A LARGE DROP IN THE BUCKET

Hero

I am agog – not to be confused with a fool, a nerd, or a nosy parker – although I’ve successfully been all of those. I have been within 8 feet of Queen Elizabeth.  I have seen and touched Her Royal Yacht, Britannia, when it put into the harbor at my home town for fuel.  I had a brief, 5-second conversation with the singer, Roger Whittaker, and I got a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, from the female Canadian Minister of the Exterior.

These all pale into insignificance. I recently got an invitation from BrainRants, to come and visit him and his wife this summer.  Actually, all that happened was that he made a casual inquiry as to whether the wife and I intended to be in his area this year, and when – but I’m treating it like a Royal Summons, and it snowballed from there. I’m So Excited (click to hear the Pointer Sisters tell you how much)

He’s the one responsible for unleashing me on an unsuspecting blogosphere, but don’t blame him for that. He was distracted at the time with saving the world and the American Way Of Life.  It was the Law of Unintended Consequences.

A couple of years ago, when we were doing the ‘Doctor Ericson, I presume’ tour, I asked if we might drive down for a quick visit.  Rants was preoccupied with a son going off to college, and a few other pressing domestic situations, and said ‘no,’ but not necessarily “NO” forever.

Last fall, I asked again about the possibility of an eventual visit, just to know whether or not to remove it from my bucket list. Rants took this as an indication that I wanted it to happen soon.  Apparently not a lot of people make plans years ahead, especially old geezers like me.  It’s happening sooner than I anticipated.  Rants and his lovely wife are welcoming us this summer.  Not only are we visiting, but we are being put up in a guest room to save motel costs –and, Rants is booking some well-earned and needed vacation time to be with us for several days.

I asked if it was some kind of competition between him and his wife to be nice to us, but apparently this is what kind, intelligent, generous people do. Aside from visiting my parents for weekends while they were alive, I have never been a house-guest in my life. Dear Miss Etta Kett; How do I conduct myself??

It is well that the wife’s birthday is in mid-Feb. This year she had to renew her Ontario Health Card, and her driver’s licence. One of three photo ID options recommended to do this, is a passport.  When I dug hers out and she was transferring information, she realized that both our passports had expired.

Apparently the bureaucrats do not send an email renewal reminder, and since we didn’t travel outside the Province last year, we had not noticed. It would have been a catastrophe to make all these delicious plans, and be turned back at the border for incomplete documents.  We had the time to get them reissued.

I am so giddy that I’m twirling around the house like a little pixie….or maybe a wolverine on meth. We’re going to Rants’! We’re going to Rants’ I’m taking along our digital camera, but there’s no promise that any photos will show up here on the blog-site.  I’ve already had to sign a non-disclosure security document, and a black helicopter will pick us up at the Virginia Welcome Center.

Surprisingly, the wife warmed to the idea quite quickly, to the point that, if we can’t put aside enough to pay for the trip in the next couple of months, she’s willing to raid her cache of Loonies and Toonies coins that she’s been stashing away for years.

If she’s warm now, just wait and see how warm DC is in August. We may drive past the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Pentagon in an air-conditioned car, but this visit is all about meeting two people who have been so very nice to me for years.  We can do that with a shady back deck and some cold beer.

More to come, I will reveal all as much as I can.  Be happy for me….and maybe a little jealous.   😎  🌯

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Where’s Willy

No! That title isn’t for a porno-lite blog post.  There are people and websites that allow you to track the movements of certain currency bills.  I mentioned this a couple of years ago, and it happened again recently.  The son received a 5-dollar bill with whereswilly.com on it.  He graciously donated it to my blog-theme account for the mere fee of….a different 5-dollar bill.

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“Willy” is/was Sir Wilfrid (not Wilfred) Laurier, whose stern face graces the Canadian fiver.  The smaller local university began as Waterloo Lutheran University.  As they expanded, and outgrew the religious connection, they took ‘Willy’ as their mascot, and became Wilfrid Laurier University, so that W.L.U. remained W.L.U.  (Saves on paperwork.)

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I accessed the website, and entered the bill’s serial number. When I submitted the short report of where I (the son) got it, and its physical condition, I got a webpage which showed where it had originated, and how long/how many miles/kilometers it had been on the road.  If you can read the fine print, Americans are invited to play this game by visiting “Where’s George?”

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I was the first one to report this bill since its originator set it loose 174 days, almost six months before. As you can see, (but probably not that map) it began its tattooed journey in a town in Quebec called Listuguj, 1185 KM (750 Mi.) east of here, almost to the end of the Gaspé Peninsula, across the river/bay from New Brunswick.  How and why did it get from there to here?

When I found that it started in a Quebec town, I wondered why it didn’t say, “Ou est Willi?” That was explained when I investigated Listuguj.  I thought that it might have Polish or Czech founders, but it’s actually a treaty M’iq M’aq Indian enclave.

Have any of you got bills like this and/or played this game?

Lost In The Urban Jungle

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In my little hometown, in the late 1940s, the selections in the two small, local, independent grocery stores were not great, and low-volume buying and shipping made prices a bit higher than in ‘the big city.’ My Dad suggested that we start driving 25 miles to the ‘giant metropolis’ of 10,000 people, and shop at the Loblaw’s store.

In our little blue-lawed town, stores closed at 6:00 PM, and there was no such thing as Sunday shopping. On Friday nights, the Loblaw’s stayed open until 9:00.  Dad would come home from work at 5, we’d have a quick supper, and be on the road by 6.

It became a routine. The choices were greater.  The lower grocery prices paid for the gas burned, and it was a family adventure.  There might even be enough left over to have some French fries from a ‘chip wagon.’

One warm July Friday night, we rolled up main street. Dad found a parking spot about a half a block from the store, and put a dime in a parking meter for an hour’s stay. Long before the advent of suburban malls, stores were ‘downtown.’

We walked to the Loblaw’s, did our shopping, and checked out, with some time to spare.  In the days of good manners and social restraint, shopping carts were not allowed out of the store onto main street.  All groceries had to be carried.

We had four large paper bags. I was 6 years old, and my brother was three. We weren’t going to carry any.  My Mother tucked two of the lighter ones in the crooks of her elbows, and my Dad hefted the rest.  When we exited the store, there were no hands free to guide us, so my Mom said to me, “You take your brother, and go on ahead to the car.”  So, leading him by the hand, off we set down an un-busy sidewalk.

We got to the (unlocked) car long before they did. In the days before air conditioned stores, the double doors of the store beside the car stood propped open.  Just as I was about to open the car, I heard ‘clickety-click, clickety-click.’  What was that sound?  Dragging him, we stepped over to the store doors and looked and listened.

This was not quite a department store, more like a 5 and 10, five times as big as the tiny Dime Store in my town.  There were sales-clerks in various spots, but no cash registers or money.  They had a something much like a pneumatic tube system, only made out of steel mesh.

All the price tags, and the customers’ money, were put into a 4” X 4” x 6” steel mesh car, with a little electric motor, and pushed into a drop-tube. Clickety-click, clickety-click, up it went, turned at the top, and clickety-click, clickety-click, ran around the store, and up into a cash office on a mezzanine level.  There, a clerk verified all totals, made change, and returned the little car along with a receipt.  An adjustable semaphore determined which station it would drop out at.

This was the sound that I’d heard. We, or at least techno-geek me, stared in awe.  The nearest clerk noticed us, and asked if we’d like to see it again. “Yes please!” She wrote a note that said, “I have two fascinated kids here.  Just return it.” and stuffed it up the tube. Clickety-click, clickety-click, up it went, around the room and up into the office.  Thirty seconds later, clickety-click, back it came.

She wasn’t busy, so she asked, “Wanna do it once more?” “Yes please!” She added, “One more time” to the note and, clickety-click, off it dashed again, like a 1950 slot-car and clickety-click, soon returned and popped out one more time.

Now…. Let’s step outside, and see what this looked like to our parents.  They’d sent two kids half a block on a main street sidewalk, in broad daylight, but when they got to the car, we weren’t there. Where the Hell did the kids go??! Had someone kidnapped us?  Had we got into the wrong car, and inadvertently been driven off?  Were we lost, and wandering the streets?

They quickly stowed the groceries, and began searching. Up and down the street, asking random pedestrians if they’d seen two little boys – back to the Loblaw’s – Dad went one way, Mom went the other.  They finally returned to the car in a panic….and we calmly walked out of the store.  We hadn’t been more than twenty feet away, all the time, but there had been no reason for them to think we’d gone inside.

Too happy, to give me shit, Mom still impressed on me that I should never do such a thing again. And while we weren’t at the car, the dime’s worth of parking had expired, and an eagle-eyed meter maid had given Dad a parking ticket to pay.  No French fries that night.  I didn’t get lost again for 8 years, when I got swept up in another school group touring a Niagara power station, and had to explain to the Principal, why I wasn’t there for our head-count.  😳

 

‘17 A To Z Challenge – T

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You just know that a darkness-loving troglodyte like me would be fascinated with being underneath things, and by;

TUNNELS

With tunnels and the like, I am intrigued not merely with the fact that I am under, but what (specifically) is over.

At a place in England, it is necessary for a narrow-boat canal to cross a river. It does so on a multi-arched aqueduct.  It is fascinating to see photos or video of a west-bound river steamer passing directly beneath a south-bound canal boat.

When we had tired of going from Windsor to Detroit, or back, on the big bridge, and driving above ships in the river, I decided to try the tunnel. While it’s a little more distance, back then, the connection to I-75 was quicker and easier.  I never worried about the tunnel collapsing, but it was interesting to think that I might be driving directly under a 1000-foot-long lake freighter.

When we used to go to Niagara Falls, down at the other end of Lake Erie, I took the opportunity to return home via a tunnel under the Welland Canal. It’s possible that I drove under that same freighter from Detroit.

It costs a lot of money to dig a road tunnel, especially through rock. Most of the American Interstate system, at least in the eastern mountains, goes around them.  One exception is I-40, from Knoxville, Tenn. into North Carolina.  There are two tunnels within a few miles – but only if you’re travelling East.  If you’re heading West, at one of the tunnels, the divided highway hangs along the side of the mountain.  Being in the tunnel there, only means that you’re under pine roots and raccoon shit.

Skyline panorama

We came through Pittsburgh one time, following the Interstate down the edge of the river, 30/40 feet higher than the water. I-376 suddenly crosses the river, and plunges into the side of a 150 foot stone cliff on the other side, and doesn’t seem to come up for air until you’re almost into Indiana.

It’s one thing, especially at spaghetti-junction highway interchanges, to be driving underneath other cars or even big transport trucks. On the west side of town, the Conestoga Expressway passes under not only several surface streets, but the main railroad line, so I’ve driven under trains.

To accommodate our new street-railroad system, two of the major, downtown streets have been excavated under the rail line, so I’ve had even more opportunities to drive under trains. A couple of blocks from the daughter’s place, there is an old, shallow underpass, where I’ve often driven under trains.  I try to be sure that, when I drive under something, I can get all the way out the other side.  Despite signs warning of “Low Underpass,” a couple of times a year, THIS happens.

Tunnels

There’s an underpass like this, somewhere in the States, that’s so famous that it has its own website. With a name like ‘elevenfootsix.com’, you can access it and watch live video from a traffic-cam, or access archived footage and photos.

At least twice a week, some big-rig, or local delivery truck like the one above, rips the top off and gets stuck. There must be a Ryder truck-rental agency upstream, because every second truck is a (now-damaged) Ryder.  It’s (almost) amusing to watch RVs swoop under it, but peel off roof-mounted canoes or air-conditioning units.

I have finally driven under an airplane. One day, coming around the Expressway, on a sunny, cloudless day, suddenly I was in a shadow, and then out again.  What was that??  Ah….a 20-passenger commuter plane, heading for the local airport.  But it’s mid-afternoon, and the sun is off to the west, so I wasn’t directly under it, merely in its shadow.

All that changed on my most recent drive to Ottawa, to visit the Grandson. The highway goes past a Canadian Forces Airbase, and there were two big military transport planes angling in for a landing, 45° ahead and to my left.  Can I?  Can I?  I hope!

The first one crossed the highway and went to final approach.  A minute later and a mile further east for me, and lower and nearer for the second….VOOOM!  I went right under him!  When a C-16 cargo plane passes 200 feet above you, there’s no mistake.  The sonic vibrations pounded me and the car.  I could see his nose out the passenger side, while his tail was still on my driver’s side.

Small things do indeed amuse small minds. It’s better than being under suspicion, under investigation, under the influence, under arrest, or under a misapprehension.  What things would you admit to being under?   😕

***

By the way:  Happy New Years guys.  The best of good wishes for the coming year, and thanx for your ongoing company and support.  😀

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.

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??   😯