A To Z Challenge – V

April Challenge

As we slide toward the bottom, and near the end of all this alphabetical silliness, we finally reach the letter

letter-v

Back in April for some reason (laziness, stupidity, forgetfulness, distraction….what was I writing about?, the fact that all Challengees who were going to write about V were killed when a transport truck full of bowling balls rolled over) I only wrote down two prompts, verbose, and vicarious.

Verbose can match with voluble.  Both mean ‘wordy or longwinded’ and tend to refer to the spoken word, but can also refer to (my) writing.  Learning to compose 100 word Flash Fictions has tightened it up a bit, but my compulsion to deal with every conceivable detail still has me occasionally running overtime.

I’ve written about how age and finances have me regarding the world vicariously.  There was a time when its partner could have been voyeur, but there’s almost no need of window-peeking these days.  There are now a vast number of voluptuous vixens, only too willing – anxious – to voluntarily allow men to view their ass….ets.

Where the Hell was sexting, when I was young and needed it? When the only choices were hard-to-obtain, airbrushed Playboy, or Sunbathers Monthly?  Even the words nudist or nudism were hidden behind the veil of ‘Community Moral Standards.’

A Voluble Trivia Addendum

In the late 1960s, after the grudging establishment of Playboy and Penthouse magazines, another entrepreneur decided that he also wanted to print and distribute a skin mag. After his first issue, he was taken to court on morals charges.  He cited Playboy and Penthouse as precedents, and argued that his magazine was an artistic publication, for the appreciation of the glorious female form.

The judge looked at the fact that he had intentionally chosen Intercourse, Pennsylvania as his mailing address, for titillation purposes, (Ooh!  I wrote ‘tit.’) and convicted him of pornography. 😯

***

Okay, mission accomplished. I’m going to take a Vicodin – and a nap!

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Silence, Blessed Silence

Cabin

Our ancestors enjoyed silence.  At least I hope they enjoyed it, because every invention they produced – every mechanical and electrical advance they made – has led to the constant thrum of noise that we in the developed world are immersed in.

Our forebears worked their asses off 16 hours a day.  When they finally huddled in their huts and cottages and cabins at the end of a long day, these hovels were not the insulated and breeze-resistant wonders we live in today.

It wasn’t so quiet that they could hear the grass grow.  There would have been the sounds of birds and animals and insects – all hopefully outside.  Then, along came technology, and constant, growing noise.  We have become inured to it, and most of us never even notice it.  It’s just part of our lives.

I had one of ‘those moments’ the other day.  Like the digital clocks and power indicator LEDs spewing light around my house, I became aware of how many things were constantly pumping noise into my ears.  I have four analog clocks spread around my house.  They’re all electric, running on batteries, but they all tick, tick, Tick, Tick!

The son doesn’t want the cats or dog messing with stuff in his room, so he keeps the door closed 24/7.  It could get a little funky in there, so he has set the thermostat so that the circulating fan on the furnace runs on low, constantly.  In the summer when the air conditioning, or in the winter when the burner kicks in, the fan ramps up to high.

In the winter, the air in the house gets so dry that I raise half-inch blue sparks, reaching for doorknobs or light switches, so we have a humidifier pumping moisture (and noise) into the atmosphere.  The mechanical timer on the water softener clatters away to itself in the basement, and the softener itself howls for about two hours, twice a week.  Beside it is the chest freezer, beside that is the ‘beer fridge’, plus the big one in the kitchen, none on constantly, but regularly.  Even the water heater burbles away to itself when hot water is used.

In an attempt to conserve electricity, Ontario has banned incandescent light bulbs.  The new CFL, compact fluorescent light bulbs are cheaper on power, but each has a starter built into the base.  These emit a faint 60-cycle hum when turned on.  I sit beside a tri-light bulb when I do my crosswords.  The greater the light output, the more pronounced the hum.  Two or three of those in a room, and the cats have their paws over their ears.

The tower for my PC sits below my desk, down in cat-hair country, so we decided to add a second exhaust fan, just to be safe(r).  The son’s PC is not always on, and only has one fan.  The wife’s laptop has one exhaust fan, but she plays a lot of games.  No Grand Theft Auto – more Canasta and Monopoly – but it was overheating, so now its single fan sits above a cooling pad with two more fans running.

Laptop

The wife has tinnitus – overactive nerves that make her ears ‘hear’ squeals and whines that aren’t there.  To cover up the fakes, so that she won’t go crazy, she often has the stereo on low, or a play list running on the laptop.

There’s the exhaust fan above the stove, when we’re cooking – the washroom exhaust fan – the washer and/or dryer – the dishwasher – the microwave – the stove-oven exhaust fan – the toaster-oven fan – the traffic noise from the four-lane Regional road, 100 feet from my back door – the four-year-old boy who lives in the other half of our semi-detached house, with his collection of bowling balls that he rolls down the stairs, and his seven-year-old sister who walks like a rhino.

I’m going mad – MAD I tell you!  (What?  Too late??)  It’s a wonder that the kids playing road hockey outside don’t tell us to keep it down.  I moved from a quiet small town to the big city (500,000) for jobs and amenities.  I shouldn’t complain, but I’m a Grumpy Old [retired] Dude, what else do I have to do?  If any of you want to comment about the levels of noise you have to put up with, YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP!  I CAN’T HEAR YOU!   😉

Flash Fiction #62

Storage

PHOTO PROMPT – © Claire Fuller

COMPUTER STORE

Welcome to the Computer Museum. Nothing in Man’s development has changed as much, as fast, as computing.

This is ENIAC’s grandson. In 1955, a crew of 9 men took almost a month to solder together 37,000 tubes. A large Montreal company used it mostly for payroll. My pocket calculator will do more than what they paid $2.5 million for.

Moore’s law says that speed doubles every 2 years, while size halves. You see that here in data storage also, rows of cabinets of tape reels, rolled by triskele arms for reduced space. School kids’ flash drives now hold this much.

***

In 1976, an erstwhile co-worker told me of being the design engineer in charge of the installation of Ferranti-Packard’s ENIAC successor, in a hall as big as 8 bowling lanes. Fortunately, Carrier had invented the air-conditioner, or all those tubes throwing off heat could have baked bread in the room. Dot-matrix tractor-printers had to be properly grounded, or the static electricity they generated could wipe the core.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple  site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

#498

Let’s Go To The Movies

I don’t know how old (young) I was when I first started going to movies, probably about 5 or 6.  There was a little movie theater in my home town which ran Saturday afternoon matinees.  They were often the same movies that adults attended on Saturday night, but back in the 1940s and ‘50s, there were no PG-14 or X-rated movies. They were all safe for kids, although I took shit from my sister for allowing my younger nephew to accompany me to Psycho.

My Mom gave me a quarter a week allowance, and off I went.  The adults’ evening shows were 35 cents, while the kids paid 15 cents in the afternoon.  That left me 10 cents for a 5 cent individual bag of chips, and a 5 cent chocolate bar, or box of toffee.

As I got to be 9 and 10, my younger brother was now the age I was when I started going to the movies, but it hadn’t occurred to Mom to give him any money.  One day he kinda complained, and asked if he could go with me.  The next week, I asked Mom if she would give me 30 cents instead of 25, and she gladly said yes.  I just never thought to tell her what the extra nickel was for.

For about six months we both attended the shows, just with nothing left to buy treats.  Finally it occurred to Mom to ask where he disappeared to each Saturday afternoon.  When she realized I was donating half my allowance to him, she started giving him his own.

It wasn’t till I moved away from home to get a job, that I realized what I had been viewing all those years.  These weren’t first-run movies!  Our little theater ran seconds and thirds.  After they’d been seen everywhere else, they came to my town.  For about fifteen years, I watched everything they put on the silver screen.  I saw every movie!

The theater wasn’t allowed to open on Sundays, so they ran three movies a week, one on Monday and Tuesday, a different one on Wednesday and Thursday, and yet a third on Friday and Saturday.  After I started delivering newspapers, and had a bit of cash of my own, I went almost every Monday, Thursday and Saturday night.

In the era of westerns, I watched hundreds of them, the Duke, John Wayne, Alan Ladd in Shane, Rory Calhoun – Martin and Lewis comedies, then Jerry solo, and Dean in the Matt Helm fiascos, James Coburn as Our Man Flint – musicals, Auntie Mame, Oklahoma, Clint Eastwood in Paint Your Wagon – stuff I didn’t understand till later, Kim Novack in Bell, Book and Candle, George Peppard in Walk, Don’t Run.

On the first of July, August, and September long weekends, the theater would run a Sunday midnight showing, actually Monday, to get around the closing by-law.  These were often Hammer Films, English horror pictures, good to take your girl, to get her to cuddle closer, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, or the dubbed Japanese jokes, Godzilla, or Mothra.

Early on, they were in black and white.  Later, color film arrived, as well as Technicolor and Cinemascope.  Showings usually started with previews of upcoming movies.  These were followed by cartoons, Woody Woodpecker or Bugs Bunny.  Often there was a “short” before the main feature, The Three Stooges, or The Bowery Boys, always still in gritty black and white.

The bowling alley in town was only open during the summer.  Back when pool rooms were dens of iniquity, I was not allowed to enter until I was 18, but started rather openly “sneaking in” when I was 13.  When the proprietor found that my Dad had no objections, he turned a blind eye, but all that allowed me to do was watch older players, because most of my same-age compatriots couldn’t get past the bouncer.

I/we frequented a couple of local restaurants, but, if you weren’t ordering French fries, or plugging money in the jukebox, you could get asked to leave.  You would also get thrown out if you gathered the ashes from all the ash-trays, and sprinkled vinegar on them.  The rank smell from that chemical stink-bomb was good for at least a week’s ban.  Going to the movies was the most financially rewarding way to while away some spare time.

If, what was depicted by movies wasn’t a reflection of reality, it at least educated me that other folks did and said things in ways that were different from our little microcosm.

Since the wife can’t attend theater movies because of inhalant allergies, she and I have not been out for years.  I still go with the son occasionally, but only for blockbusters which need the big screen.  I believe Avatar was the last.  I still haven’t watched Star Trek Into Darkness, so nobody tell me the ending.  (Did the butler do it?)       😕

Horse-Drawn History

I’ve done a few “Remember When” posts about growing up Oh-so-long-ago, and in a small town at the end of the universe.  I’ve written a post about the development of roads, and if I don’t get my numbering mixed up, it will already be published.  What I haven’t put together is the horse and buggy combination.  Anyone want to go for a wagon ride?

I’m still a long way from being a suave, sophisticated, city-dweller, but, as a kid, I was far more urban than rural.  I don’t know if my little town helped make me so, or if I was just of that bent, and lucky to be born where I was.  When I got old enough to visit the next little town down the road, I was quite dismissive.

Our town had all the interesting, up-scale social amenities that they didn’t.  We had a movie theater, a bowling alley, and a pool-room.  They had none of these.  They did have a United Co-op farm supply store, and a Western Tire store, even back here in the east, not even a real Canadian Tire store.

Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, it was not unusual to see horses pulling wagons around their town.  Local farmers hauling hay, bringing milk to the dairy, or stopping in to that Co-op store to pick up seed or fertilizer.  My town was not exempt from horse and wagon combos though.

When I was a kid, we still got milk delivered to the house by horse and wagon.  I don’t remember seeing milk taken to the little dairy in my town by horse; it was picked up by truck from farmers who set it by the side of the road in five-gallon pails.  It sat out in the winter cold and summer heat until it got back to the dairy.  Thank God for Pasteurization.

This was all back when every little town had its own little dairy, before the economies of volume caused all the milk in North America to be controlled by a dairy-products company in Italy named Parmalat.

The milk guy delivered right to the door.  If it sat on the porch in the winter, it froze, and expanded.   Milk wasn’t homogenized, so an inch or two of cream would raise the cardboard cap out of the glass bottle.  The frozen cream would have to be cut off and saved, or it would melt and run off.

Later, the delivery schedule changed, and the wagon didn’t arrive till just after lunch.  Sometimes I would ask my Mom for a nickel to get a half-pint of chocolate milk.  The deposit on the glass bottle was another nickel.  We could have paid it once, and just kept exchanging bottles, but it was far more fun to climb into the delivery wagon and ride a couple of blocks while I sipped it finished.  Then I’d walk back home.

Townie boy learned a little about driving horses.  “Gee” meant turn right, “”haw” meant turn left.  I’ll leave “giddy up” and “whoa” to your imagination.  “Gee” was a crossword puzzle solution to the clue, “right to a horse,” last week.

We didn’t have an electric refrigerator for a number of years.  We had an icebox, which sat in a shed, attached to the back of the house.  Every couple of days in the summer we put a twenty-five pound block of ice in a top compartment.  The ice would melt, so there was a hole bored in the floor, where the melt water ran out.

Each winter, a businessman and his assistants would go to a small cove of Lake Huron, and cut blocks of ice out by hand, using large human-powered saws.  When the cove refroze, they would come back for another harvest, and another, until they filled a barn-like warehouse.  The ice was covered by a thick layer of fine sawdust, which reduced thawing during the summer.

The ice was delivered to most homes in town by horse and wagon.  Their blocks were about fifty pounds, and had to be hacked in half with a trowel-like hand-tool with a toothed edge.  I would often run out and grab a large sliver of ice, and suck on it like a no-cost Popsicle.  Occasionally I got to ride along for a couple of blocks, as I did with the milkman.  It takes a village to raise a child.  Since I was almost the only child in my neighborhood, these village men protected, entertained and educated me before I went to school.

The third horse and wagon for many years was the garbage-man’s.  The town’s work-crew was small and, immediately after WW II, trucks, and the money to buy them was scarce.  The garbage-man seemed ancient to a small child, but he was probably in his fifties.  He and his patient horse would make the rounds, and he would dump loose garbage from metal cans into the wagon.

When the wagon was full, he would take it to the south edge of town, about a half-mile from the lakeshore.  He would have the horse back the wagon into an open area, and then pry up the loose boards which formed the bottom of the wagon, and stand them on edge, dumping the garbage.

About the time the old man, and his horse, retired, and town employees using a truck took over, a real estate developer wanted space to build more cottages for the burgeoning tourist trade.  Suddenly all the garbage was compacted with a bulldozer and covered with clean fill, and the site was sold.  I wonder how many of the cottage-owners know what’s under their summer palaces.

Horses and wagons….as Benzeknees’ quiz proved a while ago, I am older than dirt.  At least this tale of long ago and far away didn’t contain any dinosaurs or woolly mammoths.  Be careful as you walk away from the wagon.  Don’t step in that stuff!

 

Bowling For Summer

Teenage rites of passage, every town/city has one or more places where the kids hang out.  Places like Pop’s Diner in the Archie comics, or Arnold’s, on Happy Days.  Places to go to talk, to hang out, to learn social skills, contention, co-operation and independence.  My little home town had a couple of them as I grew up.  Owners and ambience of a couple of restaurants in town changed.  The kids used to hang out over there, but now hung out over here.

One of the nicest, and yet strangest places, where I invested ten years or more of my life, was the beach bowling alley.  I’m still doing research to see who owned it, and/or the land it stood on.  Only open for a couple of months a year, a lot of youngsters, both native and tourist, had fun and grew up in this establishment.

It was located about two miles from the main street, and sat even with beachfront cottages, but where a small point put the water more than a block away.  Did the town build it?  Was the property owned by the town, the province or the Feds?  I was born in 1944, and it was built in 1951, when I was seven.  It wasn’t much later that I ran free and discovered it.  I was perhaps nine or ten.

It was open on weekends from the 24th of May till the first of July, then seven days a week till Labor Day.  I didn’t know that there was a seasonality to insurance, but a local insurance agent and his wife ran it.  They had a daughter, and five years later, a son, both of whom learned to work with/for their parents.

They all lived in a tiny apartment above the snack bar.  You didn’t dare leave the place unattended.  The building itself had a square concrete pad as the floor at the front, ten lanes wide.  The rest of the building was constructed of wood, and none too tightly.  You could see openings between the lapstrake siding strips.

It had screened *window* openings with flap-down shutters which were closed and bolted overnight, and over the winter.  It had double, screened batwing *saloon* doors.  These screens kept out the worst of the insects, but were useless, because of the snack bar at the front.  Nothing fancy, they served hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries by the ton, bottled pop, milk shakes and ice cream cones.  To get the most of walk-by trade, there were non-screened windows at the front where they could deliver food outside.

The bowling lanes were up two steps, and sat on wooden pylons driven into the sand.  These were Canadian, five-pin bowling lanes, a surprise and treat for American tourists.  The five-pin balls are so small that even children easily learned to bowl.  Every day, the lanes and approaches were mopped for sand.  No bowling shoes were supplied, or required.  Bowl in running shoes, flip-flops or bare feet.

Ten-pin sets were available on two lanes, for those who insisted, but the games cost more.  No mechanical pinsetters back then. The place employed pinboys, who did it manually.  I never applied for the job, because it tied you down from 11 AM opening till 1 AM closing.  What I did was show up whenever I had some spare time, but no spare change.  I would make it known that I was available for a limited time to replace anyone who wished to go for a swim or visit his girlfriend.  I could get an hour or two of cash-paid work, then get on with my day.

There was a foot-operated treadle system which raised steel pins to locate the wooden ones, but that was awkward, and actually slowed the job down.  If you could set the pins really quickly, sometimes you got a tip on top of the standard pay.  Hazards involved with the job were errant balls.  Sometimes you would jump down into the pit after someone had thrown three balls, only to find a bowler who, (usually, but not always male) angered at missing a pin, would grab another ball and whip it down the lane.

The same kind of thing could happen with drunks who were obnoxious, or just couldn’t count, as well as muscle-bound jocks, trying to impress their buddies or girlfriends.  The No Lofting rule was often ignored.  I set pins for one guy who bounced the ball and smashed the light above the pins.  I had another who whipped the ball so hard it touched nothing.  It sailed past my head and went out the open window behind me.  I had to climb down the back of the building and locate it in a sand dune.

In the open centre of the floor, with its back to a steel support pillar, between a row of six or seven pinball machines, and the L-shaped diner counter, sat a jukebox.  The money the proprietor must have realized from those coin-slurpers!  The pinball machines got the occasional rest, but the jukebox was never quiet.  The guys came to meet girls, and the girls came to show off to the boys.  Somebody from one of the sexes was always feeding the music machine.

One summer, when I was about 16, there were two girls who liked to show up and dance.  Jeff Foxworthy claimed that any female who wouldn’t dance with a drunken redneck was “stuck up.”  These two would have nothing to do with any guy, townie or tourist, handsome or ugly.  They just plugged dimes into the jukebox and danced with each other, non-touching, of course.  Whether justified or not, they were soon labeled as dykes.  They came in one evening and put on their usual revue, and the audience, females as well as males, tossed pennies on the floor near them.  They left without retrieving the coins, and never came back.

Ah, the halcyon days of youth and summers.  I resent having to grow up.

 

Killing Brain Cells

….uh, whuh wuz I talkin’ about?

Oh yeah,….I left the house today!  Big Mistake!

I was reminded again (and again, and again) why I am the curmudgeonly loner I am.  Present erudite blogosphere company excepted, the rest of humanity is a seething mass of dumbf**ks, fighting to get to the bottom of the gene pool.  Perhaps I should cut them a little slack, through poor planning, I caused some of my own problem.

I had to go to the dentist today.  Relax!  My fangs are still sharp.  I just needed a little cleaning so that I don’t cause an infection when I bite someone.  The appointment wasn’t until 2 PM.  I had a bit of shopping to do at a couple of stores.  I should have sat and read the paper, and shopped after the dentist, but I was a bit antsy.  Assuming that there would be the inevitable delays at both stores, I left the house just before one.  Bad move!

Apparently Murphy was taking a holiday.  I walked into Eurofoods, took number 28 from the bingo machine…and the clerk said, “Number 28.”  Got some sliced ham and sliced Havarti cheese for the wife’s lunch, walked over to an empty checkout, and was out of the store in three minutes.

I drove across the street to the grocery store.  I should have been suspicious.  I got a parking spot right up front without the handicap sticker.  When I went inside, I thought maybe somebody was giving away free money on television.  I could have bowled down almost any aisle.  I got my stuff and got in line behind one woman, with three items.  Paid for my junk and walked to the car….and it’s 1:10.  The dentist is five minutes away.  What am I going to do for three-quarters of an hour?

Not anticipating a long wait, I didn’t bring a newspaper along.  I could just feel the brain-power draining.  By the time I left, I’m sure I was down 50 IQ points.  I read a copy of People magazine.  I should have read the National Geographic under it.  I joke about my “Seinfeld” blogs being about *nothing.*  This piece of tripe was 112 pages about even less.  People whose names I didn’t know.  People whose names I don’t want to know.  There’s a soap actor named Texas Battle!?  Just call him Alamo and get it over with.

Miley Cyrus and Elle Fanning, kids younger than BrainRants’ wristwatch, with more followers and more money than God.  People wore clothing, and said things.  Wow!  That goes on outside my door every day.  Housewives Of New Jersey??!  Four pages about *celebrities* whose only claim to fame is fewer brains and even less talent than the Kardashians.

Then I got called in for my cleaning.  Does every dentist’s office in North America have that TV set suspended over your head like Damocles’ Sword?  And then the tech hunches over you to work, and you can’t see half of it anyway.  She asked me if I wanted to change the channel.  I wanted to turn it off, but she said she could only turn it down.

I watched the Dr. Oz show, and if I never see it again, it will be three days too soon.  He had on Jenny McCarthy.  I said I’d watch the stripper slut.  The cleaner looked up and said, “Isn’t she a porn star too?”  I have no knowledge about that.  That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

A single mother, (what a surprise.) she spoke of her autistic young son.  He was having seizures.  She had heard of a group of Mormon women who would come to your house, if you had enough money and power, and pray the illness away.  She called.  They came.  They prayed.  The seizures stopped.  Seems miraculous, but straightforward.

Then she began discussing her health, and the health of her son with Doc Ooze Oz.  She told of having her son tested, and finding high levels of arsenic.  She spoke of changing their diet and cleansing the bodies, but she still gave credit for the son’s magical recovery to the mumbo-jumbo Mormon moms.  I think that, like many in the entertainment field, she believes too strongly in too many things.  She startled even the good Doctor, by claiming she takes 35 to 40 Vitamin pills a day.

Next up was a mother of two, who drinks 9 or 10 cups of coffee a day.  She says that when she goes to bed, she can’t fall asleep for an hour or two, and always feels tired the next day, so she drinks the coffee to keep her going.  Here’s a suggestion.  Drop the coffee. Get to sleep sooner.  Wake up rested.  Don’t need the coffee.  And for my next trick, I’ll invent cold fusion.  It’s not rocket surgery.

So what did Dr. Oz recommend?  Well, he told her to cut out the coffee.  Okay so far.  And replace it with an Energy Drink, like Red Bull or Five Hour.  Are you crazy Doc?  Why don’t you just admit that you’re being bribed?  One cup of regular coffee has about 63 mg. of caffeine.  One serving of energy drink can contain up to 450 mg. of caffeine, plus high levels of sugar for some nice weight gain.  One energy drink equals more than 7 cups of coffee.  How is she going to sleep?  How will her husband sleep, with her vibrating in the bed beside him?  How do you sleep after handing out advice like this?  And the all-women audience clapped and cheered.  Sheep!  Unthinking sheep, I tell you.

I was so happy when my cleaning was finished, and I could get away from one of the worst examples of why I don’t watch day-time TV.