OLD JOKES FOR OLD (SOVIET) FOLKS

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Jokes recently declassified by the CIA, that they got from intercepted Russian documents during the Cold War.  I’m old enough to get most of these, although some of you might need to get Wiki or Google to explain them to you.

A worker, standing in a liquor store line says, “I’ve had enough.  Save my place in line.  I’m going to shoot Gorbachev.”  Two hours later he returns.  His friend says, “Did you get him?”  “No!  The line there was longer than this one.”

What’s the difference between Gorbachev and Dubcek?
Nothing, but Gorbachev doesn’t know that yet.

Sentence from a schoolboy’s weekly composition, “My cat had seven kittens.  They are good Communists.”  A sentence from the next week’s composition says, “My cat’s seven kittens are all Capitalists.”  The teacher reminded him that the previous week, he had said that they were Communists.  He replied, “Yes, but their eyes are open now.”

A Chukchi is asked what he would do if the Russian border was opened.  “I’d climb the highest tree.”  When asked why, he replied, “So that I didn’t get trampled in the rush to get out of here.”  When he was asked what he would do if the American border was opened, he said, “I’d climb the highest tree, to see who was the first person crazy enough to come here.”

Somebody happened to call the KGB Headquarters just after a major fire.  “I’m sorry.  We can do nothing.  The KGB has just burned down.”  Five minutes later, he again called, and was told that the KGB had burned down.  When he called the third time, the telephone operator recognised his voice and said, “Why do you keep calling?  I told you that the KGB burned down.”  “I know,” he said, “I just like to hear it.”

A train bearing Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Gorbachev stops suddenly because it runs out tracks.  Each leader applies his own unique solution to the problem.  Lenin gathers workers and peasants from miles around, and exhorts them to build more rails.  Stalin shoots the engineer and crew when the train still doesn’t move.  Khrushchev rehabilitates the dead crew and orders the tracks behind the train ripped up and laid down in front.  Brezhnev pulls down the window curtain, and rocks back and forth, pretending that the train is still moving.  Gorbachev calls a rally in front of the locomotive and leads a chant, “No tracks!  No tracks!  No tracks!”

Ivanov: Give me a medical example of perestroika.
Siderov: (Thinks) How about menopause?

An old lady goes to the Gorispolkom with a question, but by the time she gets to the head of the line, she’s forgotten the purpose of her visit.  “Was it about your pension?” the official asks.  “No, I get 20 rubles a month.  I’m fine.”  “Was it about your apartment?”  “No, I live with three other people in a one room apartment.  It’s fine.”  Suddenly, she remembers; “Who invented Communism – The Communists, or the scientists?”  The official responds proudly, “Why, the Communists, of course.”  “That’s what I thought.” she says, “If scientists had invented it, they’d have tested it on dogs first.”

An American tells a Russian that the United States is so free that he can stand in front of the White House, and yell, “To Hell with Ronald Reagan!”  “That’s nothing”, the Russian replies, “I can stand in front of the Kremlin and shout, ‘To Hell with Ronald Reagan’, too.”

A man goes into a shop and asks, “You don’t have any meat?”  “No,” the lady replies, “we don’t have any fish.  It’s the store across the street that doesn’t have any meat.”

A man is driving with his wife and small child.  A Militia man pulls them over, and makes the man take a breathalyser test.  The Militia says, “See, you’re drunk.”  The man protests that the breathalyser machine must be broken, and invites the officer to test his wife.  She also shows as drunk.  Exasperated, the man invites the officer to test the child, and even the kid registers as drunk as well.  “You must be right.  I guess it is broken.” The officer says, and lets them go.  Out of earshot the man says to his wife, “See, I told you it wouldn’t hurt to give the kid 5 grams of vodka.”

***

This comedic blast from the past has been brought to you by the Old Dude, who isn’t quite as Grumpy, because he got a chuckle from these outdated jokes.  Stop by later, and I’ll try to make fun of Trump, before he becomes a joke all by himself.  😆

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.

SWEEEET!

American money

To help finance our recent trip to visit Cordelia’s Mom, in Buffalo, I did a little unintentional crowd-sourcing. Son Shimoniac and I are almost impossible to buy presents for. I don’t even wear ties, so gaily-wrapped tee-shirts, socks or underwear often show up.

Grandson WillowThorn had been desperately searching for suitable presents for both Shimoniac and I. Our birthdays both occurred just before this trip. He had finally found something suitable for me, which he will now delightedly hold until Christmas. When he heard about our trip, he went to a bank and presented each of us with $50 US cash. That’s the joy of a gift of money. It’s always the right size. Let’s have a nice round of applause for one of the nicest grandsons/nephews in the world.

The son worked a midnight shift till 7 AM, Saturday morning, came home, showered, changed, had breakfast/midnight snack, and helped me load the car after I’d had *?*? hours of sleep. He normally goes to bed about noon, but sometimes gets excited by the weekend before him and stays up till 3 or 4. With the trip ahead, he was so high on adrenalin, I could have towed him to Buffalo like a kite.

I had decided to cross the border from Queenston to Lewiston, partly to save a bit of extra driving, but mostly to keep Ethel, the snotty GPS, quiet. Fifty miles of the drive were along a highway named for the Queen, The Queen Elizabeth Way – The QEW, which Ethel rendered to ‘The Q EWest’. I’m lucky she didn’t call it ‘The QEast/West’. Before we left, the son entered the address of the motel out in Batavia that we would stay at. Ethel didn’t get snotty till I decided to pull off I-90, to get to the restaurant. We forgot to tell her we were stopping for lunch.

Cordelia had already wisely backed out, but CM has two other quite intelligent daughters, both also smart enough not to want to have anything to do with mom’s two rotund Canuckleheads.

CM had to go down to the basement, where she managed to slip off the electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, unchain Mr. CM, and drag him along. He must have majored in Performing Arts in College, because he acted as if he actually enjoyed himself.

SDC10886 our restaurant, The Grapevine

Having already pulled an illegal player substitution on us, CM then proceeded to execute an end run. Two days before kickoff, she emailed me to say that she had invited another blogger and his wife http://markbialczak.com/ . Talk about feeling like a fifth wheel – more like the third rail.

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Sadly, they couldn’t make it. I seated The Bear across from Mr. CM. When he left, he still had both ears, so I guess the son didn’t talk one of them off. I posted a blog called Funny Money, about Canada’s new, polymer plastic bills, but it was before CM knew me, so she hadn’t seen it.

Loonie toonie

They both were aware of them, as well as our Loonie and Toonie – the $1 and $2 coins, but hadn’t actually seen them, so I hauled some out for their inspection. They were fascinated, especially hubby, with the holograms.

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Lunch was delicious, (and paid for by someone else) and the company was sparkling. I remembered to present CM with a refill on her maple candy, (this is where the SWEEEET comes in) and LadyRyl sent along a cloth chew-toy for the dog.  I don’t know if Not CM sneaked in or not.  I kept glancing around for strange looking people, and found everyone staring at Shim and I.  We were It.  😛

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Kooky, the Coke-sniffing drinking bear got to make some new friends. Afterwards, we were invited back to our hosts’ home to meet puppy Cody, and view the almost-completed repairs.

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Possibly overwhelmed by the size and the hair on The Bear, Cody was understandably reticent. It took some skill and patience to get a shot of her. CM then led us on a merry chase down to The Galleria Mall. After another minor episode of not quite being where we should, (wait till you read what I managed on my own later) she abandoned left us in the rain, outside a Sears store.

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I’m not much of a believer in superstitions, but the finding of lucky, welcoming pennies just continued – three days, three pennies found, the first by Shimoniac, on a hip-high shelf in Sears. Please return next week for the story of our stay in a small town city, out in the sticks.

Invasion Force

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Look out USA, you’re under assault. The Meet-The-Blogger Tour went very well last year, beginning with Cordelia’s Mom, in Buffalo. She even invited us back. This year, the son booked a week of holidays early in October, and we’re going to spend a couple of days getting to know Buffalo, and CM, better.

We’ll tell the border guards that we’re jelly-bean salesmen, on our way to a sales conference. One look at our waistlines, and they’ll probably tell us to stop sampling the merchandise.

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Last year, CM sent us home with some ‘Buffalo’ merchandise, so I asked her if there were any Kitchener-area items that we could bring with us. I was thinking of Oktoberfest sausage, sauerkraut and sweet German mustard, but none of those agree with her digestion.

Football

There is a penalty to be paid for not having any interest in sports. We had planned this trip for the weekend of Oct. 3rd and 4th. I even told CM that we would be staying at a Red Roof Inn a bit closer than the one we used last year. Two weeks before launch date, I called to confirm a room, and found that high school/college/NFL football is in full swing.

I dialled 1-800-rent-me-a-room RedRoof, and the booking clerk told me that all three of the Buffalo area inns were fully booked. She managed to find me a room out in Batavia. I thought it was a further 30/35 mile drive, but on checking, I realize it’s almost 50. The clerk, who claims to live just over in Dayton, Ohio, pronounced it batt-uh-VEE-uh. There’s no sense trying Super 8, or Scottish Inns. If Red Roof is full, they’re all full.

I should have remembered. Years ago, on our way home from Charleston, SC, in October, I missed a turnoff and a Red Roof tucked away off the Interstate, just west of Pittsburgh. “Oh well, we’ll just go up to the next exit and pay a bit more.” We drove another 7 hours, through Pennsylvania and into New York. I must have stopped at 40 hotels/motels, before we got one of the last two rooms in a motel just west of Buffalo that wasn’t even officially open, at 1:30 in the morning.

I jokingly asked if CM had any suggestions for two unchaperoned males. She apparently has no knowledge of strip clubs or bars, but sent me links to Niagara Falls, the Buffalo zoo, and the Art Museum. Larry Lowbrow and his kid, Bart, were looking for something more like large bookstores, both new and used. We could get lost for a day at a decent mall, but none of us could find a Buffalo equivalent to Detroit’s Gibraltar Trade Center.

I had hoped to meet Cordelia, the inspiration who got CM into the blogosphere, but she’s transitioning from self-employed to a cube-drone, and won’t be available, dashing my hope for a father/son/mother/daughter blogger lunch. CM has threatened promised to try to bring along one of her other gorgeous, intelligent daughters. All I have to offer is a lumpen and surly son. She thought about asking her husband to join us, but apparently he’s the reason she doesn’t find me all that much of a Grumpy Old Dude.

CM has located a great restaurant for our lunch meeting, this year Italian, instead of last year’s Greek. If the border guards possess a bit of humor and pity, food and drink will be consumed, pictures will be taken for later online display, much conversation, socialization and frivolity will ensue, and themes for future blogs, both CM’s and mine, will occur.

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Last year, the wife and I took along a stuffed lamb, for identification. CM should recognize me, if not son Shimoniac. Since he is big enough to be known as The Bear, I felt we could take along the wife’s McDonalds Coca-Cola Bear, who is so cool that he has his own stuffed teddy bear. 😎

If this blogsite is quiet for a couple of days, you’ll know we’re in jail Buffalo….BattuhVEEuh??!

The Fellowship Of The Blog – Prologue

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This is where it all begins. No, no, not with the cat!  She’s the intelligent and sane one of this dingbat-ic duo.  This plot was hatched from the depths of Archon’s psychotic psyche.  Once upon a time, he heard that AFrankAngle had driven across a good chunk of Ohio, to visit commenter-supreme and newly-hatched blogger, John Erickson.

Disenchanted with the quality of the Detroit knife show, to use as an excuse to visit the United States, I noticed that there will be a show at the Pritchard-Laughlin Center, in Cambridge, Ohio, in mid-October. Cambridge is in Erickson’s back yard. The wife and I attended two years in a row, some years back, before we knew of the existence of the lost Illinois boy.  Would he accept a visit? Would he (and Mrs. E.) like to visit the three-ended bridge in nearby Zanesville?  Would they like to accompany us to the knife show?

Then came the discovery of Cordelia’s Mom, a new-ish blogger from the Buffalo area. She gave me a blog-award, and I wrote an acceptance post for it.  If I’m going to Ohio, I will want to cross the border at Buffalo.  When Mom heard of this, she was thrilled with the idea of us stopping in for a quick visit.

I titled my humorous (?) post, Sunshine and Lollipops. She commented that I had delivered the sunshine, but where were her lollipops?  I resolved to obtain some lollipops for her, and daughter and fellow blogger, Cordelia, who claims to have called it quits.

I had hoped to have the wife along on this trip, but medical restrictions forced her to direct me to take the son, Shimoniac, along. Just imagine, a father-son/mother-daughter, four-way blog fest.  I had considered continuing over to Cincinnati, with the thought of perhaps taking John E./Mrs. John E. back, for a visit to the Angular blogger if possible.  Aside from “Cincinnati Chili” for me, there is a paddle-wheel boat, Ohio River tour, including under a smaller, but older-brother version of the Brooklyn Bridge, which the wife would have loved.

I even wondered about trying to talk BrainRants into joining us in Cinci, but it was a ten-hour drive from KC, and I don’t think Rants could have got an excuse slip, even to visit the Illi-noisy one. But then came the “Great Move.”  Would it be possible for two or more of us to impinge on Washington, DC, without a Homeland Security raid??! Herding cats??!  This was beginning to look more like juggling cats!  I don’t know how Machiavelli did it.

AFrankAngle has shown some mild curiosity and interest in knife shows, so I have invited him to join us in Cambridge, if John’s medical condition allows visitors and voyages. I don’t know what the final results on any of these options will be as I format this draft.  I will probably have to edit before posting.  It may all fall through, and son and I will just wander a strange country for a few days – if we can even convince the border guards to let us enter on such a flimsy excuse.

This batty idea has been flapping around in my belfry for over a year. Over the past couple of years, we have replaced all the windows in the house, then had the roof re-shingled, and the garage and main entry doors replaced – all on a retiree’s income.  Now the paved driveway is disintegrating, and we have contracted to have it redone.  The wife worried that, as much as I want this trip, perhaps we can’t afford it.

Since I have everything I need or want, or that gift-givers can afford, for my last birthday the grandson, now receiving a decent wage at his welding apprenticeship placement, offered up to $500, toward any knife I wished to buy. What a darling boy!

At my age, it doesn’t make sense to acquire a knife just for display. I’d sooner be able to look at and appreciate many different knives, so we made a deal that he would partially fund this expedition, I would return with many photos and fanciful tales, and he would be given credit.  Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a big hand for ThornSmith!  (No link because, while he has a handle, he has yet to set up his own blog site.)

Since the son gets to join in on the trip, he’s also offered to help pay for it. I’m pretty sure we can swing it without having to sell junk bonds.  It’ll be fun – even if only part of it works out.  Stop by later for Episode One, to see if Archon learns to control The Force.    😕

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Part One

I don’t ever want to be thought of as, “That kindly old Coot.”  Rather, I want people thinking, “WTF is he up to now.”  With that thought in mind, I took the sorcerer’s apprentice son on a weekend trip to Detroit, to practice my craft.

The son works a midnight shift, and had been up since 7 PM Thursday.  I barely suppressed the adrenalin enough to get to sleep at my usual 4 AM, and was back up to open the door as he got home, shortly after 7 Friday morning.  While he had a bit of midnight snack, a shower, and a change of clothes, I packed bags and boxes, and put them in the car.

Finally ready to leave, we kissed the wife/mother goodbye, and were on the road by nine.  After a quick stop to fill the gas tank, we were soon rolling down Highway 401 towards the border.  Since we planned to stay in Warren, MI, north of Detroit, Miss GPS suggested that I cross over at Sarnia/Port Huron.  I insisted on taking the “usual route” through Windsor.  Recalculating, and you’re still an asshole.

The drive to the border took almost exactly three hours.  We took the tunnel since we were headed north, and there was almost no-one crossing.  I pulled into the shortest line, one car.  It got released just as the dash clock clicked 12:00 – and shift-change/lunch relief happened.

A different guy walked out, and I sat there for eleven long minutes, with the engine running and my foot on the brake, while these two shot the shit.  It was only the thought of cavity searches that kept me from rolling down the window and suggesting they continue their bromance on their own time.

I took down 14 quarters, 6 dimes, 4 nickels, and 12 pennies, for a total of $4.42.  At par for a while, the Canadian dollar has slipped below 90 cents/US, meaning I gained 50 cents theoretical buying power.  I was determined to get rid of as much change as I could, quickly.  A lump in my pocket bigger than a golf ball, considering the neighborhood we were in, I shoulda poured it in the toe of a sock, and kept it handy as a cosh.

We checked into the motel, and Kentucky-born, little black Connie was just so bright and helpful.  We put our stuff in a room where the maid had set the thermostat to 82 F, and walked two doors up the street to have lunch at a place called Crash Landing.  Lots of pictures and model of planes, but I think the place got its name from the barflies falling off the stools.  One o’clock on a weekday afternoon, if you guys don’t have jobs to go to, how can you afford to sit there and drink??

I added 8 quarters to a twenty, to pay for lunch, and put six more, and four dimes and two nickels beside the tab for a tip.  Suddenly the pocket is much less full.  Across the street is an Iranian convenience store, serving the trailer park behind it.  Nice doublewide units on concrete pads – but, a trailer park!  All weekend I kept listening for the tornado.

Later in the afternoon, the son went to the office for some tea, and asked Stephanie, the 3/11 clerk, where to get decent pizza for supper.  She suggested Loui’s, just above Nine-Mile Road.  He thought she said Eight-Mile, and we missed it.  I turned left on Eight-Mile, to turn around in a McDonalds to head back up….and there, right across the street, was Papa Pizza.

The white rapper Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, gets his street cred by saying he was raised in a tough Negro area, and titled one of his albums Eight Mile.  I’m in his back yard!  This is not White Breadville – we felt conspicuously Caucasian, but, we’re here.  Papa Pizza is the end anchor to a small strip plaza.  They have three reserved parking spaces.  I take one, and we go in to order.

The service area is ¾ inch thick Plexiglas, from counter to ceiling, capable of stopping or deflecting most handgun bullets.  Pizzas are placed on a rotating plexi turntable and turned so that you can remove it from your side.  They must do a landslide delivery business.  The tiny, empty, eat-in area only had 12 spots, but there were 22 guys behind the glass, making pizzas.

Later, we went shopping.  The wife’s niece asked if I would pick her up some supplements from a health-food store.  A check at the GNC website showed a store in the same strip-mall as a Kroger’s we planned to visit.  When we got there, I found that the stores in the Kroger’s strip were numbered by tens, 370, 380, 390 – PetCo is number 400.  The next building starts at 500.  GNC’s site claims their address is 406, strange, very strange.

Little Miss GPS is both helpful and frustrating in this new area.  She shows how to get to a Meijer’s plaza, a couple of miles away, but as we get close, “In 65 meters, turn left on Progressive Drive.”  I’m not from around here!  Where in Hell is Progressive Drive – in the dark??!  Recalculating.  Oh, right, back there!  Now we do the Michigan Shuffle.

At many intersections they won’t let you turn left.  You must go a hundred yards past, pull over to the center and make a U-turn at special lanes.  Some have traffic lights, giving you the right-of-way, eventually.  Most don’t.  You just pray (optional for atheists), force your way into a hole in traffic, and hope you can get over to the curb lane in time to pull in.

If you don’t, you get to play the game again from the other direction.  Tomorrow, when my blood-pressure recedes, the saga continues.  I’ll take you to the knife show.  Remember to wear sensible shoes.

Little Snowflake

About 25 years ago, the wife and I went to our first knife show.  It was in Detroit.  I had found out about it from a knifemakers’ magazine I had subscribed to.  Raising the kids, we had not been on many trips, for many years.  We had driven seven hours to vacation at a lake where the brother-in-law liked to fish.  We took a one-year-old and a four-year-old to Niagara Falls, as my parents had taken my brother and me, and we drove a hundred miles each way, every month to visit my parents.

We had not been away by ourselves, and had not been out of the country for over twenty years.  I reminded MasterCard of that fact, the month we got a charge for a J.C.Penny store in Buffalo.  We could afford a weekend away, and needed it.

There might have been online map sites, but back that far, we hadn’t even bought a dial-up connection.  High-speed internet was still only a gleam in my computer’s eye.  I relied on tour-books and maps from CAA.  That’s AAA, with a Maple Leaf on it.  I found a cheap motel a quarter-mile from the expensive hotel where the knife show was being held, right across I-94 from the airport.  While I assured the wife that there were 5 or 6 hotels/motels within a stone’s throw, she insisted that I phone in a reservation.  I told the clerk we’d arrive around 8 or 9 PM.

The show back then was held near the end of February.  I got off work Friday at 3 PM, loaded the wife and luggage into the car and headed for the bank, to get American cash.  We exited the bank on a clear, and still sunny day.  Just as I got into the car, one little snowflake hit my nose.

Soon we were zipping along Highway 401, Ontario’s answer to Interstates.  It started to cloud over and a bit more snow fell.  Thirty miles along there was a clot of cars by the center median.  I buzzed past at 110 Km/h (70 MPH) and realized there were two stuck in the snow, one of them upside-down.  Perhaps I should slow down a bit, first to 100, then to 90, as the snow got more serious.

We were listening to local radio stations for weather reports as we moved.  I had just passed London, ON when the radio report said that the Ontario Provincial Police had closed the 401 “at London.”  90 Km/h became 80, and then 70!  The snow thickened, and the traffic thinned out.  Soon I could see no other vehicles in either direction, speed down to 60, then 50.  See other vehicles?  I could barely see the edge of the road.

As we crept along, debating what to do, finally I saw a big-rig slowly overtaking me.  He’s got more lights and a better angle on the road, so I slowed down and let him pass me.  It was a Verspeeten Transport truck, from back where the car was upside-down.  With his headlights, and him breaking trail for me, we’re back to moving at 65/70.  I followed him for miles and miles.  We’ve had a soft spot for Verspeeten ever since, and always look for them.

Near an overpass, a car was way down in a deep ditch.  We both stopped and checked it out, but the driver must have climbed the hill to the crossroad.  The trucker told me he had to turn off at Chatham, and I would be on my own, but time and distance had broken the storm.  The snow was abating.

When he finally pulled off, I continued.  Just as we passed the Chatham interchange, the new radio station announced that the O.P.P. had closed the highway, “at Chatham.”  Dead-of-night dark, no other traffic and over a foot of snow on the road, we ventured onward.  More than another hour of driving till we reached the outskirts of Windsor, at the border.

Just as we pulled off the highway, onto city streets, the radio told us that the plows were going out to clear the road, and the highway had been closed at Windsor, till they were finished.  It was the fastest we ever crossed the border.  Two drivers from Windsor and I wanted to cross the Ambassador Bridge, and the border guards were happy for the business.

When we got to the Detroit side, the snow had stopped, and the Americans had cleared most of it away – except on the traffic signs.  This had been a wet, clingy snow, and every sign was coated.  I managed to get onto I-94, and headed towards the airport.  My little CAA map gave me no idea of scale.

I had no idea how big metro-Detroit was.  I drove and drove and had no idea where I was.  I finally pulled off I-94 on an exit that seemed to go only into a Ford plant.  I booted a street-sign to knock the snow off it, and checked my map.  I was still only ¾ of the way to the motel.  Back on the road, I soon found where I was supposed to be.

The huge snowstorm had closed the airport.  There were hundreds of stranded passengers.  I pulled into the motel, and went in to register.  I wound up at the end of a row of 9 or 10 people.  Each one in turn would approach the counter and ask if they could get a room for the night.  The clerk would tell each one in turn that they were full up, and there were no rooms available.  And yet the next in line would step up, and ask the same dumb question, and get the same resigned answer.

Finally, it was my turn.  I stepped forward and noted the look on the clerk’s face.  Oh no, not another one!  I pulled a piece of paper from my pocket and placed it in front of her.  “My name is “John Smith”.  I have a reservation.  This is my confirmation number.”  And the face lit up, finally someone she could help, who wouldn’t bitch.  The wife couldn’t resist an, “I told you so.” about phoning in the reservation.

I checked the registration form later.  I officially checked in at 12:07 AM.  The estimated 8 or 9 PM arrival time was considerably delayed.  Our hoped-for 3 to 4 hour drive had taken over eight hours.  One little snowflake on my nose before we started was fun.  It was when he brought a couple of trillion of his friends, and ganged up on me that things got a little hairy.

Strangers In A Strange Land

With all due apologies to Robert Heinlein.

While none of us actively seek to do so, each member of our family often manages to be the odd man out.  The last place the son worked, he said he was the weirdest guy in the room.  He’s actually happy at the new plant, where, he says, he’s just the opening act.  There’s nothing that will hold a mirror up to your normalcy, or lack of it, like a road-trip, to see how others do it.  Jeff Foxworthy says it’s like goin’ to the local fair.  “Why, we’s dang near royalty!”  With that in mind, the son and I spent a weekend in the Detroit area.

He hasn’t been able to make the trip for almost ten years.  He had seen the photos of the big wind-turbines we passed last October, but nothing gives the scale like driving right under them.  I’ll include pictures, and maybe a video, in a later post.  He was impressed by their size, and proximity to the highway.  He was less impressed by the two fields of solar panels, which we didn’t get a picture of.  They just looked like someone had pulled a black shroud over a couple of acres of dead farmland, which, in effect, they had.

I think we passed the home of the lady who objected when the turbines were going up.  She complained that they already had enough wind in the area.  They didn’t need these big fans making more.  She could have been Liz’s sister.  D’oh!!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and stopped at a Security booth manned by a 30-ish male.  As I’ve said, we never mention knife shows.  As I do when the wife and I go down, I told him we were going to do some shopping.  I should have told him that the wife had sent along a list of stuff we can’t get in Canada.  We got Searched!  He looked in the car and saw two males claiming to be going shopping, and said, “Pop the trunk.  I want to take a look.”

I wasn’t worried.  He saw a shopping basket with five bottles of Pepsi, a large orange juice bottle, filled with iced tea, a smaller bottle with two days worth of orange juice, two newspapers and two crossword puzzles.  I’m surprised he wasn’t so bored he dozed off and fell into the trunk, but, back he came.  “Thanks guys.  Have a nice time.”  Them boys is too bland to be smugglers or terrorists.

We were supposed to have phoned the wife, our designated worrier, when we crossed the border in each direction, but we got distracted by all the big-city lights, and forgot till we were on the wrong side of the river.  The son tried to place a billed-to-the-room call when we got to the motel, but the phone system malfunctioned.  Finally on Saturday he placed a collect call.  She said that no police officer had showed up by 11 PM to report an accident, so she assumed we were safe.

After we booked in, we both lay down for a nap.  Mine was only an hour and a half.  Since the son had been up since 7 PM the previous day, I let him sleep four hours.  While he was still out, I took a walk, circling the Big Boy restaurant in front of the motel.  In the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond apologizes to a rat for having a gay assassin’s cheap cologne spilled on him.  He says, “One of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.  Sorry old man, I think it’s me.”  Around on the unused side of the restaurant, two guys were doing something near two vehicles.  I assume they were the gay assassins, because, from 10 feet away, I could hardly breathe from the tart’s handkerchief smell.  I left quickly, lest I be invited to join the party.

We went out to check a couple of possible places to get good fish and chips.  I passed a place I had found on-line, on the way to another spot.  We decided to go back to it, because it looked more reputable than the one recommended by the on-call ambulance team I had met.  We walked in just ahead of two young men, just before 7 PM.  A sign out front threatened “Live Entertainment”, and they were it.

The fish was good.  The chips were the milk-powder coated variety for crispness, the kind the lactose-intolerant wife can’t eat.  Without the spoilsport chaperone wife along, I had a cup of decent bean soup, a bowl of crisp, well-dressed coleslaw, and  a 20 ounce glass of well-chilled, Australian-type, 8.5 percent, craft-brewed ale from Wisconsin.

The two musicians (?) played a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sang – I think, although the noun caterwauling came to mind.  Without any help from the studio audience, I managed to identify every song they played, even if they couldn’t.  Is it cynical to note that those few of the audience who clapped, did so when these guys stopped playing?

We stopped at my favorite Meijer store on the way back to the motel, and got everything on the wife’s list except flavored coffee creamers.  Oh, the excitement, it was like electricity in the air.  We were asleep again by midnight.  Tomorrow we attend the knife show.  Stop in to the site, I hope to post pictures.

The Best Laid Plans

So. the WordPress scheduled posting didn’t work as I expected.  In fact it didn’t work at all!  Back to the drawing board.  I hoped that the wife would post the following, manually for me, if the timer failed.  She assumed it worked correctly, and didn’t check.  She had four cats and a dog to feed and water and clean up after, and me gone.  I asked the daughter to check the post early Saturday morning, and remind the wife if there was a problem.  She was busy using her power wheelchair as a pack mule to get half her usual load to Barterworks, because I wasn’t available to drive her.

So, I’ve blamed WordPress, check!

I’ve blamed the wife, check!

I’ve blamed the daughter, check!

OK, I’m in the clear.  All I have to do now is publish the following post, that should have been up three days ago.  So, without further ado, and only a modicum of adon’t, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you;

We’re Off To See The Wizard

Don’t worry about being quiet while you read this blog; I’m not at home anyway.  Either through learning Brain Rants’ trick of timer-induced-publishing, or just by begging the wife to post it manually, by the time you read this post, I will be in a foreign country, rolling out of bed to go look at some weapons.

The son and I have fled the Great White North for the comfort and security of (Metro) Detroit.  As usual, the excuse is the Spring Knife Show, but the reality is that it’s just nice to get away from the usual, if even only for a couple of days.  I’m taking along about $3.75 of American change I’ve accumulated since last October, including 10 quarters.  I still need five “State” quarters to complete the set.

Whether or not it’s because I set a good example, the son has established a good work ethic.  His shop, like so many others, has a problem with absenteeism.  In an attempt to improve attendance, they offer one day off with pay, for every six months without a late or absence.  Last year he got two free days.  Their six month periods start April 1, and October 1.  If he misses a day, it’s because he called in dead.  The day I fell off my motorcycle and broke my shoulder, I showed up at 10 AM in a sling.  The supervisor said that when I didn’t show up on time, he knew something serious had happened.

Last November son got a bad cold and missed one day, so no day off.  Because the company relies on temp workers, they eddy in and out, bringing their infections, because they can’t afford to live solidly, or get medical services.  A couple of weeks ago, he brought home another bad cold/flu, and generously shared it with the wife and me.  Last week, he was so sick that he lost four consecutive days.  Since he didn’t get a free one, he booked Friday off.

We’ll have driven past that forest of wind-turbines and solar farms, and saluted RogueBlogger’s home town.  I found the file of photos we took in October, and plan to put up a post including them.  Two guys in a big city without female supervision, for a whole weekend, what could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, we’re driving up to Novi, MI. to attend the knife show.  It’s in the back of a gun show, mostly hunting rifles and shotguns, not much to interest either the kid or I.  After we get back, it’s shopping time.  The wife is sending a shopping list of stuff to get at the Meijer store, or at Wal-Mart.  Sunday we’ll be spending across the street, at the Gibraltar Trade Center, a giant indoor flea market.  In a fenced-off section, they are also holding a gun and knife show.  The knives will be mostly factory crap, but there will be more hand-guns to drool on and pick up.

It was bad enough before 9/11, but now you just don’t tell the border guards that you’re going to a gun/knife show.  I made that mistake the first time we came down.  I admitted to a black, female guard, just small enough for her and her .40 caliber Glock to fit into the booth, that we were going to a knife show.  “How many knives you bringing in?  How many knives you gonna take back?  You got an import/export licence??”  Now it’s just, “Tourism officer, just getting away from the grind for a weekend.  Gonna do some shopping.”  They like it if you plan to spend money, but they wanna know if you’ve got a motel room booked, and where.

Not only does the Gibraltar Trade Center have the biggest collection of STUFF under an acre of roof, they’ve also got the biggest collection of foodthat’sbadforyou, in two food-service areas.  Wet burritos, (I’ll raise one to BrainRants.) chilli-cheese nachos, Chinese food, pizza, pretzels and cheese-dip, fries and gravy, (They’ve even learned how to make poutine.) fried chicken, chilli dogs….the list goes on and on.  I plan to start early, and have one of everything.  Candied almonds, dill pickle on a stick….I hope the bridge holds on the way back.

I’ll try not to look like a rube by staring up at all them big tall, 3 and 4 storey buildings, but the first time I say please, and thank-you, they’ll spot me for a Canuck.  We’ll blow the budget on some half-decent restaurants, Denny’s, Outback, maybe some fish and chips.  Have I mentioned that I like food??!

The kid works Thursday night, and gets home early Friday.  He figures with the adrenalin, he’ll have a shower, change his clothes, and we’ll be on the road well before noon.  On re-reading this post, it seems about as exciting as a grocery list, but I hope to bring back some interesting memories that I can share with you.  Thanx for stopping in to read.  Come back Tuesday  Wednesday for a new post.  It won’t be about this trip yet, ‘cause I’m a slow typist, but I’ll pull something out of the recycle bin.  Stronger than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, look, up there on the highway, it’s Tourist Geek!

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.