Canadian Thoughts On An American Trip

Canamerican Flag

I’ve said that I treated the invitation to visit our D.C. hosts as a Royal Summons, but it was us who got treated like Royalty when we got there.  Here’s a shot of us arriving.

Harry and Meghan

More through coincidence than any planning,, we had three successive, different ethnic-food lunches.  One day it was Greek food at a strip-mall restaurant.  The next day, our kind hosts took us to an upscale Afghan establishment.  On the third day, while trying to find decent coffee, (we never did) we stopped into a Thai restaurant beside a Drunkin DoNuts.

Canada is getting screwed for gasoline, even though we pump more oil than the United States.

After calculating for US gallon/Canadian liters, and US dollar value vs. Canadian dollar….
Exiting Southern Ontario, gas was selling for about $1.30/L.  I bought gas 3 times in the US – 83.8cents/L, 76.7/L and 72.7/L – 1/2 to 2/3 the cost in Ontario.

Usually, the closer to the highway, the higher the price.  Pleasantly, surprisingly, this was not the case on the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes.  All the rest centers sold regular for $2.749 (73.8/L).  When I got off in Toledo, the city stations wanted $2.849.

Gas Cost

When I crossed the bridge back to Windsor, the in-town stations wanted $1.269/L.  Twenty miles down the superhighway, where they’ve got you by the short and curlies, where it’s ‘pay or walk,’ the price was $1.369/L!  And there’s 4 liters per US gallon, so that’s another 40 cents/gal rip-off.

Something else I found, that pissed me off….  We wanted to keep all purchases on this trip on a credit card, so that we could keep track of them.  When I went to buy gas with the credit card, the screen on the pump said, “Enter 5-digit ZIP code.”  I’m from Canada.  I don’t have a ZIP code.  I tried entering our host’s ZIP.    The screen now said, “Does not match billing address.  Please prepay at office.”

Now I have to walk a pilgrimage to Coventry….and back.  Not too bad in the city, but I felt sorry for the guy waiting behind me at the Ohio rest area.  This is like gassing up at the Costco, only there, the prepayment authorization is for $150.  Some pimple-faced kid asks, “How much do you want?”  Enough to fill it up.  “Well, I have to put something in the machine.”  $50! Put in $50!  It only took $38.50 to fill it, instead of $75Cd.

Like the jaunt to find John Erickson a few years ago, we again circumnavigated Lake Erie.  Only, this time the trip wasn’t so much a circle, as a deeper oval.  The total trip, from door, back to door, amounted to 2243 kilometers, or 1402 American miles.

There are 12 houses in BrainRants’ little cul-de-sac.  Four of them, including him, fly American flags.  Only yesterday, a letter to the editor urged Canadians to show patriotism by flying Canadian flags.  No need – we know who we are.

On our hosts’ kitchen wall hangs a repro of an old station clock, with the hands at 8:45.  I assumed that it was just a rustic piece of art…. until one morning I was having orange juice and my morning pills all alone, and – tick, tick, tick.  So it works, it’s just jammed and not going anywhere.  I was reminded of The Mamas And Papas’ song, 12:30, or The Guess Who’s, No Time.

I estimate that Rants’ subdivision was hacked out of the woods about 40 years ago.  The developers left lots of trees, in some cases, too damned many.  Our stay was almost like camping in the piney woods, although most of the trees were cut-leaf Maple, and Oak.  It allowed me to commune with nature.

There were many birds, some of whom, by their calls, aren’t present in Southern Ontario.  Rants isn’t much of a bird person.  When asked about them, he identified them all as grey-breasted, Northern Virginia Shit-birds, so-called because of their ability to put white polka-dots on parked cars, so aggressive that they eat holes in the paint-job.

I love birds.  In my de-forested area, both the bright Blue-Jays and Cardinals are skittish creatures, hiding high in trees, sometimes heard, but seldom seen.  As I watched Rants at his forge in the garage, a Blue-Jay landed on a branch in the Maple in front of the house, barely above the garage door, and sat in plain view for several minutes, while we were disgusted by discussed Trump.

As I went to get a beer, through the back door of the garage, I saw what I first took to be a dried Oak leaf, fluttering in the breeze.  It turned into a bright-red hummingbird, which eventually brightly flitted into the neighbor’s yard, and molested some flowers.  The daughter gets the occasional green hummingbird at a feeder behind her house, but red ones are uncommon here.

Baby Cardinal

Later, as I went for another beer, I thought I saw the hummingbird again, but it magically transformed into a bright red Cardinal, apparently unafraid of humans.  It lingered for a few moments, then it too casually flitted to the neighbor’s yard.  Wow!, three usually unseen birds in the course of an hour – Mother Nature must really like me.

I took a walk, early one morning, while waiting for the wife to arise.  Ambling through the nearby woods, I met a lady walking her dog.  She told me that his name was Giggs, a Welsh name, after a well-known (to her) Welsh football (soccer) player.  Strangely enough, she had met another woman with a dog, also named Giggs, after the same soccer player.  There’s an Ontario transport company named Gigg Express.  Now I don’t have to research that name.

White Lady In The Hood, if you’re still out there and reading this, I still haven’t met a stranger.

The ancient Bob’s Big Boy restaurant that has been in front of our Taylor, MI, Red Roof motel for years, since April of this year, has been turned into a Wahlburgers.  Marky Mark and his two brothers should stick to acting.  I was not impressed – with the concept – or the service.  On a four-item order, one was missing (which I didn’t pay for, but should have noticed its absence), and one was wrong.

To the rest of you who are out there reading this – Thank You!  Let’s do it again, soon.  😀

Advertisements

A To Z Challenge – S

april-challenge

UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS

letter-s

I want to discuss my ancestors, but the above title is a lie. Upstairs/Downstairs was a British TV series dealing with the various goings-on of the upper-crust, upper-floor rich folk in a mansion, and the serving class below them, both physically and socially, who provided their every whim and wish.

My forebears didn’t live in no stinkin’ mansion, making tea, and cucumber sandwiches for effete dilettantes.   My folks have been industrious, productive people for hundreds of years.  They were ‘blue-collar’ long before blue collars existed.  A more accurate title might be Manor-House/Mill-house – and never the twain shall meet.

My father’s name (and mine) was Smith.  His progenitors originally were productive German artisans named Schmied.  Over many years, the name changed to Schmidt, and was carried to the newly-born United States of America by a Hessian mercenary, paid by the British.  After another hundred years, it got Anglicized to Smith.

Smith is a proud name, and a proud profession. It originally meant, one who produces, makes or manufactures something. Then the language changed so that it meant, a worker in metal.  Finally, the meaning narrowed to just the blacksmith, who pounds hot iron and steel.

I like to think of myself as a wordsmith.  I received blacksmith training in my high school shop class.  (Yes, I lived that far out in the sticks, and back in the mists of time.)  Blacksmith is making a comeback, both through the custom knife and sword makers, and artisans who supply millennial hipsters with hand-made gate latches, coat-racks, porch rails and coffee tables.

My mother’s side of the family supplied the name Stewart.  This is a Scottish name from the English word steward, meaning, one who takes take of something.  The spelling of this name also slipped a bit, to Stuart, and a branch of the clan became the Royal Stuarts, ruling, and ‘taking care of’, Scotland.

Before he emigrated from Glasgow to Canada, my maternal grandfather became the ‘Keeper of the Tartans’ at the fabric mill where he worked. He was the steward of the patterns of the plaids which clothed a good portion of the country.

letter-s-super

All in all, I think maybe this is the S that I should have chosen for this post.  I’m impressed with my family history.  How about you?  😎

Pint Sized

Pint

Always fascinated with the details of English word usage, I recently read a post titled Euphemisms. In it, a young female explained how the seemingly innocent words of many of the nursery rhymes we tell our children, had a much darker meaning when they were first composed.

She apparently had a real vendetta against royalty and religion. Her first story was about “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary”, who was Queen “Bloody” Mary, trying to return now-Protestant England to the Catholic Church.  Her garden grew well, because it was fertilized with the corpses of the many that she had tortured and executed.

The writer claimed that “Three Blind Mice” were three noble men(sic) who plotted against Mary. She didn’t have them blinded, or mutilated (their ‘tails’ cut off), merely burned at the stake.  But, in reality, there were only two who plotted, and only one was a noble, the other, an Anglican Bishop.

“Goosey, Goosey, Gander” is about Catholic sympathisers hiding priests from Protestant torture and death squads. The line about grabbing them by their left leg was because priests were identified when they put their left foot forward as they genuflected.

Already cynical, she lost my belief when her mix of fact to fiction became too thin on the “Jack And Jill” story. This is word history, not political history, and something I’ve researched.

She stated that it referred to the execution of Louis XIII and Marie Antoinette. When Louis (not Jack – or even Jacques) was beheaded, he lost his ‘Crown.’  When Marie was guillotined, her head ‘came tumbling after.’  She didn’t explain why English commoners would make up rhymes about French monarchs.

This little rhyme is all about governments getting more tax income by screwing with sizes. It was something citizens were complaining about 400 years ago, and they’re still screwing us today.

A “Jack” was a leather mug, in which inns and taverns served 12 ounces of beer or cheap wine. Taxes were paid on how many ‘Jacks’ were dispensed. Suddenly, by Royal decree, the size of a Jack was reduced to 10 ounces, and taxes on beer and wine went up by 20%.

Crown

Taxes were often paid in ‘Crowns’, silver English coins. Soon both barkeeps and the drinking working man were going bankrupt (broke).  When the Jack fell down, he/it broke his ‘Crown’.

The Gill – or Jill – was a quarter of a pint, the amount of a shot of harder liquor. The Incredible Shrinking Jack trick had worked so well that the government tried it again.  A gallon had been 160 ounces, therefore a quart (quarter gallon) was 40 ounces, a pint was 20….and a quarter-pint Gill, was 5.

The gallon was reduced to 128 ounces, a quart to 32, a pint to 16. The 5 ounce Gill became 4 ounces, the tax on liquor went up 25% with the stroke of a pen, “and Jill came tumbling after.”

A later government restored the gallon/quart, etc. sizes, but the results can still be seen. The UK has ‘Imperial’, 40 ounce quarts, but the US never changed back, keeping their 32 oz. version.  The US has a Fifth (of a 128 oz. gallon = 25.6 oz.) of booze, where Canada insists that it’s a 26er.

When I was but a mere child, dairies delivered 40 oz. quart glass bottles of milk to the house. When glass yielded to cardboard cartons, the international conglomerates who now provided cow juice, did so in 32 oz. American quarts, without changing our cost.

In 1971, when Canada went metric, no-one really knew anything about metric sizes. Containers were now (34oz. approx.) liters.  Cost went up, but uncertainty kept complaints down.  40 oz. glass pop bottles became 1-liter plastic containers – at the same price.

To lull the population into happily accepting metrification, the Canadian government actually solicited poems from citizens, extolling the beauty and benefits of the Metric System. They were disappointed by the low turnout, and definitely did not publish the one that said;

When things go Metric,
Prices rise!
Surprise, surprise,
Surprise, surprise!

The Portuguese lady selling bread at the Market continues to shout, “Three bags for $5.” The old loaves of bread suitable for making trencherman farmers’ sandwiches are now so small that they’re barely big enough to make petit-fours.  The hamburger and hot-dog buns remain the same size, but the bags which used to contain a dozen buns, first slipped to 10, slid to 9, fell to 8, and, hopefully, have bottomed out at a ridiculous 7 per pack.

The only thing that I have as much left in my wallet as I used to, is lint.

Psychotic Relations

Straitjacket

Some families are a little more tightly wrapped than others.  Even the best of families though, have a member or two who aren’t let out in public without a leash, or a minder.  Jimmy Carter had beer-drinking Billy.  George W. makes Jeb Bush seem like Mensa material.  These are the folks that we can look at (and snicker) and think of Jeff Foxworthy’s line.  “Compared to them, why, we’s dang near royalty.”

The recent publication of my Sunny Disposition Flash Fiction reminded me of the couple who inspired it.  In my family, it was my sister – half-sister actually.  My Our Mom moved to Detroit, and got married and gave birth.  Mom’s husband cheated on her, and when his daughter was born, abandoned them both.

I never met the man, so it’s hard to judge the nature/nurture ratio of her psychoses, but the totals were impressive.  They started when Mom took a divorce settlement, moved 200 miles back to small-town Ontario, and bought a house for them to live in.

By age 8 and 9, she was accusing Mom of “hiding her away from her Father,” despite the fact that her ‘loving father ‘ stood outside the house one day while she was at school, after his most recent girlfriend had dumped him, but didn’t have the nerve to knock on the door.  He knew where she was, but didn’t care.

It was strange that, when Mom remarried, she didn’t resent the new husband.  In fact she treated her stepfather better all her life than she did her real mother.  Then Mom gave birth to me, and three years later, my brother.  Soon the oft-repeated line was, “Wasn’t I enough?!  Why’d you have to have them?”

After my brother’s birth, a sickly child, requiring a lot of care and personal time, the new mantra became, “Those damned boys!  Those damned boys!”  Interesting language for a 13-year-old girl, in the 1940s.

Always headstrong, and constantly craving attention, she acquired a 21-year-old boyfriend and told Mom that, if she wasn’t allowed to marry, she’d just get pregnant and elope.  As the least of several evils, she was allowed to say “I do” a month before her 16th birthday.

She pumped out five children and a miscarriage in eight years.  The last, a 13 pound, 8 ounce Butterball baby boy fortunately sterilized her.  Children having children??!  She was far too immature, insecure and needy to raise kids.  She was manic/depressive back before ‘bipolar’ became the politically-correct description, and her co-dependent husband wasn’t much better.

“Up”, and drinking and having fun, and then, sometimes within an hour, one or both of them would crash, and they’d be fighting like two cats in a sack.  Both of them often sported bruises, cuts or scrapes.  She had to put four brands of Lite beer in the beer-fridge.  They were having too many ‘lost’ weekends.  She failed one suicide attempt.  After about 12 years of a WWE marriage, they moved into a house directly across the street from my parents – a blessing, and a curse.

One or another of the children would run across the road and yell,  “Grandma, come quick, Daddy’s killing Mommy!”  (Or Mommy’s killing Daddy – however the wind happened to be blowing that day.)  Mother would trudge across, and separate the combatants.

One night, the seven all sat down to dinner.  One of the adults(?) said, “The sky is blue,” the other said, “Fuck you,” and the screaming and yelling started.  He said something objectionable, and she tossed the contents of a water glass at him.

He threw a plate of meatloaf and potatoes at her.  She threw the gravy boat at him.   He threw the bread basket at her.  She threw….he threw….she threw….  The kids wisely scattered.  The oldest daughter came running across for the referee.  “Grandma, they’re wrecking the house!”

Mom said that, by the time she got there, the tornado had blown itself out.  He was sulking in the living room.  She was leaning against the dining room wall, trying to catch her breath, and surveying the wreckage.

There was ketchup on the 10-foot, white ceiling.  There was mustard on the hardwood floor.  There was bread tangled in the chandelier.  There was butter on the outside wall, and peanut butter on the inside wall.  Pickled beets were in the floor vent, and broken glass and dishes were everywhere.

As often happens with tornadoes, there was an undamaged jar of Cheeze-Whiz, inexplicably still sitting on the table.  My half(wit)-sister dourly looked at it, and surveyed the chaos.  “Well, you might as well join the rest of them,” and threw it against the kitchen door-frame.  “Now, we can clean up!”

And so, a 100 word Flash Fiction was born unto me – the normal one.  Don’t you feel superior now?

#461

Father Murphy

The Fundraising Problems Of Father Murphy

Father Murphy was a priest in a very poor parish.  He asked for suggestions about how to raise money for his church.  He was told that racehorses made money for their owners, so he went to a horse auction, but he made a very poor buy.  The horse he bought turned out to be a “Donkey.”

However, he thought he might as well enter the donkey in a race.  The donkey came in third, and the next morning, the headline in the paper read,

“Father Murphy’s Ass Shows”

The Archbishop saw the paper, and was displeased.  The next day, the donkey came in first, and the headline read,

“Father Murphy’s Ass Out In Front.”

The Archbishop was up in arms, and figured something had to be done.  Father Murphy had entered the donkey in a third race, and it came in second.  Now the headline read,

“Father Murphy’s Ass Back In Place.”

The Archbishop thought that this was too much, so he forbade the priest to enter the donkey in any more races, which inspired the editor to write,

“Archbishop Scratches Father Murphy’s Ass.”

When the Archbishop read this, he ordered Father Murphy to get rid of the donkey.  He was unable to sell it, so he gave it to Sister Agatha for a pet.  Now the headlines read,

“Nun Owns Best Ass In Town.”

The Archbishop read this and immediately ordered Sister Agatha to dispose of the animal.  She managed to sell it for $10.00.  The next day, the headline read,

“Sister Agatha Peddles Her Ass For $10.”

They buried the Archbishop three days later.

 

Royal Babysitters

Once upon a time, long, long ago, and far, far away in a distant country, lived a great and powerful ruler, named a Shah.  He lived on a gloriously beautiful palace with his beloved wife, who was the Shahnee, and his only child, a handsome boy, known as the Shan.

The Shah loved his little son very much, and tried to protect him as much as possible.  The Shan was subject to small fits, or seizures, and had been known to fall down and hurt himself.  So the Shah hired two strong, alert, intelligent guards to go with the Shan wherever he went, to protect him from all dangers, and to be there when the Shan had an attack, to keep him from falling and hurting himself.

One day though, a minor catastrophe occurred.  The Shan, now approaching manhood, had become interested in pretty girls, and went to a club, to watch the dancers, and talk to them.  While he was engaged in conversation, the two guards became distracted by a couple of pieces of feminine pulchritude, and were not near when the Shan had an attack, and fell down a short flight of stairs, breaking his arm.

After leaving his son with the doctor, the Shah called the two guards, to question them as to where they had been at the time of the accident, and why they had not prevented the Shan’s fall and injury, as they should have.  He ranted and raved, and yelled at them, and threatened them with dire punishments, and finally screamed at them, “Just where were you, when the fit hit the Shan??!”

 

Smart Feller

The vain person is one who loves the smell of his own farts.

The amiable person is one who loves the smell of other people’s farts.

The proud person thinks his farts are exceptionally fine.

The shy person releases silent farts, and then blushes.

The impudent person boldly farts out loud, and then laughs.

The scientific person is one who farts regularly, but is concerned about pollution.

The unfortunate person tries hard to fart, but shits himself, instead.

The nervous person is one who stops in the middle of a fart.

The honest person admits he has farted, but offers a good medical reason.

The dishonest person is one who farts, and then blames the dog.

The foolish person suppresses a fart for hours and hours.

The thrifty person always has several farts in reserve.

The anti-social person excuses himself, and farts in complete privacy.

The strategic person conceals his farts with loud laughter.

The sadistic person farts in bed, and then pulls the covers over his bedmate.

The intellectual person can determine from the smell of his neighbor’s farts, precisely the latest food consumed.

The athletic person farts at the slightest exertion.

The miserable person would truly love to, but can’t fart at all.

The sensitive person is one who farts, and then starts crying.

 

Which Came First, The Chicken Or The Egg?

A newly hatched chick asked his mother, “Am I people?”  No, you are chicken!  Do chickens come from people?  No, chickens come from eggs.  Do people come from eggs?  No, people are born.  Are eggs born?  No, eggs are laid.  Are people ever laid?  Some are; others are chicken!!    😕

Strangers In A Strange Land

With all due apologies to Robert Heinlein.

While none of us actively seek to do so, each member of our family often manages to be the odd man out.  The last place the son worked, he said he was the weirdest guy in the room.  He’s actually happy at the new plant, where, he says, he’s just the opening act.  There’s nothing that will hold a mirror up to your normalcy, or lack of it, like a road-trip, to see how others do it.  Jeff Foxworthy says it’s like goin’ to the local fair.  “Why, we’s dang near royalty!”  With that in mind, the son and I spent a weekend in the Detroit area.

He hasn’t been able to make the trip for almost ten years.  He had seen the photos of the big wind-turbines we passed last October, but nothing gives the scale like driving right under them.  I’ll include pictures, and maybe a video, in a later post.  He was impressed by their size, and proximity to the highway.  He was less impressed by the two fields of solar panels, which we didn’t get a picture of.  They just looked like someone had pulled a black shroud over a couple of acres of dead farmland, which, in effect, they had.

I think we passed the home of the lady who objected when the turbines were going up.  She complained that they already had enough wind in the area.  They didn’t need these big fans making more.  She could have been Liz’s sister.  D’oh!!

We crossed the Ambassador Bridge and stopped at a Security booth manned by a 30-ish male.  As I’ve said, we never mention knife shows.  As I do when the wife and I go down, I told him we were going to do some shopping.  I should have told him that the wife had sent along a list of stuff we can’t get in Canada.  We got Searched!  He looked in the car and saw two males claiming to be going shopping, and said, “Pop the trunk.  I want to take a look.”

I wasn’t worried.  He saw a shopping basket with five bottles of Pepsi, a large orange juice bottle, filled with iced tea, a smaller bottle with two days worth of orange juice, two newspapers and two crossword puzzles.  I’m surprised he wasn’t so bored he dozed off and fell into the trunk, but, back he came.  “Thanks guys.  Have a nice time.”  Them boys is too bland to be smugglers or terrorists.

We were supposed to have phoned the wife, our designated worrier, when we crossed the border in each direction, but we got distracted by all the big-city lights, and forgot till we were on the wrong side of the river.  The son tried to place a billed-to-the-room call when we got to the motel, but the phone system malfunctioned.  Finally on Saturday he placed a collect call.  She said that no police officer had showed up by 11 PM to report an accident, so she assumed we were safe.

After we booked in, we both lay down for a nap.  Mine was only an hour and a half.  Since the son had been up since 7 PM the previous day, I let him sleep four hours.  While he was still out, I took a walk, circling the Big Boy restaurant in front of the motel.  In the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever, Bond apologizes to a rat for having a gay assassin’s cheap cologne spilled on him.  He says, “One of us smells like a tart’s handkerchief.  Sorry old man, I think it’s me.”  Around on the unused side of the restaurant, two guys were doing something near two vehicles.  I assume they were the gay assassins, because, from 10 feet away, I could hardly breathe from the tart’s handkerchief smell.  I left quickly, lest I be invited to join the party.

We went out to check a couple of possible places to get good fish and chips.  I passed a place I had found on-line, on the way to another spot.  We decided to go back to it, because it looked more reputable than the one recommended by the on-call ambulance team I had met.  We walked in just ahead of two young men, just before 7 PM.  A sign out front threatened “Live Entertainment”, and they were it.

The fish was good.  The chips were the milk-powder coated variety for crispness, the kind the lactose-intolerant wife can’t eat.  Without the spoilsport chaperone wife along, I had a cup of decent bean soup, a bowl of crisp, well-dressed coleslaw, and  a 20 ounce glass of well-chilled, Australian-type, 8.5 percent, craft-brewed ale from Wisconsin.

The two musicians (?) played a keyboard and a guitar, and one of them sang – I think, although the noun caterwauling came to mind.  Without any help from the studio audience, I managed to identify every song they played, even if they couldn’t.  Is it cynical to note that those few of the audience who clapped, did so when these guys stopped playing?

We stopped at my favorite Meijer store on the way back to the motel, and got everything on the wife’s list except flavored coffee creamers.  Oh, the excitement, it was like electricity in the air.  We were asleep again by midnight.  Tomorrow we attend the knife show.  Stop in to the site, I hope to post pictures.