I Theme, You Theme, We All Theme For No Theme

I’ve been trying to post more often and more regularly.  I’ve been aiming at a new blog every two days, but the best laid plans of moose and men, etc., etc., etc.   All my brain cells are off on summer holidays.  I can’t think of a single topic I want to discuss or rant about, so this will be another “Olio” post about a little of this and a little of that, and some chilli fries on the side.

I claim to be open-minded, and adaptable, but there are portions of my life that are perhaps just a little too well-ordered.  I had a Cadbury Creme Egg tonight while watching a bit of TV.  I waited till after Easter, when those $1.49/$1.99 babies went on sale for 50 cents/ea.  I bought ten of them, and I’ve had one, each Wednesday night, for the last ten weeks.  Needing to control my weight (gain) makes it a little easier to ration them, but the organization and pleasure deferment seem to be part of me.  I’m definitely old-school.  I didn’t have any dinosaurs as classmates, a couple of teachers maybe, but no classmates.  I seem to be impervious to “instant”.  No instant food, no instant messaging, no instant gratification, no instant connections to an insistent and stressful world, unlike a large majority of the younger population.

When we moved into the old house I wrote about growing up in, in my Home Sweet Home post, there were two 15 amp fuses controlling electrical flow to the entire house.  The children of technology might find that difficult to believe.  My present small house had 36 breakers when we moved in, and we had to add four more when we installed the electronic furnace filter and the A/C unit.  How did we survive back in the dark ages?  Well, it was dark!  One light in each room, on the ceiling, only in the kitchen and living room, and we had a radio.

We used to have blocks of ice delivered in a horse-drawn wagon in the summer for an ice box.  Then we bought a refrigerator.  We had a wood stove and a coal furnace in the winter.  Then we got a propane furnace with electric blower.  We had wind-up clocks in bedrooms, and no other timepieces in the house, till we bought a plug-in electric clock.  The washing machine rolled to the center of the kitchen floor, and it, and the iron plugged in, next to the clock.  TVs became available, and, we weren’t the first on the block, but we finally got one.  TV/stereo/record players became the rage, and we finally got one of those.

As we grew more and more into the electronic age, we started having problems with blowing fuses.  Whoever had installed the electrical wiring before we owned the house had not foreseen the growth.  He had installed the little two-fuse box right where the wires entered the house, on the ceiling, in the attic.  So, if a fuse blew, all we had to do was climb up into the attic, and up onto a stepladder, in the dark, to replace it.  Dad finally bowed to the inevitable, and had a twelve fuse box installed.  Dad sold the house because the 130 year-old elm-tree support beams were starting to crack.  A chiropractor bought it.  He lives in part of it and uses part for an office.  I wonder how much he had to pay to brace up the floors and upgrade the power supply even further.

Canadians don’t tend to get polarized on issues like the Americans, but firearms is one that will do it.  Like other contentious issues, there’s a lot of heat, but very little light, a lot of well-intentioned ranting, but sadly, very little actual thought.  This is a problem that divides the urban from the rural.  City-dwellers have gang-bangers and are told by self-serving politicians that they will be safe, “if we just get rid of guns!”  The rural folks have rats of a different kind, as well as groundhogs, skunks, raccoons, coyotes and wolves.  An urban politician managed to get the bear-hunting season cancelled a few years ago, and the first bear was spotted in the north end of Toronto this summer, in over fifty years.

There is a Latin philosophical argument tag.  It is “Reductio in Absurdum.”  This means that if you push an argument to its extreme, and it still makes sense, it’s a valid assumption.  Most politicians have trouble speaking plain English.  They can’t handle Latin.  Handguns have been registered and restricted in Canada, since 1932.  About ten years ago, to make their urban majority of voters feel safe, the Canadian government set up a registration bureau for long guns.  The populace was told that it would only cost two million dollars to set up and licence fees would pay to run it.  After pouring over two billion dollars down the rabbit hole, 40% of long guns are still not registered, but they’re not being used to commit the increased number of urban firearm crimes.

 A female Toronto councillor recently went on a “mom and apple pie” crusade after a shooting spree at a major downtown shopping center, by a gang member with previous convictions and an illegal pistol.  She wants to ban the ownership and storage of any handguns or ammunition, by anyone except police.  She claims that handguns are used for one purpose only, to wound or kill someone.  Hundreds of thousands, or millions of bullets are discharged at safe, controlled firing ranges each year, without wounding or killing one person.  I feel that the responsible, registered right to continue to do so is a valid reason.

Here’s where the absurd part comes in.  If she manages to ban the guns, what is anyone going to do with the bullets?  Throw them at people?  If she really thinks that this incentive will remove all the dangerous guns, why do the police need to continue to carry them?  Ah, thinking, there’s the problem.  If the rap-sheet rappers continue to own and use illegal, smuggled guns, what good is accomplished by preventing a relatively small number of safety-trained, law-abiding citizens from following their increasingly un-PC hobby?  The cynical answer is, it makes her look good and gives her more power to control everybody else’s life.

That’s my mini-rant for today.  I’ll be back.  Salut!

Advertisements

My First Car(s)

Most young males just can’t wait until they turn 16, and get their driver’s licence.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  Perhaps it was that I didn’t think that my father would relinquish the family car to me.  My birthday is in late September, and had already passed when my Dad told me that he had found a car for me.  This was October, 1960.   Dad knew a lot of people, some of whom owed him a favor or two.  A man he worked with had a 1952 Morris he was willing to give to me, well, actually to Dad.

A Morris is a small English car.  The Morris Garage was the builder of the well-known MG cars.   Because of the Second World War, there was still a shortage of North American built cars, and the first of the imports were arriving.  I was told that this little car was not in running order, but Dad, the only person I knew, who knew less, mechanically, about cars than I did, airily declared, “Oh, we’ll have her running in no time.”  The owner lived on a farm with several other vehicles available to him, and probably just hadn’t driven this car for a year, or maybe two.  The battery would be dead and the gasoline jellied, but Dad was probably right.

We drove ten or twelve miles out concession roads, put a length of stout rope from bumper to bumper (remember those?), and towed it home.  I steered the Morris, and applied brakes when necessary, to keep from over-running the tow car.  The owner of a local garage was a bit of a snake-oil, wheeler-dealer.  It seemed like we barely got the Morris home when he called to say that he had someone interested in it and offered me a trade.  I told him it wasn’t running but was assured he could fix that.  He would send a truck with a tow-bar to bring it back to the garage, and I should ride along to see what he was offering.

He was willing to give me a 1939 Pontiac touring car, in running condition.  I think that was the first year that they changed the old, three-foot long, floor-shift for the shorter, easier three-on-the-tree column shift.  An old farmer had bought it new and seldom drove it.  A couple of years later he got a newer car, but because of the weight and traction, kept the ‘39 as a winter car.  Back then they used almost no salt on the highways, and he seldom drove on them.  The body was amazing, two tiny holes, the size of a fingertip.

I still didn’t have my licence and wanted to fix up the car for when I did.  My sister had moved into a house directly across the street.  They had a two-car garage they never used, so I wintered my car there, one space for the car and the rest for work area.  With some friends, I filled the holes and some edges, and then thought about painting it.  It came black; most of them did.  A guy in the same grade, in the next town, had one that he had painted a dark blue.  I decided on Coca-Cola red.  A cousin had got into construction and had spray-painting equipment.  We sanded, cleaned and masked it, and he sprayed it red!  I sent away for some fake bullet-hole decals from a comic book, and we put them on the passenger-side windows.

As spring progressed, I first got my learner’s licence, an adventure for another blog, and felt I should have the car ready to go when I passed my driver’s exam.  I borrowed a trickle charger, and had the battery up to full strength, but nobody had told me about gasoline jelling when it sits over a winter.  I tried to start it, and tried to start it….and tried to start it, and recharged the battery.  I gave up temporarily, thinking I needed to enlist some auto-mechanic assistance.

A couple of days later, Mr. Wheeler-Dealer called me again.  He’s got somebody who’s interested in the Pontiac, and would like to trade me a fully working 1956 Austin A-30.  I told him that I’d painted it red, and couldn’t get it started.  Not a problem, he’d get it started.  He towed it to the garage, we signed some papers, and I owned the Austin, which was a four-year newer, upscale cousin to the Morris.

I drove it all day, but when it started to get dark, I couldn’t find the light switch.  Three of us in the car and we couldn’t find it.  I quickly drove back to the garage and explained the problem.  He reached into the car and turned the lights on for me.  The ignition key went into the center of the dash, just above the ashtray.  Around the lock was a decorative little chrome ring.  All you had to do was give it a quarter turn, which I might have done, had it been marked “lights”.

It was a wonderful little car which I put a lot of miles and a lot of MPHs on.  It had a hydraulic clutch which leaked a drop of (brake) fluid each time a shift was made.  Under the hood, there were two master cylinders, one for brakes, one for the clutch.  Despite disassembling it twice, we could not locate the leak.  I learned to drive it with a couple of paper towels under the clutch pedal and a can of hydraulic fluid in the glove compartment.  The air filter was an empty Johnson’s floor-wax can filled with fine steel wool, dipped in oil.

These were rough-and-ready cars, with none of the smooth sophistication of modern automobiles.  They were fun to own and drive though.  If something went wrong, there were cheap and easy ways to fix them that didn’t involve a recalcitrant computer.

Perhaps ten years later, in our late twenties, my brother and I were reminiscing about the “good old days”.  I wondered out loud what might have happened if I had managed to get the big Pontiac up and running and never traded for the Austin.  There was a strange look on his face.  What!??  He went to a trade school, although he didn’t take auto-mechanics.  During the winter, he thought he’d do me a favor and clean my carburetor.  He took it apart, soaked and brushed it and reassembled it….and had a part left over.  You saw that joke coming, didn’t you?

He took it apart again and put it back together, and found the home for the lost part….but had two different ones left over.  Are you laughing yet?….and he threw them away!  Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  He pumped gas on the weekends for Snake-Oil Guy.  After wasting hours of his labor and causing him to have to obtain and install a different carb, he never told him why it happened.

Rebound

The bouncing ball of public comment has not yet come to rest on some items which I had previously commented on.  I thought I’d give them a quick revisit and see if I’m still as miffed, and people still think they can run their mouth off, and no-one will notice.

Re; the Alleged black mugger, dead in the park.

I know his Mamma misses him and still thinks the world of him, but….you still can’t say anything bad about a dead person.  As part of his sterling qualities, she was quoted in today’s paper, saying that, “He was interested in music.  He worked on a CD.”  Big F*** deal!  I’m interested in women, but I have no idea how they function.  Notice, she didn’t say that he sang, or played an instrument, or created music in any way.  “Worked on a CD” might mean that he was the guy who heat-sealed on, that indestructible wrapping that you need a blow-torch or crowbar to remove.  It could mean that he cleaned, oiled and reloaded a pistol for some punk rapper.  If he was all that interested in music, he shouldn’t have been alone in a park at 11:30 P.M., Allegedly with a fake gun.

Re; The guy who was strip-searched, after his 4 year-old drew a picture of a gun.

He has received an apology from the local Chief of Police, and a promise that “procedures will be reviewed”.  Apparently he’s as impressed with that as I am.  He says he still plans to pursue legal recourse.  A female columnist in today’s paper was all gushy about the “sincere and responsible apology”, and felt he should accept it and just move on.  Her article claims his ordeal lasted only four and a half hours.  His humiliation and embarrassment may last the rest of his life but, the original article said that he was left in a cell “overnight”, with no clothes, and only a blanket to cover him.  Somebody’s wrong/lying.

Police still claim that, the reason he was strip-searched, was that he was to be put into general population, and they didn’t want him to pose a threat to other prisoners.  Were they going to put him in with the others naked?  After going over his clothes, they should have been returned to him no matter where he spent the night.  It’s either sloppy police-work or harassment tactics.  I think the Chief would rather plead guilty to sloppy work than admit to bully-boy methods, that’s why the promise to review procedures, to divert attention from the unacceptable alternative.

They claim they were going to put him with others, but forgot(?), and left him alone, in a single cell.  That is yet another example of sloppy work/harassment!  It smacks of the recent story from the States, of a fifteen-year-old boy, picked up on a bullshit charge, thrown into a single cell at the end of the cell-block, and forgotten for three and a half days.  He had to drink his own urine to survive.  Somebody gotta get out and write them traffic tickets, but there’s no quota!

Re; Gay/Straight high-school support groups.

The Catholic Church, and its more vocal supporters are all over the Provincial government on this issue.  They’re playing the, “We’ll make up the definition.” game.  The premier is a Catholic, with teens in a Catholic high-school.  The female Minister of Education also has two kids in Catholic schools, and yet they are accused of ganging up on the poor, defenceless Church.

The definition game is that they are claiming that the government’s edict forces them to violate their moral code.  Which one?  The one that says they can demean people they don’t approve of?  Render unto Caesar, that which is Caesar’s, and get on with it.  The moral code as I understand it, is, Love the sinner, hate the sin, so form the damned groups, love the unloved ones, and put the moralistic preening away.

Actually, after all of this, it’s still not about the groups, it’s about the name.  They simply don’t want the word gay included.  The fundamentalists worry that allowing the use of the word might somehow imply that the Church or its agents approve of those they view to be sinners.  In a different version of the definition game, they claim that the government is forcing them to use the term Gay/Straight Alliance.  In fact, the legislation prevents the Church from forcing the groups not to use the commonly accepted name.  The students are free to call their groups anything they want, with no pressure from the state, but the fundies know what name the kids will choose, if only to p**s off these Bible thumpers.

These are the people most likely to disparage the picayune peccadilloes of the al Qaeda.  It’s like the pot calling the kettle anal retentive.  Apparently they don’t own any mirrors.  There is much in the Church, and in religion, that is good, but this is just OCD central.  Some of these people need professional help, or at the very least, signage at the end of their driveways, directing them toward reality and tolerance.  All this fuss about a word!  People used to be tortured to death, and wars fought over things like, how many Angels can dance on the head of a pin?  Are you pleased with how far we’ve come?

I’m All Ears

Since the government agency wouldn’t accept Total Hearing’s proposal for the daughter’s hearing aids, she had to go to another hearing center, get her hearing retested and have another proposal sent in.  Because I/we provide most of her transportation, the wife and I went along and watched and listened.  The more we saw and heard, the more dissatisfied the wife became with both the hardware and the customer interaction.  With three of their number being charged with various frauds, there was no assurance that they would remain in business to provide future parts and service.  When they handed over the hearing aids, they verbally assured us that there was a 90-day return period, if we were not happy for any reason.

The wife decided to take them up on their offer, and we were immediately tangled in red tape.  They got our payment immediately, via MasterCard, but wanted four to six weeks to issue a refund cheque.  Yes, we could return the hearing aids….for a restocking charge, something not mentioned in the rush to get our money deposited.  They would return our money, less $150….per ear.  Damn!  That’s $600 dollars total, for the two of us, but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  It seemed well worth the money to get away from such an unreliable, unscrupulous bunch of money-grubbers.

We went to the Arnold Hearing Centre in Kitchener.  It’s the business base for four other Arnold Centres in the nearby Southern Ontario area.  From the time we walked in we felt comfortable.  They took the time, and provided information and support that Total Hearing never bothered to.  The hearing test was longer and more involved.  Data taken for our files was more extensive.  The staff was just more personable and helpful, rather than focussed on the sales bottom line.

The model of hearing aid we chose was a little more complex than the bottom of the barrel units foisted on us by Total Hearing.  We wound up shelling out another, extra $600, but the difference is noticeable.  They are slightly smaller and lighter.  They have a wider range of controls, and they come with a business-card sized remote control to direct them.  They’re even smart enough to have a little voice that tells you “battery”, when it’s time to replace them.

Arnolds included, not one, but two, boxes of batteries, for each of us, at no extra cost.  We had bought a box of batteries from Total Hearing, but they would not give a refund for the unused balance.  I asked if Arnolds would take them as an exchange, since they were a different size from the ones in the new units, and they were happy to do so.  In fact, the day we were there, our technician said that he was running a bit short of that particular size and could use them till new stock arrived.

The cost of the unit which plugs into a TV, and broadcasts directly to the ear is $300.  Arnolds was happy that we had decided to use their Centre but felt badly that we had been dinged on the refund at Total, so they included one, at no charge.  We took it home and plugged it in.  The first night we wanted to watch a movie, it was amazing.  Not only is there no straining to make out the dialog, it makes it feel as if you are standing in the middle of the action.  We watch a fair amount of British TV, including Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.  Perhaps now, with our ears practically in the midst of the action, we will be able to forego the distracting subtitles to clearly catch the British-isms.  The most recent captioner for Poirot obviously doesn’t have the script, and makes mistakes even I can catch, especially when Hercule lapses into a bit of French.

I know that this post is probably uninteresting because it’s such a personal rant.  I just needed it, to vent my frustration at getting pulled in by some fast-talking snake-oil salesmen.  It’s also a cautionary tale for others, to think about any deal, especially one worth four thousand dollars.  After the fact, I can find no on-line review site for either the Total Hearing Centres, or the Arnold Hearing Centres, so I decided to post this to provide my own opinions about their relative merits and demerits.  If I can prevent even one potential Southern Ontario customer from being caught in the mercenary web of Total Hearing, it will have been worth it.

Please forgive my choler.  I will be back in a day or so with something a bit more universally interesting.  At least I hope it will be mildly interesting….I heard that!

California, Here I Come

This story took place in Canada.  It’s about the east coast, not the west, and it happened to my parents, not me.  Other than that, it’s exactly like the title.

My parents wanted to see and enjoy as much of Canada as they could, while they were still strong enough to make the trips.  The year after they made the trip out to B.C., they decided to drive to the east coast.  They got as far as Montreal the first day and stayed at an inexpensive hotel.

After supper, dad thought they might have a drink.  He found a vending machine where he could buy Coke, as mix, but couldn’t seem to locate an ice machine.  On his way back to the room, he encountered a man with a bucket of ice, and asked him where he had got it.  The guy said he had to ask a hotel employee, who got it for him.  Dad complained that he had asked two different employees.  They had mumbled something in French and walked away.  The guy told him to wave American money.  If they think you’re a Yankee, they’ll fall all over themselves.

There was no bridge over to Prince Edward Island at that time and Dad didn’t want to take the ferry to see a whole Province that’s smaller than Southern Ontario.  They drove through New Brunswick and on into Nova Scotia.  They drove north and followed the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton.  On a whim, Dad decided that they would take the ferry over to Newfoundland. There is actually a legal Canada Post outlet on the ferry.  You can buy postcards and stamps and deposit mail in a receptacle.  At the end of the ferry’s day, the Canada Post employee gathers all mail and takes it ashore for sorting and shipping.

They bought several postcards and began addressing them, one to Mom’s younger brother, one to my half-sister, one to my brother, and then the problem struck.  They knew my name, of course.  They knew the name of my city.  They even knew my house number, but, do you think either one of them could remember the name of the street I lived on?  Now that I’m almost their age, I understand the mental block.  They pondered and thought, then Dad got up and wandered away.  Mom was thinking, Oh sure, leave it to me while you go socialize.  A couple of minutes later, Dad came back.  Frederick Street, he says.  Oh, you remembered.  No, I asked that kid over there.  Mom wanted to know how some teenager on a ferry to The Rock, knows where her son lives, four Provinces west.  Simple, Dad says.  He’s wearing a U of Waterloo (our twin city) jacket, so I described where the street started and where it went, and he knew.

They landed and drove off the ferry, and north to Corner Brook.  They’d been living and showering in hotels/motels for over two weeks.  My mother used to have her hair done at a salon every Friday, so she told Dad to keep an eye out for a hairdresser.  As you enter the city, you do so on a one-way street.  About a block ahead, Dad saw a car pull out of a parking space on the left hand side.  He pulled into the recently vacated spot and looked toward the businesses.  They were parked right in front of a nice hair salon.  Mom went on in to see if they could take her, and how soon.  Dad would have put money in the parking meter, but it still had time on it.  The ladies inside weren’t busy at that moment, and took her immediately.  An hour later they climbed back in the car, and there were still a couple of minutes left on the meter.  The word is synchronicity, a collision of possibles, so unlikely, that it almost seems to imply Divine intervention.

Having come this far, they decided to drive across the Province to St John’s.  They drove and drove, and drove, and drove.  The views were breath-taking, but Dad used the term, boringly beautiful.  Oh look, another mountain.  Newfoundland is the end of the Appalachian Chain.  It’s not The Rockies, but it’s still mountains.  They climbed one long hill, and, just over the ridge was a garage/diner/rest area.  Dad gassed up, and then they went into the restaurant, for a stretch and some lunch.

As they came out Dad said, he could hear a car laboring up the long hill just over the ridge.  Just as it reached the top, there was a bang and a lot of smoke.  The car had thrown a piston rod down through the oil pan.  The driver managed to coast it into the garage area.  The attendant examined it and gave him the bad news.  Can you fix it, the owner wanted to know.  Oh yeah.  No problem.  How long would it take?  “Well,” said the mechanic, “If I can get the parts from St John’s, two to three days.  If I have to wait for parts from Halifax, it’ll be two to three weeks.”

Fun’s fun, but, being stuck on this rock for two or three weeks isn’t it.  Or, hire a ride to the airport, fly home, fly back when the car’s repaired and hire another ride out to the middle of nowhere.  The cost would be more than the car was worth.  Discretion being the better part of sanity, Dad turned around and headed back toward the ferry dock.  There’s a reason life moves a little slower on Newfoundland.  If they’d had friends and family to help, it would have been a different situation.  Dad just wanted to get back to civilization the mainland.

 

Getting A Real Education

When I was going to school, I never thought about the teachers.  That is, I never thought about where they had come from, or just how they ended up where they were.  In public school, grades 1 to 8, they just were.  Some were nicer. Some were more inspiring, but generally, they just were, a necessary evil.  As I proceeded through high school, I started to wonder about some of the idiosyncrasies.  It wasn’t till I became more adult, that I could look back on those who had helped mold me, and understand what had molded them.

When each class graduates from a teachers’ college, the ones at the top of the class get to pick where they will teach.  It might be in a big city, with a bigger pay, or their home town, or where a husband or wife already has a job.  The ones at the bottom of the list wind up in increasingly remote, undesirable locations.  My high school wasn’t exactly the restaurant at the end of the universe, there was another 100 Kilometers to the top of the Bruce Peninsula, but we got some “interesting” instructors.

Because of the size of the school, most teachers had to teach more than one subject.  Sometimes the juxtaposition was laughable.  The same single male teacher who taught Chemistry, Physics, Botany and Zoology, had to teach boys’ Phys-ed.  Called Chick, or Chicky, but never to his face, he was five foot three, and was never seen without a suit and tie.  He taught me what little gymnastics I could absorb.  The high-bar that the jocks could just reach up and grab, he had to jump for, but where they couldn’t get on it, he wound himself up like a little monkey.  It was fascinating, watching him whirl around, with his rule-violating street-shoes going one way, and his tie streaming in another.  When he wasn’t busy teaching, he was busy drinking and going to dance-halls to try to pick up the same teenage girls he had just taught in class.

Another of our male teachers had to teach English to grades nine and ten, and Mathematics to eleven and twelve.  He had a speech impediment, and it was all we could do, not to laugh when he talked about turdy-tree and a turd.  I don’t know how much of his own English education he slept through.  He taught us the story of the Daedalus and Icarus, who made wings and escaped by flying away, only, he pronounced them Duh-lawd-us and Iraq-us.  I told him one time, that his humor was very intrinsic, and the English teacher smiled and thanked me.

He used to sit on the right corner of his desk, cross his legs and swing the top one in and out, and invariably kick over the waste-basket.  Clang, clang, clang.  He’d pick up the mess, put the pail right back where it had been, cross his legs, and kick it over again.  I sat at the back of his class.  One day, he was droning on, and I picked a spot on the ceiling and stared at it.  Took a minute or two, but suddenly he asked me a question.  Without a second’s hesitation, I gave him the right answer, never taking my eyes off the spot.  Now he had to wander back, while lecturing, and stare up where I was looking, making the whole class wonder what in Hell was up there.

One year, the theme for the senior prom was Carousel, a soft pretty idea.  The movie, based on the play, had been released a few years earlier.  On a bulletin board across from the office, the notice went up.  Just as the Principal walked by, I loudly exclaimed, “Oh look, the theme for the prom is carousal”, an apt name, meaning mobile Bacchanalia.  Sure enough, the Principal’s morning’s announcements included one about the upcoming carousal.  Only about half the students *got it*, but my work had been done.  I wasn’t a shit-disturber in school, really I wasn’t.

The shop teacher was like every shop teacher, only, maybe a little more.  He was five-foot four….in any direction.  He was a little pig of a man, but I kinda liked him, even if a lot of the guys didn’t.  His vocabulary included phrases like, “It was darker than the inside of a pig’s ass”, and, in referring to the embarrassment he had inflicted on some poor student, “He turned as red as ten bottles of ketchup.”  I don’t know why he thought ten bottles, or even two, would be any redder than one.

He owned the standard shop-coat and, judging from the food stains on it, it was older than any of us.  He liked to put it on at the beginning of the first class, stuff his hands in the pockets like Napoleon, playing with himself, and strut around self-importantly.  One of the students was a farm-boy whose parents raised ducks.  He brought in two duck-eggs, half-filled the pockets with sawdust from the circular saw, dropped an egg in each pocket, and tapped them with a hammer.  Try not to laugh, go ahead, just try not to.

In the winter, he liked to hang the shop-coat on a peg right above the hot air register.  That way it was nice and warm to put on in the morning.  We had the last shop class of the week.  He wandered over and hung the coat up, and one devious classmate held his attention while his conspirator friend put a piece of Limburger cheese in each pocket.  Perhaps one of them was the humiliated kid with the ketchup, or maybe they were just little assholes.  We were told that the stench, Monday morning, was impressive.  The windows were open to the winter, all day.  He went without Old Faithful for a day, and came in the next day with a new coat.

I learned to be an educated, responsible, mature adult from these role-models, I assure you I did!

Coals To Newcastle

I say that I didn’t know what a “Newfy” was until after I moved here to the Big City, but that’s not exactly true.  A Newfy (or Newfie) is a resident, or ex-resident of Newfoundland, the easternmost Province of Canada.  It’s a big rock that sits in the Atlantic Ocean.  I said in a previous post that a redneck might live a bit further off the paved road than most of us.  Just imagine a place that requires a boat to get to, not just the big Rock, but little fishing villages along its coast, outports, which have no roads, and must be reached by smaller boat.

It’s a delightful place.  Even in the few cities, life moves at a slower, more casual pace.  Because of the collapse of the fishing industry, large numbers of Newfies had to leave the Rock, to seek employment elsewhere.  Many of them moved to Alberta, to work in the oil industry.  It is said that, there are more Newfies in Fort McMurray, Alberta, than there are left on the island.  This is almost ironic, because they have now discovered oil under the ocean bed, just off Newfoundland, and many of these experienced workers can now return home to work in their own Province again.

They have been insular in the past, because they are, literally insular.  There had not been a great deal of cultural cross-pollination. The Province, and the people of it, continue to grow towards integration with the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world, because of improved communications abilities.  Still, they have their own ways of doing things.

One of the men of my home-town came back from the Second World War with a wife, a woman he met and married when he was posted in Newfoundland.  She was a bit eccentric, but really, not much different from some of the other characters in the comedy stage-play that was my little town, not until the strawberry jam.

We had had a beautiful spring, and early summer.  It had been perfect weather for strawberries, not just my area, but the entire eastern section of Canada.  Supply and demand, you could obtain as many as you wanted, at bargain-basement prices.  This lady bought flats and flats of them….and then had to figure out what to do with them.  “I know, I’ll make fajitas jam”, so jam she made.  Now, what to do with all this jam?

She decided that she would send some of it back to her sister, still in Newfoundland, despite the fact that the strawberry crop there, was even better than it was in Ontario.  Now, “normal” people (myself not included) might have called up FedEx, or maybe taken it down to the nearest Canada Post office, for shipping.  Dat’s not de way we Newfs does t’ings.

She knew a Newfie guy in a town about a hundred miles away, so she called him up to ask if he was “goin’ home” that summer.  He admitted that he was, so she asked him if he would take this case of jam back with him.  He was happy to oblige.  To get the jam to him necessitated picking a mutually empty Sunday, and driving the hundred miles, two hours, to get it to him.  And then it was, sit down and chew the fat, have some rum, and maybe a few beers, and you’ll be staying for supper, and then some more gabfest and rum and beers, and another hundred-mile drive home.  Nothing to it.

He eventually drove it down east, and over to The Rock on the ferry.  When he got where he was going, he phoned the sister and her husband, long-distance.  Like the Ontario end, they lived a hundred miles away too.  Then the game started all over again, this time in reverse.  Pick a day, drive the hundred miles, almost three hours, the roads in Newfoundland aren’t quite up to mainland standards.  Shoot the shit, drink the rum, stay for supper, yak till the flying fish come home, and then drive three hours back.  Because of the isolation, almost any excuse is accepted for socializing and a wee party.

When the ride finally came to a stop, the sister in the wilds of Newfoundland phoned the sister in the wilds of Southern Ontario to ask why she had sent this jam down….without asking, or warning.  “I’ve got a pantry full of the stuff.  I’m trying to give some of mine away too.”

A small vignette about Newfoundland hospitality.  Another female co-worker came to Ontario with her parents when she was eight years old.  She didn’t have a chance to “Go Home”, as they say, until she was 23.  She’d graduated, got her first job and saved for vacation.  It had been fifteen long, very formative years.  The thing she missed the most, and the first thing she wanted to see again, was her beloved grandmother.

She went over and knocked on Granny’s door.  Grandma greeted her with a big smile and an invitation to come in.  Sit down, girl.  Would you like some tea and scones, and jam?  And how are you this fine day?  Small talk for ten or fifteen minutes, finally Granny looked at her and said, “So, you must tell me.  Who are you darlin’?”  As far as she knew, she’d been entertaining a perfect stranger, and was amazed to meet her own granddaughter.  You or I might find that strange but, down there, if somebody knocks on your door, there must be a good reason.  They’re home, and they’re welcome.