Back The Tracks – Part 2 – On The Rails

Philadelphia, PA – The early 70s

I remember reading Stephen King’s book, Different Seasons many years later than the events described here. There was that one story entitled, The Body. It always reminded me of how it was when I hung out with my friends when we were young. It was later made into the film, Stand By Me. That story hits as about as close as anything we experienced as kids.

Having a place that was wild and uncivilized adjacent to our picture-perfect neighborhood was always a lure. I remember as a little boy my dad and I would sometimes go back the tracks and cross them over into the woods that lay on the other side. He would puff his cigar and we’d chat and go on a short explore.

There was a fallen tree that lay at the edge of the woods and we would always go back and visit it. I used to call it the whale shark, because it was large, grey, and looked like a fallen marine leviathan. It was fat at one end and broken which resembled a mouth. Along the tapering back of the wooden beast, was a thick broken branch that jutted upward that resembled a huge dorsal fin.

I still like the smell of cigars to this day because they remind me of my time with my father.

I was later told a story that when my older sister and I were really little, dad was carrying us down the embankment that led to the tracks. He was going to take us over to the other side to run around and play in the fields. He had lost his footing on the embankment and started to fall. As he slipped down the hill, he held us both aloft as he took the full brunt of the fall. He got a little banged up, but we both walked away without a scratch.

A classic tale of a lion protecting his cubs.

Let’s proceed with this chapter.

We’d line up all of the bottles and cans we could find on the rails and have contests to see who could break the most by throwing rocks at them. If a train approached you simply ran for cover. There were so many stories back then about the tracks. Horror stories. Like if you stood too close to a speeding freight train the force could suck you under the wheels and you’d surely be squished. We saw what a train could do to a penny if you put it on the rail when a train went by. It would completely flatten and stretch the penny thin. I heard all sorts of terrible tales and legends from other kids about the perils of the train tracks.

There were three sets of rails. The furthest was for the commuter passenger trains, the middle track was for utility purposes and passing, and the main rail closest to us was only for freight trains.

Some other horror stories I heard were gruesome. The story of the two boys who wanted to make a cable car that ran across the tracks from one embankment to the other. They held onto a metal cable and attempted to toss it across to the other side. The cable hit the high wires that the pantagraphs of the passenger trains used for power. Once the metal cable touched the high wires the kids’ bodies burned all the weeds as their dead bodies rolled down the hill.

What is Pantograph? How they are used in Electric Rail Engines? | by Shubhranshu Mishra | Medium

Or, the one about the kid who stepped into between the switch track and the main rail. It snapped shut crushing his foot and trapping him where he remained until he was later run over by a train and killed.

Railroad switch - Wikipedia

Or, this kid who urinated off a bridge and the urine hit the high wire, and voltage traveled up the stream and into his “lightning rod” and electrocuted him. There are 25,000 volts traveling through those overhead wires all day long.

I remember a tragic story where there were a few boxcars just sitting on the middle track on their own. Some kids climbed onto them to explore. One kid was standing on top of the boxcar and his head hit the high wire, and he sadly lost his life. I didn’t know the boy, but it was a terrible day for his friends and family. It showed us all how fragile life can be at any age.

You tell those kinds of stories to little boys and that hits hard. We were very careful playing back the tracks. But it never stopped us from going there and our parents were cool letting us play back there on the tracks all of the time. But life was full of danger for kids back then. But all we thought of was “I”. Invincible. Immune. Indestructible. Immortal.

But not all of us were so lucky back then.

You can read about another poor soul by clicking here:

Innocence Lost

It was so cool. You’re 10 years old, probably weigh around 60 lbs. tops. You’re small and light. You’d be back the tracks playing with your friends and then you’d hear a distant rumbling. If you were lucky, you saw the train coming in the distance. As an unspoken rule, anyone who saw a train coming instinctively yelled, “Train!” to alert his tribe. We all cleared out of there and found cover.

Normally, it was incredibly quiet back there, but when the train approached and roared by at full speed it was an absolute spectacle. The sheer size, speed, and power of that machine were incredible to witness. You see trains in the distance and see them in movies and on TV, but when you’re standing 10 feet from a speeding freight train, it’s like a giant Precambrian monster has come to claim you all. The noise was deafening and you could actually see the rails move up and down across the railroad ties from the sheer weight of the passing freight cars. We would always all stand quietly and let the behemoth pass. Powerless to do anything. Counting each freight car as it passed, sometimes losing count, but most times the number exceeded 100 cars long.

Our parents told us that the first rail went to New York. That always seemed cool to me. There was my little neighborhood on the edge of forever. I could walk down my street and cross Hasbrook Avenue and head back to the lot. We’d walk down the embankment that had long ago been carved out by men who built the railroad. I’d look down the rails and know that it was a direct line to New York. I lived in Philly but had no real concept of the size of the city. Just what I saw when my mom would take me into town. I got on a passenger train (Reading line) with her at the Cheltenham station by Martins Mill road, and off we went. When the doors opened again I’d be in the Reading Terminal in center city. We might as well stepped into a time machine back then. You get in, close the door, and appear somewhere else that looks completely different from your usual surroundings. All tall buildings and bustling people.

My father used to say, “You have to pay attention in school and make something of yourself so you don’t end up like one of those guys in Reading Terminal.” (Homeless, bums, panhandlers, etc.) Funny how back then it was like that. Now Suburban Station is the main hub because the trains no longer go to Reading Terminal. That place is now a thriving open market that’s a thriving tourist destination. Now, I’d love to end up like one of the guys in Reading Terminal. A successful business owner! How things change.

But the idea you could follow that straight train track to New York always intrigued me. What if there was some way we could board one of the boxcars and stowaway to Manhattan? A simple thing like that. Just kids who grew up on the right street near such power and might beyond the trees.

I always liked the notion of living in a quiet peaceful neighborhood. It was clean and safe. But just beyond the end of our block was something wild and dangerous.

But it belonged to us.

 

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My Family – Down the Shore with Trains! – Part 3

Cabinets are loaded in and everybody is pretty drained from this day. Zane and Blair go out to meet with friends for a tour of a local brewery.

Now it’s time to talk turkey. The brothers come back in and we’re back to negotiating product. We go back and forth on several pieces and it appears they are interested in more than what we initially thought.

They go back upstairs and look over the sets up there and we slowly wear them down. It’s become somewhat of a feeding frenzy. They start snapping up sets and we’re prepared to let them go for the fair prices.

These guys are hardcore collectors and I suspect dealers. They know they’re getting good collectibles and we really don’t want the trains. So it could all work.

In yesterday’s blog I had a picture of the Texas Special. In sales you don’t talk about numbers or rarity, but the value of the object you’re selling. Sell the value and you’ll get the right price.

But most important thing is to tell the story. People don’t think in facts and figures and dollars and cents. But in desire and the story. It’s not what you said or what you did. It’s how you made people feel. That’s my strong suit. I’m telling stories the whole time they’ve been here. If they feel the heart and love and memories that are in these trains with this family, no matter how bad they want them, they won’t be able to rip us off.

They wouldn’t do that anyway, but once they feel the stories and the rich family histories in these antiquities it gives them more value and the buyer will feel the loss of the seller when he acquires it, so he may be more fair in his price.

My partner Achilles always says “Make it easy for people to spend their money. Don’t be greedy.”

We’re really excited that this final piece is falling into place today. They’re making offers and we’re adding up the dollars.

When we are separated from our buyers I can see how excited Janice is about these transactions. I stay calm from my years of selling things. I’m not going to get happy until the contract is signed and the deal is finalized.

This could be our last shot with these whales. I don’t really want to leave any money on the table. I’d like to move everything if we can.

It’s like an elegant dance between my sister and I and two fat guys. We’re going to win this contest.

By the end of an exhausting day, this entire lot of trains has been negotiated, sold, wrapped and put into boxes.

Yes. They bought everything. Did we throw in a few freebies? Sure we did, but that sweetened the deal and we didn’t want that stuff anyway.

We were all sitting around the empty dining room table and they were counting out one hundred-dollar bills to us. It was like a huge drug deal. Big unmarked van outside and piles of cash on the table. It was glorious but I had to stay cool until they left.

I was extremely pleased with my take, and Jan was too. She offered them a couple of beers and we all had a sweet repose. The deal was done and now we just needed to get them off the property. She offered to buy them some sandwiches at the local market but I kind of wanted the clients gone once I had closed them.

Rob said he wanted to get back on the road and they had a long drive back to Maryland.

Then it got weird.

Somebody was talking about how they had a swimming pool. Then somebody else brought up the story of a little girl who had recently drowned in pool and was dead for over 20 minutes. (I know right?) Apparently there is some new procedure where they do som esort of cryo thing to the brain cells and it preserves and revives the brain and they brought her back to life and she has full mobility and is completely fine. A miracle of modern science. Janice even says this could be a breakthrough for victims of stroke.

Then Rob starts saying that we have all of this amazing technology because of aliens.

Wait…what?

“Yea. All of this technology we have is because the military and the Government has been working with aliens. That’s when the President says we can incinerate North Korea it’s because of alien technology like laser beams and shit.”

WTF? I can’t even look over at my sister at this point because I know we’ll lose our shit and there is thousands of dollars in cash just sitting on the dining room table.

Ray chimes in: “The Navy has been working with aliens for years. The aliens were like 9 feet tall, wore sunglasses and had white hair. No one was allowed to tak to them. I saw it on YouTube.”

Wait…what? Is this really happening? I can hang with any wacko. I’ll play along.

“Yea, the Minister of Defense in Canada admitted that they’ve been working with aliens for years. Someone that high up wouldn’t say something like that to Parliament if it weren’t true. I saw it on YouTube. He even say that there are different kind of aliens. There’s like ones that are nice and then there’s bad guys too.”

“Okay…okay.” (I gotta hold it together. We’re so close!)

“Stephen Hawking even admitted it but he doesn’t think the aliens should talk to us.”

“Right, because if they have greater technology it could ruin our culture like it has on this planet with our own civilizations.” I say.

“Right. There are so many planets and stars out there must be other beings out there.”

I actually agree with him about that, but everything he said before that is absolutely bonkers.

Still not looking over at Janice.

“Well guys, I’m with you on all of that and I used to be a card-carrying member of MUFON.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t know? The Mutual UFO Network. I was a member for years. I even have a manual that instructs you what to do if there’s an invasion.”

(I’m not lying. I’ve read just about everything on the subject of UFO’s, aliens, Roswell, Area 51, back engineering exotic propulsion systems, bending time and space, abductions, SETI, and the work being at the JPL. Oh, and I really was a member of MUFON and have attended conventions. I know it ALL. They don’t know what I know. So as insane as this turn of events has been I know a great deal about this subject. I’ll write about it sometime.)

We wrap it up on that note and walk them out to their spacecraft, er… I mean rented van. I look up and down our street to see if  Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are parked in a black sedan somewhere.

They say goodbye and tell us we are always welcome to come and visit and hang whenever we’re in DC.  I’m sure Janice and I would be happy to swing by in a flying saucer and beam ourselves down for a barbecue.

The boys leave and Janice and I are laughing our asses off but are giddy that we made a pile of cash and got rid of the things we no longer need.

“They bought EVERYTHING!” She kept repeating until it sunk in. We were giddy with the way this surreal day turned out but now it was time for more important matters.

Drive to Bubba’s Liquors and get some wine and beer and order some delicious cheese steaks for dinner.

Zane and Blair returned later with another couple. (I love to see young good-looking people out having fun in Wildwood. Nostalgia for my sweet days on this sandy stage!)

We told them what happened and they all laughed histerically.

May The Force Be With You!

We have to get to the bank Monday!

Thank you for everything Janice! I feel closer to my big sister than ever in my life. I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me and this family that continues to live on through love, laughter and just being the Gang!

All Aboard!

 

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My Family – Down the Shore with Trains! – Part 2

(Pictured above: The Texas Special. First present my mother bought my dad as a married couple.)

The guys pull into the driveway behind my rental in a huge ford transport van.  Well at least they’re serious about getting those train cabinets.

I’ve got two tables full of sets of trains and passenger cars that I still haven’t moved. I’m just hoping to help my sister and lend a hand. Maybe if they buy a few sets I’ll walk out of here with $300 to $500 tops.

I remember these guys. They were so nice and spent some serious dollars with us at the show in York, so I’m hopeful at this point. We all exchange pleasantries and then it’s down to business.

We’ll call these guys Ray and Rob. Ray is the guy who works for the SEC. He’s a little slovenly but extremely sweet and affable. His hair a brown tussle around his face, bespectacled and what could be described as a mushy pasty frame.

His brother Rob I a bigger man. The Contactor. Short brown hair, square face and a more robust frame. You could walk past these guys in a diner and never notice them.

But today we are front and center for our finale performance with them. They’re in our house now, and are sadly outnumbered.

Ray wants to see the trains and the cabinets. I take him upstairs and his brother Rob follows. In the front bedroom I’ve laid out most of my post war O’ gauge trains. There are other things downstairs on another table that they also liked at the show but didn’t buy.

Within minutes they are picking up the trains and looking at them. I go and get my sister for support. I can sell, but she knows trains and prices better than I do.

It doesn’t take long for them to start making offers on some of my stuff. I’m a bit surprised but just go with it. Janice is nodding and giving me the green light on some of the prices they’re offering.

Things are moving quickly, and I can smell the blood in the water and turn on my charm. I’m opening the relationship with them and telling the stories behind these trains that I remember from my youth with my father. It’s an easy role to play because not only did I live it, it’s all true.

Janice, ever the organized teacher, mother and wife, grabs a piece of paper and starts making notes of the offers.

Gotta love her.

We take a break but I can feel the chum in the water and the feeding has begun. We’ll land these fish today. I’ve got a good feeling about this.

We take a break to give them a moment to breathe and look at some more of the things on the table downstairs. They remember some of those pieces and remember their desire for them at the show.  I now believe they’ve come for the things they missed a chance to buy at the show.

Janice is scrawling notes on her paper, bless her mathematical heart. They’re interested in a few of the pieces she has on the table too. I’m glad she’s writing all of the offers because I won’t remember them, I’m in full on, fatal charm sales mode and I love it.

Forget my two days of stomach disorders, the four-hour drive down here, my growling stomach, I’m swimming hard and the dorsal fin is cutting through the water towards these plump baby seals.

We step away from the table for a moment to examine and measure the four cabinets. That’s fine. The trains are all sitting out in their glory, ready for the taking. We’re already over a thousand dollars for the moment.

Based on the space in Ray’s home and the size of the cabinets he thinks he can only take two.

Janice’s son, Zane and the boys start unbolting them from the walls and I offer what help I can.  His girlfriend, Blair is offering advice on how to best angle and move the units without breaking them or shattering the glass. She doesn’t say much but when she offers a different strategy it always seems to work. I’m just trying not to get crushed by one of the cabinets falling down the stairs.

I’m too valuable to lose in a careless accident, who’ll close this deal in a grand way and more important document it on phicklephilly?

Janice is there literally clearing the way as they move them out, tossing tables, bookcases and furniture in her wake. It’s a consorted effort and we’re getting it down. Big Rob is the main muscle but Zane has got youth, control and power and he’s a valuable asset to the team.

It’s a little surreal to be in the house that once belonged to my parents for so many years. Other than his kids and his books, his trains were his true love since he was a boy. He built a giant toy railroad in the attic. A museum worthy layout.

I remember how it started. back in the 90’s when the grandchildren were young he built a little circle of train tracks in the corner of our massive attic that was the entire legnth of the improvements. Knowing my father and how he never went cheap or small on anything I knew this little “O” layout would maybe grow.

One day I was in the attic with him, I said to him, “Look at all of the space up here. Aren’t you going to build a giant platform and eventually have all of these train routes running all over the place and the trains will go all the way down to the end around the stairway and loop back up here to the front?”

He just smiled… that sly look of his. His eyes twinkled like Santa Claus. “We’ll see.”

I knew from his history, that it could possibly come to fruition and it did. He built entire towns with people, houses, businesses, cars and most of the trains ran through all of them. It was massive and took up the entire attic. I’ve never seen anything like it. He finally had his own little world where he was the ruler of all of the things he loved that could never fail, betray or hurt him. Just like me with music.

“It’s the only world I can control.” He said.

The custom cabinets he had built to display his treasures. He finally had all the artifacts from his dreams and childhood that he missed so much.

But now they were empty. All of his beautiful treasured toys gone. Not gone like him, but in the hands of new people who will love them again. Dad was only gone in the physical sense. He and Mom still are very much alive in me and my sisters in our words, deeds, memories and laughter.

Now the cabinets were being removed by strangers. It felt a little strange after the collection being such a fixture of this house and his life for so long.

Just empty walls now.

But rich with memories.

Janice and I and my other sisters aren’t going to play with the trains. Our children have no interest in them and live in a world of exotic technology that is far more fascinating than seeing a little steam engine puff around in a circle on the floor. But I’m sure Janice will alway have a train running around her Christmas tree.

The brothers and Zane finally get the two cabinets into their van and return to the house for a cold beverage and to finalize whatever pieces we’re going to sell them today for a fair price.

My sister and I have thought long and hard about this. It’s too many trains. The sets that have real intrinsic value will never be seen except by family and close friends. But we have come to the conclusion that we should put these trains into the hands of the people who will love them and they will continue to live in the hearts and minds of those people now.

We came to this hard realization together on Day 2 at the York show. We just have to muster the courage to do it again today and wrap this up with these guys for good.

It’s been a difficult journey for the family but we’ll get through it together.

 

 

 

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My Family – Down the Shore with Trains! – Part 1

After our wonderful success at the toy train show in York, Pa a few months ago we invited a few of the collectors to the shore house to look at some other things we had.

(Please read: Toy Train Show – 2017 – York, PA) It’s a six part epic tale.

All we brought to the show was the antique trains. The really old stuff. Mostly standard gauge and pre-war O’ gauge pieces. Out of the thirty-three sets of trains at the show only thirteen sets came home with us. So we had a pretty good haul over those three days in York.

But the best part of all were the wonderful people we met while there. We had built some solid relationships with some folks that really loved toy trains, had deep pockets, and wanted to see what else we had at the house that they could view.

They were interested in some of the pieces discussed but not seen. They knew what they were and wanted them. They were also interested in buying a few of the custom wooden cabinets that my father used to display the best of his collection around the house.

These guys had spent serious money on our stuff at the show and were hungry for more. They were a pair of brothers from Maryland. One was a contractor and the other worked surprisingly for the Securities Exchange Commission, which is a big job.

 

I work at the salon Friday night. I go home and pack. I’ve already reserved a car at Enterprise.

Saturday morning I get up and head over to the car rental. They told me it was better to come at 10am instead of at 9am when they open because it’s less busy.

Bullshit. They have three people working and there are ten people ahead of me. I’m just going to stop there for a moment. I reserved this car last Tuesday. There should be one person handling just those clients. The clients that took the time to plan and prepare for their trip. All they have to do when they come back is show the drier’s license and the credit card and they go get your car.

But noooo… they’re taking each swinging dick that stumbles through the fucking door, that’s never even rented a car and have no idea what they’re doing. Why reserve then? It fucking sucks. It’s hot, and I’m scrunched into a corner in a chair by the door, holding my bag on my lap like some fucking shoobie!

Then this lady comes in with her shitty little dog and starts right in with, “Are they short-handed?”

I really don’t want anything to do with this moron/asshole. I’ve been suffering with stomach disorders for the last two days, and I just can’t deal with her right now.

“All I know is I’m dead last in this room, and you’re after me.”

“I have an appointment.”

In my darkening state all I can think is: No One Cares!

She starts flapping about how she’s a member and made a reservation, etc. I really don’t fucking care. The three employees that are here are working very hard (I didn’t say efficiently) and they are all apologetic and acting professional. So I’m just going to eat it and smile. I didn’t have to get up early on a Saturday and put a tie on and have to be nice to anybody. I just need to get where I’m going.

So bitchface says to me, “I know you. We’ve met.” I just shake my head, if she were on the right side of thirty and not such a hag I could muster a false memory. But she goes on, “Yea at some networking thing through, Keila’s women’s collective.”

Now I really hate her. (See Keila – 2012 to 2017 – Fleas and Ticks)  I cut her off a long time ago. The woman goes and sits down in an empty chair across the room. Just another loser parasite. Her shitty little dog is yipping at some of the people, especially these middle eastern guys that are trying to be nice. Fucking racist little shitty dog.

I finally get to my turn. I’ve been rotting here for a half hour. The girl who is waiting on me is very nice. My transaction takes almost no time because I registered the car like adults are supposed to a week ago.

She give me a Nissan Versa that’s a compact. It’s nimble and clean.

Finally on the road! Acrosss the Ben Franklin Bridge, down Route 42 and then finally to the Atlantic City Expressway. There’s loads of traffic but I’m just happy to be on my way. I still have to get to the Garden State Parkway. Then it’s another forty miles to North Wildwood. I get to the line of traffic all trying to get to exit 7 South for the Parkway. It is backed up two deep for miles. It’s literally bumper to bumper, stop and go just to get to the exit.

Once on the Parkway it’s not much better, but at least we’re moving. The traffic finally begins to clear as I get south of the Ocean City exits.

I finally get to North Wildwood. Without traffic, th trip should normally take and hour and forty-five minutes. I started today at 10am today, and it’s 2pm when I pull into the driveway of the house.

Four hours!

I get out of the car and am greeted with open arms by my lovely sister Janice. Her son and his girlfriend are there too and it’s great to see everybody. I’m a bit wired and burnt at the same time. The collectors aren’t here yet. That’s gives me a little time to decompress, drink some water and loosen up. I have to get into sales guy character to move some more of these trains.

So we’ll see what happens. I hope theses guy brought plenty of cash.

 

 

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My Family – Train Show in York, PA – Saturday

I saw this one woman who was easily over 300 pounds. She was walking by and she didn’t even look human. How does one get like that? How does one maintain that kind of weight? What does that do to your skeleton? She looked like an unmoored zeppelin. Then there was this other fat guy that almost ran someone over as he sped by on his rascal. Speeding and on his cell phone? Security should have hopped on their battery carts and chased him down until they could pull him over and give him two tickets!

Saturday was the final day of the show. I pack up my gear and head to the elevator. I get in and hit the button for the lobby. I hear giggling approaching and a dainty hand grabs the door before it closes. Seven teenage girls that appear to be on some sort of sports team all squeeze into the elevator with me. They’re all attractive and fit so maybe this is a sign that today will be a good day.

Janice arrives a few moments later in the lobby and we check out. We head over to the fairgrounds and I’m relieved that this is the final day. I’ve made a couple of grand here already and hope to close out strong today.

We get to the hall and go to our tables. We grab some breakfast sandwiches and chat. Today the show ends around 4pm. I suppose it’s so people can break down all of their stuff and get home at a reasonable hour. It’s a massive show and I’m sure there will be folks here into the night. Speaking of “massive” I am appalled at how many people are overweight and out of shape at this show.

I saw this one woman who was easily over 300 pounds. She was walking by and she didn’t even look human. How does one get like that? How does one maintain that kind of weight? What does that do to your skeleton? She looked like an unmoored zeppelin. Then there was this other fat guy that almost ran someone over as he sped by on his rascal. Speeding and on his cell phone? Security should have hopped on their battery carts and chased him down until they could pull him over and give him two tickets!

After breakfast I headed to the Men’s room because, well, middle age. You eat in the morning the digestive system kicks in. But my God, I’m in the stall and the place is full of dudes in the other stalls,  I kid you not. The place smelled horrible and it sounded like a high school marching band warming up in there. Or think of a guy with Parkinson’s disease trying to unload a set of drums from the back of a van. It was that bad in there! I got back to our table as fast as I could.

“Hey, Jan…What if we wrapped up a train in paper and simply called the package, Mystery Train?”

“You’re crazy. We’re not doing that.”

I have noticed something during this whole experience. On day one we were full of piss and vinegar thinking we had the greatest antique train collection around. We had price tags on everything and knew that dad’s stuff was all nice and worth every penny of what we were asking. But we’re at the biggest train show on the east coast right now. There are thousands and thousands of trains and collectors here. We sold a couple of things day one, but it’s a huge event and it takes a couple of days for people to see everything. These are toy train collectors. They know what stuff is worth. Yo, on the other hand, always think your stuff is worth top dollar. By day two I told Janice to remove the price tags.

“We can’t do that. Everything has to be marked.”

“Okay, then how about we just move the price tags to the bottom of the trains. The tags are still on them but they have to ask. That shows interest. It also opens the conversation and creates a dialogue so that I can sell them.”

I’ve worked in sales my whole life. It should work. Also by day two we started to feel a little desperate. Sure that train set is worth $1200 in its present condition. But to whom? My dad? He’s dead. We should probably negotiate the prices a bit.

“But…”

“Do you want to haul all of this shit back to the house with empty pockets or do you want to liquidate these assets?

“You’re right.”

“Let’s blow out some fucking trains!”

And blast them out we did. My father left us with one important rule when it came to selling trains: Sell only complete sets. (That means engine, tender and the cars.) But there was a moment on day two when we had a flurry of sales and after the dust settled we both looked at each other realizing we had broken up some sets and only sold engines and tenders and left behind a bunch of cars.

I raised my hands up to my face. “Janice…I think we just did some very bad things.”

“I know… We broke dad’s cardinal rule.”

But here’s the great part. We ended up breaking up some sets. But we actually sold off all the cars that had been left behind by the end of the show! So the “crimes against toys” that we committed had some how been righted by the gods!

I’m not going to collect trains. My daughter doesn’t want them. If someone offers me $350 for something that I don’t want and have absolutely no use for, they should have it. Maybe we think about not selling the trains but putting these beautiful toys into the hands and homes of the people who really will love them. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas story to me. That’s how we’ll live with ourselves for what we’ve done.

So we blow out more sets of trains today. We had one guy from New York walk away carrying four boxes full of our trains. My pockets were bulging with cash. We had guys we chatted with that were really wonderful people. We’d see them everyday. They loved trains and had lots of money. We discussed some post war O gauge stuff we had at the house. They were very interested in those pieces as well as the cabinets in the house my father had custom-built to house all of these beautiful sets of trains. These guys were serious collectors with houses full of goodies.

Put them in the hands of those who love them so that they can continue to live on and bring joy to people. They won’t be just all in a box somewhere like ashes in the ground. They will continue be immortal. Just like our father’s memory in all of our hearts and minds. He won’t ever really be gone until the black wings of death scatter our days.

We came here with 31 sets of trains and we’re only leaving with 13. That’s a pretty good haul. But the best part of this entire three-day odyssey was the time with my sister. She’s been wonderful and we’re really good travel buddies. It’s rare when you grow up together, then you both go off and live your lives. She goes off to college, and I go off to L.A. to play rock. She gets married and you get married. You live in different places and maybe only see each other once or twice a year at the holidays. You have your own lives and friends and children just like most people do. But then there is a death in the family. That tragedy brings you all back together. Well. I suppose I shouldn’t call it a tragedy. Death becomes us all.

But there is an event like this where you are called upon by your closest sibling to come to her aid thirty-five years later and you both get in a car and travel somewhere and sell a bunch of trains. You’re with that person all day for three days. You eat together, hang out, and laugh your asses off like you’re both back in high school again. Those three days with Janice in York were some of the very best days of 2017.

We say goodbye to Lenny and his lovely wife and I load what’s left of our stuff back into the SUV. We drive back to Philly, both a bit richer. Not by the Benjamins in our wallets but with love in our hearts.

Can’t wait to get home to my beloved city!

 

 

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