Analog Photography

    When I was a kid, my dad worked as essentially a large scale repo man.  He had one of those awesome Polaroid cameras for documenting the stuff to be repossessed.  We, the kids, were not supposed to grab it and take pictures.  With that said, Mr. B (for your privacy) if you are reading this, I apologize, I know that film cost money, but we couldn’t help it.  I admit it.  I also do not think we opened any new packs, if it helps, but thank you for making sure we could find your Polaroid.  I’m sure you noticed a lot more than you let on.  

    My first camera was an analog camera, a great 110 that was Ninja Turtles themed!  In fact, film was how I found out there was no Santa Clause.  I was clicking away as we cleaned out a home for my disabled great aunt, with some film I had gotten for Christmas.  My mom told me to stop, I said it was my film, she said she bought that film.  Poof, delusion nailed out.  In all honesty, I kind of figured, but I had a kid sister to act for, and it was still fun.  

    Seventeen years of Digital cameras later (minus me taking 35MM film on my trip to Germany) and the analog/instant photo is making a come back!

How many of you know someone with an instant camera?  I bet most of you (self depracating joke would be to say both of you) know at least one person who has an instant camera, and it is probably some kind of Fuji Instax.  This is my little red beast!

    I have had it for a couple of years now, and it is showing its time in service.  It has been dropped by me, and dropped and thrown by a toddler several times.  It may be running out of time, and there are more advanced models out there, but for the price (between 60-70$) you cant beat this thing.  Point, Click, Bam! Classic instant photos with that good old vintage look.  

    In fact, that is what I bought mine.  I bought it for the point and click, capture a memory, not many second chances (and at around 1$ a shot retail be careful with the second chances) stick it in a journal and move on.  Wow… today is that day where everything comes full circle. That was part of how I started this blog, I was putting our families journal online.  My plans have changed some, I was learning as I went, but that was the idea take photos of our family and glue them in.  Here’s a look back at the Savage past, the infant stages.    

    We have evolved since then.  I do still stick the pictures into my journal, and wouldn’t ya know it, Midori and The Travelers Notebook have accessories for doing just that.  I also have a few extras because I just enjoy them.  

     I have also gotten another camera, which is far less point and click, The Lomo Instant.  Based off of a camera from the former Soviet Union, Lomography has made taking vintage and ruddy photos into an art form.

    This one does have some lenses, and yes there is the ever nifty double exposure mode, but what it really has is a company with soul! Lomography Is a bit hipster up front, but you are going to get some of that when you bring back photos that cost money the moment you hear the click.  They have a shop, you can join and share your photos with the comunity, which I will do when their platform gets a little more user friendly.  Even better, they have the Ten Golden Rules.  I have been trying to abide by the one that says take your camera everywhere, but that is harder than it seems when it is bulkier than a cell phone.  However, we know what my rules are, and one of them is to have a bag.  Now I have one to carry everywhere, and the camera too!  Do not let those rules get you bogged down, use them for inspiration really.  They will help you figure out how you want to embrace this resurrected tech.  

     I went through some experimanetal phases.  I read about a man who took a Polaroid a day (yes it was most likely the actual Polaroid stuff, not just people using the term today) and they are all an album online.  It was a really moving series, which I want to recreate myself.  I started trying it out, and the result was the life in instant photo series posts you see on here.  They did not work, but my desire to complete a Jamie Livingston type experiment lives on!  I have a pretty good stock pile, I just have to figure out how to put them up.  I will get back to formatting later.  Anyhow, a word on the Lomo Instant.  That thing is in no way user friendly.  If you buy it, it will come with some little printed photo cards with printed suggestions, use them.  If you do not you will end up with a lot of blacked out or whited out photos.  You can learn all the ins and outs of this camera, but those cards help you not to waste film.  

    I took my camera to a Red Sox vs. Rangers game and when people realized what I was doing, they started offering to pay for a photo of them and their family that they could hold.  They are great for more than just your journal, you can give them away, you can hand them out, you can start a conversation about something tangible in your hand that is imperfect.  I went through my computer the about a month back.  My hard drive was getting full.  when my first son was born I bought a decent digital camera, DSLR, and went banana sand which taking photos for the next four years.  I ended up deleting 30,000 photos.  That number is not exaggerated, it is in fact rounded down.  Let that sink in, 30,000 photos deleted.  There are around 17,000 more.  That is a decades worth of photos total, but man what was I ever going to do with all of them?  They were not even separate photos, I would point the camera at my kid and hold the shutter down.  It was like a stop motion film, but less fun.  If nothing else, the cost of analog photography slows you down a little.   

    Don’t get me wrong, I have so many memories of my family preserved that did not eat up money or physical space, but at the same time, I almost stopped enjoying taking them.  You have seen me say, do not let recording life stop you from living it.

    I do not know about you, but there is something great about a simple photo, with little to no jargon involved, that looks like it came from the 80s, not taken on a smart phone, on real film.  The ironic part is that you will still want to show it off, and that will require some very digital stuff.  A scanner, or a smart phone with a scanner app.  That is how I do it.  

    If you go down this self developing road, start with the Fuji Instax.  I still have days where I want to throw the Lomo.  Here are my tips:

  1. Order your film on Amazon, it comes out a little cheaper if you buy it in the three pack bundle.
  2. Never buy the Polaroid film (in mini 8) it is the same as the Fuji, and costs 16$ for ten shots, where as Fuji is 20$ (retail) for twenty shots.
  3. Get something to stick your photos in, they dislike pockets, a little tin or something will work.
  4. If you use the travelers notebook, embrace the analog photos
  5. Don’t wait, life isn’t getting longer.

That is what I have for you.  Well that and this.  

    This is my stash of film for while we are in New York, and there are already two packs in my kit bag!  This is the wonder of Amazon, it makes the cost hurt sooo much less.

What is your favorite analog photo?

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

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The Travelers Notebook

So, I do not mean to sound Jerry Seinfeld here, but is this thing The Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or is it The Traveler’s notebook, which happens to be have notebooks made by Midori?

    

    I have been using the Lihit Labs A5 cover, before this.  I have been talking myself out of getting this system for over a year now, but with an impending trip to New York coming up I was basically obligated to get it.  I mean, we will be traveling, and this is the Traveler’s Notebook, it just would not have made sense otherwise, right?  

    I am not going to list paperweight, dimensions, materials, everyone else does that and, if you have made it to this point, I am betting you can read, and all that information can be found here.  Really, I cannot do reviews of a lot of things, I have tried it, and I realized my problem was the technical standpoint, I am no good with it.  My area is the emotional realm, the personal, the…this isn’t true either.  My area is the inconsequential and unnecessary.  

    The Midori (as I will henceforth call it), is not simply a notebook, it is a system.  When you order it, it will show up in a cloth bag, which is in a box, and that is in plastic.  If you are OCD, you will love it.  I did not even want to open it.  It was neat and orderly, it was something you find in a clean room ( I have never found a clean room) and it just had a wonderful symmetry to it.  It is like buying a new shirt, you dont want to take it out of the plastic and remove the pins, you know it will never go back.  

     When you do open it, after you have enjoyed the packaging, you will find inside the bag the cover and a plain notebook.  I have not used the plain as I enjoy lined and grid paper.  The way this works is it has a main band attached through the leather and this…lug?   

    If you use just the notebook it comes with, you can just put the band on the staple page (dead middle) and walk away.  If you use more than that, you will need to order some of the hand elastic bands.  

    I placed the lined notebook in the picture so that you could see how they package things.  It is beautiful, it even has a nice little number on it.  Anyhow, the elastic bands, you use these to stick multiple objects into the system.  You place one around the front cover of one notebook and the back of the other and voila!  Me?  I have four things in mine so far, with a fifth probably on the way.  This is my lay out.  

    So I have a zipper pocket, a file folder, a daily planner, and a notebook.  The zipper pocket and the file folder are placed under the main band as the anchors, and then I put a notebook on either side of the file folder and placed an elastic band around the covers and the kraft file, BAM!  Amazing notebook.  

    Why does this appeal to me?  I think this requires a trip back in time.  

     That is my journal from high school and partly just after.  If you see the stuff sticking out of it, you will see that it is chocked full of souvenirs.  It has tickets, flower petals, movie stubs, a drink ticket after an ABI party in Germany, a drawing I stole out of a bathroom stall of Hitler using a toilet brush on himself, all kinds of stuff.  If you are still reading this then you know what is going on here.  The people who read this kind of stuff, you, they know notebooks.  The best way to describe this is, the way outsiders would,  I like to stuff my notebooks full of crap.  

    The travelers notebook facilitates this!  You do not have to break the spine of a book, and you do not have to depend on the back pocket like in a Moleskine, because while the back pocket is cool, it is only good for me to get the stuff back, I need it to be put in with the page that it goes with.  The notebooks for this thing are small, so they will be used quick, probably before I bust the spine.  That is not the best part.  The best part is that they make accessories for it, like double sided stickers for mementos, or, and this is the best, STICKER POCKETS!!!!!!!.  The sticker pockets are stickers applied to a page that put a pocket on it, and I do not know if they are purposefully this size, but it is the perfect size for Fuji Instax photos! Which I love to stick in a journal.  They used to be such a process, but no longer!  The stickers and pockets come on a sheet that is, of course, sized to the Midori books so they fit in your accessories pockets!!! The OCD is just being stroked sensually!  

    Everything fits together, and I love it.  I have not even gotten around to the actual paper.  Do not buy this if you hate ghosting (where you can see what is written on the other side of the page.  I have used both fountain pen, and regular pen, pencils of all sorts, and they work great, unless you hate ghosting.  Let’s go down the line of what I love and how I use it.

Daily planner:

  • It has room for two months, with a 31 slot index before each one.
  • Each page is numbered, so you can use it as the day of the month or a page number
  • A slot to check off which day of the week it is.
  • One page, one day. 
  • This leads to the notebook

Notebook:

  • I enjoy the paper quality
  • There is enough room to throw a date on it and use it like a journal i I need more space than is allotted by the daily planner
  • Because they are paired up with the daily planner, I do not feel the need to number the pages or conserve, it is simply an extensions, so paste all photos!
  • Did I mention the price isn’t bad once you are just buying the notebooks?

Zipper pocket:

  • I currently use it for stamps, envelopes, basic stationary…despite there not being any tear out stationary…I’ll fix that
  • I plan to put an eraser or two, which was basically impossible with he Lihit cover 
  • I could put a pocket notebook in the front pocket, but the back would be better.  
  • The back pocket is not a zipper, but it is an open faced pocket, two actually one on either side.  I store the stickers and sticker pockets in it.  I will leave one open in which I will place things I pick up until I get home and can put them in the notebook, temporary storage.

Kraft File:

  • Two sides, pockets on the inside, one per page, that allow you to store things you may need through out the day.  Each one also has a smaller slot for things like business cards.  
  • I plan on using it to hold our items for our trip, plane tickets, show tickets, schedules, reservations.  It is kind of the official type of pocket.  The formal pocket.  


   This may become my go to system.  I will come back with an update after New York.  

    The parts I plan on ordering are some pan am stickers which will go in the pockets, so that my travel writing it kitche, a pen holder, a book mark/stencil, and a weekly planner.  I feel the need for a weekly spot.  This system could really fill the gap for those who need a bullet journal, but hate the idea of drawing their own planner pages, like me.  This is officially part of my EDC.  It comes with one leather page marker in it, and I made one out of a thing my kids made me for Father’s Day, but I think you could put more leather cord into the lug.  

    I will tell you my favorite part.  When you are finished for the day, you put the second elastic, which is tied in the back, around it to keep it closed, and you throw it down on the table, it hits with a heavy satisfying thud of a notebook that speaks of someone who is well travelled and worldly.  When you hear this thing hit the table, you know people know you are interesting because of your heavy leather notebook.

5/5 

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe 

Where do we begin?

This space has not had a true update in a bit.  I have been moving and such.  Let us begin there.  Let us get back to what this blog used to be.  It was first and foremost whatever I, the author, wanted it to be, and I always wanted it to be true.  True to me specifically, and yet I have danced around topics and applied enough tact to make myself sick.  What happened to the truth?  What happened to the alcohol fuel, tobacco burning, dioneysian blog posts that made at least one person think, or made me feel like I was actually doing something with this?  

     Well it is all coming back.  I described this to one of my professors as a “no s*** window into my life,” but somewhere along the way I forgot that.  This is not as dramatic as it all sounds?  Sometimes I got off writing about pencil sharpeners.  I can tell you why I stopped doing that as much, because everybody that enjoys graphite and would feels the need to write about it (me included) and I was not reading theirs, so I stopped asking them to read mine as often, that is all it was just kind of a courtesy thing.  So let us begin with an update.


We were reasssigned to Fort Sam Houston…well isn’t that peachy, leave Massachusetts, leave the circle of Boston, leave Framingham, and go back to the Ghetto.  No I am not hanging out in the wrong parts of Texas, no I do not need to give it a chance, I am allowed to dislike an entire state without offering a reason, and the city of San Antonio, for that I can give reasons.  I am not saying that I will not enjoy things here, I will, I always find something to do, but for me this place will always be too far South West.  Now we do live two minutes from where the medics are made, and that always strikes me as a little funny.  

    Let us be honest here.  I planned every detail of my last day at Framingham State as best as I could.  I had a vision in my head and I was going to do my best to make sure it happened.  I would not settle for something anticlimactic as the semester just being over and me not coming back.  I made a playlist…I even wore the exact same outfit on my last day that I had worn on my first, if you will allow for the fact that I have of course bought new underwear since then.  Even my socks were the same.  I know because they are the ones I wear with my Doc Martin’s.  I cant guarantee that it was the same pair of socks, but there are only three pairs of these, and I have had the same three this whole time.  It was a private little joke that only I was in on.  

This may be the only picture of me from that day.  Zander was there out of necessity caused by the moving schedule and such.  Nobody minded, I have lots of photos of plenty of my friends playing with him.  The point is the sweater, it book ended my time at Framingham State University.  I thought it was hysterical.  I even made a play list.  That’s right.  I made a SOUNDTRACK for my last day.  Most people did not notice that I had it playing most of the day walking around in my personal little movie.  

I went out on country roads.  My buddy Steve camethrough (without knowing it) and we went and smoked before I walked off the campus at almost exactly the same time I had left a night class on my first day.  Couldn’t have done it without you buddy.  

We decided to road trip out of MA.  I know I have a lot more stuff I could talk about, especially people and it may come back to me later, but this will be longer than it is already going to be.  We had some help getting cleaned out of our house, very grateful, and then I had to leave everyone.  We had some friends when We’ve left other places, but they were army people, they knew what it was like.  Here?  We were attached.  So we put a bunch of crap in the outback and went trecking out with kids for 1800 miles, and around 25 days.  We visited family.  We visited friends.  I spent a good bit of the time dealing with that feeling that I am unsure if it is caused becaus we were in between and it wouldn’t go away until we had a house to put together, or if it was just the dread of where we were going.  The kids actually did really well with all of the hotels and such.  We spent New Years in a hotel room enjoying each other’s company.  If you are bored and want to get to the point, here’s one.  Home really is where the heart is, for me, I really am just happy the wife, kids, and I are all together.  

The little guy and his hotel bed.  They were happy as long as there was a bathtub to play in.  Kids know how to keep it simple.  

This whole home is where the heart is thing being true is not news.  What is news is this: you are not required to continue taking people’s garbage just because you are related to them.  I am not saying that all the little motivational Facebook posts about leaving negative people behind are at all true, much to the contrary, I am sure that more often that not people are not looking in the right direction.  I have been there, I have forgotten to blame myself because I did not want to accept that I was the problem, but more often than not we know the type.  My sister is great at this kind of thing, posting about people messing people up when she can’t make a sandwich without a family fight and the cops coming.  That’s what I’m tired of, pretending I care.  I love my family, but you know what I’m tired of telling them that they need to do to fix the situation.  My mother and grandmother are ready to pull their hair out, my mother has the kids and doesn’t get any sleep, and when my family and I come we are mostly spectators to this circus.  AND we never say anything about it.  That stopped back at the beginning of this paragraph.  I do not blame her kids, you have them, stop fooling with that Stalingrad dumpster fire until she pulls it together.  Everyone turns on everyone so fast, and I feel like phone calls are just sirens telling me what she has done now.  It has driven people out of business and before we know it her final revenge will be complete and my kids wont get to see you at all due to the early grave it has driven you to.  We get tired of coming to see everyone and trying to dance around the mess that she has made.  Call me what you will, but I am serious.  We don’t mind helping with the kids, so long as we are not telling ours to wait around and get what is left.  However!  We did get my grandparents to go to the Tennessee Aquarium.  That was awesome as always.  That place should get an entry to itself.  

Some more travels later, we found ourselves on the way to San Antonio for real.  Now here is the catch.  When this trip was over, I was going to have to get up the next day, get on an airplane, and do the whole thing again.  It was cheaper than shipping our second car.  I was going to have an awesome post all planned out for you guys, I was going to go to Route 66 and drive as much of it as possible before hitting Texas.  It was going to be awesome!  I bought a book and spent most of January planning it out.  Then our car was broken into.  I found out from my wife while I was sitting on my second plane waiting on them to check out the equivalent of a check engine light, which is admittedly more serious on a plane.  I guess the crew heard my displeasure at someone having busted a window out.  I looked over in the next seat and there was Woodford Reserve and a Coke.  They kept appearing.  Here’s to the employees of American Airlines.  My road trip went by the wayside, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, home to my family that is.  Here’s the thing.  We are smart enough to take the DVD players out every time we stop.  We did not have a lot in the car.  My bag that was in there I had put in that morning so that my wife would not have to carry it down the stairs herself with the kids.  All in all they took clothes, my writing stuff, Liam’s toy bag, My wife’s clothes.  The only real valuable–as far as single items go, stuff adds up–was my Nintendo 3DS.  Yes I know this is a First World problem to have.  Yes we are insured, yes we can and have replaced most of that stuff.  However: it was ours.  I hate being stolen from.  A part of me hopes that they were able to sell that stuff and feed their kids, or maybe a kid who had nothing has those toys, but I know thats wishful thinking, and that part of me is small.  The bigger part of me comes from a place where we fought and dueled to build a reputation so that people would not steal from us.  We hate thieves, and that bigger part of me would–and I say this unable to make those who don’t know understand–that I really would break someone’s limbs over my kids toys, my wife’s clothes, and some fountain pens.  The worst part is, it killed the little good I saw in this place.  I have gone to concerts in Worcester MA, parked in an alley with money in the cup holders, actual bills, and people did not smash windows and take money, never has that happened in my life.  Two days in this place?  Thieves hang, no I do not want to hear the rest of the story.

End of the day, my wife and kids are safe.  All is well.  We now live on post, and the house is actually really nice.  People say your blog is supposed to help people.  Here it is again: putting a house together with two kids is slow.  I do not mind living on post, and Liam and I have some nice places to skateboard, and a park, and if we want, we can bike to the grocery store.  What’s amazing is having friends who love you enough and know you well enough to pack the perfect box to try to cheer you up.

We have been selling off some more stuff online.  Here’s some more tips.  #1 be prepared for people to think their stuff is worth way too much.  I read an anthropology paper that did a good job explaining this.  #2 be prepared for people to not be able to read.  Even if you put the words “Will only meet at X” or “I have a Subaru, I cannot deliver a couch” people will not realize they don’t know where X is until they are “almost there” or they will ask when you can drop the couch off.  To sell online is to need golf shoes to wade through the stupid. 

OH!  I wrote a novel while we were traveling.  I did it by the national novel writing month standards.  It is 52,000 words of crap.  But I did it.  I wrote a novel.  My support crew were all amazing.  I might even revise it.  I wrote a book.  That’s a bucket list item gone.  I am actually kind of pleased with the novel.  Next step is to print it and begin revision.  

Now we are here, refining our lives, cementing who we define ourselves as.  I have managed to have a pretty good, INCOWRIMO, international correspondence writing month, despite being busy, my bag of writing stuff having to be replaced, not actually being able to open the mailbox, and getting a late start, I am on 28 letters and it is not the 28th.  I have gotten some really good ones from the address exchanges.  

Now I prepare to leave you, back to our regularly scheduled programming, the knives and pencils, the books and movies, with some new stuff.  I hope to see more readers because I have a lot to write.  It is almost baseball season.  Zander has turned one…

Ganger-Bjorn

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.

Savings challenges.

People have been wondering how I do things like fund a random trip by train to New York to go touring for a day and my pencil habit.  I’ll admit I don’t have a specific way…yet.  The pencils themselves came out of my allowance I had saved, and my comic habit suffered a little in exchange.  So be it.  

      First off my wife and I use the envelope system for some things and a budget on the rest.  We run a little bit of investment here and there nothing big, it really amounts to just multiple savings for the time being.  However to do things like randomly adventure it is a good idea to have a side savings, so this is what I looked and found.  The weekly savings challenge and the daily penny challenge.   

 
The weekly challenge starts at 1.00$. The increment increases by a dollar every week.  The idea is that you stuff this amount in a jar.  Now I started a new bank account, and jars (having free checking will help the bank account part.)  The amount does start to get higher, by the time you’ve done half of this you are putting 26$ in a week and it keeps growing.  The touted savings after one year is 1378.00$ which is nothing to scoff at. 

     The penny challenge is daily.  It starts at 0.01$ and doubles everyday.  This is where the envelope system and doing our allowances in cash comes in handy.  We already have a decent stash of change on hand to carry this out, but I am guessing that it will evaporate pretty quickly into those jars as the amounts go up.  I am doing the jar and bank account for this one as well.  The savings at the end of it is supposed to be 667.95$.  This is also a decent little savings.  

  However these are challenges, and these are the difficulties I see coming.

  1. Remembering to do something daily or weekly is usually a short lived challenge.
  2. Having the correct amounts on hand for your jar.  There are a lot of very odd numbers on the penny challenge.  I would advise not to be afraid of doing a small amount of rounding to make it work with whole dollars if possible or even to the next change increment I.E. Turning 1.11-1.19 all into 1.20.  
  3. Having the cash on hand as well for the weekly one, even if you use an ATM you get whole larger bills, you will have to be willing in both cases to not be afraid to inconvenience a cashier for change when you are already checking out.  
  4. Again just keeping up with it, I am putting the checklists next to my calendar so that I see them everyday.  
  5. If you use a new bank account make sure you have free checking with no minimum amount and no monthly fee as this could quickly kill your savings.

     It will be a pain and towards the middle of the weekly one the amounts may even become a challenge.  If you can pull both of these off though you will have saved 2045$ after a year. This is my plan for future adventures.  You can use it for whatever you like though, saving for a down payment, vacation, an investment (my bank asks for a 1000$ minimum to start most investment funds.). I wish you the best of luck and I hope this helps you fund and plan adventures and that it is fun along the way. 

Hrolf The Ganger

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

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