HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BRAINRANTS!

Birthday Cake

I sent BrainRants a birthday present!

From comments on previous years’ posts, I knew that BrainRants’ birthday was some time late in January. Using stalker senses honed by sticking my nose into Cordelia’s Mom’s business, I found a link to the employment consultant who was aiding him in obtaining suitable civilian employment.

She’s a lovely lady. Wanting to surprise Rants, I sent her a package, along with a note, asking if she could discreetly forward it to Mrs. BrainRants.  No black helicopters came winging north over the border, only an email saying, “Can do, and did!”

Rants’ new bride doesn’t know me from Santa Claus.  Inside the shipping envelope I included another note, asking if she could hand him the final package on the fateful day.  She obviously knows of his blogging, and coterie of blog-friends.

Perhaps the arrival of strange bundles, delivered in odd ways, isn’t all that unusual. All I know is that the FBI didn’t ask the RCMP to stop around and ask some pointed questions.

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During my ongoing housecleaning, I realised that I possessed two commemorative medallions, one bronze, the other aluminum, honoring astronauts, and the Apollo 11 and 12, 1960s Moon Missions. Knowing of Rants’ interest in science, NASA and the moon, I wondered if he might have any interest in them.

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I included a shield-shaped Canada shoulder patch which I picked up the day I went to photograph the tank and Spitfire.  I doubt that he has uniforms anymore.  The army made him turn all his stuff in.  He would only wear one for a special occasion, and the Maple Leaf patch would not be allowed because it is non-regulation.

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No cost was spared when I packaged his coins in the Costco box I received my membership-renewal Christmas gift card in.

While not ‘strange’, my plan was unexpected and unannounced. Mrs. Rants was apparently willing to go along with it.  She sneaked out an email to confirm that she had received his gift, and presented it to him.  I received another, from him, thanking me for my little piece of thoughtfulness.

This sending of physical packages and actual printed letters seems almost outdated in today’s electronic society. I couldn’t use a drone, because the DC area is a no-fly zone.  Somebody, perhaps Rants himself, would have shot it down.

If you haven’t already, drop in to his site, wish him a Happy Belated Birthday, and really make him feel old. I had hoped that another gift might be the ability to announce that he has secured gainful and productive employment.  We waited – but none of us as hard as him, and now everyone’s wish has been granted.  He scored a job – cube-drone trainee, working under Dilbert.  Still got the training wheels on. Good Luck, Rants, and thanx.  😎

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The presents, as they sit proudly in Rants’ house, at an undisclosed location in the Eastern USA.   😆

 

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Graffiti Grabbers

Executioner

I read about 250 books in the above series over the years. It started with a Special Forces soldier coming home from Viet Nam to avenge his family, murdered by ‘The Mob.’  Seeing the limitations of this story arc, after about 30 books, the hero ‘died’ and was reborn as an independent Government agent, fighting terrorists, although this was back in the ‘80s.  They weren’t called that, then.

In one book, the hero pursued an agent who was bombing American Federal Government buildings and installations, all the way to Detroit. He then crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, just in time to see a bomb blow up a blue, street mailbox.

Mailbox

I’m still not sure what value the author felt blowing up a Canadian mailbox had – a few pizza shop flyers destroyed and somebody’s unemployment cheque (check, for Americans) lost.  What caught my attention was the fact that the (American) author had described the Canadian mailbox as blue.  American mailboxes are blue, Canadian mailboxes have always been British Red.

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Graffiti taggers’ ill manners and lack of respect for the property of others started leaking north across the American border, like the Emerald Ash Borer, and deer ticks with Lyme disease. The more OCD at Canada Post began to be concerned about the look of their mailboxes.

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They began a program of refinishing them with a glass crystal surface like that applied to subway cars in the movie Turk 182. It’s so smooth that, if the paint doesn’t fall off on its own, it can be wiped off with a dry cloth.  The only problem is, taggers just hate an empty surface, and will keep tagging, no matter how many times it’s cleaned.

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Canada Post solved that problem by adding random, jumbled Postal Codes, so that the boxes look like they’ve already been pre-graffitied – so neat – so clean – so much better. Right….

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Apparently they were not eagerly accepted, so Canada Post has come up with something a little more artistic.

I recently pulled into the subdivision, and there was a van parked, and a man in a work uniform in front of the neighborhood cable TV junction box. I thought someone might be upgrading to the new fiber-optic service.  As I drove past, I saw that the worker had a small paint tray and roller.  The name on the van was ‘Graffiti Grabbers.’  He was painting over the taggers’ marks.

When I got home, a quick research revealed that graffiti ‘artists’ created enough vandalism to keep the above, and two more cover-up companies busy. I guess we can’t all be bloggers and only sully each others’ cell phones, tablets, and computer screens.

Things That Make You Go –WTF?!

A woman, duck-hunting in Indiana, shot a duck, set down her 12 gauge shotgun and urged her retriever to fetch the bird. He galloped over the gun, shooting her in the foot. The dog’s name was Trigger.

Locally, a car pulled out of a side street in front of another car, which swerved to the left, sideswiping an oncoming car, forcing it over the curb. That car violently struck a Canada Post mailbox, driving it into a 76 year old man, out for a walk, and killed him. The man killed was a retired Postal worker.

A letter to the Editor complained of waiting till the last minute and not being able to get tickets to an Oktoberfest hall. It was so personal and trivial, I don’t know why The Record even printed it. When I read the writer’s name, it was Steve Whines. Will Rogers said, You don’t have to make things up, just read the newspapers.

Searching for an image of a rainbow, I found a nice one, captioned – Niagara Falls, Toronto, Canada – Zou Zheng.  Apparently it’s been moved over next to Canada’s Wonderland, to make it more easily accessible by tourists like Zou.  If this was one of the Chinese picture-takers from Batavia, I’m surprised he didn’t just move it to Buffalo.

I recently received an email from a bookstore, that a book I’d ordered, had come in. I went to the store, and handed a male clerk my order receipt, indicating that it was paid for, and giving my name and address, the name of the author, and the name of the book.

He glanced at it, handed it back, and said, “I’ll get it from the storeroom. I’ll be right back.”  I waved the receipt and asked, “Won’t you need this?”  “Oh no, I’ve seen it.”  “What?  You have eidetic memory?”  (Big smile)  “Yes, I have eidetic memory!”  You’re lucky.  I have to look at it just to remember my name.

A couple of minutes later he showed up with an oversized Trade Paperback. I had time to say, “I wanted the regular size, but if that’s what was ordered, I’ll take it.”  When I looked at it, it was a kids’ book, like ‘The Bobbsey Twins Do Carnival In Rio.’  Mr. Eidetic Memory had brought me the wrong title, by the wrong author, for the wrong customer.

When he returned a second time, he brought a CD Audio Book Version, but that’s a complaint about a different clerk.

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Celine wedding 3Above are a couple of photos from the wedding album of Empress Chanteuse, Celine Dion, and her pet monkey Consort, René.  Somewhere, Katherine the Great, of Russia was looking down (or was it up?) in envy.  Not bad for the youngest of 14 children of a poor redneck Quebecois sharecropper butcher.

Now that she has her children, her fame, her hand firmly clutching her considerable fortune and ‘Uncle René’ busy dying of cancer, she’s more than willing to divorce him and drop him by the side of the road. If Disney/Pixar ever does Frozen II, I know who can do the part of The Ice Queen.  This woman is colder than a Quebec winter.

 

California, Here I Come

This story took place in Canada.  It’s about the east coast, not the west, and it happened to my parents, not me.  Other than that, it’s exactly like the title.

My parents wanted to see and enjoy as much of Canada as they could, while they were still strong enough to make the trips.  The year after they made the trip out to B.C., they decided to drive to the east coast.  They got as far as Montreal the first day and stayed at an inexpensive hotel.

After supper, dad thought they might have a drink.  He found a vending machine where he could buy Coke, as mix, but couldn’t seem to locate an ice machine.  On his way back to the room, he encountered a man with a bucket of ice, and asked him where he had got it.  The guy said he had to ask a hotel employee, who got it for him.  Dad complained that he had asked two different employees.  They had mumbled something in French and walked away.  The guy told him to wave American money.  If they think you’re a Yankee, they’ll fall all over themselves.

There was no bridge over to Prince Edward Island at that time and Dad didn’t want to take the ferry to see a whole Province that’s smaller than Southern Ontario.  They drove through New Brunswick and on into Nova Scotia.  They drove north and followed the Cabot Trail around Cape Breton.  On a whim, Dad decided that they would take the ferry over to Newfoundland. There is actually a legal Canada Post outlet on the ferry.  You can buy postcards and stamps and deposit mail in a receptacle.  At the end of the ferry’s day, the Canada Post employee gathers all mail and takes it ashore for sorting and shipping.

They bought several postcards and began addressing them, one to Mom’s younger brother, one to my half-sister, one to my brother, and then the problem struck.  They knew my name, of course.  They knew the name of my city.  They even knew my house number, but, do you think either one of them could remember the name of the street I lived on?  Now that I’m almost their age, I understand the mental block.  They pondered and thought, then Dad got up and wandered away.  Mom was thinking, Oh sure, leave it to me while you go socialize.  A couple of minutes later, Dad came back.  Frederick Street, he says.  Oh, you remembered.  No, I asked that kid over there.  Mom wanted to know how some teenager on a ferry to The Rock, knows where her son lives, four Provinces west.  Simple, Dad says.  He’s wearing a U of Waterloo (our twin city) jacket, so I described where the street started and where it went, and he knew.

They landed and drove off the ferry, and north to Corner Brook.  They’d been living and showering in hotels/motels for over two weeks.  My mother used to have her hair done at a salon every Friday, so she told Dad to keep an eye out for a hairdresser.  As you enter the city, you do so on a one-way street.  About a block ahead, Dad saw a car pull out of a parking space on the left hand side.  He pulled into the recently vacated spot and looked toward the businesses.  They were parked right in front of a nice hair salon.  Mom went on in to see if they could take her, and how soon.  Dad would have put money in the parking meter, but it still had time on it.  The ladies inside weren’t busy at that moment, and took her immediately.  An hour later they climbed back in the car, and there were still a couple of minutes left on the meter.  The word is synchronicity, a collision of possibles, so unlikely, that it almost seems to imply Divine intervention.

Having come this far, they decided to drive across the Province to St John’s.  They drove and drove, and drove, and drove.  The views were breath-taking, but Dad used the term, boringly beautiful.  Oh look, another mountain.  Newfoundland is the end of the Appalachian Chain.  It’s not The Rockies, but it’s still mountains.  They climbed one long hill, and, just over the ridge was a garage/diner/rest area.  Dad gassed up, and then they went into the restaurant, for a stretch and some lunch.

As they came out Dad said, he could hear a car laboring up the long hill just over the ridge.  Just as it reached the top, there was a bang and a lot of smoke.  The car had thrown a piston rod down through the oil pan.  The driver managed to coast it into the garage area.  The attendant examined it and gave him the bad news.  Can you fix it, the owner wanted to know.  Oh yeah.  No problem.  How long would it take?  “Well,” said the mechanic, “If I can get the parts from St John’s, two to three days.  If I have to wait for parts from Halifax, it’ll be two to three weeks.”

Fun’s fun, but, being stuck on this rock for two or three weeks isn’t it.  Or, hire a ride to the airport, fly home, fly back when the car’s repaired and hire another ride out to the middle of nowhere.  The cost would be more than the car was worth.  Discretion being the better part of sanity, Dad turned around and headed back toward the ferry dock.  There’s a reason life moves a little slower on Newfoundland.  If they’d had friends and family to help, it would have been a different situation.  Dad just wanted to get back to civilization the mainland.

 

Coals To Newcastle

I say that I didn’t know what a “Newfy” was until after I moved here to the Big City, but that’s not exactly true.  A Newfy (or Newfie) is a resident, or ex-resident of Newfoundland, the easternmost Province of Canada.  It’s a big rock that sits in the Atlantic Ocean.  I said in a previous post that a redneck might live a bit further off the paved road than most of us.  Just imagine a place that requires a boat to get to, not just the big Rock, but little fishing villages along its coast, outports, which have no roads, and must be reached by smaller boat.

It’s a delightful place.  Even in the few cities, life moves at a slower, more casual pace.  Because of the collapse of the fishing industry, large numbers of Newfies had to leave the Rock, to seek employment elsewhere.  Many of them moved to Alberta, to work in the oil industry.  It is said that, there are more Newfies in Fort McMurray, Alberta, than there are left on the island.  This is almost ironic, because they have now discovered oil under the ocean bed, just off Newfoundland, and many of these experienced workers can now return home to work in their own Province again.

They have been insular in the past, because they are, literally insular.  There had not been a great deal of cultural cross-pollination. The Province, and the people of it, continue to grow towards integration with the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world, because of improved communications abilities.  Still, they have their own ways of doing things.

One of the men of my home-town came back from the Second World War with a wife, a woman he met and married when he was posted in Newfoundland.  She was a bit eccentric, but really, not much different from some of the other characters in the comedy stage-play that was my little town, not until the strawberry jam.

We had had a beautiful spring, and early summer.  It had been perfect weather for strawberries, not just my area, but the entire eastern section of Canada.  Supply and demand, you could obtain as many as you wanted, at bargain-basement prices.  This lady bought flats and flats of them….and then had to figure out what to do with them.  “I know, I’ll make fajitas jam”, so jam she made.  Now, what to do with all this jam?

She decided that she would send some of it back to her sister, still in Newfoundland, despite the fact that the strawberry crop there, was even better than it was in Ontario.  Now, “normal” people (myself not included) might have called up FedEx, or maybe taken it down to the nearest Canada Post office, for shipping.  Dat’s not de way we Newfs does t’ings.

She knew a Newfie guy in a town about a hundred miles away, so she called him up to ask if he was “goin’ home” that summer.  He admitted that he was, so she asked him if he would take this case of jam back with him.  He was happy to oblige.  To get the jam to him necessitated picking a mutually empty Sunday, and driving the hundred miles, two hours, to get it to him.  And then it was, sit down and chew the fat, have some rum, and maybe a few beers, and you’ll be staying for supper, and then some more gabfest and rum and beers, and another hundred-mile drive home.  Nothing to it.

He eventually drove it down east, and over to The Rock on the ferry.  When he got where he was going, he phoned the sister and her husband, long-distance.  Like the Ontario end, they lived a hundred miles away too.  Then the game started all over again, this time in reverse.  Pick a day, drive the hundred miles, almost three hours, the roads in Newfoundland aren’t quite up to mainland standards.  Shoot the shit, drink the rum, stay for supper, yak till the flying fish come home, and then drive three hours back.  Because of the isolation, almost any excuse is accepted for socializing and a wee party.

When the ride finally came to a stop, the sister in the wilds of Newfoundland phoned the sister in the wilds of Southern Ontario to ask why she had sent this jam down….without asking, or warning.  “I’ve got a pantry full of the stuff.  I’m trying to give some of mine away too.”

A small vignette about Newfoundland hospitality.  Another female co-worker came to Ontario with her parents when she was eight years old.  She didn’t have a chance to “Go Home”, as they say, until she was 23.  She’d graduated, got her first job and saved for vacation.  It had been fifteen long, very formative years.  The thing she missed the most, and the first thing she wanted to see again, was her beloved grandmother.

She went over and knocked on Granny’s door.  Grandma greeted her with a big smile and an invitation to come in.  Sit down, girl.  Would you like some tea and scones, and jam?  And how are you this fine day?  Small talk for ten or fifteen minutes, finally Granny looked at her and said, “So, you must tell me.  Who are you darlin’?”  As far as she knew, she’d been entertaining a perfect stranger, and was amazed to meet her own granddaughter.  You or I might find that strange but, down there, if somebody knocks on your door, there must be a good reason.  They’re home, and they’re welcome.