Flash Fiction #130

Microsoft

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

GRAVY TRAIN

He was here, finally! He’d worked long and hard – too long, but he was finally in Seattle, surrounded by the two things that made his life worthwhile – great coffee, and computers.

It had taken a while for Microsoft recruiters to notice him, but they had, at last, offered him employment. He would almost have worked for nothing, but the pay was great….and the perks, pun intended!

Where else would the morning commute to work include a dedicated subway Breakfast Car serving bacon, eggs, and Starbucks Coffee? Take that, you nap room Googlers!   😛

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Advertisements

Plastic Surgery

#446

Just over two years ago, I wrote a Coming Home piece about how my old auto-parts plant was being given a cosmetic makeover.  An engineering firm was ready to move in, and an electronics firm was considering renting space.

Google had set up in a nearby, refurbished, gentrified tannery building, steadily increasing their local presence till they occupied the entire top floor, but was looking for still more room, and was considering a move to my old plant.

Google Building  Google’s ultimate dream

‘Considering’ is over, and money is being spent.  Not satisfied with mere lipstick and eye shadow, they are paying for a pair of implants.  On top of the three-storey section where I used to make Jeep parts, they are installing a partial two storey addition, set at a rakish, artistic angle.  They plan to occupy this entire ‘new’ (1956) end, as well as the complete top floor of the older 1906 brick section.

Prehistoric section  front

Indoors  rebuilt inside

SDC10700rear

It fronts on a street named for a German pioneer, Henry Breithaupt (brite-up), so it’s now called the Breithaupt Block, 200 feet wide and a block long.  The tank which was white, and held vinyl chips when I worked there, has been painted Gawdawful Orange, and now probably holds enough Starbucks coffee to fuel all the offices.  Note the gorgeous new (expensive) Thermo-pane windows.

Nothing is too good for Google employees.  They will have a spa, a gym, a nap/rest/reading room, several lunch rooms, c/w microwaves, stoves and refrigerators, and a staff of fulltime cooks in a cafeteria.

I have taken, and lifted, several pictures for those few who are interested, showing then, now, and near future, above.  The second photo below, shows the deteriorating brick facing and cracked windows.  During several really cold spells over the years, we would come in, to a couple of rented, jet-engine-type propane heaters on each floor.  Other photos show the facings stripped off, and the new upper floors, getting ready for a new look, taken from several angles.

SDC10701  New joining old.

Jeep building  Old Girl with her clothes on.

Jeep stripped  Stripping down to essentials.

SDC10698Standing on the shoulders of giants.

Jeep goiing upEnd-on from the main drag.

The strange angle is because the side street doesn’t meet the main one at 90 degrees.  The bus is crossing railroad tracks, and the road is currently being dug up to lay tracks for the new LRT.

This is all located right beside the upcoming bus/train/LRT transit hub, and just at the edge of the Technology Circle, envisioned, promoted and coming to fruition in the core of Kitchener, Ontario.

The old girl looked pretty good when I visited her a couple of years ago.  These new additions and improvements proceed apace.  She’s looking so much better and more functional now, and may be open for Google business by the time I publish this post.

Lost In Thought

Comment-provocateur John Erickson recently published a post about how Depression could derail him from his normal social circles, and send him off into extended bouts of abstruse research.  While our so-called minds don’t chase quite the same shiny objects, I appreciate his problem, because much the same can happen to me.

A typical recent day

I opened my stats page.  Someone had mined my archives and accessed my Trips With Mom And Dad post, from Feb. 18/12. I clicked on it to remind myself of the contents and comments.  This was the 14th post I had published, and was the one where I was given my very first blog-award.  Candice Coghill, for whom I recently published a requiem post, had given me a Versatile Blogger award.

I reread all the comments.  Hers included two links, one to her acceptance-speech post, and the other to the Versatile website. I nostalgically reread her post.  Mine had been the first comment, though, that far back, I didn’t have a good grasp of blog protocol, and hadn’t “liked” it.  Even though it means nothing to anyone but me, I corrected my oversight.

The Versatile logo apparently has worn off my old post, and I went to the site with the vague idea of lifting and re-applying it.  There are almost a hundred comments, over about three years, from people who have received the award.  Some wanted tech help.  Some seemed to think they must declare the receipt of their award.  Others did so with the intent to create some interest and drive readers to their site.

I picked one, not quite at random, a young female who mentioned the “seven facts about me.”  Snoopy is not just Charlie Brown’s dog.  She’s half Filipina, and half Irish-American.  She started out looking like her Dad, but has vitiligo, Michael Jackson’s “drinking bleach” disease, and now is whiter than her Mom.

I “liked” her post, and thought about leaving a long explanatory comment, but didn’t like the idea of an international restraining order.  Finally, the concept of a blog-theme broke through the mental clouds, and I was off to Dictionary.Com to check the meaning of abstruse.  Might as well look up abjure while I’m there – and a couple of others.

Crossword puzzle clue/solution, singer Alma Gluck, turns up fairly regularly, and the name Gluckstein came up recently.  Let’s use the German translation program to get an idea what those names mean.  Gluck could be printed in English as G’luck because, aside from fortune and favor, it means good luck.  Stein means stone, so Gluckstein means good luck stone, a magic amulet, or charm.

I could almost see Google beckoning to me.  Exactly who, what, and when was Alma Gluck??  She was a Romanian-Jew named Rebecca Feinsohn, who came to America around the beginning of the 20th Century.  She had a beautiful soprano voice and wanted to get into the entertainment business.  Since, at that time, Jews weren’t openly tolerated, she became the German, Alma Gluck.

Feinsohn translates as “fine son”, but “fine” used to mean small or delicate, like fine thread, or fine-grit sandpaper.  Was the progenitor of this surname small and delicate, or was he the A-one son we might think him today?

In the meantime, this Jewess, from a third of the planet away, became well-known for singing American folksongs like Carry Me Back to Old Virginny, and Swanee River with her husband, entertainer Efrem Zimbalist, not Junior, the original.  Now I know, who had no imagination.

I was down and up the stairs a half-dozen times.  I had to, to wear off all the food I stuff in my face.  It’s a good thing you didn’t see the platter of nachos I made myself for lunch.  I made and served lunch in bed to the wife, who’s still getting over her nasal surgery.  I fed and watered and medicated the cats, and let the dog out and in, each time returning to find out more about the German language, and a woman I’ve only met in newspaper crossword puzzles.

Yesterday’s crossword wanted “Kon-Tiki material” in 5.  Since I thought it was constructed of bundles of bulrush-like plants, I put in “reeds.”  I had to back out and work around to “balsa.”  Dictionary.Com has a crossword solver program, so I entered the clue.  Sure enough, there’s balsa, at the top, with a 90% likelihood.  The 6/7 other possibilities, in rapidly descending order are….interesting.  I copy them and put them in a Word file for a later post.

While I’m over at Google, looking up Alma’s skirt, I plug in Kon-Tiki, and, sure enough, there’s a picture of Heyerdahl’s balsa raft.  Or maybe that’s a photo of a couple of political refugees, on their way to Miami, from Cuba.

I finally heaved my bulk out of the computer chair, and headed downstairs to think about preparing supper.  (I fried up some onions and made up some boxed perogies, in case you care.)  Hot Damn!  It’s almost five PM!  I haven’t read anybody’s blog!  I haven’t read or responded to comments on my site!  I haven’t even read today’s paper, and I’m obsessing about composing this post.

I know I told you that I’d respect you, and call you in the morning but, ….if I haven’t shown up at your site for a couple of days, or a couple of weeks, I still love you.  It’s just that I’m lost in thought, since I have no mental GPS.  I’m probably wandering around in a forest of thoughts, that I can’t see for the trees, trying to entice my intellect back to reality with a virtual ice cream cone.  That explains why I also have a fat head.

Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns

We often think that the important things which happen, and the marvelous things that are created, are the products of “big city” people.  It just seems right that those with the most exposure to society and education, would be the “doers.”  It is often a surprise that some city-, country- or world-changing events are caused by small-town, backwoods boys (and girls).

On August 21, 1860, Aylesworth Perry was born in a tiny Ontario hamlet.  Despite being a patriotic Canadian, interested in our history and heritage, I had never heard of him.  It seems that this was the gentleman who went on to transform the North West Mounted Police – who would later become the R.C.M.P. – from a loose-knit band of rowdy frontiersmen, into the effective, respected organization it became.

What caught my eye about the little newspaper filler article was the fact that this strong, powerful organizer of tough, gritty men, in a tough, dirty landscape, was from the tiny-rainbow-pissing village of Violet.  Like the famous….whatsisname, above, I’d never heard of a place in Ontario named Violet, so I began to do some research.

The officially-issued, Province Of Ontario roadmap refuses to even mention it.  Time to go online!  My first search for Violet, Ontario, got me Violet’s Violets, in Milton, ON, and Violets and Roses Flower Shop in Brampton, ON.  My next step was my usual, Mapquest.ca, which located a Violet Hill, ON, not far from my home town.  This magnificent megalopolis boasts almost 300 residents, which is probably why I’d never heard of it either.

When all else fails, go to Google, which had no trouble locating Violet for me.  Where my town is almost as far west as possible, in Southern Ontario, this place is at the far, east edge, close to Ottawa and Montreal.  To call this place a village is perhaps to stretch a point some.  It’s more than just a wide spot on the road, with a house on both sides, but not much.  It makes Violet Hill look like urban civilization.  There is one road into town, which splits at a Y, and two roads leave town.

I was astounded that Google Earth had actually driven these roads.  They must have been on their way to a real town.  It had to have been a remote-controlled vehicle.  A human driver would have dozed off.  If it’s this tiny now, I wonder how much smaller it was, a hundred and fifty years ago.

At about the same time in history, a famous feminist/suffragette/ human rights proponent, named Nellie Mooney McClung, was born in a tiny village about 30 miles east of my home.  She’s so famous, you’ve never heard of her either, and the only sign that she and the village ever existed, is a dedication plaque, and a small cemetery.

“Famous”, in Canada, means that two people know how to spell your name.  More recently, just before I crawled out of the igloo, a famous female Canadian author was born in a small town 30 miles to my south.  At the age of 76, she’s decided to stop writing, and retire back to her birthplace, to count up all eight Loonies she’s made from the Canadian publishing industries.

A couple of years before my birth, a man was born in a village of 300, twenty miles south-east.  He went on to be the long-term editor of the Toronto Sun newspaper, until the Frogs from Quebecor Publishing hopped down from Montreal, and gobbled it up.  You’d probably not notice his birthplace either, if it weren’t for the stench of the pig-processing plant, and the truckers’ restaurant, which is well-known for its ribs and wings.

All of this has generated great optimism in me.  If people from places like Nowhere, and Never-Heard-Of-It, can become movers and shakers, it’s never too late for me to become famous also.  (It’s spelled S.M.I.T.H.)  Two more posts like this, and it’s onward and upward to FreshPressed, and fame and glory.  Did I mention the money?….or I could just keep trying to amuse, entertain and educate you, my faithful followers.

Being famous, and from a small town is not always a good thing.  We have a Canadian lady (?) from Wadena, Saskatchewan, a mighty little town of 1300.  She’s been a television news reporter, and then anchor-person, who puts her pants on one leg at a time, just like all the other guys.  The Prime Minister gave her a pork-barrel appointment to the Canadian Senate.

She now has to, grudgingly, repay $140,000 in expenses to the Government, because she was “confused” and “forgot” things like that her “primary residence” was in Wadena, not Toronto.  She’s one of four recently appointed Senators under investigation by the R.C.M.P.  I’m not sure how much of this type of thing the American system of electing Senators would prevent, but I’m pretty sure it couldn’t be much worse.

End of bitch!  Insert comment here.

 

Coming Home

I visited an old friend the other day.  I hadn’t planned to.  In fact, I had several other things I was supposed to be doing, but….it just happened.  She’s looking good, much better than when I last saw her.  She’s had a lot of professional help with her rehabilitation.  It won’t be long till she will be fit to be seen by the public.  I’m talking about the building where I worked for almost 20 years.

I dropped the wife off at the cancer clinic at the hospital for blood-work assessment.  Coming from a family rife with various types of cancer, she has been on a yearly testing schedule for bone cancer.  The steadily reducing warning counts of the past five years are now well back within normal range, and only need a family physician to monitor a yearly blood test.

While she was at the cancer clinic, for an unpredictable amount of time, I was supposed to drop off a package at our massage therapist/ osteopath, do a drop-off/pickup at the daughter’s, and stop at the optometrist and have a nose pad installed on my glasses.  I made the massage therapy delivery, and headed for the daughters place.  About halfway between the two, not too far off what laughably passes for a straight line in this city, was my old plant.

It’s been bought by a company in Toronto and is undergoing what’s known as *urban densification*.  Just outside the actual downtown area, on the main street, it sits across the road from new School of Optometry and School of Pharmacy buildings of the community college.  It’s being cleaned and subdivided to provide office space.  Already, a large engineering firm has committed to a big chunk.  Google had leased space in a reconditioned tannery building two blocks away, but after only a year, finds it needs more room, and is ready to move in as soon as reconstruction is complete.

I thought, I’d like to drive past and just have a look at the front, to see what changes had been wrought.  Well, if I’m this close, I’ll pull through the parking lot across the street for a better view….if I’m in the lot, I might as well park the car and get out for a better look….if I’m out of the car, I might as well walk across the street and see if I can step inside.  If I’m inside, I might as well get arrested for trespass.

It’s amazing how alike, and yet how completely different the old girl looks.  I speak of *a plant*, but it is actually a coalescence of thirteen brick buildings, the newest with concrete floor heights that don’t match all the wooden floors of the others.  We used to have to go down one elevator, across the loading dock, and back up a different elevator, to get loads from one sector to another.  The oldest building has a 1906 cornerstone, while the newest(?), is dated 1956.

The section which used to supply 35,000 volts of electrical power is not needed, and has been torn out and replaced with a garden and fountain area, in front of a new, recessed, glassed-in entrance.  I walked up and tried the door.  It was unlocked.  I walked in and began orienting myself.  The old shipping elevator has been removed, and the shaft is an open-core stairway.  Two new hydraulic passenger elevators have been installed back near the new doors.

A workman wandered near, but I’m not worried about workmen.  They’re not paid to make executive decisions if I look like I know what I’m doing.  “Can I help you?”  Oh damn.  It turns out to be the job foreman.  I admit I’m just looking around because I worked here for 20 years.  It turns out I’m not the only one.  He’s had five or six guys here already.  I expected to get kicked out, but this guy is so proud of what he’s done, he gave me a mini-tour.

The black paint has been scraped off the ceilings.  Pipes have been scoured and repainted.  The inside brick has been sandblasted.  The dust and cobwebs of a hundred years have been cleaned away.  Cracked support beams have been replaced by solid new, B.C. Douglas fir.  Decrepit wooden floors have been overlaid with thin Styrofoam, and then a thin coat of self-leveling concrete poured on top.  On the third floor, where we had large plywood plugs in holes in the wall for machine insertion, is now floor-to-ceiling glass-wall for an office-worker view of downtown.

The single largest item of rehab was the windows.  498 rotten, dried-out wooden frames with broken or cracked glass, some repaired with opaque, colored Plexiglas, have been torn out.  They have all been replaced with aluminum-framed, state-of-the-art, argon-filled, double thermo-pane assemblies.  The only reason we didn’t freeze on frigid winter days, was the fact that we worked with hot vinyl parts.  In the mill-room where it was compounded, the thermometer read 90 F….in February.

I very much appreciated this man taking the time to let me revisit an old friend, and I thanked him profusely.  It’s still a bit of a heartbreaker to lose a job and get kicked out of a long-term workplace, but it’s nice to know that the old girl is getting a much-needed facelift, and will survive to provide a whole new generation with a place to accomplish productive deeds.