The Reno Signal Goes East

As a teenager, basketball star Kevin Johnson went to the gym every evening to practice. One evening the janitor said to him, “Kevin, it’s Saturday night. Why aren’t you out at parties, like everybody else?”

“Parties,” Johnson replied, “won’t take me where I want to go.”

(Mack and Casstevens 2001)

This is a good representation of what I look like when I'm writing. (Image courtesy of Nickelodeon)

This is a good representation of what I look like when I’m writing. (Image courtesy of Nickelodeon)

In 2009, I enrolled in college, looking for an opportunity to escape my dead-end career in bookkeeping and start a new career as a writer.

I graduated May 2014 with the hope of getting work as a journalist, copy writer, or social media writer. After one year, more than a thousand résumés, and four job interviews, I have come to the realization that Reno will not “take me where I want to go.”

In Reno, my degree makes me worth less than when I had no degree. It seems spending four years in college and getting outstanding grades means minimum wage in this town. And it isn’t because of a change in careers – starting at the bottom again.  The best job I’ve been able to get is a part-time job as a mail clerk.

And I’m sick of living on beans and rice.

So, where to go?

brockton boxersI am moving to Brockton, Massachusetts, a city about twenty miles south of Boston. Not only do I have family there, but the opportunities for someone with my skills are much better in Boston.

 

img003I spent a chunk of my teen years in Massachusetts, attending Brockton High School and, later, Taunton High School. However, aside from a few short visits, I have not been in New England since 1990. So this move is a bit of an adventure.

 

What does this mean for The Reno Signal? I’m not sure. I have another month in Reno, so expect a few more posts before I leave. I plan to continue blogging, but will have to decide whether or not to keep this URL.

 

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Thanks to everyone that has checked out my blog. I’ve tried to make something useful.

Peace!

Tony George

 

Boston's public transit includes a train system that runs throughout the eastern part of the state.  I'm intimidated already!

Boston’s public transit includes a train system that runs throughout the eastern part of the state. I’m intimidated already!

Bibliography

Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001.

 

 

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Batman Celebrates 75 Years with New ‘Batman Beyond’ Short

I’m a DC guy. Marvel, which I also enjoy, gets praise from me for creating some of the best comic-based films, something Warner Bros. — which owns DC Comics — seems to stumble with frequently.

Batman Beyond was an animated series that followed up the classic Batman: The Animated Series. Set in the future, it had a teenager, Terry McGinnis take over the persona of Batman after Bruce Wayne retired. In theory, this should have been the worst idea ever for an animated series. However, the creative talent behind the original animated series struck a home run with this show.

To celebrate Batman’s 75 anniversary, Warner Bros. commissioned Darwyn Cooke, who created The New Frontier, considered one of the great DC stories, to create this animated short.

At the end, see if you can identify all the different versions of Batman that Cooke and his crew display.

 

Book Review: The Lost Heart of Asia by Colin Thubron

A Reno Signal Book Review: The Lost Heart of Asia by Colin Thubron

lost heart of asiaThe Lost Heart of Asia. Colin Thubron. London: Harper Perennial, 1994. 374 pages, includes one map, an interview with Thubron, an essay by The Times (London) columnist Julia Llewellyn Smith, comments from critics and Thubron’s personal travel reading recommendations.

 

 

 

Colin Thubron. Photo courtesy Random House Publishing

Colin Thubron. Photo courtesy Random House Publishing

About the author: Colin Thubron was born June 14, 1939 and has written nine books about his travels around the world. His first book, Mirror to Damascus, was published in 1967. After fracturing his spine in an automobile accident, he traveled to Russia, which was not a typical travel destination in 1978. After Among The Russians was published, Thubron focused on hard travel books, even learning Chinese and Russian so that he could talk to the people he met. He has received many awards including the Royal Scottish Geographical Society Mungo Park Medal (2000), the Royal Society for Asian Affairs Lawrence of Arabia Medal (2001) and The Times named him one of the 50 greatest postwar British writers.  His latest book, To a Mountain in Tibet, was published in 2011. He is president of the Royal Society of Literature.

 

 

Colin Thubron’s The Lost Heart of Asia takes the author through the five central Asian republics, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan, just months after the end of the Soviet Union. He discovers group of nations that the soviets tried to purge of any culture or identity. Suddenly, these states were cut off from government, military and infrastructure. Thubron visits these nations during this turbulent period, giving readers his experiences with the people of each nation and explaining history and folklore that makes these places special.

Thubron is not a traveler that takes the easy route. He travels by train — fourth class, by foot, by bus and by taking rides with villagers in cars that barely stay in one piece.  The hotels he lodges in are creaky and, at times, unsanitary.  He tries to remain as non-judgmental as he can, being polite to even to a man trying to swindle money out of him.

Thubron writes with the skill of an educated English gentleman. His prose is formal, but vivid in detail. He requires his readers to come along with him and see the scenery, meet the people, taste the food and invest some time to reflect on the lives of these people.

Two elements of the book stood out while I was reading it. Thubron spends a lot of time with the people of these areas and presents a group of nations that hold very little hope for the future. During his visit, about four months,  he witnessed people suffering from the hyperinflation of a post-communist economy and groups of Russians, hated by the locals, who had no where to go. The Soviet Union assigned their grandparents to work in these states, and the motherland has now abandoned the grandchildren.

“The depth of this people’s change was impossible to know,” writes Thubron about the people he saw in Turkmenistan. “They trudge the pavements like farmers. It was as if the city itself belonged to nobody. With its grid-iron streets and screening tress … it was the perfect laboratory for the Communist experiment.”

While riding a train to Bukhara, a schoolgirl approached Thubron and he chatted with her. While he doesn’t give her age, she is still in school. Thubron innocently asked her what she plans to do when she finishes school. The girl said she will “be a young woman, then a mother, then an old woman … then a corpse.” Many people repeat this tone of finality throughout Thubron’s journey.

The second aspect of his book that stands out is his boyish sense of adventure. Thubron did his homework and knows about historically important places along his trip. After all, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan came through parts of these nations. He takes adventures to ruins, looking for proof of these nations’ past glories. About half way through the book, he decides to travel the mountain around Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan, searching for the castle of the “Veiled Prophet of Khorasan.” He approaches his trip with a childlike sense of excitement. These little explorations seem to confound the locals but provide a little levity to the bleakness of the people’s lives.

Thubron’s gift for explaining scenes and people is constant. He is difficult to quote simply because his writing complex. On his adventure to the ruins of Merv in Turkmenistan, he describes the place:

I came upon the graves of half-remembered holy men. Cemeteries covered the dunes all around in a chaotic counterpane of humped earth spiked with poles and rotting flags. The whine of flies and the slap of stiffened cloth in the wind seemed to accentuate the silence. Far from any town, people had returned here in the thousands to be buried, drawn by some atavistic memory.”

 While the book is near perfect, I had trouble keeping track of where Thubron was in many sections of the book.  While there is a map showing where these five nations are located, he never refers back to it. At times I had read four or five pages without realizing that he had entered another country.

Other than this small issue, this is an excellent travel book. It is deep and not simply a travelogue. After reading it, I have gained knowledge about a culture that was nearly obliterated by Communism. It is easy, being an American, to feel like I am having a tough time. Sometimes money is tight, but even when I am at my worst financially, I’ve never had to pluck the eyes out of a sheep’s head so that I could have a meal. Thubron’s trip helped me appreciate how much easier our lives are in the western world and how much harder people in other nations have to work for so much less reward.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Review: India Kabab & Curry

indian kabob1The décor featured a room colored in earth tones and orange. Pictures and paintings of Indians wearing traditional clothing hung on the walls of the restaurant. I found the place to be a little too dark; more lighting would have been better. On small televisions located at opposite corners of the room, Bollywood music videos played. The videos are quintessentially Indian in nature: exotic rhythms, Indian dancers, lovers staring for long, very long, times at each other and a rapper, his words occasionally bleeped when he uses Indian profanity. The rap performer, with the censored language, created laughs in our group.

I went India Kabab & Curry to try its lunch special, an all-you-can-eat buffet for $7.99. It’s an everyday deal, bucking the trend of many buffets to charge more on weekends.

The buffet was small, but featured a variety of Indian dishes. Buffets tend to create a few problems. First, unless you know your cuisines, you tend to grab a bit of everything, not knowing what entrée goes with what side dish. The second is that, while eating, it is difficult to cleanse the pallet between dishes.

I started my gastronomic adventure with Daal, a lentil soup. A mellow, almost faint, curry taste served as a gateway food, introducing me to the choices requiring a little more courage. However, it was a little too bland, being the most forgettable part of my meal.

Our waiter served Naan, a flat bread cooked in a tandoor clay oven. It was chewy, but not doughy, with a light garlic taste. Like most breads, I used it as a tool for sopping up the extra sauce on my plate.

indian kabob2A dish of cabbage deep-fried in a chickpea batter surprised me with its light crispy exterior and delicious cabbage center. Unlike many dishes I have had featuring overcooked cabbage, the vegetable still maintained much of its character while cooked just enough to be soft and easy to chew.  Of all the dishes I had at India Kabab, this remains my favorite. My grandmother, a Russian, made pirozhki with cabbage and this reminded me of her pirozhki, although a bit lighter.

Having the chicken masala and fish masala over rice, I found both to taste essentially the same. The masala sauce, sweet with hints of ginger and cinnamon, tasted fine with the rice, but remained another bland choice. I enjoyed the fish much more than the chicken, but both had a dry tough texture from sitting too long under the buffet’s heating lamps.

For dessert, I tried the rasgula, a cheese ball soaked in sugar syrup. Although a little too sweet for my taste, I enjoyed the sponge-like texture in my mouth. Others in the group did not like the texture of the rasgula.

I doubt I will return to India Kabab & Curry, but I enjoyed the cabbage fritter and the naan a lot. Some of the other dishes had qualities I liked, but I found them too bland or overcooked. I may search for another Indian restaurant to try and see how it compares to India Kabab.

India Kabab & Curry
1091 S Virginia St
Reno, NV 89502
Phone: (775) 348-6222

Store Hours:
Open 7 Days: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM

Ride That Train: A Trip to the Nevada State Railroad Museum

railroadmuseum This trip should have been an easy one. To go to the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City from Reno is simple; you take Highway 395 South until you drive into Carson City. Looking out the window of my apartment’s lobby, however, all I could see was a wall of rain, a rising river and people frantically filling sandbags.

December 2012, Reno, Nevada. Perfect father/son bonding weather.

December 2012, Reno, Nevada. Perfect father/son bonding weather.

I tell my 13-year-old son Lucas to get dressed because a little rain and flooding isn’t enough to stop us from going on our adventure. The highway, peppered with cars and trucks as we traveled south, was soaked. My windshield wipers worked to keep visibility within the realm of, well, being able to see if I was on the road and not much better. Then the driver’s- side wiper suddenly snapped, hanging lifelessly next to my side-view mirror. I had to navigate with nearly zero visibility. My windshield would clear up enough for me to see the road, only to get splashed by trucks as they passed me. As we drove down South Carson Street, we looked for the museum. To our right we saw the black smoke of an old locomotive that served as a clear sign that we just passed the museum. We turned around and parked.

Trains are a part of Western American culture. The expansion across the Mississippi River, over the Rocky Mountain Range to the West Coast could not have happened as quickly without the railways.

Lucas and I sitting on the train.

Lucas and I sitting on the train.

Lucas asked if we could go on the steam train ride first. We got tickets and boarded the passenger car. Inside, the car had strained wood edging and wooden window shutters. The rod-iron seats covered in burgundy velvet upholstery sat in neat rows. The smell of wood and burned kerosene filled the car. After a few minutes, the train’s whistle blew, the chugging of the engine began and we started to move.
The train ride was short, maybe ten minutes. The train traveled in a quarter-mile circle twice and stopped back at the station.

railroadmuseum_santatrainDuring our trip, Santa Claus, or rather a very poor impostor, came out and gave candy canes to kids and adults, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. Parents took pictures of Santa with their kids, who were delighted that Santa joined them on the train. A man sat in Santa’s lap with his kids around him as his wife took a picture him.

Lucas complained. He felt Santa ruined the feel of sitting in a hundred-year-old train car. It took him out of the moment. He and I wanted the experience of travelling like people did when the train was the source of mass transportation.

hk porter trainAfter we disembark, we crossed the parking lot to the museum. We entered, paid for admission and walked through the museum. The interior of the museum was bland, almost industrial, with its concrete floor and dark lighting. There was nothing in the entryway encouraging people to take a trip through the museum. The displays featured many cars and engines, all restored, with bits of Nevada history printed next to the trains. Many of the trains had small Christmas trees or wreaths displayed on the front of the engines. Much like Santa’s high jacking of our steam train ride, this was a distraction.

Before leaving the building, we stopped at the gift shop. It had many of the usual trinkets and souvenirs I expected to see. But it also sold many books about Nevada’s train history along with DVDs about trains, both documentaries and motion pictures.

railroad museum antiqueOutside of the museum building, we visited the garage, where the trains are restored. Walking toward the garage, I saw an old cart with rusted wheels and a dried, cracked wooden flatbed. Trains, in various states of repair sat alongside other ones, aged beyond repair, the smell of oil and burnt wood filled the air. On one side was a shop with tools and equipment. Rich, a tour guide, told us stories about some of the cars.

One particular car the V & T McKeen car No. 22 stood out among the others. No. 22 was a self-powered passenger car that took travelers from Minden to Carson City to Reno. It is an elegant-looking machine, even by modern standards. Rich invited us inside the car, asking us to please be careful because the interior was fragile. It featured restored wood paneling. The aft featured a horseshoe-shaped bench with large round windows that resemble portholes on a ship. It looked like it came out of a Jules Verne novel, a vision of the future from an early twentieth century point of view. I imagined what it would have been like riding such a car from Reno to Carson City. I tried to recreate in my mind the lifestyle of people at that time. They worked harder, but seemed not to be in a rush to get from point A to point B. The drive from Reno to Carson by car is pleasant, when diluvial destruction isn’t a threat. But standing in the McKeen, as much a work of art as a vehicle, made me think that society as a whole has lost some of the experience of travelling in our destination-oriented culture.

Rich showed us old passenger cars, with broken windows and chipped paint. As he talked about the history of the cars, all I could think about were old episodes of The Lone Ranger and other westerns that I watched as a kid at my grandmother’s house. I mentioned to Rich that the cars reminded me of those movies, with bank robbers riding on horseback to rob the train. He said these are exactly the cars that would have been robbed that way in the Old West.

Union_Pacific_poster

Cecil B. DeMille’s epic “Union Pacific” featured the No. 11, renamed the Union Pacific No. 41. The film starred three other V&T locomotives. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Then we hopped onto the hand car, a flat car with a manual lever that two operators move up and down to keep it moving. Lucas and I took it to the end of the track by the garage and back. Even at 13, Lucas had fun working the machine.

As the sun began to set, we decided it was time to leave the museum, get something to eat and I needed to stop at a store and get an adjustable wrench to fix the car’s wiper. I wanted to stop at a local place. One caught my eye down the road. Lucas, however, wanted to go to King Buffet, an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant. A growing teenage boy’s appetite and all-you-can-eat dining go together well. Since it was Sunday, the restaurant served crab and shrimp, two of Lucas’ favorites.

As he sat in front of a plate full of pink and white crab legs, determined to single-handedly eat the creatures into extinction, I asked him what he thought of the train museum. He thought the train ride was fun, but Santa ruined the experience. The museum itself, he said, bored him. It just didn’t have anything to grab his attention. However, he liked going to the garage, where he could see the work being done on the trains and he loved the manual cart.

I agreed with him. The inside of the museum had some interesting displays, but it presented them in a dull way. The garage, however, felt more genuine. Trains, like much of America’s development, succeeded because of a lot of hard work. The garage had that feel. Perhaps some of the tools used to restore the trains are modern power tools; however the work of fixing the trains involves old-fashioned hands-on work. The Nevada Train Museum was an imperfect experience, but it is still a good way to dig into Nevada’s history.

Nevada State Railroad Museum

 

2180 South Carson Street

Carson City, Nevada 89701

Phone: 775-687-6953

Fax: 775-687-8294

Open Thursday – Monday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Admission is $6 for adults. Museum members and children under 18 are free.

I originally wrote this December 2012, so specifics might have changed at the museum.

Down & Out in Reno: SPCA of Northern Nevada Thrift Store

spca_outside

Still broke? Stretching that package of ramen until payday? It is usually during times of financial hardship that Opportunity decides to give you a chance to better your life. However, you need clothes for an interview. Your morale, after a year of looking for work, has been whittled down to the breaking point. Now the phone rings, and you are asked to come in for an interview. You need to walk in looking confident, poised, and perfect. That’s easy when you have a good job and some money. But now Opportunity is knocking, and you need to look the part. A suit would be helpful.

Previously, I wrote about Plato’s Closet, a nationwide, for profit franchise. The prices are for the budget minded, and it has a great selection of moderately trendy clothing for the impoverished, sartorially-minded person. But it does not have suits.

Thrift stores, which are what this series is mainly about, are generally considered stores that sell donated items, used or new, at low prices, and the proceeds go to a charity or cause. Plato’s Closet makes no claim to be anything other than a for-profit store. Others, like Savers, pretend to be a charity, but are also in it for the money (more on Savers in the next installment).

The SPCA of Northern Nevada Thrift Store is a classic thrift store with a fine selection, excellent prices, and a great cause.

spca interiorApproaching the building from Vine Street and 4th Street, the building looks like a relic from the 70s, orange clay roof tiles and tan-on-brown paint. When I entered the building, the 70s vibe continues with its tan walls and brown tiled floor.

 

I have shopped at the SPCA Thrift Store many times during my time in Reno. I live a few blocks from the building, and it’s a handy place to visit.

It has recently been undergoing renovations, with a glass display case for jewelry and collectibles now in the front. And its clothing sections have been reorganized. Like any thrift shop, however, it will take time to find what you are looking for.

spca interior1

The SPCA of Northern Nevada also has a large selection of used furniture.

I found a charcoal, two-piece wool men’s suit that looked great. The condition was like new and, at $10, I considered it a steal. But, like many thrift store shoppers, I put it back because it was the wrong size.

Men’s clothing runs from $1 to $3 for shirts, slacks, and jeans. A few special clothing items were marked higher. But a few dollars was the general price range.

I bought this book about running for 25 cents. There was a little wear on the top right corner, but the pages were clean and intact. A great deal! Now I just have to actually go running.

I bought this book about running for 25 cents. There was a little wear on the top right corner, but the pages were clean and intact. A great deal! Now I just have to actually go running.

The SPCA Thrift Store has a good, sometimes excellent, collection of books for sale. I bought a book about running for 25 cents. Paperbacks are usually 25 cents, which is so cheap, I buy books there, read them, and then give them back. Hardcover books are usually $1. Some books are marked higher due to being a collectible or being of notable high quality. It also has DVDs and CDs for $2 each.

The profits from this thrift store go to a cause I am happy to support, the SPCA of Northern Nevada. The SPCA provides services for animals needing homes. Here’s how its described on its website:

“The SPCA, founded in 1998, is Reno’s original no-kill animal shelter. Our mission is to be an innovative regional leader in responsible treatment of homeless dogs and cats, primarily through their rescue and placement in forever loving homes and by promoting spaying and neutering to control pet overpopulation. We accomplish our mission with dedication to our core values and a lifetime commitment to our animals.”

Consider visiting the SPCA of Northern Nevada if you are looking for a pet. Oliver is 5 years old and needs a home. I would take this guy in a heartbeat, but I'm not allowed to have pets in my apartment.

Consider visiting the SPCA of Northern Nevada if you are looking for a pet. Oliver is 5 years old and needs a home. I would take this guy in a heartbeat, but I’m not allowed to have pets in my apartment.

Also, the SPCA of Northern Nevada is a local charity, so the profits generated by this store stay within the Reno community.

I’ve made many donations to this thrift store. The staff has been very friendly and conversational. They seem to truly appreciate my donations.

For more information about the SPCA of Northern Nevada, please follow the link below. If you are looking for a pet, its website is a great place to start. If you are looking for some great deals, stop by the SPCA of Northern Nevada Thrift Shop and give it a look.

If you have a larger donation, you can schedule the SPCA of Northern Nevada to pick up your donation.

If you have a larger donation, you can schedule the SPCA of Northern Nevada to pick up your donation.

 

SPCA of Northern Nevada
401 Vine St.
Reno, NV 89503
(775) 324-7776
 
Hours:
Monday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.
Sunday: 12 to 3:45

Only in Nevada

Source: Big Nickel, March 13, 2014, page 9.

Source: Big Nickel, March 13, 2014, page 9.

Is there another state like Nevada?

Looking through the Big Nickel, a free newspaper of advertisements, I found this help wanted ad for the Wild Cat Brothel.

I’m not sure if “for all positions” is intended to be a play on words or not.

At least in Nevada, according to the full page, a person has many employment choices; National Guard, Avon, motel management, and prostitution.