’19 A To Z Challenge – Q

AtoZ2019letter-q

 

 

 

 

 

 

I once lived next door to a bootlegger.

Now that I’ve put up the attention-grabbing click-bait for the WordPress reader, this post will be about

QUILTS

and a bunch of other things. Wear your hiking shoes. This will be a longer trek than usual.

Mennonite

I live in the middle of Mennonite territory. With no TV, quilting is a way of life, and financial support. When I first came to town, I lived for about a year and a half, in a boarding house, run by a New Order Mennonite woman. She bought it with, “a settlement from my husband.” Like a lady’s age, I never asked if it was through death or divorce.

It was not unusual, especially in the winter, to come home to find the table pushed over to the edge of the huge, old kitchen, and four tiddly women, – her, her mother, and two friends from up the street – a couple of empty, home-made elderberry wine bottles and four crystal sherry glasses, in front of a quilting frame.

My father used to go out for 2 or 3 hours in the evenings, Monday to Friday. Back before TV, my mother made me a quilt, all by herself, with no frame. It kept me warm in bed, in our old, drafty, hard-to-heat house. How I wish I still had it! She also used to take threadbare clothing and bed sheets, tear them in strips, braid them into a ‘rope,’ and sew it together into an oval floor mat, to keep my feet warm on cold mornings.

The old lady’s house was at the bottom of a steep, block-long hill. There was a stop sign, at a one-way street. With the main street easily visible, a short block ahead, surprising numbers of drivers just didn’t stop. We had an accident a week, and a serious accident every month.

My brother rented parking on a tiny driveway on the uphill side. He left to go home one summer Friday afternoon. He had not been gone an hour, when there was a screech, and a huge crash. I looked out my front window, to see a car parked in his spot – upside-down.

The old lady complained about having to rake, and clean leaves out of the eaves trough, from the two stout Maple trees that stood on either side of the front door. I asked why she didn’t have them taken down. She replied, “Have you seen the scars on those trees??! If they weren’t there, one of those cars would be in your bedroom.”

It was a rough section of town back then – drunks, druggies, hookers. A prospering bootlegger lived the other side of the one-way street. One evening he accompanied a good customer out to the sidewalk – just as there was another terrific car crash, only, this time, the upside-down car was deflected his way, and crushed him.

Recently, with the installation of the LRT street railroad, and urban renewal, that old, brick, century-home has been turned into a Pupuseria, an El Salvadoran restaurant serving meat-and-cheese stuffed corn pancakes. I went in one day, to see if it was worth taking the wife to, and got into a conversation with the owner. (Of course I did!)

I mentioned that I had lived across the street, a half-century before, and told him about the bootlegger and his death. A little light went on. When they were moving in, and had to clean out the basement for their own storage, there had been hundreds of empty beer, wine, and liquor bottles.

Quilt 1

But, back to the quilts. The local Mennonites have organized a Mennonite Relief Committee to raise money for less fortunate Mennonites, especially in South America. They have a second-hand, recycling store, but their biggest money-maker is the annual spring quilt auction.

Quilt 3 (2)

Well-to-do people come from all over the world to bid, both in person, and now, online. These quilts draw fabulous prices, especially the winner of the judging contest, which can go for $10,000 or more.

Quilt 2
This year’s featured quilt at the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale, Little Brown Church, has been described as a giant puzzle with more than 3,000 pieces.

Quilting

Smitty’s Loose Change #11

Smitty's Loose Change

Mad Men

BecelCeleb

Marketers/advertisers are experts at using images and words which make you believe that their products have qualities and abilities that they really don’t. Becel is a well-known brand of margarine. An Ontario food chain has named their house brand, Celeb, an inspired, but possibly illegal, turn of phrase.

They originally packed and sold it in yellow and white containers, virtually indistinguishable from the Becel, but when I went to download a photo, all I can find is the Blue, President’s Choice packaging. I suspect a restraining order.

Vertuo

Already the owner of a Keurig coffee-maker, the wife was convinced to buy a Nespresso coffee-maker. The model name is Vertuo. I believe that the name is supposed to make you think of ‘virtue’ – goodness, righteousness, excellence, admirable quality – for the machine, and perhaps ‘virtuous’ for the buyer – possessing the above qualities.

It also suggests ‘virtuoso’ – a person who has special knowledge or skill in a field. It even piggybacks on the Save The Planet/Eco movement, ‘vert/verde’ – meaning green. When I looked up the translation meaning of this Spanish word, I found that it means ‘spill.’ They’ve called their coffee-making machine a spill. 😆

IGNORANCE IS NOT BLISS

Mennonite

These are two excerpts from local marriage counselors who deal with Mennonites. They are greatly concerned with that ‘Go forth and multiply’ thing. These young folks were having trouble.

Now, talking to anyone, especially shy, withdrawn Mennonites, about the mechanics of sex, can be daunting. The first counselor finally elicited a detailed account. The young husband achieved an erection, and inserted it into his wife…. and left it there, until it went flaccid.

The counselor suggested that he withdraw it, and re-insert it, forcefully, rapidly, a number of times. At their next monthly counseling session, both of them offered profuse thanks.

Suspecting sterility, the second counselor went directly to having the husband go to a clinic to provide a semen sample. He came out of the washroom with the sample vial full of a yellow liquid. 😳 He had been urinating inside his wife, thinking that that was how to impregnate her.

***

Our writing is never finished, only temporarily abandoned. We write, because one life is not enough for us.

***

Mighty Carlin Has Struck Out

I recently won another argument with George Carlin. It wasn’t hard. He’s been dead for a couple of years. He liked to riff on English usage, and the Catholic Church. The two topics came together when he wanted to talk about priests taking a vow of celibacy. “No they don’t!” he insisted, “Celibacy only means that you’re not married. They take a vow of chastity.”

No they don’t!! I don’t know how the ex-Catholic thought that the Church had got it wrong all these years. They don’t care if a priest screws everything in the parish, including the goat. That’s all covered by the Ten Commandments, and can be fixed with a quick confession. The Hierarchy is only concerned that there are no legal heirs left behind who might have a claim on any estate, which they feel belongs to them. Archon – 2
Carlin – 0

 

The Saddest Funny Story

Sad Emoji

We recently had to attend a funeral service for one of the wife’s sisters. That was only the beginning of the sadness. A nephew of the wife’s sat down opposite us, and related his sad tale.

For about five years, he’s been fighting a neuropathy, a neurological syndrome which has been causing increasing pain in his extremities. First his hands, then his feet, became agonizingly sore. He was up to gobbling eight Oxycodone tablets a day, just to keep the pain level down to a 2.

He married a New Order Mennonite girl who increasingly involved him and the kids in their church. There had been a two-day weekend Salvation Convention. The church brought in speakers to lecture on different sins, and what to do to get rid of them.

After one seminar session, the moderator paired each attendee off with another church member who they were not particularly close to. They were to go to small tables, where each one would confess his/her sins to the other, who would then pray for them and forgive them. Then the process would reverse.

He said that he hunched over the table and told the other man about all his sins. The farmer devoutly prayed for him, and told him that he was forgiven. He said that he suddenly realized that he could no longer feel the continuous pain in his hands and feet. He called the pastor over and told him this, and the whole room had a Glory, Halleluiah, Praise-The-Lord, prayer session of thanks. God had cured him.

I manfully tried not to smirk, and wondered if his posture had kinked, or un-kinked, a spot on his spine, or if the power of suggestion had caused a psychosomatic (perhaps temporary) cure. He might even provide the possibility of a God-answered-prayer miracle. I was all ears!

He continued his tale. He can now not feel anything with his hands. His legs are numb from the knees down. When he had to call an ambulance for his wife’s apparent heart attack, he stood outside for ten minutes, in a foot of February snow in his bare feet. This condition is dangerous, especially for him, because he works in HVAC. This is like leprosy, or diabetes. If he cuts or burns himself and doesn’t notice it, he may have to have an amputation, if infection sets in.

This is the normal, worsening progression of the disease. GOD didn’t cure him, but he believes that happened. I just sat there in stunned disbelief, thinking that it was his belief that was stunned.
What’s the problem with a comfortable delusion?
There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Where’d He Go?

Huether

View of the North-East corner, across King Street, the main drag.

Some people come here to shit and stink
And scratch their itchy balls
But I come here to sit and think
And write upon the walls

Do pay toilets even exist anymore? The last one I was in, the graffiti read

Here I sit, broken-hearted
Paid to shit, but only farted
Yesterday, I took a chance
Saved a dime, but shit my pants.

One day, when the grandson was in 7th Grade, he put up his hand. The teacher knew what he wanted, but what he said was, “I have to go cogitate.” Now, ‘cogitate’ is not a word which often falls from the mouths of 7th Graders. She thought that he said he was constipated, and sent a note home for the daughter to check his digestion.

Where do I do my thinking? Well, I do most of it at home, some of it even in the bathroom. Once a month though, I save a dime (because it’s free) and do my thinking at a Sunday brunch meeting of the local Free Thinkers.

The meetings are normally held up in our twin city, Waterloo, Ontario, in the Huether Hotel, two feet below the basement level, in the old malt room, which once held a large vat for beer brewing. Click above, if you’d like more details, or enter ‘image Huether Hotel’ into the Bing search engine. It’s historically famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page. She’s a utilitarian old queen, built to provide food, drink and lodging to horse-drawn travellers, long before hipsters needed pretty and comfortable.

The Wiki article doesn’t include the information that further, recent excavations for our new street railroad, found a tunnel which completely crossed under the main street, to surface in what used to be a saddlery and buggy rental building. It is thought that Al Capone’s boys quietly loaded beer out its back door during Prohibition, un-noticed by local police at the micro-brewery across the street.

Huether 2

Management makes a somewhat specious claim, with the very existence of their 1842 Café, even though the place wasn’t built until 1855, as evidenced by the inscribed lintel stone in the malt room doorway.

Huether 1881 Parsell

View of the South-East corner across King St., from an 1881 print. The plain brewery section at the rear has been demolished, and replaced by a bowling alley.

Much work has been done in recent years, to bring the building up to modern safety codes. The old mixes very nicely with the new. A quarter of the old malt room is now taken up by an enclosed stairway, to provide a second exit from the basement, in case of fire.

Huether 3

A print of a slightly newer, and safer, version. Fire escapes have been added.

Your resident nosy old coot had a look at the landing at the bottom of the stairs, and found a table with a dozen 1972 Presbyterian Book Of Praise. I guess if they host the atheistic Free Thinkers, it’s only fair that they allow an occasional Christian prayer meeting.

Huether 6

Like me, they celebrate their antique status, using it for marketing ambience. I’ve got another plate of leftover lasagna, as a prize for any of my fellow hayseed hicks who can identify all of these old tools, most of which are still in use by nearby Mennonites.

Huether 4

I don’t give a shit. I think that I’ll keep attending these meetings. I hope that you enjoyed the tour. Seeya again, soon. 😀

Huether 5

A cabinet full of Heuther trivia and memorabilia, built into a hole in the stone wall, where the big malt tank used to be drained to the brew tanks.

On The Ball

Selectric

The wife and I are not ‘Retro,’ we’re just old fogies.

It’s not that we’re technophobic. Lord knows, we embrace technology to the limits of our non-Electronic Age brains. In our house, there are 2 PCs, a laptop, 2 tablets, 3 Kindles, 2 Kobos, 2 Smart Phones, and a Smart TV that’s smarter than both of us together. Still, sometimes we like to relive The Good Old Days, in The Good Old Ways.

The QWERTY keyboard was originally developed when early typists got faster than the rudimentary machines, and jammed letter strikers against the platen. It put the usual letters in unusual places, to slow typists down, and prevent jamming. It was touted by its proponents as, “More efficient,” a lie with a bit of truth in it.  It reduced the words per minute typed, but almost eliminated having to stop and unjam the machine, resulting in more total words typed at the end of the day.

The development of the electric typewriter smoothed out the jamming problem somewhat, and also eliminated the need to manually move the heavy carriage with the left hand/arm.

Selectric Ball

In 1961, IBM re-invented the wheel – actually, a ball. They produced the Selectric, a typewriter with no keys to jam. Instead, it had a little ball with all the characters on it. The smart machine rotated the ball – nicknamed a ‘Golf Ball’ – to the right position before smacking it against the paper. Different balls, with different fonts could be quickly snapped in and out.

Several models, with different features were developed, including one with a rudimentary 40-character memory. If a typist noticed a mistake while typing, (s)he could hit a special ‘Hold’ key, back up in the memory, change the error, and free the machine to continue.  There was no more heavy carriage to move back and forth. Instead, the ball and ribbon moved smoothly and quietly across the platen. This was the precursor to the computer word-processor.

Sadly, because of that, they didn’t last long, and soon became extinct – but not before over 2,000,000 of them were sold. The wife worked on one, in one of the offices where she was employed. She loved it. Recently, she had a couple of typing projects – recipe cards, and knitting patterns – where a computer and printer just didn’t work out well.

She found one offered for sale on Facebook Market. The woman wanted $40 for it. I asked where I had to go to pick it up. She’s had me drive 10/15 kilometers locally, for other items. This one, she said, was in Oshawa, the other side of Toronto. I told her that it would cost another $40 in gas, to drive there and back. Without any other offers on it, the price reduced to $35.

Driving completely across metro-Toronto, on Highway 401, is not the worst traffic in North America, but it’s definitely in the top 10. When I checked the location with a map program, the actual mileage (Canadian kilometrage) wasn’t all that high, but the program warned that, at the time that I checked, based on current traffic conditions, estimated trip time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.

We planned the trip for the middle of the morning, after the get-to-work onslaught, but before the lunch-time rush, and made the 160 Km/100 Miles in 1Hour/40Minutes. We waited till 2:00 o’clock to start back and, aside from some slowdown from the ‘memory of an accident’ we saw on the way there, we got home in 1Hour/40Minutes again. We immediately stopped at Costco, and put $45 of gas in the car.

The wife wanted some proof that the machine worked, but the woman getting rid of it was a young Real Estate agent, charged with disposing of an estate. She was so young that she’d never heard of or seen such a contraption. She plugged it in and turned it on. It hummed. She hit a couple of keys, and it clacked a couple of times.

Since she’d still not had any other offers for it, and since we were coming from so far away, she reduced the price to $20, which she may have quietly pocketed. When we got home, the wife plugged it in and turned it on. It hummed! She tapped a couple of keys…. but the little carriage didn’t move. She sat down and pored over the included owner’s manual – to no avail. A part may be broken/missing.

Mennonite

With the existence of so many Mennonites within a 50 kilometer radius, it is probably easier to locate a Ferrier (one who shoes horses), than to find a local typewriter repair shop. There was one, but the old gentleman who ran it was 83 in 2015, and the website is dormant. The wife has located one in the city of Hamilton. It’s not quite so far away, and in a different direction. It should only cost us $35 for gas – TWICE – once to drop it off, and again when we pick it up, plus the charge for Barney Rubble to fix it.

You may never get a hand-written letter from me – for which you should be thankful. With my essential tremor getting worse, the doctors’ scribbles that I mentioned in my Griffonage post, seem clear and legible, compared to my handwriting. I’ll tell you whether we are successful at this technology resuscitation project, and you may get a hand-typed letter to prove it.

Flash Fiction #188

Lilliput

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

His grandfather had this house built, over a century ago. It had been a proud mansion, 2-1/2 stories of fieldstone, a mile and a half from town, dwarfing nearby one-story wooden farm houses.

Times changed. Commerce changed. Businesses started up, and workers moved in. The city changed. Steadily it bloated out towards him, into pristine Mennonite farmland.

Now, the house was the last of its kind, on a busy street, a Lilliputian, towered over by apartment buildings. Developers constantly hounded him to sell. He would mourn the loss of his heritage, but it was time to surrender and move on.

Mennonite

***

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

***

Friday Fictioneers

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion?

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion??!  Take a look here.

Delusion

Some Christians get upset when others argue against all their unproven assumptions. There’s everything from the ranting and raving, “How dare you disagree?” to a less confrontational, honest request for quiet acceptance of their beliefs and actions.

This morning, I found a YouTube video from The Atheist Experience, with the above title. Then I came down to read the newspaper, and found this article.

Farmer burned down barn, shot at house

Actions a ‘cry for help,’ judge says, sentencing man to 22 months for arson, firearms offences

In a ‘cry for help’, a depressed and guilt-ridden Mennonite farmer set three fires on his property – including one that burned his barn to the ground, killing seven cattle and a horse, causing $400,000 damage. Later he shot five or six times at his house with a .22 caliber rifle, while his wife and two young children were inside.

“It would appear that much of his angst arose from guilt that he felt over pursuing some secular interests that may have been contrary to his religious teachings.”

His lawyer was asked outside court about his secular interests. “He got a phone, as necessary for the operation of his cattle farm. The cell-phone was a Smart Phone, with access to the internet, and he started to retreat to the barn to watch Hollywood movies. So he was watching movies like “Superman” or something. It wasn’t pornography or anything.”

What’s wrong with a little comfortable delusion? Nothing, until it changes to psychopathy, and becomes uncomfortable, both for the deluded person, and the rest of society.

This is not an isolated incident, and it’s not restricted to Christians. The same paper contained an article about a Christian Pakistani woman who has been held in jail for 7 years, much of that in solitary, because a neighbor accused her of blasphemy. The raging mob demanded her execution, and that of the judge who finally freed her.

Don’t be deluded; it can be very dangerous.

Speaking of being deluded…. My contract says that I’ll be back here in a couple of days, I hope, with a new 100-word Flash Fiction.  Don’t let me down.  🙂