Who are the people in your life? A tribute to Felix

This is not going to sound like an analog story, but it is.  One of the first real things for humans was, I argue, other humans.  Real things, as I have said before, excite the senses, stir memory, and give life to the heart.  The first, most fundamental, and the basis (IMO) for all other real things is quite simply, your company, the people in your life.  When we enjoy things, especially analog things, we want to share them with our friends, family, the people whose company we enjoy.

    I started to write this the other night, and now I have had to start over to make the appropriate changes.  When I started it, the man who is at the heart of it would probably have gotten a kick out of the fact that I wrote about him.  I never entertained the idea that he would not get to read it, or to know that I wrote about him, but now that is the reality.  

   Just because I run an analog page does not mean that I exclusively enjoy analog things.  The Savage happens to be a film junkie, especially for those which are deeply rooted in my life, those that are so deeply ingrained that to remove them would most likely cause some form of withdrawal.  Halloween movies are where I would say an easy quarter of these types of favorite live for me.  We love Halloween, almost nothing better in the world.  This past Saturday I took the boys to the local pop up of Spirit Halloween to acquire a costume for the toddler.  This particular Spirit is built into a mall as it turns out, and we went on the right day to wander into a Halloween fair.  Between Spirit and the Halloween fair I came back considerably relieved of some of my spending money.  I love to support people who make things, if the thing they make is worth buying, like these.  

 

    These are amazing, but the winner of the day was the licensed Hocus Pocus merchandise from Spirt

 

   These wonderful items required me to reflect on this film and how I came to love it.  That took me back to 1994 in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.  I was seven years old, attending Allen Elementary school.  This movie had been a rave at theaters, and the fact that it was going to come out on video (VHS) was heavy buzz at the time.  Some cousins of ours owned a video store, if you come from Soddy Daisy, you may remember Volunteer Video.  It was in the same building as the Soddy Daisy Bi-Lo, on the side, next to the tanning bed.  My mother would let us hang out in there since it was our family that owned it, while she shopped.  I want to put out a disclaimer now, this is being remembered from the perspective of a child, and most of it took place at least 15 years ago or more, I am not clear on exactly who owned what or when, but I am also not writing a history of the Bledsoes and Leffews.  

   Anyhow, the waiting list for a copy of Hocus Pocus at this mom and pop video store where they used rubber bands and paper tags to mark cases where the movie was all rented out was forever long.  Everyone wanted a copy and had gotten on the list well in advance.  The people I remember being there were our cousins (who to this day I call aunt and uncle) Kim and Terry, and Terry’s parents Felix and Loretta.  Later, in some combination of dates, they would all live in the small house built by my great grandfather, Eugene, parent to my grandfather and the before mentioned Loretta.  There were three houses on that plot of land where my first memories come from and where my family had lived since what I understand was just after World War II.  

    My mother still took me to the video store, which was alway fun despite the movie you were after being booked.  Felix was behind the counter (remember they were all family and any weekend spent with my Grandfather or Uncle Fred was partially spent with Kim, Terry, Felix, and Loretta as we were playing with Kim and Terry’s children too) and when he asked what it would be, if I wanted The Nightmare Before Christmas again (he knew my common rentals) I said yes.  He asked if I was sure, and when I gave the affirmative again, he reached under the counter and pulled out a copy of Hocus Pocus with my name on a sticky note asking if I would rather have that.  I could not believe it. There it was.  Just for me.  Plenty of people wanting that movie and there was this copy held for me.  Plenty of people may have been involved from Terry to my Mother having called ahead, but it was the warm face of Felix who handed it across the counter to me.  I never forgot that.  I had always liked Felix, but from then on I felt like he and I were really friends, and it is now twenty-three years on and I wear that movie thin every October.  

   Felix always had a kind word, a smoke, and a polo shirt.  We were always welcome in that house, we ran in and out all day every season the weekends that we were all together, and none of them ever complained at us.  Felix would happily let you sit and watch the Tennessee Volunteers game or whatever movie was on with him.  He was not a perfect man I am sure, and I probably knew him least of all the people who remember him well, but I knew him well enough to know that he was a good man, and that is more than the belief of a child.  Later he would get a Facebook and we would share a word here and there, not as much as my memory of him indicates, and he would like just about anything I posted, especially pictures of my kids and such.  I think the last time I may have seen him for more than ten minutes in person was 2008, and we were on leave from Iraq.  I do wish I had taken more time for him.  I read that he was having surgery and offered a comment, but really it barely registered.  I should have done the real thing.  I should have picked up the phone.  At least I should have messaged him and had a ten minute chat with him.  I am not full of regret, but Felix did not come back after that heart surgery to tell us he was doing well.  He passed away.   

    I believe there are many measures to a person, but the ones that are most important to me are how you treat those who are smaller than you, and how good the stories are that are told about you.  Felix has excelled at both.  Felix, I was already in the process of telling the Hocus Pocus story, but now I have gotten to write more, ironically, because you are not here to read it, and you had a positive influence on a seven year old cousin who grew up to share this film with his friends, family, and especially children.  If I am wrong, and there is any sort of afterlife, then that place is certainly better as of last night, and this world is just a little more time.  Thank you Felix.  

These are Felix as close to the way I remember him.  He was always the same, right down to a kind word, an interest in your day, and a few laughs even if your joke was no good.  

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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 

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 

Lihit Labs Smart Fit notebook cover, A5, review 

Welcome back.

The Lihit Labs blurb on jetpens.com says everything I have been able to learn.  “…1938…Osaka…office supplies…STREAMLINE…”

Today we review the Lihit Labs Smart Fit Notebook cover, for sale here for 25$. (At the time of writing they are tellingly sold out, but I assure you with spoilers that you want to push the restock notification button)

Don’t forget to find us on Facebook!

At the words streamline, we have a jackpot, and I will attest that these products are very streamlined.  I also have their Bag in Bag A4, but that is another review.

In the beginning of this blog, back when, The Ganger told you the start of a list of items that one needs when venturing out into the savage lands.

  • A bag
  • A knife
  • A notebook
  • A pencil

Pretty sure that is where we left off.  The cover we are reviewing now is not a necessary item, but it is an amazing one.  The Pen Addict beat me to a review, in fact that is how I learned about it.  I bought this item out of pure excitement based on the word of the Pen Addict.  What this does is help you to contain the items you may want or need.  If you have a pencil and a notebook, as you should, then you may want this.  If you have multiple notebooks, for various purposes, to the point that you need a notebook to track what your notebooks are for, then you NEED this item.

It will quickly become a part of your EDC.  What is this item, in short?  It is a travelers notebook, updated to fit the modern world a bit more.  It is what would happen f you attempted to turn iPhone features into their analog counterparts and keep them together.  For me it carries a pencil, fountain pen, my business cards, an eraser, a journal, a floppy notebook of lists, an A5 letter pad, envelopes, address labels, a few letters I need to answer,  stamps, and no less than 6 pocket notebooks (workout tracker, passwords, faithless book, books read tracker, and of course the book of rules and tools.)

I admit I bought this on a whim, but it very quickly became part of the stuff I do not know what I would do without, especially since I converted to bullet journaling,

The Grit:

The cover is made of heavy duty cordura and comes prepared to take two A5 notebooks or one notebook and a notepad, both A5.  There is a pen/pencil holder (holds two easily) a pocket, and a closeable pocket (conveniently field notes sized) all on the front.  

The inside features the two slots, two small pockets, and one larger one on the left inside cover, two ribbons for marking pages, and a stout elastic band for holding it all together.

I love this cover.  The only thing I have not found a use for is the large inside pocket and that is just because the only thing I want in here, that I do not have, is a sharpener, and I simply find them all too bulky to have under my notebook with my current setup.  

I have pushed this things capacity to the very edge of civility and sanity.  The notebook I use as my journal/bullet journal is a full-size Insights, and I keep a Rhodia A5 letter pad, a Write Brand softcover journal, and six pocket notebooks in it!  Just as a FYI, here is how to understand the notebook sizes.  So when I say standard or something similar, I mean that most journal sized notebooks are A5.  This Insights is like a Moleskine, or Rhodia A5.  The new Write Brand soft cover (shown) is also A5.  

I feel it is fair to say that I have found about what it will hold.  The point being, it filled a roll I didn’t really know how to address.  I shove this in the car and I have everything I need.  If I am going longboarding, I still have a fieldnotes and pencil in my pocket, and that information can come here later.  Otherwise, I am ready to workout, sketch, journal, shop, hand out a card, catch up on correspondence…

If I had to name a complaint, it would be that they didn’t find a way to make it to where you could put the notepad on either side, and I don’t think it can be done and have little Pockets.  As it is, you must put the notepad ok the right if you have one.   I am not counting the “notebook” it comes with.  It is obvious to us that you are not actually supposed to use it, it is something akin to the photo they put in frames to show you how it is supposed to go.

Bottom line:  five full stars, and a must have for the total notebook junkie, and analog over doer.

Ganger-Bjorn, Analog Savage

I have done a silly thing

What has that shifty Ganger done now?  I took one of my favorite things and used it as a format to make my next project.  I cannot, often anyhow, write a long, drawn out, and informative blog post on everything I love, I am sad to say.  It takes too long, and often times the research is there and done for me, it is a just a matter of telling you my take on it, and then connecting you the reader with the existing work.

What is this ultra-glorious format I speak of?  It is the not so humble encyclopedia.  I love encyclopedias.  When I was a kid we had a set of World Book that I cannot quite remember the exact year they were from, but I am fairly certain my grandfather Bob bought them when there were two Germanies.

Last year  I bought a set of World Book 2014.  Here is the part of this blog post that is helpful.  Here is how you save money if you want a set of encyclopedias, hard copy, and do not want to spend sticker price.  World Book will run you $1049 for the newest.  The year before, $999, and they go down from there.  Oddly the backstock on  2015 costs less than my set of 2014, that may be because they have less of them and it is harder to come by, I’m unsure.  My point being if you do not mind not being 100% current, buy the older ones.  2017 will only be current for nine more months, 2015 will cost you roughly $750 less than 2017.  I mean, they print beautiful picture scapes on the spines, and I am terrified that I will end up collecting sets of encyclopedias, but if you read their site, you are only so many articles out of date.  I paid less than $300 for my set of 2014, even after a fiasco with the post office made me replace two volumes, and to boot, the ones I bought were on Ebay, and a library had them marked to be discarded.  That is way too much paper and information to just throw away when it is that new.

Anyhow, back to the point.  I have created a second blog…Encyclopedia Bledsoe!  Why?  It makes me happy.  Also, I saw a picture the other day from Barnes & Noble, and it hit me.  I do read the dictionary and the encyclopedia and they are awesome!  Why not organize it and share it????

So I made a blog, with what will be an alphabetical menu, that will contain entries.  I will link to a dictionary and encyclopedia site, after I write my bit.  Here is the key, my bit will be my opinion, my humor.  For instance Amy Schumer may not be in the actual encyclopedia, but in mine you will be able to find her listed as delusional and not funny.

What I will be doing:

  • Writing some original content for fun, sharing, and information
  • linking to existing work, the link will serve as the citation
  • picking things from reading the encyclopedias and dictionaries to write about
  • writing entries that are wholly new because they are important to Bledsoe of Encyclopedia Bledsoe

What I will not be doing:

  • Taking pictures of the hard copies of my books, pretty sure that is illegal
  • worrying about what anyone really thinks, pending anyone reads this noise
  • writing without passion or letting this become work

The link can be found in the about section here, and ofcourse you will see the posts on facebook.  Enjoy.

Ganger-Bjorn

 

Another semester finished.

My last post was over a month ago, and that was something I had been writing so that I could show some of my friends the blog.  Now it is time for a recap, hopefully a small one.

This was not just any semester, it was my last semester at Framingham State University, that will be a post.

    When the semester was starting I got to experience one of my favorite things, back to school season.  When back to school rolls around it allows me to reconnect to a set of memories in a tangible way.  I can always call them up when I want them, but they are best experienced when there is something to engage the senses.  The best part about back to school for me is the crayons.  I love crayons, Crayola crayons the most.  When back to school rolls around, there are rows and rows of crayons which are lined up on shelfs, and nifty pop up displays.

It makes me happy.  I love taking Liam to look at them.  The 24 pack is the best.  I have crayons all over the house, and yet I bought one and carried it around with me in my back pack all semester.  I would randomly break them out to scribble with if the semester was driving me crazy.  The most interesting note was when my friend Alex bit the tip off the orange one.  It is a long story about him making a joke about Marines (he is a Marine) and us electing him Vice President of the university Veteran’s club.  It was a fun time, and maybe one day I will tell it, but the point here is the crayons.  They saved us on one occasion because the veterans were supposed to participate in an event and we did not have anything ready for the event, so we colored.

Full on coloring and finger painting.  Good times!  The reason I love the crayons and back to school though is because of when I used to get to go back to school shopping with my mother.  Mom would take us to one of the office supply places in Hixson and we would go through the aisles with those pieces of paper that the store kept for every school and every grade, and we would pick out what we needed.  My first semester of college (age 27) I went shopping with my VA book stipend for school supplies.  I encountered a bit of sticker shock, buying all my favorites and I promptly realized “wow! Mom must have had a third job to afford the good stuff?”  

Now that I am older I still enjoy the aisles of crayons and school supplies, despite the fact that I’m fairly certain we did not school shop there, it specifically calls up memories of the Winn Dixie store that we shopped at.  That store is a Bi-Lo now and the strip mall that was built with it is very depressing, but that is neither here nor there.  I think it calls up the Winn-Dixie because I also enjoyed going on late night grocery shopping trips with my mother.

What’s else did this semester entail?  Well it was hands down my hardest semester for all the right reasons.  Some things I have learned.

  • The comma splice is my enemy.  I will learn it and fix it.
  • I need to learn Russian.  Grad school prep.  I have a “For Dummies” book to use during the moving road trip.
  • Apparently I missed acting.  

Hands down the biggest part of the semester, I went to an open audition for “Our Town,” and ended up getting to be the Stage Manager.  I even got invited too compete at some kind of competition put on by the Kennedy Center, but I will not be able to go.  There are people that were in that play who really deserve the chance to go and compete for that scholarship.  The play could have a post all on to itself.  I have a long list of things I was going to blog about, and about 4 of them are still relevant.  However, here are some photos. 

Needless to say, “Our Town,” was amazing.
That is all of the recap for now.  Oh there is a bit more here.  We are moving to Texas, and I intend to write a novel while we are moving.  I have nothing so far.

Ganger-Bjorn

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

 

Tea with a friend.

Yesterday I told you about pencils from friends.  Today I write of tea with a friend.   

      When my friend Janet brought me a pencil on Sunday she didn’t just bring a pencil, she brought me a bag of one of my other great loves, and that was a bag of tea.   

      Tea is on that great list of things that can make any situation more enjoyable.  Whether it is simply something to share over conversation, or you are sharing it with a buddy in a war torn foreign land, there is always a place for tea.  Janet brought me a bag of “Afghani Chai” from the Boston general store.  She also brought me a very beautiful wire tea strainer. 

      I am always deeply moved when my friends are happy to have found something that they think that I would enjoy because they know of my obsessions.  It makes me wish I was better at finding little things for people on my travels.  Then I realize that I do get to share with my friends.  When they come over they are promptly served the tea or coffee of their choice made by me.  If they take an interest in the pencils they are sent home with a couple of lovelies.  Even if they are paying for a bag of pencils from my travels I stick blackwings on top of it just because it is the best I have to give.  Tea can make any situation better, but the only thing that can make tea better is the company you drink it with.  I cannot wait to serve this to Janet.  

     When I make tea, like everything else, it has a process a ritual I enjoy following.  Sometimes if there is time I enjoy breaking out the moleskine notebook tea journal and using my poor skills to fully evaluate that tea.   

     Pencils from friends are the best, but the best tea is with friends.  My most memorable cups to date.

  1. Anytime my wife and I sit quietly with a cup.
  2. Sitting with Robert Penvose on our fob being served the local brew at an Iraqi cafe.
  3. The thermos full of tea on cold army mornings.
  4. Serving cups by the half dozen to my friends when it is my turn to host tabletop game night.  
  5. Tea with the boys on poker night, there is nothing Devon cannot appreciate.
  6. My grandmothers sweet tea every time I’m home.
  7. Recreating the Iraqi brew for a professor and classmates.
  8. My constant companion of the thermos accompanying my during my current adventure called college.

The list grows. Sit down with a friend, share a cup, and don’t forget to warm the pot. 

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


  
  

 

 

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