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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Stamp Collecting: Great Analog Hobbies

For many analog hobbies, it is true that if you look near the heart of the thing, collecting can be found in some form or another.

For me the love of the stamp came naturally, and was partially detailed in a previous post, but here is the short version.  My Grandmother was a Rural Letter Carrier.   My mother worked there off and on, My grandfather also worked there, and later my grandparents would retire from that post office.  It is/was one of my favorite places in the world, it is the post office for home, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.  I used to play out in the parking lot, and there was a wall to keep the ground from collapsing into the lot.  If you climbed to the top of it there were railroad tracks, it was at this rural post office, as a boy, that I saw the tan tanks on trains heading off somewhere in the early 90s.

Stamp collecting goes back to the advent of well…the postage stamp.  I love history, and if you look closely enough, there is a history lesson in every postage stamp.  What makes it great as an analog hobby besides that?  Well, it does not require a lot of start-up capital or specialized equipment or the thing we all seem to be short on, time.  It can be as simple as buying a sheet of stamps that you like at the post office and putting it away.  Places like Hobby Lobby sell bags of around 300 stamps for about ten dollars a bag, and there is a big mash up of stamps in those.  You will, of course, come across many repeats, but there are great things too, I have pulled plenty of WWII war bond stamps out of those bags.

I collected ever since I was a child, and it usually consisted of putting away sheets of the stamps that had come out and my family bought me what they believed I would like. Remember for me, the post office was a deep part of life.  I looked forward to the post office picnic every year.  There were good prizes for the games, usually postal related.  The point is, I was never one to trace rare stamps, or to have a giant book, but what I did have was Classic Movie Monsters, Bugs Bunny, and I Love Lucy.  This hobby allows you to pick your own involvement level.  Minimal investment, a vague interest, and the willingness to research.

Here is where I will say this for the first time: Digital for the win.  This hobby has been improved through the wonders of the Internet and the personal computer.  Guides, and lists, that used to cost money, are now available for free online.  My real collection is the stamps of The Soviet Union, and a website called Collectors Net has saved me the price of a sixty dollar book.


You will all have to forgive me from this point on with this post, I was just informed that I lost a family member tonight.

I decided to involve my son in stamp collecting and so we expanded a bit.

We buy the bags together, sort the stamps together, and then we do his favorite part, we soak the stamps in hot water and peel them from the paper they are stuck to and dry them in books.  It is time together, not in front of a screen (minus part of the research, if we do not use the hard copy encyclopedias) and he gets to learn some things.  Stamps do not offer much in the way of the tactile, but even at four, the taste he had gotten was enough to make him excited to see the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. and as I said, it does not involve a video game or a television.  It steps into the real a little bit.

Bottom line-  You can start a quick and easy collection that can grow with your knowledge on the subject.  You can give the collection and the passion to your kids.  You will also be in some good company, FDR and Freddy Mercury counted among the great philatelist.

Let’s address that, philately, the study of stamps, is not stamp collecting.  However, you usually cannot collect stamps without some light philately, so do not get hung up on the two being used interchangeably.

The Bullets:

  • low initial cost
  • something for everyone-national icons, celebrities, sports, the stamp world almost has it’s own rule 34.
  • low initial knowledge need
  • Self-adhesive stamps are the devil

Tip  Bullets:

  • look up the Vario system, second to none stamp storage pages
  • The National Postal Museum has better articles than I could ever write on how to get started, right here.
  • get the kids involved
  • pick a niche at first-Hollywood, musicians, Soviet Russia, Cold War-era, the 80s, there is no limit to niches
  • Every year the post office puts out a complete guide to every U.S. Stamp ever, get it as your first serious purchase, runs about 45$
  • slow down, enjoy the learning, and the collection
  • pull it out and review it sometimes
  • Read articles
  • Getting a pen pal or two can help, they usually have cool foreign stamps if they are not from U.S.

Get out there and get an old fashioned stamp, and look at it.  If you are still collecting in a year, maybe you will be ready to study how they are printed.

Ganger-Bjorn, The Analog Savage

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.

The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB

I have espoused to you before my great love of the wooden pencil.  Now that I am on a short break from school I am going to get down to some straight blogging.  First post will be about one of my great passions, the wooden pencil.  Today’s subject, as the title suggests, is The Dixon Ticonderoga #2 HB yellow pencil.

 This is THE yellow pencil.  is what people think of when they think of pencils.  That wonderful school yellow, the smell of cedar, a nice pinkish eraser…brings up great memories of Ms. Norris and Ms. Gentry/Carmona in their various grades at John H. Allen Elementary School, Soddy Daisy Tennessee.

I cannot explain to you the love of pencils, maybe I am just a technophobe (I have some pens as well that are not by any means standard, but its the pencil that I love) this is my drug.  It is like that feeling when a pain killer kicks in, there is a thrill to a new pencil.  My wife got The Ganger a subscription to CW Pencil Enterprises Pencil of the Month club.  The last year they will be doing of the club as a matter of fact.  I have considered going into this enterprise for myself, I will think it over. Anyhow for me pencils are euphoria, and the wonderful ladies at CW Pencil Enterprises, New York City, are a bastion of civilization.  I am planning a train trip to New York soon and that will be worth of a post all to itself.

People discover this obsession in various ways.  For my good friend Carl it was rather by accident.  He observed my engaging my senses with a pencil…in other words I forgot he was in the room when I decided to smell a pencil (most likely a Ticonderoga) what could I do but tell him to smell it.  His response, in true Carl fashion, was to smell the pencil and say “yep that is a number two pencil.)  For my peers at school they either observe my locking pencil case, or in the case of Andrew, he was nearly knocked off the walkway when I crossed by him suddenly to snatch an abandoned pencil off the ground.  For the rest of that class the moment arrived when they found out they would need pencils to complete the final, pencils they didn’t have as they all carry pens, and i was able to shout “MY DAY HAS COME!” while holding up my pencil case.  However the moment comes for you when your friends and family realize that you are a Crayonophile (working custom term) you will learn who truly loves you.

 The Dixon Ticonderoga company was founded in or around 1795 by Joseph Dixon.  They do make other pencils than just Ticonderoga, usually under the name Dixon, but this is all about the Ticonderoga.  The name Ticonderoga didn’t come in until 1815, thats where the Graphite Ore was processed, Ticonderoga New York.  For a long time the packaging sported an awesome picture of a minute man.  I speculate that this is an obvious reference to all the ‘Merica reference to Fort Ticonderoga.  The Ticonderoga pencil began being cranked out in New Jersey (around the time the name came about) and became an American Staple.

 Now for that American part…The pencil is no longer manufactured in America.  However I have not noticed a downturn in quality from the globalization of this pencils manufacture.  I have not found any sources that say that their foreign labor practices are unfair or equate to slavery so with those concerns put to rest, we won’t get into my thoughts on outsourcing jobs, we will just accept that we live in a global world ( you are reading a blog…).

The Ticonderoga’s stats.

  • Length: 7.7 inches
  • diameter: 3 centimeters (best measurement I will improve soon)
  • color: yellow
  • logo: green
  • ferule: this is where the signature of the maker is to be found (at least in this instance) the Ticonderoga ferule is always green with two yellow bands at the top and bottom, making Ticonderoga pencils instantly identifiable. 
  • Material: PEFC certified cedar
  • Special features: one of Ticonderoga’s features is that their pencils finish has Microban, which prevents the growth of bacteria on the pencil (they intend for you to have them for a while.
  • The hardness claims to be HB.  Pencil grading is not an exact science.  I choose to use the HB scale (chart found on pencils.com) and I check my pencils against the scale physically.  I agree this one is close to HB give or take a grade. 

With all the grading scales out there the words “Number 2 pencil” do not really mean a lot.  However in this case the pencil, in my opinion, rates HB as in hard and black.  Later you will see number two pencils that will easily fall into the 8 or 9 range. Basically the harder the pencil the less of a mark it will leave, and the less it will need to be sharpened.  The softer the pencil the darker the mark with less pressure, but the more you will need to sharpen it.

**UPDATE** I forgot to say this earlier.  Fun historical note.  This was the favorite pencil of author Roald Dhal.  When he went back to England he had them shipped over.

The Ticonderoga #2, HB yellow pencil (note I did not say soft) is in conclusion always a winner.  I would call it a 4 star pencil, but I will give it 5 for consistency. The eraser is everything that you need.  I usually keep stick erasers around because I hate to have a pencil with no eraser on it, but this nice pink number will take away the mistake with little streaking. That is the point (take what you will from the pun) the fancy pencils might have some faults or something quirky about them, but the Ticonderoga is almost always consistent and you can get them for a reasonable price…depending on where you look.  The standard I’ve seen is about three dollars to twelve pencils, but at a Walgreens I saw them for eight dollars for 12 which is ridiculous.  This teachers dream can even be found in nice large bulk boxes and one day I will buy one just for the fun of it.  Grab a Ticonderoga and engage your senses.  If you love pencils you will keep this in your arsenal the way that I do.  Get these in your adventure pack.

Hrolf The Ganger

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