Saturday, January 22, 2011

Trains, Trains Everywhere

My father-in-law loves toy trains, model trains, train shows, fishing and boats. Not necessarily in that order. But his love for all things that go clickity-clack brought the whole crew to a very special event this weekend. My wife, my son, my father-in-law, my mother-in-law and I went to the local Model Train Swap Shop.

See that picture you have in your mind? It's... well, it's kind of right. It wasn't in a big, cavernous convention center. There were miles of tables. But it was in a Youth Rec Center hall and there were at least thirty to forty tables spread out over two rooms. More on the Rec Center and the patrons in a bit. First, let's get some of the basics out of the wa

There were about sixty people in this place when we got there. A man and his 8-year old son were in front of us as we got to the nice old man taking money for the entrance fee. All the proceeds on tickets went to the local Model Train club or association or something. What they do at their meetings is... well, we're still trying to figure that one out.

You walk in and it's set up just like any flea market. Tables are arranged in rows and merchants are plying their trade and trying to make deals. In fact, the first person we saw was someone you'll recognize simply from his catch phrase:

Ladies and gentleman, we have a Monty hall sighting! No, not really. But it was the kind of place you might run into an old TV personality trying to make money off something just to fund one more run at the top.

On a side note, I did think that I saw one of the contestants from "Let's Make a Deal" dressed as a railroad conductor.

If you can't read that sign, it says: "Fight Poverty, Buy Here!"

Ok, I'll let your laughter die down a bit. Apparently, one of the little-known and under-reported programs started by the giant Stimulus Bill was a new war on poverty, starting with the model train world. President Obama would have been proud.

At least on some level. Remember that I said this thing was held at a Youth Rec Center? Every picture of a sports team in the trophy case or on the wall. was a celebration of some 100% African-American team from the surrounding area. The walls were covered with educational posters of famous African-Americans throughout United States history. Looking at the surrounding wall, each and every train profiteer or collectible connoisseur could learn about Sojourner Truth, Thurgood Marshall, Barack Obama, Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

Of the fifty or so people there at the train show? One black guy. The rest looked like happy hour in a North Dakota steak house.

One final picture. Don't look at the train. Don't look at the table where the monstrous train set was arranged in a ten-yard-square track where it went through tunnels, over bridges, and through make-believe towns.

No, take a look at the couple sitting on the stage. He's content as a lark, totally in his element. I know because I went by him at least four times. Each time, he smile seemed to either get bigger or perhaps more pleasant. That's really what he looked like, a nice guy who was enjoying the heck out of his life at that very moment. She's holding her nose like she has the biggest train-induced headache in the world. And it got worse. I looked over later and wished I had my camera up. Her arms were on her knees and she looked like she badly needed a barf bag.

Finally, after we walked outside and were ready to leave, three things happened that caused us immense joy. First, two men walked from their cars to go into the show. The lead guy had a doo-doo brown beret on his head; the follower had the worst comb-over I've ever seen. His hair stopped growing at his ear and stretched over his dome to the other ear. And there wasn't much of it. Second, a man got out of his van to go into the train show and his pants fell halfway down his rear end, giving us all a great view of his rather large butt.

The third thing that happened? My son learned a new meaning for, and then used correctly in a sentence, "the moon!" God Bless trains!

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