Magic Moment

I think we can all agree that for the most part life day-to-day can be pretty monotonous. Work, eat, sleep, etc.. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I like routine, and if every moment of my day was something new and exciting that would, by definition, become monotonous and commonplace. Thankfully, things are they way the are and life as it is provides for moments that are special and mark themselves in our conscious to the effect that when we look back our minds more keenly recall the magic moments rather than the monotony of the daily routine.

This time of year for me tends to produce some of these moments as nature begins its slow slog out of winter's grip. Every year about this time the railroad museum where I work has what they call a photo shoot weekend. This is where they get out all the equipment, fired it up and photographers come to take pictures of the equipment and yard in various situations and arrangements.
This is one of my favorite things we do at the railroad. Most of the year work for me at the railroad consists of construction and repair projects that are forever linked to low grade emergencies incident to dealing with aging buildings and infrastructure and never enough funds. While the museum is a great place and the projects are always interesting, I probably let it be more commonplace than it should be. (I mean who else gets to try to take a phone call over the sound of a steam whistle?) During the photo shoots I get to see the complex in a completely different light. That obscure building that we spent months restoring gets lit up in the dark and the place comes to life. That rotary snow plow we spent the summer having repaired and repainted is put on the front of a 100 year old steam locomotive, the headlight is lit and it is sent out into the snowy night and the effect is captivating. The new water main and water column we put in one spring is watering tenders of steam locomotives and the scene you see as you look across the yard is no different than one you would see in 1922. I have little to do with the train operations or the photo shoots themselves, but I always make a point to go down during these weekends and watch for bit, because for me the experience is re-energizing and gets me excited about the coming year of projects.

After what seems like months of relentless cold and snow we've had several days of warm (read above 32 degrees) weather. The sun is nice, but we are rarely shorted on that here in the high desert. What I can't wait too see and experience each year is a warm and dry spot of dirt. Thanks to the warmer days as I was walking into the engine house at the man door on the south side I noticed it.
I'm not really sure what it about the first spot of dry earth, I mean I'm not Noah looking for a place to park the ark or anything, but it's just so heartening after shoveling snow for weeks and looking at the feet of snow in the back yard, and the glacial snow piles in my parking lot that you know it will all eventually melt away. I must of stood there for at least 30 minutes.

So in short: The work you do is worthwhile and spring is coming.


Warm Winter Wishes

As happens most Januaries as of late (yes, there is a plural form for months) I head to Arizona for a weekend to flee the cold and snow and soak in the sunshine (the car auction that I attend while I'm there is a big reason for going too).

This car auction generally offers around 120 rare, exotic, and/or historically significant cars each year at their event in Scottsdale. Among the lots this year were several Ferrari's from the Tony Shooshani collection, a lot of vintage Porsche that sold for less than usual, and some things from Jerry Seinfeld's garage that I may or may not have touched. So, as you can imagine the population at this shin-dig is mainly comprised of an unreasonable amount of people wearing salmon pants who seem to have more money than sense and then there's me. I'm just there for the fun of it (and austensible to do "market research" [happy to report that the market for Jags is still good but prices for Land Cruisers look a bit soft]). Usually there are one or two vintage Volkswagens that go for an eye-popping amount, but this year there wasn't.

At any rate, one thing I have noticed about the cars at this particular auction is that by-in-large these cars are "restored" and traded like commodities or pieces of art. They aren't really expected to do anything, just sit there and appreciate. I'm not really an expert in any sense regarding most of the types of cars they sell, but I do fell like I know my around a vintage VW or Porsche. And as prices for those cars has skyrocketed over the past few years I've noticed a troubling trend (not on the level of world hunger or anything, just at the level of a personal annoyance so get ready). Let's take an early Porsche 911, say like this one:
Due to the astronomical prices these things command it is now financially feasible to pay someone to restore this car to within an inch of its life. They will obsess about everything from the correct grain and texture of the fake leather on the seats to the proper finish and orientation of the screws that hold the grill trim in place. The paint will,.. be,.... immaculate! However, because the car is now worth anywhere between $100,000 and $300,000 (depending on what you have) it isn't expected to leave the garage. Consequently, they don't spend much time sorting out the worn bushings in the shift linkage. The seats, while clad in the correct material, will have sagging springs and worn foam. The carpet won't be installed quite right to the effect that if you were using the car you'd be annoyed at how it keeps lifting and getting bunched up under the pedals. In short, while the car looks amazing, everything that would make it truly enjoyable to drive after you've spent some $60,000 on a restoration hasn't really been tended to. Furthermore, German cars do not weather well in storage. To be kept running properly and reliably they need to be driven regularly. The only thing worse than a German car that hasn't been maintained is one that has done nothing but sit. So these beautiful cars (now portfolio diversification ventures) get bought up by the next owner wearing salmon pants and if they're lucky get started to drive on and off the transport truck and into another garage somewhere until it's time for them to change hands again. Meanwhile, I cannot afford to save one. I can't get behind that.

On a happier note, due to the horrific storm that was raging back in Nevada, rather than come home on Sunday I took a nap on a lounge chair in the 70 degree sunshine and proceeded to nap until Tuesday when the roads and skies were finally clear enough to make the trip. I did eventually have to come home to this though:
Still digging things out, but at least the sun is shining! Thanks winter......