Unpacked and Ready for More

Sorry it took so long to update this space again, folks, but for some reason or another, when we got back to Vernon, we were extremely tired. I know, weird, right?

Well, the collection is safe and sound and the truck has been returned, and so we begin a new chapter in the ongoing project. This one involves getting some promised funds from the H.O.T. committee, which are necessary to creating the space that will become the collection’s permanent home. Along the way, we’ll have a fundraiser or two (or three, or four) to help us scare up some volunteers and some more funds for additional materials necessary to this collection and its maintenance.

And yet, even though I’m enjoying sleeping in my own bed, I find myself craving a Tim Horton’s coffee and cruller, and yes, even poutine. Hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it, folks. It was a wonderful trip and I know I speak for all of us on the board when I say we will cherish the deepening friendships we forged while in Toronto and look forward to seeing the family again when we get ready to open and christen the museum properly.

Please stay plugged in for more updates. I’ll try to give you regular reports on what is going on and our progress. Thanks everyone for your well-wishes, both on the road and off. We appreciate the support and are so glad to finally be moving forward with our plans.

Dateline: Vernon

Jackson resumed his duties as forward lookout with aplomb.

Incredible as it seems, we are home. All of us. Me, Mike, Jackson, and of course, Jack Teagarden. We are all very tired, and there’s still much more to do. But the first leg of this incredible journey is over.

We drove from Indianapolis to Vernon today. It was a long, difficult, and uncomfortable trip, but the closer we got to Texas, the better we felt.

Mike contemplates the smell of two guys and a moose in a truck cab for over twenty hours.

The best advantage to starting early in the morning is that we got to see some amazing scenery for most of the day. Our only real traffic tangle happened in St. Louis, but gave us two opportunities: a chance to eat real food (as opposed to something we picked up at a Stucky’s at a dead run, as if we were participating in the Cannonball Run or something), and the chance to take this lovely snapshot:

As usual, I shot twenty of these to get one nice one.

There were lulls on the road, of course. Jackson wanted to sing folk songs, but we dissuaded him from starting anything in a round. We mostly talked about the funny signs we saw along the way; billboards that proclaimed “Two Antique Malls and a Yarn Shop,” for example. We imagined the conversation going something like this:

Fred: Hey, looka there, Hon. Not just one, but two, two antiques malls!

Midge: Oh, Fred. You imbecile. If you’ve seen one antiques mall, you’ve seen them all. Now, what I wouldn’t give for a real, honest-to-goodness yarn shop, like they are always showing in the movies…

Fred: (spying the billboard) Hey, Hon, guess what? You just got Christmas in July!

Jackson grabs the camera while I'm distracted counting license plates.

So, to recap: from Canada, to Michigan, to Indiana, to Illinois, to Michigan, to Oklahoma, and finally to Texas. The collection is fine. It was expertly packed. Tomorrow we’ll unload and store it, and then we begin the next phase of the project. I’ll have some wrap-up thoughts about the trip, as well.

I’m tired, but I’m so very happy. We did it. We brought Jack home.

Dateline: Indianapolis

We’re American citizens again! All of us except Jackson, who loudly announced his intention to defect at the border. Luckily, the border guards were too busy extracting a promise that we would never try to do anything like this ever again. Easiest “Yes, Ma’am” me and Mike ever said.

We had most of the day to kill, and so we killed it at Tim Horton’s. Seriously, when are we going to get one? Half as expensive as Starbucks, twice as delicious, and exponentially less pretentious. What’s not to like? Well, we learned that even Tim Horton’s for six hours waiting can be a little much, especially since both Mike and I had no desire or intention of spending another night in Canada. Especially not Sarnia. It was kinda like being in the Brownwood of Canada, you know what I am saying?

And incidentally, I may not have used all of my Canadian money, but I definitely used up all of my Canadian Karma. Our parting order of 20 TimmBites (slightly bigger, infinitely more tasty donut holes) was overstuffed to capacity because the kid at the counter learned that we were from Texas and waxed enthusiastic about our lack of safety laws in the U.S. He had fond memories of visiting Houston and riding go-carts “without a helmet or nothing! Just the wind in my hair, eh?” Yeah, I know, you never know what’s going to spin someone’s crank shaft.

When we stopped at the Wal-mart (yep, they are everywhere) for some electrical do dad we needed for the cell phone, I decided to make a pit stop. Mike said, “You go, and I’ll get in line.” No problem. I performed my Canadian ablutions and then hustled back to the line, stopping only to grab a few KinderEggs in the process. I stepped into the line and started telling Mike about what I’d scored when someone behind me said, “You can’t do that. You have to go to the back of the line.”

Now, we were next up. There was a large line, feeding into three express lane checkers. Thinking she didn’t understand, I said, “No, we’re together.”

She replied, “But you weren’t with him the whole time he was in line.”

“Lady, I was in the bathroom,” I said.

Now, it’s our turn. The cashiers are looking at us expectantly. More people in line are starting to speak up. “Get to the back!” “That’s not fair, eh?” and so forth.

I was stunned. I really didn’t know what to say. They were serious, and they were mad. In Texas, this is not a big deal in that there’s always a mother sending a child to get “one more thing” and I figured hey, we were doing good because Mike wasn’t holding up a checker. “Are we really going to make a big deal about this?” I said.

One of the guys behind the lady who originally spoke said, “Well, you’re time is clearly more valuable than ours, so you just go on ahead there, eh.”

I started to reply, but Mike pulled me out of line. We got behind another line, this one governed by a woman who could not scan more than three items in a row before turning away to talk to someone. Mike pointed out to me that the time we spent dealing with the angry express line customers would have been better spent just letting us make our purchases and go.

So, the lesson learned here is this: Canadians are wonderful people, unless they are in line. Then they are an angry mob. Or maybe Wal-Mart just brings it out in everyone up North, as well.

All was not lost, however. We found this:

The Beer Store. Simple, honest, and direct.

It would have been wrong not to bring back some Moosehead lager for our friends and family who couldn’t go with us. And so that’s exactly what we did. We first had to look at the options, though:
I think it was Carl Sagan who wrote, "My God. It's full of beer..."

The whole time I was in the store, I kept wanting to ask for Elsinor Beer, a la from Strange Brew. Oh, how I miss Bob and Doug McKinzie.

After all of that, we made it back over the border and started driving as fast as we could. Jackson kept wanting to drive, but I read on several billboards that Moose are responsible for 50% of the automobile accidents in Canada, so that was right out. Instead, we gave him the job of forward navigator. “Look for moose,” I told him.

“Can do!” he crowed. “I’m just like Chewbacca!”

“Nearly just, Jackson. Nearly just.”

In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night, no moose shall e'er escape his sight...

We crossed through three state lines tonight. Jackson didn’t last long. He’s had a hard couple of days. We left him in the truck and are turning in for a quick snooze.

More later.

Let’s try this again

I think the plan is to hole up at Tim Horton’s until we get the go-ahead. When Tim Horton’s finally comes to America (meaning, of course, Texas), it’s going to kill every other coffee place. No one in the Southwest likes Dunkin’ Donuts anyway, but I think even Starbuck’s will take a hit. And it’ll all be because of the crullers. Oh, sweet delicious crullers. Dunkin’ can’t make ‘em right, and no other donut chain will touch ‘em. Only Timmy’s.

But that’s not the point, here. The point is this: I’m crossing the border today if I have to pole vault over it.
More updates later tonight. Or sooner, if I get my data streaming back.

Stranded and Frustrated

Why no, I'm not happy. Why do you ask?

Oh, my, what a day.

We’re waiting on paperwork. It seems as if we’ve been waiting forever. There’s a lot of things that go into moving this much stuff over the border. And I’m not knocking the rules, as I understand they are there for our protection. That’s why I hired someone to help us with navigating this process, to make it smoother for us.

In the hopes that the paperwork would be ready en route, we started driving today. The goal was to at least get out of Toronto, and THAT in and of itself was an ordeal. Canada, I love you. Great beer, wonderful people, and poutine. However, your roads and the civil engineering that went into them are pretty atrocious. So, into the traffic, and the rain, and the traffic, and the rain, and the traffic we plunge, hoping against hope that we’d get clearance before we got to the Port Huron border crossing.

Didn’t happen.

Now, trapped in Sarnia, Onterio, about a half-mile from the border, I think you can see how well THAT’S working out for me. Turns out, the firm I hired to take care of these details, well, didn’t, not really. I’m four kinds of livid. And we’re stuck, burning daylight, burning time, burning money, and impacting our other jobs–all because the people I hired to do the paperwork didn’t do the very basic thing they were supposed to do in the first place.

The Majestic Chipican Motel, and oh, what digs they are.

The brokers open at 8 AM tomorrow. At 8:01, I’m going to call and sit on them until I get clearance papers to cross the border. After the lengthy wait to cross, me and Mike are going to take turns driving and get back to Texas as soon as we can.

See? I told ya. Swanky.

Holding Pattern

It’s Monday morning, and we are merely waiting on the bureaucrats to generate a number that will allow us to cross. We’re going for breakfast. It’s gotten very dull in the hotel room. We’re packed up, but we’ve no place to go, yet.

Here’s a picture of one of the hundreds of murals we’ve seen since we’ve been in this cool, cool city:

Reminds me of Austin in the mid-80s. You know, when Austin was cool.

Reminds me of Austin in the mid-80s. You know, when Austin was cool.

I’ll post again once we’re clear and the odyssey can officially begin.

Sweet Freedom

Thanks to Barb and Steve Lewis. They really came through for us. What did they do, you may ask? I’ll tell you what they did. They brought a whole mess of Tim Horton’s to the gulag and bartered for our return.

After that, we were whisked off to dinner with the whole extended Lewis clan. Since Steve already has a brother named Mark and a brother named Mike, we became “Texas Mark” and “Texas Mike” for the duration. We got to crash one of their regular Sunday family get-togethers, and a nicer bunch of people I’ve never met.
2012-04-29 21.00.11

We knew we had to work off the sizable Tim Horton’s bill, so Mike got busy in the kitchen making a batch of authentic Tex-Mex salsa and some Jalapeno poppers (wrapped with bacon and stuffed with chipotle cream cheese), while I entertained the family with wild stories of Texas. Barb had her own cooking agenda, which included grilled chicken, grilled salmon, salad, squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, and more. Everyone fell into the food and we all ate like shipwreaked sailors.

Hail to the chefs! Barb and Mike take a break for dessert.

Hail to the chefs! Barb and Mike take a break for dessert.

Mike’s salsa and poppers were a big hit; everyone enjoyed the poppers, and no one could stop eating the salsa. With the extended family over, we were a little intimidated, but we shouldn’t have worried. Everyone treated us like old friends, and it was a very relaxing evening filled with conversation and laughs.

After dinner, Steve showed me his art studio, and it was really impressive–filled with oil paintings and canvases and reference books. He’s got a self-sufficient set-up that allows him to work for extended periods without interruption. I really envy that. He also has among his books several George Bridgeman books, Andrew Loomis’ “Figure Drawing for all It’s Worth,” and Jules Feiffer’s “The Great Comic Book Heroes.” Geek alert! Steve’s one of us! He did animation work on the documentary “Comic Book Confidential.”

Mark and Steve awash in nerdly bliss. And coffee cake.

Mark and Steve awash in nerdly bliss. And coffee cake.

The evening ended with a round of well wishes, promises to come visit, and sincere fare-thee-wells for our upcoming endeavor. I have no doubt we’ll see them all again, somehow, some way. If we’re lucky, they will bring the super pugs.

Ripley and MayBelle, looking worn out by the fact that they didn't get any coffee cake.

Ripley and MayBelle, looking worn out by the fact that they didn't get any coffee cake.

A Bad Idea, Made Much Worse

Hello, Jazz fans. Jackson here, with a quick update.

I just want everyone to know that I tried to stop them, but they just wouldn’t listen. Sure, I’m a moose, but I’m not exactly full sized, you know? Anyway, I was snoozing in the center seat, just minding my own business, when the guys hopped into the truck and started ‘er up.

“Hey, did you get your paperwork?” I asked.

“Um, not yet,” said Mark, not meeting my gaze.

“So, where are we going?” I asked Mike.

“Jackson, at this point, the less you know, the better.” Mike replied.

I felt something cold and hard settle in my stomach. This did not look good. The truck turned South, and for a few minutes, I thought we were just going to raid a few Tim Horton’s and buy up all of their crullers. Mark kinda has a sweet tooth. But after we zipped by three of them in a row, I knew something was up. “Okay, boys, what’s the plan here, exactly?”

Mike continued to drive and sing James McMurtry songs to himself, pretending he didn’t hear me. I turned to Mark. “What? Tell me or I start singing showtunes.”

“No! Not that!”


“STOP!” Mark clapped a hand over my mouth. “I’ll tell you. Just…don’t do that.”

I folded my arms and waited for him to continue.

“We’re hopping the border.”

A Day of Setbacks and Triumphs

It was terribly difficult to get up out of bed this morning, possibly because we were in agonizing pain from being crammed into a clown car for five hours and then moving approximately half a ton of records, tapes, and books until late in the evening the day before.

This man couldn't cook a bad egg if he tried.

This man couldn't cook a bad egg if he tried.

We ate breakfast across the street at this little diner that has been in operation for a thousand years or so. For six bucks, I got two fried eggs, three and a half strips of bacon, hash browns, two pieces of buttered toast, and a small coffee that could have melted a hole on the floor. It was glorious, and just what I needed to refuel and restore for the second day of loading.

Barb came back out to help us, along with husband Steve, and we knocked everything out in a little over two hours. Forty years of collecting, literally a person’s life’s work, and it all fit into the back of a U haul truck. It was a little humbling, but also a little exciting, in that we’d get to present this person’s work to a much larger audience. And I’m finally making good on the promise I made Joe, on his deathbed, about bringing the collection home to Vernon.

Next stop: Vernon, Texas!

Next stop: Vernon, Texas!

Once everything was loaded, I called the importers, who have been helping us this past week with the mountain of paperwork necessary to move the collection over the border. Bad news: the paperwork isn’t done. The earliest we’re going to get it now is Monday. This was unexpected, but not necessarily unplanned for. Mike and I got on the phone and started playing defense back in Vernon. After packing Pat and Diane off to the airport, we were left with most of a day and nothing to do. The solution: park the truck and take in the town.

Parking at Barb’s house was surprisingly simple, because Mike is a truck driving demigod. While he and Steve discussed a possible remodeling project involving their back porch and deck, I got some quality time with the Lewis’ pugs, Maybelle and Ripley.

Maybelle the Wonder Pooch, looking regal and weird.

Maybelle the Wonder Pooch, looking regal and weird.

Ripley the magnificent, poised to lick my whole face.

Ripley the magnificent, poised to lick my whole face.

Of course, this made me miss my dog, so I called Cathy and asked to speak to Sonya. Because I’m that guy.

Barb drove us around on a brief tour of some of the more picturesque parts of Toronto, including the site of her brother Joe’s former apartment. We also found a few junk shops, and thus deepening my attraction to this marvelous city. Barb finally dropped us off at a place called Smoke’s Poutinerie. Look it up. It’s apparently a Canadian classic, and this place did not disappoint.

This is my new favorite place. For real.

This is my new favorite place. For real.

Poutine (pronounced “Poo-Teen”) is a Canadian delicacy by way of Quebec, no fooling. Basically, it breaks down thusly: a layer of fresh fried potatoes (fries), covered with cheese curds, and then smothered with rich brown gravy. Did your heart just give an irregular beat? I’ll bet it did. The large portion comes with a defibrillator. They’ve got a “Buy Five, get a free Bypass!” program that’s really working for them. But my god, is the food delicious.

Mike in mid-bite, just minutes before the EMTs were deployed...

Mike in mid-bite, just minutes before the EMTs were deployed...

I could hear my wife’s disapproval all the way back in Texas. I felt it, like Spidey Sense. I tried to explain to her over the phone that, like the paper trail delay, it’s not my fault, but she wasn’t buying it.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Chinatown and the surrounding neighborhoods. The goal now is to rest up and get to feeling better so that when we can leave, we can do so quickly and speedily.

A Day of Pain and Logistics

GUEST POST BY JACKSON, the Teagarden Museum Mascot!

Please, no Rocky and Bullwinkle jokes...

Please, no Rocky and Bullwinkle jokes...

Hello, friends. Mark asked me to type this installment because he can’t move his fingers right now. He and Mike are kinda tired, and I can’t say as I blame them. They only drove an hour and a half to Buffalo, NY and back, crossing the border each time, just to pick up the big ol’ U-haul…but I’m getting ahead of the story.
2012-04-27 09.40.54
This is where the gang ate breakfast today. It’s just around the corner from the IKEA–I mean, the hotel, and it’s one of those places that’s been in operation since the 1920s. Toronto has a LOT of those places; little lunch counters, with really reasonable prices and great food. Bonus: Not one of them serves moose burgers. Whew!
Check out these vintage menus. Swanky!

Check out these vintage menus. Swanky!

After breakfast, the gang of four squeezed into their rented clown car and beat feet for Buffalo, NY. They had to pick up the truck there because there wasn’t one in the size they needed anywhere in Toronto. As it was, Buffalo was a pleasant diversion, and it’s a shame they didn’t get to explore it further. It was very picturesque.
Nice! Painted windows advertising a theater's upcoming season.

Nice! Painted windows advertising a theater's upcoming season.

What Buffalo lacked in convenience for my guys, it made up for in charm. Mark said the next time he was in the area, he was going to go exploring in Buffalo. Of course, he saw a used bookstore that they didn’t have time to investigate, so that probably added to the allure of the town, right there.
There she is! The orange beast! Our home for the next few days.

There she is! The orange beast! Our home for the next few days.

After a quick lunch (well, as quick as Buffalo allowed), they hopped back over the border and met Barb at the storage place. This is where the Joe Showler collection has lingered, in limbo, since 2009. Opening the door felt a lot like Indiana Jones discovering the ark of the covenant…only, you know, without the face melting and the explosions.
A lifetime of collecting, separated into nearly 300 boxes...

A lifetime of collecting, separated into nearly 300 boxes...

The rest of the evening was spent re-organizing the collection and carefully loading the fragile items into the truck in such a way that they would be protected. Barbara was a trooper, helping with toting and lifting as well as fetching rope and tape…and also coffee and donuts. A lifesaver, she is.
Pat tries in vain to get a handle on everything that's in the collection.

Pat tries in vain to get a handle on everything that's in the collection.

Loading will resume tomorrow. Another three or four hours’ worth. After that, the guys will rest up and then get a fresh start early Sunday morning. Wish them luck, won’t you?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mark has a blister on his foot the size of a yam, and he’s asked me to tend to it. A moose’s work is never done.