Londontoys…

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Pictured above is one of the most interesting pieces in my collection. Londontoy diecasts were produced in, where else, London Ontario between 1940 and 1949. During and immediately after World War Two these toy vehicles were manufactured with pressed paper wheels (due to the rubber shortage). I suspect this pick-up is a later model as it does have rubber wheels. That’s about as brief a history as I can pass along…the point is that this little truck is about as old as I am.

I found it sticking out of a pile of dirt beside a dumpster about fifteen years ago on one of my daily walks. After a quick clean-up (which included brushing out the bed of what appeared to be the same fowl residue we used to have on the floor of our chicken coop back when I lived on a farm) it took an honored space on my shelves. I had considered doing a repaint but there’s something about the wear-and-tear that says “don’t even think about it”. It has character and a story. The well-worn wheels lean and wobble and don’t roll much anymore. In that aspect they’re much like me. There are also what appear to be seven BB dents in the bed and cab but without a ballistics analysis I can’t be 100% certain what caused them.

As far as monetary value goes it isn’t worth much but, as some folks say, it ain’t about the money. In its own way this little beaten-up truck is a part of history. If not the history of a nation certainly the history of the individuals who have owned it since the 1940s.

I look at it and wonder where it has been and who has held it. Was it a cherished Christmas present when it was new and straight from the factory with that glistening bright orange paint? Odds are you only received one or two presents back then so this little truck would have been pretty special. Toys in those days were far more valued than they are today.

Was it handed down to a sibling or given to a friend? How many young lads have played with this truck? Where did they live? Where are they now? Do they ever wonder what happened to the little orange truck they had when they were a kid?

I sometimes wonder what happened to my old toys.

My dad was in the army and we lived in Warminster, England when I was about six or seven. I used to get the Dinky military vehicles for presents and I’d save my pocket money to buy any others that I could. The last time I saw them they were in a sandbox beside the path in our back yard. I’m managing to find some replacements for them now but it isn’t the same. How many pairs of hands have played with those toys since I had them? Did they look after them like I did? I like to think that they ended up on the shelves of an appreciative collector somewhere…much the same as this little orange truck.

ltoy05s.jpgMike Grant is the author of three novels. Visit his Amazon page to find out more.

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CLUTTER CLUTTER

I admit it…I’m a pack rat.  Everything I “pack” is themed, cataloged, and semi-organized (which takes me out of the hoarder category) and I am impressed with my collections as are most of the visitors to my little world. Over the last few months I have let that damned reality slip into my life and ask the question “when is too much too much?” The answer is…probably now.

A brief summary of some of my passions…221 Alien/Predator pieces, 2850 Hot Wheels, 399 Johnny Lightnings, 327 Matchbox toys, and 200 Richard Petty collectibles. This doesn’t take into account three shelves of wolf sculpts/toys, a kazillion books and videos, two massive shelf units of vinyl music, and…well you get the idea.

I’ve run out of room.

These last few months have been difficult for a rampant collector like me. I decided that I should cut back on purchases and specialize in a couple of areas rather than continually adding to each collection and to an extent it has worked. I’ve saved a lot of money but when I walk away from a Predator figure that would look great on the shelf the “saving” part doesn’t quite smooth over the “wanting” part.

WOLVES

In the last two days I have left a department store not buying a cool wolf blanket and departed a thrift shop leaving two wolf sculpts and a framed limited edition wolf print for someone else to buy. It’s been a rough two days of second guessing and fighting the urge to get back in the car and remedy the roughness.

Cutting back has done nothing to clear the clutter of course…the only way to accomplish that is to let go of some of it.

Some will be easy. I have five guitars. I play one regularly and another one quite often. The other three just gather dust so they could go. I have doubles (in some case triples) of some of the toys I mentioned so selling them is a no-pain option…but that’s as far as the “easy” part goes. I’ve spent years building these collections and deciding what stays and what doesn’t isn’t something I want to get wrapped up in right now.

I’m going to spend this winter organizing for a yard sale but a lot of it I wouldn’t sell at yard sale prices so I’m not sure how successful that would be or even how much I would put out. Online selling doesn’t appeal to me either although it may be the only option.

I know there are people who will say just sell them, they’re only things…yes, but they’re MY things. They’re also my kids’ things and I’m not sure how any of them would feel about me selling off their inheritance. On the other hand “Die Broke” seems to be the battle cry of my generation and there’s a lot to be said for reaping my own financial reward from a lifetime of collecting. I have a feeling I’m going to be wrestling with this a lot more before I decide what to do.

I also have a feeling that my final decision will be “maintain the status quo”.

**Upon rereading this I realize I have just summarized the entire plot of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and I now understand the agony that Andy Stitzer felt while watching his collection disappear into the mail boxes.

FIRST, AN APOLOGY….

My computer contracted a rather nasty virus that was adding advertising links to not only my blog but any others I visited. I have been assured that I wasn’t spreading the virus but just in case I did, I apologize. I’ve picked up a program that cleaned my computer and based on how quickly it’s running and the total lack of pop-ups and alien-links I’m coming across now, it must be working.

This is why I haven’t updated my blog or facebook (as the virus was affecting parts of that as well) but it’s not the only reason I’ve been somewhat absent over the past couple of weeks.

I’ve dedicated my time to writing the sequel to White Wolf Moon and although I’m still struggling with a title I’m in the wrap-up stages. I’ve started the first read-through and so far I’m impressed with the lack of changes I’m making. There’s still a lot of work ahead of me and I will be continuing to concentrate on that project above all others.

As for the rest of my life, it’s almost back to normal.

The kitchen renovation is done and I’ve managed to get caught up on all those nagging little house projects that I had to put aside to complete that task.

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I‘ve also allowed myself a little play-time over the last few weeks and have taken a couple of evenings off to re-work and modify that RC truck that my wife and kids bought me for my birthday last year. I think above all that’s the one thing that has helped me get a bit refreshed and give me a different set of eyes to work on the book.

So basically everything is back in order (at least temporarily) and I’m picking up where I left off last December.

To those out there following my blog, thank you. I’ve set tomorrow aside to get caught up on everything you’ve posted over the last month or so and starting Monday I’ll get back to my regular routine and keep in touch more often.

Mike

THRIFT SHOPS

In White Wolf Moon Evan’s study is cluttered with odds and ends mostly acquired at thrift shops. This is yet another trait we have in common.

When Marie called that the tea was steeping Jenn walked back to the large country-style kitchen. “Interesting room at the end of the hall,” she said.

“Evermore, I guess…his refuge. He really values his time alone. That and the darkroom are his favorite places. Ask him to show you around, it’s pretty interesting in there. Cream?”

“Please,” Jenn said as she joined Marie at the counter. “Where did he get all that stuff?”

“Flea markets, yard sales…wherever there are tables with piles of non-descript stuff you’ll find Evan. It’s his addiction. He wandered back from the thrift shop with a doll a while ago. I looked at it and couldn’t believe he’d even paid a buck for it. The face was cracked, her arms were broken and her hair was matted. She was a mess. He spent quite a few evenings fixing her up, painting her and stitching her clothes.” Marie smiled at her young guest. “I think her name is Jenny?”

“And the weirdness just keeps growing,” Jenn mumbled. “Why would he buy a doll? Is it an antique maybe?”

“It’s old but not worth anything. He just felt sorry for her.”

“Pardon?”

“He was pretty sure that nobody else would buy her in that condition so to save Jenny from the trash he gave her a home.”

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

The wolf pictured below is like the real-life Jenny.

WLFBA

At first glance was overpriced at $3.00 but, like Evan, I wondered who else but me would actually buy this poor creature. A closer look revealed an acceptable sculpt that deserved a shot at life on my shelf and so I painted my first wolf. After spraying a white base-coat I decided to use the ‘wash’ method…thinned layers of brown and black paints gradually building to where I wanted them. This took longer than I thought it would, thus the delay in this blog posting, but I’m relatively happy with the way it turned out (although I still have some finishing touches left) and it fits nicely with the others on the shelf.

I collect too many things. Aliens, Predators, Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, records, books…again like Evan, the list goes on and on. I have 2,500 Hot Wheels alone but 450 of them are loose, not in the package. Those 450 were found at yard sales and flea markets but most were from thrift shops.

“Now where?” Jenn asked Evan as the light changed to ‘walk’.

“A thrift shop, just a street up.”

“Is that where you found Jenny?”

“You know about Jenny? No, she was from the hospital shop a few blocks back.”

“Marie told me about her. I gather you buy a lot of stuff at thrift stores.”

“And yard sales, flea markets…that sort of thing. I like finding collectibles…toys mostly, and I love rebuilding old stuff. Most of the smaller furniture pieces in the house are refinished cast-offs.”

“When was the last time you bought anything new?”

He squinted, thinking. “1978.”

“Really? And that was?”

“Underwear.”

I recently talked with a woman who would NEVER shop at a store like this. “You don’t know where that stuff has been” seemed to be her main reason. I admit that whatever I buy does go through a thorough cleaning once I get it home but to me that’s just common sense. I personally think she considers herself ‘above’ that sort of thing but I could be wrong.

I consider thrift shopping to be a big part of recycling and the old “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” rings true. We have a few of these stores in my town, mostly local charities raising money to help keep community services operating. These are my ‘go to’ stores. I prefer knowing that most of my money is also being recycled into the community and not just a small percentage of it as is the case with most of the chain-type stores.

Anyway…off my soapbox. I’m down to one scene (the tough one I’ve been putting off for weeks) then the work begins. I’ve already started minor editing but each read-over finds an annoying number of niggly things that need work.

Whoever said this was easy?

Me and You and A Blog Named Boo….

Yawn…a hot Sunday afternoon and I need to come up with a blog. I have been remiss lately what with yard work and hobbies. My writing both book-wise and blog-wise has suffered greatly. Today is the day…new blog day.

Nothing’s coming…I went to the flea market this morning (priorities and all that) but found very little of interest. There was a pretty good deal on four snow tires but they were the wrong size…plus they were two different sizes. There was an old Austin Dinky Toy that at $20 was overpriced in the condition it was in…no blog material there. I came home and grabbed a cold drink and one of my guitars and headed for my tent-gazebo-thingie in the back yard. About halfway through “Lady Came from Baltimore” (one of my all-time favorite songs) I noticed an eagle over the river. Such graceful flight, slowly turning and weaving gentle figure eights…could be a blog there. I close my eyes to consider the possibilities.

I am aware that other than the distant highway drone there are no urban sounds around me. No mowers, weed-whackers, or music. For my little corner of suburbia this is unusual. Some little birds (I can’t tell them apart but they look kind of like the chickadees on Christmas cards except these are reddish with yellow bits) have built a nest in the birdhouse next door. Noisy bunch but it’s Mum Nature’s noise so that’s okay. I hear Mourning Doves and open my eyes to see a pair of them on the power lines. I’d never seen a Mourning Dove until we moved into this house. I remember hearing what I thought was some kind of owl in the trees and I’d search until I found out where the noise was coming from but I’d always find Mourning Doves…never any owls. This owl hunt went on for weeks until I realized the connection between something that sounds somewhat like an owl and looks more-than-somewhat like a Dove. Okay, I’m old…sometimes it takes time to put two and two together. But…no blog here either.

Guitar

I strum a bit more…this time I’ll have a go at a slow tempo, bluesy-folksy rendition of “Dancing in the Dark” which actually sounds pretty good. I must work on that. Then I remembered a blog that I had started weeks ago…about my favorite guitar chord.

I stumbled onto this chord about fifty years ago. It sounded jazz and if played as an intro it felt good except that I never figured out how to follow it up back then. I couldn’t find this chord listed in any of my books at the time so I took it as my chord. Later, thanks to the internet, I would find out that it was quite common (A/Ab) but it’s still one of my favorites. Like the Chickadee-looking birds many common things unwittingly bear the burden of beauty and for me this simple chord is one of them. Perhaps to others it’s just another chord but then to some the Mona Lisa is just a painting. It’s in the eye, or ear, of the beholder isn’t it? I’m not sure why I was going to blog on a guitar theme. There are things that I am more knowledgeable about but the guitar is something that relaxes me more than any of the others. I suppose there’s a lot about it that takes me back to times with friends around a campfire in the mid-sixties, each of us harboring the determination to be the next Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, all but one of us failing to reach our self-perceived success. It always reminds me of a simpler time where dreams were okay and I had my whole life ahead of me to realize those dreams. I still have my whole life ahead of me but it isn’t as whole as it used to be. So what is the message in this non-blog? Sometimes things don’t sound the way they look…look for the beauty in everything and it’s never too late to dream.

Considering I started with nothing….

P.S.: One of my blogs was featured in a local Kamloops art magazine…check it out! http://bollokscraftrecords.com/zine/bcx-pdf-version/

CROCUS…

This is kind of a state of affairs post and a lot of what I’m writing about this time has been covered in previous blogs so I’ll just touch on them today.

“White Wolf Moon” was written over many years because at the outset I had no thoughts of actually publishing a book. It is a collection of actual events in my life, conversations I’d had with co-workers when I was employed at a local bookshop, and just plain silly thoughts (mostly fictional) that popped into my head. A friend convinced me (by putting up the money) to self-publish my efforts and so I became a published author. While I still have trouble calling myself a published author I realize it’s simply fact and really, I am proud of the title. The point is that there was no pressure to write the first book.

There was pressure on the second (which, finally, has really started to come together) but I know I did it to myself. Along with the obvious “I had my whole life to gather materials for the first one and now I have a few months to write the second one” pressure,  the readers of “White Wolf Moon” have inadvertently provided a little pressure of their own.

I have three pages of comments and suggestions from readers on what they’d like to see in a sequel and I made the mistake of trying to incorporate every suggestion. Suddenly I realized I wasn’t writing from the gut. I was giving one character a question that would result in another character replying with a response that covered off someone else’s idea. It all felt forced…unnatural. With “White Wolf Moon” I improvised most of the dialogue into my digital voice recorder and worked from there. After editing I felt it sounded more natural even if it wasn’t as grammatically correct as it should be. This dialogue (along with the characters themselves) has garnered most of the good comments. While I will attempt to give everyone what they want, it isn’t the focus now. Life isn’t laid out for us. It’s a series of moments and events that mostly have no plan…we have to accept and react to what happens. On a smaller scale if, for some reason, you’d like to know the name of Evan’s first serious girlfriend…unless it falls naturally into a conversation you might be disappointed (Irene, by the way). I’ve gone back to the way I wrote the first book and I’m letting the characters drive the dialogue and most, if not all of the questions and suggestions will be addressed.

Another pressure I put on myself was the need to be working on the sequel every minute. It’s always with me of course. I can be driving and see something that sparks an idea for an interesting situation or I might be digging in the garden and come up with a slightly bent and better take on some previously written material. I’m always thinking about it but I’m not necessarily at the laptop writing it. I took a me-day last week and drove my birthday present RC truck around the back yard for most of the day (along with yard clean-up while the batteries were recharging). That evening I looked at the computer and felt as though I hadn’t accomplished anything. I was actually quite angry with myself for wasting an entire day. The next morning I sat at the computer and started typing. I quickly realized that taking that day away was a good thing. I went back through said previously written material cleaning up and restructuring what I thought was good to begin with plus I wrote another 1800 words…all before lunch.

Along with all the above it seemed to me that “White Wolf Moon” had peaked. It goes in waves, this book selling thing, but this last wave seemed to stay offshore a lot longer than the others. While it has accomplished my primary goal which was to pay for itself, being human I now want more. Just when I was beginning to sadly accept that the ride was winding down along came a few more sales (and some suspected pirated copies which, in an oddball way, is kind of flattering) and a lot of really great comments (see previous blog). It’s amazing what a little ego-stroking will do for your attitude. I’m back on track and feeling really good about the way this is all coming together.

Spring is here. The wind is warm, the sun is bright, and yesterday the first Crocus said “hello”…

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Hello!

A BLUSTERY DAY….

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It’s a blustery day here, not cold though…at least not yet. Mum Nature is dressed in the latest fall colors and is teasing us with unexpected niceness. I’m sure that sister winter is behind the mountain checking her look in the mirror but for now I’ll appreciate the moment. I’d planned to rake a few leaves today but every gust drops another bushel or so onto the lawn so why bother?

Instead I’ll find something to fill my time. There are always projects around the house…cleaning, painting, repairs and the like…and I have many hobbies. I bought a 1/8 scale plastic model two years ago. It’s a 32 Ford (Big Deuce, they call it). I worked on it every spare minute for a month or so and now it sits, unfinished, on my desk in the hobby room. Standing beside it is a re-issue model of the Alien from the 1979 movie…started but not finished. I seem to start a lot of things….

The point is I always seem to be doing something. Some of it is relaxing and enjoyable yes, but I still have to be doing something.

A part of “White Wolf Moon” recounts a brief time in my life when I lived with five other people in an old house in Edmonton. On weekends we would travel to a pioneer log cabin in the hills on a property owned by the parents of one of the kids that I lived with. It was beautiful up there with rabbits, deer, and the occasional porcupine. We’d arrive with our picnic baskets and wine and spend two days without electricity or running water (save for the creek that ran through the trees and settled into a pond at the edge of the clearing). We would strum guitars and sing out old rock and folk songs around the fire in the evenings but during the day we’d find our own little corner of paradise and paint, write, work on crafts, or read. A couple of us usually ended up down by the pond stretched out in the grass with our book-of-the-moment. Mine was an old red canvas covered “Catcher in the Rye” and while I honestly don’t remember much about the book I do remember how relaxed and at ease I was. The wine probably had something to do with it but I think it was the overall atmosphere of being at one with nature and good friends that created such peace.

I think that was about the only time I wasn’t looking for something to do. I would set Holden Caulfield down in the grass, look up at the clouds and do…nothing.

I think I’m going to treat myself and try to do nothing. I’m going to upload this blog and shut the computer down for the rest of the afternoon. The television shall remain darkened during this rebellious act of personal disobedience. I have a book by another self-published BC author sitting on the end table which I really should read…tomorrow.

Today is for stretching out on the couch and doing nothing.

Okay, I’ll probably end up having a nap but that’s kind of doing nothing isn’t it?