Goin’ South

Mom and Dad stayed, for several winters, with the Tylers, when they went to Florida to get away from the Southern Ontario winters.  Eventually, Bogey Tyler changed his crop schedule and needed his 55-foot trailers for migrant workers again.  My brother had lost a long-term job and got another in the grounds-crew of a local golf course.  This gave him eight to nine months of work, and then off for the winter.

After a couple of years, he got a better paying job with a small company that made commercial window and door awnings.  Sadly, the same eight to nine months of work still applied.  Nobody wants to purchase, or install outdoor awnings, in February.  Ineligible for unemployment insurance, he felt he might as well spend some time in the warm south, and joined the parents.  Recently divorced, he had to sell “their” house and split the money.  He was wondering what to do with his meager half, when the news came that they would have to find new quarters for the next winter.

The parents’ house came with a small upstairs apartment.  For years they rented to a local nurse, but eventually she moved on.  Then followed a series of worse and worse tenants, until finally Dad just said no more.  When the brother lost his house, the parents let him move in upstairs at no cost.  He was there to do yard work, run errands and keep an eye on them.  He decided to purchase a mobile home in a nearby Florida park so that they would all have a place to go in the winter.

The parents eventually reached a point where it was physically impossible for them to drive to Florida.  Mom and I used to correspond a letter a week.  One day I got a letter from her that said, “I had a heart attack.”  She hadn’t, but I almost did.  That is not the kind of information to convey in a letter, a middle-of-the-night phone call perhaps, but not a letter.  The next winter Dad thought he was having a heart attack, and my brother drove for three days to get him to a hospital in Windsor, because they could not get health insurance.

Just when they could no longer go south, my brother got a year-round job and had to stay north, both to work, and to take care of them.  He made arrangements with the park management to administer winter rental on the unit, but still had to make sure it was cleaned, the furnace worked and propane, water and electricity were supplied.  These were best done in person. His new employer was busy in the summer and slow at the end of year.  The first year they allowed him a week’s holiday near the first of December, and he called me to ask if I wanted to go on the trip with him.  I didn’t have to work as hard readying the trailer as I did at the plant, and I hadn’t been south of the Canada/US border in twenty years, so I jumped at the chance.  I had enough seniority that I could book the week off easily.

In his early retirement, Dad had driven to both Canadian coasts, but as they both aged, the long drive from Ontario to Florida became three short days of driving, and two nights in motels.  My brother however, loved to drive, and with only nine days to get a lot accomplished, saw no reason to waste valuable time or money.  I was warned that we would be driving straight through, and I was expected to spell him at the wheel.

I’ve said that my brother is an early morning person.  Excitement may have prevented a lot of sleep after finishing work Friday night, but at least he finished at 5 PM.  I had an afternoon shift, and wasn’t home till after eleven.  I don’t know what time he was up, but he told me he left home at five.  From his place, straight to the border was almost four hours.  The run to pick me up was two hours, and we were still almost four hours from Windsor.  I climbed in his van at 7 AM, and the race was on.

The connection from the bridge at Detroit to I-75 is two miles and seven stop lights.  The back-up at customs was relatively light.  Once we were on I-75, it’s a straight run to within fifteen miles of his camp in Florida.  I saw Michigan, Ohio and the beginning of Kentucky before it got dark.  After that, I knew we were in the mountains, because I could look out the window and doowwnn, and see lights, but entirely missed the vistas.

The sun came up again when we were just north of Atlanta, Georgia.  Just in time to catch the morning rush.  Down the hill into town, over a little flat spot, and down again, and traffic came to a complete stop for no apparent reason.  All except the guy in the next lane.  Screeeech, bang!  I didn’t witness anything, keep moving!  Nothing against Georgia but, unlike the beautiful mountain scenery I’d missed up north, in the dark, Georgia is flat, and orange.  People say the soil is red.  It’s prison jumpsuit orange.  I’ve seen roadside billboards, but this was the first trip I’d seen them on top of fifty, or hundred-foot steel poles.  Hotels?  Okay!  Restaurants?  Okay!  Boiled peanuts at every exit?  It was several years before I got a chance to try them.

We drove on into Florida, slid off I-75 onto the Florida Turnpike, slid off again onto a smaller highway, and climbed out of the van in front of the trailer at about nine AM.  We napped (?) until mid-afternoon and went looking for supper.  This, the first year I went down, we went to Daytona Beach and I swam, for the first time in the Atlantic.  My brother does not swim, and begrudged me the time.  Then we went back to Daytona, where he wasted an hour at the museum, while I explored the stands at the Freeway.

This was a strange, rushed way to travel, but it did leave time for me to see and experience some pleasant and interesting things.  Some day, when you’ve all had lots of sleep, I’ll tell you all about them.

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Candle In The Windy Park

I didn’t look far enough ahead, and my, blog-every-two-days schedule, fell on its ass again.  We couldn’t wait till Saturday to go to the Mennonite market, because the daughter and I were busy, so we went on Thursday.  I might have tried to get a post ready on Friday, but the wife and I were busy getting ready for Saturday.  If you’re confused and whirled in circles by that paragraph, you have some idea what I felt like.

Another couple of blocks past the daughter’s place from the big park where the Multicultural Festival was held, is another, smaller, neighborhood park.  Since the smallest, pedestrian-only entrance is off Cherry Street, some bureaucrat named it Cherry Park.  It’s been two weeks since the big festival, and cherries are just coming into season, so the neighborhood association schedules a local cherry-festival get-together at this time each year.

There are things for adults and kids, but again, commerce is the unifying force.  There are two or three food suppliers, bouncy castles, a Latin-American band, and a municipal employee handing out information about seniors’ services available from the city.  Beyond that, there are a couple of dozen purveyors’ booths.  There were two offering temporary tattoos, one with roses made from wood, a palm reader, and a woman knitting and selling all her knitted items.

The daughter and one of her friends like to attend.  Between them and the wife they put out a mixed offering.  The daughter has her artisanal yarns, and shawls, scarves and crocheted cat-toy mice, made from them.  She takes along her spinning wheel to give demonstrations and entice customers.  She and the girlfriend make up cell-phone charms, bracelets, necklaces and earrings from beads, wire and yarn.  The wife makes the same kind of thing but puts the beads at the ends of fancy yarn to make bookmarks she calls book-thongs.  Lay it in a paperback, with the beads at each end, and close the book.  The grandson still has a few pieces of primitive pottery, from his course last year.

The thing the daughter believes draws the most customers, is the wife’s hand-made beeswax candles.  She concentrates on tea-lights, both in the plastic cup, and refills for those who already have enough cups, as well as votives.

There are two honey vendors at the farmers’ market.  We buy honey from one, but get beeswax from the other, to make candles from.  While the first has good honey, when he melts the wax down, he does so at too high a temperature, and *chars* the wax.

The grandson is allergic to all grasses.  Sugarcane is just an overgrown grass, and he is sensitive to cane sugar.  We used to be able to obtain reasonably cheap and available beet sugar in town, but a tariff changed several years ago.  Since then, we have used our trips to metro Detroit to stock up on white, brown and icing beet sugar.  Michigan has a large beet sugar industry.  Unless it says cane sugar, you know it’s beet.  Sugar beet growth and processing used to be big here in town a century ago, but times and crops change.

The grandson also sweetens some things with honey.  Both of the honey vendors offer honey sticks, like thin drinking straws filled with different types of honey, and sealed.  On our most recent trip, the better honey guy offered orange-blossom sticks.  There’s not a lot of citrus grown in southern Ontario.  The wife says he means from mock-orange bushes.  They have an orange smell and impart the taste.

As previously noted on one of my posts, when something creative is happening, my portion of it is usually getting things out, cleaning things up and putting things away.  While the wife poured about fifty candles, I ran down to the basement storeroom and back at least a dozen times.  If we don’t use our heads, I use my feet.  My diet is still lounging on the couch, but he gave me a big thumbs-up.

The wife had a nasty nasal infection about a year ago.  It affected nerves, and almost wiped out her sense of taste and smell.  They have come back a little bit, and we hope for more, but, for someone who relies on them for cooking, this is a devastating loss.  She used to be able to tell when pasta was cooked.  She now relies on me to smell or taste things.

We were well into the candle-making when I remarked the entire house had been imbued with the smell of honey.  “Oh really,” she said.  “I can’t smell any of it.”  The sweet smell of honey was so thick that I could have toasted a piece of bread, and just waved it though the air to pick up the taste.  It doesn’t last until the next day, but it does help make the work more pleasant.

While socially enjoyable, the daughter did not have a great commercial day.  A couple of people watched her spin, and took her card with her email address, saying that they would contact her about specialty yarn.  Of the few things that sold, the wife’s candles were at the top.

Next weekend the friend wants to have the daughter join her at a display at the anti-violence fair, back over at the big park.  Neither of us has ever been there, but I guess I get another day of set-up, take-down and schlepping.  First, a hundred-mile Tuesday round-trip, so the daughter can get her anti-pain med-infusion.  She should be in better shape to handle it.  If I find it interesting, I’ll post a story about it.  It’s been a big day.  Now that this blog is up, I need some rest.  Till then!

My Kingdom

A theme, a theme, my kingdom for a theme.

For want of a theme, a post was lost.  For want of a post….a number of readers escaped excruciating boredom.  Oh Hell, I’ll just do what other bloggers do.  If I can’t think of anything in particular, I’ll just write about the scraps rattling around at the bottom of the waste paper basket.

I got a postcard the other day!  I thought that the digital age had rendered them obsolete.  I shouldn’t have worried.  It was hand-delivered for a local Real Estate agent.  As a piece of advertising, I think it works well.  It’s glossy printed, front and back.  On the front is a picture of the lady, vertically at one end, and a photo of a local house, with a red banner proclaiming, *Sold In Three Weeks*.  The address is given and below it, the address also becomes the website, 80oprington.com.  Someone’s planning ahead.  In five years, when the new young owners want to sell and move on, that website can be reactivated.

On the back is every kind of contact information, office address, office phone, cell phone, VirginiasHomes.ca and the same as an email address.  Also, the card is a gift certificate for a free home staging consultation if you list with her. I’m impressed; of course that doesn’t take much.  I think she covered all the bases and got maximum value for the cost of these.

About ten years ago, we were sitting, reading one evening, and suddenly all the lamps went out.  We have little nightlights in several outlets, and they remained on.  Strange, says I, along with several other, more colorful comments.  I went around the house, turning various things on and off.  Some worked, some didn’t. I turned the oven elements on, and all the lamps came back on, but dimly.  We called the emergency number for our local electricity provider, and about an hour later, we had a crew arrive.

The company says that they are responsible for everything up to the house.  After that, it’s my responsibility.  When I described what was happening, they headed for the electrical meter, and pulled it out.  Like an appliance plug, it just pushes in on four prongs.  Sure enough, one of the prongs had burned off.  The crew foreman said it was likely caused by vibration from traffic on the thoroughfare that runs behind my house.

Oh good, it’s their meter; it’s their problem.  Not so fast, grasshopper.  The meter didn’t fail.  When we plug it in, the prong is inside your house, and it was the prong that failed.  Ah yes, great bureaucrat master, I get to pay.  What a surprise!  Actually, the labor was covered, but I became the proud owner of one of the Province’s first, electronic, time-of-use meters.  The rest of the reporting/billing system didn’t go into effect for another eight years.

These are designed to bill higher for usage at peak times, and less in evenings and weekends, to encourage energy conservation.  There was a big rush to install them on any home in the Province without one, and finally, we were billed on a sliding scale.  Two years later, the power supplier to our twin city to the north is requesting the right to add $2/mo. to the bills, for thirty months, to recoup the capital outlay.  I paid for mine long ago.  You didn’t think the rest were going to get theirs for free, did you?

The company that provides to my city just quietly went ahead and added $1.49/mo. to cover their costs….except for customers who use less than 50KwH/mo.  Those they charge $1.99/mo.  If I ever think I understand the bureaucratic mind, you can expect me to run screaming from the building.  Wouldn’t total meter cost, divided by number of months, always equal $1.49, no matter how much power you use?  And charge more, to those who use less, that’ll teach you to conserve!

I scan through the items-for-sale ads each day, watching for a couple of items, for myself and others.  I got my daughter 30 balls of Angora yarn for a buck apiece, a couple of weeks ago.  I am amused and entertained by some of the ads.  Engagement ring for sale.  Never worn. Paid $3500. Will sell $1850.  Damn!  A guy with some money, and he was ready to commit, and she turned him down??  That relationship did not end well.

Ladies shorts and jeans, size 16.  Never worn.  Call xxx-xxxx, after six.  Great hopes and plans, but the diet just didn’t work out.  Jennie Craig will buy them.

The page begins with free articles.  Sometimes people want to get rid of something but don’t want it to go to the dump.  Reduce, reuse, recycle, the blue box program started in this city.  At least one of the *I’m too Duh-mb for my shirt*s works at the local paper.  Under free items; 50 paving stones.  You pick up.  Eight pcs. 2x4x8ft.  Call Bob.  Brown leather jacket size 36.  $50.  Black and Decker orbital sander.  $35.  Somebody doesn’t understand the concept of FREE.  Maybe that’s the file-clerk from my old office.

P. T. Barnum said, You’ll never go broke underestimating the stupidity of the general population, and I’d be a fool to doubt him.

What Time Is It?

Savor made me think about another basic difference between people, last night, when she remarked about me responding to a comment in the middle of the night.  Diurnal vs. Nocturnal.  There are day people, and there are night people.  The two don’t normally hang out in the same groups, but sometimes a day person marries a night person….and then the fun begins.

My parents and my younger brother were all day people, impatiently tapping their fingers, waiting for the sun to rise.  My sister and I were both night people.  Our parents, especially Mom, just never seemed to get it.  My sister married young and had five kids.  They learned early in life to get themselves fed and off to school.

Her schedule was much like mine is now, go to bed about four AM, crawl back out around noon, to feed the kids lunch.  Their family moved into a house across the corner from ours.  Mom said it was not unusual to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and see lights still on.  She bitched at my sister one time, “You should be up early, doing laundry, or scrubbing floors.”  My sister replied, “What do you think I’m doing at three AM, without the kids in the way?”

My dad got me a summer job, two successive years, at the plant where he worked.  Lord knows how early he got up.  He’d haul my ass out of bed at five-thirty.  I’d dress and have tea with him.  I couldn’t face food that early.  We started work at seven AM, and had a half-hour commute, but left around six, “just in case.”

He sometimes praised the glories and benefits of rising early, almost like a religious experience.  One Friday evening, after the standard five-thirty rousting, I got together with a bunch of my friends.  We hit the bowling alley, then a restaurant, had a swim in the harbor, hiked a couple of miles upriver, built a campfire, cooked some canned food, wandered back into town, and one friend and I went down to the beach for another, early swim.  The sun was just coming up.

I thought I might get a bit of sleep on the beach.  I knew I’d be awakened when the tourist hordes descended, but, it wasn’t to be, so I headed home.  I decided to fry myself some bacon and eggs for a final snack.  As I was doing this, my Dad came out of the bedroom.  “See what I told you about getting up in time to watch the sun rise?”  “I just saw it from the other end.  It happens every day, no big deal.  I’m going to bed now.  I’ll skip lunch.  Wake me about two, and I’ll mow the lawn.”  He did, and I did, and sunrise was never mentioned again.

As I’ve worked, I’ve had to put in a variety of scheduled shifts.  The first four years at the metal fab. shop, I was supposed to work from eight-thirty to five, with an hour for lunch, but my department was undermanned.  I came in at seven, and found that I actually got as much accomplished in the first hour and a half, before the rest of the office arrived, as I did the rest of the day.

My next job, as a purchasing agent, I worked under the plant manager, rather than the office manager.  The rest of the office came in at eight-thirty.  This nasty old square-head demanded that I start at eight.  Having put in the four years starting at seven, it was no big deal.  Usually I was there ten to fifteen minutes before eight.  I came in one day at twenty to eight, and found him just fuming.  “Where the hell have you been?  I want to place a rush order with XYZ Co.!”  “I don’t start till eight.  I’m here early, and it wouldn’t matter if I was here at six, XYZ’s sales desk doesn’t open till nine.”  Facts and logic do not trump emotion.  Despite asking four times, I left after 18 months without even the three-month probationary raise he’d promised.

I worked two years straight nights in security.  I’ve worked from four to twelve, four to twelve-thirty, four till one, and, at three places, including my retirement job, from four to one-thirty.  Two of those were supposed to be four night weeks, but one of them regularly scheduled a Friday night four to nine shift, at regular pay, of course.

I put in almost twenty years at the auto plant, rotating through successive weeks of midnights, afternoons, and days.  I could work them all, but afternoons was my favorite.  It was being half asleep on my motorcycle, going in for a day shift, that caused me to misgauge pulling in behind a bus for a turn, dropped me on the street and broke my shoulder.  Workers used to bitch about having to change shifts every week.  I brought it up with the union president one day, and suggested that we rotate every two weeks.  He told me that they had tried it before I arrived, and it failed, dismally.  It’s hard enough to change after one week.  After two weeks, it becomes ingrained and it’s almost impossible.

My last two years before retirement, I worked the four to one-thirty shift.  With the occasional need to finish a specific task, there was a bit of overtime.  Regular pay, of course, but a night or maybe two, per week, of leaving around two AM.  By the time I got home, had something to eat and drink, and wound down, it was often four in the morning.  That’s the schedule I’ve stuck with.

I don’t watch much TV, and morning shows bore and distress me.  We schedule medical appointments for late morning or afternoons.  My son is almost finished five years of straight midnights.  He sleeps from ten till six.  Our schedule meshes with his fairly well, so I’m going to keep going to bed and getting up late until I have to go to a retirement home.  By then, I hope I don’t care.

In Shape

Has anyone seen my diet?  It should look a lot like me, lumpy, round and swollen, lying someplace, moaning softly, and trying unsuccessfully to drag its ass off a couch or chair.  Poor thing never had a chance.  The, I’ll have some of this, and try some of that; at last Saturday’s Multicult festival was just the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning.

The wife bought some deformed asparagus at the market last week.  Not straight and neat, it was bent and almost twisted, but twice the amount for the same price.  The wife has developed a recipe for broccoli soup.  Chop it up, boil it, drain it, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to chicken broth.  She’s allergic to milk products, so we added some shredded Kashkaval cheese.  The name Kashkaval translates to cheese made from mare’s milk, but the stuff we get is from goat’s milk.  It has a crisp biting flavor much like cheddar.

She thought she might make up an asparagus soup, much the same way.  We didn’t put the special cheese in; rather she added a cup of Coffee Rich, liquid, non-dairy creamer.  Milk allergies, remember?  Not exactly a cream soup, but nice and rich, served with pumpernickel rolls and butter.  The son and I were supposed to sprinkle shredded cheddar on ours, but I forgot to shred.  That was supper, Tuesday night.

People who grow zucchini are always looking for ways to get rid of it.  We have found that slicing it ¾ of an inch thick, and frying it in a butter/olive oil mixture, sprinkling it with garlic salt and topping with shredded Kashkaval cheese is one good way.  Another way is buying larger zucchini and splitting them lengthwise.  Gouge out the center, retain the pulp, buzz it in a food processor, and add it to fried hot Italian sausage meat.  Steam some of the excess moisture off and add bread crumbs.  We buzz down a couple of Portuguese buns.  Seal the cut edges with Saran Wrap, and microwave the little green submarines for a minute.  Place the halves, cut side up, fill with the meat/bread mixture, and bake for 45 minutes.  Top with shredded cheese, we use the Kashkaval, but mozzarella, cheddar or Monterey Jack are good.  Place back in oven for five to ten minutes to melt cheese.  Serve to overweight blogger.  That was supper Thursday night.

At market, we were offered a deal on avocados, a whole flat for $5.  What in Hell are we going to do with sixteen avocados?  The daughter says she just read that you can freeze guacamole, and it comes back well.  Next thing I know, the son and I are making four big batches of guacamole.  I froze three, and left the fourth in the fridge, because we’re always having some kind of TexMex.  Friday, for lunch I had a platter (that’s platter, not plate) of nachos with the home-made guacamole, and some previously home-made salsa, as well as sour cream.

Saturday we had homemade pizzas, two 14 inch large.  I fried up some more of the hot Italian sausage, as well as some mushrooms, added sliced pepperoni, bacon, mozzarella and a dusting of parmesan.  We always make the two large, to put some aside for lunch for the wife and/or I, as well as a mid-night meal for the son at work.  It was a real struggle to actually have some left over.

I took the daughter to a thing called Barterworks, held at the back of a downtown vegetarian cafe, where a number of folks, as well as anyone who wanders in to the cafe, can buy, sell or trade whatever is displayed.  The son asked me as I left, to stop at a little bakery on the way home, and pick up a loaf of thick-cut French bread, so that we can have a feed of French toast and bacon (Mmmh, bacon!)  for Monday brunch.

On the Canada Day holiday Monday, the daughter and grandson are coming over early to help make supper.  We’ve decided to make up a couple of batches of perogies.  The daughter is allergic to potatoes, so we’ll use sweet potatoes as a base for hers.  Serve these little calorie grenades with some nice beef gravy and some 99% lactose-free sour cream and it will soon be hibernation time.

The doctor told me to watch my weight, so I put it out in front of me, where I can keep an eye on it.  We put aside some of our cooking in Tupperware or Ziploc containers, for the son to eat in the middle of his work-day.  Some jealous co-workers complain that he eats better on leftovers than they do with the stuff they bring.

My doctor told me I need more exercise.  I asked what I should do.  She said, “When you’re sitting at the table,”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “put your arms down by your side.”  “Yeah, yeah??”  “Bend both arms at ninety degrees, and then firmly grasp the edge of the table, with both hands.”  “What then??”  “Push away from the table before you take a second helping.”  I’m doomed, I tell you, doomed.  Maybe I could get a job as a stunt double for the Michelin Man, or Poppin’ Fresh, if I can haul my ass off this computer chair to apply.

I didn’t intend that this be a cooking column.  Did anybody get some ideas for a meal?  Damn, now I feel hungry again.  Is there a bit of cheese left in the fridge?