it’s Sunday and I feel the need to write but I have no theme or sense of coherence).
So stand back – it’s going to be be either brilliant or fall flat, but no inbetween.
After a full week of hauling relatives to medical treatment, enduring the full range of humanity at my job, and enjoying a return to the humid sub-tropical summer weather of the southwestern end of the Commonwealth, I made a decision.
I needed some airbrush bottles and styrene stock.
A few of you know (and fewer care, which is actually a pretty intelligent position to take) that I build models. Not at the rate which I built 38 years ago when the week’s allowance was reason enough to head to Woolworth’s or Grants or the base hobby shop and snatch the next available Aurora or Monogram or Revell 75-cent or (if birthday or Christmas money was involved) a dollar or – heaven forbid – a five-dollar kit. A bottle of paint was a dime or less, unless you’d discovered scale military colors and were willing to shell out 15 or 20 cents to get an authentic finish (with a cheap brush and the patience of a pre-adolescent male – yeah, right).
Across the subsequent 38 years, the desire to build has progressed through many stages:
– Build it quick so I can go play with it.
– Build it a little less quickly so it’ll last more than a day.
– Build it and throw some paint on it so it’ll look more bitchin than the models your buddies slapped together to play with or stuff with firecrackers.
– Build it, paint it and realize that maybe it would look a little better sitting on the shelf rather than in pieces in the back yard.
– Discover filler putty as a way to fill in all those seams to make the paint job look better.
– Discover that sandpaper would make those finger-smeared lined of putty look a little better.
– Discover that spray paint looks a little better than brushed paint.
– Discover that, thanks to the 1973 Arab oil embargo, that paint and models have gotten a little more expensive.
– Realize that, with a little patience and a few trips to the library, that you can actually approximate photos of the real thing.
– Realize that, instead of slathering tubes of putty on gaps and seams, one can actually apply a little craftsmanship to make things fit a little better and cleaner.
– Discover that, as one gets a little older and wiser, one is less likely to make a gluey thumbprint on the kit but more likely to make that thumbprint somewhere more visible, frustrating and embarrassing.
– Receive one’s first Dremel tool, opening up new worlds of craftsmanship and corresponding dimensions of accidental slips and self-inflicted accidental wounds.
– Realize that the same kit you slapped together in a day is starting to take a week or more.
– Also realize that you’re brave enough (or foolish enough) to start doing things like drilling out gun muzzles and thinning out the edges of plates and hatches to look more realistic – and also increasing the possibility of punctures and lacerations.
– Become a little more anal about things like paint shades, markings and other things that induce first pride in one’s work and then a little less enjoyment.
– Find that one’s modeling budget has shifted from a kit-dominant to a reference and research-dominant expenditure trend.
– Start reading more and more in preparation for the next modeling project.
– Start thinking that John Travolta might be alright after all because he’s a model builder too.
– Start finding reasons to delay that project because of that missing piece of reference information to make it more perfect.
– Buy more kits to build while waiting for that vital reference.
– Delay the new kits because you don’t have the information to make them better than your last efforts.
– Find that you’ve got a lot of unbuilt kits lying about.
– Try to build some kits without all that anal-retentive scholarship.
– Start buying new accessories (conversion kits, decals, references) in anticipation of finishing all the other unbuilt kits.
– Realize that a new ‘classic’ release of a kit you built as a pre-teen is not 75 cents anymore but more like $20.
– As new kits come out with levels of detail light years ahead of those old kits, start buying more of them and finding fault with that detail because of all the reading one has done (or all the reading that others have done and have started commenting on through that new medium, the Internet!)
– Curse Al Gore because the m*****r f****r claimed credit for inventing the Internet.
– Realize that John Travolta may not be all that alright because he’s into Scientology and you don’t really need a Scientologist around when all you’re trying to do is find whether the Messerschmitt you’re building had red landing gear because it had a specially boosted high-octane engine.
– Wonder if Ted Levine might be alright because you watch ‘Monk’ and see that he has that poster of Sikorsky helicopters since the 1930’s hanging in his office wall set.
– Keep lurking on the Internet in modeling forums because, despite Al Gore, you have started exchanging information with others like yourself and start to feel like you know something.
– Find that some actual experts have done research which has led to manufacturers marketing comprehensive lines of paint that force you to start keeping lists of every know air force’s paint and primer standards and arguing with others over whether a particular fighter was painted in one particular shade of green or in another shade of green documented in an obscure Nazi work order and in a single black-and-white photo which has been the subject of detailed analysis of what kind of green it could have been based on the shade of grayness in the B&W photo.
– Start taking photos at airshows and, after getting the film developed or photos downloaded, realize that you haven’t taken a photo of an entire airplane but have taken 50 shots of every access panel, weapon rack, landing gear component and serial number of several airplanes.
– Find that one has been taking graduate course on paint manufacturing and the history of aircraft manufacturers that have ceased to exist in any recognizable form.
– Barely bat an eye when a reviewer says that a new model kit is well worth the $150 manufacturer’s recommended retail price.
– Make a conscious decision one day to start lurking on eBay to buy old kits that nobody wants (except other old-timers like yourself) at hopefully a cheap killing so you can start applying all that scratchbuilding skill you’ve developed over the past 30 years.
– Spend more time in the remaining local hobby shop (now a chain store about 60 miles away) and buying even more reference, paint (now 3.95 a bottle), brass and aluminum and plastic shapes and sheet and teaching yourself basic machinist skills.
– Acquire even more interesting wounds on hands and fingers in the process.
– Open a newly acquired kit and immediately assessing what will be rebuilt from scratch or heavily modified.
Which led today to me walking into the nearest hobby emporium (across a state line), walking past the rows of kits into a dusty corner of the store, and selecting packets of plastic rod and strip to carry me through another three or four months of trying to build that which has gathered dust for years.
I should have taken up golf.