The Fellowship Of The Blog – Episode Nine

 

  Day 5 – Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy-Jig

After meeting with, not one, but two fellow bloggers, blowing the exhaust system off the car, getting seriously GPS lost –twice – and attending a disappointing knife show, it might seem that the adventure was pretty much over.  We just intended to head for Detroit, and do a bit of shopping before slipping back over the line, to quiet Canuckville.

Prison

 

 

 

Fortunately for my publishing stats, fate still had a couple of (hopefully) interesting things in the wings. As we motored north on I-77, we suddenly passed a State Prison.  We came up over a rise, and there it was, right beside the road on our left.  I assume that the place with the concrete buildings, double twelve-foot high chain-link fences with razor wire on top and a ten-foot kill zone between them, was a prison, not a chicken hatchery.

We drove near one years ago, near Lapeer, MI.  For miles there were signs beside the highway, warning, “Caution Prison!  Do not pick up hitchhikers!”  This place – not so much.  While not near any urban area, I was surprised that it was so near a major highway.  Don’t they put prisons in places like Alcatraz, miles from anywhere?  I guess guards don’t like living in the middle of nowhere, delivery trucks don’t like driving there, and prisoners have the right to quick medical transportation.

As we came north, we reached a secondary road branching off the Interstate, which would angle northwest to Toledo, saving us several miles of driving, and a couple of dollars of road toll.  Northwest Ohio should be flatter and straighter than the Southeast corner, but my ass was still sore from being bitten by ‘Ohio 23’, so we drove on up north, to the Lake Erie shore, passing close to Kent State University, where CSNY sang of Four Dead In Ohio.

Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks!  Even if we didn’t see Drew Carey, or the Rock and Roll Museum.  We did see the section of Ohio that Chrissie Hynde lamented had been paved over, by a government that had no pride – from Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls.

After rolling through the concrete jungle of Cuyahoga Falls, and Cleveland, we climbed on I-80, the Ohio Turnpike.  We grabbed a ticket, and headed for the toll booths at Toledo.  For the entire length that we drove, the east- and west-bound traffic were separated by concrete, K-rail, Jersey Barriers.  Not all of Ontario’s high-speed highways are completely supplied, to prevent crossover accidents.  Our local ring-road bypass, The Conestoga Expressway, still has open areas, despite 6 deaths in the last five years.

Every mile, the ends of two K-rails were offset, to allow police and emergency vehicles to U-turn, and for cops to hide, while watching for speeders. The right lane was crowded with trucks, including a number of triple-trailer transport-trains.  I was keeping up with traffic at the legal 65 MPH limit, in the middle lane.  A half-mile ahead, I saw the nose of a cruiser sticking out from one of the gaps.  In my mirror, I also saw a couple of bumble-bee cars, zipping in and out of the left lane, and rapidly overtaking me.

Just like the old cliché, they passed me like I was standing still.  Then, the guy in the lead spotted the cop, and piled on the binders.  The guy racing him didn’t see anything, and almost piled into the back of him.  Suddenly driving very slowly, they cut in front of me, and all the way over to the right lane, ending up ahead of, and behind, an overloaded half-ton, but I saw the cop pull out.

Cop Car

 

 

I told the wife that he was chasing the speeders.  “Who?  Where?”  “Those guys.” – pointing.  “But he’s waving at you??”  “Me?  What did I do?”  I looked out my window, and sure enough, he indicated for me to fall back.  He could hit the lights and siren, and force his way in, but it might set off a dangerous chase, and one or both could get away.  I eased back.  He eased in, right beside them, and turned on the lights.  They both looked chagrined and resigned as they pulled over.

I had hoped to gas up once we reached Detroit, but pulled off I-75 at Gibraltar, 25 miles short.  Just as I reached the bottom of the ramp, a dash chime sounded, and the ‘Fill Me’ light came on.  Already overfed, and eating less because of old age, we skipped the steak and baked potato at The Outback, and supper was a ‘Blooming Onion’ and a small loaf of pumpernickel bread from their takeout, taken back to the motel.

The next morning, we purchased another 25 pounds of Michigan beet sugar, the wife could not find any suitable tops which fit her, we topped up the gas tank again at the Meijer’s store, and had brunch once again at a Denny’s, before heading for the Ambassador Bridge.

Ambassador Bridge 2

 

 

 

 

Ambassador Bridge

 

 

 

Construction on the second bridge has not yet begun, and won’t be complete before we hope to travel here again, but is sorely needed.  Two-lane, bumper-to-bumper backup from the Customs booths started at the middle of the bridge.  When I finally reached the bottom, I was facing South, (check your maps) into the bright sunshine.

I thought, “When I get to pull into the shadow at the booth, I need to remember to take off my sunglasses.” – and then that thought flew south with the Canada geese.  I handed out our Passports, and the female officer, who was wearing purple rubber gloves, imperiously reminded me.

The new Windsor bypass is almost complete, and quickly whisked us five miles out, to the end of Highway 401….where we encountered a roundabout??!  Way to go, Ontario!  Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of vehicles a day, at least half of them trucks, headed for the US, across the most heavily-traveled US/Canada border crossing….  and it all comes down to a roundabout??

I need to rest my brain.  We’ll be home soon.  😀

 

The Fellowship Of The Blog – Episode Six

Old Jalopy

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Lost In Thought – And Other Places

The muffler shop manager holding our car for ransom, called early. After trading retirement financial security for a ride back to Canada, we had our treasured transportation back to the motel by 10 AM.  Now we were ready to attend the knife show, at 1 o’clock.

The drive to the knife show was 44 km/26 miles. Halfway there, work crews had two matching bridges down to one lane each.  With the usual assholes rushing up as far as they could, before cutting someone off, by the time we got there, the two-lane, bumper-to-bumper backup on the Interstate was five miles.  By the time we returned from the show, the parking lot was ten miles long.

Cracker Barrel Sign

 

 

 

 

The wife decided that we needed some sustenance before reaching the venue. She had been eyeing Cracker Barrel signs since Erie, PA.  At the exit before ours, there was another one, so, up we went.  Little Miss GPS was not happy.  RECALCULATING!  Turn around. Turn right, now! Get back on the Interstate or I’ll smack you.  We turned her off, and wound up having lunch at Denny’s, saving Cracker Barrel for supper.

Residents either knew exactly where we were from, or couldn’t point to Canada (and maybe even Ohio) on a map. Our server at Denny’s had both her maternal grandparents come from Paisley, a little village of 900, 80 miles north of Kitchener, where my brother lives.  He probably bought their old house.

We had seen TV promos for a movie called Ouija, where the game pointer is inhabited by a malevolent spirit. I didn’t believe in such silliness – until Ethel the evil GPS struck.  Perhaps she was angry because she was ignored, and turned off while we lunched.

When we turned her back on, she quickly got us to the next exit. The ramp comes up to a T-intersection.  My memory from a trip there almost ten years ago, said that we turned right, but Ethel insisted that we turn left, and drive 6.7 km.  Turn left on this highway (?), then turn right on this county road. (It’s a farmer’s lane!)

I knew we were in trouble when we passed under the Interstate, and were south of it.  Turn off the paved road??! We left pavement for gravel road, and ran off gravel onto dirt road.  We finally looped around, right back to where we started, and she insisted that we turn left again. Oh no you don’t! We turned her off, and I turned right.

I drove for several miles, but now I was spooked. I didn’t see the Civic Center.  I did see a gas station, with a State Trooper, so I pulled in and asked him.  I admitted that I was a dumb, lost tourist, and where was this venue?  He leaned to his left, and pointed just past the big tree, around the bend.  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!!  I gotta get these glasses retreaded.

After recovering from our adventure in the wilderness, the knife show was a dismal failure. AFrankAngle didn’t miss a thing.  Apparently the Ohio Knifemakers’ Guild had a little schism, and the clique responsible for advertising and promoting the show, took their toys and went home.

Two of the makers were amazed that I’d even heard of it, in Canada, and drove all the way to attend. One maker packed it in at the end of Friday, and refused to return Saturday.  Only about half the expected displayers showed up, not including any of the fancier makers.

The show was about half-size, and so was the paying-customers crowd(?). There were a few ‘purveyors’ – collectors with a display of other people’s knives they were anxious to unload.  There were a few Suppliers, with grinding wheels, sanding belts, and handle materials – and damned few makers to sell them to.  There was only one ‘rusty jackknife’ display.  One maker was selling para-cord bracelets that his kids had made.  One maker’s wife had added some small knitted items, and etched drinking glasses, to expand the display

There were to have been door-prize draws, every hour, on the hour.  There was one, just as we arrived at 2:20 PM, but I didn’t hear any others before we left, a couple of hours later.  With so few ‘good’ knives, I took only a few photos.  They include a dagger with dyed, stabilized Maple-wood handle, and a couple of shots of a Japanese-style Katana.

SDC10669

 

 

 

 

 

SDC10668

 

 

 

 

SDC10667

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Horse Knives is a production team of a husband, his wife, and a friend. Using production-line methods, they had dozens of well-made, but uninspiring, hunters and skinners, suitable for the local outdoor crowd.

Since the guys work with wood for the handles, they’ve also acquired enough carpentry skills to build an 8 foot long miniature battlement to display their wares. Like my Rapunzel post, they included a tower with hair streaming down.  I thought it might have come from the center of the V-shaped beard on the friend.  The wife told me that it cost her a knife at the Atlanta show, but she got it from a 12-year-old girl attendee – with her parents’ knowledge and permission.

SDC10671

One artisan – not maker – took factory-made knives and removed the handle material, and replaced it with the State stone, Ohio Flint. Cute, but so what?

Back to the motel, a home-style supper at Cracker Barrel, a little shopping at the plaza, and a good night’s sleep to rest up for the Erickson Expedition. Wanna know how it turns out?  You know where the Archon’s Den is!  See you soon.  😀

What We Want

Groups like entertainers, politicians and retailers are often urged to, “Give the people what they want.”  This often doesn’t happen, because that’s not what they want.  What they want, is the maximum return for the minimum expenditure.

What we want, is often predicated on what we already have.  A teenager in Ruanda might just want some food, while a teenager in Beverly Hills wants a new Smartphone to match her new gown, which already matches her new Lamborghini.

Back when I was a cube drone, one of my more-enlightened slavedrivers bosses sent me to a one-day, How To Be More Efficient instruction module. What he wanted, for the outlay of a couple of hundred dollars, was greater output and efficiency, and for me to think he cared, and stop bitching.

This seminar was given by the same guy who was surprised we didn’t describe ourselves as Honest.  He asked us what else we wanted from our jobs.  This was the first time I became aware of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

He explained that we can do without air for four minutes, without water for four days, and without food for four weeks.  Some of the guys who didn’t have them, wanted business cards, to seem professional.  Some wanted bigger offices – the corner office with the windows.  Some wanted impressive titles, even though the work would remain the same.  I didn’t care much where they put me, or what they called me.  I pulled a Jerry Maguire – Show me the money!

I had been a buyer, the lowest of the bunch.  Then I was a Purchasing Agent, a step up.  I had worked up to being an underpaid Materials Manager.  One pretentious egotist wanted the corner office with his title on the door – Senior Vice-President In Charge of Walking Around With My Nose So Far in the Air That I Can’t See or Smell the Peons – And Coincidentally Acquiring Stuff the Company Needs, As Long As No-one Knows I Actually Work For a Living.  If that didn’t fit, he wanted a bigger door.

Since the hotel they’d been using for a couple of years had a lot of steps, the Free Thinkers have been shopping around for a new venue.  What they want, is a place with a varied menu, with decent food at decent prices, a separate room or area, handicap access, adequate parking, and located on a major transit line, because a couple, like the Mennonite lady, come by bus.

We tried a new-to-us, but old, downtown restaurant in March, and will go back in April, but it does not bode well.  It’s not as upscale as it would like people to think – and that’s what we do.  Almost as many steps as its up-the-street neighbor – what a surprise, no parking – walk a block, no breakfast buffet, and five items on the breakfast menu.

What at least three in the group wanted, were Belgian waffles, just like Momma IHOP or Denny’s makes, with whipped cream and powdered sugar.  What they found was that, those are “dessert waffles”, served in the evening.  What they got, were breakfast waffles, without.

What they wanted was a menu, or server, that would explain that the place didn’t do things the usual way, and that whipped cream&sugar was available for a mere 50 cent surcharge.  What they wanted, was a dispenser of real Canadian Maple Syrup.  What they got, was a rip-it-open-and-spill-it-on-yourself, plastic container of genuine, imitation, looks vaguely like Maple, pancake syrup.

What I wanted – what I specifically, firmly and clearly ordered, was a cup of hot chocolate, with a good dash of coffee in it, almost a mocha.  What I got, was a server who brought me a Chi-Chi “drink”, a breakfast shooter, see illustration below.

What I wanted was a mug of hot chocolate, with coffee.

Home made

What I got, was this gay-bar, bud-vase, clear glass cup (?), with four layers, an inch of chocolate syrup on the bottom, with a layer of (ugh) warm! milk above it, a layer of coffee above that, and topped with whipped cream, which I didn’t want, and should have given to the lady beside me with the Belgian waffle.

Uptown Hot Chocolate

What I want, is what I want, but, as most of you know, unless you own Belgium, and not just the waffles, very few of us get what we want.

 

 

Motor City Madness – Part 3

Coming Unscrewed

We were up early Sunday morning, if you can call nine AM early.  It is for us, but we had things to do and money to spend.  I went down to the office to check us out.  It was a peaceful morning, no beer party, no hookers, no trolling queers.  There’s a Denny’s just down the road, so we planned to have breakfast there.

Michigan is catching up with the rest of North America.  No longer is the Denny’s half smoking, and half drifting smoke, hak, hak!  We got a nice table near the back window and a pleasant, mature waitress who came from Ireland years ago.  Prices at this Denny’s are about half of what the captive Denny’s attached to Days Inns in Niagara Falls charge.

I was reminded of my post titled Lazy and Incompetent, when I found that Denny’s now has pancake balls.  They’re like Tim Hortons Timbits, small balls of thick pancake mix, deep-fried.  These are for people too busy or lazy to actually cut up pancakes.  Just stir some butter and syrup into their serving bowl, and spoon them into your mouth.

As we were waiting for our order, we looked out into the parking lot and spied a large young Negro woman getting out of a Jeep.  She was wearing (?) a micro-mini dress which barely covered her assets.  This was like two hundred pounds of potatoes in a hundred pound Spanx bag.  She leaned back into the Jeep to retrieve something and I saw everything but her appendix scar.  Then she tugged the dress down again….in the front.  The entire room watched as she sashayed to the front door.

After breakfast, we went up to the big Meijer store.  The grandson and I sold our rolled coins to Customer Service.  The wife found some correctly sized pullovers, cheap, in four nice colors.  We also brought back some liquid coffee creamers in flavors not yet available locally.  I’m looking forward to hot chocolate with some Crème Brulée added, but, we came for beet sugar.

There were only fifteen four-pound bags of Peninsular brand sugar, the kind we usually buy, on the shelf, so the grandson bought it, for use at his place.  The wife and I took six five-pound bags of the Meijer brand for ourselves.  They would have put out more Peninsular, later in the day, but we didn’t plan on going back.  This means we hauled back a total of ninety pounds of sugar to Canada.  That’s just about the weight of the fiancée who didn’t come with us.  She might have had to walk home.

The grandson discovered that, by using self-checkouts, we could pour in and get rid of most of the rest of our pocketfuls of loose change.  I still need five State quarters to fill my set.  I had hoped to get one or more on the trip, but, by having exact change for almost every purchase, we never got any new coins.

Then we went to the Gibraltar Trade Center, across from the motel.  Over 200 vendors in an arena-sized building, we wandered for a couple of hours, and ended by getting some good quality food at the surprisingly diverse food court.

The first thing we bought was some sandalwood musk-oil to add to my manly bath gel.  Our daughter is fascinated by things Egyptian.  The surprise second item purchased, was a solid gold scarab beetle pendant with semi-precious scales for the head, thorax and wings.  It has an ankh molded on its belly.

A middle-aged female (wo)manned this jewelry sales counter.  The owner must have been desperate.  I wouldn’t have let her supervise a Japanese snake race.  When we decided to buy the item, she didn’t know what the price was.  She phoned the owner, who told her that all the items are sold by weight, at today’s gold price.  She couldn’t figure that out, so he walked her through it.  The price came to $232.45, and we proffered our MasterCard.

She walked over to the desk and pushed the card through the slide-reader, and told us it hadn’t gone through.  I mentioned that it was a chip-card, and chip-cards don’t scan when swiped.  She walked around to the other side of the desk and pulled it through the reader.  Since she’s now facing in the opposite direction, the magnetic strip, which was on the inside, is now on the outside.  It didn’t go through.  She reversed grip on the card, and tried yet another time, and claimed it didn’t go through.

She phoned up and bothered the owner again, who probably said the reader might not work, but she stated it as a certainty.  There was a “white” ATM not twenty feet away.  We walked over and took a $200 advance against the credit card, and paid the balance out-of-pocket.  The ATM fee was $3, and my bank charged another $2, for out-of-country use, plus instant interest on a cash advance.

Two days after we got home, the wife was checking the on-line bank statement, and there was the $232.45 charge.  It did go through, at least one of her many tries.  If it goes through as a chip-card, we have to input a PIN number.  If it goes through as a swipe, we have to sign and authorize the charge, and receive a copy of the machine tape.  Neither of these things occurred.

The wife called the bank’s 800 number and spoke to a nice man in the Anti-Fraud department, even though this was probably just incompetence, not intentional fraud.  She downloaded a complaint form, filled it out, I signed it, and she faxed it, and a copy of the bill-of-sale showing payment in cash, to the bank.  We had the money back in our account within three working days.

If my readership doesn’t drop off drastically from on-line sleeping sickness, I plan to eventually post about our triumphant return.  Now there’s talk of the son and I going back for the spring show.

April Fools

That’s what the wife and I are.  April fools.  We’ve been buying a computer tax program and filing on-line now for over five years.  We bought and installed the program over a month ago.  The son calculated and filed his taxes.  He has to pay $24.  Nobody is ready to pay taxes, even if it is only $5.  Everybody hopes for and expects a refund.  The daughter took the program to her house and put it on her computer; it will do up to five returns.  She did her taxes, and has a small refund coming.  The grandson has his first (part-time) job.  He did his taxes and got a thousand back, part of which he gave to his Mom.

Unlike Americans, who have to file by the fifteenth of April, Canadians have until the end of the month.  Good intentions did not get our taxes done until the last minute.  They’re due no later than midnight, Monday, the 30th …today.  We finally finished them late yesterday afternoon.  We file together, but not as a joint file.  We split certain income and expenses.  The program balances taxes owed.  We will have to pay $252.  Canada’s bureaucratic system prevents us from sending the government that amount.  First, I have to give them my $650, upfront.  Then, whenever RevCan gets around to it, they will send her a refund for $400.  Well, somebody gotta pay for that socialized medicine.  I just hoped that it would be more somebody else, and less me.

For twenty years, at the plaza four blocks away, there were a Pizza Hut, and a Taco Bell, side by side.  Two years ago, the Pizza Hut closed down.  A new restaurant just reopened in the same building.  It’s a glorified pancake house, headquartered in B.C., like a Denny’s, or perhaps IHOP.  Last Saturday, the son and I stopped in to the Taco Bell, for a late lunch, about three PM.  I met the daughter of the Polish contessa, or maybe the sister of the Canadian Tire clerk.  As we entered, there were the usual inner/outer double doors.  On each of these doors, at adult eye height, was a notice stating that this particular Taco Bell would be closed as of Saturday, April 28.  Just inside these doors was the access door to the washrooms.  There was another copy of this notice there, and possibly copies on each of the washroom doors, I don’t know for sure.  I didn’t use the facilities

There was only one customer when we entered, a 20ish young woman.  Since the place was almost deserted, the male counter clerk had come out to do some clean-up.  I said, “You’re not even gone, and I miss you already.  Do you get to transfer to another location, when they close this place?”  The female brain-trust perked up.  “Oh, they’re closing this restaurant?  How do you know?”  Well, for the clerk, the answer would be that he works there, and management tells him things like that.  For the son and me, I pointed to the notices on the doors and told her that we read them on the way in.  “Oh, I didn’t look.  I guess I missed them.”  Please tell me that she walked here.  I shudder at the thought of her driving a car.

They say an honest politician is one who, when he’s been bought, stays bought.  My provincial representative has been bought.  She’s a she, and she’s been the rep. for this riding for 22 years.  She’s quite a worker, and very influential.  She’s never openly expressed a desire or intent to be the leader of her party.  Twice though, she’s been made Deputy Premier to a male.  The latest one, when they opened a dictionary to the word bland, his picture fell out.  The ruling party has a minority.  They can get enough friendly votes to get most bills passed.  They just floated the budget and, instead of doing the hard, right things to strengthen Ontario’s economy, they went with political expediency.  The ruling party had to woo the number three party with some money for their favorite projects to assure enough votes to get the budget passed.  The balance is still close though.

This female politico is sixty-five years old.  If she retires now, she will get a gold-plated government pension that most of us could only dream of.  The Provincial Premier has offered her a five-year contract as the CEO of the Provincial Health and Safety Bureau.  She’s been making $118,000 a year as our representative.  This offer lets her start collecting that outrageous pension immediately, and guarantees her another five years at $168,000 a year.  It also reduces the opposition by one vote on the budget vote.  A by-election can’t fill her seat till long after the vote is taken, and it removes a trouble-maker who might have led a campaign against the spendthrift party’s financial plans.

I don’t think the Premier himself is smart enough to have come up with this plan.  Somebody in his circle though, has used our rapidly diminishing money to ensure that they can spend more of our rapidly diminishing money.  If we’re going to go bankrupt anyway, perhaps I could move to Holland or Greece.  Thank God my pensions and benefits plan are guaranteed by the Federal government and the American, Big Three, auto-makers.