Friday, September 29, 2006

Nuts in Florida...

Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only sane person left on earth.
This past Wednesday JP and myself report to work at the freight yard at 6 AM to start work. We're both in the crew room getting coffee and discussing our upcoming shift when I notice the headline on the local paper...
"Snow forecast for Clewiston this Christmas"

Ok, I'll bite... So I pick up the paper and start to read... And start to get the giggles which turn in to hysterical laughter. JP asks what was so funny and with tears in my eyes I hand him the article... He begins to read and has the same reaction as me.

JP and I, being from places that get snow regularly, thought this was insanely funny.

It seems that a group of octogenarian philanthropists in town decided it would be a swell idea to truck in ten tons of snow for Christmas...

Apparently, even though it's a really nice idea at the core, this group didn't think out this whole thing all that well...

Number one: Ten tons of snow isn't all that much. About as much as would cover the front lawn of a typical suburban house with 2" of the white stuff...

Number two: By the time it gets here it'll be a ten ton block of ice in the shape of the truck carrying it.

This aught to be interesting.

I can just hear that phone conversation now...

"Hey Phil, you ain't gonna believe this... Someone wants ten tons of snow delivered to Florida..."

I think Florida is going to be giving me a plethora of material in the upcoming months...

On to other things completely unrelated, I've finally got my job assignment for the upcoming crop. I'll be on the 11 PM to 7 AM shift as conductor on a "road job" meaning I won't be in the yard much. I'll be going out on long trips picking up the loaded cane cars at the various elevators along the main line, starting October 11th. That means I have a week off so I'll be taking a small trip out of town. I'm going slightly north and west on the 4th of October and I'll be back on the 9th... Photos will be posted on my return!

Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hurricane Wilma, 24 October, 2005

Last October hurricane Wilma tore through Clewiston and this is what it did to the railroad here... Keep in mind, the EMD GP-38 locomotive above weighs 130 tons...
Just a slight breeze...
The object is to keep the cars on the track... But shit happens.
Totally destroyed cane cars. Some of them still in use were built back in the 20's... The oldest builder's plate I found so far was dated 1923.

And last but not least and nothing to do with the hurricane... Isn't he just simply the most stunningly handsome railroader you've ever seen?
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Raising Cane

As of yesterday I'm finally a certified railroad freight conductor so in celebration I stopped out on my way home from work at the Tiki Bar to have one or two ice-cold and frosty adult beverages...
One or two turned into several and when I finally staggered in around 10 PM I was definitely not feeling any pain... A little later I have to walk over to the bar and get my truck who apparently got way more drunk than I and spent the night in the bar's parking lot. Luckily I live within walking distance to it...
Anyway, like I said I'm finally a marked-up freight conductor. Something that I've always wanted to do. I've been working a lot lately causing my lack of posts and starting in the next few weeks I'll be even busier. I haven't said it before but I'm working for a sugar company here in Florida that owns it's own railroad.
Once the harvest starts on the cane in two weeks I'll be working seven days a week and because of my low seniority I'll most probably be working the 11 PM to 7 AM shift, also I'll probably not have a day off until the end of the crop sometime in April. That's ok though because the money I'll be making will offset the long hours and if I handle it right I might make enough to have the entire summer off.
There's a few other options I have, along with the invaluable experience I received with Loram and Amtrac, the railroad experience here will give me enough operational experience to get a job with any railroad in the country. One railroad I'm really eyeing now is the Alaska Railroad, but I'm also eyeing the Union Pacific RR and the BNSF RR out in the Pacific Northwest. So for now I'm still a rolling stone but soon I'll be setting down some roots somewhere... Because everyone needs a place to call home.
My posts may become fewer, but I'll still take the time each week to make a post or two and I'll definitely be checking out all of my blogger-bud's blogs...
My last words on this is I'm happier now than I've ever been in my life and the bittersweet feeling I have now is I could have done this a lot sooner in my life if I had people around me who actually believed in me and would support what I wanted to do and not blow smoke up my ass... I've finally found that now.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A last look back

Now that I'm now living in Florida I thought I give you all one last look back at West Virginia. From May of 2004 I called the Mountaineer State my home, and in that time I've learned a lot about myself, better ways to do things and not only that I've learned to excel in my new career. I also made several new friends who I'll miss, but I think they all understand that this is my time to expand my horizons and be a better Ranger Tom. I'll miss the guys at the Athens Fire Department, some of the best guys I've ever had the pleasure to serve with. I'll miss Kat Woman, a great friend. We had some great morning chats to commiserate over out jobs. But they all know I had to move on because even though West Virginia was perfect for me in the short term, to really get what I needed I had to be flexible enough to be able to move anywhere. That said, my life would be far less without them in it, even for the short time I was there. So now I'm in Florida but there's several options open to me, so I may be on the other side of the country by this time next year. Soon I'll be settling down because I really do need roots, but for now I'm still a rolling stone.
I'll miss scenes like this... A small stream running through the woods on a mountain side...
I'll miss my ballast regulator... Well, sort of.
It was a beast, wasn't it?
A job well done. A perfectly regulated section of track. I was good, wasn't I?
And I'll miss the little critters I'd see at work along the tracks... Here's two little guys I literally had to stop my machine, get off, pick them up and move off the tracks in order not to run over them.
But, with all the good in West Virginia, there was some pains in the ass... There is no strait, flat roads in the Mountaineer State...
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Lite beer is for pussies, stupid bartenders, safety, Male over-compensation, Alice the Goon, Communist plots and paperboys

I've got a lot to talk about today so bear with me. I've been really busy over the week and probably won't have time in the near future for an every-day post unless it's something really important or so funny it can't wait.
So I've moved here to Florida and have been settling in very nicely, making several new friends and finding new places to hang out and things to do. Clewiston, FL has the distinction of being a "Quaint little drinking town with a fishing problem..." so I kind of fit in. It has several watering holes to chose from, but... I'm beginning to think that it's against the law to serve any kind of non-lite beer other than Budweiser. This is what I'm talking about. My frosty, ice-cold adult beverage of choice is Miller Genuine Draft. I really can't do Bud products of any kind because of some serious nasty after-taste issues... And basically I think lite beer is for pussies. Especially Coors lite. That's the biggest oxymoron I've heard in a long time.
So every bar I've been to here sells only lite beer. What the fuck!
So now I'm stuck drinking lite beer when I decide to go out in the evening. That is unless I buy a case and drink at home. But sometimes I need a little human contact other that the people I work with so I suck it up and soldier on with my lite beer...
This wouldn't be so bad but last night I was saddled with a bartender who either has some major attention-deficit issues or is dumb as a stump. I get to the bar about 7:15 last night and sidle up to the bar and the bartender eventually gets to me...
"What'll you have?"
"Miller lite..."
He nods and goes to the cooler... And comes back with a Bud lite.
"Eh, I said Miller lite..."
"Oh, ok."
So I get the beer I asked for and a few of the other guys I'm working with show up and we start kabitzing and generally having a good time. I finish my beer and put the empty bottle down to get a new one. After a time the bartender brings me a freshie... A Bud lite.
"Hey, buddy, it's a Miller lite..."
"Oh, yeah..."
This went on for quite a while and it was beginning to piss me off. How fucking hard is it to look at the empty bottle and get a full one with the same label? It's not like the place was really full.
Fucking moron.
Anyway, after a while I called over a second bartender, a woman, and slipped her a Jackson just to make sure I got what I ordered and didn't have to wait an hour for a beer. Lubricating the wheels to get lubricated...
So like I said I was with some guys from work, all of us new. Some have absolutely no railroad experience and really don't understand why the safety stuff we're learning is so important and why all the operating rules are written in blood. Someone had to either die or ger seriously hurt to get these rules implemented. The old heads at the railroad keep on telling some of us that all this "Safety Bullshit" is going out the window once the harvest starts in October and the only thing the company is interested in is production... But what they don't get, and coming in as a new guy I understand and see readily, is the company hired my boss and the training guy this year because safety had totally gone by the wayside to the point that a conductor last year was crushed and killed between two railcars last year.
So the company has learned that safety is number 1 and isn't going to let it happen again.
What a lot of these old heads just don't get, especially the engineers with 20 years seniority, is that the conductor is in charge of the train, not the engineer. And me, as a conductor, telling the engineer to stop, he better well fucking stop. If I tell him to make any movements at all at the speed I say, he better well fucking do it exactly the way I tell him to.
I plan on coming home every day after my shift still sucking air and pumping blood with all the parts I have still where they were at the beginning of the shift. It's not the most dangerous job I've ever had, but it's up there and I plan on working safely.
Anyway, I said before the railroad has hired a bunch of new guys this year and one of them is sort of like me. He's a 40~something divorced guy doing the whole mid-life career change thing. But that's where the similarities end. He's about five years older than me but his way of dressing is more suited to a college freshman and had the whole tattoo and earring thing going on... I think he spends more on his hair in one visit than I have all of last year. But the biggest thing with his obvious over-compensation is the massive diesel pickup truck he drives. Sure it's a nice truck and I've owned big trucks before. But I've always had a need for them. Whether it be my continual camping and hunting and owning horses where you need a big truck... But now I don't need one so I don't own one.
One doesn't need a huge one-ton four-door pickup 4WD just to go to and from work, especially with the cost of fuel these days.
I'm quite satisfied with my equipment and don't need to compensate in any way.
But that's not what I'm getting at. The way this guy acts, you'd think he'd have a bevy of beautiful women crawling all over Him. Mr. Studly, Vicktor Suave... So yesterday after work I'm sitting on my patio having a frosty and ice-cold adult beverage decompressing from work and this huge pickup drives by my place and I see sitting in the passenger seat what has to be one of the ugliest women I've ever seen... Reminded me of Alice the Goon from the old Popeye cartoons. So a few minutes later the same truck drives back the other way and I get a look at who's driving...
Vicktor Suave!
I couldn't help but laugh my ass off.
And speaking of my patio, I simply love it, along with the rest of my place and I'm really grateful for the railroad for putting me up in it. But there's one slight, little teeny-tiny little problem. As it's very nice, and in a extremely up-scale and desirable part of town right on lake Okeechobee my next-door neighbor just happens to be not just one of the bosses at the railroad, but The Senior Vice President of the company.
Fucking wonderful. Our assigned parking spots are even right next to eachother.
I firmly believe this is a part of a vast global Communist plot to destroy my fun. And not only that, but now this weekend they've gone away for a few days, I was elected to 'take care' of their newspaper delivery for the next few days.
So now I'm the Big Boss's paperboy.
Happy happy, joy joy!
I need a drink.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Monday, September 04, 2006

Grillin' & Chillin' with RT

I had said before I enjoy to cook, but I really love to BBQ. It being Labor Day I decided to have a cookout on my patio last night and thought you'd all enjoy my recipe for Mesquite steak and roasted corn on the cob. Start out with your own choice of steak, I prefer Angus beef and this nice sirloin will do nicely.
First thing you need to do is soak the un-shucked corn in hot water for at least an hour. This keeps the corn from burning when you cook it over the hot coals.
Then take your hunk-o-meat and use my concoction of black pepper, garlic, salt and just a pinch of sugar as a dry rub on both sides of the meat. Let this sit while you get the grill ready. I use charcoal and anything else is cheating. I feel sorry for all of you who use your gas grills because no matter how much easier they are, you'll never, ever get the flavor of charcoal.
Next, take your mesquite chips or chunks and soak them in hot water also. Let these sit in the water until you're ready for them.
Forget this picture... I have no idea what happened here. Blogspot has been acting flaky lately.
When you have the coals ready, take your soaked ear of corn and place it directly over the hot coals, turning frequently... The outer husk will burn but if you keep it turning the kernels won't.
After about five minutes of turning the corn, it should be about done. Take the cob and place it on the warming rack of your grill. If your grill doesn't have one, place it in an oven pre-heated to about 150 F. To keep it hot.
You'll notice I've piled my coals to one side of the grill. This is important as I'll not be cooking my steak directly over the coals, I'll be off-set smoking it with the mesquite chip smoke. Now comes the steak. Take the hunk-o-meat and sear it directly over the coals for about 30 seconds per side to seal in the juices. This is the important part. After you've seared your hunk-o-meat, move it to the cool side of the grill. Drain the water off your mesquite chips and dump them directly on the grill over the hot coals and close the lid. The smoke from the chips and the convection of the fire will cook your steak. Cooking times may vary to your taste, I prefer my meat medium to medium rare so it should only take about ten minutes this way.
After your steak is done, shuck the corn (Careful! The ear will be VERY hot!) prepare a salad, open an ice-cold and frosty adult beverage of your choice and enjoy!
A word about mesquite. No matter how you like your meat cooked, the smoke will give the meat a pinkish hue. This is especially true with pork, so don't worry if your pork is a little pink, it's still done if your thermometer says it's done.
Copyright 2006 Thomas J Wolfenden

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Crunchy Frog

So last night I met up with a bunch of the guys at a local nightspot, the Tiki Bar for several frosty-cold adult beverages. It's a really nice place and as the name says, it's an outside Tiki Bar. The best part about this place it's within staggering distance to my place...
Anyway, so late last night I stagger home and while I'm talking to my honey several time zones away I go to toss something in the trash and notice something odd laying on the floor next to the trash can. I look down to see a very dead and very mummified frog.
How it got there is beyond me, but I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite Monty Python sketches, "Crunchy Frog" and now that I have the digital camera and I was somewhat inebriated I immortalized the said crunchy frog...
Those of you who've never seen the old Monty Python's Flying Circus TV shows are missing something... That is if you get dry British humor. The sketch goes like this:

PRALINE: Mr Milton? You are sole proprietor and owner of the Whizzo Chocolate Company?
PRALINE: Superintendent Parrot and I are from the hygiene squad. We want to have a word with you about your box of chocolates entitled The Whizzo Quality Assortment.
MILTON: Ah, yes.
PRALINE: If I may begin at the beginning. First there is the cherry fondue. This is extremely nasty but we can't prosecute you for that.
MILTON: Agreed.
PRALINE: Next we have number four - "crunchy frog".
MILTON: Ah, yes.
PRALINE: Am I right in thinking there's a real frog in here?
MILTON: Yes. A little one.
PRALINE: What sort of frog?
MILTON: A dead frog.
PRALINE: Is it cooked?
PRALINE: What, a raw frog?
MILTON: We use only the finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose.
PRALINE: That's as maybe, it's still a frog.
MILTON: What else?
PRALINE: Well don't you even take the bones out?
MILTON: If we took the bones out it wouldn't be crunchy would it? It says "crunchy frog" quite clearly.
PRALINE: Well, the superintendent thought it was an almond whirl. People won't expect there to be a frog in there. They're bound to think it's some form of mock frog.
MILTON: Mock frog? We use no artificial preservatives or additives of any kind!
PRALINE: Nevertheless, I must warn you that in future you should delete the words "crunchy frog", and replace them with the legend "crunchy raw unboned real dead frog", if you want to avoid prosecution.
MILTON: What about our sales?
PRALINE: Fuck your sales, I have to protect the general public. Now how about this one. It was number five, wasn't it? Number five, ram's bladder cup. What kind of confection is this?
MILTON: We use choicest juicy chunks of fresh Cornish ram's bladder, emptied, steamed, flavoured with sesame seeds whipped into a fondue and garnished with lark's vomit.
PRALINE: Lark's vomit?
MILTON: Correct.
PRALINE: Well it don't say nothing about that here.
MILTON: Oh yes it does, on the bottom of the box, after monosodium glutamate.
PRALINE: Well I hardly think this is good enough. I think it would be more appropriate if the box bore a large red label warning lark's vomit.
MILTON: Our sales would plummet.
PRALINE: Well why don't you move into more conventional areas of confectionery, like praline or lime cream; a very popular flavour I'm led to understand. I mean look at this one, "cockroach cluster", "anthrax ripple". What's this one, "spring surprise"?
MILTON: Ah - now, that's our speciality - covered with darkest creamy chocolate. When you pop it in your mouth steel bolts spring out and plunge straight through-both cheeks.
PRALINE: Well where's the pleasure in that? If people place a nice chocky in their mouth, they don't want their cheeks pierced. In any case this is an inadequate description of the sweetmeat. I shall have to ask you to accompany me to the station.
MILTON: It's a fair cop.
PRALINE: Stop talking to the camera.

So now I give you my crunchy raw unboned real dead frog...
And lets' hope next week I don't find a dead parrot... Norwegian Blue's have fine plumage...