Friday April 4, 2003 11:55 PM
Photos and Fashions

I got a new jacket tonight for $20.

I've wanted to fill a gap in my weather protection gear for a while. I have a full-scale sub-zero winter coat, a 20° to 40° heavy-lined windbreaker which Ruth got me last fall for $13 at the farm store, and a 40° to 55° London Fog golf jacket which actually belonged my maternal grandfather. What I did not have was a 50° to 65° non-lined light windbreaker.

When I was in college I had a blue windbreaker which I loved. I wore it for just about all of my extended college career. It was just one layer of a lightweight nylon weave, but it deflected the wind off my body to protect me from evaporative cooling while also keeping me comfortably cool by allowing excess body heat to pass through. I could wear it virtually 80% of the year and I did. I've wanted something to fill the role this long gone item of apparel played for years and now that want is satisfied.

It's only unfortunate that this satisfaction was precipitated by a catastrophic incident.

I was wearing the abovementioned London Fog golf jacket the other day when I stopped to take some pictures on my way home from work. I frequently carry my digital camera around with me thinking that I'll see something that would make an interesting picture, but it isn't often that I take time to stop the van, park it, and get out to take the pictures I may happen to see. There are many things I see each day that I could turn into interesting shots, but most of them I pass at 50 mph or more. As I pass them I think to myself "Some day I have to stop and photograph that [place/thing/area] but I don't have time today." Last Tuesday, though, one of these items of interest caught my eye and I decided on a whim to stop and shoot it.

The item in question was one of the remaining buildings of what used to be Duncan Foundry, a metal and machine manufactury in Alton, IL. Several of the buildings were demolished years ago to make a large parking lot for the riverboat casino which sits on the banks of the Mississippi less than a mile away like a hideous pastel tumor. This parking lot is not used at all anymore. It's a wide expanse of blacktop onto which no one ever ventures. No one except me, that is.

I pulled onto the lot and stopped. I got out and walked about 20 yards towards the black, rusting building and began shooting pictures of some of the mechanical debris and junk around the base of the building. As I moved towards the back of the building I was surprised and delighted to discover that behind the building, hidden from the street, was a vast Sargasso sea of large electric motors, heavy machine parts, blowers, heat exchangers, equipment, and diesel engines in various stages of rust and disassembly.

Like a miser in a money-storm I was grabbing shots in a photographic frenzy. I'd spot an item, frame it in a composition, shoot it, reposition for a new composition, shoot again, and move on to the next item scattered in the brush and among the debris. Shot after shot after shot, I was running out of storage media for the digital images I was recording. The last item I saw was what must have been the engine block of a diesel locomotive.

I ran over to fit it in my viewfinder. A head-on shot, a profile of all twelve cylinders worth, a closeup view of what I guess was an exhaust port- I was trying to document the massive presence of the monolith of black metal. It was when I had the idea to take a shot looking down from above into the cylinder bores that I brought upon myself a heavy price for the images I'd shot.

There was a rock or a piece of junk by the back of the engine that I climbed up on to get me high enough to look down into the engine. As I was framing a composition, I leaned forward and my stomach brushed lightly against the back of the engine. I took my pictures and climbed down. It was then that I noticed that something was wrong. Evidently, though the front and sides were rusty and dry, the back was not. The back of that engine block was covered with dead black, wet, sticky grease and so was my grandfather's jacket.

Ruth is still working her domestic magic on it, but the prognosis seems grim. She says she's washed it three times now and the cursed stains have barely faded. Hope is not gone but in the meantime I need a jacket. It's about 45° outside tonight- too warm for the green jacket from the farm store, but too cold for my polarfleece™ pullover.

We had to go to the mall tonight to return Jason and the Argonauts to the library. Isaiah loved it and as we were walking across the parking lot to go inside he proclaimed, feinting and parrying unseen swords and spears, that he was one of the skeletons that fought Jason in the closing scenes of the movie. Though they were obviously animated with stop-motion photography, the skeletons were amazing and delightful and he was captivated by them. The battle of the "children of the hydra's teeth" as the skeletons were called must truly be one of the most memorable fantasy movie sequences ever.

While we were there we also checked out the pet store (of course) and looked for an item of apparel for me to replace one that is almost worn out. No, I wasn't specifically looking for a new windbreaker. I was looking for a replacement for something else which I won't describe further tonight since it's worthy of a full-scale item of its own, but it was during the search for this other replacement that Ruth saw a collection of windbreakers in Sears which were discounted some 40% and some 50%.

I looked them over and was intrigued but unconvinced. Ruth and Isaiah went to look at the kid's clothes while I examined more closely the assortment of jackets and their varying pros and cons. After trying it on, I eventually selected an X-L black "Weather Tamer" and decided that under the circumstances I'd spend $20 to make it mine. I only discovered after I'd payed for it that it has a non-removable hood which was annoying, but which Ruth pointed out could be very handy in the rain.

When we went outside to get back in the van to go home, the bag I'd been given at Sears contained two new library videos, "It's the International Space Station Charlie Brown" (we'll have a blast watching that together!), "Toad and Frog are Friends" (more stop-motion goodness) and my wind-porous pullover. I was wearing my new Weather Tamer.