’17 A To Z Challenge -Z

Challenge2017 Letter Z

To end this year’s alphabet challenge, I’m going out with the other new-found word.

ZWODDER

Noun: a drowsy and stupid state of mind

I had downloaded Zen, zest, zenith, zany, Zorah(my #2 cat), zipline, zone, and ZZ Top as prompts.  I got my Boy Scout proficiency badge in zwodder.  If I have zwodder, I don’t need Zen.  My mind is empty most of the time anyway.

Zest is what I shred off lemon or orange peels, and add to big, torpor-producing meals. Zenith made my TV.  I lie on the couch at night, with the remote in my hand.  When it falls on the floor and wakes me up, it’s time to go to bed.

I’m not really zany – silly at times, perhaps, but I don’t know much about zany. Zorah is the cat who insists on me taking a nap.  When he gently paws at my shoulder, I rock back the recliner chair, that warm little purring machine climbs into my lap, and drowsy and stupid become mandatory.

I missed out on a zipline ride a couple of years ago, when the son and I went to Niagara Falls. If we go again, I’ll have him book tickets online days ahead.  There’s a zipline ride on the local ski-hill Earth pimple.  Perhaps I’ll try it this summer – if a nap doesn’t interfere.

I’ve got nothing for ‘zone.’ This zwodder thing has me zoned out enough, as it is.  I got an email recently from Billy Gibbons, of ZZ Top, asking why I still hadn’t composed a blog post about him them.  I told him that I might get around to it next year, ‘cause the cat had climbed up, and I needed to take another nap.  He replied that he was going to have his beard steamed, and take one himself.

Zee End

This is Zee end for this year.   😆

Survivor

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Location, Location, Location!

I live in the best place in the world!!  You may love the place you were born, or the place you’re living now.  You may hate either, or both.  Doesn’t matter!  I live in the best place in the world.  There is no perfect place, but mine is the best compromise.  I live in the center of Southern Ontario, Canada.

I live within an hour’s drive of three of the nicest of the Great lakes, hundreds of miles of white sand beaches and cool (but not cold) water.  Some, near the bigger cities can be contaminated, but if you’re willing to drive a bit, it’s worth the trip.  All the tourist traps and the natural magnificence of Niagara Falls are but an afternoon’s trip away.

If you don’t like the big lakes and the big crowds, there are dozens of little lakes where you can put up a cottage and go fishing.  They’re a bit reedier, muddier or rockier, but often so small they’re like a warm jet-spa.

The land ranges from pool-table-flat, to hills tall enough to ski on in the winter and keep the eyes interested in the summer.  Mountains are magnificent, but they block out the sky.  The land is covered with some of the most fertile soil in the world.  Sadly, urban sprawl is eating a lot of it up, but a huge selection of meat and vegetables are locally grown, and fairly cheaply.

My city called itself “The Biggest Small Town in the World”, almost 50 years ago when I arrived.  It’s grown a lot, but it still has a small town feel.  It’s big enough to be interesting, without being so big it’s dehumanizing.  We have a concert hall, with a local symphony.  Acts like Roger Whittaker, Brad Paisley, Jeff Dunham, Cats and Rent have come to town.  If you want more than that, Toronto is only an hour’s drive away.

We have two Universities and a widely renowned Community College.  The Kids Museum morphed into themuseum (allonewordnocapital), still with stuff to interest kids, but with added paintings and sculpture, plus defunct equipment telling the tale of vanishing local manufacturing.  The house where J. M. Schneider, who founded the meat packing business lived, is preserved, and can be toured.  Doon Pioneer Village, on the outskirts, used to highlight the 1870s, Mennonite heritage, but has moved up 50 years, and now showcases life in the early 20th century as Doon Heritage Crossroads.

The weather too is varied enough to be interesting, but almost never vicious.  We have four distinct seasons.  Johnny Carson was dismayed when he moved from New York to Los Angeles.  He found they only had two seasons out west, wildfire and mudslide.  When the temps went from warm to warmer, the city crews took in the green plastic plants, and put out the brown plastic plants.

In the summer, our temperature usually ranges from mid-70s F. to high-80s F., with just enough humidity in the air to be comfortable.  Places like Arizona are great for people with asthma and other breathing problems, but are so dry the skin flakes off your face, as readings soar over 100 F.  Places like Georgia have slightly lower temps, but moisture levels so high, even healthy folk have trouble drawing a breath.

In the winter, readings usually hover about 10 degrees below freezing, not like western Canada, where it can plunge to minus 30 or 40, and the wind whistling across the prairies can make it feel like -50 or worse.  It can get hot in the summer, and cold and snowy in the winter, but not for long.  The area is so unexciting that even the weather gets bored, and moves on.

We generally get just enough rain in the warm months to feed the crops, not cascading off the mountains and washing us into North Dakota.  Kitchener is near enough to the Great Lakes that they moderate our temperatures, but far enough away that we are not inundated with snow.  We get enough to provide spring watering for farmers but not so much that we have to exit buildings from second, or third, floor windows.

We are not subject to monsoons, or tsunamis.  The tail end of an occasional hurricane blows this far north and inland, like last fall’s Superstorm, but rarely causes much damage.  We do experience the infrequent tornado.  I once drove within a quarter-mile of one, on my way to visit my parents.  It snapped a few tree branches off and swirled a couple of wheat fields, but wasn’t at all like the half-mile-wide, twenty-mile-long swaths that march though Kansas.

We get the occasional temblor from Montreal, or Ohio, if they’re fracking for natural gas.  Just enough to rattle dishes, but no real earthquakes of our own.

We manage to find all kinds of things to bitch about area politics and politicians, because it’s a game we don’t want to miss.  Compared to other spots on the globe, local politics is bland and boring.  We don’t have oppressive regimes like Cuba, Iran, North Korea or China.  We are caught at the edge of the World meltdown, but our Pols still guide us better than the 23-party, can’t-get-a-decision-made, coalition in Italy, or the fiscal ineptitude of Ireland or Greece.

We escape the polarization of the U.S.A., probably because most far-out opinions are not expressed, and are ignored, not fought about, when they are.  While we appreciate America being the world’s policeman, our tiny, under-supplied Army leaves us money to provide health care for our citizens.  This is socialism, not Communism.  If it’s good enough for the Swedes, it’s good enough for us.

Religiously and morally, it’s pretty much live and let live.  Jews, Muslims, Christians and Shintoists all live in the same communities.  No-one wants to force their beliefs onto others or drive non-believers from town.  Of course, we all hate the Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially when they ignore the Do Not Ring Bell sign early Saturday morning, when we’re trying to sleep off Friday night.

Abortion and gay marriage are both permitted, although it’s more like just ignored.  There are those who are disturbed by both, but there are others, just as numerous, for whom the removal would be just as disturbing.

All in all, I live in Goldilocks-land, not too hot, not too cold, not too bland, not too exciting, a bit of everything, but not too much of anything.  Come and visit us when you can.  Keep Ontario green; bring money.

Summer At The Beach

Once upon a time, in beautiful downtown Ontario, there lived a man and his wife.  He worked hard at his job, and became very successful.  He became so successful in fact, that his boss asked him if he would like to open up and manage his own branch office.  Overjoyed, the man quickly said, “Sure.”

Then the boss told him that the branch was to be in Moose Factory.  “Moose Factory,” he said, “that’s almost above the Arctic Circle!”  But he went, and he was very successful in his new location, and he stayed.  He and his wife had a family, and they grew used to the place, and its weather.

Winters were cold and snowy, but they went skiing and snowshoeing, and snowmobiling and ice fishing.  They damn near froze to death, but they did them.  They also found what the place had in the summer….18 to 22 hours of sun every day.  The weather was consistently clear, and the temperatures often went into the eighties F. and sometimes even the nineties.

Summer lasted from June through to September, and they did live right on the ocean shore.  It was the Arctic Ocean – well…Hudson’s Bay….but it was the ocean.  Granted, it didn’t warm up enough to swim in until late August, but you could go boating on it, and almost everyone did.  Anything from Eskimo kayaks to canoes, to row boats, to motor boats, and sailboats of all sizes….

Within a few years, the man and his wife had accumulated a family of kids, and a group of boats to go with them.  One of the problems encountered by ocean boaters, but worse in this location, was that of marine finishes.  The salt air, combined with being stored over the winter in a cold climate, meant that all the boats had to be scraped and painted every year, before they could be put in the water.

It got to be a real assembly-line performance, with the older kids scraping and sanding, and lifting boats on and off the painting stands, Mom stirring the paint to be sure it was the right color, and well mixed, and Dad brushing it on, while the youngest of the children, a little boy, ran up and down the beach throwing stones at the Arctic seabirds.

It was while he had stopped to rest for a moment, and was gazing at the scene, the father realized that his wife was leaving no tone unstirred, he was leaving no stern untoned, and his young son was leaving no tern unstoned.

All together now, “GROANNN!”

The management accepts no liability for overextended groan muscles.

Your groan may differ.

If your groan lasts more than four hours, please see a doctor.

Think Ahead, or Behind, or at All, But Think!

My son occasionally goes to a site called The Darwin Awards.  It’s an ongoing collection of stories about geniouses (usually male and under 25), who remove themselves from the gene pool by doing….I was going to say SPECTACULARLY stupid things, but sometimes it’s as simple as, Look Both Ways Before You Cross The Street.  It doesn’t include trying to dive into the family pool from the roof of the bungalow, and missing by just enough to break both legs, just below the knee, on the edge of the pool, because, your buddies will pull you out before you drown.  Then you just get to spend the rest of a great summer in a pair of twin casts.

The son points out that stupidity carries the death penalty.  We both agree that it is not invoked nearly often enough.  If it were, shows like Jackass wouldn’t exist.  I’ve said previously that I don’t really have a problem with stupidity, but with people who have shown that they can think, but simply don’t and won’t.  I’d like to introduce you to the smartest dumb guy, or the dumbest smart guy, that I’ve met in my entire life.  He happens to be American, but I’m sure some of his white trash relatives live in Canada.

Let me set the scene.  This was long ago, shortly after the Earth cooled and the last of the dinosaurs had died in skateboard accidents.  I got up early on the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend and walked 4 blocks west and eight blocks south, to my older, married sister’s house, which was located just off the highway where it entered my home town.  She had a couple of little chores she hadn’t nagged managed to get her husband to do.  My mother sent along a couple of items, and my sister had a couple of things she wanted taken back with me.  Everything done except the final delivery, I was walking back home just in time for lunch.  I was walking along the sidewalk beside the highway, and was about a hundred feet from the intersection with the main street, where I would turn east, when a car slowly passed me at just better than my walking speed.  It pulled over tight to the curb, just at the beginning of the right turn lane and the passenger window rolled down.

I’m going to be asked something, I thought,  probably directions, so I eased over towards the car.  I tend to notice things which many other people don’t, often strange or out-of-place things.  That wasn’t difficult with this car.  I remind the reader that this was Labor Day Saturday.  It was a lovely little Ford Mustang, with Mom and Dad in the front, and two tweens, one male, one female and about two hundred pounds of luggage in the tiny little back seat.  These kids didn’t look like they’d been able to move a muscle, even to take a deep breath, since the doors were closed.  The car had a Michigan plate, and, what brought it out of The Twilight Zone, was the fact that it had four sets of skis and poles strapped to the trunk carrier.  Oh, oh!

Sure enough, Mom leans back as far as she can and Deputy Dawg, the driver leans over to the window and smiles and asks, Where’s the snow?  Yeah,  didn’t see that one coming.  I’m in temporary meltdown; what do you answer to that?  I pointed on up the highway and said, You’re heading North.  He nodded and said Yeah?  I said, The highway turns to the east as you leave town, but if you keep heading North for about 1500 miles, I think they have snow up there.  But where are we going to ski?  I don’t know if they want cross-country or downhill.  If they follow the highway to the east about a hundred miles, some nice little hills poke themselves up.  Some of them even have ski runs on them, but they don’t have any more snow than we do here.

Now I’m curious as to just how this circus got to my town, so I asked, where ya from?  Michigan!  No! Really Bob?  And you even have a car with a Michigan plate on it.  Where exactly in Michigan?  Bay City, is the happy answer.  If I walked the remaining 50 feet to the corner, turned left, and pointed west down main street, and across Lake Huron, where tourists are still swimming and boating, I could almost see Bay City.  It might be a bit further south, but not much.  The two communities are on the tips of a large V.

In an attempt to place an understanding of the relative geography into his head I asked, how did you get here?  My birthday was in about three weeks.  I’m still only 14.  I felt that I should go very carefully about teaching a middle-aged man about social responsibility and world situations.  We drove down to Detroit, crossed over to Windsor, and drove up here, he replied.  So, you drove south and then turned around and drove the same distance north, why would you expect snow?  Well, this is Canada, isn’t it?  Ya got me there, Sparky, this definitely is Canada.  How could I have been so silly?

Wait a minute!  You said you drove to Detroit and crossed over?  Yeah, why?  Why didn’t you cross the border at Port Huron, into Sarnia?  Where???  Dear Lord, he can’t read a map either.  Sarnia/Port Huron sit just at the bottom of Lake Huron.  It’s at least another hour and a half to drive all the way to Detroit, and then when you get on the Canadian side, you have to go way out around the belly of Lake St. Clair for a two hour ride to get back to  where you already were.  He’s caused himself four hours of wasted gas and driving time with two kids crammed in the back.

I just had to know what kind of a guy did all this.  What do you do for a living?  I’m a Production Engineer!  And he’s edumacated.  A college man, maybe university.  A real school gave him a real piece of paper to prove it.  Ignoring the strange little kink that would put him on the road on Labor Day, looking for snow, even if he had showed up at New Years, he dragged his wife and kids hundreds of miles with no more firm address in mind than Skiing, Canada.  He didn’t know where to go.  He didn’t call or write ahead to book accomodations.  Some folks are like that; it’s an adventure, we’ll sleep in the car.  MOST of them survive.  At least he didn’t kill the wife or kids.  Fifty-five years later I still shake my head.  I don’t know where/if they stayed for the weekend, or what they did with ski outfits but no swimsuits.  Iz not my problem, man.