t share someone else’s collecting passion, we find it fascinating. What drives someone to choose to collect? What causes them to narrow their collection into a particular specialty?

All of which is a long-winded way to explain why OFB and Silence joined our friends Rob, Gary and Carolyn yesterday to see a lavish model train exhibit in the basement of the Kutztown Historical Society. No, we don’t collect model trains (and please don’t call them “toy” trains, unless you’re specifically referring to Thomas and friends). But Rob and Gary do, and as a result, we’ve seen a number of elaborate model train setups over the years.

Rob will only buy antique model trains made by one company in Germany. Why? Because he inherited some beautiful antique engines made by that company from his grandfather. Gary has devoted the upstairs room of his workshop to a train room, with tracks running around the walls and up to the ceiling. (We think his trains are Lionels, but are afraid to ask for fear of setting off a brand war with Rob.)

Rob’s trains are metal rather than plastic, but he’s not a purist when it comes to the buildings and accessories he buys for his train setups. Plastic’s okay, as long as it looks aged. However, he does specialize in Southwestern buildings and sets. This strikes us as a bit incongruous given the German trains, but it certainly makes for an interesting display: German trains in the wild, wild West?! But it combines Rob’s love of the West and his love of model trains, so it makes perfect sense to him, and that’s what counts for any collector. 

Getting back to the Kutztown model train display, it’s by far the best one OFB and Silence have ever seen (we know Rob and Gary agree). The buildings and settings are incredibly detailed: huge, completely realistic bridges, mountains, lakes, wildlife, elaborate town scenes. And amazingly, though the buildings and sets must have been plastic, they don’t look plastic: They look real. Someone must have spent decades creating that level of detail, then had the civic-mindedness to donate their life’s work to the Historical Society, which had the good sense to appreciate it.

If you enjoy model train displays and live within driving distance of Kutztown, we urge you to see (and judge) for yourself. Admission is free. There are other items of interest, too, including turn-of-the-century schoolrooms, World War I displays, and original Keith Haring artwork (he was born and grew up in the house, still standing, next door). And if you have a passion for collecting, please let us know what you collect, and what drives that passion! We can certainly relate.


Reeling in. March 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood are feeling sorry for ourselves. There are four, count them four, things happening this weekend that we’ve wanted to attend for months or even a year, and we’re both trapped here frantically working on deadlines.

First is the Longwood Gardens orchid show and sale, sponsored by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Orchid Society (SEPOS). This is a simply fabulous show, at one of America’s great gardens, and continues through tomorrow (Sunday), should you happen to be within driving distance. As it happens, we have more than a passing connection to this show: Silence’s ex is a distinguished orchid judge for SEPOS; our good friend Rudy is a SEPOS clerk, assisting the judges; and our friends Delilah and Chaz were going to the show today and invited us to come with them. It killed us to have to say no.

Then there’s the Greater Baltimore-Washington Marble Show, also happening today a mere 2 1/2 hours from here. Our friend Ben, an impassioned collector in any case, has become obsessed with marbles and would have loved to hop in the car and head on down.

Silence and OFB both love antiques, and there’s a big antiques show in nearby Allentown, PA this weekend that we’d had on our calendar for many months. And to top it off, tomorrow there’s a local stamp show. OFB has stamps in the blood—my father, his father, and our beloved Mr. Hays have (or had) extensive collections.

Scream and scream again. We knew we couldn’t go to any of these long-anticipated events. The life of a freelancer means giving up personal time when an assignment hits, but in return, you have the privilege of working from home rather than reporting to an office. Usually, we feel the trade-off is so worth it. But this weekend has been tough: We’ve been looking glum, not talking about it, soldiering on. It’s hard when you’ve really, really been looking forward to something and it’s snatched away. 

Finally, we decided to face the issue and talk it through. Reading a post on Cinj’s Chat Room (http://cbmvwag.blogspot.com), about her “brown thumb” with houseplants reminded us that it was time to count our blessings. Yes, we’re missing the orchid show. We won’t have the chance to see great plants in bloom and buy some for our own collection. But we can picture the plants and displays, having been there in the past. Even now, some of our orchids are in bloom. Mr. Hays, who has a soft spot for Silence, has gotten her orchid-of-the-month subscriptions for Christmas for the past few years, and her Paphiopedilum ‘Pinocchio’ is blooming cheerfully in the kitchen as we speak. Surely we can survive until next year’s show, and hopefully we won’t be facing this deadline pressure then. And meanwhile, we have lots of thriving, gorgeous houseplants to enjoy “free” since we already own them.

As for marbles, stamps, and antiques, yes, it would be great to see them. We would love that. But frankly, we already have some. We have more of all of them than most people could ever imagine. And hey, there are antiques stores within driving distance once we’re past our deadlines, and eBay is always waiting.

Yes, we confessed, we’re really sorry to miss these much-anticipated treats. But let’s look at what we have now: We can take care of our houseplants and pet birds and aquaria and enrich our living space while appreciating them. We can enjoy the good company of our golden retriever, Molly, and our cats Linus, Layla and Athena. We can revisit our collections and enjoy what we already have, while feeling relief that, in an uncertain economy, we aren’t pouring our hard-earned money into new plants, marbles, stamps, and the like. We can, in short, focus on our pluses: our friends, our families, each other. Our wonderful pets and property and carefully chosen, cherished posessions. We can get past this, get over it, get on with it.

Anticipation is what it is: the looking forward to future delights. And the upside of this is that the future is ongoing, so the anticipation stretches out to infinity. If present realities intrude on future happiness, merge the two: grab happiness and drag it into the present. The future will always be waiting.