’18 A To Z Challenge – Neighbors

 

Challenge '18letter-n

 

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood

I accidentally did another favor for my neighbors – and I don’t regret or begrudge it.

I wrote of being able to do several favors for them, several years ago.  Those favors have been returned like bread upon the waters, 7-fold.  The ‘rot-proof’, pressure-treated posts that support our common fence are over 30 years old, and they rotted.

As I sadly stood considering the tilting fence, morosely calculating what it was going to cost in money, energy, time, and lost skin, the neighbor asked me if I would mind if he repaired it.  His son runs a small landscaping firm, so he had access to a powered post-hole auger.  His first thought was that he could bore out the concrete bases….FAIL!

Digging them out by hand was difficult and time-consuming.  Suddenly, inspiration struck.  He cut 2 feet off a 10-foot panel, moved the necessary holes two feet, and spliced the orphan back in at the end.  All he asked, was $100 for lumber and supplies.  The wife tipped him an extra $20 for saving me the trouble.

Recently, his first-marriage daughter stayed with them for several days.  They are both non-smokers, so she sits on the front porch to puff.  One spring evening, in the dark of 9:30 PM, I left the living room to use the powder-room, next to the front door.  The pebbled glass in the lower pane made car lights on their driveway seem like they’re on our front lawn.  I stood tippy-toe to look out, but it wasn’t their car.  I turned on the light, and peered out again.  The car quickly backed out, and drove off.

I hadn’t got my ass back on the couch, when the phone rang.  They were at a friend’s, and the daughter had called.  While she was sitting, smoking, some guy had just pulled into the driveway and said, “Wanna come over here, Babe?”  She’s a sturdy lass of 25, and could probably handle any problem, but she stepped inside, locked the door, and called them.  Would I please take a look and see if there was any trouble?

I told her that my neighborly nosiness had already driven him off.  She was reassured on an immediate basis, but now she, his daughter and I, were all somewhat perplexed.  Was this just some random guy, approaching random women?  In the dark, neither of us got a good look at the driver, the car, or the licence plate.  In our quiet, safe suburban subdivision, do we have a hooker, or a drug dealer working?

The wobbly wife wants a new rail installed on the deck steps.  The old ones are leaning as badly as the fence was, and she needs safe support, when she follows the new puppies that you’ll read all about in a month, out onto the lawn.  Maybe I can leverage this into some design/installation help from the amateur carpenter husband.  😀

Book Review #3

This will be a review of Lee Child’s third Jack Reacher novel.  I will do reviews of books other than the Reacher set, I promise.  It’s just that I’ve reached the point in life where I have no need or desire to better my brain, or learn anything.  I read just for fun, and to pass the time.  Many years ago, I kidded the wife about the “Nurse Jane” romance novels she read.  As the son grew up, in his desperation to read anything, he got hooked on several of these series.  Now I denigrate them at my peril.

Both the romantic novels, and my men’s adventure books are one short step up from comic books, and are hardly serious enough prose to base a review on.  They’re not a complete waste of time though.  A surprising number of crossword and Jeopardy answers can be found in their gossamer plots.

The Author – Lee Child

The Book – Tripwire

The Review

Before he died of cancer, the old General who trained Reacher as an MP, started an investigation.  People are dying because a scam-artist from the Viet Nam war still doesn’t want to be found after 30 years, and the General’s daughter is in danger.

I don’t go looking for mistakes, but I’m observant enough that I often find them, especially in print.  Reacher starts the book with two jobs in Key West.  To protect the girl, he needs to get to New York soonest, so he has a stripper drive him in her Porsche to the Miami airport, in the middle of the night.  The book says, the only time she slowed to under 100 MPH, was when she went across the causeway to the mainland.

I drove out to Key West and back once.  It’s a hundred miles of on and off tiny islands, and through small towns, on a narrow, two-lane road, smaller than some English country lanes.  Average speed was about 40 MPH.  To try it at a hundred, almost guarantees that someone dies, and what for?  Why not fly out of the Key West airport?  There are 58 flights to NYC a day, 47 of them direct flights, starting at 7:55 AM.

It gave Reacher a chance to do some role-playing disguise.  If you strut up to the desk at Miami, and buy a one-way ticket with cash, you will be stopped and questioned by police about drug-smuggling.  Reacher looked poor, and non-threatening.

I began to wonder if Lee Child was being paid off for product placement by General Motors.  The heroine drove an Oldsmobile Bravada SUV.  The two contract killers drove either a Chevy Yukon, or a GMC Tahoe.  Child knows that they are the same vehicle, except for badging, but, being a Brit, he called them all Jeeps.

British word-usage was endemic through the book.  The heroine wore trousers instead of slacks or pants.  The missing man studied accountancy, not accounting, and had a passing-out ceremony instead of a graduation.  That sounds like a university party, or an old Victor Borge skit.  Everyone carried mobiles instead of cell phones.  I felt almost at home as Child described a road in New York City which changed names four times as it traveled from one borough, into the next.

In this book, Child seems to have a real fixation on the Hudson River.  He has the General’s home directly across it from West Point, and an old couple’s house 30 miles further up-river.  Three times in one chapter, he has someone approach it and note, “A mile-wide hush in the forest ahead.”  Come on, this isn’t the Mighty Mississippi.  It’s the Hudson, a hundred miles from the mouth; you can almost skip a stone across.

Child often provides a plethora of descriptive detail, usually right where you don’t need it.  When Reacher visited the old couple, Child listed all kinds of flowers, shrubs and trees.  He described a once-wide walkway, now reduced to a narrow trail through the overgrowing bushes.  I looked out my back window at plants the wife and I spent ten years planting, and getting to grow, but now don’t have the time or strength to uproot, or trim back.

This is just an eBook problem.  I was reading, and Reacher passed a homeless bum, but I saw it as burn.  I chalked it up to old eyes, until I saw the word again in the next chapter.  There it was again, burn, not bum.  Kobo has a feature where you can just tap a word on the screen, and it will give you a dictionary meaning.  Sure enough, it defined “BURN.”

Drug dealers in NYC use any gun they can get their hands on, usually obtained through break-ins and theft.  Reacher took down a lookout, a guard and a dealer, to get a handgun, all while he waited for a pizza.  The lookout had a Chinese .22 caliber semi-automatic pistol – odd, but possible in the Big Apple.  The guard had a .38 caliber revolver, which Child had Reacher throw away, because he had been told that they had no stopping power.

Child armed the drug dealer with a 9 MM Steyr GB, rare and expensive even in Europe, their home, but even more rare and expensive in New York.  I guess burglars can’t be choosers.  Later, the evil genius pulled out his handgun and pointed it at our damsel-in-distress.  Child has her describe it as “flat black, but shiny, bedewed with droplets of oil.”  “Flat black” means it has a non-rust coating, and doesn’t need to be oiled on the outside.  That much oil would foul clothing and/or the holster, causing the gun to fall out, and might make it nigh-impossible to hold.

He later reached into his pocket and removed a 1 inch diameter roll of duct tape, with perhaps five yards left on it.  Sounds like more British goods.  Every roll I’ve seen in North America has a 3 inch core.  This book was written in 1997, and Child has Reacher go to an Army Forensic Anthropologist, to absolutely identify the bones of returned Viet Nam MIAs.  This was just as Kathy Reichs was getting started as a writer.  I wonder, which came first, the Chicken-Colonel, or the Bones?

In the end, Reacher jumps in front of one of those puny .38s, and takes a hit, to save the damsel.  He wakes up in the hospital to be told that the powerful pectoral muscles over his sternum stopped the bullet.  There are no muscles over the sternum, and, if there were, they wouldn’t stop a .38 at eight feet.

While these books are as much fun as the drivel I won’t show you, I have trouble with the suspension of disbelief, and had hoped for a little more precision, and fewer plot holes.

How Now Pow-Wow

To inform NotestoPonder, an inquisitive, new, Western-Canada follower, here follows the tale of the Great Pow-Wow.  😉

Knowing I had to get up early to take the daughter to the Pow-Wow, I went to bed early.  Since regular for me is four AM, I headed for bed at three….right after a blog comment…and another.  It’s 3:30, and the wife is still reading….it’s 4 AM and she’s turning the light out.  Toss, turn, toss, turn….it’s 4:26, I’ll never get to slee….waddya mean it’s 7AM, and the alarm’s going off?

Juice and pills, feed the cats, water the dog, the son comes home and I take the car to pick up the daughter’s friend, and then her and her stuff.  Not a cold day, but the fog’s so thick I can see KayJai’s face in it.

It’s so thick, I almost couldn’t see the photo radar police car.  I drove past one last year.  They sent me a picture of my car and licence-plate, along with a $50 speeding ticket.  I sent them a picture of a Fifty-Dollar bill.  They sent me two photos, one of a pair of handcuffs, and the other of a cell door.  I sent them an email video of me, walking into the police station, right now, to pay the damned ticket.

By the time we got to the venue, the worst of the fog had dissipated, but the grass was wet.  The nearest parking was at the top of a 40 foot hill.  I hauled down the first couple of items, just in time to claim a good spot, but I am not hauling 500 pounds of stuff, down, and later, up, that hill.  We were allowed to, carefully, drive on the paved walkways, and park at the bottom.

After getting the daughter unloaded and set up, I headed home for some more sleep, and some chores.  There either was, Friday night, or would be, on Sunday, an old car show.  At a red light, a 1972 Oldsmobile 442, and a 1939 Ford drove past my nose.  After some computer time and more sleep, I drove down to the plaza to pick up a pizza for lunch.  In the parking lot, near the restaurant were 8/9 more oldies, a ’41 Dodge, a ’67 Mustang, and, side by side by side, a ’62, ’63, ’64 and ’58 Chevy Impalas.

The son says the only person who impresses him more with old cars than me, is the young fellow he works with.  We just look at a car and tell, within a few years at least, the make and age.  This was easy back in the day of yearly model changes, before they all became featureless clones, and you can’t tell Detroit iron from imported rice-burners.

Back in the tailfin heyday, 61 Chevies ended with a \ slant.  62s looked like /, 63s combined those with a <, and 64s softened it to [.  I could probably have got the ’58 on my own, but an IMP58ALA vanity plate gave it away.  I could even tell the unchanging VW Bug by a larger rear window or taillight.

I got back to pick the daughter up early enough to catch the end of the outdoor, commercial portion.  There was an indoor feast and speaker for those with tickets.  There were 40 to 50 vendor booths, none with fewer than two attendants, arranged in a horseshoe around a grassy lea.  About half were Native Indians.  The rest were White Eyes.

Closing the horseshoe was a large gazebo tent for the organizers.  This is where the dancers danced, the singers sang, the drummers drummed, and the First Aiders aided….announcements, contests, lost and found.  Some woman tried on a pair of earrings, and walked away leaving her large silver hoops.  Another left a green leather (?) purse with a $500 bill in it….or so the emcee claimed, to drum up interest.  Like the U.S., I think drug dealers have forced Canada to not print denominations larger than $100.  I need to research that.

At the base of the hill, white canvas skinned a cone of poles to make a teepee, but her dress had shrunk, and didn’t meet the ground by eight inches.  You’d need to pile a lot of bison shit around the bottom, to keep out vermin and snow.  At the other cusp of the horseshoe, a crew built and maintained a smoky campfire all day.

Everyone had a good day, socially and financially.  Daughter’s friend did some card readings and sold a bit of bead jewelry.  No beaded bookmarks, but the wife sold $51 worth of beeswax candles, in absentia, including a votive that the buyer pulled the wick out of, to rub on buckskins, for waterproofing.  The daughter didn’t actually spin yarn, but brought along two bobbins full, and plyed them together.  The fascinated watchers didn’t know the difference.

Aside from mother’s candles, the daughter sold some of her jewelry, and a couple of hand-knitted shawls, one of commercial yarn, the other, a bit more expensive, with her handspun yarn.  She asked $50 for the first, of the girl in the next stall, but she only had $40 in cash, so the daughter bartered in a $10, hand-painted leather wristband for the grandson, for coming along to help.

$30 bought her an antique Sterling ring with jade stones – cheap at twice that price.  Another $25 bought her a hand-knapped stone knife with an elk-antler handle, held on with elk sinew, with a plain, handmade leather sheath.  I expected it to be flint, but she tells me it’s agate.  Not delicate enough to trim salmon filets, it would still hack a roast off the side of a bison.  The grandson bought a four-feather smudge-fan, and two plastic bags of sage.

Daughter forgot to bring her camera, but went home with lots of happy memories, more money than she came with, some lovely parting gifts, and the intent to do this again next year.

Horace

Once upon a time, there was a horse named Horace.  Even when he was a young colt, he had a beautiful, long, flowing mane.  As he grew, he became prouder and prouder of his mane, and let it grow and grow, until it reached almost to the ground.

He combed it and washed it and brushed it, until it just shone in the sun, but one day, a terrible thing happened.  A homeless family of birds flew up and saw his wonderful long mane and decided that it would be the perfect place to make a home.

Horace tried to tell them to leave, but they didn’t pay any attention to him; in fact, they even went and told their relatives about the magnificent place they had found to live.  Soon, Horace’s mane was full of cheeping, tweeting birds.

Horace finally could stand it no longer, and went to a veterinarian to see if there was any way that he could rid himself of all these noisy birds.  The veterinarian told him that the only way that he could think of to get the bird out of Horace’s mane would be to take a large amount of dry yeast and rub it all through his mane.

The smell of the yeast would be a bit objectionable for a while, but the birds would not be able to stand it, and would move out and stay out.  In a week or so, Horace would be able to comb out the yeast, and things would be as they were before.  Horace did this.  He got the yeast.  He rubbed it in.  The birds left, and stayed away.

The moral of this story (if there is one) is: Yeast is yeast and nest is nest, but never the mane shall tweet….

As Monty Python used to say;

And Now, For Something Completely Different

-*-*-

Michael Richards better known as Kramer from TVs Seinfeld does make a good point. This was his defense speech in court after making racial comments in his comedy act. He makes some very interesting points…

Someone finally said it. How many are actually paying attention to this?
There are African-Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc.
And then there are just Americans.. You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.
You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… And that’s OK…
But if I call you, Nigger, Kike, Towel head, Sand-nigger, Camel Jockey, Beaner, Gook, or Chink … You call me a racist.
You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you….
So why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?
You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day.
You have Black History Month.
You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.
You have BET….
If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists.
If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.
If we had White History Month, we’d be racists.
If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.
Wonder who pays for that??
A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but any color can be in the Miss America pageant.
If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists.
There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US ..
Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college.
In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights.
If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.
You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you’re not afraid to announce it.
But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
You rob us, car jack us, and shoot at us.
But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.
I am proud…… But you call me a racist.
Why is it that only whites can be racists??
There is nothing improper about this e-mail..
Let’s see which of you are proud enough to send it on.
I sadly don’t think many will.
That’s why we have LOST most of OUR RIGHTS in this country.
We won’t stand up for ourselves!
BE PROUD TO BE WHITE!
It’s not a crime YET…. But getting very close!
It is estimated that ONLY 5% of those reaching this point in this e-mail, will pass it on.
I DID!!