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.

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Cross Words

Crossword

CROSSWORD PUZZLES LEAVE SOME PEOPLE BLANK

Some people just don’t understand what people like me get out of doing crossword puzzles. We sit for hours, poring over ambiguous clues, to fill in little boxes, and when we’re done, all we have is a page full of letters.  I mean, we don’t even get a prize for all that work.

As you’ve probably guessed, lots of folks, my darling wife included, do not find crossword puzzles _ _ _ (three letters across, first letter F)  Even though I’ve almost made a C_R_ _R (life’s work, six letters) out of writing and playing with words, trying to do a crossword puzzle is an agonizing chore for many.  Their minds just don’t work that way.

My wife will sit for hours without saying a word, while I do my puzzles.  If I happen to muse aloud, “What’s a four-letter word for a garden tool?” she will quickly reply, “Spatula.”  I say, “No!  I think it’s rake.” and write that down.

If I had simply asked her to name some garden tools, she could have rattled off a whole list, from rake and shovel, to trowel, spade, and ‘Garden Weazel.’  Because I specifically mentioned a four-letter garden tool for a crossword puzzle, she can’t think of a single one.  Her mind just goes BL-N- (empty, five letters)

In fact, the moment I posed that question, she couldn’t think of a garden tool to save her life, even if she were being tortured by the Spanish Inquisition.  The Inquisitor could say, “All right, heretic.  Give me a three-letter word for ‘poem’, starting with O, or I will lock you in the Iron Maiden.”  She’d probably just stand there and say, “I think it’s ‘Owl’, before they ran the sharp spikes into her body.

CROSSWORD PUZZLING

The reason that some folks can’t think of answers to crossword puzzle questions is that, whenever they’re presented with a clue, their mind becomes a big, dark room where they rummage around, trying to find something, anything, to fill in the blank spaces.  They grab onto it, and shout ‘Spatula’ for no apparent reason.

The best they can do with crosswords, is come close.  If the clue is – a beverage: P_ _, they write down PUB, which is actually fairly good, since at least a pub is a place where you can get a beverage.  If the puzzle wants ‘Lennon’s widow’ in three letters, they put down ‘Mrs.’

Crossword clues are just plain confusing to some.  They read the clue: ‘state that borders Mexico’, starting with A, and try to put in ‘Atlantic Ocean.’  Or they look at the clue: ‘High ranking marine,’ with five spaces, and try to fit in ‘humpback whale.’

Obviously, they have to write really small when they do crosswords like that.  The boxes get so crowded that they have to stack letters on top of each other.  On the other hand, sometimes the word they want doesn’t work, because they don’t have enough letters to fill in all the boxes.  The clue will be: ‘balloon filler,’ needing four spaces, and they put in AIRR.

For some, the problem started back in school, with tests that had them fill in the blanks.  They’d get the history question, ‘The Gettysburg Address was delivered by……..’  They would go into that dark room and come out with, the Post Office.  Or, on a Geography quiz, the question would be, ‘The United States capital is in……’, and they put down, ‘total confusion.’

A fellow-student in one class would look at the first question on the test and panic.  Your name……….  He would wave his hand frantically, until the teacher said, “What is it, Myron?” and quickly write Myron down.

I had an uncle who liked to enjoy the company of a crossword puzzle book and a glass of wine after dinner.  After he passed on, I happened to pick up his puzzle book and look in it.  The clue would read: Lone Ranger’s horse, and he would have written GZODKE.  He had fooled us.  He didn’t like crossword puzzles at all!  He just liked the quiet, and a chance to drink.

Wine

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.