No Spring Chicken #33

Today I'm taking my first ever train ride. Trains have a lot more legroom than planes, but the view isn't much better. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the tracks are frequently set between ridges of dirt to cut down on noise pollution. Second, when you can see out there frequently isn't anything to see. Third, most houses face the street, not the train track, most folks with money don't wont to live near the train tracks for noise reasons, most neighborhoods face the main streets, not the tracks, and most towns face the highway, since they get more business there than from the trains. So you are frequently looking at the butt of the town, house, neighborhood, whatever. I saw a lot of squalid neighborhoods, run down buildings and homes, junk yards, etc. I'd never thought of it that way, but it makes sense. Oh, don't get me wrong, most towns that had a stop had a nice train station, but the area around it wasn't very well spiffed up to match it. Portland may be the exception there. They have a fairly nice light rail system and have spiffed up the area of town where Greyhound, Trains, Light Rail and Busses all come together to make connections easy. Somebody planned things there.

I spent Thursday-Monday (with the end days travelling) visiting my brother, Jeff. Thursday was his birthday, so I wanted to get down their by then.

We worked more details of the Ancient Naval rules (Galleys and Glory) and more details of the tournament game for the Enfilade Miniatures Gaming Convention this Memorial Day weekend. A couple of years back my "Jason and the Argonauts" style game won "Best in Time-slot" award for the Sunday morning game. The theme that year was "In The Movies". This year the theme is "Raids", so we are having a fleet of pirates raiding a port city at night to capture cargo ships and cargo, and maybe take a few valuable hostages. Don't look now, but there may be a few troops defending those cargo ships, not to mention a few warships in the harbor. Still, a clever and skilled pirate should be able to take home some great booty!

We also played a few card-type games he had, two new to me and one we tend to play when we get together. "Fleet" is the latter, and is about building a fishing fleet. It involves getting licenses for different kinds of fishing, buying and launching boats for those types of fishing, captaining the boats, and generating income in the form of crates of fish on board. He had another one that was new to me about trading (in Africa) and that was a fun one, too (but I don't remember the name). I wasn't as thrilled about the "Catan" card game. I should note, however, that I have the two-player version of Catan that is a cardgame but is much better than this multi-player Catan card game.

We worked on determining what size of hexes we needed to play on for the new stand system we are planning on using for the ancient naval rules, as well as the stand sizes for all of the ships Jeff has that I don't. I can figure stand sizes for the ships I do have. But I'm the one with the mini table saw so I can cut them easily and he wrote down how many of each size he needs. So when I find some time and energy I'll be sitting down to saw up some basswood sheets for stands - 150 of them for his ships, and he has told me the sizes, but not the numbers of the land armies (Roman and Gauls, I think). I've also got to cut more and glue figures on them for my Tactica II Han dynasty Chinese army. That will need a few more figures painted, too, but since I'll have to paint all the stands that shouldn't be a problem. In about another month we will have emptied the bottle of 87mg aspirin tablets that will make the ideal size container for my paint shaker (which shakes 1-3 bottles of my paints when I have the aspirin bottle) and I can go into full blast painting mode. Or, I suppose I could decant them and have the empty bottle now. Anyone think Janet might have problems with that?

Saturday evening Joe came over to Jeff's and we had a long chat. Joe is an old friend, and sometimes when we go down to the Portland area to game with Jeff and Tish (my sister), we'll stay with Joe. You see, Jeff and Tish both keep cats, to which I'm allergic, so it is better if I can stay in a cat-free environment. Anyway, I hadn't talked to Joe for a while, so it was good to see him again and just sit and chat some.

We had a combination Birthday/Superbowl party on Sunday, and that was pretty much fun, lots of food, interesting conversations and whatnot. Some people just can't follow instructions, though. You say "No Presents" and someone just has to bring a present, which makes those who didn't feel bad, even though they followed the instructions. I just brought a card that said, "Well, look who is all grown up and ready for a colonoscopy!" Actually, it is a few years late for his first one, but I figure at our age it is always appropriate! The results of the game were not all most of us wanted, but then, you can't win them all.

One of the good things about this trip was that I didn't do much of anything, so I got lots of relaxing in and resting. Jeff missed his nap three days running, but I got at least one of those he didn't. So I was nice and relaxed at the end of the long weekend, but ready to get home to Janet and Clair, both of whom I missed. I don't need to tell anyone how much one can miss a long time spouse when you are separated. But those soft chocolaty ears of Clair's are something I missed, too. And the puppy kisses.

The trip home was on a single level train car (down was on the second level of two-level cars). The seats were plenty roomy, but not quite as comfortable, and if they reclined I couldn't find how to do it. The single level trains can go faster around the curves, so they travel faster, but we had to stop and wait for traffic to clear the tracks three times, so it didn't arrive quite in time for me to catch the ferry (8 minutes late). Janet met me at the ferry and we went to the pub for a late lunch. We like the Harbor Public House. Good food, honest pints and no kids (they tried to get a family license, but it was denied). We both had pub burgers, but she had cheese on hers and I didn't (my new-last-year lactose intolerance). I just had a craving for a burger. Don't know why. I usually have the Fish and Chips, which I also love.

Tuesday, when we finally got up, we had to do some cleaning before the quartet showed up to practice. We (Agate Passage) needed to practice because we have a bunch of gigs coming up. This Saturday (7th) we have a gig in the daytime that is a short, three-love-song early valentine thing that I can't be at, but they have a couple spare basses who can do those gigs. Then in the evening we need to be at our best for the Kitsap Rowing Association season kickoff party and auction. We are performing and being auctioned off as one of the items people can bid on. We have about 8 events that we are doing the 12th-14th, and one of those includes a song we haven't done as a quartet - Sweetheart of Sigma Chi. It turns out the birthday girl was the actual elected "sweetheart" of the Sigma Chi fraternity. So we jumped into that song as our practice started, and decided which of the sheet music and how much of it to sing. Please note that we sing primarily barbershop arrangements, because we like the chords, expanded sound and overtones. But barbershoppers have a funny habit of adding an Intro, needing an ABAB or ABAC chorus structure and having a tag on the end of the song. This is part of the barbershop style, but it can add extraneous music that the recipients don't expect, nor do they need in some cases. With only ten days to learn this song and get it ready for a public performance we dropped the intro and the second AB and the tag and just sang the part that most people expect to hear. That should keep the birthday girl happy, keep lots of the good harmony in the song, and make it doable to have a top level performance that quickly. Fortunately, the slow learner (me) has sung this version (and four others) in three choruses over the years, so it won't be a problem for me. Then we ran through all the songs for this weekend's performance, and by the time we were done with that I was pooped out. When the quartet left (2:30) I went up and took a nap. I woke up at 5:30! Stamina is not my long suit these days, but I'm working on getting better.

Chorus practice tonight, and Janet has been down baking cookies. I should probably go down and make sure they pass muster. After all, we have a certain reputation to live up to. Later. I hear those cookies calling my name!