A LARGE DROP IN THE BUCKET

Hero

I am agog – not to be confused with a fool, a nerd, or a nosy parker – although I’ve successfully been all of those. I have been within 8 feet of Queen Elizabeth.  I have seen and touched Her Royal Yacht, Britannia, when it put into the harbor at my home town for fuel.  I had a brief, 5-second conversation with the singer, Roger Whittaker, and I got a hug, and a kiss on the cheek, from the female Canadian Minister of the Exterior.

These all pale into insignificance. I recently got an invitation from BrainRants, to come and visit him and his wife this summer.  Actually, all that happened was that he made a casual inquiry as to whether the wife and I intended to be in his area this year, and when – but I’m treating it like a Royal Summons, and it snowballed from there. I’m So Excited (click to hear the Pointer Sisters tell you how much)

He’s the one responsible for unleashing me on an unsuspecting blogosphere, but don’t blame him for that. He was distracted at the time with saving the world and the American Way Of Life.  It was the Law of Unintended Consequences.

A couple of years ago, when we were doing the ‘Doctor Ericson, I presume’ tour, I asked if we might drive down for a quick visit.  Rants was preoccupied with a son going off to college, and a few other pressing domestic situations, and said ‘no,’ but not necessarily “NO” forever.

Last fall, I asked again about the possibility of an eventual visit, just to know whether or not to remove it from my bucket list. Rants took this as an indication that I wanted it to happen soon.  Apparently not a lot of people make plans years ahead, especially old geezers like me.  It’s happening sooner than I anticipated.  Rants and his lovely wife are welcoming us this summer.  Not only are we visiting, but we are being put up in a guest room to save motel costs –and, Rants is booking some well-earned and needed vacation time to be with us for several days.

I asked if it was some kind of competition between him and his wife to be nice to us, but apparently this is what kind, intelligent, generous people do. Aside from visiting my parents for weekends while they were alive, I have never been a house-guest in my life. Dear Miss Etta Kett; How do I conduct myself??

It is well that the wife’s birthday is in mid-Feb. This year she had to renew her Ontario Health Card, and her driver’s licence. One of three photo ID options recommended to do this, is a passport.  When I dug hers out and she was transferring information, she realized that both our passports had expired.

Apparently the bureaucrats do not send an email renewal reminder, and since we didn’t travel outside the Province last year, we had not noticed. It would have been a catastrophe to make all these delicious plans, and be turned back at the border for incomplete documents.  We had the time to get them reissued.

I am so giddy that I’m twirling around the house like a little pixie….or maybe a wolverine on meth. We’re going to Rants’! We’re going to Rants’ I’m taking along our digital camera, but there’s no promise that any photos will show up here on the blog-site.  I’ve already had to sign a non-disclosure security document, and a black helicopter will pick us up at the Virginia Welcome Center.

Surprisingly, the wife warmed to the idea quite quickly, to the point that, if we can’t put aside enough to pay for the trip in the next couple of months, she’s willing to raid her cache of Loonies and Toonies coins that she’s been stashing away for years.

If she’s warm now, just wait and see how warm DC is in August. We may drive past the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Pentagon in an air-conditioned car, but this visit is all about meeting two people who have been so very nice to me for years.  We can do that with a shady back deck and some cold beer.

More to come, I will reveal all as much as I can.  Be happy for me….and maybe a little jealous.   😎  🌯

SWEEEET!

American money

To help finance our recent trip to visit Cordelia’s Mom, in Buffalo, I did a little unintentional crowd-sourcing. Son Shimoniac and I are almost impossible to buy presents for. I don’t even wear ties, so gaily-wrapped tee-shirts, socks or underwear often show up.

Grandson WillowThorn had been desperately searching for suitable presents for both Shimoniac and I. Our birthdays both occurred just before this trip. He had finally found something suitable for me, which he will now delightedly hold until Christmas. When he heard about our trip, he went to a bank and presented each of us with $50 US cash. That’s the joy of a gift of money. It’s always the right size. Let’s have a nice round of applause for one of the nicest grandsons/nephews in the world.

The son worked a midnight shift till 7 AM, Saturday morning, came home, showered, changed, had breakfast/midnight snack, and helped me load the car after I’d had *?*? hours of sleep. He normally goes to bed about noon, but sometimes gets excited by the weekend before him and stays up till 3 or 4. With the trip ahead, he was so high on adrenalin, I could have towed him to Buffalo like a kite.

I had decided to cross the border from Queenston to Lewiston, partly to save a bit of extra driving, but mostly to keep Ethel, the snotty GPS, quiet. Fifty miles of the drive were along a highway named for the Queen, The Queen Elizabeth Way – The QEW, which Ethel rendered to ‘The Q EWest’. I’m lucky she didn’t call it ‘The QEast/West’. Before we left, the son entered the address of the motel out in Batavia that we would stay at. Ethel didn’t get snotty till I decided to pull off I-90, to get to the restaurant. We forgot to tell her we were stopping for lunch.

Cordelia had already wisely backed out, but CM has two other quite intelligent daughters, both also smart enough not to want to have anything to do with mom’s two rotund Canuckleheads.

CM had to go down to the basement, where she managed to slip off the electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, unchain Mr. CM, and drag him along. He must have majored in Performing Arts in College, because he acted as if he actually enjoyed himself.

SDC10886 our restaurant, The Grapevine

Having already pulled an illegal player substitution on us, CM then proceeded to execute an end run. Two days before kickoff, she emailed me to say that she had invited another blogger and his wife http://markbialczak.com/ . Talk about feeling like a fifth wheel – more like the third rail.

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Sadly, they couldn’t make it. I seated The Bear across from Mr. CM. When he left, he still had both ears, so I guess the son didn’t talk one of them off. I posted a blog called Funny Money, about Canada’s new, polymer plastic bills, but it was before CM knew me, so she hadn’t seen it.

Loonie toonie

They both were aware of them, as well as our Loonie and Toonie – the $1 and $2 coins, but hadn’t actually seen them, so I hauled some out for their inspection. They were fascinated, especially hubby, with the holograms.

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Lunch was delicious, (and paid for by someone else) and the company was sparkling. I remembered to present CM with a refill on her maple candy, (this is where the SWEEEET comes in) and LadyRyl sent along a cloth chew-toy for the dog.  I don’t know if Not CM sneaked in or not.  I kept glancing around for strange looking people, and found everyone staring at Shim and I.  We were It.  😛

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Kooky, the Coke-sniffing drinking bear got to make some new friends. Afterwards, we were invited back to our hosts’ home to meet puppy Cody, and view the almost-completed repairs.

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Possibly overwhelmed by the size and the hair on The Bear, Cody was understandably reticent. It took some skill and patience to get a shot of her. CM then led us on a merry chase down to The Galleria Mall. After another minor episode of not quite being where we should, (wait till you read what I managed on my own later) she abandoned left us in the rain, outside a Sears store.

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I’m not much of a believer in superstitions, but the finding of lucky, welcoming pennies just continued – three days, three pennies found, the first by Shimoniac, on a hip-high shelf in Sears. Please return next week for the story of our stay in a small town city, out in the sticks.

Coals To Newcastle

I say that I didn’t know what a “Newfy” was until after I moved here to the Big City, but that’s not exactly true.  A Newfy (or Newfie) is a resident, or ex-resident of Newfoundland, the easternmost Province of Canada.  It’s a big rock that sits in the Atlantic Ocean.  I said in a previous post that a redneck might live a bit further off the paved road than most of us.  Just imagine a place that requires a boat to get to, not just the big Rock, but little fishing villages along its coast, outports, which have no roads, and must be reached by smaller boat.

It’s a delightful place.  Even in the few cities, life moves at a slower, more casual pace.  Because of the collapse of the fishing industry, large numbers of Newfies had to leave the Rock, to seek employment elsewhere.  Many of them moved to Alberta, to work in the oil industry.  It is said that, there are more Newfies in Fort McMurray, Alberta, than there are left on the island.  This is almost ironic, because they have now discovered oil under the ocean bed, just off Newfoundland, and many of these experienced workers can now return home to work in their own Province again.

They have been insular in the past, because they are, literally insular.  There had not been a great deal of cultural cross-pollination. The Province, and the people of it, continue to grow towards integration with the rest of Canada, and the rest of the world, because of improved communications abilities.  Still, they have their own ways of doing things.

One of the men of my home-town came back from the Second World War with a wife, a woman he met and married when he was posted in Newfoundland.  She was a bit eccentric, but really, not much different from some of the other characters in the comedy stage-play that was my little town, not until the strawberry jam.

We had had a beautiful spring, and early summer.  It had been perfect weather for strawberries, not just my area, but the entire eastern section of Canada.  Supply and demand, you could obtain as many as you wanted, at bargain-basement prices.  This lady bought flats and flats of them….and then had to figure out what to do with them.  “I know, I’ll make fajitas jam”, so jam she made.  Now, what to do with all this jam?

She decided that she would send some of it back to her sister, still in Newfoundland, despite the fact that the strawberry crop there, was even better than it was in Ontario.  Now, “normal” people (myself not included) might have called up FedEx, or maybe taken it down to the nearest Canada Post office, for shipping.  Dat’s not de way we Newfs does t’ings.

She knew a Newfie guy in a town about a hundred miles away, so she called him up to ask if he was “goin’ home” that summer.  He admitted that he was, so she asked him if he would take this case of jam back with him.  He was happy to oblige.  To get the jam to him necessitated picking a mutually empty Sunday, and driving the hundred miles, two hours, to get it to him.  And then it was, sit down and chew the fat, have some rum, and maybe a few beers, and you’ll be staying for supper, and then some more gabfest and rum and beers, and another hundred-mile drive home.  Nothing to it.

He eventually drove it down east, and over to The Rock on the ferry.  When he got where he was going, he phoned the sister and her husband, long-distance.  Like the Ontario end, they lived a hundred miles away too.  Then the game started all over again, this time in reverse.  Pick a day, drive the hundred miles, almost three hours, the roads in Newfoundland aren’t quite up to mainland standards.  Shoot the shit, drink the rum, stay for supper, yak till the flying fish come home, and then drive three hours back.  Because of the isolation, almost any excuse is accepted for socializing and a wee party.

When the ride finally came to a stop, the sister in the wilds of Newfoundland phoned the sister in the wilds of Southern Ontario to ask why she had sent this jam down….without asking, or warning.  “I’ve got a pantry full of the stuff.  I’m trying to give some of mine away too.”

A small vignette about Newfoundland hospitality.  Another female co-worker came to Ontario with her parents when she was eight years old.  She didn’t have a chance to “Go Home”, as they say, until she was 23.  She’d graduated, got her first job and saved for vacation.  It had been fifteen long, very formative years.  The thing she missed the most, and the first thing she wanted to see again, was her beloved grandmother.

She went over and knocked on Granny’s door.  Grandma greeted her with a big smile and an invitation to come in.  Sit down, girl.  Would you like some tea and scones, and jam?  And how are you this fine day?  Small talk for ten or fifteen minutes, finally Granny looked at her and said, “So, you must tell me.  Who are you darlin’?”  As far as she knew, she’d been entertaining a perfect stranger, and was amazed to meet her own granddaughter.  You or I might find that strange but, down there, if somebody knocks on your door, there must be a good reason.  They’re home, and they’re welcome.