Yuletide Celebrations

BAHBLOODY HUMBUG!

I am soooo glad it’s all over for another year!  The worship of the Great God Commerce dials back till it’s just a dull roar.

 

What?  Too much, too soon?

As the most fascinating man on Earth, I don’t always listen to the radio in the living room or the car, but when I do, I want to hear some classic rock and roll.  This all-Christmas-songs, all-the-time, for 7 or 8 weeks, on all four locally available stations, gets old fast.  Like, right after the second time Gramma Got Run Over By A Reindeer is played on the American Thanksgiving.

I turn the radio off, and start plugging CDs into my five-disc player.  You’ll read about our cookie-making marathons.  I need six hours of non-Christmas in my ear.  We’ve got a half-dozen Rankin Family albums, and another half-dozen Jeff Foxworthy discs.  Christmas is the only time of year we play them.  Include some Jethro Tull and The Guess Who, and we’re good till New Years.

We went grocery shopping one day.  Shortly after we entered, the Muzak started playing The Twelve Days of Christmas.  With the ever-expanding twelve choruses, that song just goes On and On.  I piled a hundred dollars worth of stuff into the cart, and they were still whining about rings and calling birds.  We headed for the cashiers just as they finally came to an end.  Apparently on a random mix, the next song up was….The Twelve Days of Christmas – by a different group.  Check me out, quick, before I check-out on my own.

The streets and roads are back to being inhabited by just the usual batch of stupid incompetents.  I can almost get where I’m going, because all the soccer-moms, who don’t know how to drive their soccer-mom-vans, aren’t plugging the streets and parking lots, and obscuring my sight-lines.  Once, when the son was just learning to drive, I bitched (What a surprise!) about hating to be behind vans and pickups.  Now that he drives regularly himself, he admitted the other day that he understands what I was upset about.

Christmas lights, that’s the least we can do to celebrate the season – literally the least we can do.  An ego-stroking waste of electricity.  There are two homes, side by side, somewhere in Connecticut, which both look like Chevy Chase’s, Christmas Vacation house, with the bearings on the power meter smoking from the RPMs.  Each year, both owners added more and more lights, in an attempt to outdo each other.  Finally, this year, sanity prevailed.  One of the owners put up only one string of lights, forming an arrow, and the word, “Ditto!”

The Sikhs across the street look like a Las Vegas casino.  I put up one little light-decorated wreath outside the downstairs powder-room window….and often forget to plug it in till nine or ten PM.  With all the demons and gargoyles we have in the gardens, it’s a surprise we haven’t had carolling groups which included torches and pitchforks.

I really put the *cur* in curmudgeon.  I’m not against giving presents or getting the family together for a visit and a meal.  If it’s someone’s birthday, or anniversary, give a present.  I just don’t want to be standing beside some guy while I’m just trying to buy a newspaper, and have his pants burn down because his credit card exploded.  Want a “family meal?”  Pick a day and invite the family over.  Depending on the size of your family, it might be less stressful for everyone, to have smaller groups.

Too many people fall victim to the idea that they’re “obligated” to participate in this exercise in excess, and then feel overwhelmed, and somehow a failure.  Something worth doing is not necessarily worth overdoing.  This thing is getting out of hand.  The best of intentions is producing the worst of results.  It really is no wonder that other faiths, other countries and other cultures hate us.  We could be so much more, with so much less.

Peace and love to you all, quietly, sincerely, without all the fuss.

Shameless Promotion

Be careful, ladies and gentlemen.  A warning, The Bear is among us.  After watching his father blogging for a year, and correctly assuming that he can do better, my son has established a site of his very own and begun posting.

If you’d like to see what over 40 years of exposure to me has caused, if you’d like some wit and wisdom in a different vein, probably jugular, if you’d like to learn some family secrets that’ll make your ears fall off, you can type in www.shimoniac.wordpress.com , or just click on Shimoniac Jones on my new blogroll.

You won’t be sorry you visited, but if I don’t drum him up some business, I will be.  He’ll get to choose my nursing home.

Coming Home

I visited an old friend the other day.  I hadn’t planned to.  In fact, I had several other things I was supposed to be doing, but….it just happened.  She’s looking good, much better than when I last saw her.  She’s had a lot of professional help with her rehabilitation.  It won’t be long till she will be fit to be seen by the public.  I’m talking about the building where I worked for almost 20 years.

I dropped the wife off at the cancer clinic at the hospital for blood-work assessment.  Coming from a family rife with various types of cancer, she has been on a yearly testing schedule for bone cancer.  The steadily reducing warning counts of the past five years are now well back within normal range, and only need a family physician to monitor a yearly blood test.

While she was at the cancer clinic, for an unpredictable amount of time, I was supposed to drop off a package at our massage therapist/ osteopath, do a drop-off/pickup at the daughter’s, and stop at the optometrist and have a nose pad installed on my glasses.  I made the massage therapy delivery, and headed for the daughters place.  About halfway between the two, not too far off what laughably passes for a straight line in this city, was my old plant.

It’s been bought by a company in Toronto and is undergoing what’s known as *urban densification*.  Just outside the actual downtown area, on the main street, it sits across the road from new School of Optometry and School of Pharmacy buildings of the community college.  It’s being cleaned and subdivided to provide office space.  Already, a large engineering firm has committed to a big chunk.  Google had leased space in a reconditioned tannery building two blocks away, but after only a year, finds it needs more room, and is ready to move in as soon as reconstruction is complete.

I thought, I’d like to drive past and just have a look at the front, to see what changes had been wrought.  Well, if I’m this close, I’ll pull through the parking lot across the street for a better view….if I’m in the lot, I might as well park the car and get out for a better look….if I’m out of the car, I might as well walk across the street and see if I can step inside.  If I’m inside, I might as well get arrested for trespass.

It’s amazing how alike, and yet how completely different the old girl looks.  I speak of *a plant*, but it is actually a coalescence of thirteen brick buildings, the newest with concrete floor heights that don’t match all the wooden floors of the others.  We used to have to go down one elevator, across the loading dock, and back up a different elevator, to get loads from one sector to another.  The oldest building has a 1906 cornerstone, while the newest(?), is dated 1956.

The section which used to supply 35,000 volts of electrical power is not needed, and has been torn out and replaced with a garden and fountain area, in front of a new, recessed, glassed-in entrance.  I walked up and tried the door.  It was unlocked.  I walked in and began orienting myself.  The old shipping elevator has been removed, and the shaft is an open-core stairway.  Two new hydraulic passenger elevators have been installed back near the new doors.

A workman wandered near, but I’m not worried about workmen.  They’re not paid to make executive decisions if I look like I know what I’m doing.  “Can I help you?”  Oh damn.  It turns out to be the job foreman.  I admit I’m just looking around because I worked here for 20 years.  It turns out I’m not the only one.  He’s had five or six guys here already.  I expected to get kicked out, but this guy is so proud of what he’s done, he gave me a mini-tour.

The black paint has been scraped off the ceilings.  Pipes have been scoured and repainted.  The inside brick has been sandblasted.  The dust and cobwebs of a hundred years have been cleaned away.  Cracked support beams have been replaced by solid new, B.C. Douglas fir.  Decrepit wooden floors have been overlaid with thin Styrofoam, and then a thin coat of self-leveling concrete poured on top.  On the third floor, where we had large plywood plugs in holes in the wall for machine insertion, is now floor-to-ceiling glass-wall for an office-worker view of downtown.

The single largest item of rehab was the windows.  498 rotten, dried-out wooden frames with broken or cracked glass, some repaired with opaque, colored Plexiglas, have been torn out.  They have all been replaced with aluminum-framed, state-of-the-art, argon-filled, double thermo-pane assemblies.  The only reason we didn’t freeze on frigid winter days, was the fact that we worked with hot vinyl parts.  In the mill-room where it was compounded, the thermometer read 90 F….in February.

I very much appreciated this man taking the time to let me revisit an old friend, and I thanked him profusely.  It’s still a bit of a heartbreaker to lose a job and get kicked out of a long-term workplace, but it’s nice to know that the old girl is getting a much-needed facelift, and will survive to provide a whole new generation with a place to accomplish productive deeds.

 

Commerce House

During the period from 1982 to 1985, I was unemployed and underemployed.  For over a year, I worked as a security guard at a ten-storey office building downtown.  Technically, I didn’t.  I had applied for work with a cleaning service.  They had the contract for the owners’ common areas, as well as several of the clients located in the building.

Building management wanted someone to answer the phone and watch the front lobby and underground parking area, keep the wrong ones out, let the right ones in and out, from when the building officially closed at 5 PM, till it reopened at 7 AM.  Only licensed Security Guard companies may legally do that, so I was on the books as a cleaner.  The only *cleaning* I ever did, was take the power buffer to the marble floor of the entranceway, and use paper towels and vinegar to remove handprints from the glass doors, left by people too stunned or lazy to use the push-bars.

At first I worked from 5 to 11 PM, but that didn’t give enough hours to support the family.  The old guy who did the eight-hour midnight shift was on Workman’s Compensation.  They guaranteed him a given sum each week, and topped up his earnings, to reach that figure.  I convinced him to take the six-hour evening shift and sleep with his wife, while I stayed awake all night.

The building sat sideways into a hill.  There were ten steps up to a landing, then ten more up to the front door.  The entrance to the underground garage was even further down, and invisible from the lobby.  Authorised parkers had swipe cards which would roll up the gate.  Unless you were listening carefully, you weren’t aware of folks entering or leaving that way.

People came into the building at the oddest times.  I was shocked several times making a walk through the three underground levels at four in the morning, and suddenly running into someone.  There was a group of six or eight teenagers who used to hang around the church property directly across the street.  If someone used their card to enter, it was easy to dash across the street and get in before the door rolled back down.

The old guy told me that he had found some of them a few times, drinking, smoking dope and screwing downstairs.  He carried a two-foot length of lead pipe and suggested I do the same.  He was older than me and lead piping had been outlawed, so I got 20 inches off the top of a broken, solid ash, rake handle.  I still have that little billy-club at the house, *just in case*.

There was a bank on one half of the main floor, and the Employment Office on the other.  Even working the midnight shift, I got to meet some interesting people.  The Employment Office didn’t open till nine, but there was one lady who came in before I left at seven.  Other than getting the coffee started, I’m not sure what she did for those two hours.

We often talked, and I got to know about her husband and teenage daughter.  One day she told me, “I bought a horse, and didn’t tell my husband.”  You what?!  Her daughter loved to ride, so, instead of paying rental fees, she bought a damned horse.  Where are you going to keep it, in your garage?  Oh no, she had a stable all picked out.  All she had to do was pay the monthly stall fee without the husband noticing.

My son was still going to high school.  A couple of times he accompanied me for a Friday night shift, to have some father/son time.  The first time he did, he found that staying up 24 hours was a bit much.  At about six-thirty AM, he curled up on the marble floor behind the guard’s desk, and went to sleep.  It was on one of these nights that he *won* a radio DJ’s contest, and got to meet him in person for breakfast.

A ten-storey building, at the top of one of the higher hills in town gave a grand view from the roof.  We used to go up in the middle of the night and look around.  You could see almost five miles in all directions.  We used to watch all the little people, the drunks going home from the clubs, and the taxis, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.  A clear day would bring a magnificent dawn, first the false dawn, as the sky began to brighten.  Then the sun would peek over the eastern horizon and wash everything with a lush golden glow.

If you’ve read my *water guns and pony bikes* story, you already know I’m still just a big kid.  We had to know what happens when you drop stuff from over a hundred feet up.  We didn’t want a safety hazard, so no glass.  An empty plastic water bottle just whirls away in the inevitable wind currents.  A full one splits and spews rewardingly.  A pop can, filled with water and carefully dropped vertically, crushes the bottom a bit and just sits there.

One time, we found a ball of string.  The building is sealed.  None of the windows open.  We filled a Coke can with water, threaded the string through the tab, and lowered it on a big loop, down to the eighth floor.  There was about a two-inch ledge outside the windows.  We carefully swung it in and dropped it on the ledge, and even more carefully pulled the loop of string back though the tab.  Let the office workers figure how a Coke can got outside their office, eight stories up.  Eventually the water would evaporate, and the can blow away.  Ah, the cerebral adventures.

Since I’ve had this post in my drafts file for a while, I’d just like to add a wish for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all the lovely people who have visited, followed, read and commented on my site in the last year.

Happy Birthday

As so often happens, I’m a day late and a dollar short.  In this case, I barely made the right day, and what I am short is a post about John Erickson vs. 50 years old.  John’s a great guy, even if he likes goats.  I’m an old goat, and he seems to like me.  The best I’ve got on a very busy day, is how I came to know him, and know of him.
I was working in the lab, late one night, when my eyes beheld….No, no, wait! That’s how I ran into BrainRants.  I tripped over him, and fell into blogging.  I soon noticed a plethora of comments on his site from an intelligent, knowledgeable gentleman.  He had lots of information and opinions, even if he didn’t have a blogsite.  As I ventured deeper into the blogosphere jungle, I found his footprints everywhere.  Always the voice of reason, the reason was that, even though Nancy Reagan suggested it, he couldn’t “just say no” to commenting.
He eventually created a blog of his own and now dispenses wit and wisdom, the occasional whine, and stories about kittens.  What’s not to like?  The Mayans were apparently wrong, so we’re here today to honor him on his 11th, 39th birthday.  It’s thyme to introduce the sage of Ohio, a man who’s a legend in his own mind, even when it’s on medical leave – the one, the only – John Erickson.  C’mon out here and take a bow, John!  Let’s hear it for the birthday boy folks!

Published Author

 

That term has a nice feel to it.  I’m a Published Author.  Of course, in my case, it has about the same significance as being the greatest dog-catcher in Enid, Oklahoma.

It all came about because H.E.Ellis solicited (no, not like that), urged and supported me to write my little fractured fairy tale about the hare and the tortoise.  She deemed my short treatise worthy to present with others in the series, on her blog-site.  I am so honored, that I’ve been running around the neighborhood telling both people who will speak to me, all about it.

Truth be told, and I do occasionally, while this is the most auspicious occurrence, it is not the first, nor the only time I have been published.  In fact there have been many times I’ve had something printed at this same rate of remuneration.  The first time I had a piece of my prose published, I was almost 18.

I was not directly involved in the submission, so I tend to ignore and forget it.  For a Grade 12 Easter-term English exam I scratched out a little, thousand-word, post-apocalyptic sci-fi piece.  It centered on a bear waking from winter hibernation.  He stood up in his little cave and bumped his head and wondered how he’d managed that.  Then he marveled at the fact that he was thinking at all.  A rabbit hopped in, and greeted him with a non-verbal, “So, you’re finally up.”

It seems, while he slept the winter away, humans had engaged in a terrible war, nukes, biological, and maybe something else.  Every human on the planet was dead, and the animals had all achieved intelligence and telepathy.  I ignored the fact that, despite the sapience and communication, animals weren’t farmers.  Some of them would still have to eat others.  This was 1962.  The Cold War was chilly.

My friend read several sci-fi pulp mags, and urged me to send it in, as a filler.  It was just a school project.  Once done, it was soon forgotten, but not by him.  He believed so strongly that he sent it in under my name….and it got printed.  I had my first job, a hundred miles away, a car I couldn’t take with me, a now-long distance girlfriend.  I came home to visit one weekend, and he excitedly handed me a twenty dollar check.  Long before quick and easy photographic proof, I cashed the check and spent the badly need money.

The Toronto Sun distributes all across Southern Ontario, from Windsor in the west, almost to Montreal.  Years ago, they had a page titled Coffee Break.  This held the comics, the horoscopes, the word jumble, the crossword puzzle and a Poet’s Corner.  Usually just eight, ten, twelve line ditties, often in unrhymed blank verse, eventually they disappeared.  I guess all the poets ran out of themes.  I saw a short poem one day from a woman thinking of leaving her man, because he didn’t express his love often, or strongly enough.  It inspired me to submit the following rebuttal.

The Strong Silent Type

I really like you.
I’m sure that I’ve shown,
And also I love you.
I thought that you’ve known.

I have trouble with words
And what I should say
Is, “I want you!  I need you!
That’s why you should stay!”

Some men speak with their voices,
But it’s a real art.
For a man who cannot,
You must hear with your heart.

Not exactly Shakespeare, more like Edgar Allan Poe,

Quoth the Rave, “Nevermore!”
To his drunken girlfriend on the barroom floor.

I once had a one-third page Second Opinion column printed in the local paper.  So long ago, I don’t remember the theme.  Probably Christian intolerance, that seems to be what I get most, and most often, irked about.  I have trouble keeping my many op-ed submissions under the acceptable 300 word limit, so the editor suggested I expand one of my more insightful, but verbose ones a bit.

Here I am, writing about Christian intolerance and look down to see that my word count is 666!  Satan looked over my shoulder and said, Ah, don’t worry about it!  It don’t mean nothing.

I’ve had hundreds of letters to the Editor published over the years, when I can be concise, as well as informed.  They’ve been on a wide range of subjects, and printed, not only in the local newspaper, but in the Toronto Sun and even in a Knife Makers magazine I subscribe to.  I used to be an opinionated young whipper-snapper.  Now I’m an opinionated old coot.

The opinions Editor at the local paper is a religiously conservative (some kind of) Mennonite.  It’s tough to get a letter printed which is negatively judgemental of Christianity and its purveyors.  At least twice though, once by phone and once by email, I have been contacted by his young assistant to submit a con argument on a religious discussion, when there’s been a week of only pro letters of support published.  I think the kid likes to tweak the old man’s tail once in a while.

I’m confident of my vocabulary and word use, spelling (I’m right nine times to Spell-check’s one), construction and punctuation, even though I’m a little heavy on subordinate clauses and commas.  I just don’t seem to believe I have the creative spark to dream up scenarios.  H.E.Ellis is enthralled by the story-telling abilities of both SightsnBytes and me.  She has suggested that we compile our *Remember When* stories, and produce an autobiographical novel.

With my small but dedicated readership, I’m not sure how large an audience I might get, but I’m starting to think about the idea more seriously.  She must know something.  She’s very small, but a much bigger Published Author than I am.  She’s a trained professional.  Don’t try this at home kids!

Triviana

Damn!  I appear to have invented a neologism, a new word.  Ana is a collection of miscellaneous facts and information about any given subject.  To add it as a suffix to a proper noun identifies what the information is about, like Americana.  Look out folks!  Triviana simply means another serving of Seinfeld, a blog about a bunch of things in general, and nothing in particular.

During the recent American election, I saw several ads on my Detroit-based American TV channels, decrying the intention to build a second bridge to link Canada and the USA there.  The ads said that traffic is down, and so is the economy!  But the economy should rebound, and the time to build a bridge is before you need it, not after it’s too late.

After the elections, it was revealed that the Arab-American who owns the Ambassador Bridge had spent $300 million, to produce and air ads to convince Michigan voters that they couldn’t afford another bridge.  Saner heads prevailed, and they voted to go ahead anyway.  If he could afford to spend $300 million to try to keep a monopoly, imagine how much he must rake in, just from that bridge.

The son now works in the same building that I did, forty years ago.  The company I worked for is long gone, and his company now occupies it.  I had to pick him up after work one Saturday morning, and he convinced the plant manager to give me a short tour.  It’s the same….only different.

The plastics-parts company he works for provides bits and pieces to a company 15 miles away, which produces 4-, 6-, 8-wheeled and tracked, amphibious ATV type vehicles.  They have a contract with the American government to design and build a Lunar Rover, for an upcoming mission.  None of the parts the son produces go toward that vehicle.  Those are one-of-a-kind, specialty parts.  Still, it’s impressive to look up and think, I have a tenuous connection to that thing.

The bitchers try their best to make it simple and straightforward, and it’s never their fault.  Almost inevitably, there is layer after layer of complexity, and usually there’s guilt and responsibility in every direction other than the one the accusing finger points in.

A Toronto couple had their 25-year-old son move back in with them.  They took him to the hospital, and he came out dead.  They want to sue the emergency ward doctor who didn’t get him to ICU quickly enough.  They want to sue the ICU physician who didn’t administer enough of the correct medicine soon enough.  They want to sue the administrator who placed him in the regular ICU, rather than the Cardiac unit.  They say that they want to know why their son died.

Maybe it’s because he was a drug addict.  Maybe it’s because this was the third time this year that he’d been trucked to a hospital with an overdose.  Maybe it’s because his internal organs were so damaged that they were shutting down.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t put him in rehab.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t check on him in time.  Nah!  It must be somebody else’s fault!  Lawyers ho!

The case of the young man who fatally stabbed a gun-toting Negro in the park has finally ground to a halt, and gone away.  It would have been nice if the authorities had declared him innocent, or stated that his self-defence was justified.  Instead, the Crown Attorney’s office released a statement that, “The Crown does not feel, at this time, that they can proceed with a case, with any assurance of a conviction.”  So, it’s not about any real-world justice, it’s all about lawyers’ Win/Loss Ratio.  Thanks for thinking of us.

They let Justin Bieber perform at the half-time show at the Grey Cup football game.  That’s the end of Canadian football for this year.  Even with domed stadiums, we can’t keep playing as long as the American league.  Bieber got thoroughly booed.  To be fair, the booing was more about the choice of entertainment.

They may have been trying to attract a wider viewership, but the mostly over-thirty male audience was not impressed.  Poor Justin.  He was so upset that he had to accept some meansnothing award from the Prime Minister, half-wearing a pair of denim overalls.  You can’t take the yahoo out of the boy, but you can take the yahoo boy and get the Americans to pay him to live there.

Two local families, each with a twelve-year-old female Bieber-maniac, went on-line and spent $450 to get them tickets to a Justin Beiber concert.  They carefully checked everything, and downloaded and printed the bar-code confirmations.  It wasn’t until the two were giddily racing around one’s house, spelling out their hero’s name in song, B I E B E R, that the parents realized they’d been scammed.  The companies each father worked for donated money to get them valid tickets.  Damn!  I’m disappointed that they’re not.

Just when you think that political correctness has reached its peak, or nadir, someone takes it to a new ridiculous level.  A local mother, whose son has a nut allergy, is petitioning the city to cut down the oak trees in front of, and near, her son’s school – with no proof that acorns affect him.  To remove these trees would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and would set a precedent which could force the city to remove all oaks at all city schools and parks, at a cost of millions.  Can you beat the stupid and entitlement off someone??  Where’s that shitty diaper and my ski-mask?