An Apple A Day

Recently, we had a batch of tech-nerds/fanboys go door to door through the neighborhood, extolling the virtues of the Apple Corporation, and trying to convince people to buy Apple computers and gadgets.  They called themselves I-Witnesses.

They claimed that Apple was a great company to work for.  Employees still got paid after they lost their Jobs.

Steve had been concerned with childhood obesity, and had developed a pogo-stick-like device with a mini-computer which was supposed to urge kids to keep exercising.  The project had to be cancelled when it was found that they were promoting breakfast pastries instead.  Jobs had unfortunately named the device I-HOP.

Just when I thought the neighborhood was safe and sane, we had another batch of young ones go door to door, promoting healthy eating through pancakes.  They were Jemima’s Witnesses.

***

In my freshman year in high school, our class took a school trip to a small hobby farm.  Mrs. Olsen introduced us to her favorite cow, Landescog, and showed us how to milk her.  We added rennet to the milk to get it to separate into curds and whey, and pressed the curds into a cheese mold.

Near the end of our year, we were again allowed to visit the farm to see what had happened to our “cheese.”  Mrs. Olsen had made up a big batch of linguine, and most of us sprinkled our shredded cheese on it.  Since the farmhouse was crowded, I took my plate outside, and stood at the fence, under a tree.

Landescog, the cow, wandered over and, perhaps attracted by her contribution to lunch, stuck her head over the fence and mooed loudly, so I had Swedish meat bawl on my pasta.

***

Middle Managers’ Lament

Amtrak Style

 

I am not allowed to run the train.

The whistle, I can’t blow –

I am not allowed to say how far

The railroad cars can go –

I am not allowed to let off steam,

Nor even clang the bell –

But let it jump the goddamned track,

Then see who catches Hell!

***

The Farmer Learns Fast

A farmer bought a new car, after spending a lot of time pricing them.  By coincidence, a few days later, the dealer who sold him the car appeared at the farm, and said he would like to buy a cow for his small country place.  The farmer quickly wrote up the following, and handed it to the dealer:

Basic Cow  ………………………..  $200.00

Extra Stomach  ……………………..  75.00

Two-Tone Exterior  ……………….  45.00

Produce storage compartment.. 60.00

Dispensing Devices – four spigots

@ $10.00 each  …………………..    40.00

Genuine Cowhide Upholstery . 125.00

Automatic Flyswatter  …………    35.00

Dual Horns  ………………………..    15.00

Plus Taxes and Delivery  ………  595.00

 

Total Charge  ……………  $1,190.00

 

***

 

A Child’s View of Retirement in a Mobile Home Park

 

After a holiday break, the teacher asked her class how they spent the holidays.  One little boy’s reply went like this.

We always spend our holidays with Grandma and Grandpa.  They used to live here in a brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and moved to Florida.  Now they live in a place with lots of retarded people.

They live in tin huts.  They ride big three-wheel trikes.  They go to a big building they call a wrecked hall, but if it was wrecked, it is fixed now.

They play games and exercises, but they don’t do them very well.  There is a swimming pool, and when they go in it, they just stand in the water with their hats on.  I guess they don’t remember how to swim.

My Grandma used to bake cookies and things – guess she has forgotten how to bake.  Nobody cooks there; they all go somewhere to eat something they call an Early Bird.

When you come to the park, there is a doll house with a man sitting in it.  He watches all day so they can’t get out without him seeing them.  They wear badges with their names on.  I guess they don’t know who they are.

My Grandma said Grandpa worked all his life, and earned his retardment.  I wish they would move back home, but I guess the man in the doll house won’t let them out.

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Goin’ South

Mom and Dad stayed, for several winters, with the Tylers, when they went to Florida to get away from the Southern Ontario winters.  Eventually, Bogey Tyler changed his crop schedule and needed his 55-foot trailers for migrant workers again.  My brother had lost a long-term job and got another in the grounds-crew of a local golf course.  This gave him eight to nine months of work, and then off for the winter.

After a couple of years, he got a better paying job with a small company that made commercial window and door awnings.  Sadly, the same eight to nine months of work still applied.  Nobody wants to purchase, or install outdoor awnings, in February.  Ineligible for unemployment insurance, he felt he might as well spend some time in the warm south, and joined the parents.  Recently divorced, he had to sell “their” house and split the money.  He was wondering what to do with his meager half, when the news came that they would have to find new quarters for the next winter.

The parents’ house came with a small upstairs apartment.  For years they rented to a local nurse, but eventually she moved on.  Then followed a series of worse and worse tenants, until finally Dad just said no more.  When the brother lost his house, the parents let him move in upstairs at no cost.  He was there to do yard work, run errands and keep an eye on them.  He decided to purchase a mobile home in a nearby Florida park so that they would all have a place to go in the winter.

The parents eventually reached a point where it was physically impossible for them to drive to Florida.  Mom and I used to correspond a letter a week.  One day I got a letter from her that said, “I had a heart attack.”  She hadn’t, but I almost did.  That is not the kind of information to convey in a letter, a middle-of-the-night phone call perhaps, but not a letter.  The next winter Dad thought he was having a heart attack, and my brother drove for three days to get him to a hospital in Windsor, because they could not get health insurance.

Just when they could no longer go south, my brother got a year-round job and had to stay north, both to work, and to take care of them.  He made arrangements with the park management to administer winter rental on the unit, but still had to make sure it was cleaned, the furnace worked and propane, water and electricity were supplied.  These were best done in person. His new employer was busy in the summer and slow at the end of year.  The first year they allowed him a week’s holiday near the first of December, and he called me to ask if I wanted to go on the trip with him.  I didn’t have to work as hard readying the trailer as I did at the plant, and I hadn’t been south of the Canada/US border in twenty years, so I jumped at the chance.  I had enough seniority that I could book the week off easily.

In his early retirement, Dad had driven to both Canadian coasts, but as they both aged, the long drive from Ontario to Florida became three short days of driving, and two nights in motels.  My brother however, loved to drive, and with only nine days to get a lot accomplished, saw no reason to waste valuable time or money.  I was warned that we would be driving straight through, and I was expected to spell him at the wheel.

I’ve said that my brother is an early morning person.  Excitement may have prevented a lot of sleep after finishing work Friday night, but at least he finished at 5 PM.  I had an afternoon shift, and wasn’t home till after eleven.  I don’t know what time he was up, but he told me he left home at five.  From his place, straight to the border was almost four hours.  The run to pick me up was two hours, and we were still almost four hours from Windsor.  I climbed in his van at 7 AM, and the race was on.

The connection from the bridge at Detroit to I-75 is two miles and seven stop lights.  The back-up at customs was relatively light.  Once we were on I-75, it’s a straight run to within fifteen miles of his camp in Florida.  I saw Michigan, Ohio and the beginning of Kentucky before it got dark.  After that, I knew we were in the mountains, because I could look out the window and doowwnn, and see lights, but entirely missed the vistas.

The sun came up again when we were just north of Atlanta, Georgia.  Just in time to catch the morning rush.  Down the hill into town, over a little flat spot, and down again, and traffic came to a complete stop for no apparent reason.  All except the guy in the next lane.  Screeeech, bang!  I didn’t witness anything, keep moving!  Nothing against Georgia but, unlike the beautiful mountain scenery I’d missed up north, in the dark, Georgia is flat, and orange.  People say the soil is red.  It’s prison jumpsuit orange.  I’ve seen roadside billboards, but this was the first trip I’d seen them on top of fifty, or hundred-foot steel poles.  Hotels?  Okay!  Restaurants?  Okay!  Boiled peanuts at every exit?  It was several years before I got a chance to try them.

We drove on into Florida, slid off I-75 onto the Florida Turnpike, slid off again onto a smaller highway, and climbed out of the van in front of the trailer at about nine AM.  We napped (?) until mid-afternoon and went looking for supper.  This, the first year I went down, we went to Daytona Beach and I swam, for the first time in the Atlantic.  My brother does not swim, and begrudged me the time.  Then we went back to Daytona, where he wasted an hour at the museum, while I explored the stands at the Freeway.

This was a strange, rushed way to travel, but it did leave time for me to see and experience some pleasant and interesting things.  Some day, when you’ve all had lots of sleep, I’ll tell you all about them.

 

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Rednecks….But In A Good Way

Jeff Foxworthy says that a redneck is someone with a Glorious lack of sophistication.  I don’t want to insult or denigrate anyone, because we’re all on the bell-curve somewhere.  I just want to write about some people who, while happy and helpful, proud and prosperous, live just a little further off the paved road than most of us.  They’re nice folks, but, if it didn’t happen in their back yard, they don’t know about it.

I was a child of my mother’s second marriage.  Dad was released from the Armed Services because he contracted chronic bronchitis, caused by damp ocean air and gunnery fumes.  Mom was seven years older than Dad.  She started collecting government pension before him, and had to wait for him to catch up.  When he finally did reach 65, he had that extra disability pension, and felt that cold, damp winters, spent on the shore of Lake Huron, were not good for either of them.  They agreed that, going to Florida for some/all of the winter was a great idea.

The first year they went down, Dad towed a little thirteen-foot trailer, and they stayed about a month.  Dad had a blind spot in his right eye, because of a ruptured blood-vessel.  He misjudged a big-rig, merging from an up-ramp on I-75.  It wasn’t quite a collision but, when they got to where they were going, there was no doorknob on the trailer.  The second year, Dad had traded up to an eighteen-foot trailer, and they stayed for two months.  By the third winter, Dad towed down a twenty-three footer, and they stayed about three months.  Then they met the Tylers.

The Tylers owned a 30-acre farm. Half of it was citrus, mostly oranges with a few grapefruit trees.  The other half was truck-garden, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.  They had five fully furnished, fifty-five-foot mobile homes, used to house migrant workers during picking season.  They were more than willing to rent these out over the winter.  The farm was located half-way North to South, and half-way East to West, not close to either coast, but near Baseball World and Epcot for relatives who drove or flew down.  They charged rent at a monthly rate, which places near the ocean wanted for a week.  The stress of hauling a trailer fourteen hundred miles over three days was gone, and the rent was a lot less than campground rates, so they could stay longer.

Bogey, the husband, was born in Kentucky.  He only went to school two days in his life.  The first time, the teacher was sick, and the other time was a holiday.  He never learned to read and write.  If he received a check, he signed it with an X and his wife, Frances, had to witness it.  Frances was from Louisiana, and had a grade-eight education.  When Bogey wasn’t busy running the farm, he did odd-jobs for the locals.  He could do carpentry, plumbing, electrical and concrete work, and, if he couldn’t, he “knew a guy”.  Uneducated does not mean stupid or untrained.  When Frances wasn’t busy keeping house, raising kids or helping run the farm, she had two part-time jobs.  She would get up as early as BrainRants, to drive a bus-full of teenagers to high-school, an hour earlier than most of the rest of the country, because it gets hotter, earlier, in Florida.  Then she put in an 11 to 1 lunch shift, as a waitress at a local restaurant, checked out and drove the kids home again.

Of course, they never read newspapers.  Dad said that they had a TV, but he never saw the flicker through the windows.  Instead, they liked to spend what little free time they had at the end of a busy day with a beer on the back patio, and often invited Mom and Dad to join them.  Since Frances was from Louisiana and New Orleans wasn’t that far away, one night Dad asked if they ever got over to Mardi Gras.  “What’s Mardi Gras??”, only the biggest, rowdiest party in the country.

The next winter, after the parents arrived, Bogey told them that the farm next door had been sold to some Yankee doctor.  Frances jumped in, to tell them, “and they got nine kids.  Niiine!!”  My mother said it sounded like a good Catholic family….”What’s a Catholic??”  Well, if they don’t know what Mardi Gras is, they don’t know what a Catholic is.  They’s good Southern Baptists.

The two under-educated parents wanted to ensure that their kids “got their graduations”.  I wondered if they stored them in the same box as their diplomas.  They had two boys, a year apart, and then, five years later, a daughter, Brenda.  The boys both graduated and, with a little financial help from the parents, each managed to buy a small farm fairly nearby.

Brenda worked her way through high-school and graduated one June.  By the time Mom and Dad arrived, late in October, she had got a job as a typist/ file clerk, with the local Police department.  Dad asked her how she liked the job.  The work wasn’t hard and the guys treated her nice but….”They use a lot of funny words.”  What kind of words?  Well, a bunch of ‘em, but especially, they’s always talkin’ about Caucasians.  What’s a Caucasian??  My Mom said, “Well, you’re a Caucasian.”  No I’m not!  I’m an Amurrican!!  This from a nineteen-year-old high-school graduate.  That No Shirt, No Shoes rule means they don’t get out much.

There’s no rule that says you have to be worldly-wise to be happy, or successful.  I’m a small-town boy.  I can appreciate the bucolic peace and serenity of being out of the social rat-race, but I’m glad Al Gore invented the Internet.