The God of Loneliness
By Philip Schultz
It's a cold Sunday February morning
and I'm one of eight men waiting
for the doors of Toys R Us to open
in a mall on the eastern tip of Long Island.
We've come for the Japanese electronic game
that's so hard to find. Last week, I waited
three hours for a store in Manhattan
to disappoint me. The first today, bundled
in six layers, I stood shivering in the dawn light
reading the new Aeneid translation, which I hid
when the others came, stamping boots
and rubbing gloveless hands, joking about
sacrificing sleep for ungrateful sons. "My boy broke
two front teeth playing hockey," a man wearing
shorts laughs. "This is his reward." My sons
will leap into my arms, remember this morning
all their lives. "The game is for my oldest boy,
just back from Iraq," a man in overalls says
from the back of the line. "He plays these games
in his room all day. I'm not worried, he'll snap out of it,
he's earned his rest." These men fix leaks, lay
foundations for other men's dreams without complaint.
They've been waiting in the cold since Aeneas
founded Rome on rivers of blood. Virgil understood that
death begins and never ends, that it's the god of loneliness.
Through the window, a clerk shouts, "We've only five."
The others seem not to know what to do with their hands,
tuck them under their arms, or let them hang,
naked and useless. Is it because our hands remember
what they held, the promises they made? I know
exactly when my boys will be old enough for war.
Soon three of us will wait across the street at Target,
because it's what men do for their sons.
I spent the interesting part of my day at the Maryland State Fair's Cow Palace in Timonium, where the Ellicott City Scale Model Railroad Association was hosting a train show. We were invited by my in-laws -- I am sure I have mentioned that my father-in-law is a model train enthusiast who has been working on a layout in his garage for several years now. The Great Scale Model Train Show has several massive modular displays where different people hook their model trains together to make a massive themed model railroad, plus there's a Railroad Marketplace that I can only describe as a sci-fi convention for train enthusiasts -- instead of Klingons, think overalls and conductor caps! There were some amazing model train layouts, plus hand-distressed cars and entire hand-painted villages like these.
Two modern classics: Thomas the Tank Engine and the Hogwarts Express.
Though the buildings and trains reflect old Baltimore, this movie theater is playing The Lord of the Rings.
Above a HO-gauge railroad, the Bates Motel and house from Psycho.
The Oscar Mayer Weiner-mobile appears to be getting ticketed and towed out of this nice neighborhood.
The joy of Pepsi through the generations! (Well, for truth in advertising, I much prefer Coke.)
A Civil War reenactment in miniature.
And because it wouldn't be a complete American pop culture phenomenon without him...Elvis!!!
Adam wasn't feeling great -- he has Daniel's cold -- so he took a break from walking around for some food and got cranky after a couple of hours, trains not really being his thing. So we left around 4:30 and went to Applebee's for dinner, where in addition to nice salads there are $2.50 small-portion desserts. We got home in time to watch Crusoe -- waah, why couldn't this show have several more episodes to finish out its run? I would very happily trade never knowing the fates of everyone on Battlestar Galactica for a proper resolution for Crusoe and Friday, even though that was already written in the 1700s!
And then we put on the Retro Television Network, which shows the original Battlestar Galactica, and although our kids shrieked at first at how cheesy it looked, it ended up being "The Living Legend, Part One" -- Commander Cain and the Pegasus -- "I really think you should take a look at the other battlestar." And, Cassiopeia or no Cassiopeia, this show has some wonderful female characters and even John Colicos doesn't seem that over the top after watching Katee Sackhoff this week, and I've got news for you, kids, I still find this Adama's dilemma with this Cain more compelling than power-crazed Michelle Forbes. I had thought maybe I was misremembering the original series as better than it was, back when people were unfriending me for not thinking New Starbuck was the greatest character ever, so it's very nice to see that it holds up so well.