The Toboggan

When I enter our garage from the door that faces our house, I don’t often look up.  What could be up there that I’m avoiding?  Well, there is an old oak bed head-board and foot board that was mine when I grew up at 420 Front Street, Owego, NY.  There are stickers of cowboys and indians on the head-board.  There are numerous tiny indentations of BB hits when I was young and used the head-board as a backdrop for my Daisy rifle.  The only other item of mine, settled and resting on the 2 x 4 inch cross pieces of the garage, is The Toboggan.

I stood and stared at the old sled for half an hour.  I brought it up here, to our place in the Adirondacks, intending it to be my first “project”.

My hands last handled this antique when we had to empty my father’s house after he passed in 2004.  Before that, I had placed it in the garage in Owego. Sometime in the early 1990’s, I stored it in the barn that was part of the house that my wife had owned in the years before we met.  The house was in Milford, PA.

I stood and stared and the memories came slowly at first and then I couldn’t stop them from filling my head with the past.

Was this the sled that my brothers tried to push me down the small hill behind our house in Owego?  There wasn’t much of a slope so I went nowhere until Chris or Denny ran behind me and pushed me onward.

That’s what brothers do.

Was this the sled that I took to a snowy hillside near Owego and jumped on behind Mary, my girlfriend, as we sailed through drifts of snow and patches of weeds and scrubs?  I don’t remember.

Was this the sled that came with me when I moved to a farm-house in the early 1970’s and I began my teaching career?  And also began a new role as a father to my 1 1/2-year-old girl, Erin?  I would take her on tours of the harvested cornfields that surrounded our lonely house on a snow-covered and wind-swept hill–pulling her behind me?

When I went ice skating with my brother Dan on a nearby frozen pond (before “they” broke the dam and drained the pond) and he was interested in film and I would pull them both while he filmed?  After Dan finished his project, I would skate backwards (I could, you know), pulling Erin on the toboggan and giving her a wicked swirl that would almost throw her sliding across the ice on her own.

The toboggan disappeared into the rafters of the slanted old garage behind our house in Owego–to be forgotten for years–with one exception.

I was informed of a great place to go tobogganing, the IBM Country Club in Endicott (or was it Endwell, NY)?  The golf course had a hill that was very popular.

So, one day in the mid-1970’s, we took the old sled down from my dad’s garage and headed for the slopes.  It proved to be a great place indeed.  Then I noticed that someone had built up a small snow bump.  I told Erin that before I would take her over it, I would have to first try it myself.

Off I went, toward the little bump.  The closer I glided toward the bump, the bigger it became.  When I hit it, I rose into the sky and felt I was going to land in someones backyard, across the river in Vestal.  I was airborne for what seemed like forty-five minutes, before I hit the ground.  The toboggan went one direction and my eye-glasses went another.  I simply came straight down onto the slope sliding in a third direction and feeling for broken bones before I came to an abrupt halt against a small tree.

“Mommy? Can Daddy do that again?” was all I could hear Erin cry out.

Was she kidding? My head buzzed for two days.

Back to my garage.  So there is the toboggan.  I had a fleeting thought about restoring it (once again) and mounting it on the wall in our screened-in porch.  It would require the removal of two antique snowshoes, but there are plenty of places on our walls to mount them in a new location. Ironically, the brand name stenciled in orange paint, on the curved bow reads: ADIRONDACK.

There’s a fair amount of dust on the old sled.  My best guess as to its age would be 90+ years.  But there’s one thing I am certain of; toboggans aren’t meant to gather dust.  Their made for the young and the old to ride on and scream from as it flashes past an old barn, an old tree or a fresh snowdrift.  They’re made to carry at least four adults, six kids and a metric ton of memories.

And, once it’s on the wall, I would never be asked to “do it again” on any slope, on any mountain or hill in the Adirondacks.

[The intended site of the restored toboggan]

 

 

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The Social History of a Man’s Tie Rack

 BagOfTies

Many of you, my faithful readers and fans, probably assume that I just write a blog and then go off and mow the lawn, fish, read, paint, take Pilates, go to a movie, make a big bowl of popcorn, cook a stack of buttermilk flapjacks, attend a men’s support group, catalogue my moth collection, peruse the internet for Icelandic porn, swiffer the kitchen or polish my Bolivian coin collection.   I’m sure that you think I don’t give a second thought to anything I’ve written and sent out on my WordPress blog platform.

“What does he care,” you say among yourselves.  “He’s said what he wanted to say.  His last few were a bit goofy, but he’s at least trying to please.”

I will have you know, right here and now, that I DO care what my readers think.  In fact, I lose hours of sleep, lying there wondering whether or not The Redheaded Riter liked my latest post, or what Skinnywench thought of it, or what Angie, Lenny, Diane, Madeline, Jim, Donna or Linda had to say about it. [I’m even FB friends with Heidi Fleiss, but she never once wrote anything to me].

But, I do know from reading the comments made in that little box at the end of the post that most of my fans are basically saying the same thing: “You know, he’s written some pretty strange stuff, a lot of it is sad and full of regret and melancholy, loss and rejection.  He writes a lot about his childhood girlfriend, Mary Alice.  She’s probably pretty sick of hearing about obscure stuff that happened 60 years ago.  Yes, he has shared his innermost feelings and worries.  I mean I don’t even know what my wife thinks about Purgatory, but I know what Pat worries about all the time.  But, with all this angst and nostalgia, he’s never, never written about the one thing that we most care about.  He’s never said one thing about his neckties.”

Now, normally, I would consider revealing information about my neckties as a no-no, something like telling someone what your jock strap size happens to be.  Neckties are to be worn only for short periods of time during certain hours of the day…like sock garters.  But, since I am now retired, I feel quite free to tell you a little about how I came about having such an extensive necktie collection…and how they helped me gain a particular sort of fame in the world I lived in…the private schools of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

It began when I first walked into a classroom at the outset of my teaching career.  It was February, 1973.  I was lured out of grad school at S.U.N.Y. Binghamton by the offer of a full-time teaching job in Pennsylvania.  I had enough credits in education to qualify for a provisional certificate.  I had a young daughter and I needed the job.

My first day in the classroom, I was very self-conscious so I wore a thick sweater or vest and almost always a tie.  My first ties were borrowed from my father.  He purchased them from some store in Endicott, NY in the 1940’s.  Kids pointed and made muffled comments, but I didn’t care.

Then I made my first visit to Ireland.  It was “wool heaven” so I bought a few knitted ties and a few woolen numbers that sported strange Irish tartans.  I was pleased with the “professorial” look I worked at putting together.  Tweed jackets with patches on the elbows and woolen ties (with corduroys, of course…all earth tones).  The one item I never wore (and still won’t) were tasselled loafers.

I was cool and I was very “academic.”

Flash forward to the early 1990’s.  I had moved from public to private schools and I had landed a job at a Quaker school in New York City.  It was a very low-key kind of place.  Students called you by your first name.  When I first heard “Hey, Pat, what does this question mean?” I was in a state of shock.

But, something happened on the way to an assembly…something that was said by a student that changed my life (necktie wise).  He didn’t mean to be rude or to hurt my feelings.  He simply looked at my knit tie (that was square at the bottom) and said: “Who cut your tie off?”

SquareTie

That did it.  I put away my old wool and knit ties (remember, I was still self-conscious) and started buying silk ties on the street.  I would get three for $10.00.  I looked for interesting designs…I found them.  Then, it became like an obsession…like an addiction.  It started with cool designs, but that was just a gateway to strange colors and even more bizarre patterns.  I bought then on 23rd Street.  I purchased them on 34th Street.  On Amsterdam Avenue.  In booths near Central Park.  Street Fairs.  Guys with push-carts. Anywhere, anytime.  I would meet guys named Moose or Cal or Tat who had the latest “imports” from China, Korea, Brazil or even, yes, even Paraguay.  Yes, I bought ties made in Paraguay.

At the last school I taught in, I was the 6th grade home room teacher as well as the science guy for 5th and 6th grade.  I began to gain a reputation.

Once, at the end of home room period, one girl said: “I like your tie, Mr. Egan.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Another girl said: “Well, Mr. Egan has always been rather creative with his ties.”

I was the King of the Neckties among the male faculty.  One history teacher from the 7th and 8th grade wing, tried to find ties like mine, but his efforts came to naught.  He tried to usurp me and he failed.  Too bad, I liked the guy.  But there can be only one King in the small world of a small private school.

I had a Halloween tie I thought was spooky, until the school cancelled that holiday due to parents complaints.  I had a nice snowman tie, but Christmas became confused with other holidays and I gave up wearing it.  I had an Einstein tie that I always wore to the Science Fair Night that I directed.  I left it in the taxi on the way home.  I told my classes the next day and three days later, I had four new Einstein ties given to me.  The parents went online to get me a new one.  As you look at the photos of ties below, find the one of the Empire State Building.  My colleague told me the first time I wore it that it was too phallic.  I stopped wearing it.

 TiesOnRailing

 

I don’t wear my ties anymore, except for weddings and funerals.  I tried to pass them onto my son, who works mostly without ties.  He said thanks, but he had no room in his closet.  I caught him rolling his eyes at his girlfriend after he checked my collection.

I remember, when I was a teenager, my brother and I would find my father’s ties (that he bought in the 1930’s) and we would make fun of how weird they were.

So, now my son was doing the same thing.

Is this some kind of “Circle of Life” thing?

If you see anything that interests you, email me…we can work something out.