An Alternate Reality & Other Fake Facts







Well, it’s been a weird month, probably the first of many. I used to know what
was going on in this country. I no longer have any clue. I don’t trust the
network news, there’s no consistent credibility in social media and I feel we’ve
finally stumbled into an age where lying and spinning are taken for granted.
I grew up in a different time… the ’50’s and ’60’s, when you didn’t have to
dig for the truth to find it.

And so it is that I’m having some difficulty with the realities of today’s world.
So much so that I’ve decided to escape from it. I still read the paper, I still
watch an occasional newscast, as much for B’s and my preservation as
anything. One must know one’s enemies, even if your “sources” are somewhat

I used to be able to make the realities of the day disappear by writing and
playing music. For years it buffered me from many of the seamy realities I
didn’t want to deal with, and couldn’t change. Working in a busy recording
studio was the perfect way to stay happily preoccupied while getting whatever
information you wanted from the outside world like a milkshake through a
very narrow straw. It worked beautifully, for a long time.

But times change. And we change, too. Sure, I can still hide from the ugly,
tangible realities of the world with music, for a little while. But as an escape,
after fifty years I’ve pretty much used music up. Besides, playing piano
affects me a bit differently than it used to. Before, I’d get lost in the beauty of
it and my participation in the moment of making music. Whereas now I get
more emotional about it. Music, especially the older jazz tunes, brings back
stark memories that delight me, and move me. Unfortunately, they also remind
me how much different I, and my world, was back then. And I liked “back then”
so much better.

The Alternate Reality

Not being able to change today’s world, or myself to any measurable degree,
I’ve discovered a new way to create another reality, another world. It happened
accidentally, and I didn’t even know that it was working, or how and why it
was working, until a good friend pointed it out to me. It’s as simple as a
new hobby… building model trains!












Yeah, it’s crazy, I know. We started building this electric train layout in our garage
four months ago. I told my good friend about it, about how much we were enjoying
the process. His reply was the catalyst for this whole train of thought, if you will.
We were chatting about the U.S. predicament, and about my interest and
enjoyment in our mutually newfound hobby… and he said, “we’re building a
“world” which represents a place/time that was much more positive.” He
is so right, and it’s so true… that’s exactly what we’re doing. B and I have been
immersing ourselves in trains, switches, little towns with little buildings,
with little cars parked beside them. And probably, though I never really
thought about it, the little people inside the little buildings are all honest,
hard-working folk who all know each other, help each other, work with
each other, and probably know Andy of Mayberry and “Aint Bea!”







I don’t know. As I write this, it sounds a little sick. Probably an analyst
would have a ball with it. But if it’s actually therapeutic, if it keeps my
head stuck safely in the sand, if my blood pressure is lower and my
dopamine level is higher… then what’s the harm??







Our trains run through Cicely, the town in Northern Exposure

Guess I need to suck it up here and admit to you that I’m having a blast
with it all, that my little world of trains and buildings, with its little
hills, a small pond at the edge of town,, trees and shrubs and all the
other refinements B and I have yet to add, have brought us hours and
hours of enjoyment. Whether there’s a potential dark side to this pollyanna
exercise, only time, and my therapist, will tell. Actually, I don’t have a
therapist. Wait, yes I do… it’s B!! She’ll certainly let me know when I
become certifiably crackers. Until she does, let’s forge ahead! Wire those
switches and blocks! Lay that roadbed! build those little sidings and towns
and immerse ourselves in a tiny 6’ x 8’ world of our choosing! Why, there’s
a bar, a cafe, a hotel and a candy store! And look… the train goes right to the
station, which is located at the edge of town. What a cool place…
I’d like to live there. No, I would! I’d really like to live there! C’mon, B,
let’s do this! Wish us luck, we’re going in…

Steve Hulse


One Reply to “An Alternate Reality & Other Fake Facts”

  1. Save a seat for me on the crazy train! I collect American Girl dolls for this very reason – a hobby that relaxes and delights me and reminds me of a gentler past. Your project sounds amazing and I hope you’ll keep us posted 🙂

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