Yesterday I went to the Orange Empire Railroad Museum (OERM) with my friend Brian. We planned to spend the day finishing the work remaining for the “noon” whistle valve assembly***. We have been working to renew the valve seat and make a new valve for the valve assembly. This has been an interesting and challenging project and we are almost done. Brian and I will most likely to be able to return the valve assembly to the owner the next time we are at the museum. Our trip to the museum was uneventful and we arrived before 10 AM. Brian unlocked the shop and we gathered our tools for the days work. While we were in the “air room” killing time, Brian was shown a non-standard screw that had been removed from a machine that was being repaired. The screw was broken and the small delegation of volunteer mechanics that showed us the screw asked if we would make a replacement. They informed us they needed a replacement to complete the work they were doing. Brian and I determined that we could make a replacement screw easily enough and we told them we would make them one. Brian would make the screw and I would finish up the valve lapping work. As the day wore on, lunch became our priority and we decided to go to Jenny’s restaurant in Perris. At Jenny’s, as we were finishing lunch, we fell into the familiar routine of small talk, nothing of a weighty nature, but something must have been said that prompted me to tell Brian about the trips to Alaska that Patty and I had done together. As I was explaining to Brian where Patty and I had visited and something about our reasons for going to these places, I felt myself begin to lose my composure and I began to cry. I could not stop. A barrier had been breached and I just could not stop thinking about Patty and the time we had spent in Alaska. I finally stopped crying and we left for the museum leaving some nearby patrons of Jenny’s wondering what the old bearded guy was crying about. We returned to OERM and the valve project and I started fussing with the lapping of the valve seat. Meanwhile, Brian had started making the screw using the old and slow bench lathe. There is nothing particularly wrong about using this lathe except it is slow. It was getting late in the afternoon and I began to worry that I had not brought enough pills to take me into a long evening at OERM. Brian experienced a few setbacks and misadventures as he finished the screw but he did the right things and we were OK on quitting time. We were the last persons to leave the shop so we were responsible for locking up. It looked as though I had a couple of hours leeway and I would not have any problems related to my pills. I was growing increasingly tired and my worry over my pills was replaced by concern about my fatigue and how it would effect me the next day. The trip home was unexpectedly rapid. On the return from previous OERM ventures, we had experienced traffic delays just east of Corona, on I-15, and we were pleasantly surprised when we just zipped thru without any slowing. We made it to my house in one hour and eight minutes; a distance of sixty seven miles! My previous best time was one hour and ten minutes.
I felt tired and I was hungry as we parted company at my house and, except for my loss of composure at lunch, I felt as though it had been a good day for me. We had done what we had planned on doing and more. Any thoughts about quickly going to bed were rapidly replaced by my vision of the half-rack of baby back ribs that was waiting for me in the fridge. After waiting an eternity for the thirty seconds in the microwave to be over, I ate all of the ribs and I went to bed. I slept well, waking only to pee and take my pills.
I have experienced these meltdowns before and I have been thinking of ways I can work toward my desire to become able to talk about my life with Patty without becoming a basketcase. The next morning I asked David to bring my slides and negatives in from storage in our garage. These images are largely about our Alaskan adventures. I plan to get them organized so we may enjoy looking at them and perhaps lessen my propensity towards sadness and crying.
I went to Alaska for the first time in 1983. I was a member of a six man expedition with the shared goal of climbing Denali. I was not successful in reaching the summit of Denali, but I returned with many images and stories to tell about my time in Alaska and these stories provided the impetus for Patty becoming interested in our going there and learning more about Alaska. As Patty and I talked about a trip to Alaska, it became clear to us that we did not want to go there with any groups or guides. We wanted to do our own thing and we did just that. This proved to be good decision for us. I had sent for a State of Alaska tourist guide book and Patty and I planned a trip to our liking. I spoke to the proprietors of the places we wanted to visit and I made reservations at locally owned establishments the year before we went. I paid in advance and never once in our several trips was I disappointed at what I received in return. We did our own thing, met some very nice people, and we very much got our money’s worth. It is the memories of those times with patty that I find so hard to talk about. I am hopeful that the memory activation that goes with the organization of my images into sensible groupings will lessen my tendency to becoming very sad when thinking of her. I have time working on my behalf, or so I am led to believe. I will know soon enough.
*** “noon” is my name for the large steam whistle that was located at the SPRR Taylor Yard shop in Los Angeles.