Read My Ass

It used to be said that, “Vanity, thy name is woman.” but, nowadays, when it comes to specialty licence plates, “Vanity, thy name is Legion!”  Vanity plates are everywhere; everything from obvious, easily understood letter/number combinations, to stuff that just has you shaking your head, wondering what he’s smoking, or where he parked the spaceship.

Many years ago, when the children were small, we owned a small Honda Civic station-wagon.  When I got steady, although not great-paying, employment at the shoe factory in 1983, Ontario offered custom plates.  At first only 6 spaces were allowed.  I splurged, and spent $100 for a set.  They read, surprisingly, “ARCHON.”  They’re a lot more expensive these days.  Someone told me they’d seen another pair, “just like yours”, which is impossible.  I finally located them.  Ed Arconovitch, who worked day shift at the same plant, got a set which read, “ARCON.”

I moved to the auto plant at a better salary, and the wife went back to work.  First we bought her brother’s 10-year-old Chevy Monte Carlo for her commute, then I felt I could afford a used motorcycle.  The Civic sat unused for 9/10 months a year, eating insurance, while I rode the bike, so I took my vanity plates off, and sold it.

When we traded up to a better car for the wife and kids, I tried to put my custom plates on it….and bureaucracy struck.  The car was in her name – but the plates were in mine.  We could transfer the car to my name – and pay a 15% tax on the book value.  I could sell her my custom plates!  Oh, no says the DMV, the plates must be surrendered and offered to people who have put in a request for that particular set.  Screw that!  I put them in a bag under my work bench, and the son can turn them in for a refund after I die.

After a couple of years’ gainful employment for both of us, the wife got her own set which read, ”3 TEASE.”  It might mean, “Terrible Tori the Terror,” from her childhood, or it might mean, “Terribly Terrific Tori.”  It might just be the third time we’ve messed with your mind!

I knew, when I went to get my plates, that the DMV could be a little suspicious, and had my story of, Why Archon? carefully rehearsed.  Sure enough, the middle-aged matron wanted to know all about it, to prevent evil from entering our streets.  Even as I was drawing breath to defend my unique personal expression, the much-younger male manager piped up, “That’s from the original Star Trek episode, Return of the Archons.”  I’d been hauling the handle around for 15 years before that episode was broadcast but, if it gets me my plates with no hassle, “Yeah!  That’s right!”

My neighbor, Tom, owned a Buick 88, and applied for TOMS 88.  Ontario plates were three letters and three numbers, like ABC 123, and you couldn’t get those combinations.  The DMV clerk told him that the O of TOMS was a zero; therefore he couldn’t have his choice.  I told him to appeal, but he didn’t want to fight city hall.

There are two kinds of bureaucrats; the one will find a rule to deny whatever you request; the other will dig through the rulebook to find you the exception you need.  Sadly, the first type outnumber the second, a hundred to one ~ or maybe a thousand to one.  In an ongoing campaign to prove their importance and power, Ontario DMV clerks continue to deny thousands of applications.  Custom plates are now up from six spaces, to eight.

Custom plates may not be obscene, derogatory or racist.  They may not refer to drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, criminal activity, law enforcement, public figures, politics or religion.  Nearly a third of the 3315 rejected applications in the last three years, have been refused on the criterion of “clarity and readability.”

If I’m a nihilist, who just wants a random collection of letters and numbers which no-one else has, I don’t see how or why it’s any of the government’s business.  The government, being the government, makes it their business.  Everything is forbidden, unless they specifically allow it.  This rather nebulous category has eliminated such seemingly clear and readable requests as HO5ER, A.BATMAN, 2THF4IRY, and ST4RG4ZER.

Predictably, the second and third most-censored categories were plates that referred to religion and sex.  DMONSEED and LUC1F3R were deemed too evil.  NIHILIST and AGNOSTIC were too honest, and JAWS2GOD and APOKLPSE just too unthinkable.

No doubt drug dealers were disappointed when plates such as GOTSPEED, B.JUICED, ILOVCOKE, and SPD4WEED were rejected.  Government clerks will seize any opportunity to flex their bureaucratic muscle, even reversing previous decisions.

In 2007, United Church Rev. Joanne Sorrill became a political cause célèbre, after the Ministry refused to renew her, “REV JO” plate, because, it claimed, “rev” could encourage unsafe driving, and because Rev is an alcoholic cooler-type beverage.  I’m surprised it wasn’t rejected on the “No Religion” rule, but the clerk was probably a Christian.  It took a newspaper humiliation campaign before the Provincial Premier personally authorized the renewal.  He called the Ministry’s behavior, “laughable.”

The Ministry issued a statement, saying, “This is a difficult job, being done by sincere people, but it is an imperfect science.”  They went on to say that employees use resources such as Wikipedia and UrbanDictionary.

I’ve got mine, even if I don’t use them, and I see lots of others around.  A beautifully rebuilt 1947 Ford Business Coupe, at the downtown summer Cruise Night had a pair which read, B DRULN.  Do any of you have vanity plates?  How much did you pay?  Have you seen some amusing or confusing ones?

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The Rewards Of Radio

When I was a child, we had a radio, AM only, an old Stromberg/Carlson with a large crack in the top of its one-piece Bakelite plastic case.  It had a loose connection, and sometimes stuttered or cut out.  A good whack on the top usually got it going again, but obviously someone had been a little too enthusiastic with a thump.  It had a copper wire which ran out a window to a steel stake in the ground, to use the earth as an assistant receiver.  We even paid a “radio licence fee” for several years, for the right to listen to free, open broadcasts.

Since my father was a part-time entertainer, he listened to it a lot, to hear songs he could use in his once-a-week act.  Later, we got a better radio/record player combo, and I heard much Big-Band sounds, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, The Ames Brothers, and soundtracks from musicals.  As the Fifties wore on, Rock-and Roll replaced Swing.  Dad listened to radio less, and I listened to it more.  By the time I got married in 1967, Canada’s Centennial Year, we owned a radio which was turned on as soon as someone reached the living-room in the morning, and didn’t get turned off till we watched TV, or went to bed.

I didn’t “listen” to radio, so much as absorb it.  Hear the same song by the same artist a thousand times, and I could soon “Name That Tune” in two notes.  Radio stations began running phone-in contests, to prove to advertisers how many people listened to them.  Finally, my head full of useless trivia became useful.

Actually, the wife was the first one in the family to win something from a radio station.  Pre-Tim Horton’s, a local small doughnut chain offered a dozen high-quality doughnuts to the first person to tell how they were invented….and we were off.  As addicted listeners, we were often able to take a shot at a radio contest.  Sometimes you had to be the correct-number caller, but if we got through, we usually had the right answer.

A brash young DJ came to town, and started on the over-night show.  I often called him at the station, to alleviate his, and my, boredom.  I was the one who called him to show where the mistake in Billy Joel’s song, You’re Only Human, was.  The first Friday night I let my son accompany me on my security job, the young DJ jokingly held a “Guess The DJ’s Lunch” contest, at three in the morning.  My son’s phone-in stab wasn’t even close, but it was amusing enough to get us the chance to meet him in person, for a restaurant breakfast in the morning.  We showed up at a store-opening remote broadcast, and he named us on-air, and described us as “the two-man motorcycle gang.”

The local station was supposed to have run a series of give-aways of tickets for the premier showing of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, Commando, but forgot to schedule it.  On the Friday afternoon, they suddenly revealed on-air that they had 20 four-packs, for the first people who showed up at the station.  My motorcycle zipped me downtown, and parked easily, while I ran upstairs.  The four of us got to see Arnie mash, crash and bash.

 I was mowing the grass in the backyard one afternoon, when I saw the son hanging out the French door, with the phone to his ear with one hand, and waving frantically to me with the other.  The radio station was offering free tickets to the Michael Keaton, Batman movie, to anyone who knew where Bill Cosby went to university.  The son didn’t know, but he immediately dialled, because, as a Cosby and comedy fan, he knew that I knew, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.  I never stopped cutting grass as he won a night out for us.

As interested in music and radio as I am, the son attended a broadcast-arts course at the local community college, just in time to see automation and syndication scuttle his chances for work in the industry.  He doesn’t even remember what the contest was about, but does remember calling the local Pop AM station one day, and winning a VHS tape, and 12-inch action figure (It’s not a doll.  It’s for boys.) of the kids’ movie, “Indian In The Cupboard.”  Not age-specific for him, he turned them over to his appreciative nephew.

I called in and won an evening for four at a newly opened water-park on the edge of town.  That semi-conscious music osmosis came in handy again, although the question wasn’t really that hard.  The guy who won his four-pack the day before I did, said that the song they referred to had the phrase, “Sorry Baby” in it about ten-thousand times, so that’s what he guessed.

After contaminated water killed 7 people in Walkerton, ON, a benefit concert called Watershed was organized to help survivors, and raise awareness.  On the fourth and last year it was held, I managed to win two tickets, and drove the son 75 miles, to roast in a ball park for an all-day show.  There were a total of 11 acts, the third last of which was Teri Clark, a well-known female Canadian Country singer.  She was followed by Joe Cocker, who was older than I was, but pumped out more energy than I ever could.  We wormed our way right up front to see Joe.  The finale act was the great Canadian rock band, The Guess Who, who made an afternoon of sunburn well worthwhile.

As my grumpy-old-dudeness ossifies, I understand why my Dad turned off his radio in his later years.  “They haven’t written a decent song since before Disco!!”  “What’s Disco Grandpa??”  I used to haunt the second-hand record, and then CD stores.  “Have you ever heard of the Greg Kihn Band?”  Now, what little music I listen to is available for download from the net.  Excuse me; I have to turn my hearing aid….ah, Assistors, up.

DisAnDat

Spring is sprung.

The grass is riz.

I wonders where the birdies is?

The birds is on the wing, I’ve heard.

Hmm, I thought the wings was on the bird.

It’s official weather fans, at least in this part of Southern Ontario, the back of winter is officially broken.  Oh, we may still get a cold snap, or even another good snowfall, but we’ve had almost a week of above-freezing temps, and clear sunny days.  My driveway is finally devoid of any snow or ice.  There’s a foot and a half of grass at the edge of the driveway, and the path I pounded down in the backyard for the dog, is turning green.  I have heard, though not actually seen, robins, for the last two weeks.  Houselights which used to be turned on by 4:30, are now not needed till after six.

This is the type of spring where I used to have my motorcycle on the road by March 15, instead of April 1.  The son and I went to a Chapters bookstore on Sunday, and there were several bikes out, enjoying the first decent riding day.

On Saturday, March 2, we took a slightly different route to the farmers’ market.  Just after our most recent snowstorm, we passed a house where, instead of building the usual snowman, someone had carved 6 or 7 Easter Island Moas out of snow.  Easter IslandWe weren’t the only ones impressed.  Monday morning a picture was on the front page of the local paper.  The wife downloaded it for me, and I’ve included it to show local artistic talent.

“Lost” shopping carts, taken off the property by various people, for various reasons, are a problem for supermarkets.  There’s a man near the daughter’s place, who made part of his earnings by driving around in his pick-up, and returning carts to stores.  Several local markets have installed a buried magnetic strip around the property.  If a cart crosses the mag-strip, it causes one of the wheels to lock.  The number of abandoned carts has decreased significantly.

My favorite market decided to go a different way.  They got rid of their old carts, and brought in a new batch which require the insertion of a quarter to release a chain, which not everybody likes, or has a ready quarter for.  This not only reduces the number removed from the property, but tends to insure that they’re not abandoned in parking spaces….or so the theory says.

In practice, lazy, inconsiderate fools will continue to be lazy, inconsiderate fools, even when it costs them 25 cents.  I was in the store last week, and two asshats had abandoned carts which were blocking the exit doors.  I’ll put them away for 50 cents.  The next day, I went back for something else, and removed two from parking spots, including a handicap spot.  I’m still doing what I used to do and bitch about, only now I get paid for it.  C’monnn  asshats!  Retirement is expensive.

I was in a different market last week, and saw the backs of several boxes of different spices.  The identification on the boxes simply read, Mt. Scio Farm, Mt. Scio Road, and gave a 7-digit phone number, no town, city, province or state, and no area code.  Always curious, I plugged it into an internet search-engine.  Man, you can find anything on the webz, if you know how to ask.  Turns out this farm is about a mile from KayJai’s place in Newfoundland.  Anything’s possible, but gourmet spices and The Rock, just don’t seem likely to happen in the same sentence.

The Pope has resigned, and the Catholic Church is in the midst of choosing another Pope.  Anyone who wants some God/Pope jokes, ask, and I’ll email them to you privately.  All I’m going to say is:  There is a Bishop in England, who has been accused of homosexually assaulting three priests and an ex-priest.  (You can be an ex-priest??  I thought it was like the Mafia, or the Hells Angels, you were in it till you were dead.)

The man who is most responsible for hushing up the story, and allowing this man time to quietly resign from the Church, is Cardinal Marc Ouellette, the Canadian with a good chance of becoming the next Pope.  It’s depressing to see that it’s still business as usual for the Holy, infallible Church.

Several years ago, while visiting Niagara Falls, I picked up what appeared to be a folded American one-dollar bill.  When I unfolded it, I saw a message which read, “Disappointed?  Not as disappointed as you’ll be, when you find that you’re going to Hell, because you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior.”

Recently, I picked up a “Smart Card”, a business-card sized document.  Good thick card-stock, rounded corners, gloss finish on both sides and an inch-square fractal-metallic “hologram” area on the front.  This is an expensively produced artifact.  The card instructed the finder to press his/her thumb on the square “for exactly 15 seconds” to see if you were a “good person”.  If you are, the square will turn bright green.

The back of the card, which is covered in fine print, says, “Sorry….you’re just like the rest of us.  The dictionary says “good” is to be “morally excellent.”  Let’s check the standard – The Ten Commandments.”  It then rambles on for about 500 words about, accept Jesus, obey God, don’t lie, don’t lust, forgive sins and read the Bible, but assumes that the only way to be “good”, was through the Ten Commandments.

I am singularly unimpressed with any organization, or those who claim to represent the agency, who feel that this degree of trickery is needed to advance their moral position.

 

 

One Lovely Blog

Apparently there is another infectious round of chain-letter awards circulating on the blogosphere.  Ted over at SightsandBytes  http://sightsnbytes.wordpress.com/ afflicted me with….graciously passed on to me, the One Lovely Blog Award.  I often see these awards being given to relatively new bloggers.  I got my first when I had produced only fourteen posts.  I’m up to fifty now – a seasoned old hand.  I can only hope that they are given to newbies who show a scintilla of talent, as an incentive to keep them writing and improving.  That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.  I humbly thank Ted for prodding the arthritic old bear to bang on the keyboard more creatively.

Having completed the onerous job of displaying basic good manners, my next task is to list seven pieces of information about myself, to instill a little interest, and prevent injuries when readers doze off and slump onto the keyboard.

  1.  I rode 7 motorcycles over 20 years, totalling two of them with little more than bruises.  The last one, I fell over sideways at 3 MPH.  The bike could easily have been repaired, but I got a bionic shoulder and a busted wallet.
  2. We have four beautiful Bengal cats, and a dumb wheaten/schnauzer/poodle dog.  The dog is at the bottom of the pecking order.  There are so many cat toys strewn over the floors that it looks like we’re babysitting a bunch of three-year olds.
  3. After years of rotating shifts, now that I’m retired, I sleep at 4AM and rise at noon.  I hate morning TV but can find late-night movies or go blogging.
  4. I used to be outdoorsy when I was younger, but allergies seem to be getting worse.  We installed central air conditioning and a high-efficiency furnace with an electronic precipitator filter and stay inside as much as possible.
  5. If you read my blog about scratch-cooking, you know that I’m at least a bit of a cook.  Like Ted, I’m not much of a recipe follower.  It’s hard to screw up chilli.  If the dish requires precision, like a cake where one extra drop of milk makes a difference, I let the wife show off her talents.
  6. I prefer to deal with problems broad-spectrum.  I get as much information as I can and make and change decisions as the situation demands, rather than be saddled with an inflexible manual.
  7. I hate making out lists, especially about myself, so I’m glad that this is the last item.

I haven’t set up a blogroll yet, although I now read quite a number of interesting, entertaining and informative blogs.  I also feel that these blog awards can get out of hand and try to stop them before Marvin the Martian says, “Where’s the Ka-boom?  There should have been an Earth-shattering Ka-boom!”  If I’ve commented on your site, be assured that I feel that you are interesting enough to deserve this award as much or more than I do.  If you’d like one, feel free to belly up to the all-you-can-write blog buffet and drop one on your Chinet plate, to display on your very own site.

This blogging thing just keeps getting better and better.  Thank-you to all the kind, friendly, inspiring bloggers who have shared their lives and experiences, and shown me the way.  I will continue to try to earn your respect, and pass it on to those who come behind us.