IF

If you can keep your head, while all about you are losing theirs, you probably haven’t checked with your service recently.  Being short of inspiration for a blog theme, and too damned lazy to do some research, I decided to relate how I came to begin blogging.  It’s not as fantastic as, “Meteor strikes housewife on head,” but the steps leading to it just kept bringing up the thought IF.  You’ll see it a couple of times later.

I am a word-nut and language lover.  When I was working, I used to do two crossword puzzles a day, one of them at the plant, and depending on the job, sometimes on the line.  Since I retired, I have found another crossword available on-line, and now do three a day, plus six word-jumble puzzles each week.  I found a word in a puzzle one day and said, “I’ll have to look that up in one of my dictionaries, when I get home.”  One of your dictionaries??!  How many do you have?

Had to stop and count, at least eight, ranging from a 350 page secretary’s, to two 2000 pagers.  One of those was printed in 1952, and gives archaic words and British usage.  The other is modern and gives American-isms and technical terms.  Also possess a Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary thesaurus, an etymological dictionary, a word menu, two French-English, English-French translators, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Oh, no!  We had the partridge for dinner last week.

Searching for words could get a little time-consuming, and frustrating, so I started using the Dictionary.Com website, where I found my third daily cross-word puzzle.  They print several articles a week about words, punctuation and usage, and there is a discussion thread where I soon learned to linguistically give and take.  Didn’t take much.  I’d like to think that 75% of the writers were in grade six or lower.  That was about the level of writing.  Spelling, punctuation, capitalization, word usage….all atrocious, especially for a dictionary site, but some of the posters mentioned jobs.  Egad!  You want fries with that?

One night I saw an ad to explain the connection between Starbucks, and a great white whale.  I thought I knew what it was, but clicked it anyway.  I wasn’t even paying enough attention to realize that I had left Dictionary.Com, and had been dropped at the Freshly Pressed page of WordPress.  The first thing I saw was a message that the authors of this article had withdrawn it from publication.  I looked the page over and saw other articles.  None of them did much for me until I hit “Burrito Rage.”  Being a great fan of food, and particularly TexMex, that sounded delicious, so I clicked on it.

BrainRants had been on the blogscene for a couple of months and had been put up on FreshPressed.  Somehow they forgot to take him down for almost three weeks.  I read Burrito Rage, and laughed my ass off, and read the comments.  Then I sifted my way through his archives, and it only got better.  Damn!  This was nirvana.  Erudite people correctly using and spelling four-syllable words.  As I had on the dictionary site, I started to make comments, and Rants encouraged me to.  I learned to click on his commenters and go to other, similar sites, and was enthralled.

I had only been vaguely aware of “blogging”, and wasn’t even aware that my daughter had recently started one up.  I started gushing about all the stories, and jokes and wordplay that I was finding, and the wife and daughter decided that they had found a retirement hobby for me.  I mentioned to BrainRants that the daughter was setting up a blog for me, and he graciously offered to blogroll me, as soon as it occurred.  I didn’t even know exactly what a blogroll was, or what an honor was being extended to me, but I jumped at the chance.  I still haven’t worked out the complexities of attaching a blogroll to my own site, but should do it soon, to honor and spread the renown of a talented group of writers and blogs which I enjoy.

Talk about taking the road less travelled!  This is a road I didn’t even know existed seven months ago.  This is also like the butterfly effect.  Tiny chance after tiny chance after tiny chance have led me here.  If even one causative factor had not followed the one before, I would have missed out on some great times with some great people.

If I had not decided to save time and energy and go digital with my dictionary.  If I had not been so displeased with the quality of communication at Dictionary.Com.  If I had not pursued Ahab’s white whale, Moby Dick, all the way to WordPress.  If the Starbucks authors had not withdrawn their post.  If BrainRants had not been FreshPressed.  If any other of Rants’ posts had been selected for Pressing.  If Rants had not encouraged a tongue-tied fumble-fingered yokel to join the party.  Science fiction literature has been described as, The World of If, and this is so unlike the world I dwelt in up till a year ago, that it almost feels like science fiction right here on Earth.

I know that I am not as creative or exciting as most of the bloggers I follow, but every writer has a niche.  Mine is quiet and sedate.  I have been able to attract 35 followers, and slowly the number grows.  The flair and élan of some of them make me wonder what they find in my prosaic writings, but, all of you who follow, or even just drop in to read, are a balm to my ego.  I thank you all.  You encourage, and make an old coot happy.

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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.