Leslie (Stiffie), my hot squeeze, had eliminated the guess work out of Christmas years before, by insisting everyone create a small list that could be distributed among family and friends. The purpose of this list was to streamline the shopping process and to help establish realistic cost guidelines, depending on family status. The same procedure was alleged to be in effect this past Christmas, albeit under tighter economic control.
This is my hot squeeze, Stiffie (Leslie)
(Photo by some magazine photographer -- Click To enlarge)
Though I would be the first to say that I had not cooperated with any of the requests to enlighten the world’s smartest woman as to what I would have really appreciated in the way of a gift, I did not do so maliciously or through sloth. The reason why I didn’t suggest anything is because I already have everything I need. And before the hard-boiled among you roll your eyes in anticipation of some greeting card-quality platitude about “How Jack Riepe Discovered The True Meaning of Christmas,” rest assured that if I did, I’d sell it as a 12-step program to your wives and girlfriends first. That way, I’d be your next Christmas present.
The truth is that I like presents that set my imagination free. My imagination was at its nuclear best when I was eight years old. I’d tell stories about anything that came into my mind without rhyme nor reason. My second grade teacher was a wonderful Catholic nun, Sister Theresa De Lourdes, who liked me in general, but who had a great deal of difficulty dealing with falsehood. She regarded lies as the currency of the devil and would bless herself when confronted with one. Well I’d get wound up in the details of some story I swore I was a witness to and she’d start blessing herself so fast that she’d begin to hover like a human helicopter. I personally saw this happen two hundred times.
At age eight, nothing set my mind free like trains. I loved everything about them. A ride on one was the equivalent of space travel. And the Lackawanna Railroad was the most incredible of them all. My Grandfather, Pat, used to walk me down to the Lackawanna tracks in Denville, NJ, where we could wave to the engineer of the Phoebe Snow as it roared by (at an outrageous 60 miles per hour) on the way to Chicago. I can still remember the whine of the cars as they went past, and the little wisp of steam as it exited a hose at the last one.
This is the view of Main Street, at "Stillers Junction," my train layout.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)
I have built a scale Lackawanna layout (“O” Gauge) in the basement, with a scale model of the very train my Granddad and I used to wave at. I can wave at it any time I like now. And there is nothing like putting your head down next to the track and having one of these models pass you up close.
The Phoebe Snow (MTH F9's w/Proto2) rolls into town, right on time.
This is the train my Grandfather and I used to wave at, when I was 8 years old.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)
Today, one would question the sanity of an old Irish ward-heeler who would take an eight-year-old down to a stretch of tracks where one of the last of the 1950’s streamliners would streak past less than ten feet away. But Pat was a man who understood the power of conspiracy. He’d fold my hand in his and say, “See the train down in the turn... Get ready to wave... It’s coming. And not a word of this to your mother now. She doesn’t like trains, nor strong drink, nor the smell of horses at the track.”
A stickler for realism, hookers ply their trade in the park opposite the station on my layout.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J., who was laughing his ass off as he took the picture -- Click to enlarge)
I could think of fifty things I would have liked for my layout this Christmas, but not to point of telling people about them. I have exactly the right amount of trains to set my imagination free. Perhaps too free. I had it in my head to get a story published about my layout in a model train magazine known for emphasizing realism. On my tracks, there is a factory siding not far from a seedy little park opposite the station. I have hookers working the streets there. At least one is providing a valuable service in a parked car. The editors of the train magazine were not amused.
Here a local maestro conducts a flute solo.
The editors of the train magazine were not amused.
(Phoro by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)
Well the same was true for my other pursuits. I like books, but couldn’t think of one I wanted. Apple came out with a great new computer that I wanted... But I didn’t need it, and this one was far beyond the greatly reduced amount of money to which we were supposed to limit ourselves. In the end, I asked for some of that $20 stuff I saw in those silly commercials on television... The little electric shaver (that sucks)... The Sham Wow shop rags (that work)... And The Girls Gone Wild Sterno Beach Spring Break Video Collection (which I did not get)... Leslie did surprise me with a great book: A Historical Compilation of Color Schemes Used By The Erie Lackawanna Railroad. (This is the equivalent of train porn.) I spent all of Christmas morning reading aloud from it.
Yet her main gift to me was an envelope. I prepared myself to act surprised and overwhelmed with appreciation. (And for the record, I would have been thrilled with a naked picture of her from high school... Even more so if it had been taken by the girls’ field hockey coach.)
It was a completed order form for a new, heated, custom-built motorcycle seat from Russell Cycle Products. The Russell Day-Long Saddle is legendary among those who ride long-distance, especially if they have really fat, misshapen asses. My ass is so fat that it is defined by the shape containing it. When I step out of the shower, that shape is Chester County, Pa. New for this year, the saddle is now offered in a heated model, activated by a rocker switch on the seat’s shoulder.
I was flabbergasted. This was far in excess of the $75-$100 bucks we had agreed to spend. And it is something that I was so utterly delighted to get! I have a 1995 BMW with a low seat. It is an unusual configuration. I Like being able to flat-foot the bike at stop lights and corners, but the lower seat makes for a much tighter bend in the knee owing to the more pronounced peg height. This is hell on my arthritis. (And by the way, the far-forward peg position of the standard cruiser is much worse for my knees.)
The measurements of the Russell Day-Long saddle being built to fit me are impressive. While the basic design matches the shape of a traditional John Deere tractor seat, the scope is much larger. In fact, I suspect the finished product will look like the upholstered top of a Steinway Baby Grand piano. The Russell Day-Long saddle comes with “wings,” designed to support the extreme ends of the buttocks, which in my case, hang down into the spokes of the back wheel. Not only does this “droop-ass” increase resistance and fuel consumption, but it makes my exhaust system sound so much louder. It is my understanding that the wings for my saddle may say “Cessna” on them, but they are expected to be substantial enough to float my ass cheeks up around my shoulders.
This Baby Grand Piano will give the reader the size of the seat it will take to cradle my ass.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)
I got so excited about this that I sold my existing saddle to a blacksmith. He’s now using it as an anvil over at his forge. The last I saw of it, he was shaping horseshoes against it with a sledge hammer. The only downside is that Russell Cycle Products are so busy that it will be the end of March before I get to sit on this thing. Riding partner Dick Bregstein said to me, “Suppose we get a couple of nice days in the meantime? How will you ride Fireballs without a saddle?”
“Dick, sitting on it feels exactly the same with or without the existing seat,” I replied.
Now I know that some you, primarily women, are undoubtedly wondering what I gave Stiffie for $75-$100 that would not leave me feeling a little sheepish. Well here’s the deal, I never do what she says anyway. I bought her Christmas gift long before we agreed to this stupid plan. She is interested in the works of Nina Bagley, an artist with a flair for making exquisite jewelry out of elements of nature. Leslie was bemoaning the fact that Nina did not accept commissioned work, and would certainly never agree to anything like a Christmas timeline.
“This is a job for the battered baby harp seal look***,” I said to myself. Or more correctly, the voice that goes with it as I’d be gambling on using the phone. It took me a few attempts to contact the artist by e-mail, and then I got her on the wire. I told her the “truth,” that I was dying and didn’t have long to go... That I wanted my girl to a have timeless memory of me... A memory that could only be expressed by a Nina Bagley necklace. I told her that cost was no object as I was selling my few good organs on e-Bay... That I had one huge organ that was generating some interest... And that I’d send her an autographed picture of it with advance payment if she’d see her way clear to accepting a commissioned piece and getting it to me by Christmas.
And that’s how I managed to be done with Stiffie’s (Lesslie’s) Christmas shopping by November 6, 2008, and why she continues to look at me like I am the god of romance.
*** The patented Battered Baby Harp Seal Look is what I use on women when I need them to do something for me, or when sexual attention is desperately needed and otherwise highly unlikely. Through years of practice, I can muster the same look most commonly found on the faces of baby harp seals, battered on the ice by ruthless canadian hunters. Women melt in the sight of this highly emotional expression.
Copyright© Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA The Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perditions Socks (With A Shrug)