Homeward! Bound?

zoes tale

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.

Trippin’

Last Friday, as the sun disappeared south of the equator for the winter, I wished that I could follow it.  On that day, I reached my best-before-date of 68 years old.  The decrepitude is decreeping up on me.

I was allowed to choose a supper menu for my actual birthday meal, and decided on chicken schnitzel with fries and gravy.  We have schnitzel about once a month, but it’s usually pork schnitzel, purchased over at Eurofoods.  Chicken is a bit more labor to prepare, but nice to have once in a while.  Saturday night, when the son’s taste buds were more awake, we had bacon-wrapped filets with baked potatoes and fried zucchini.

Friday for lunch, I made myself another platter of nacho chips.  The son works a midnight shift and is done Saturday morning at 7 AM.  As sometimes happens, the joy of weekend freedom kept him awake.  Instead of going to bed around 10 AM, he was still awake when I finally rolled out about noon.  Since he doesn’t get Tex-Mex as often as I do, he suggested going to Taco Bell for lunch, while we were doing some shopping.  I should have been eating up leftovers to clean out the fridge, but couldn’t resist some face-time with him.

When we got home and admitted what we’d done, the wife asked if I’d forgotten what I’d had for lunch the day before.  I asked her if she’d forgotten what we’d planned for supper on Sunday, when the daughter, grandson and fiancée came over.  The stuff we picked up while we were out was for beef fajitas.  Tex-Mex three days in a row!  Am I happy?  Si, senor!  Muy bueno!

The loot presents I received on Sunday for my birthday included an Esso gift card that I can use for gas this coming weekend, and a Chapters bookstore gift card that will continue to come in handy anytime.  My grandson and his fiancée presented me with a lovely carved letter opener.  When I slid it out of its holder I thought that it was ivory, because I saw off-white, but when I turned it over, I saw amber/honey color, and realized it was banded agate.  The end of the hilt is a Scottish thistle, to commemorate my heritage.

The wife and I got me a coin for my birthday.  Since the Canadian Mint no longer stamps out pennies, they are offering a twenty-dollar, 99.99 fine, silver coin.  It has three Maple leaves as the penny did.  When I ordered it, I thought it was penny-sized, but when it arrived I found that it’s as big as a quarter.

We’re off to metro Detroit for the weekend.  I have to remember to add the “metro”, lest someone think I’m entering the war-zone.  I made a mis-turn one time, and wound up right down-town.  Ours were the only white faces, and none of the well-tanned ones looked too welcoming.  We stay at a motel 20 miles down I-75.  It’s down the street from a big Meijer store, where we plan to do some shopping, and right across the street from the Gibraltar Trade Center, a gigantic flea-market/food-court/display arena, where you can lose an afternoon, and we plan to.

Not that we need one, but the excuse for the trip is a knife show.  We’ve been down for spring shows several times, but this is the first time we’ve come down in the fall.  We’ve never had a problem getting our choice of room type.  It may have to do with college football, but when I reserved the room a week ago, all the ones with king-size beds were taken.  The wife and I have trouble fitting in a standard double after years of a king-size.  I once missed an exit in Pennsylvania, coming home from Charleston, and drove from Pittsburgh, almost to Buffalo, before we found an officially un-open motel with a vacancy at two in the morning, because of college football.

We’ve offered to take the grandson and his fiancée with us.  She politely declined because her job includes weekend work.  If we’d got a king room, we could have got a cot for him.  He’s spent a year out of high school thinking about a career.  He wondered about horticulture, working one summer at a greenhouse, but jobs in that area are scarce (aren’t they everywhere?), the pay is poor, and the work is seasonal.  He currently has a half-day job at a transport depot.

He has decided to go back to school for a year to train for welding.  His schedule will be; walk to school for two hours of class, bus to co-op placement for four hours of training, bus to part-time job for four hours of work, then bus home after a 12/14 hour day.  It’ll be a killer schedule but the job prospects for a welder are fairly good, and the pay is decent too.  His co-op hasn’t kicked in yet and he’s booked the evening off at work.  By the time you read this, we should be on our merry way to the Motor City.

His Mom had to put a rush on his passport.  We provided a copy of our reservation to justify the hurry.  All goes well, he will have picked it up at the local passport office Thursday afternoon.  As partial justification of an earlier claim, we will be taking some orphans back to the U. S. with us.  In just over two years I have accumulated 36 American quarters, 36 dimes, 25 nickels and eight rolls of pennies, for a total of $17.85.  The daughter is sending the grandson with a roll of quarters, six rolls of pennies and a handful of assorted change about half as large as mine.

We’ll wave at Chatham for KayJai as we pass.  We will enjoy the knife show on Saturday, do some shopping, including some beet sugar at Meijer’s Sunday morning, roam the flea market in the afternoon and just generally enjoy the trip and the change of routine and scenery.  Blog to you early next week.