And I should have paid more attention. But oh, callow youth. Clearly, indulging in the delightful vapors of oil paints, turpentine, Liquin, and gesso have begun to have a negative effect on my health. I've started dressing like Bertie Wooster during a long weekend in the country.
Save your pity though. I did this to myself. Of my own free will. There is no one else to share my blame.
And I showed so much promise as a youngster. Corps-sized Waterloo era 15mm forces planned, purchased, and organized. Where did the foundations start crumbling? A seemingly harmless interest of long standing in mid-18th century warfare. Reaching a 'certain age.' Falling in with the old school wargaming crowd. Working diligently for over five years to assemble and paint large units of 30mm figures. Scratch-built stylized tabletop scenery. A vintage tweed jacket here. A pair of well-fitting leather shoes there.
Factor in a few tubes of Winsor-Newton oils and some miniatures produced by Spencer Smith and Holger Eriksson or occasionally Minden. Read, reread, and read again a few Charles Grant and Don Featherstone titles along the way. Before we knew it, I was in over my head.
Disappearing for days at a time into that den of iniquity Zum Stollenkeller. Staying up to all hours to paint figures or read. A small but respectable stack of old Miniature Wargames magazines on the floor by my side of the bed. The Wargamer's Annual four years in a row with, I hear on the grapevine, plans already afoot for a fifth. Then, things became more serious. Plastic cake decoration trees. Hobby knives, metal saws, files, pin vices. Painting conversion. Carefully cementing flagpoles into the open hands of cuirassier officers. Head swaps. The sheer perversion of it all!
But things didn't stop there. I was always after the next fix, the newest thrill, the fastest buzz. I left my old friends behind and began to run with a fast group of older guys. Mom always warned me to steer clear of fast women, but she had no clue about figure manufacturers. Rapid electronic service from the Dayton Painting Consortium and Spencer Smith in the U.K. Even faster service from Minden Miniatures. It made my head spin. Especially when my wife and in-laws unwittingly began scoring my fixes for me on birthdays and Christmas. The straw that broke the camel's back was the odorless paint thinner for cleaning brushes. Once I developed a taste for the stuff, there was no going back.
Finally, the strain of having a middle-aged delinquent for a son put my poor mother to bed for weeks at a time and broke my wife's heart. Our son couldn't bring himself to look at me anymore. "Dad, you've become hideous," he once said in a fit of temper and frustration, "I don't know who you are anymore. You're just that weird guy in the basement with the paint stained sweatpants who smells like linseed oil!" Even the dog eventually ran off. Repeated interventions by our friends and extended family had no effect. My once stable life had become a country and western tune. A 12-step sinkhole opening up under a West Virginia mining town long past its prime. A NASCAR pile-up waiting to happen.
And now it's too late. Surely, the end must be near. And it's not pretty from what medical experts at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Chicago tell me. There is no reversing the damage done already. The next stage usually involves the sufferer affecting a monocle, jodhpurs, and swagger stick, or donning a canary yellow waistcoat worn with a pocket watch. Maybe all of the above. And worst of all, your voice changes during the final stages, and you begin speaking with that high, clipped Pathe newsreel announcer accent of the 1930s and 40s!
But there is still time to save yourselves, gentlemen. Stick to Citadel and Vallejo acrylic hobby paints for all of your figure painting. Amass small armies made up of tiny units. Of ten figures or less. Better yet, switch to board gaming altogether. Don't read any hobby literature published before 1999. Ignore those tantalizing titles that Charles S. Grant keeps writing. Order and read them at your peril.
Above all, steer clear of military history between 1700-1799. Don't believe anyone who says you can control it. You can't. Not for a minute. You only need to catch sight of those old Knoetel prints of 18th century soldiers once. That's all it takes. And then you're hooked. That monkey will be on your back forever. Grenadiers in mitre caps and hussars in fluegelmutzes? Sirens. Every last one of them. Look away! For the love of God, look away!
Nope. Best simply to steer clear of classic wargaming and menswear altogether. Trust me. Your significant other, family, friends, and colleagues will thank you for it.