Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

R.I.P. THE LAST GRENADIER (of Burbank, California)

This is a bit of a hobby post, and a bit of a "life in general" post, mashed together.

I have been incredibly busy of late, with good things and not-so-good things, as is usually the case in life.

Over on my Camerone Day blog, I am chronicling the countdown to the 150th Anniversary of the French Foreign Legion's greatest victory/defeat, fought in the dusty ruins of an abandoned hacienda in Mexico, which I plan to commemorate in similar manner to "Maiwand Day," on April 30th, 2013, by refighting the battle with some nice figures on some very nice terrain.  Just yesterday I received the completed Hacienda compound, which serves as the centerpiece of this "Alamo"-like last stand.

Earlier today I headed over to visit the only wargame shop left in the San Fernando Valley, at least that I know of, THE LAST GRENADIER, on Hollywood Way in Burbank, just a little South of the airport.  I hoped to pick up an Osprey book or two, and maybe a copy of a Wargaming magazine.  Over the past 14 years or so, since first moving the Valley from Brooklyn, New York, I've spent a decent amount of time and money in the store.  It had been at least a month since I'd visited last, maybe a little more, due to how busy I've been with work and family matters.  When I pulled up and parked out front, I was met with a terrible shock, though perhaps not that much of a surprise...

That's all she wrote -- or maybe "all she rolled" in this case -- the place is no more.

I'm not an overly sentimental type, and I've never liked to listen to others pine away for the good old days, when men were men, and writers wrote with pens or pencils or Selectric typewriters, because I've always thought: why not pine away for the even better older days, when writers wrote with feather quill pens on parchment, or mallets and chisels in stone, or -- well, you probably get the idea.  But... I couldn't help but feel a tang of tragic sadness that this brick-&-mortar shop would never enable me to scratch my wargaming itch in person again.

It's true, the place had piles of dust atop its piles of dust, and could have done with a clean-up, but I still wish it hadn't done with a final clean-out.

Over the years I bought some good books, and ordered some terrain items, and watched a friend play in a 15mm Napoleonic campaign on one of the several green felt covered gaming tables in back.  I guess I wasn't a "regular", since I didn't show up every week, or even really every month, but using American television terminology, I was a "recurring" cast member, as opposed to just a one-time guest-star.

I wish I'd known they were about to close, so I could've stopped in to say goodbye to the guys who worked there, who'd helped me track down some hard-to-find items over the years, including an issue of a British wargaming magazine that featured a photo of my then 10 year-old son playing in an "Uncle" Duke Seifried game at the 2007 Historicon, and a Miniature Building Authority terrain piece which I picked up just in time for my original Maiwand Day game in July 2010.  I would have picked up a new Osprey or two, and maybe something else.  I think having missed that opportunity is what prompted me to put up this post, which has not much to do with the battle of Maiwand, or the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

Here in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, wargaming will continue without "The Last Grenadier."  No one who already plays with toy soldiers -- or board wargames or RPGs -- will stop doing so because they have closed their doors.  But there's still something a bit depressing about not having a place in the area where you can go and browse through hobby-related items.

I'm glad the joint was open -- at several different locations -- for as long as it was, and absurd as it may sound, I must say it:  long live The Last Grenadier.