Capital Idea

House of Parliament

So another year has come and gone, and once again it was time to drive to Ottawa, to visit the grandson and fiancé for a couple of days – a Capital idea.

We hitched up the team, and loaded the buckboard sport-brute.  Grandma and her minions had made another batch of dill pickles.  There were his and hers presents for birthdays that bracket my recent one.  Included were a home-made spelt-flour, chocolate-mayonnaise cake, and special ginger cookies from a local Dutch market.  His always-thinking-ahead mother had even sent Christmas presents, since they won’t be able to get away then.

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Biggest and heaviest among the freight, was a large steel cage for a recently-acquired, white (but not albino) ferret. She is so friendly and playful!!  I took along the digital camera, but the only photos I took were the ferret ones above.  I used it to prove that I had finally mounted on the wall, the rapier that he gave me for Fathers’ Day, two years ago, because I haven’t got around to publishing the Procrastination post yet.  You guys will have to wait another week or two to see that shot.

All in all, a very interesting and satisfying trip. Food of all types, including a Mexican restaurant named ‘Ahora’, where the nachos came with a language lesson.  The word ahora (Spanish a = in/at/to – hora = time) means Now, in English.

We visited two knife shops, and two second-hand bookstores which reminded me of Charles Dickens ‘Old Curiosity Shop’, stuff piled upon stuff in no great amount of order. We went to the Byward Market, a 4-block-square area, right downtown, full of kitschy little shops, eager to separate visitors from their money before the Government got it as taxes.

Just outside, between the Market area and the Houses of Parliament, stands the American Embassy, as big as a Trump hotel, but with all the architectural flair of a shoebox. Just half a block inside the Market, a mere drunken stagger back to the Embassy, is a ‘Gentlemen’s Club.’  Coincidence??  I think not!  Around the corner was a big century-house, turned into another Embassy, not Russian, but with a sign in Cyrillic lettering – Ukraine?  Uzbekistan?  Perhaps the English sign was on another street.

We went back at night to see the Parliament Building all lit up. No-one was passing any stupid legislation, but we saw where they had installed vents to release all the hot air.

I chose a different motel than last year, this one a mile closer to the grandson’s apartment, and $90/night, instead of $130, enabling us to afford to stay two nights instead of one. It was a family-owned independent, and like the Mexican restaurant, came with a lesson, this one a history lesson, rather than language.

Always curious, and looking for blog-fodder, I approached the day-shift male room-clerk. He reminded me of the wife’s ex-doctor. He could throw a pill or a potion or a medical test at a problem, but couldn’t deal with patients.  I believe that the clerk was on the autism spectrum.  He was happy to supply an extra pillow, or an ice-bucket, but not conversation and trivia.  “Qantas. Definitely Qantas.”

I asked, “How old is this place?”
“I don’t know.  I wasn’t here when it was built.”
“Neither was I, but I’m curious.  Have you never asked?”
“It wasn’t on my job application.  I have a customer.  You’ll have to leave.”
“He’s still getting out of his car.  He won’t be here for 5 minutes.  When does the night-shift come on?”
“I have a customer!  Please leave!”

I returned later to talk to the night-clerk, who was both sociable and knowledgeable.

It all started with a mineral hot-spring. The Indians used to soak in it, and believed in its healing properties.  They told the white men, who also used it, and appropriated it.  Around 1900, a white businessman erected a building around it, and turned it into a spa where monied and powerful people came, ‘to take the waters.’

It was quite a way out in the country from little then-Ottawa. In 1928 another businessman built a restaurant nearby, so that the elite had a place to dine after their treatments.  In 1931, when cars were still balky and unreliable, he built a couple of cabins where folks could stay overnight, before returning home in the morning.  Later, he added a couple more, and then another couple.

In 1932 he joined them together into one of the first row motels. In 1956 he added a second, matching row, and in 1973, his son added a third, two-story structure which we stayed in, for a total of 80 units.  The restaurant is still there, although now it’s leased out to chefs whose pretentious menu includes $15 hamburgers and poutine made with French fries cooked in duck fat.

The Federal Government is responsible for the well-being of Indigenous Peoples. Some are brought to Ottawa for medical treatment.  This now includes tests, drugs, surgery and physiotherapy, but many of them still believe in the healing powers of the Manitou’s hot springs.  When we were there, there were 16 units housing Cree and Inuit from as far away as Nunavut, in the Northwest Territories.

Even including an hour each way in the worst traffic in Canada, in Toronto, it was well worth the trip, which totalled 1200 Km/825 Mi. over three days. The grandson who does not own a car, and his magic smart-phone, skillfully guided us around the town.  I’m sure we’ll go again next fall, if not before.

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Old Coots’ Horseless Carriages

The government allows the daughter 6 pain-med infusion treatments a year, so they are 8 or 9 weeks apart. Any further than that and the treatment wears off, and her pain levels mount quickly.  My hour drives up the highway with her are always on Tuesdays, because that’s when the doctor schedules the clinic in the hospital.

Late in July, the doctor wanted to take some vacation time, and set up a clinic on a Friday, so that people like the daughter wouldn’t have to go a couple of extra painful weeks. This was the Friday of the ‘Cruisin’ On King Street’ annual old-car show.

After the hour drive home, I dropped her off at her place, and walked a block into the big park where they were marshalling the cars. I took along my camera, and took photos of some of the older vehicles that caught my attention.

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1931 Ford ‘Vickie’ Crown Victoria

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Late ’60s Corvette, blah in straight white, side scoop should be contrasting color.

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1932 ‘Deuce’ coupe cabriolet, (convertible/soft-top) an “any color, as long as it’s black” that Ford never provided.

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It was reported that a 1939 Ford truck was the oldest vehicle in the show….and yet, here’s a 1923 ‘Bucket T’ model Ford, but it’s a kit car, with Fiberglas body and all-new frame and running gear.  While the ‘model’ is ’23, the hot rod is 2007.

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Another Coupe, this one with hard-top and rumble seat, and hot-rod wheels.

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A 1939 red Dodge Saloon, looking very much like my ’39 Pontiac, but with custom wheels.

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Now, that shade of green, or the blue above, would complement that ‘Vette.

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A 1961 VW Bug, not even ‘hopped up’, just prettified.

Back in the 60s, car companies and individuals had ideas about ‘Cars Of The Future.’ A few of them worked out – most didn’t.  We actually went back to ‘cars of the past’ for a few.  The PT Cruiser was mainly successful, while the Chevy SSR car, and the HHR van/truck didn’t fare as well.

Here are four 1960s artistic concept cars.

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A bit too Avant Garde, but this concept became the Chevy ‘El Camino’ and the Ford ‘Ranchero.’

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The Corvette’s grandfather.  Look at the models in these photos, and the clothes, shoes and hairdos.  They certainly weren’t advertising to the oil-soaked wrench jockeys.

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Somebody wanted to go back and recreate a 1923 T-Bucket Hot Rod with new engine and running gear. It was very much a niche market, and the private builders were more than enough to supply the market.

I titled my post a couple of  years ago, “Wasted Days.”  This day was definitely not a waste.  😎

I Can’t Even GIVE History Away

Ticket

Ticket Back

I wrote of finding a little bit of history, a piece of ephemera, a 1942, WW-II ticket for a British bus line, in my first ‘Olio’ post.  It had been used as a bookmark, and fell out of an old hardcover book that I was examining.

I first tried to give it to one of the 2 local museums. Originally called Kids Museum, it might have fared better in Waterloo, our northern Twin City.  They’re a bit more financially and culturally superior. (Pronounced – ‘snooty’)

Museum

When not enough blue-collar kids visited it, they cleaned, repainted and added a bunch of dead machinery from now-closed local manufacturing plants, and called it themuseum – one word, all lower-case.  Can you make out the name in the above photo??  It being a British artifact, they had no interest in the ticket.

Anyway, I contacted the other local museum. It used to be called Doon Pioneer Village, and focused on the local Mennonites in the 1880s, but also recently changed its name, to Doon Heritage Crossroads, showcasing the growing 1920s urban development.

Canada didn’t have the Roaring 20s, flappers, or bathtub gin; although a strong wind might reveal a Mennonite woman’s ankle, or a vat of sweet apple cider might accidently go hard.  The ticket didn’t relate to their theme, and the only suggestion the curator had, was The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

There’s actually another ‘museum’ in Kitchener. It’s the Joseph Schneider Haus, built by one of the first settlers from Pennsylvania, in 1816, and still standing, in downtown Kitchener.  It has people in 1850s period costumes, demonstrating pioneer life, which is one reason why the Pioneer Village became the Heritage Crossroads.

A year ago, the Grandson moved to Ottawa to be with his fiancée as she attended college. In August, the son drove him, and a bunch of his stuff, in the new sport-ute.  Last October the son and I drove up another load of food and trivia.  After a six-hour drive on the Saturday, we barely had time to unload, a quick visit, and back later for a restaurant meal.

JUST as we were leaving the house Saturday morning, the son wondered aloud, if we might have the time to visit The War Museum on Sunday.  I ran upstairs and grabbed the ticket in its display frame, and brought it with us.

We did have time to tour the Museum on Sunday before leaving.  Since it was Sunday, and no office staff was working, I carefully put the ticket in an envelope, and left it and a note, with Security staff.  A couple of weeks later, I got a nice refusal letter from the Director of Acquisitions, who later mailed it back to me.

Northern Lights

It relates to Britain, and World War Two, and The Canadian War Museum is about Canadian wars, starting with French-Indian Wars, then British-Indian Wars, and Indian-Indian wars, etc., etc., etc.  Damn, we’ve had a lot of wars!  It’s back on a shelf on my stairway landing, beneath an impressive photo of the Northern Lights.  I can’t give this thing away.  Perhaps I’ll contact the bus company – they’re still in business.  Maybe they’d like it back.

***

ADDENDUM;

About 30 years ago, one of the wife’s nephews met a girl from Ottawa here at University, and moved there to marry her. We hadn’t begun taking our trips, so we let the most worldly-wise of her sisters, book motel rooms for 7 couples, to attend the wedding.

The motel that the son and I stayed at was an unusual creature, a sprawling old, two-storey, semi-Tudor style building….with a modern, 7-floor tower, epoxy-glued to one end. But the tower was closed off, and not available to guests.  When I asked why, the desk clerk told me that the 50-year-newer section was condemned.

It wasn’t till I got home and thought about it, that I realized that the now-condemned, haunted tower is where we slept, lo those many years ago. I wonder why it was condemned – and when??   😯

Invasion USA

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Recently Chuck Norris the wife and I executed a quick little raid into American territory for cultural observation and retail therapy.

We were barely outside the city limits, when trouble first arose.  It wasn’t long before there was a knock-down, drag-out, cursing and swearing, screaming and yelling, hair pullin’, eye-gougin’ match going on over in the passenger seat, between the wife, and Ethel, the snotty GPS.

The last little village we went through before getting on the Superhighway, was Roseville, ON. Our destination, north of Detroit, was Roseville, MI.  When the wife tried to enter that, Ethel insisted, “You’re already there.” The wife finally punched Ethel in the button that read ‘Change State or Province.’  Suddenly, Ethel knew all about Roseville….California.  No! No!  No!  I finally suggested adding the Michigan ZIP-code, and the fight ended with no serious injuries.

The Windsor/Detroit crossing is the most heavily-used border point between Canada and the US, and the one we’ve been using for years. Security is strict.  Since we were going well north of Detroit, we chose to cross from Sarnia, to Port Huron, MI, and work our way south.  Between a less-busy crossing, and the passage of 15 years since 9/11, it was quick, easy and almost informal.

Our border guard was a young, white male, who wasn’t suffering from testosterone poisoning from listening to Donald Trump speeches. When the wife volunteered that we were staying three days, he replied, “I don’t care how long you stay, as long as it’s not more than six months.”  When he found that we were going to strew cash into the economy, we got waved through before The Donald could collect enough Mexican pesetas to erect his wall.

Hotels/motels and restaurants cluster around Interstate exits. The better ones are usually right up front, while the Eats Diners huddle a little further back.  Right across from my Red Roof Inn, was a Days Inn, while the Victorian Inn was half a block south.

Red Roof

While searching for a Taco Bell, on the next main road over, and a block north, we drove past the Alibi Inn….because apparently the name Divorce Depot was already taken.  They oughta warn a fellow about things like that.  Trying to drive a car while giggling hysterically, looks a lot like DUI.

We went to a Wal-Mart to get some work jeans for Shimoniac, in his ‘big and tall’ size that Ontario Wal-Marts no longer carry. The first one we tried was down towards Eminem’s Eight Mile, surrounded by ‘houses made of ticky-tack, and they all look just the same,’ occupied mostly by melanin-rich folks.

It wasn’t dirty, but had the feel of dowdy, and unkempt.  In the Men’s Wear section, there were shelves and shelves of jeans.  Regular fit, Boot cut, Relaxed fit, Carpenter style and Flex-waist were all inter-mixed in the same piles, as well as waist sizes from 28 to 48, and inseams from 30 to 48.  After 20 minutes of frustrated searching, we managed to find one pair.

We then drove north and west to another Wal-Mart. Soon the homes were $500,000+, with gated drives and manicured lawns.  The area mall shone like Xanadu.  I’m surprised that we were allowed in, and disappointed that they didn’t have valet parking and shuttles to the shops.

This store gleamed. In the Men’s Wear section, all the styles were carefully kept separate, and sizes ran from smallest at the top, to largest on the bottom.  They have a much-different clientele.  It took only 30 seconds to find another pair of jeans, leaving the wife time to peruse the ladies’ sweaters.

You know you’re having an interesting vacation when you look out your motel window in the morning to see a State Trooper putting his steel battering-ram door opener back into the Police sport-ute.  He didn’t have to use it.  A local woman rented a room for a couple of visitors.  They partied too rowdy.  Instead of calling the front desk, who would have had to call the Police anyway, the outraged neighbors called the cops themselves.

While I was gabbing with a room-clerk, a young man came in to get another keycard. “I didn’t mean to pull the door all the way closed.”  Fortunately, he didn’t do it while dressed only in his Calvin Kleins, ‘cause she wanted ID.

The motel leaves a printed sheet, reminding guests to flip the ‘privacy’ switch on the inside of the door, so that no-one can enter, even with a keycard. While doing my usual wandering around, I found a keycard which someone had dropped just outside their door while entering.  I turned it in at the office.

At the wife’s suggestion, we ate supper the first night at Taco Bell. Michigan stores offer nachos Bel Grande that Ontario outlets don’t have.  We followed that with Cracker Barrel, and then The Outback, finishing off the last morning with brunch at Denny’s.

The Cracker Barrel wasn’t really busy, but in our section, the Negro waitress stood around talking to a Negro friend, while the white waitress took orders, delivered food, and cleaned tables. When she finally rushed over to serve us, she apologised for taking so much time.

The wife assured her that we were in no hurry, “You’re busy.”  We had till closing time, and told her to take her time.  You could just see the stress flow away.  “Not a lot of people are like that.”  We each got two corn-meal biscuits.  I, of course, ate both of mine.  The wife ate one.  When the bill arrived, I asked for a bag to take the biscuit home in.  When she returned, the bag held three more fresh biscuits, “So that you’ll both have two for breakfast, and there’ll be no fight.”  Quid Pro Quo!

Finally, well-fed and happy, we headed our mule-train loaded with beet sugar and new clothes back towards the land of maple syrup, socialized medicine and good manners. I’m sorry if that offends any Americans.  Please accept my apology….and come back soon.   😉

 

I Am A Challenge

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Always searching for inspiration, and any lame excuse theme for a post, I downloaded the above ’31 Day Blog Challenge.’  I quickly saw that I could never do them all, in a month.  Having blogged for 5 years, and pumped dribbled out over 660 posts, it was evident that I’d already (over)done several items, and others simply don’t apply.  Here’s the 31-day series in a fast-forward, 1-post version.

Self-portrait, and 5 random facts about yourself
Check my gravatar, my ‘About’ page, or any/all posts in my ‘Awards Earned’ category.  I’ve revealed more than the girls at the nudie bar.

Favorite quotes
I have hundreds of interesting, impressive and inspirational quotes rattling around in my empty head, and run into more online often.  Only if I’m very lucky do I remember an appropriate one when I need it.

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What makes you happy?
LIFE makes me happy – playing children, a sunset or rainbow, a well-turned phrase.  I am easily pleased.  However, I am also easily displeased.  That’s when I am happy to have this blog-site to bitch about, and hold certain facts and actions up, for ridicule and opprobrium.

Best childhood memory
ALL of them!  I was fortunate to live a long-ago, safe, innocent, happy childhood.  One of my blog-award posts mentions not being much impressed when jobs, taxes and family responsibilities came along.

Favorite movies you never get tired of watching
I knew people who watched ‘Titanic’ 8 and 9 times.  The boat sinks.  Everybody dies.  A movie is a visual story. Once you’ve been told the story, it doesn’t change.  Even epic movies like James Bond, or Star Trek, I can only watch twice, or perhaps three times, before my OCD yells, “Tell me a different story.”

Your last act of random kindness
What?  Today?  They are constant and ongoing.  Small things.  Everything from smiling and saying Please and Thank You (Which, sadly, is becoming viewed as an act of kindness, rather than mere good manners) to taking shopping carts out of parking spaces and arranging them neatly in the cart corral.  It assuages my OCD and sense of order, and prevents others from getting dinged cars.

What’s your dream job?
I’m retarded retired, and living the dream.  I’d like to dream with a little more money, but….

Biggest pet peeve
We all rant about dopey drivers and dealing with bureaucracy but, since such a large part of my life centers around reading and writing, my peeve is about poor English usage – especially by paid writers and authors. Teachers used to go to Teachers College to learn how to teach children.  Now they go to Universities to obtain two useless degrees, and neither they nor their students can read or write.

What’s on your bucket list?
I don’t have a pot to piss in, so there’s no money in my bucket to do anything.

Rate the last movie you watched
I recently saw Star Trek Beyond.  It was forced, fun and fast.  Written by Simon Pegg, the actor who plays Scotty, it contained a number of ‘McGuffins’, unnecessary/invalid plot devices to get the viewer to go along with the tale.  After (finally) suspending disbelief, it was a rollicking action movie.

The last book you read
See ‘kindness’ above.  What, today??  I’m currently reading E.E. (Doc) Smith’s ‘Spacehounds of IPC’, Tom Clancy (actually written by Mark Greany), ‘Command Authority’, and Robert Asprin/Linda Evans, ‘Tales of the Time Scouts.’

What is your favorite recipe?
We eat so many kinds of real good food….anything Tex-Mex.  I never got any when I was young.  They had barely invented pizza.  Nothing fancy, just filling.  Perhaps Potato pancakes.  Yum!

Create a photo gallery of your best pics
Old shaky-finger Phil??  I don’t take artistic shots.  Almost everything I’ve photographed, has already been included in my posts.

What’s on your favorite playlist?
I’m too damned old for ‘playlists’!  I occasionally go to YouTube when I recall a 60s or 70s song I can’t listen to on my cassette player any more.  For an upcoming drive to Detroit, the wife asked about a playlist for the trip.  Among others, I suggested Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, and The Chain, Valdy, doing Play Me A Rock And Roll Song, as well as The Moody Blues’, I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).

Tips on travelling to a destination
Our journeys are restricted to car trips, so I have few tips.  Plan ahead, service and gas the car, make reservations!

What are your 10 must-haves for a vacation?
If you have 10 things, or more, that you must have, that’s not a vacation.  That’s a temporary move!  Take along twice as much money, half as many clothes, an open mind, a spirit of inquiry and adventure, and the determination to see things, learn things, and have fun, no matter what happens. ….and that reservation!

As usual, I’m too wordy. Please return soon for Act 2 of this one-act play.  😳

Everything Ended Perfectly

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For any of my readers who might be in the Southern Ontario region – I suggest you take a few steps back for a couple of weeks. If the Karma Balancing Equation is correct, my house should get struck by a medium-sized meteor soon.

All 3 puppies

Daughter LadyRyl recently got to go for her first plane trip. The crazy cat lady also breeds Chihuahuas.   The daughter has been fostering a female for her, and recently oversaw the delivery of four cute little puppies.

She has had a long-distance friend for almost 18 years – almost since before there was an Internet. She Facebooked photos, and Skyped with the friend, showing off the wee dogs.  They’ve often spoken about getting together, but they’re 500 miles apart.

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Alug (a look), with Tara, new, much older sister

The friend was entranced by one little male, and decided to add him to her menagerie – then her 7 kids would have 7 pets. Ryl decided that the time had come, and offered to deliver him by hand.  The friend lives a 2-hour drive east of Thunder Bay, ON, and offered to pick her up there and house her for five days.

She has blogged about the flight up, and plans to detail her stay. If you haven’t already, you might link over and have a look.  She had a wonderful visit, although, halfway through, the new main bridge on the Trans-Canada Highway,  between her and the airport, popped a rivet and got a bit bent out of shape.  Crews had it at least usable by the time she left.

Nipigon Bridge

She paid for her own flight. Cat-lady offered to drive her to and from the Toronto airport.  It’s the least she could do.  She’d have had to drive down once, and pay to have the dog shipped, whereas, the daughter took the puppy as carry-on luggage.

It’s a two hour flight home, and it’s a two hour drive from the cat-lady’s home. Just as daughter was getting ready to board her plane, cat-lady texted her.  The storm that was blowing down from the north had reached her.  She got to the highway, and visibility was ZERO.

We got a desperate text. Was our weather still clear??  Could we pick her up at the airport??  Of course!  Where and when?

I’ve been past the Toronto Airport, but never actually entered.  We got some things ready and took off.  Obscured lane markings and a bit of blowing snow made the trip a little longer than the usual one hour.  So did the fact that I left the highway one ramp too soon, driving up the airport’s ass-end, across the top, and back down, coming at the entrance from the wrong direction.

Pulling in off the street, I was suddenly on a Disneyworld ride – roads and ramps and bumper cars, oh my. In the dark!  In a snowstorm!  Where’s the signs?  Where’s the parking.  If I’m not careful, I’ll drive to Disneyworld, rather than fly there!

I followed a previous suggestion, made by the son. He describes it as Zen driving.  Find a car that looks like it knows where you’re going, and follow it.  Those two that just cut me off – they look like they’re going to pick someone up.  Sure enough, they both pull up a poorly marked ramp, and lead me into a parking garage.

Soon, I’m in a handicap spot, ten feet from an entrance. This opens to an overhead concourse, where we can look down on (in both senses) the chaos at the main entrance.  The daughter texted that she was landing, and that her plane would be a D-Gate #111.  Her one checked bag would unload at baggage carousel #9.

As we enter, signs say that Gates A – C are waayyy down there.  Gate D is right around this corner, an easy hobble for the wife and her two crutches.  However, carousel 9 is two football fields away.  With no seating on the upper level, we go down the escalator and take seats beside carousel 1.

Another text tells us that daughter’s plane was 10 minutes early, and the plane at ramp #111 is 10 minutes late leaving. They will unload onto the tarmac, and send luggage to carousel 1, since it’s the closest.

Soon, an airport employee delivers daughter and her carry-ons, in a wheelchair. We grab her checked bag and head for the car.  All done in just under an hour, we pay the outrageous $10 parking fee, and quickly hit Highway 401.

A bit more snow on the way home, a bit less wind drifting.  Traffic moves smoothly.  We’re home safely in an hour.  Where’s the snotty GPS?  Where’s the bumper-to-bumper traffic?  Where’s the getting lost and having to stop and ask some rag-head for directions?  Where’s something to rant about?  Karma’s up to something!  I’ll probably get lost going to the supermarket, but, Everything Ended Perfectly!  😀

 

 

Homeward! Bound?

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What books I can’t get for free from the Library, I pay half-price for at the book-exchange stall at the St. Jacob’s Farmers’ Market, or reluctantly buy at full retail from the Chapters Bookstore nearby. Also, a few trickle down from the son, Shimoniac.  One of the ways I enticed him to accompany me on the recent Buffalo/Batavia trip, was to guarantee him a visit to both a large bookstore and/or second-hand book exchange.

Everything is relative. Cordelia’s Mom informed me that the large second-hand bookstore I found online in Buffalo, was just outside the University, and dealt with buying and reselling text-books. The Galleria Mall she led us to, listed ‘Bookstores – 3’ online, if you consider Hallmark Cards a bookstore.

A second was a Christian bookstore, more interested in selling Bibles, rosaries and Holy Water pendants than Sci-Fi or Romance. The last was a New Age-y thing with books on Yoga, weight loss, DIY, and Chicken Soup for the Confused Psyche.  We spent a couple of hours people-watching, and then headed to Batavia, where I assured him there was a Barnes and Noble store.

After our Sunday photographic downtown tour, we allowed Ethel, the GPS, to lead us three miles out of town to 1 College Road. This turned out to be the main administration building of the Genesee State College.  The store might have been run by Barnes and Noble, but it was identified simply as ‘Campus Bookstore’, slightly bigger than a Volkswagen van, full of more textbooks, and closed on Sunday.

“Never fear!” I said.  “I know where there’s a giant Barnes and Noble in Buffalo, as big as the huge Chapters we recently visited in Toronto’s Eaton’s Center.”  (Grump, grump, grump muttered the son.  I’ll bet.)

The next day, after checking out, we headed back to Buffalo. Since ‘I knew where I was going,’ the son hadn’t turned Ethel back on.  There was a post with two curved arrows to the right as we approached Niagara Falls Boulevard.  I drove over it, expecting to take the far ramp down, to go south.  There is no far ramp.

The following is for CM, and any others familiar with Buffalo, to tell her how lost I was, and where.  The rest of you can skip it and just read “Lost, lost, lost, blah, blah, blah.”

A mile and a quarter down I-90, to Colvin – north a mile and a quarter till I encountered a main cross-street, Ellicott Creek Rd. – a mile and a quarter back to Niagara Falls Blvd. and there was The Grapevine, our restaurant of two days ago – south a mile and a quarter, till I was back where I should have been. Moses wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  I only went 5 useless miles out of my way.

I found the Barnes and Noble, and parked in a handicap spot right in front, because my arthritic hip was bothering me – and then hobbled a 100 yards around the corner to where they put the entrance. The son spent a glorious hour and a half, picking up almost as much ink as if he’d got a tattoo, while I lazed in an easy chair in front of their indoor gas campfire.  Finally sated, but without actually purchasing one book, we headed home.

Back up the Boulevard we went, toward I-90. Again, there were two arrows, one curved, and one L-shaped.  I didn’t want to get caught as I had coming in.  The son was desperately trying to find the GPS.  Just as I decided to merge right, the son yelled, “Take the ramp!”  I did – and off we went in the wrong direction – again.  More ‘Lost, lost, blah, blah.’

The last exit back dumped right into the University of Buffalo. After navigating parking lots and ring road, we finally won free to a surface street.  The son said, “We’re on Maple Road.”  Well, Maple Rd. Is where the Red Roof is that we should have stayed at. “I know where we are.  We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”

Continuing onward, the son said, “We must be getting near civilization. There’s a Taco Bell.  At least we won’t starve to death.”  (As if!)  Ethel the GPS had finally recovered her satellites, and her voice, but I beat her to it.  “Turn right on Sheridan Drive.” I know! I followed the turbo-charged soccer-momobile here last year.  This takes us back to CM’s place.

Soon, we’re back to the Boulevard, and heading for I-90. Another wasted 5 miles.  Moses’ ass, and mine, are getting tired.  Finally facing toward Canada, we head home.  Near Grand Island, the highway runs across the top of a dam.  Suddenly, the light goes on.  This is the entrance to the fabled Erie Canal.

I paid a dollar toll to get onto the island, and another to take the bridge over the gorge. I pulled up to the Canadian Customs booth – and that’s when the trouble started.

I misjudged my approach, and when I went to hand out our passports, I couldn’t reach by two feet. The young Border Guard could have stepped out of his booth, but instead insisted, “Get out of the car!”, which I was happy to do, because I needed to ease my right hip again.  Immediately, I was ordered to, “Get back in your car!”  “Okay, as soon as I can move.”

What the son saw, but I didn’t, was the Free Safety behind the adjacent booth suddenly head toward us with his hand on his Glock. Once the car door was closed, things calmed down – a bit.  Now the Inquisition started.

Why’d you go to the States?
To visit some friends, and do a bit of shopping.
How long were you gone?
(He’s got it on the computer screen in front of him.)  Two days.
Where are you from?
Kitchener.
How much are you bringing back?
For both of us, about $75 US, no alcohol, no tobacco.
Then what did you buy?
Some clothes, some food.
Where do your friends live?
In Tonawanda.
Where did you stay?
Out in Batavia.  It was the nearest place that wasn’t full of football fans.
Do you have a receipt?
Why yes officer, right here beside me.
So you two brothers just went over for a visit?
We are not brothers.  We are father and son.
Have you ever had any trouble getting into the States?
No, officer.
Are you known by any other names?
(Other than Stupid, or Asshole??)  No sir.

He looked across the car at the son and asked for a drivers’ licence, for proof of address, which we passed out, and he examined thoroughly. We just sat there, grinning like the rubes we are.  I asked, “Which name set you off?”  “I can’t tell you that.” But it was the son’s licence he asked for.  Like the TSA No-Fly list, it’s probable that someone with the same name is wanted for something.  We may have this problem in any future trips, but now we are warned.

Now he can step out of the booth, to return all the documents.  No “Thank you, have a nice day sir.” Just, “Okay, away you go.”  Surly enough to be an American.  Did Tim Horton’s refuse to serve you?  Well, we’re back in the Land of the Bland and the Home of the Subservient.