Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Little Blogger/Columnist Who Could

The rescue and recovery from Hurricane Katrina continues, even as attention in Washington slowly gets refocused to the upcoming hearings for the nomination of John Roberts to be Supreme Court Chief Justice (all this while he's still reporting for CBS! Wow!).

State and national legislators around the country are deliving into price gouging investigations related to the sudden spike in gas prices. (Here in Arizona, gas is suddenly more expensive than in California, despite the fact that California has higher gas taxes, and despite the fact that Arizona's gas doesn't come from the Gulf Coast.

So it goes without saying that I'm currently working on a business feature on the QVC cable shopping network and its impact on entrepreneurship (pegged to a recent broadcast they did in our neck of the woods).

So as the deadline for that story, and preparation for an upcoming hour-long Katrina-related broadcast looms, let's set the Way-back Machine for last November, before the 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters was online. Here's a "Last Laugh" column (from Northern Arizona's Mountain Living Magazine) that until now, has never seen the light of the Internet:

Little kids dig trains. I should know. I’m seven years old.

Okay, that’s not technically accurate, but writing as someone who has met several little kids, I can report with some accuracy that trains have become a pretty big deal for the kind of people who aren’t directly affected by a 10-minute wait at a railroad crossing.

I know what you’re saying: “But little kids have always been into trains. I, myself, remember placing pennies on the tracks before the Santa Fe rolled through town. And I own a copy of ‘Chattanooga Choo-Choo.’” You poor, poor deluded soul.

Actually, I thought my own history with trains was pretty robust. After all, when I was a 5-year old living in Endwell, New York (which, if you believe the lead paragraph, was a mere two years ago), my dad and I would walk the mile from our house—stopping only to buy a pretzel rod at Kent Drug and to watch any red cars that went by—to the closest railroad crossing. We’d watch whatever trains happened to be passing through Endwell, New York, and then walk home, after which I’d continue to bounce off the walls.

That was pretty much the extent of my interest in trains. Since then, my connection with the railroad industry has consisted of one Flagstaff-to-Albuquerque round-trip on Amtrak, including a seven-hour delay on the return, and last year's science experiment involving my blood pressure, a crying four-month old, and the lowering gates of the San Francisco Street railroad crossing.

I’ve done a little checking, actually, and you’ll be interested to learn that the railroad industry is now employing special sensors. These sensors detect whether you have melting ice cream in your car – at which point they can deploy a train to barrel through downtown. The only exception is when you have the aforementioned small child in your car, in which case, they send two trains out to run interference.

But with a now 15-month old around the house, I have a feeling trains are likely to become a larger part of my life, thanks to the miracle of Licensed Characters, DVDs, and model trains. “Thomas the Tank Engine” has yet to rust, despite being over 50 years old and hailing from the traditionally damp British Isles. Sylvi already owns several Thomas-related trains, including something called "Skarloey", which would be an excellent name for a future child, or a dog, or perhaps a pet rock. lists more than 50 DVDs on train subjects, ranging from “I Love Toy Trains, Parts 1-3” to “I Love Toy Trains, Parts 10-12” (including, “Part 11: Lionel’s Revenge”).

And model trains, once confined to the basements of middle-aged guys, have found their way into unlikely places like zoos and even restaurants. I know one parent who claims that when her son was little, she knew the name and location of every restaurant in the Washington, DC area with a model train slaloming around the dining room.

So I have reason to be concerned. Of course, Sylvi is a girl... which means I may have to learn about a completely different set of licensed characters. What, exactly, is a “Care Bear?”


Anonymous said...

Hey Mitch! Thanks for your explanation of the train schedule at the Beaver/San Fran crossings. I hadn't noticed the ice cream/train connection. But I *do* know that if you're really TRYING to get trained (say, for the benefit of a 3 year old who may or may not be named Max), then invariably you'll end up driving up and down Rte 66, criss-crossing the tracks, for a really long time until you give up and end up bribing your insistent child with a visit to the "Thomas store" (Barnes & Noble) instead.

And by the way, just because you have a girl, you're not necessarily immune to the toddler train obsession thing. We know a 3 year old girl (Alexandra) who's a bigger train nut than is Max.

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