Monday, December 24, 2007

Encouragement and a year-end report

It’s time for a year-end report, and then a holiday break.

According to the various devices that monitor activity on The Red Electric, this post is number 540 since I began writing regularly in September 2006. In that time I have had 13,614 visits. Recently the site has averaged 45 visitors a day.

Those are the numbers. Occasionally I learn how readers are affected by what I post here.

Yesterday, I received a Christmas greeting in the mail from Robert McGowin, a fellow typewriter collector. Robert is a teacher who lives in Montgomery, Alabama. I’ve never met him in person, but we have exchanged correspondence and, as you will see, he follows the meanderings of The Red Electric.

The cover of his card was a photo he had taken of a 1930s Underwood Universal portable typewriter (Jack Kerouac used this model). A desk lamp bathes the old typewriter in amber light. I’ve shown the card here, displayed on a similar machine from my own collection.

Robert typed his message to me — flawlessly, as usual.

“I’ve been keeping up with you through your various blogs online. I especially enjoyed your entry containing the Alan Watts quote (“We have run into a cultural situation…”) regarding the dangers of mass mediation.

“I liked that sentiment so much that I put it on my blackboard, letting it remain there for several weeks. Students asked what it meant, and some even copied it on the outside of their notebooks — the ultimate tribute.”

Robert’s thoughtful note, other encouraging responses and my own irrepressible muse will motivate me in the new year.

I’ll resume January 5.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Portrait of Accomplishment

I interviewed Ron Tunstall the week before he was to retire from 40 plus years of collecting our garbage in Hillsdale.

The resulting story appears in the current Hillsdale News.

You take an immediate liking to this easy-going, talkative guy in his blue bib overalls.

We were surrounded by his hulking garbage trucks as we talked in The Troudt Bros. Sanitary and Recycling staging lot. A gray hen, which inexplicably appeared one day, pecked the gravel for mites nearby.

Ron spoke of the trucks with affection, the way a 19th Century farmer might speak of his trusty draft team. His warmest feelings were reserved for the oldest truck, an International Harvester. "It's the best one of them all," he said.

It's hard to imagine Ron being separated from the rigs. After 70 years serving Hillsdale, he and his wife, Karen (she's from the Troudt side) have sold the Troudt Brothers franchise. The new owners, another family operation, have agreed to hire Troudt's four employees, including Ron and Karen's two sons. One of the sons will manage the Hillsdale operation, but Ron, at age 63, is retiring. He still hopes that he'll be welcomed down at the lot to wash the trucks, just for old time's sake.

I probably didn't need to write any of the above because the photos of Ron reveal the heart of this story far better than words do. This photo and the one in the Hillsdale News, capture Ron's love of his work and its machinery. Still, viewing these photos it's easy to see why Ron wonders about his new life. But seeing him here, you also sense a man who has found satisfaction in all he does — and won't stop now.

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