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Way back when, on or about the occasion of my 45th birthday, one of my adopted brothers gave me one of those poured stone coasters for my coffee mug. Molded into the top was the fine slogan

If you haven’t grown up by age 40,
you don’t have to.

It seemed a good thought but the math was wrong, so, not seeing the trap, I looked at him and said “Brother, you DO realize I’m 45, right?”

That little sumbitch looked me right dead in the eye and said, just that quick, “Brother, you always WERE the slow one of the family.” Should’ve seen it coming. Maybe he was right.

* * * * *

I ran across that coaster on my desk the other day, underneath one of my favorite coffee mugs, which had suffered a broken handle and was waiting for me to make it right. Making things right has become more important to me in recent days, so while I got out the superglue and (successfully!) reattached the handle, I read that coaster again, and realized — I’m well past forty and I’ve been much too grown-up lately.

As it happens I covered model train shows and modellers off-and-on for the Chronicle, so when I saw a notice on Facebook I knew where I’d be on Saturday. Every year, on the third Saturday in February, the overaged seven-year-olds of the San Jacinto Model Railroad Club hold their annual model train expo/show/swap meet, since 2003 known as the Greater Houston Train Show, and since 2005, they’ve gathered at the Stafford Center, which is just a few miles southwest of my Sharpstown home base. So bright and noonish on Saturday, I checked that I had the six buck adult admission fee in my pocket and that the camera batteries were charged, and off I went. (I had some hopes that explaining that I had basically been stuck at 7 years old for half a century myself might get me in for the child’s price, but I didn’t really expect it to work, and it didn’t.). I might have had a chance but the club cheated… the wives were running the ticket table! They’re very nice ladies and all but they LIVE with eternal 7-year-olds, so… But I did get a couple of laughs for the idea, so it wasn’t a total waste.

* * * * *

My first stop, after collecting info on a couple of area railroad museums I’ll maybe do more with later, was the Layout Room where the members of the Houston “G” Gaugers had set up a large multi-track oval.

G-gauge is big for models; the cars are about 5″ tall and correspondingly long, a little over a foot or so.

And because track alignment on mobile layouts isn’t always all it could be, the cars will sometimes derail or jump the tracks and require an intervention.

Click the 2 to go to the next page. (There are 3 in all.)


(Five letters. Three syllables. Impressive.)

Okay. I clamber into the front seat of the second coach, where I have a clear view of the engine on the curves, and settle in with the camera bag beside me.

Wooo! Wooo-wooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shuf.. shufff… shuffa…shuffashuffashuffa clack shuffa clack shuffa clack clack clack

And… we’re off. If I didn’t know better I’d think this was a real train and I was off for a grand adventure somewhere.

But… no. No big grand adventures today. I’m out of clients and budget for those just now, so instead I’m aboard the SDF Express, one of two Chance Rides C P Huntington replicas in Hermann Park. It’s a bit too warm to sit inside, so I took a couple of hours “off” to ride the train and grab a few pictures.

The SDF Express and its sister, the Dr. Jack Express, certainly LOOK right for grand adventures.

I started to notice murals on my first major trip south – they’ve been a big part of the political and artistic landscape in Latin America for centuries, from the earliest civilizations we know of right up to now.

(Simon Bolivar, somewhere in a park…)

(The Hermit, Key IX of the Rider-Waite Tarot, beside the door of the Hard Rock Cafe’ in Cuenca.)

The last time I was in Ecuador I saw more straight-out graffiti than actual murals, which was disappointing, but they’re still to be found, everything from public art to portraits of political figures to advertising to political commentary for those who don’t own the newspapers….

Anyway, last Thursday afternoon I managed to beat the traffic down to Rosenberg for a Chronicle gig, so I spent some time roaming around and spotted this train-in-progress blowing through a side wall on 3d street. As you can see, it’s not small.

But, at the time, there was no one around, so I kept on wandering. I haven’t done enough small-town walkabout lately, so it was pleasant to get back to it. Checked out several antique shops and a couple of street scenes….

And about an hour or so later, I came back up the street, and met the muralist, Paul Sanchez. Nice guy, Paul. Puts up with all sorts of strange characters who come up and ask questions and stick cameras in his face and whatnot.

He says he’s done the entire mural with those little tiny airbrushes with the half-ounce paint cup, which I notice he has to refill about every ten seconds. He says he’ll be finished here in three or four days.

I’m going to have to go back next week and get the whole thing minus the scaffolding. It’s going to be grand.

(Mr. Sanchez has a website over HERE with some nice galleries, too. Take a look…)