Trippin’

Last Friday, as the sun disappeared south of the equator for the winter, I wished that I could follow it.  On that day, I reached my best-before-date of 68 years old.  The decrepitude is decreeping up on me.

I was allowed to choose a supper menu for my actual birthday meal, and decided on chicken schnitzel with fries and gravy.  We have schnitzel about once a month, but it’s usually pork schnitzel, purchased over at Eurofoods.  Chicken is a bit more labor to prepare, but nice to have once in a while.  Saturday night, when the son’s taste buds were more awake, we had bacon-wrapped filets with baked potatoes and fried zucchini.

Friday for lunch, I made myself another platter of nacho chips.  The son works a midnight shift and is done Saturday morning at 7 AM.  As sometimes happens, the joy of weekend freedom kept him awake.  Instead of going to bed around 10 AM, he was still awake when I finally rolled out about noon.  Since he doesn’t get Tex-Mex as often as I do, he suggested going to Taco Bell for lunch, while we were doing some shopping.  I should have been eating up leftovers to clean out the fridge, but couldn’t resist some face-time with him.

When we got home and admitted what we’d done, the wife asked if I’d forgotten what I’d had for lunch the day before.  I asked her if she’d forgotten what we’d planned for supper on Sunday, when the daughter, grandson and fiancée came over.  The stuff we picked up while we were out was for beef fajitas.  Tex-Mex three days in a row!  Am I happy?  Si, senor!  Muy bueno!

The loot presents I received on Sunday for my birthday included an Esso gift card that I can use for gas this coming weekend, and a Chapters bookstore gift card that will continue to come in handy anytime.  My grandson and his fiancée presented me with a lovely carved letter opener.  When I slid it out of its holder I thought that it was ivory, because I saw off-white, but when I turned it over, I saw amber/honey color, and realized it was banded agate.  The end of the hilt is a Scottish thistle, to commemorate my heritage.

The wife and I got me a coin for my birthday.  Since the Canadian Mint no longer stamps out pennies, they are offering a twenty-dollar, 99.99 fine, silver coin.  It has three Maple leaves as the penny did.  When I ordered it, I thought it was penny-sized, but when it arrived I found that it’s as big as a quarter.

We’re off to metro Detroit for the weekend.  I have to remember to add the “metro”, lest someone think I’m entering the war-zone.  I made a mis-turn one time, and wound up right down-town.  Ours were the only white faces, and none of the well-tanned ones looked too welcoming.  We stay at a motel 20 miles down I-75.  It’s down the street from a big Meijer store, where we plan to do some shopping, and right across the street from the Gibraltar Trade Center, a gigantic flea-market/food-court/display arena, where you can lose an afternoon, and we plan to.

Not that we need one, but the excuse for the trip is a knife show.  We’ve been down for spring shows several times, but this is the first time we’ve come down in the fall.  We’ve never had a problem getting our choice of room type.  It may have to do with college football, but when I reserved the room a week ago, all the ones with king-size beds were taken.  The wife and I have trouble fitting in a standard double after years of a king-size.  I once missed an exit in Pennsylvania, coming home from Charleston, and drove from Pittsburgh, almost to Buffalo, before we found an officially un-open motel with a vacancy at two in the morning, because of college football.

We’ve offered to take the grandson and his fiancée with us.  She politely declined because her job includes weekend work.  If we’d got a king room, we could have got a cot for him.  He’s spent a year out of high school thinking about a career.  He wondered about horticulture, working one summer at a greenhouse, but jobs in that area are scarce (aren’t they everywhere?), the pay is poor, and the work is seasonal.  He currently has a half-day job at a transport depot.

He has decided to go back to school for a year to train for welding.  His schedule will be; walk to school for two hours of class, bus to co-op placement for four hours of training, bus to part-time job for four hours of work, then bus home after a 12/14 hour day.  It’ll be a killer schedule but the job prospects for a welder are fairly good, and the pay is decent too.  His co-op hasn’t kicked in yet and he’s booked the evening off at work.  By the time you read this, we should be on our merry way to the Motor City.

His Mom had to put a rush on his passport.  We provided a copy of our reservation to justify the hurry.  All goes well, he will have picked it up at the local passport office Thursday afternoon.  As partial justification of an earlier claim, we will be taking some orphans back to the U. S. with us.  In just over two years I have accumulated 36 American quarters, 36 dimes, 25 nickels and eight rolls of pennies, for a total of $17.85.  The daughter is sending the grandson with a roll of quarters, six rolls of pennies and a handful of assorted change about half as large as mine.

We’ll wave at Chatham for KayJai as we pass.  We will enjoy the knife show on Saturday, do some shopping, including some beet sugar at Meijer’s Sunday morning, roam the flea market in the afternoon and just generally enjoy the trip and the change of routine and scenery.  Blog to you early next week.

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Choo-Choo

Before the summer ends, I thought I’d take you all on another virtual vacation trip with my parents.  After we had bought that bank-vault on wheels, we took it camping in a variety of places.  One summer, my Dad decided we would concentrate on the area near Bracebridge, Ontario.  Since that fateful summer so many years ago, Bracebridge has installed a theme park called Santa’s Village.  Nowhere near as large and all-encompassing as the all-Christmas, all-the-time town of Frankenmuth, MI., but it still draws its share of tourists.

We pulled into town and located the tourist camp.  The town is on the edge of the Canadian Shield, so there is lots of rock.  The camp itself nestled along the edge of a river at a big bend.  Projecting above the campgrounds was a vee-shaped, hundred foot high, stone outcropping.  After we got set up, my younger brother and I went for a walk.  About a block back, where we entered the camp, the rock sloped down so that you could drive about half-way up the steep grade, and climb to the precipice.

We walked up and stared down at our tiny trailer.  In today’s world, there would be steel railings, high mesh fences, air-bags at the bottom and so many warning signs, that you couldn’t see the magnificent view.  Back then there was common sense and self-reliance, and a hundred foot drop.  Having seen what was to be seen, we felt we should return to camp.  Most people just went back down the middle, but we wandered around one edge.  The front was so sheer that only a professional climber with pitons could ascend.  Around the side, where it was merely 90 feet high, the wall was only an 80 degree slope and had cracks and little ledges.  “Do ya want to climb down?”  And down we started.

We made it down safely, although we could have walked back around and got home sooner.  At the bottom was an eight foot pile of scree, which angled down to the edge of the road.  I stepped off onto it carefully, but my brother dropped the last couple of feet into it, and lost his footing.  He tumbled into me, and the two of us rolled right down onto the road, and nearly got run over.  The fact that it would have been ironic wouldn’t have made the hospital visit any better.

The next day we packed the trailer back up and headed further north.  I asked Dad where we were headed, but he just said, “You’ll see.”  We didn’t exactly get lost, but we didn’t get where Dad wanted to be, and had to turn around and go back, and then onto a different road.  Back before GPS and computer maps, I’m surprised that anyone ever got anywhere.  Without Sacajawea, Lewis and Clarke would still be in the parking lot at a Wal-Mart in Montreal.

We finally turned off the paved road, and headed into the bush.  After a couple of miles, the dirt road T-ed out.  Do we turn left or right?  Dad finally decided on right, and started to drive.  After a while I noticed that there were steel rails not too far off the road.  Dad finally admitted that he had heard from someone, that there was a miniature railway back here, which connected two lakes.  We drove for another mile or so and came to one of them.  The tracks went right out onto a concrete dock.

Apparently, by getting lost, we had come at this railroad from the wrong side, and should have turned left at the T-intersection.  If we had gone the other way, we would have reached a nice little campground and village.  On this end there were a few houses and a tiny general store.  Because we drove the extra miles, we had run out of daylight.  The sun was going down.  No time to drive back through the bush to the other end.  Dad talked to the store owners.  They were heading for bed, but told us we could park on the tiny lawn at the end of the building.

There was no room to open the trailer, so we decided to just sleep in the car.  Fortunately it was a station-wagon.  We hauled the stuff in the back out, and Mom, Dad, and my brother slept (?) in the back.  I jammed my feet under the steering wheel in the front.  We had no mosquito netting and it was way too hot and muggy to roll the windows up, so it was doze, slap, doze, slap all night.  I don’t want to say that the mosquitoes were big, but I saw two of them molesting a seagull.

We were out of the car at first light, and down to the lake with soap and wash cloths.  These little lakes sit in hollows of solid rock, and their average temperature is enough to make penguins order take-out.  The store finally opened at eight AM and we got some coffee and hot chocolate for breakfast.

The tiny train was sitting right across from us, so we went over to have a look.  Unless it got lost when Mom died, we have a photo of me, as a twelve-year-old, stretching up to lean on the walk-rail around the front of the steam engine.  Re-watch Back To The Future III to see Doc Brown, and how big the full-size model is.

Finally a couple of guys came from the nearby cabins and started the boiler on the train.  By ten o’clock it was ready to make its first run of the day.  A locomotive, a fuel tender, (I don’t remember if it burned coal or wood.) three flat-bed freight cars and a passenger car.  The two lakes were only four miles apart, but, to get from one to the other by water, was over fifty miles.  The little railway had been put in to haul lumber, small boats and other freight.

Off we went for a lovely ride through the woods.  When we got to the far end, there was a two-hour hiatus before going back, but at least there was more civilization to wander around and look at while we waited.  Finally, we huffed and puffed and chuffed our way back to the car.  We drove back to Bracebridge and stayed at the same camp for another day to recuperate.  Wrong turns and giant mosquitoes and all, it was an adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss.  I hope you’ve enjoyed rummaging through my fading memories.

Happy 100

This is my one-hundredth post.  To some of the bloggers I follow, that would be ho-hum.  The way they pump posts out, that could have been accomplished in a couple of months.  It has taken me ten months to get this far.  I started slow, then tapered off.

I knew I wasn’t ever going to set the world on fire literately.  In fact, when I started, I wondered if I would attract any readers other than the few bloggers I had been bedevilling with comments on their posts.  Like other aspects of my life, I later found that I was doing the right things by instinct, to attract readers and followers.  Seldom able to keep my mouth shut, or my fingers still, I went further and further afield and made comments on a variety of blogs.  I later read from WordPress, that this is a good way to attract followers.  I’ve never actually been told to mind my own business, although there have been a couple of curt and dismissive responses.

I try not to antagonise anyone on their home turf, even when I disagree with them.  That’s not a problem with my core group.  For as much as we are all different, it is intriguing, how much we are the same.

I sit safely in the *average* slot, as far as bloggers go.  I visit other sites which have only a couple of followers and often several consecutive posts, before anyone makes a comment.  I’m not a Byronic Man, a BrainRants or a Madame Weebles, with hundreds, or thousands of followers, and a comment thread like a papyrus scroll.  I have managed to acquire almost 60 followers, a small cloud of *likes* on each post, and intelligent, insightful and supportive comments from a nice bunch of folks.  More ho-hum, but I’m closing in on 4000 hits.

I only post every two to four days, so my normal daily readership runs from ten to forty.  My best day was 71 hits, and that was for a little throw-away acceptance speech for a blog award.  I’m not worried by it, but I am perplexed that, after ten months on the WordPress scene, I recently had two days, just over a week apart, when no-one came to visit.  I’ve had onesies and twosies, but I really got lonely a couple of times.  I had to go bug some other bloggers.

Bloggers disappear from the scene all the time.  I’m sure some of them are like me; they have a limited number of things they wish to post about and just run out of ideas.  My wife recently commented that the number of letters-to-the-editor I submit has dropped.  Of course, six to eight op/ed pieces a year don’t add much when the blog count hits a hundred.  I still write down potential post themes when one penetrates my thick skull.  I know I’ll get to my anniversary blog, but may have to space my posts out a bit more.

I’m not a rabid numerologist.  I get a kick out of catching my digital watch at 3:33:33, or 11:11:11, or 12:34:56, but I’m enough of a realist to know that blog number 100 really is no more special than number 99 or 101.  It is a small milestone that I am happy to have reached, with the support of my select little cadre of readers and followers.

I’m typing one-handed right now.  No!  Not because I’ve been viewing porn.  I think I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, patting myself on the back for getting this far.  I’ve had four blog awards thrust upon me, but that’s like contracting mono.  There are so many awards drifting around at any one time, you’d have to be a blog-virgin not to get at least one, but it is nice to know that I am noticed and appreciated.

I just visited aFrankangle’s blog, and was treated to a large dose of reality.  It was tempered with a small platter of pleasure.  I got to Frank’s site just in time to see his 1000th post.  I have got soooo far to go.  Frank also revealed that my grumpy American curmudgeon counterpart, the much respected, and until now, blogless, John Erickson, slipped and has finally fallen into the blog pool.  It’s thyme to visit the sage of Ohio at www.windycitywonderer.wordpress.com.

To all who have tolerated me, taught me, led me, and even encouraged me, I give again, a huge thank-you.  Since I have to live so much inside my head, it is pleasant to have such nice neighbors.

Don’t Yell!

I got yelled at by three people I’m not related to by marriage or blood last week.  I must be doing something right.  Well, one was a honked horn, and one was a snide whisper, but still, a good week.

I started off the week at Eurofoods, my favorite little deli.  It must have been seniors’ day, at least six pairs of old folks wandering around.  I was the young kid in the room.  I walked down the counter to the number-spitter and got a ticket.  Then I tried to get down to the far end of the counter.  Just past the bingo machine, the counter dips in about eight feet.  This leaves space on the floor for a refrigerated bunk, but the room between them is restricted.

Ahead of me was some old lady bossing a clerk around.  As so often happens, her cart wasn’t ahead or behind her, adjacent to the counter, it was just south of her outstretched butt.  Halfway between the cart and the bunk drifted her husband.  I looked at the open spaces in front and behind him, and decided that I would pass his ass.  I headed for the bunk….and he backed up and leaned on it.  I pulled the cart back, aimed it between him and his wife….and she called him, and he stepped right back in front of me.  I turned the cart towards his butt again, and looked him in the eye.  He turned sideways, and took hold of her cart.  Finally, I pushed my cart past, and as I passed him, sotto voce, I got, “Some cart driver.”  Yeah well, if you got out of the way, and stayed there, you could see me really spin.

A day later, because of my destination, I went the long way around, and left the subdivision by the back street.  As I got to the intersection with the main road, there was a van, already pulled across the line, at a 45 degree angle.  I pulled up behind him and took a quick look up the street.  Nothing coming, so I pulled out and turned right, behind the van.  As I started my turn, I noticed a car on the far side of the intersection start to move forward also.  As he pulled in behind me, I got BEEEP!   Apparently I was supposed to treat the corner as a four-way stop, where alternate vehicles move in sequence.  Damn!  How dare I have the right of way?  I figure, if you have the time and the presence of mind to honk a horn, it wasn’t an emergency, just petulant bad manners.  Then we got to the lights, where he still had to wait for a green anyway.

Finally, on Thursday, I got the best of the bunch.  If this guy hadn’t been so irritatingly dumb, it might have been amusing.  I left the subdivision the short way, out onto the big road that runs behind my house.  When I got to the T-intersection, I had to wait for two cars coming down the hill, one in the curb lane and one out in the center.  After I pulled out, I pulled over behind the guy in the outer lane.  There were quite a number of cars in the curb lane.  Some of them will want to turn down the side-road to get in the side entrance to the plaza.  Others will want to go through the lights, but still slow down to go in the front entrance.

I want to go straight through, so I stayed in the go-through lane.  When we stopped behind the crowd at the light, he left a whole car length in front of him.  At this point I wasn’t even trying to be an asshole.  I left two feet between us; I’ve left a lot less.  He crept forward five feet.  I crept forward five feet, and stopped two feet from his bumper.  Suddenly he lurched forward.  I thought he might hit the guy in front, but after another five feet, he slammed the brakes on again.  I drifted forward five feet, and stopped two feet behind him.

Suddenly the driver’s door opened, and he climbed out.  Two things ran through my mind.  First, he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.  Second, where in Hell is the windshield scraper/brush?  I may need it to teach him to stay in his car.  He faced me and made shooing motions.  It’s unsafe and illegal to back up, so he must mean not to get so close.  I stuck my left arm out and shooed him back into his car, and through the soon-to-be-green light.

That did not sit well.  Now he’s coming back to my car, and I’m really looking for that nylon scraper-stick.  He stops a couple of feet from my window and starts bitching.  Leapers, creepers, I’m being yelled at by some oriental dude who can’t drive. (Is there any other kind?)  “Why you stop so close?  Why you stop so close??”  I picked the wrong side of the argument.  I asked, ”Why are you stopped back here?”  “The light is red.”  “I know, but why are you stopped back here?”  I actually thought I might get a long sought answer.

This is where I thought it really got silly.  He looked at me and said, “I’m your neighbor.  Why you do this to me?  I’m you neighbor.  Don’t you recognize me?”  Hmm, you came down the hill in front of me.  Did you go four blocks out of your way to get here?  Do I recognize you?  Let’s see.  Twenty-five feet in front of me, through my windshield, through your back window, with your back to me, and a car seat-back and headrest between us?!  Oh yeah, you’re the guy who has lived across the street from me for ten years, and has never smiled, never waved, never said hello, never came across the street to introduce yourself, the one who makes me look friendly and gregarious.  Yeah, sure, I recognize you now!  He finally got back in his car, drove through the now-green light, pulled over into the curb lane without signalling, cutting three drivers off, and went into the plaza.

He never did explain how far back he thought I should be.  As long as I don’t hit him, I can stop wherever I want.  The *neighbor* thing bewildered me also.  He was giving me shit for doing something he didn’t feel was acceptable; what does being a neighbor have to do with it??  Is it okay that I do the unforgivable to anybody else, just not to him?  Damn, now I’ve offended him.  He may not talk to me for another ten years.  I hope!

Skinny Dipping

Good Lord!  There was a bigger stampede that time than when I said to have a drink with me.  You people should be ashamed of yourselves….or party-proud.  Sadly, for you, I’ve led you astray again.  What I’m doing is dipping into recent newspaper stories, to give you the skinny, about a few of the things the local newspaper has seen fit to print recently.  Interesting?  Maybe.  Amusing?  Perhaps.  Entertaining?  I hope so!

First of all, does anyone know how the term “The Skinny” came into being?  If you don’t, don’t feel badly.  Not even Wikipedia can come up with a solid answer.  I don’t like the term.  Personally, I feel it’s too affectatious.  It’s used, fortunately sparingly, everywhere English is spoken, but it seems to be mostly a New York City piece of slang.  Montreal can hate Toronto, but I think we can all hate NYC!  It seems to be a newspaper term that started when some editor wanted to “get down to the skin” of a story.

A local woman has given birth to triplets.  That in itself is a one in ten thousand occurrence.  These three are all identical, which makes it literally, a one in a million.  Her doctor asked her which fertility specialist they’d gone to.  That confused the couple, since these three were naturally conceived.  They have a four-year-old son at home, and just brought home three more boys….and already she wants to try again, because she wants a girl.  She’ll end up with a baseball team, and no cheerleader.  Apparently she named the boys Blake, Lucas and Timothy, because the husband said that, with three chances, he still didn’t get to use his favorite name, Silas.

KayJai blogged about getting ready to withstand Hurricane Leslie, at her home in Newfoundland.  We’ve had a picture in the local paper, of a car, up to the top of its wheel-wells in water.  Seawater or fresh, that’s not going to do it a lot of good.  There was also a picture of a man in St. Johns, who had a three-foot thick tree split and fall on his house.  The ironic part was that Hurricane Leslie brought the tree down on this man’s house on Leslie Street.

Over in the next small city, a female preacher from the Church Of Holier Than Thou, felt that marriages at City Hall should be performed by more than just a clerk.  She went to the council and offered her services as City Pastor, essentially creating her own second, paid, part-time job.  But her particular sect would not allow her to marry same-sex couples, so she fobbed those off onto another preacher she knew, who could and would.

Gay and lesbian couples complained about discrimination, and getting second-tier service.  A court has decided that whoever does the job, needs to perform the entire job, so her fill-in has been appointed.  She “feels let-down”, and, of course, one of her church members has already had an op/ed letter printed, claiming she was discriminated against.  I see no discrimination against her, only her church against gays.  She wasn’t forced to marry gay couples.  She wasn’t forced to remain on the job, against her morals.  The city council had to choose between a city official who would do half a job, and one who would do the complete function.  I know which one I’d choose.  How about you?

A Nova Scotia folksinger has released an album entitled No More Pennies, which is all about the disappearance of the Canadian penny, now that the Mint is no longer stamping them out.  As part of the cover art, he had several images of Canadian pennies.  The Canadian Mint sent him an official cease-and-desist letter, saying that all image rights to all Canadian money belong to the mint.  If he were to sell more than 2,000 album copies, he would be subject to a $1200 royalty fee.  Several days later, after the public outrage died down a bit, and the Ritalin kicked in, the bureaucrats offered him a one-time exemption.  Take ‘er an’ run, me boy!

My wife said recently that my letters to the editor have died back a bit since I’ve taken up blogging.  I had another letter printed recently.  After our local by-election a man had a letter printed, in which he complained about getting an automated phone call, touting one of the candidates, at five to midnight, long after he’d gone to bed.  What particularly irked him, was that he does not live within the riding boundary.

The election committee apologised and blamed the service provider for both the timing and location.  Another man actually took the time and effort to send in a letter pointing out that the victim is now a member of the “connected” generation.  If he didn’t want to be wakened at night, he should “just turn the phone off.”  I submitted a letter which suggested that Mr. Sympathy could provide his own phone number.  That way, if Victim’s mother died of a heart attack, or his wife was involved in a traffic accident, or his son was pulled over after a late party for DUI, and needed bail and a drive home, Sympathy could take a message, and run over to the house and deliver it.

Some people can afford to be disconnected; others can’t.  Some people need it.  For a while, years ago, the local transit company had 888 numbers assigned to every stop in town.  If you called the stop number, the automated system would give you the expected times of arrival for the next two buses.  My daughter’s then-current boyfriend got sick of his drunken buddies calling him up in the middle of the night.  He paid for phone service which included call-forwarding.  Before he went to bed, he would set the system to call one of the bus-stops, or the answering machine at one of the local funeral homes.

  1. H.E. ELLIS says:

September 4, 2012 at 7:44 pm (Edit)

Hello Archon and his league of illustrious Canadian-types. I’ve just gotten word that next week there will be a new blog that has to do with Canada. Here’s more info:

http://speaker7.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/canadica-is-coming/

Pass the word along to Kayjai and Harem.

By this method I have been a good boy and done that.  I also include SightsNBytes and all the other readers who would get a kick out of reading about Canadian/American comparisons and contrasts.  It can be reached directly at www.canadica.wordpress.com

9/11 Redux

I read BrainRants’ once-a-week, daily post two days ago, and realized that 9/11 had sneaked by me, not because it wasn’t important, but because time seems to slip past me so quickly now.  When I was a kid, the summer vacation seemed to last a whole year.  Now that I’m retired, a whole year seems to slip past in a week.

When I worked, I could measure the passage of time by the disappearance of cans of Pepsi.  I took one to the plant every day I worked.  A case of 24 got me through just over a month, and I had the feeling of accomplishing something.  Nowadays I mark time by the disappearance of anti-histamine pills from a blister pack, and helping the wife and I stay healthy is about as productive as it gets.

My memory is poor, but who could forget 9/11?  We got the news on the line at work from supervisors and QC managers.  I went straight home after work and was watching TV when the towers collapsed.  Suddenly, the embassy bombing, the attack on the Cole, and the previous internal attempt to blow the Trade Center all meshed.  I knew that everything was about to change.

It changed for us about a month and a half later.  We had planned to drive a second time to Charleston, SC, for a week’s vacation.  The previous year we had crossed the border at Detroit.   A couple of perfunctory questions, and we were waved through.  This time, we crossed over at Buffalo.  There were twice the number of border guards, some of them wearing pistols, some of them leading dogs, some of them with articulated poles with mirrors on the ends.

The questions were hard and tight.  Who were we?  Where were we from?  Why did we want to get into the US?  Where were we going?  How long would we be there?  All the while, the guy with the dog circled the car in one direction, and the guy with the mirror inspected my exhaust and oil pan from the other.

I was driving a station-wagon at that time, and I knew that they would want a look inside, so I pushed the hatch unlock button.  Unlike vans, the hatch did not rise on its own; it had to be raised by hand.  The wife told me to stay with the car, and she would open it when they asked.  Soon the command came, and it was a command, not a request, to open the back.  Two things happened almost simultaneously.  We almost had two guns pointed at us.  When the hatch didn’t immediately pop open, the officer on my side of the car must have thought I was ignoring him, and shouted the command again, adding the word, now!

On the wife’s side of the car, she was getting out to raise the lid, and the guard on her side suddenly jumped back and grabbed for his side-arm.  I explained to my guy that someone had to raise the hatch, and, since he wasn’t doing it, my wife would.  Things calmed down, a little.  They started pawing through our stuff, which had been clearly visible through the windows.  We had taken our Koolatron portable refrigerator, but were using it just as a box to hold various items.  The power rectifier/cord was in a small wicker basket with some other things, so that it wouldn’t get lost.  When they came upon that, all Hell broke loose!

What was this infernal electric/electronic device?  Was it a controller for a bomb?  Could we bring down airplanes with it?  Even after we explained its use, they still wanted to know why it wasn’t with/in the Koolatron.  That’s full!  You just looked in it!

The entire feel of the country was different from previous trips.  When we got to Charleston, we found that there had been rules enacted to prevent anyone from fishing within twenty yards of any bridge abutment, despite the fact that, some of the best fishing is in the shadow of the bridges.

America had lost her virginity.  Not that the 3000+ lives lost in the twin-towers holocaust weren’t important, but three thousand out of three hundred million is a mere pinprick.  It was the pinprick, however, which let the air out of the USA’s carefree isolation.  The Japanese were stopped at Pearl Harbor.  These rats had got right into the pantry.

People questioned our going down to the States, “Where they’re having all that trouble.” But the day before we left, there had been a bomb report phoned in at the company the wife worked for.  There ultimately was no bomb, but the prank caller got his money’s worth.  He emptied out the head-office building, and three local branch office buildings.  A couple of weeks previously, I noticed a church deacon wandering around the balcony where we were seated, during the sermon.  The service was cut short and we were asked to vacate the building because someone had called in a bomb threat….to a church!  A week after we got back, an aerosol recycling plant almost no-one knew existed, had an explosion, significant enough to close a section of the city.  We just think we’re safe.

Eleven years later, things are still changing.  Some restrictions are relaxing; others are still tightening up.  In just over a week, we will be taking a weekend trip to metro Detroit.  This will be our first border crossing in three years, and the first time we will need to provide passports.  You’re not allowed to smile for passport photos.  Dealing with bureaucracy is not conducive to smiling anyway.

I once read a book called The Wasp, where an agent created havoc in an enemy country through minor actions.  Forty years later, the wasps have arrived, and ruined our innocence.  I remember and mourn those who needlessly died that unforgettable day, and I salute and respect those like BrainRants, who strive to give back what freedom and peace of mind we can hold.

Real Romney

The following is reblogged from David Brooks, political and cultural commentator for the New York Times.  I wish that I could produce a piece as humorously accurate as this.  I can’t, but I felt even non-Americans would appreciate the chuckles and the insights.

*The purpose of the Republican National Convention is to introduce America to the real Mitt Romney.

Fortunately, I have spent hours researching this subject.  I can provide you with the definitive biography and a unique look into the Byronic soul of the Republican nominee:

Mitt Romney was born on March 12, 1947, in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and several other swing states.  He emerged, hair first, believing in America, and especially its national parks.  He was given the name Mitt, after the Roman god of mutual funds, and launched into the world with the lofty expectation that he would someday become the Arrow shirt man.

Romney was a precocious and gifted child.  He uttered his first words (“I like to fire people.”) at age 14 months, made his first gaffe at 15 months and purchased his first nursery school at 24 months.  The school, highly leveraged, went under, but Romney made 24 million Jujubes on the deal.

Mitt grew up in a modest family.  His father had an auto body shop, called the American Motors Corp., and his mother owned a small piece of land, Brazil.  He had several boyhood friends, many of whom owned NASCAR franchises, and excelled at school, where his fourth-grade project, “Inspiring Actuaries I Have Known,” was widely admired.

The Romneys had a special family tradition.  The most cherished member got to spend road trips on the roof of the car.  Mitt spent many happy hours up there, applying face lotion to combat windburn.

The teenage years were more turbulent.  He was sent to a private school, where he was saddened to find there are people in America who summer where they winter.  He developed a lifelong concern for the second-homeless, and organized bake sales with proceeds going to the moderately rich.

Some people say he retreated into himself during those years.  He had a pet rock, which ran away from home because it was starved of affection.  He bought a mood ring, but it remained permanently transparent.  His ability to turn wine into water detracted from his popularity at parties.

There was, frankly, a period of wandering.  After hearing Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, Romney decided to leave Mormonism and become Amish.  He left the Amish faith because of its ban on hair products, and bounced around before settling back on college.  There, he majored in music, rendering Mozart’s entire oeuvre in Power-Point.

His love affair with Ann Davies, the most impressive part of his life, restored his equilibrium.  Always respectful, Mitt and Ann decided to elope with their parents.  They went on a trip to Israel, where they tried and failed to introduce the concept of reticence.  Romney also went on a mission to France.  He spent two years knocking on doors, failing to win a single convert.  This was a feat he would replicate during his 2008 presidential bid.

After his mission, he attended Harvard, studying law, classics and philosophy, though intellectually his first love was always tax avoidance.  After Harvard, he took his jawline to Bain Consulting, a firm with very smart people with excessive personal hygiene.  While at Bain, he helped rescue many outstanding companies, such as Pan Am, Eastern Airlines, Atari and DeLorean.

Romney was extremely detail-oriented in his business life.  He once cancelled a corporate retreat at which ABBA had been hired to play, saying he found the band’s music “too angry.”

Romney is also a passionately devoted family man.  After streamlining his wife’s pregnancies down to six months each, Mitt helped Ann raise five perfect sons – Bip, Chip, Rip, Skip and Dip – who married identically tanned wives.

Some have said the Romney’s lifestyle is overly privileged, pointing to the fact that he has an elevator for his cars in the garage of his San Diego home.  This is not entirely fair.  Romney owns many homes without garage elevators, and the cars have to take the stairs.

After a successful stint at Bain, Romney was lured away to run the Winter Olympics, the second most Caucasian institution on Earth, after the GOP.  He then decided to run for governor of Massachusetts.  His campaign slogan, “Vote Romney: More Impressive Than You’ll Ever Be,” was not a hit, but Romney won the race anyway on an environmental platform, promising to make the state safe for steeplechase.

After his governorship, Romney suffered through a mid-life crisis, during which he became a social conservative.  This prepared his way for his presidential run.  He barely won the 2012 republican primaries after a gruelling nine-month campaign, running unopposed.

At the convention, where his Secret Service nickname is Mannequin, Romney will talk about his real-life record: successful business leader, superb family man, effective governor, devoted community leader and prudent decision-maker.  If elected, he promises to bring all Americans together, and make them feel inferior.*