Choo-Choo

Before the summer ends, I thought I’d take you all on another virtual vacation trip with my parents.  After we had bought that bank-vault on wheels, we took it camping in a variety of places.  One summer, my Dad decided we would concentrate on the area near Bracebridge, Ontario.  Since that fateful summer so many years ago, Bracebridge has installed a theme park called Santa’s Village.  Nowhere near as large and all-encompassing as the all-Christmas, all-the-time town of Frankenmuth, MI., but it still draws its share of tourists.

We pulled into town and located the tourist camp.  The town is on the edge of the Canadian Shield, so there is lots of rock.  The camp itself nestled along the edge of a river at a big bend.  Projecting above the campgrounds was a vee-shaped, hundred foot high, stone outcropping.  After we got set up, my younger brother and I went for a walk.  About a block back, where we entered the camp, the rock sloped down so that you could drive about half-way up the steep grade, and climb to the precipice.

We walked up and stared down at our tiny trailer.  In today’s world, there would be steel railings, high mesh fences, air-bags at the bottom and so many warning signs, that you couldn’t see the magnificent view.  Back then there was common sense and self-reliance, and a hundred foot drop.  Having seen what was to be seen, we felt we should return to camp.  Most people just went back down the middle, but we wandered around one edge.  The front was so sheer that only a professional climber with pitons could ascend.  Around the side, where it was merely 90 feet high, the wall was only an 80 degree slope and had cracks and little ledges.  “Do ya want to climb down?”  And down we started.

We made it down safely, although we could have walked back around and got home sooner.  At the bottom was an eight foot pile of scree, which angled down to the edge of the road.  I stepped off onto it carefully, but my brother dropped the last couple of feet into it, and lost his footing.  He tumbled into me, and the two of us rolled right down onto the road, and nearly got run over.  The fact that it would have been ironic wouldn’t have made the hospital visit any better.

The next day we packed the trailer back up and headed further north.  I asked Dad where we were headed, but he just said, “You’ll see.”  We didn’t exactly get lost, but we didn’t get where Dad wanted to be, and had to turn around and go back, and then onto a different road.  Back before GPS and computer maps, I’m surprised that anyone ever got anywhere.  Without Sacajawea, Lewis and Clarke would still be in the parking lot at a Wal-Mart in Montreal.

We finally turned off the paved road, and headed into the bush.  After a couple of miles, the dirt road T-ed out.  Do we turn left or right?  Dad finally decided on right, and started to drive.  After a while I noticed that there were steel rails not too far off the road.  Dad finally admitted that he had heard from someone, that there was a miniature railway back here, which connected two lakes.  We drove for another mile or so and came to one of them.  The tracks went right out onto a concrete dock.

Apparently, by getting lost, we had come at this railroad from the wrong side, and should have turned left at the T-intersection.  If we had gone the other way, we would have reached a nice little campground and village.  On this end there were a few houses and a tiny general store.  Because we drove the extra miles, we had run out of daylight.  The sun was going down.  No time to drive back through the bush to the other end.  Dad talked to the store owners.  They were heading for bed, but told us we could park on the tiny lawn at the end of the building.

There was no room to open the trailer, so we decided to just sleep in the car.  Fortunately it was a station-wagon.  We hauled the stuff in the back out, and Mom, Dad, and my brother slept (?) in the back.  I jammed my feet under the steering wheel in the front.  We had no mosquito netting and it was way too hot and muggy to roll the windows up, so it was doze, slap, doze, slap all night.  I don’t want to say that the mosquitoes were big, but I saw two of them molesting a seagull.

We were out of the car at first light, and down to the lake with soap and wash cloths.  These little lakes sit in hollows of solid rock, and their average temperature is enough to make penguins order take-out.  The store finally opened at eight AM and we got some coffee and hot chocolate for breakfast.

The tiny train was sitting right across from us, so we went over to have a look.  Unless it got lost when Mom died, we have a photo of me, as a twelve-year-old, stretching up to lean on the walk-rail around the front of the steam engine.  Re-watch Back To The Future III to see Doc Brown, and how big the full-size model is.

Finally a couple of guys came from the nearby cabins and started the boiler on the train.  By ten o’clock it was ready to make its first run of the day.  A locomotive, a fuel tender, (I don’t remember if it burned coal or wood.) three flat-bed freight cars and a passenger car.  The two lakes were only four miles apart, but, to get from one to the other by water, was over fifty miles.  The little railway had been put in to haul lumber, small boats and other freight.

Off we went for a lovely ride through the woods.  When we got to the far end, there was a two-hour hiatus before going back, but at least there was more civilization to wander around and look at while we waited.  Finally, we huffed and puffed and chuffed our way back to the car.  We drove back to Bracebridge and stayed at the same camp for another day to recuperate.  Wrong turns and giant mosquitoes and all, it was an adventure I’m glad I didn’t miss.  I hope you’ve enjoyed rummaging through my fading memories.

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Racism Hurts – Both Ways!

First, a word from the wordsmith.  The word is, *Discrimination*.  Not too long ago, the word discrimination had a good sense to it.  A discriminating man ate Fine food, not fast-food, drank Fine wine, not cheap plonk and wore well-made clothing, not K-Mart, Blue-Light Specials.

If I wished to hire a person for a position, and gave two people a test, and the brown guy scored ninety and the white guy scored a hundred, I’d hire the white guy.  I would discriminate against the brown fellow, not because he was brown, but because he didn’t do as well on the test.  Say the test was devised by a white man.  Say that the test reflected a white way of life.  It’s still My company and My customers I have to think of.

Ted@SightsandBytes seems upset at my most recent post.  He doesn’t say why, but I feel that he may think, if I call one a Paki, I call them all Pakis.  Or, perhaps he feels I shouldn’t call anyone a Paki.  I’m out to prove both those assumptions wrong.

I have lived and worked with quite a number of Indo-Asians.  Many (most?) are nice.  I used to work with a young Pakistani woman who invited me, and another worker, to her home several times, for an ethnic-food lunch.  She later invited me to her wedding and reception.  The saris and jewelry were gorgeous.  I would never call her, or anyone like her, a Paki.  Paki is a term reserved for some a**hole, so abhorrent that he deserves the approbation.  Maybe I lived beside one for ten years.  You decide.

He bought the house beside me.  I didn’t mind; I’m not racist.  Then he built an illegal mini-apartment in the basement, contrary to building and safety codes, so that he could move his 60ish parents and his two younger sisters in upstairs, And Charge Them Rent!  Contrary to grading and water-flow by-laws, he filled in his side of the swale (valley) between our houses with gravel and sand and topped it with paving stones, washing out parts of our gardens, and endangering our air-conditioner, and almost diverting water over the top of my foundation and in my basement window.  He put plastic barrels on the pavestones to collect rain water, for his mother to carry inside, by pail, to do dishes and laundry.  Despite requests from me and the neighbor on the other side, he refused to put mesh over the tops to prevent breeding of disease-carrying mosquitoes.

Next, he had built, a full-width, rear, roofed deck.  Told me it was to improve the resale value.  Like the basement apartment, he did not obtain a building permit, submit plans, or have it city-inspected.  If he, and my wife, were in their respective backyards, he would refuse to reply to her if she spoke, because she was a woman.  That didn’t stop him from telling the consummate gardener what flowers and shrubs she should put in, and where.  He liked blue.

When his father retired, and the older sister got married and moved away, the other three had some problems paying his rent.  He knew people who needed day-care and babysitting so he arranged for his 63-year old mother to take kids in.  The final count was nine, breaking another city by-law restricting unlicensed day-care facilities to a maximum of four.  What a thrill it was, having all those vehicles in front of my house each morning, blocking my driveway, or beeping car horns goodbye, after I’d worked a late shift.

It all came to a head one day, when some whirly-gig seeds from the maple tree in my back yard blew onto the roof of his new deck.  He demanded, not asked, and definitely not nicely, that I come over and clean them off, AND, cut down the maple tree. Even after almost ten years of this shit, I still didn’t get nasty.  I nicely declined and told him that God had put them there, and he could ask God to clean them up.  Then he got nasty.  He told me that, if I didn’t comply, he was going to phone The City.  I saved him the trouble.  I called by-law enforcement, and reported every infraction.

An inspector came around and had a look at everything.  There was nothing he could do about this douche charging his own family rent, but, the daycare stopped.  He was told to remove the sand and gravel and return the runoff to its original slope.  He was to get a retroactive building permit for the back porch, submit drawings and arrange for building inspection.  The basement apartment was declared unsafe and either had to be removed, or an outside exit had to be installed.  If any portion of my tree extended over his fence he was allowed to lop it off, without further damaging the tree.  If my maple keys blew on his property, he was to take it up with God.  And I didn’t even prime the officer with that comment.

The City officially told him to do all this, so he did it, right?  Sure he did!?  What he did, was, he immediately put the house up for sale and palmed all these problems off on the unsuspecting buyer.  He located an apartment for himself and told his parents and sister that they’d have to find their own place to live.  Pakistanis are usually pleasant, friendly folk.  The parents and sisters were nice people and great neighbors.  Actions and attitudes, this pile of putrefied dog-dump, and others like him, are what I refer to when I use the pejorative, Paki.