The Importance of Good Nails

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I should say at the outset that if you’ve come here looking for carpentry tips, you’re in the wrong place. That said, you may as well stick around — you never know what you’ll find.

The train trip from Toronto was not without its moments — make that hours — some good, some — not so much. It started to go pear-shaped when we got to Buffalo-Depew. It was to be a 10 hour layover. The train depot had all the charm and comfort of a laundromat. Well, I wasn’t up for ten hours of sitting on a plastic chair, so I got a taxi to a motel, where I slept, showered, watched TV, and re-organised my bags. Then back to the station, only to discover that the 11:55 p.m. train was delayed another 1½ hours. At this point–midnight– my energy level was not great. (My blood-chocolate, however, was fine thanks to a handful of chocolates tossed into my carry-on by my friend, Susan, back in Toronto.)

Turns out that the reason the train was delayed was also the reason it was only going to take us to Toledo, from whence we would be bussed to Chicago. Oh, joy.

Back to Buffalo-Depew: I finally got on the train and into my sleeper car at 2 a.m. Then at 5:30 a.m. the conductor came through waking us all to go up to breakfast. I presumed the early wake-up call was an indication that we would soon arrive in Toledo. Having not eaten the day before, and not knowing what the day ahead would bring, I figured I’d better at least eat brekkie. So I staggered up to the dining car–no make-up, bed-hair, crumpled clothes, puffy eyes–you get the picture (and it’s not a pretty one) where I was greeted by a very chirpy waiter. At that hour, chirpiness should be deemed a crime. Anyway, as I tried to focus on the menu he commented “Those nails really look good. Very nice!” To which I replied “thank you” then added, mostly to myself, “the rest of me looks like a bag of hammers, but I’ve got good nails!” He had a big belly laugh at that, and made no effort to disabuse me about the accuracy of my statement… But I did get excellent service thereafter.

We didn’t arrive at our Toledo destination until 8:00, so the 5:30 wake-up call was a bit over-zealous. Then came the business of getting everyone into four buses, a process which was organised by the Keystone Cops. What a schmozzle! Three buses for Chicago, one for Michigan. How hard can it be? Took forever.

Things took a 180 degree turn for the better when I settled in, however. I had a charming, witty Irishman sitting next to me. We started talking before he sat down, and kept on for the 4-hour journey. We laughed and talked about anything and everything. He had been everywhere, done everything–was on his way to North Dakota to work in the oil fields. It turned out to be a fun bus trip after all, thanks to having an intelligent and interesting seat mate. He even pretended to share my enthusiasm as I pointed out every red barn we passed… I do love red barns. Too bad we didn’t think to exchange email addresses. He would have been great fun to keep in touch with.

Speaking of red barns, as I often do, I just bought a great picture of one. It’s by photographer David Mayhew, printed on metal. Have a look:

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Right now I’m in the Kansas City area, catching up with family. On Sunday I start the long journey home. My very dear niece, Mary, is accompanying me on the first leg of the journey, by train to Chicago. Monday afternoon I’ll board the Amtrak Empire Builder, bound for Seattle, where I shift from train to plane. Wilmot, here I come! Something tells me the renovations on my house won’t be far enough along for me to occupy it, though…

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I wonder how many Irishmen there are in the oilfields of North Dakota?             MM

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