Dead Man’s Story

Tonight I kind of have to post something.  It gives me a reason to put my blog on my page.  I got to spend some time with my cast mates, tonight, a story I though I had put on here…I could have sworn I did, I’ll have to check my drafts.  The Ganger got into a play.  The university is putting on “Our Town,” and I get to be in it.  More than a few people are surprised to learn that I was involved in theater in high school.  That is not the point.

The point is I have some awesome cast mates.  They allowed me to run my mouth for a while and explain to them that I am unconcerned with saying things like, I love marathon dungeons and dragons games, or sorting pencils, or sorting stamps from the Soviet Union.  It is because I do not have time to care.  No one can afford to, these are my quirks.  I am so very aware that I will not be here one day, and I needed them to know that I am always on the lookout for the next thing to make into a story.  I dress up with my sons for Halloween, I go to New York by train on a whim, I audition for plays, I start M&M fights with Liam, because I may not get to do so tomorrow.  As you have seen I write it all down, because the next biggest tragedy would be for the stories to be lost, because then who will remember?

It was on the thought of writing it all down that I realized, I write a lot as if I were already gone.  Which inspired the idea to write a terrible little poem.  It is not finished, but it seems to cap off the night.  Judge it all you like, I will as well.

 

Dead Man’s Story

Hello my dear diary of a dead man!

My gunna be the biggest to do for all the people to see

Like Wellington the people g’on come from all around

The g’on come and bury this hillbilly

They come and stay for days and live a little bit like me

There g’on be song, drink, and dance, but my hope is for you to get a good story.

What you sing, what you drink, and with whom did you dance?

You see that is how you live a bit like me, you put down the phone and begin making a story.

Now me? I am nobody from nowhere, but when I tells you about it, I’m the biggest somebody from the biggest some where you ever heard of.

I was born to the prettiest lady in the daisy land, we together one big family in one big house.

Whole family on a plot of land with a dirt track and a forest filled with dragons and demons and their ilk

My cousins and I the only thing kept them away, our blood, sweat, and play kept those big ole baddies at bay.

Yes we loved it there in the daisy, we went to the same school, the yellow building where mamaw brought the mail to the Allen.

The Allen so old that momma and uncle went there like granddaddy too.

I wish I could show it to you like it was in my day

we moved on to a fancy new street where we was the last generation of kids and a fancy new school that taught me about classes, but where I learned little in class

Now you want to live like me? You g’on need four daddies, you g’on need camping and fishing and movies with your momma across the big old sea.

You gunna live like me you gotta have tobacco, coffee, and tea

You gotta kiss a girl with bright red hair in the photo machine at the gate to the north, you gotta dance with those who cannot speak, you gotta fight when you know you will lose and play nintendo in the tops of trees.

Now you see I wanted to do all there was to see, and surprisingly I am always getting to.

Now I seen London, and I seen France, and I got asked silently by a pretty German girl to dance.

I smelled the channel salt, sailing by a white wall.

 

Follow me and youll see the black guards of a queen, you’ll sleep in castles in the hills, youll trod the boards with the most creative the nooga had, and you’ll ride horses in a circle every time you see them

To live like me you g’on have to put your name in the big book of an army

you g’on have to go to the man in the round brown hat and do what he say

you g’on have to go to the land of the eagles and learn how they fly

you g’on take up you gun for you destiny, and meet the people who like in the big sand sea

you live like me and you’ll see big crossed sabers, a baghdad sunset, and if you lucky you’ll get to swim in the pool of a dead dictator

you gotta fight in the war, and wonder what for

livin like me get you called doc, if you know some broken body

With me you’ll ride the steam engine to get a pencil and see the big city, gettin back just in time to win moonshine to help the kiddies, while a man tells you that its in the fruit.

To be like me you gotta plan your funeral and write your obituary just to make sure they gets it done right, who else g’on throw that good a party and tell that good a story?

BB-10-27-16

 

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Books that someone else says you have to read, Part 1.

We have not done a book part of this whole books, brass, bears thing in a while.  For a while now I have been looking at the lists of “books everyone should read.”  I watched the movie The Equalizer in which Denzel Washington’s character is said to be reading through one of those lists.

Problem one is that there is definately more than one list, there are several that come up commonly in fact.  So it takes a little detective work.  I contacted my friend who is a librarian if there was a list to beat all lists that libraries and their secret societies know about.  According to Paula there is not, but she did tell me about a book that her library contained about this subject.  However, this grand tomb is a bit much.  It is 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die, by over 100 international critics.

Technically this is the first review, this book is a fail.  This is exacly why college professors give you word limits on papers.  These guys did a wonderful job assembling and summarising 1001 books but, even given the total number of books in the world, this was not work.  They did not have to pick something but the Bronte sisters, everything they ever wrote is in here!  It does however have a break down by time frame, so there is a list of “pre 1700,” however there is still the horrid idea of buying a 35$ book…to tell you which books you need to read.

Back to the list.  My next piece of detective work was to say ok what was Denzel reading.  He mentions The Old Man and the Sea, and one of the two main lists had that, so that is what we are going to go with.  There is a Good Reads list, and an Amazon list.  I deduced it to be the Good Reads list and so that is what we are sticking with, you can find it here.

Much to my…utter horror To Kill A Mockingbird was top of the ranked list.  You see I was put up to reading this in highschool, except I did not do it.  I am not particularly proud of the story I am about to tell as, I look back and think I would want to beat a student senseless if they had done this.  I do not know why, I got thirty pages in, gave back my copy, and took a zero for the various assignments that went along with the book.  My teacher was a bit eccentric, and I feel like she protested her way through college, so I am guessing my lack of a few letter grade drop was due to some strange part of her being excited to watch me buck the institution.

So do I wish that I had read this back when?  Not really.  I do wish I could remember why I hated it so much back then, and perhaps not been a snot.  I do not believe though that I had the capacity to appreciate this book when I was fifteen.

I may not agree that this book is “the best novel of the Twentieth Century” as purportedly said about librarians across the country, and no I do not have an immediate contender outside of The Silence of the Lambs right now, but I am not sure this is the top.

I did enjoy it though.  I feel like this type of book is the equivalent to a blog back when, have story and a need to tell it.  It offered a nice insight into the brutal reality of a situation with no way out, and no happy ending.  The race issues portrayed in the 30s, were very relevant when Harper Lee wrote this book, and despite starting this grudgingly, and partly as a show of commitment to this list no matter what I found on it, I found myself wanting to know how it ended.  Tom Robinson’s troubles were devastating and told matter of factly, in a that is life kind of way.  The only thing that can be compared to a happy ending is the death of  Bob Ewell.  I believe in justice, even if it has to be taken, and Bob Ewell got taken out the way he was supposed to whether he did it or Arthur Radley handed it to him, but that is it.  It can be good to read this kind of reality, even if it is grounded in a fiction novel, I feel it was the reality in the world and mind of Harper Lee.

Do I believe that it should remain on the list?  Absolutely, everyone should read it.  My next trip to the bookstore will be to turn it into the next thing that lives on my shelf.

The other thing I will be doing at this time will be to at the same time create my own list, just to see how much work goes into this, and to see what I learn, and am willing to give up along the way.  It will all take years, and I hope some of you are along for the ride.  I suppose this calls for a new permanent notebook…we will see, but the first book on Bjorns list of everyone has to read it, is To Kill A Mockingbird.  I hope you all enjoy it, and if you read it back when that you will go back to it.

 

Where we came from

 

**UPDATE**

I figured out after I wrote this, that the staples brand composition book is fountain pen friendly!! See photo at the bottom.

I want to take you back to a post I did about not forgetting about the value of inexpensive supplies, and leaving behind the idea of calling them junk…now I’m not here to scold anyone today.  Today I want to take you back to your roots, or in the case of many now, the roots of their parents.

First you have to set the mood right.  We are going to go to a great place that sits positioned strategically between the 1980s and 1990s (some from the 90s may have drug this habit into the 2000s with them kicking and screaming.)  We are going back to slide rules and Lisa Frank.  We are headed straight for The Breakfast Club and Full House.  Bring on The Cure and Alice in Chains do what it takes to get yourself there.  Me personally, I can set the scene fairly well by flipping on Family Matters, specifically at night, and hopping in the living room to write, thats my easy switch on the way back machine, but I have a ton of them.

Who knows what those things in my picture are?  Anyone?  See to many of us from the 80s and 90s (90s for me, however the 80s lived strong on television and my mothers music cabinet) those devices served the same purpose as a blog.

Now before we go on I have to tell you that I live by a theory concerning decades.  Here is The Ganger’s (Bledsoe’s) law of the commutation of culture: Each decade is still largely the previous decade until the fourth year of the current decade, and it gets less and less each advancing year.  For instance when FRIENDS (GREATEST SHOW EVER) premiered in 1994, that was the first truly 90s year, and when it finaled in 2004 that was truly the 90s wishing us goodbye.  When Cheers hit in 1982, it was still culturally 50% 1970s, if you do not believe me, go to Netflix, and watch the first episode of Cheers, you will understand.  I explain this theory so that you will understand why Geny Y 90s kids love the 80s, it was exposure, it was a carry over, and we had all of these things.  The true millenials think of Ed, Edd, and Eddy as their re run cartoons of yesteryear.

Before the internet and world wide web and their endless reign started there was the composition book.  How did I get back to it?  Well the story is contained in the photos, which I will photograph for you at the end of this.  The short, I was in a Staples with my Aunt Connie, specifically the staples where I used to buy my school supplies, and we were waiting an excrutiatingly long time for some copies to get made, and so I wandered the aisles.  I layed eyes upon a large and colorful pack of BIC pens, which when combined with the composition book, I first realized they would cost around five dollars, and after that I took the stroll down memory lane.

We used to get one of these every year or so, and this was no ordinary journal, journals we have in plenty, no no no the composition book was where you poured your heart out, and usually only in multi-colored pen.  This was the place to write down your angry songs, your teenage longings about the one which the adults simply could not understand that you really did love so much that it hurt.

Let us not forget the pens either.  This was a process a ritual, turning paper into a stiff crinkly parchment covered in roller ball ink, and engage your senses, there is the smell, the smell of roller ball ink that comes along with the ritual scribing of your deepest thoughts.  Have you broken one out in a while?  The complete experience will have you breaking out Alice in Chains and The Cure before you know it.  I am willing to bet that some of you still have a small stack of these things hidden away, what do yours say?  Where did you take them?

I was very glad that I ended up in that Staples with people who could not make the copy machine work, because in a sea of blackwings and field notes how else would I have been tempted to buy these just to toy with the notes of a blog entry, you see I believe smell to be the strongest sense, and the one best linked to memoryl, and rollerball ink has that distinct scent I keep bringing up.  I am glad I paid for these things, because I took a walk back to crappy songs, bad poems, angst that makes me want to hop in with Mr. Peabody to go kick my own can for being so whiny, all in all a good time.

I encourage every one who has gone down the proverbial rabbit hole with our pens, pencils, and notebooks, and go grungy with one of these just to see how it makes you feel.  I will admit I will have to search for a heavier duty brand, more like the old days, but I almost want to throw these back into my regular notebook rotation.  Grab one, BIC rollerballs, and give the old world “anablog” a try, better yet, go re read your old ones all Harriet the Spy if you still have them.

Ganger Bjorn

P.S. I tried to go for the weird look we wrote in back in the day.

Fountain pen friendly at .99 cents.

Gone for a bit…

The title in this case is correct, I have spent some time away.  Oddly I have gotten some more readers, which is not something I am going to argue with, welcome, and I hope what you see here makes you want to stay.  Reasons I have been gone?  I am glad you asked.  School of course always takes up a good bit of my time, but the semester has been out for a while now, I am actually finding that I need to begin preparing for a return in September, that is no easy task as I have to figure out child care for Zander.

FACT:  attempting to retain suitable infant child care, even before you factor cost, is enough to put anyone into a “dealing with beuarocracy” coma.  I am one of those people who hates having to call the bank, fix errors at the post office, deal with insurance, and the registrars office, daycare in the state of Massachusetts is a tangled nightmare of laws, rules, and stuff you are not sure about.  The daycare provided by Framingham State University is excellent, however my son was bitten by a problem child, and I may have lost some of the composure I pride myself on when I asked which child and the worker stated very simply the law did not allow her to tell me.  I wrote her an apology, she did her job very well, but that is one of those laws that I just do not quite understand.

That was all just a side note.  It has been quite a while since we go into the gear and rules.  A brief recap, at this point you have some form of a bag you are comfortable carrying for a good bit, and either in it or your pockets is a note book (and a spare) some pencils (maybe pens too) and a knife.  The Knife also makes rule #1, always have it.  I recommend of course, out of all my others, a good Swiss Army knife made by Victorinox, do not by knock off, your paying for your own security here.  In all seriousness, I used the tweezers out of mine to pull the thorns out of my son’s hand the other day, no waiting, just work.

So your new rule is going to sound familiar.  In my world we say “know your route of ingress and egress before proceeding.”  In army medic terms that means we were taught to not go after the wounded before we knew we had a way out.  It sounds rough, but the medic is a resource the entire team needs, and cannot be wasted being shot by the same guy who created your casualty.  You may have heard it as “when in doubt know your way out,” from “Zombieland.”  Mine goes deeper than that though, it is this “Rule #2 Have a plan inlcuding going in and getting out.”  In this case it refers to travel, but also the ability to lodge or travel.  This is where you ask yourself what could go catastrophically wrong with this trip, and render me unable to continue on, eat, lodge, or if am hurt.  This is the contingency phase, think up the problem, write it out and fix it.  In my story the catastrophic thing was relatively small, the possible death of a debit card, but the consequences were possibly immense.  

Here are a couple of stories to go with this.  The aforementioned travel.  The Ganger took a little trip back to Tennessee for a wedding.  My Cousin decided some time back to ask his girlfriend to marry him, she says yes, much more recently they had a very lovely wedding.  Everything was excellent, the music was superb if I do say so.

The trip is rather long, and as I took the four year old with me, rather stressful.  That is not to say it was not a good trip.  It was actually an amazingly good trip, but I am a planner.  There are too many variables in long distance, long time travel, many dangers.  Add in a kid and the risk goes up fast, The Bear intends to come out on top of everything from a car accident to an attack.  Call me paranoid, but we all made it through right?  I prepare, I follow the rules, I drive one of the safest cars in the world (Outback, 2016) and I ready myself and my tools.  We had stopped in Washington D.C. to go to the National Postal Musuem, when we left the gargage my debit card would not register when I tried to pay.  Here is where my plan came in, I do not hit the road outside of my main stomping grounds-where friends can help-without about $120 in my pocket.  I called my wife and told her I would stop and test the card as the boy and I needed some food.  I had used some of the cash to pay the garage, and I sized the situation up calmly.  I was calm, as I knew that I could provide a meal for my son and I, and if I shopped around well enough I could get us a room, or if my mileage math was right I could get us back home on about $60 with room for another meal if need be.  Whichever way it went, my son and I had the basic needs covered for that night until help could be Western Unioned, or we could go home.  That peace of mind came not from money, but from a rule that was followed to the letter.  In the end, the garage machine must have been faulty, as my card worked fine and the trip proceeded as normal.  I had given this kind of advice to a friend who lives abroad.  She did not follow it, and was not registered at the embassy when the Paris attacks occured.  The only real consequence was that she had to listen to the ganger gripe at her.

     This is just one possibility.  Most of my problems can be at least “treated” by a small amount of cash until help can be gained.  We also carry a first aid kit, maps, and my edc kit, which now includes a pay as you go phone and minutes card.  My phone failed while we were there, but again we established reliable communication, and borrowed a GPS, but if not we had maps.  Rule 2 is have a plan, so sit back and say, what’s the least that could happen and then plan for it.  

This is just kind of a comeback, we will get back to all of those things we love to do here and more.  You will notice a name change as the Ganger decided to not simply copy the title of his ancestor.  More posts to follow, after I have made some decisions how far I want to take this in some ways.  Follow on for pictures from the trip.

Ganger-Bjorn

Couple of notes, we went to the PEZ visitor center, yes just yes.  The chain on my cousin is a Grimfrost King’s chain like I recieved for father’s day, and speaking of which I got to spend mine at Fenway parl with my family and run the bases with my sons.  During my son’s birthday we played a record breaking 65 games of skeeball.

Pencils from friends.

I am finally getting around to this, I have a friend in France.  She is the daughter of part of the church family (not excluding her from it) and she has done amazingly well after college getting to teach English in France after college.  When she was setting off I had one request.  My request was a rather tall order to fill in my mind…”I would like some pencils from France please.”  

     After that the waiting begins, however her family visited over Christmas and hinted that they had a package for me!  Not only did she come through in fine fashion, but she got me the extra gift of a very nice little pencil bag made by Elba and a staedtler stick eraser to go with them.   

       The bag’s company I think is funny only to a history nerd…French pencil bag…made by Elba? Bwahahahahahahaha.  Anyhow, the bag has already supplanted my normal locking pencil case as part of my everyday kit.  It had a nice little note in it.   

       I was ridiculously eager to translate the bottom.  In fact I was so eager that as I sat down ralphie style to decode this my brain decided to let go of it’s crude grasp of most Latin based languages and I was actually surprised when I read the translation “a bag for your pencils.”  I still love it, I have not bothered to remove the tag, I believe I will keep it where it belongs.  I wanted to thank my friend again, and tell you to read her blog as well.  Kaitlinplachy.wordpress.com.  I love that some of them aren’t even French, what they are is popular.  These (I believe) are what the children and faculty of the school she teaches at use.  The Noris is the most popular European pencil my research shows.  What my friend did was not to simply find manufactures, but she stretched out her cultural feelers and found me cultural artifacts.  That is almost intoxicating in an anthropological way.

      I even showed how special these pencils were by giving one away.  I had six of the staedtler noris.  The day I got them one of my friends (Nicole) told me that she was unsarcastically enjoying my pencil blog.  She was rewarded with one of my favorite new things.

     As people learn of your love of great graphite they will begin to surprise you with pencils.  Today another woman at church surprised me with a French pencil, bought in Boston.  It is all black and made by La Compagnie Du Kraft.  Upon looking this unique object up, I now believe they don’t sel it, they included it with a special edition of a notebook, which makes it rarer.  

     I have decided that the best pencils are not the ones that you buy as expensive treats or have some rare feature.  The best pencils are pencils from friends who wanted to give you a smile for the day.  

A trip to CW Pencil Enterprise…The best day that was ever had in New York City

As I promised I went to New York City to go and see CW Pencil Enterprise for myself, and I had to best day in the history of New York (in my opinion.)

You can take this as a rock out in the United States on a budget kind of post as well.  I had kicked the idea around for a while, there is a pencil store so close-Boston and New York are close to me-so I had to see it for myself.  I get it, in the small community of stationary junkies, I am a small fish, but I still thought it would be awesome to hit the store up and just spend a day in New York City a place that a lot of my favorite movies and TV shows are set (I either obsess about something or I let it die) and this is what I do, I like to randomly go and do something.  I started my planning Amtrak.

 Amtrak is my new favorite way to travel, especially to a place that when I drove there I hated it. First off there is no ridiculous security line like the airport.  Went in, waited for the train, ate and then boarded.  A conductor scanned my ticket and we went on our way. The price is worth noting as well, I got to New York and back for 120$, and I did not have to drive in New York.  Add 40$ to the total for parking my car in Boston.  The train is something I am going to use as much as humanly possible on my adventures.  I had time to work or read whatever I wanted, I am not crazy about flying, no take off no landing, and I can go and buy my own soda rather than waiting for it to be brought.  If you travel by train you get to see some amazing views of the country.

Im not even sure where that is, somewhere between Boston and Connecticut, it is probably Rhode Island, but the whole thing just felt right.  Watching America go buy with a pencil in my hand was pretty great.  Im kind of stoked to figure out where to go next, but I will need to save for the next one.  The next thing about train travel is the people you meet.  Sure I probably lucked out this time, but right now it is train 1-plane 0.  On my last good plane ride I spent four hours listening to a woman who was convinced that denim was making a comeback in fashion, and she was excited about it.  Head phones are not the international symbol we think they are.  On the train I met a Vietnam veteran who was an actual hobo.

I asked him if I could write about him, he said that would be cool, but part of the story is about how many beers he had during this time so for the sake of his Dignity we will just be calling him JL on the off chance he was not sure to what he agreed to.  JL sat and rode for a while and looked well enough, minus the fact that he was running through beers at a good clip (he had them in his bag.  See what I mean about security? BYOB!) At some point I got a pepsi and he assumed the can to be beer and wanted to know why I paid the eight dollar train price of beer.  I told him it was soda, he then offered me a beer, to which I declined, being 0750 and all.  He told me his story.  He is a hobo (his term) and he was on his way to Tampa.  He stays in Boston as long as possible, and then heads south for the winter where he has connections with a lot of street people (his term also.)  His sister had bought him a nice new pair of boots as a Christmas gift, and his Ex had let him spend the night waiting on his train.  He said she woke him up promptly to be on his way.  He had a backpack with him and he would hop off the train to smoke at any stops longer than a minute.  He said if he missed the train he wanted me to have his bag.  We talked for a while about why he moved about.  He said he came back from Vietnam and eventually moved into a bottle and stayed there.  The long and short of it was that he travelled back and forth according to the seasons and ate and drank on his VA check while living in shelters.  He has it figured out and seems to work for him.  We enjoyed a little pizza before he hunted a liquor store and went on to his connecting train to move on.  If your in tampa and you spot JL remind him to call me so I can check up on him.  He has my number.

SO that leads us to my first slice of New York City pizza.  We had it at a place called Little Italy, that is the name of the eatery.

I was not disappointed.  New York Pizza was everything I had dreamed it could be.

Next came The Empire State Building.  The fee to go to the 86th floor was 35$.  That brings our total (with the pizza) to about 200$.  I wanted the open air observatory, so thats where I went rather than the top to be in a box.  It was here that I got to kill off a bucket list item.  They cram the elevators full for efficiency.  The second trip on one of them and as soon as the doors closed I said to the full elevator “I suppose you all are wondering why I gathered you here today.”  Needless to say the uncomfortable was palpable.  It took me fifteen minutes of tour dodging and security to get to the top.  Let us describe a special kind of cold at the top of that building.  However the photos and the recreation of a Home Alone 2 moment were worth it.  As well as meeting a British woman and her daughter who seemed to believe that my southern accent was from some forgotten colony island rather than the southern United States.


On my way out I acquired my Rough Guide to New York ( a must and it is in the first photo.)  Brings our total to 215$.  I escaped this building and set off on the three mile trek to CW Pencil Enterprise.  Here is part of the beauty of a trip like this.  Whip out the pocket guide, grab the map, plan your route and see what attractions are listed along the way.  A ton of them are things like buildings that cost you nothing at all to admire and take a photo of.  Things like The Flat Iron Building make me wish that I could sketch.  However I cannot sketch so I tell you how to visit cities and sites on a budget.

  

There is a ton of free city to experience along the way.  However the point of this entry is of course CW Pencil Enterprise.  We have arrived.

This is why I had come.  This is the reason for the trip in the first place.  Four hours on a train, three miles on foot, and do it all again later to see this wonderful little shop that has gotten so much press.  I know that I am a small fish in the world of blogging and especially among stationary junkies, however The Pencil Ladies will make you feel like they opened the store just so you can visit.  That is how awesome they are.  I got to meet two of them on this day.  I walked in, sat down my bag and proudly declared that I had trekked from Boston to see this store and write about it.  Caitlyn did not miss a beat and told me to stay as long as I like.  The resident blogger showed the shop off, allowed me to show off some of my own pencils and exchanged my dollars for quarters so that I could gleefully continue to feed them to the pencil machine in the store.  Eventually Caroline, the pencil lady that started it all, came in and I was introduced while trying not to come off as weird.  Again The Pencil Ladies are awesome.  They chatted with me for quite a while.  Now the super fun part comes in when two ladies who had already checked out and left came back to the store.  Apparently there is an Atlanta based stationary blogger/podcaster named Brad whom I mildly resemble (I am sure to them the accent is basically the same) and so they came back and asked if I was Brad.  I was not sure what was going on, but we eventually established who they were talking about and that I am not The Pen Addict.  However I was very flattered and of course the stories are the point of the whole thing.  They added me on Instagram and such (she’s a popular artist herself @penguinscreative April Wu, seriously she’s talented) and they allowed me to get a shot with them just because…they are awesome.

The Pencil ladies showed me some of their cooler vintage items, like a box os 1950s Blackwings and a 1920s case of mongol brand pencils, which we established the packaging was a little racist.

  

Lastly before taking off I presented them my humble offering.  I figured they would have some sort of wall of fame for analogue items people would bring to the store as an offering to The Pencil Ladies.  Turns out that is not a thing…not yet!  See for yourself that they enjoyed the excellent military compass!

I think it goes without saying that I gave up a good bit of my spending money in this store.  This will not be factored into the cost of the trip as you can recreate a trip similar to this without feeding an addiction.  I have two friends (you guys know Carl, and will soon know Tyler) who had asked for an awesome grab bag of graphite from my travels.  I was happy to suck them into this world with me.  I cannot lavish enough praise on this store or the wonderful ladies who run it, it will become a New York must for me.  They treat you like a friend the moment you hit the door.  Now the rest of this is going to go fast as it is getting long.

I made the trek back to the ESB.  I want to point out that every single citizen of New York that I encountered along the way was awesome.  Everyone was helpful, kind, did I say it was the perfect day?  Anyhow seeing as how this became a part pilgrimage for another one of my obsessions (Home Alone 2) I wanted to see The Plaza Hotel and Central Park.  I was getting low on time and would have to book it if I wanted photos.  Fifth Avenue here I go.  Free attractions along the way.

Along the way I encountered a building playing what could only be the soundtrack to Home Alone 2 and putting on a light show.  I asked an officer of the NYPD why this was happening.  He pointed behind me.  I had unknowingly come upon Rockefeller Center.  As any Home Alone Pilgrim would, I fell to my knees and wept…and face timed my son and mother so they could see…then I took pictures.

 
Now me ? I consider the things that you can see along the way to be free attractions  and a way to make the most of your trip.

  
  

In the end I made it to The Plaza Hotel, and had my photo taken on the steps in true Home Alone fashion.

  

After this I headed into Central Park.  I did not go far, I wanted my Grandparents to see it on FaceTime, and so I took them in as far as a bridge, and from the first bridge along the path of Kevin, I took what will be some of my favorite photos.  They will be seen after my signature when this finally ends.  It was 1850, I was low on time and had a train to catch and 1.5 miles back.  I started walking.  A quick duck into a store for souvenir NYC snow globes for the family and I made my train with twenty minutes to spare.  For less than 300$ I had an utterly awesome day in New York City and am already thinking ahead to what to do next time.  One of my big savings is that I walked.  New York is a walking city.  (The Ganger means Big Walker.)  I accomplished a lot of goals (home alone and otherwise) and I made my journey to see the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise and meet the pencil ladies.  Needless to say despite it being 0200, Carl came over and we dug into our goodies from the pencil store.  I hope you enjoy this and can take a trip on the cheap and live a little for yourself.

  
Hrolf The Ganger


  
  

 

 

Time for an adventure!

Get your kits together, because we are going on an adventure!  I am not going to jump the gun and make the entire rules and tools list now.  I will go ahead and add an item to it, but first… 

 
That’s right, I am going to see CW Pencil enterprises in New York City tomorrow!!! I’ll probably do quite a bit while I’m there but let’s face it, I’m going for the pencil store.

Step 1: ensure destination will be open.  Complete…11-7.  

Step 2: double check the weather. 

 
It is going to be cold, but I can handle cold.  Leads to step 3: get your clothes together.  For tomorrow I will be rocking a base layer from the army, we call them ninja suits, and wool socks, good leather boots, outer wear kuhl Ryder pants, Kuhl Thor fleece sweater, and a good wool pea coat.  Once you are dressed check your pockets for knives.

     That’s right it is time to break rule number 1.  The Amtrak web site says no knives whatsoever.  So we I guess by my own standards, while in New York I am a lifeless man.  Unless… 

 
Go ahead and add an umbrella to your gear list.  A good umbrella can make all the difference between an little rain and a ruined day.  Especially when that umbrella is the walking stick umbrella from Unbreakable Umbrella.  Observe.

That’s all I’m saying.  I’m putting my bag together as we speak.  Large camera that is a bit excessive-check, cash-check, list of ideas for after I have achieved pencil glory-good to go, head phones because no one on a 4 hour train ride likes that guy who forgot his head phones-check, couple of books-that’s a must.  Of course I will be obeying the rules about having pencils and a notebook and live updating about this basically all day.  I am not really sure what else to say.

  I’ve given you the basics of how you start something like this, you just have to put together the means and be willing to throw a couple of books and pipes in a bag and ride the rail, that’s the biggest part is being willing to go and do, get off of the couch and chase your passion whatever that may be. Watch for updates. 

Hrolf the Ganger

There are two kinds of people in history…

I have been away for a while.  I believe at is or a similar phrase are the beginnings of most of my posts.  It is true though, I was taken away by my School.  Ah yes I have completed my first year of college.  For a high school dropout who has actually realized the dream of using my military benefits to better myself (in my opinion), it is fairly amazing to be attending college and by some miracle coming out on the Dean’s list for both semesters so far.  I know that it is a very long road to be sure, but when you say a year is down, then the next three do not seem all that long.  We have had a good year here.  I am behind in posting the journal posts, but the idea is that I am not going to go back and type them all out.  What counts is that they are in the journal for my family to read, not that they end up in here, all further ones will be posted.  The idea is not to spend all my time in life rerecording, just the once will do.

I will give a brief recap.  There was a second post about camping.  There is a rather good entry espousing to my son(s) the dedication that you have show if you wish to succeed at anything.  That little gym was written at about 0300 one night when I stayed up to do homework rather than working on it while Liam was awake.

I want the boys to see that you must be prepared to sacrifice if you want to succeed.  You have to be ready to skip movies, concerts, sleep.  I managed my goals this semester, I kept my grades up and I still managed to spend time with my family.  Liam has been in daycare the few days that I am class and it has done him a world of good.  He has learned at a faster rate than he would have cooped up with me.  The baby is due in February and I had intended to take the semester off.  However my advisor has asked me to take at least one online history course and Katie believes that I should keep moving as well.  Our family has come through in fine fashion to help us get through the coming semester as I have been offered (and hopefully will get) the chance to be a student instructor in history.  That is the kind of thing that grad school applications are made of as my grades and high school drop out will only walk me so far.

Our family had a nice Christmas.  Our pajama theme was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The day before Christmas Liam became sick.  We have all had a cold, but Liam’s got worse.  I hoped he would kick it but he didn’t and two days later it was apparent that he had pneumonia.  We were going to make him an appointment Monday morning, but during the night he kept getting worse.  At 0430 I finally took him to the hospital.  It was there that they confirmed that he had pneumonia.

The raging fever, accelerated hear rate, trouble breathing, the infection…this could have been a death sentence a relatively short time in history ago.  That is what leads me to my main point.  In some parts of the world today, pneumonia, especially in children, is still a death sentence.  We were at the hospital for maybe an hour and a half. Basic medicine (which we had at home, and were already using) to bring the fever down, couple of chest x-rays to confirm the diagnoses, and a dose of and prescription for antibiotics, and we were on our way, with the certainty that my son would survive the night.  It is only my studies of medicine and history, I feel, that make me sensitive to what a modern miracle that is.  I walked out thinking “everyone should have that.”  That is where the point of this post begins.

Firstly I have always had a bent towards history, and realized my passion in an epiphany when trying to pick my major.  However our long educations make us insensitive to certain things.  I have the theory that in history there are two kinds of people: Historical Figures and just Figures.  Your historical figures are someone remembered.  We will work with examples like Jamestown colony.  We know names like Captain John Smith, he is a historical figure.  However your “figures”are just that, they are numbers.  From elementary school onward we learn things like “over half the colonists died of…” the figures were worse than that, but you get the idea.  The death figures we read over, to us they are facts and figures.  We get accustom to them, and our currently low mortality rates do not help us to think of the ones in the past as being something that borders on fiction.  It is true that a certain normalcy forms when something happens often enough.  A situation in Brazil proved that maternal instinct is more cultural construct than it is total instinct, in that it can be overridden by prolonged and truly desperate circumstances. They were people though, starving, freezing, dying of disease.  They were husbands, wives, CHILDREN.  They were peoples children.  Children died too.  We forget to think about when we read “children that survived to adulthood.”  Let that sink in.  You may have seen my graveyard posts.  The end of all anti vaccine arguments is “I am sorry that you enjoy being able to name your children before they are six.”  We are not so far into a time when children don’t just die.  At least to the people reading this.  That is the second half.

My studies have made me aware of problems in the world.  I knew about them, more than the common man anyhow, due to service in Iraq, seeing the people so poor they didn’t eat enough.  I won’t go into all the details, but with my school I’ve realized it isn’t just war zones.  There are places where people just do not have anything.  If their children had gotten the same sickness that my son had and I consider it minor, their child would be dead.  I am grateful that my son has that, but I am aware of the imbalance in the world.  My son lives, countless die.  I avoid things like commercials of the kids starving because I know I cannot do enough, like I could not do enough in Iraq.  The weight of millions bares down on me.  Past and present.  I ignore the fact that I enjoy the products of this situation.  I sit here on my fancy made in China computer, wearing my Singapore and Vietnam clothes not knowing if they get a decent wage or if they are modern slaves.  The more I study the more the weight heaves on thinking about how there are children forced to be soldiers.  Someone posted an article saying minority children in America do not get to be children.  Fine that may be true in some cases (race put aside) but I wonder if the ones saying we must broaden our thoughts want to broaden far enough to the places where nine year olds carry AK-47’s.  I am thankful my son had a hospital and care and insurance, and I wish everyone had that, but I have this fight club moment when I sit on my Ikea couch and wonder if the guilt will win, or if I just accept that is the way it is?  We journey on, but we wonder, will we always have it so good?

Hrolf the Ganger

We did it we went camping part 1.

 Very This entry is a little backdated, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

10/9/2015-10/11/2015

We did it.  We bit the bullet and went camping.  We made the decision last minute on Wednesday.  We had talked about it back and forth some, and due to Columbus day being the last real weekend before the campsites close down, we went ahead and booked a campsite.  Nature of the adventure beast right?  Just jump in.  We had pretty much all the gear we needed anyhow.  We pull it all out while still working and trying to get through homework and wrangle a three year old.  We did need to buy a new tent and such, the one I have barely holds me and my gear.  We made this attempt all while seeing if we could keep from turning the house inside out (fail).  I managed to chug through enough homework so that I could go without having one of those panic attacks at how much work I was ignoring and ruining everyones trip.  We prepared on Thursday, and Katie dropped Liam and I off at school on Friday.  She went to buy the food and a cooler and put all of the stuff into the car.  She picked us up as soon as school was out and we were on our way to the cape.  Being that it was Columbus day weekend and we were driving to Cape Cod, the traffic was fairly thick, but we made it just fine.  When we arrived we followed the rules and set out tent up before we did anything else.  If you have your notebook handy go ahead and take this down.  Rule #2 shelter first.  It is a part of the trinity of shelter fire food.

 Once the house was set up we went to the camp store to obtain firewood, built a fire and busted out the camp chairs.  Liam showed us that there is an infallible rule involving kids and camp fires.  Children will find a stick, shove it in the fire, pull it out, blow the small flame on the end out, and repeat this process to madness.  It is such a simple form of entertainment, and it is just a natural part of being a child.  Their curiosity is wonderful.  I remember doing this as a child.  Anyhow it seemed to me it was time to do what I had been looking forward to all along, to bust out my pipe and sit in a camp chair by the fire while watching my boy play with a stick.  We built the fire together with a flint and steel and a little homemade tinder just to make sure that he starts seeing how it is done early.  I was enjoying our little scene with my pipe, reflecting on how I was now in the chair that I remember my Grandfather and Uncle being in previously, maker of fire, all great knowing camping sage…

 That is about the time the rain started.  A few drops managed to hit before the weather alert came through.  Cape Cod suddenly went from cool and clear to holy wow thunderstorms.  So rather than a long night of sipping teamed smoking a pipe and cooking marshmallows over a fire, the first of our nights camping will be spent inside the tent, playing cards (war) and listening to Johnny Cash on my phone.  We will count this as being unplugged because we are not using it to sit around and check Facebook, it was just a radio and lots of people take radios camping.  For us this is just part of the experience!  It was great really, minus the fact that the storms were fairly strong.  Also part of the experience is the little mistakes you make along the way that become part of the ritual every time you do this.  This camping trips (first) mistake was that apparently we had stolen some of the batteries from the lantern to put in the army flashlight when Katie needed it, and we did not bring this flashlight with us.  From this point on during the trip all night time activities will be conducted by headlamps.  So now part of our camping ritual will be overpacking every four of battery and socks for the kids because Mistake #2 was an awful parent moment, apparently Liam’s only socks were the ones he was wearing.  Not to fear we brought absolutely everything else he needed and if you pull them up the right way he can wear his mother’s socks…

  
 Liam however did enjoy the concept of getting to pee in the woods.  I mean yes there was a clean facility across the street, but he is three and should get to pee in the woods.  Anyhow we brought the cards for a reason so we decided to bask in the experience of being rained in for the night.  We brought them for the same reason that we brought notebooks, and a book each, and a set of liars dice.  These are the methods that allow people to enjoy each others company and not resort to Facebook when un entertained company becomes just too much.  That is why we are here, we want to unplug for a bit.  To get away from the petty concerns of the day to day and live a little.  Andrew, one of my classmates how I planned to balance this with the massive homework load I would be ignoring for two days.  I told him, and Liam I do hope this holds true, that my son would never remember my GPA, but he would remember camping.  He would also remember if I was always telling him that I am too busy.

  
  
This is what Katie and I are trying to keep in mind, our son is young only once and the clock is rapidly ticking.  We were given stark reminders of the shortness of life this past week.  First the veterans community…and humanity really, lost one of our titans.  Justin Fitch’s battle with cancer is over.  On Sunday October 4th we woke up to find out that the lie we had been telling ourselves, that he would always be there, was not true.  If you have ever been to a team minuteman event up until recently, then you know who I am talking about.  The first time I got to step off with these fine people, Justin Fitch took me into his family, and at the end of it all he had a drink from the horn, despite being on chemo therapy.  “This could kill me you know” he said lowering the horn with beer foam on his face.  After an appropriate freak out from me he explained that it may be the only drink he ever has with me.  It was if you are wondering.  Secondly I basically found our next door neighbor dead.  His back door had been ajar for three days and after leaving him a note about it, it became apparent that he had not been leaving.  Police were called, Alex was dead.  Sixty seven is not young, but it is to young to die in a hoarded up apartment filled with garbage and cat crap, in your sleep.  So todays final words (before part two) are this, remember that you will die.


Hrolf The Ganger.

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