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From the opposite end of the workbench

…the twisted ramblings of a ship modeler.


Spring is in the air…DAMN!!!


It’s late March here in New Jersey (hey moron, it’s late March everywhere), and I’m sitting at the computer with the window open, and a pleasant breeze is blowing. Temperatures are in the mid-60s, and the birds are chirping, folks are out walking their dogs, and spring is obviously in the air…

For modelers, spring is the time we start our campaign. Fearing the bad weather and unexpected blizzards, model show organizers prefer to wait until the chances of losing their asses to the weather diminishes…

Checking the events listings (at least in my area) indicates there’s a model contest every weekend for the next four weeks, then I get a break and then there’s 3 more in rapid succession. This trend falls in line with the seasons, modelers are supposed to toil all through the snowy winter months to build new models, and have then ready for the show circuit in the spring.

Who was the genius who thought this plan up? Let’s review, shall we??

It’s Fall, let’s just say…early October…the leaves have turned and are starting to fall, which means you’re out raking leaves…if you’re lucky, you may get to attend a local high school, college, or even pro football game. The effectively kills a Saturday or Sunday… Then there’s the infamous ‘Fall Cleaning’…I’ve tried to understand it, but it’s a female thing…If you’re lucky, there’s an occasional model show within 150 miles or so, and if you can get away, you’ll drag your re-heated left-over models from the previous spring offensive to the show. This can be effective, as it can inspire and motivate you to build something new during the cold winter months. Then comes Halloween, and Mischief Night, trying to keep the little bastards from whomping your house and car with eggs and toilet paper… then a couple more days of raking leaves and putting them into those *$^&#(*#($#&* paper bags at the curb because the township is too damn cheap to buy a street sweeper, or to pay overtime to the bozos who normally drive the plows and fill our driveways in just as we finish shoveling for 4 hours…

By November, Thanksgiving comes, and of course you’re loving wife has to go into ‘Frenzied Panic Turbo-Assault Cleaning Mode’, because the in-laws are coming. Thanksgiving is the absolute best time to escape to the workshop, with the screaming kids running around, the drunken uncle passed out on the couch, the other watching the endless stream of college football with the volume at 25, and of course the women folk, fighting over how to make the sweet potatoes and how long to cook the turkey. You can actually escape to the workshop for a couple of hours on one condition…the family that’s attending Thanksgiving dinner is HERS, and not YOURS. Leaving your wife to deal with the in-laws is a sure way to end up bathing with an electrical appliance.

By now there’s a light blanket of snow on the ground, and you can clear the walk with a broom and 5 minutes of time…life is good…then comes the firewood…growing up in my father’s house, firewood was our primary fuel…and we cut, split, piled, hauled, re-piled, and stacked about 50 cords of wood a year…for those who are unfamiliar with wood…A standard cord is the amount of tightly piled wood in a stack 4 feet wide and 4 feet high by 8 feet long. That’s roughly 600 pieces of wood, about 300 pieces per row in 24” lengths, times two. Do that 50 times…needless to say, that didn’t leave much time for modeling, which is why I now have the local woodcutter drop a single cord of wood off in front of my house so I can have nice toasty fireplace fires…ahhh…the luxury (and pain relief) of home heating oil!!

The snow is now piling up outside…and I’d like to share something that someone wrote about snow.

Diary of a Snow Shoveler...aka...Someone not building models...

December 8 - 6:00 PM. It started to snow. The first snow of the season and I actually took time from my modeling to sit by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses Print. The model can wait...this is great. I love snow!

December 9 - We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the Whole World? Moving here was the best idea I've ever had. Shoveled for the first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life.

December 12 - The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment. My neighbor tells me not to worry, we'll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we'll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I'll never want to see snow again. l don't think that's possible. Bob is such a nice man, I'm glad he's our neighbor.

December 14 - Snow lovely snow ! 8" last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn't realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, it's starting to cut into my model time, but I'll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish l wouldn't huff and puff so.

December 15 - 20 inches forecast. Sold my van and bought a 4x4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife's car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer and called my local mail-order model shop. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that's silly. We aren't in Alaska, after all. I bought 5 new kits with the extra money instead.

December 16 - Ice storm this morning. Fell on my ass on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like hell. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.Can't sit on my model chair, it hurts too much.

December 17 - Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours, can't use my airbrush. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should've bought a wood stove, but won't admit it to her. God I hate it when she's right. I can't believe I'm freezing to death in my own living room.

December 20 - Electricity's back on, but had another 14" of the damn stuff last night. More shoveling. Took all day. Damn snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they're too busy playing hockey. I think they're lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they're out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they're lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he's lying.

December 22 - Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white S**T fell today, and it's so cold it probably won't melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to piss. By the time I got undressed, pissed and dressed again. I was too tired to shovel. Tried to hire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter; but he says he's too busy. I think the bastard is lying.

December 23 - Only 2" of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she nuts!!! Why didn't she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she's lying.

December 24 - 6". Snow packed so hard by snowplow, l broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the son of a bitch who drives that snow plow I'll drag him through the snow by his balls and beat him to death with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I've just been! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the damn snowplow.

December 25 - Merry fricking Christmas! 20 more inches of the damn slop tonight. Snowed in. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. God I hate the snow!
Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think shes a fricking idiot. If I have to watch "It's A Wondeful Life" one more time, I'm going to stuff her into the microwave.

December 26 - Still snowed in. Why the hell did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She's really getting on my nerves.

December 27 - Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze, plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.

December 28 - Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in. THE BITCH is driving me crazy!!!

December 29 - 10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That's the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?

December 30 - Roof caved in. I beat up the snow plow driver. He is now suing me for a million dollars not only the beating I gave him but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel up his ass. The wife went home to her mother. 9" predicted.

December 31 - I set fire to what's left of the house. No more shoveling.

January 8 - Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, that’s right, you’re supposed to build models in the winter so you can show them off to all your mutant friends in the spring!!! Eureka!! Now that Spring is officially here, and all these shows are on your calendar, you’re faced with a deadline of sorts, because there’s some unwritten rule somewhere that says it’s really a modeling faux pas to bring last year’s models to this year’s shows!!!

So you rummage through your model collection, and even visit the Island of Misfit models to see if there’s a half-done project you can resurrect, just so you have something to put on the table at the upcoming ModelCon. And chances are you’ll find it, some half-built kit you lost the desire to finish back in ’98. Let’s see…the seams are filled, and all the parts appear to be there, you’ve even gotten a few aftermarket parts in the box? But why did you shelf this project? Simple, something better came along…face it, as modelers, we are whores. We’ll stick with something until something better comes along, then it’s C’YA! off to the half-done project shelf of doom.

“Why would I want to finish that Tauro 1/400 Gorizia when I can start work on Hornet, Sovermenny, Prinz Eugen, Essex, Ise, etc. etc. etc… But now, desperation sets in, and you’ve got to finish something, anything. You’ve even considered one of those little 1/700 Civil Ironclads, you know, the ones with 3 parts that always kick the snot out of your 6-month resin battlecruiser???

Eventually, you settle on a project, something that’s quick and simple and will only take ‘a few hours’ to make ready for the show. 40 hours later, you’re still rigging, weathering, and drybrushing this half-baked project with the hopes of getting it ready. You’re up until the wee hours of the morning, your family is beginning to dislike you, and you haven’t bathed in several days (If you’re single and live alone, buying deodorant is a waste, you could use that money to buy models).

The project is finally done, at 3am on the eve of the show…and you apply that final coat of clear flat. Barring any unforeseen disasters such as orangepeel in the clear-coat, you’re all set for the big day…

The alarm goes off at 6am, and every inch of your body is begging, pleading, to go back to sleep. ModelCon is 100 miles away, and you want to be there by the 9am opening. A quick shower, lots of coffee, some deodorant (we all know someone who skips that step, don’t we??), and, model in hand, you’re off to your adventure.

The next time you’re at a model contest, I want you to do something, well, two things actually…first, look at the models coming in…get close, like the judges do…and sniff. Do you smell Dull-cote? Next, look at the modelers. Do they look tired, beaten, worn-out? Is ole’ Bob asleep in the corner? These are the guys I’m talking about…

Spring is in the air…I took the day off from work today, because it was such a nice day. I had hoped to get a few hours of modeling in…but I ended up raking leaves and doing yardwork. Why do I rake leaves in the Spring and not in the Fall? Because in the fall I was busy doing something else…and chances are it wasn’t modeling…

As I sit here, the dog is barking, the kidlet is running around, and there’s no conceivable way I could work on a model in peace. So I write…Please refer to Twisted #2 Ships Models, Time, and the Family.

For all you guys who bring 5 new models to the shows each Spring and Fall, I hate you…well, not really, because this simply proves you’re not a mutant…you’re actually building something.

If I’ve written about you…here’s some advice…screw the leaves…forget the yardwork. Build something!!


Jeff Herne –