Rednecks….But In A Good Way

Jeff Foxworthy says that a redneck is someone with a Glorious lack of sophistication.  I don’t want to insult or denigrate anyone, because we’re all on the bell-curve somewhere.  I just want to write about some people who, while happy and helpful, proud and prosperous, live just a little further off the paved road than most of us.  They’re nice folks, but, if it didn’t happen in their back yard, they don’t know about it.

I was a child of my mother’s second marriage.  Dad was released from the Armed Services because he contracted chronic bronchitis, caused by damp ocean air and gunnery fumes.  Mom was seven years older than Dad.  She started collecting government pension before him, and had to wait for him to catch up.  When he finally did reach 65, he had that extra disability pension, and felt that cold, damp winters, spent on the shore of Lake Huron, were not good for either of them.  They agreed that, going to Florida for some/all of the winter was a great idea.

The first year they went down, Dad towed a little thirteen-foot trailer, and they stayed about a month.  Dad had a blind spot in his right eye, because of a ruptured blood-vessel.  He misjudged a big-rig, merging from an up-ramp on I-75.  It wasn’t quite a collision but, when they got to where they were going, there was no doorknob on the trailer.  The second year, Dad had traded up to an eighteen-foot trailer, and they stayed for two months.  By the third winter, Dad towed down a twenty-three footer, and they stayed about three months.  Then they met the Tylers.

The Tylers owned a 30-acre farm. Half of it was citrus, mostly oranges with a few grapefruit trees.  The other half was truck-garden, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.  They had five fully furnished, fifty-five-foot mobile homes, used to house migrant workers during picking season.  They were more than willing to rent these out over the winter.  The farm was located half-way North to South, and half-way East to West, not close to either coast, but near Baseball World and Epcot for relatives who drove or flew down.  They charged rent at a monthly rate, which places near the ocean wanted for a week.  The stress of hauling a trailer fourteen hundred miles over three days was gone, and the rent was a lot less than campground rates, so they could stay longer.

Bogey, the husband, was born in Kentucky.  He only went to school two days in his life.  The first time, the teacher was sick, and the other time was a holiday.  He never learned to read and write.  If he received a check, he signed it with an X and his wife, Frances, had to witness it.  Frances was from Louisiana, and had a grade-eight education.  When Bogey wasn’t busy running the farm, he did odd-jobs for the locals.  He could do carpentry, plumbing, electrical and concrete work, and, if he couldn’t, he “knew a guy”.  Uneducated does not mean stupid or untrained.  When Frances wasn’t busy keeping house, raising kids or helping run the farm, she had two part-time jobs.  She would get up as early as BrainRants, to drive a bus-full of teenagers to high-school, an hour earlier than most of the rest of the country, because it gets hotter, earlier, in Florida.  Then she put in an 11 to 1 lunch shift, as a waitress at a local restaurant, checked out and drove the kids home again.

Of course, they never read newspapers.  Dad said that they had a TV, but he never saw the flicker through the windows.  Instead, they liked to spend what little free time they had at the end of a busy day with a beer on the back patio, and often invited Mom and Dad to join them.  Since Frances was from Louisiana and New Orleans wasn’t that far away, one night Dad asked if they ever got over to Mardi Gras.  “What’s Mardi Gras??”, only the biggest, rowdiest party in the country.

The next winter, after the parents arrived, Bogey told them that the farm next door had been sold to some Yankee doctor.  Frances jumped in, to tell them, “and they got nine kids.  Niiine!!”  My mother said it sounded like a good Catholic family….”What’s a Catholic??”  Well, if they don’t know what Mardi Gras is, they don’t know what a Catholic is.  They’s good Southern Baptists.

The two under-educated parents wanted to ensure that their kids “got their graduations”.  I wondered if they stored them in the same box as their diplomas.  They had two boys, a year apart, and then, five years later, a daughter, Brenda.  The boys both graduated and, with a little financial help from the parents, each managed to buy a small farm fairly nearby.

Brenda worked her way through high-school and graduated one June.  By the time Mom and Dad arrived, late in October, she had got a job as a typist/ file clerk, with the local Police department.  Dad asked her how she liked the job.  The work wasn’t hard and the guys treated her nice but….”They use a lot of funny words.”  What kind of words?  Well, a bunch of ‘em, but especially, they’s always talkin’ about Caucasians.  What’s a Caucasian??  My Mom said, “Well, you’re a Caucasian.”  No I’m not!  I’m an Amurrican!!  This from a nineteen-year-old high-school graduate.  That No Shirt, No Shoes rule means they don’t get out much.

There’s no rule that says you have to be worldly-wise to be happy, or successful.  I’m a small-town boy.  I can appreciate the bucolic peace and serenity of being out of the social rat-race, but I’m glad Al Gore invented the Internet.

Advertisements

What Did I Just See?

I took the wife out the other day.  Ooh, isn’t that nice?  A date.  Nah, first I took her to a doctor’s appointment.  Then I took her to a pharmacy with a prescription to be filled.  Then we stopped off at a supermarket to pick up a few items.  That’s about the limit of the excitement in our lives….usually.  This day then got a little stranger, but I’m not sure exactly how.

By the time we left the grocery store it was after 3:30 PM.  That’s what we get for not rolling out of bed till nearly noon.  We’d both only had a glass of juice and our “morning” pills.  As I loaded the groceries into the trunk the wife asked me if I had any plans for lunch.  Other than definitely wanting some, I said no.  The grocery store is at the end of the plaza, perpendicular to the road.  Then the buildings ell off, with a row of smaller stores at the back of the parking lot, facing the main road.  About halfway down the row is a pizza shop.

The wife wanted to share a pizza.  I thought she wanted to go in and sit down to eat.  Since she’d already walked a fair bit for her, I decided to drive the car from the store side of the lot and park in front of the pizzeria.  I cruised the line directly in front of it, but there were no open parking spaces.  Back in the second row I spotted one, right where we needed it.  Down to the end of the row, and back around to the second line, quickly, before someone else takes it, and pulled in.  I had to park carefully.  To my immediate left there were four people milling around their car.

I’d parked beside a Guidomobile, with two Guidos and two Guidettes around/behind/beside it.  I don’t know exactly what make and model the car was.  It was a bright red, small, two-door hardtop, had big wheels with low profile tires, a small whip antenna, which probably meant it had a stereo system worth more than my entire car.  It had bucket seats, a center console and lots of dingly-danglies over the windshield.  The whole bunch could have been the cast of Jersey Shores, dark skin, tight pants, muscle shirts, tattoos and lots of gold, mouth and attitude.

The wife said she wanted to take the pizza home and eat it there, so I went in and ordered and came back out to sit with her in the car, and wait for it to be ready.  It was a warm, sunny day, so we both rolled down our windows.  Now I could hear these people as they roamed around the little car, talking at and to each other.  Gabble-gabble-gabble “dos Rios”?  Gabble-gabble-gabble “amigas”?  Gabble-gabble-gabble “caliente”?  It sounded like Spanish, yet not.  It didn’t have the imperious fullness of Castilian Spanish, nor the round mud-voice of Mexican pronunciation.  This was tighter, quicker, more aggressive.  They kept looking toward the entrance off the side street.

Finally, a guy came out and moved the car in the row behind them and opened up the spot I’d wanted.  Parking spaces don’t stay empty long and the girls (25/30-year-old women) kept walking through and looking towards the side entrance.  Suddenly joy was in the air, much shouting and waving.  Another vehicle came down the driveway and parked behind them.  Not exactly a car-crushing Monster-Truck out of an arena, but, I’d have needed a stepladder to get up into it.  Black paint so shiny I could see seagulls reflected in it, and about a ton of chrome.

The driver swung down out of it and went to join his compadres.  He’s dressed like his friends, loose patterned cotton shirt over a colorful t-shirt that says ECUADOR!  Ah, it was Spanish, and that explains the accent.  The women got close to him and carried on most of the conversation.  Finally he reached into his pocket and pulled out the clichéd “wad that would choke a horse”.  It was only folded over, but he still could barely hold it.  After a bit more discussion, he flipped it open and began peeling bills off.  I missed the first couple because I was trying to see if they were all hundreds; we can tell, here in Canada, because of our color-coded bills.  They were merely twenties, but he counted out at least ten of them, and gave them to head-Guido’s tension-reducer.  She stuck them in the back pocket of a pair of jeans so tight that I could read the serial number on the top one.

Happy happy, gabble gabble, the girls walked up and both got in the back seat.  Heaven forbid a man should ride back there.  Chrome-guy talked to the other two for a few seconds, then it was handshakes and macho hugs and they started for the car too.  He followed them, still in conversation.  I heard a question, and out came the wad again.  He peeled off another twenty and leaned in the back window and offered it to the same gal.  I understood some tentative, polite negatives.  There were a couple of seconds of consideration, then the driver nodded and she took the money and stuffed it in her bra.

It was a good thing our windows were down.  When the little tuner rolled away, the exhaust could have blown them out.  Chrome-guy wandered around his toy, adoring it, while he finished a cigarette.  Then he climbed up and moved it out, quieter than the car half its size.

What in Hell did I just see?  What were these adults doing, hanging around in a parking lot in the middle of the day?  Was this payment for a drug deal?  They weren’t surreptitious, and nothing but money changed hands.  Did Chiquita get paid for services rendered last night?  Was the extra twenty a tip for something below and beyond the call of duty?  Or is that blow?  It was just so out-of-the-ordinary that I’m still curious. I wish I understood Spanish better, although with the regional accent, I’m not sure how much I’d have understood.  Maybe Chiquita was Chrome-guy’s sister, and he just gave her money to buy mamacita a birthday present.  Yeah sure, that’s it.  Anybody want to take a guess?

No Parking

Small towns are generally nicer than cities.  Smaller cities tend to be less abrasive than their larger cousins.  Some same-size cities have better manners than others.  Like the, stick shopping carts into handicapped spots in supermarket parking lots, the chutzpah, the overweening arrogance and gall many people have about how and where they abandon their vehicles, just keeps me in open-mouthed amazement.  And not a little irritation.

The daughter lives in one of two wheelchair accessible units, at the end of a row of townhouses.  Her line is the furthest of five, from the street.  In front of the row are reserved parking spaces for each of the units, then there are four spaces with visitor parking signs, then, right beside the wheelchair ramp are two more parking spaces.  These are clearly marked for the two handicapped units.  The unit numbers are displayed and wheelchair signs are mounted under them.

The daughter doesn’t have a car, so her spot sits vacant much of the time.  However, when I come over to take her to a doctor’s appointment, it is amazing how many times I find another vehicle parked in “my” spot.  The instant karma of this is that she has been trained and authorized by the city as the parking warden for her complex.  She can, and does, hand out tickets to illegally, unsafely parked cars.  Ontario has a system whereby, you can’t renew your driver’s licence or your car’s plates, unless all outstanding fines have been paid.  You can fuss and fume and claim that you won’t, as a couple have, but when the rubber meets the road, the only choice you have is between the rubber of your tires and the rubber of your runners.

The fine for any other spot in the complex is only thirty dollars and, despite the bitching, most people just pay it.  The fine for parking in either of the two wheelchair spots, without a permit like ours, is $350.  There is a sport-ute which usually parks next to her spot.  I went to pick her up the other day and (thought) I saw it.  Parked next to it, in her (my) spot was a car with a couple of people in it.  If there is a driver in a stopped car, it is not “parked”.  I stopped my car broadside behind it and went over to give the driver s**t.  Can’t you read the no-parking sign?  I glanced up and pointed to it and realized he was parked in the other handicapped spot, waiting for his disabled uncle to come out.  Right idea, just the wrong place.  I went in and informed the daughter, who came out with her ticket book.  Sadly, the interloper in her spot had a handicapped windshield tag, so he or she escaped the $350 fine.

The street I live on is populated entirely with semi-detached houses.  The unit I own is the first where one style changes to another.  All the way down the hill the driveways are on the outside of the units and adjacent buildings share double driveways.  At my building starts attached garages with common double driveways in the center.  So what, you say.  So, the space at the curb between my driveway and the one next door is half what all the other spaces are.  The city has a bylaw that prohibits parking any portion of your vehicle less than five feet from the edge of a driveway.  This allows for line of sight and a safe turn radius, backing out.  If five feet is taken, both from the neighbor’s side and mine, you can’t legally park a bicycle.

It irritates the s**t out of me to go out and find the ass end of someone’s car hanging over the end of my drive.  Little Toyotas are bad enough, but full-sized vans are a real pain.  Oh, I Can back across the neighbor’s side, if he doesn’t have both his cars on it.  Then I just swing it back around 180 degrees and slide it backwards, between Mr. Thoughtless and the guy across the street, who legally leaves his van at the curb.

I got a damaged “No Parking” sign from the daughter’s complex.  I just hack-sawed off the bent bottom and drove it into the grass on the boulevard.  We might get a street sweeper up our street once a year.  The NEXT morning, one went through, and the driver stopped and removed my sign.  The parking authority had told me that they would not put up a sign for me.  When I called to question and complain, they informed me that I wasn’t even allowed to put up one myself.  They couldn’t give anyone a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone because the sign was not legal.  Fine, then give them a ticket for parking less than five feet from my blocked driveway.

Drip, Drip, Drip!  Chinese water torture again!  I have a card with the 24/7 telephone number of parking by-law enforcement, but I’ve never used it.  I may start soon.  I’m just never ready for some peoples’ inconsiderate arrogance.  We were about to leave one day.  I opened the inner door just in time to see some guy abandoning his car.  I asked him nicely (maybe that was the problem) not to park there.  “It’s OK.  I’ll be leaving in 20 minutes.”  My mouth just couldn’t catch up to my mind.  Bu-Bu-Bu….No!  It’s Not Okay!  We have to leave now!  Then he ran four double houses down the street to visit his friend.  If that’s where you’re going, park in front of his house and block his driveway.  He’s not going anywhere while you’re there, and if someone does want to get out, you’re right there to move your car.

Perhaps the paintball gun really is a good idea.  I pulled a slashed-P, no-parking graphic off the internet, and printed a couple of copies, for the next time.  The next time came yesterday.  A house up the street was having a yard sale.  The owner brought his full-sized van down and blocked me in, so that potential customers could get to his place.  I slapped the sign on his windshield and managed to get out around him, not safely, with the extra traffic he was generating, and definitely not easily.  We returned about four hours later to find the sign in the middle of the lawn.  I marvelled at the uncaring ego and picked the sign up.  I’m cheap.  I’ll use it again.  When I got it inside, I noticed that it had a couple of pencil holes pushed into it.  I know they were pencil holes because, down at the bottom, he had scrawled, “Why Not?”

The next ones I print will include the message; It’s illegal, and include the by-law number.  It’s unsafe, which is why it’s illegal.  It’s inconsiderate, and, I have that 24/7 number.  I think I’m going to start using it.  Anti-asshole lessons being given.  Park here to register.

To Serve and Protect – Yeah, Right

With all due apologies but absolutely no accusations to KayJai’s husband, I would like to state, as delicately and tactfully as I can, that I regard anyone who unswervingly and continuously believes in Absolutes of any sort, as stupid, gullible, closed-minded and deeply into denial.  Religion, particularly Christianity, in Canada produces people whose arguments to save face become laughably Byzantine.  When the book and movie, The DaVinci Code came out, there were those who just could not see the possibility that Bishop Aringarosa would commit a small sin to prevent the commission of many large sins and save the Catholic Church and its way of life.  He’s a priest, they wailed.  He wouldn’t do that.

If you point to a news article about a priest charged with sexual assault, the answer is, “It’s an anomaly”.  When you point to another report of a diddling priest, it’s just another anomaly.  A third report, a week later gets labelled as yet another anomaly.  How many anomalies are there in a trend?  No matter how Holy or well-intentioned, all people are human.  The Holiness or good intentions may help hold them above the level of the common man, but, To Err Is Human, and human they remain.  Not every man who becomes a priest, does so just to serve God, and not every (wo)man who enrolls to be a cop, does so with the altruistic intent to Serve and Protect.

In accordance with the above stated opinion, all subsequent absolute statements should be viewed as conditional.  Police don’t want Law and Order, they want peace and quiet.  Police officers have my admiration.  I don’t think that I could put up with the s**t that they have to, day after day.  However, there are lines that should not be crossed, and valid reasons for not crossing them.  Some guys become cops because they were schoolyard bullies and want to continue to enjoy the feel of pushing others around.  Some become so convinced that they, and their cause are (Holy) correct, that, like Dan Brown’s bishop, the only sin is to get caught.

Police forces are driven by testosterone and absolute faith in their rightness.  Watch any cop movie or TV show.  I know it’s illegal to – Hack this computer – Search this house – Hold this guy without charges, but, we’re the good guys, so, do it anyway.  In the movie An Innocent Man, Tom Selleck’s character went to jail to cover up the fact that two, inept drug detectives illegally and incorrectly entered the wrong address.  It happens in real life, out on the street.  Two Toronto police officers, out looking for a “suspicious person” named Raymond,(no description) tried to stop Joseph Williams, on his way home after work.  They demanded that he stop and produce identification.  He, none too politely told them to P**s-off and go harass someone else.  It is alleged that they then beat the snot out of him for not respecting them and their orders.  His facial injuries are not alleged.  They were photographically displayed in area newspapers.  Perhaps he allegedly fell down the same set of stairs, three or four times.

The police do not like it when citizens do their job for them.  A Chinese flower merchant in Toronto had been shoplifted by the same drug addict seven times.  The merchant had reported each theft and offered to identify the culprit.  He was told by the police that, since the theft was not occurring at that moment, there was nothing they could, or would do.  The thief came in an eighth time, in the morning, and returned for another snatch and grab later the same afternoon.  The merchant spotted him, and he and a male clerk grabbed the guy, tied him up and put him in the company van.  They then immediately called the police to come and get him.

The police came out….and arrested the merchant and his clerk.  If a crime is not happening, at the moment, a citizen’s arrest is not legal.  They were charged with assault and forcible confinement.  The clerk, like most retail workers, had a box cutter.  He didn’t use it or threaten to, but was charged with possession of a dangerous weapon.

A week later, all charges against the clerk were withdrawn, but the merchant endured another eight months of legal intimidation before a trial judge finally threw out his charges as well.  The druggie/shoplifter was brought in to testify against him.

An Indian restaurant owner reported that someone had broken into his car, parked in an alley behind the business, and his GPS unit had been stolen.  Tough luck, was the official police response.  He put up video surveillance equipment.  A week later he got film of a man who broke into the vehicle and took a digital camera and a laptop.  Two weeks later, he noticed someone attempting to get into the vehicle again, as it was happening.  He grabbed a broom and ran into the alley.  Anesthetized past caring about the broom, but disturbed that his midnight value sale had been interrupted, the miscreant forced the owner back into his restaurant, uttering threats against him, and his wife and children, who were upstairs.  The cook grabbed a bowl of his chicken curry powder and threw it in his face.

When the police arrived, they arrested (Are you ready for it?), the shop owner again.  The charges this time were assault and administering a noxious substance.  Apparently, protecting property, business and the life and safety of yourself and your family is not allowed to be performed by anyone but a policeman.  I’m just cynical enough to wonder what would have happened if these two had been white merchants in Rosemount.

The strange added fillip to these stories is a (Well, they can’t DEMAND) strong request by the police department for the newspapers to cease and desist from printing negative articles which show the force in a bad light.  The excuse is that these are ongoing investigations and the police aren’t allowed to comment, to give their side of the story.  I might feel a little sympathetic except, all information printed came from official sources.  An authorized police official gave copies of the police blotter, showing the shop-owners’ reports and complaints.  The Provincial Crown Attorney (State Assistant DA, for you Americans) revealed all charges, as well as hearing and trial dates, and another police liaison officer released copies of both of the surveillance videos.

I’d sooner have the police than not have them, but they’re not perfect.  I’d sooner have them honest and sympathetic to those they’re charged to protect, than hyped up on the steroid of power and doing what they THINK is right, or what pleases them and makes them look good.

I Didn’t Come to New York City

Today, I’d like to take you for a trip with my Mom and Dad which I didn’t even go on.  Actually, it’s a couple of trips, but who’s counting?  Dad received a small disability pension from the government.  It wasn’t much, but it made the difference between being stuck in a small town, and affording to take the occasional road trip.

One summer, he and Mom decided that they would drive west to Yellowstone Park.  They drove out through the States, then went north and returned by the Trans-Canada Highway.  I moved a hundred miles away from home for employment.  My brother moved here for a while.  He even tried the big city of Toronto, but he was a small-town boy at heart.  He moved back to Hicksville, (not the one where Billy Joel was born and raised) got a job and a wife.  Dad asked them if they would like to come along.

My brother likes driving.  He currently has a job delivering for an auto-parts/hardware store.  He puts in about a hundred kilometers a day.  His part-time weekend gig is driving limousines.  At the time of this tale, he would volunteer to drive from the base of the Bruce Peninsula, all the way to St. Paul, Minnesota, to pick up parts needed urgently at his firm.  A day out, stay the night in a motel, and the next day back.  He made that run at least three times.  He also would drive 2 hours to Toronto, pick up freight at the airport, and drive 2 hours home.  He has probably driven every mile of I-75, from the top of Michigan, to Miami.  Not all in the same day, although I went with him twice and shared the driving.  We got on at Detroit, and 24 hours later, we were just east of Tampa.  He’s put on a lot of miles, and been a lot of places, but culturally, he’s never left home.

The two couples pulled in to some little roadside diner, somewhere near Yellowstone, for lunch.  My brother, being the culinary daredevil he is, ordered a hamburger.  He knows about fish and chips.  Our town had a “chip wagon”, which served French fries.  With his hamburger, he asked for an order of chips.  He bitched for months about the waitress, who went behind the counter and poured an opened foil bag of chips onto his plate, beside the burger.  That’s not what I f*#^in’ wanted, but I ate the *#@% things.

The next year, by themselves, Mom and Dad drove out to British Columbia.  In B.C., the province licences pulp and paper companies to cut trees.  In return, they must provide and maintain camping sites.  They do this by cutting a swath of trees down and leveling a road, in a loop.  Every hundred yards or so, they hack out a square spot, and level it.  Water and washrooms can be a mile away.  Not exactly cheek by jowl with the nearest neighbor, but, at least the college kids don’t keep you awake with rap music all night.

Dad backed the little camper-trailer into position, parked the car and got the trailer unfolded and set up.  Dad is the grasshopper to Mom’s ant, in this Aesop’s pairing.  He does no more than he absolutely has to and wants to wander and socialize.  Mom was hauling out the cooler, the camp stove, the food and drink, the dishes and the cooking utensils.  She turned around, and he was missing.  Where’s he gone to now, and when will he be back?  He returned about a half an hour later.  Apparently he had walked back to the nearest campsite, to talk to the folks there.  As they drove in, he had noticed that they had Ontario plates.  The color scheme was the same as B.C. plates, but with a different arrangement of letters and numbers.  The conversation went something like this.

Where you from?

Ontario.

Yeah.  I noticed that by the plates.  Where in Ontario?

Southern Ontario.  (This guy wasn’t giving anything away.)

There’s a lot of Southern Ontario, where exactly?

A town called Wiarton, at the bottom of the Bruce Peninsula.

Now Dad’s excited.  I’m from Wiarton.  Well, says the guy, I’m actually from a little village called Red Bay, a few miles west.  Dad says, yeah, I know the place, me too.  Well actually I was born at home, in a cabin, a couple of miles out.  Dad says, yeah, me too!  Back then, it was unusual for women to go all the way to town to have a baby at the hospital.  Everybody had relatives or neighbors or a local midwife.

It turned out that the two men had been born in glorified logging cabins, on the same, still unpaved county road, about a half a mile, and two years apart.  Dad was the older of the two.  They knew each other’s relatives and friends, but had never met.  I find the coincidence of meeting, three thousand miles from home, and almost seventy years later, just awe-inspiring, all because of Dad’s eagle eye.  Then again, we have my son’s story about seeing a flipped coin wind up on edge.  The song says, I didn’t come to New York City, to meet a guy from my home town, but Dad was always pleased to have run into a neighbor that far from home.