Monday, December 28, 2009

If there's one thing I can't stand above most other things is the constant sensation of near drowning. Why, pray tell, would I mention this? Because I've been suffering with post nasal drip for eight days. Seeing a doctor, while the wise thing to do, is really just a waste of co-pay dollars and comes out of my wallet anyways, which money is better spent on say, groceries or gasoline for the car (i.e. X-Men comics, natch). After all, colds will take two or three weeks to shake with or without the antibiotics.

As is my experience with this chronically annual (sometimes bi- or tri-annual) affliction I find it's best to suffer it out with plenty of rest, food, and fluids. In fact, I spent all of Sunday sleeping in bed (it happens more frequently than I should even admit) but once 1900 rolled around (that would be 7pm) I felt much better and less like I would drown. Good thing because I hate feeling sick and I hate being sick. Especially with no one at my bedside administering tender loving care, but then, that's a couple topics for later discussions.

But, to get back to the drowning bit, or why else would I have brought it up in the first place. In my profile I mentioned how I've seen my life flash before me at least once. *cue music and Wayne & Garth squiggly hand motions to invoke convention of time travel* It's April 17, 1994 (thankfully I dated the photos to know when to go back to) and we're thrashing about in the roiling current with the flat out REFUSAL to die there (must tweak the calibrations of this machine).

I had just snapped a picture as we approached the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania and the swift current snatched our raft. 019 Entering Grand Canyon of PA on raft 12 Susquehanna Tree visible on right bank
It was difficult to steer and our oarspeople were struggling, but gaining slightly to get ourselves into a different groove in the creek. We all braced for pending impact with a felled tree on the bank and were relieved when the raft bounced off the tree seemingly unharmed when all of a sudden we were underwater, some with the raft trapping us submerged. In that briefest of moments came a stream of light in super fast motion like I'd whipped a filmstrip through a table mounted viewer and many memories blinked in front of my eyes. (I recall thinking that's it? That was too short.) I fought to get above the water's tumultuous surface for air and bearings. My head went under three times and three times I swallowed a large amount of Pine Creek. Each time coming back up just an inch short of a handhold on the rapidly deflating capsized raft (in hindsight, if I'd just gotten myself free and floated downstream the ordeal never would have happened) but survival instincts kick in and with one last mighty reach - SUCCESS! Time for a photo because NOBODY will ever believe this (I was surprised the elastic wrist band of my Kodak underwater one time use camera was strong and I didn't lose the camera during my struggle in the waters). Help from other rafters and guides came instantly, but it took 90 minutes to get me out of the tree because we were fighting the currents (oh yeah, this will become a superhero fan fiction story. It's been marinating for months already). 020-from Susquehanna Tree about 5 minutes after impact 4-17-1994

Once we finally arrived at the end of the journey in Blackwell a good friend of mine and fellow raft mate was waiting on the banks, explaining how he'd heard they had to amputate my leg to get me free, William Shatner had had to come in with a helicopter (his show Rescue 911 was popular at the time) and airlift me to safety and all kinds of other nasty rumors each more gory than the one previous.

The following year many of us were back again and our guide's first words were "You don't have to worry, your tree got swept downstream out of the way" I was pleased and disappointed because I knew I could have avoided that overgrown obstacle this time. I did vindicate myself as captain however.

One of these days, I'm going to check in with my friend and see if that group will be rafting there again. And even if not, I'm itching for another ride through Owassi.
I'll have to go listen to C.W. McCall's "Green River" for a vicarious rafting rush now. "Hard left!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's so exciting about trains anyway?

I've told you about the superhero side of my life, so now it's time to learn about another facet: trains. I now present to you another classic blog entry from elsewhere. Y!? Because without it, this would be a blank boring space! ;-)


** There's nothing quite like the thunderous roar or the ground shaking power of a heavy freight train roaring past you, struggling to move thousands of tons of material to its destination.

Growing up my brother had some N Gauge freight cars from an old train set, which I co-opted and subsequently destroyed in my ravaging pre-three year old days. Then while waiting in the car at my Aunt's house there was a loud roar that seemed like the world was ending and it kept getting louder, filling my ears until I was scared to death, sure I would die from this thing falling on the car crushing me when from behind the neighboring building roared a Northbound Penn Central Railroad freight train. Behind the black locomotives were images I recognized from my brother's train set. Indelibly etched in my mind is the 50 foot long yellow boxcar from Union Pacific with the slogan "We Can Handle It" my brother had a miniature almost just like it! I was so relieved I wasn't dead AND I also had visual stimulation, like watching television, as the cars rolled by.

Over the years my family and I would be at the local Dairy Queen on hot Summer evenings waiting for trains to come. I remember seeing a Conrail train soon after that company began with an old Reading Railroad locomotive going by the DQ. There was the "hurry up or we're gonna miss it" trip to the Maple Ave. overpass to see a former Erie-Lackawanna GP-35 on one of those first neighborhood Conrail trains. There were also a couple nights at Mill Road School in 1977 to watch the stone train my father loaded where he worked (the same one now that I switch at work thirty years later). One particular night was a severe thunderstorm with lightning arcs and driving rain. Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" played on the car radio until the stone train drowned the song out.

As a young boy of three I got my very first ride in the cab of a locomotive, they were huge steps (four giant leaps for child-kind) up to the walkway from the ground, and walking past where the prime mover housed inside it's sheet metal hood was absolutely deafening to my pre-school ears. It was a real treat sitting in the engineer's lap, pulling with all of my might on the horn cord resulting in a sound that sounded like a sick cow because I couldn't pull hard enough for the horn to get enough air to sound properly. The train swayed and bucked and dipped and jerked down the ten miles of track we got to ride.

I suppose you could blame Dad for giving me the train bug, this genetic affliction which causes me to travel seven hours (or more!) in a car for train pictures, staying up all night, or both! But it's a load of fun and I enjoy it. I'm blessed and grateful I had the upbringing I had for the opportunities I've been given. **

Indeed the images shown in the slide show app on this very page are all photographed by me and even include subjects other than the mighty Iron Horse. Clicking on any of the images will direct you to my photo stream for even more pixelated goodness.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Legend of Moose Boy, Avenger????

Well, now that you know that I'm a goodly sized X-Men fan it will come as no surprise that, even growing up skimming Fantastic Four (I still have the board game too)comics that I harbored dreams of being a superhero when I grew up. That is, alongside fireman, astronaut, locomotive engineer (which I can do but I haven't earned the title) and myriad other professions.

To that extent then, I reveal my not so secret identity as "Moose Boy"
As the backstory is quite long, I'll amend it to: a friend of mine and I went out to photograph a specific train at a certain location (we failed but not through our own faults) and while checking to see if said train was approaching, my friend snapped the above slide of me, not realizing any lineside poles were on the far side of the RR tracks (hence the antlers coming out of my head). When the slides had been developed my friend and I showed them to my parents and my Mom coined the phrase "Moose boy" when she saw this. At the time, forgetting all about my toddler's wish to be a superhero, I became quite indignant -- especially after the moniker stuck. Alas, over the years I have accepted the title bestowed upon me (after all some of us are destined to have greatness thrust upon us whether we like it or not)and have even found my own way to be humored by it: Superhero Vicariously.

During the heyday of my X-Men collecting in the years immediately after graduating college, I was able to collect other X-Men related items in addition to the comic books, such as Danger Room "key card", Xavier Institute Staff ID card, and X-Men Trainee card, all from a carousel at the bookstore check-out. Additionally, from enclosures included with Wizard magazines I received a diploma for the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, and also an Avengers card. That's right, true believers, Moose Boy is a card carrying Avenger with level A-1 security clearance, granted by none other than Henry Gyrich himself (likely begrudgingly considering his stance on homo sapien superior). Admittedly, Moose Boy is a retcon though, since I got the card before the nickname.

Shortly after I'd gotten back into the X-Men comics and Marvel I'd come across The Hero Factory website, where, unlike my heroes designed at I could actually download my creation:
My Alter Ego??
Note the cheesy theft of blue & yellow and the pseudo X insignia. But now, through whatever technical malfeasance, I can no longer download my stuff from The Hero Factory either. I'm sure it's on my end with security protocols or whatever, but currently it's not a big enough problem for me to correct.

So that's the story of the Avenger known as Moose Boy.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

This is What Started My Obsession with the X-Men

X-Men at Steamtown Mall June 1994edit

"Those aren't my grandparent's super heroes," an elder friend of mine said in the Mall at Steamtown in June 1994 when we were visiting the Steamtown National Park Site and went to the mall across the tracks for lunch. I thought not much more than puerile thoughts upon seeing the brunette in blue behind the table, and snapped a slide of the scene for posterity, since I had the trusty railfanning camera at the ready. Once home I questioned some co-workers of mine who those people might be representing (since one of the figures in my slide reminded me of a poster an ex-roommate of mine in college had about the X-Men television series then on air). Naturally, my co-workers suggested that was probably them.

Fast forward to October 1994, birthday weekend and my parents and I are at a CVS pharmacy in the Susquehanna Valley Mall for Benadryl because I had nasty allergies. As I'm walking down the isle I passed the display where the store had a few comic books. One of them was Uncanny X-Men #319, with the scantily clad woman in blue from the previous June. I bought the issue so I could show my elder friend the next time I would see him. Only, I read it, since I used to get comic books as a kid growing up (ironically though, never any X-Men issues. It was always Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Sgt. Rock, and an issue of Rom battling Galactus. I can still see myself skimming the racks at the corner drug store and picking that issue of Rom because the cover looked so cool.(After swinging by Coverbrowser i can tell you it's issue 26). Anyways, I was hooked. I latched onto the X-Men and collected as much as I could, amassing quite a library over the next five years.

Life brings changes and I opted to stop buying every one of the X-Men titles and related stories as I couldn't always buy the newest issues anymore and hated having gaps in the collection. I cashed in much of my library, though I still shopped for the novels when they were published and the three motion pictures on dvd. (I don't have Wolverine Origins, nothing personal, Logan). Even though I wasn't following their stories in the monthly comic books, the X-Men were still a part of who I was. A smile came to my face in June 2007 at the United States of America Air Force National Museum in Dayton, OH, when I saw an SR-71 Blackbird in the collection (the X-Men had a modified SR-71 for many years). I would even skim through an occasional issue or two while my Grandmother & I grocery shopped.

Fast forward again to Winter 2008. I had a hard cover book which compiled the X-Men history up to its publication in 2000 (yes, I had a first printing copy I hadn't read for eight years) so I read it after running out of railroad related books at my residence. I got re-hooked. I still am not able to get each issue every month, nor do I intend to try. Of course, it's nice that Marvel publishes the important story lines into trade paperback volumes. That is, the comic issues which contain a major story arc are compiled together into a single book which can be found at a local bookstore should the time come that I am able to buy it.

Since I first published this entry over at (lowers voice, Y! ou know) I've been able to follow a few X-books monthly again and I'm slowly rebuilding the X-Library as well. Man I wish I could borrow a time machine and slap my past self silly for some of my decisions, but fortunately that isn't possible.

Additionally, I also dug out all of my old fan fiction stories to work on and share publicly after 15 years of being crammed into a crate. Now I just need to get myself to a convention!


One might think that with this Third Genesis for a blog I might be fresh and present new ideas. While there are things swirling around in my head (a good friend of mine calls it marinating) once in a while a good re-run is worth paying attention to again. So it is with this entry, originally posted on my pre-existing venues. Since this shirt really meant so much to me, and with its loss, whatever affections that I'd bestowed upon the shirt are transferred to the blog entry about it. Some of you might read this and think I'm a case study. My ex-wife used to say, "It's just a shirt." But no, no it's not. Here's the entry:

Sometimes I just can't be so concise when it comes to telling a story. This one needs the long backstory so that the wondrousness of it will be apparent. On Wednesday June 3, 2009, a friend of mine alerted me to a special train move that would be happening soon. The following day he said the special would move that night. So I spent that night photographing this special train very late into the overnight, allowing myself only a few hour's sleep. I was looking forward to a nice, easy, relaxing friday at work since I had little sleep Thursday night and I'd be going away early in the morning on Saturday. Well, it didn't work out that way. A priority order came in for a customer and it needed to be done before I finished my shift Friday. Needless to say, my day went in the proverbial toilet after that. Add in the rain and by the time I was headed home I was caked in mud and soaking wet. Good thing I wasn't leaving for Pennsylvania that night. I thought I had everything I'd need packed by the time I went to bed Friday night and very early Saturday morning I hit the road.

The drive to my alma mater was very pleasant, even in the brief rain showers in the Poconos, I was just too happy to have a couple days away from the stresses of responsibilty. At the end of my road trip was a reunion for the volunteers of the college radio station, WQSU, where I was an on air disc jockey during the four years I was enrolled at Susquehanna University, serving as operations director of WQSU in my senior year. The reunion luncheon was a whole lot of fun and I was able to catch up with a few people I really wanted to see. Also, I learned just how fortunate the station was to have ever started, and then lasted for 42 years. It really seemed to be fate.

But that's not all. As faithful readers know, I really enjoy Marvel Comics' X-Men. At one time I had quite a library of X-Men comics and a handful of t-shirts; one of which I haven't stopped thinking about lately. I dug through my belongings in hopes to find it, to no avail. It is apparently disposed of. I've been wathcing e-bay for it with no luck. While reminiscing with one of the persons I'd hoped to see, we were glancing through a photo album. One of the photos was of my best friend on campus and I and in it I'm wearing the recently dreamt about X-Men t-shirt! I didn't think I'd ever see it again, yet there it was. Fate.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Blog Phase Three

Blog Phase Three let's call this. Or 3.0 or Ver. 3. This certainly isn't the charm you were hoping for I'm sure ;-)

It began in 2004 with the first outlet (something about a capital Y and an exclamation point. And when that was getting axed last year I maybe should have come here directly, but chose a different (seemingly more austere) venue and thought I'd be quite happy over there, except anything I wanted to write about seemed too petty for such an austere looking outlet and my number of posts in Version 2 are still in the single digit territory 11 months later.

I'm following a very enjoyable blog, but I can't comment upon it's entries because my austere outlet prevents me from doing so through some bizarre mysterious technological rigamarole.

So here I am now, look out. I rarely make a whole lot of sense.