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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

But She Plays One on TV

I don’t normally take medical advice from pudgy 9-year-old Mexican girls, even ones who speak and read perfect English.

This past weekend our local amateur (“ham”) radio club held its annnual “hamfest” (swap meet / flea market). We were blessed with great weather, good turnout, and good participation from the club members to make it an overall successful venture. And I think we may have even made a little money for the club.

Oh no, you say, not another column on radio, doesn’t he realize…? Well, this one’s only tangentially on radio. What I wanted to talk about today is my trip to the Homo Sapiens zoo. Ham radio, along with its related endeavours, cuts across a wide spectrum of socioeconomic, cultural, ethnic, and political strata, which, IMHO, is a big part of what makes it such a fascinating hobby. This past weekend, about 2000 people converged upon our county fairgrounds in northern VA from near and far. Just how near and far, I’ll know when I do the ticket stub analysis, but last year they came from all over the US, or at least they were from all over. Who knows where they actually came from?

The Humanity: I’ve been to numerous hamfests over the years, and have never been below the median, or for that matter anywhere near it, regarding personal grooming and hygeine. Ours was no exception, but in the interest of full disclosure, there were relatively fewer attendees who smelled like nursing homes, and the overall level of redolence seemed to be below average. This might be partially due to the weather, which was warm but dry, and breezy. And the tattoo-to-tooth ratio was less than 1.0 for most of the festival-goers. Level of dress… well, one guy was wearing a suit; maybe he just came from church, but he was definitely a point off the curve. The rest of the crowd’s sartorial splendor was pretty evenly distributed from the low end of “business casual” to “thrift store reject.”

The Inanimity: Most of the vendors were hawking wares relevant to the high-tech pursuits of radio, computers, electronics, and communications. A few were selling new products and tools, but most were cleaning out their basements, as it were, either on a small scale or large. There was a plethora (I’ve been waiting for years to use that word) of old radios of course, and old computers, old accessories, old things that look like they might have been useful for something in 1965 or 1952, etc., sold by a diverse cast of characters who probably don’t pay much in taxes. For those of us with a sincere appreciation for the anachronistic, it was a brief foray into Paradise.

There were plenty of non-technological goods to be found there as well: leather goods, jewelry, baked goods, butterflies mounted in glass cases. I believe the woman selling gutter filters seriously misunderestimated the level of interest in her products. Had she not been a gracefully aging model, I don’t think anyone would have talked to her at all. One booth was selling health food supplements, and the proprietor had his young daughter passing out advertising literature at the front gate. While I was out there, she handed me a copy, whereupon one of the club members selling tickets joked that I couldn’t read and she’d have to read it to me (this actually isn’t true, I can read; I just don’t…want…to read). So she read it to me, this doughy little Mexican schoolgirl, in perfect English with a kind of singsong lilt typical for the age, read, “You could be suffering from cancer, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, anemia, heartworm, hoof-and-mouth …” and on she went, rattling off the whole paragraph of hypothetical chronic maladies as if she were reading the breakfast menu to her farsighted grandmother. I was actually pretty impressed with her diction.
To this I replied, “Sounds serious, perhaps I should go see a doctor. What do you think?”
Her sage advice, “My daddy sells these shakes inside that building. You should go get one.”

I didn’t get one, but I thought about it. I also thought, with her level of self-confidence, this girl’s going places. She could even run for higher office, now that we’ve relaxed the citizenship requirement.

The Economy: All right, Bruck, what did you buy? Well, don’t tell Mrs. Bruck, but a few woodcut portraits of Andrew Jackson and other late presidents leaked out of my wallet in exchange for a new handheld VHF transceiver and an antique shortwave receiver, plus a few odds and ends. I also picked up a vintage car radio at no cost. I could have had a lot more free junk - there’s always a certain amount of stuff that vendors simply don’t want to take home. I was prepared to pay up to a dollar for it, so I spent the dollar I saved on a loaf of homemade bread. Mrs. Bruck taught me that trick.

Epilogue: Although a couple of days have passed, I’m still feeling a little worn out – I was on my feet for two 12-hour days in a row, had very little down time, and didn’t sleep very well in between. Right now I feel like I could really use… a health food shake! I mentioned earlier that I don’t normally take medical advice from overweight 9-year-old Mexican girls, but maybe this time I’ll make an exception.


  • At 7:41 PM, Blogger plf5403 said…

    "Now that we've relaxed the citizenship requirement." Classic. L-O-L funny.


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