Book Review #27

Through no fault of my own, I managed to read another book which is older than me.  It is over four decades older, though to categorize it as a book, is perhaps generous.  It was only 68 pages, a couple of them being photos from a trip.  It is said to be the first English-language book produced in this German-speaking town.  I did not acquire it just to tick off a reading challenge sector.

The book:  A Canadian’s Travels In Egypt

The author:  Ward H. Bowlby K.C.

The review:  If you Googled ‘Vanity Press,’ there would be a picture of this ego trip about an Egyptian trip.  A local historian publishes a weekly newspaper column.  He mentioned that he had a pdf file of a carefully-scanned 1902 original.  He would forward a copy to anyone who asked – so I asked.

Ward Bowlby was a big noise here in then-Berlin, Ontario, at the end of the 19th century.  He had attended Ontario Law College in Toronto, being first in his class each year.  He came from a well-to-do family.  Besides generous fees, paid by other local captains of industry, he owned a large timber/lumber company during a significant period of city growth.

In the winter of 1898/99, he felt that he had earned a little vacation.  This was not your average on-the-cheap tourist-class jaunt.  Ward, and 8 of his family and friends, took a four month getaway from a cold, Canadian winter, including two months on a Nile houseboat.

They went by train from Berlin to New York City, and boarded a steamer.  Over 11 days, they visited Gibraltar, Pompeii, and Naples.  Then they transferred to an Italian steamer for a trip to Alexandria.  After eight days in Cairo, which included a visit by the two men in the party to an ‘Arab music hall,’ where they were suitably scandalized by half-naked belly-dancers, they chartered a Nile tour-boat.

They got as far upstream as Aswan (Assouan), and then returned, visiting village markets, Luxor tombs, the Sphinx, and the Great Pyramids.  Bowlby kept a daily diary of the Egyptian portion, later turning it into a published travelogue.  After Egypt, the party spent 10 days in ‘The Holy Land’ – Palestine, long before the (re)creation of Israel.  Sadly, Bowlby kept no notes about that segment of the trip.

He had 56 copies printed, and bound with leather with gilt lettering.  He autographed each copy, and gave them to people he wanted to impress.  I don’t know how common these travelogues were at that time.  This one has the feel of the quiet bombast of, This is something that I could afford to do, and you can’t.  The K. C. behind his name, above, indicates, not merely a lawyer, but King’s Counsel.  He suffixed each autograph with ‘Esq.’

The manuscript itself was as tedious as the year-end newsletter you might receive from any bragging almost-friend.  The basic story though, was like watching the Hercule Poirot movie, Death On The Nile, an interesting historical glimpse into the period actions of some monied Canadians.

Brilliant Comedy

Albert Einstein was also recognized as the original absent-minded professor. One day, on board a train, he was unable to find his ticket. The conductor said, “Take it easy. You’ll find it.”

When the conductor returned, the professor still couldn’t find the ticket. The conductor, recognizing the famous scientist, said, “I’m sure you bought a ticket. Forget about it.”

“You’re very kind,” the professor said, “but I must find it, otherwise I won’t know where to get off.”

—–

I had just moved to an address between Sunrise Ave. and Sunset Blvd., one of Sacramento’s major streets, and was explaining to a clerk where my home was located for billing purposes.

“I live between Sunrise and Sunset,” I told her.

“Oh, Honey,” she knowingly replied, “we all do.”

—–

The Game Warden stopped a deer hunter and asked to see his hunting license.

“This is last year’s license,” the warden informed him.

“I know,” said the hunter, “but I shouldn’t need a new license. I am only shooting at the deer I missed last year.”

—–

A little girl, dressed in her Sunday best, was running as fast as she could, trying not to be late for Bible class. As she ran she prayed, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late!”

As she was running and praying, she tripped on a curb and fell, getting her clothes dirty and tearing her dress. She got up, brushed herself off, and started running again.

As she ran she once again began to pray, “Dear Lord, please don’t let me be late! …But don’t shove me either.”

***

My English teacher used to tell me that I would never be very good at poetry, because of my dyslexia.

Well, I recently made three jugs and a vase – so there!

***

Imagine the conundrum of an Atheist,, stuck at a green light, behind a car with a bumper sticker that says, “Honk if you love Jesus.”

***

You can get lawyers at IKEA now, but you have to build your own case.

***

A WEE Bit More Scottish Humor

John decided to go golfing in Scotland with his buddy, Keith, so they loaded up John’s minivan and headed north. After driving for a few hours, they got caught in a terrible blizzard, so they pulled into a nearby farm… …and asked the attractive lady who answered the door, if they could spend the night.

I realize it’s terrible weather out there and I have this huge house all to myself, but I’m recently widowed.” she explained. “And I’m afraid the neighbours will talk if I let you stay in my house.

Don’t worry.” John said. “We’ll be happy to sleep in the barn and if the weather breaks, we’ll be gone at first light.

The lady agreed, and the two men found their way to the barn and settled in for the night.

Come morning, the weather had cleared, and they got on their way and enjoyed a great weekend of golf.

But about nine months later, John got an unexpected letter from an attorney.

It took him a few minutes to figure it out, but he finally determined that it was from the attorney of that attractive widow he had met on the golf weekend.

He dropped in on his friend Keith and asked, “Keith, do you remember that good-looking widow from the farm we stayed at on our golf holiday in Scotland about 9 months ago?

Yes, I do.” said Keith.

Did you, er, happen to get up in the middle of the night, go up to the house and pay her a visit?

Well, um, yes!” Keith said, a little embarrassed about being found out, “I have to admit that I did.

And did you happen to give her my name instead of telling her your name?

Keith’s face turned beet red and he said, “Yeah, look, I’m sorry, buddy. I’m afraid I did. Why do you ask?”

John replied, “Well, she just died and left me everything.

Fibbing Friday?  Nein!

Even though I am neither Greek, nor gay, I sneaked in the back door over at Pensitivity101’s blog site, and made off un-noticed with yet another truly great list of chances to tell a lie….  or ten.  I did not chop down that cherry tree while I was there!  It was already felled when I arrived.  True story.   😉

  1. What is the difference between an earth worm and an ear worm?

Earthworms won’t bother you until you’re dead and buried.  An earworm will irritate the shit out of you, every day until that happens.

  1. What is a Mars Bar?

That was the dingy Star Wars cantina where Han Solo shot Greedo, the bounty hunter who was going to take him in, dead or alive.

  1. What color is a peanut?

Mostly purple, with a green topknot, neither color normally found in nature, but what do you expect from a little guy who crawled out of Chernobyl?

  1. What is meant by dressed up like a dog’s dinner?

Perhaps we don’t feed our dogs as much here in North America, as they do in England.  My attempts at sartorial splendor are referred to, merely as a dog’s breakfast.

  1. What is an orange pippin?

He was the Hobbit who caught a sociable disease from a female dwarf, and was unable to appear in any of the Lord Of The Rings movies.

  1. What do an owl, pussy cat and five pound note all have in common?

Since I am as poor as a church-mouse, they are all items which are not in my wallet.

  1. Where would you find a Bunny Girl?

That was Barbra Streisand, when she was struck in the mouth by a wardrobe closet door, while filming the movie, and couldn’t pronounce the name of the film, or her lines, for a couple of days.  With that nose running interference, I don’t know how it ever happened.  🙄

  1. What is the difference between an heir and a hair?

It would be so nice to say that hairy Prince Harry, was the heir, but Prince William, the guy with no hair, is the heir.  It’s all too hare-brained for me to understand.

  1. What is meant by fringe benefits?
    That’s when my girlfriend lets me get past third-base. She usually tells me that, when it comes to sex, I am self-sufficient.
  2. What is a whimsy?

He’s a gay Frenchman who likes to attend the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.  He’s been known to ‘come across’ beneath the stands, but he comes across the English Channel on a train with the erotically suggestive name of, The Freudian Sloop.  He used to come across on a ferry, but that became just too cliché.   The mental image of a powerful engine rapidly entering a tight tube gets him off, even while he’s onboard.  He arrives and leaves with a big smile – and a few extra Pounds – but never knows who won.

I cannot tell a lie.  I’m branching out toward Dunsinane Castle, but I’ll be back on Monday with another great post – and a cord of firewood for anyone who has a fireplace or woodstove.  😉

Flash Fiction #197

Harry Potter

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

OVER THERE

They both diligently saved from their wages, determined to see at least a little bit of the world, before they settled down to careers, marriage and family.

London was fantastic, and they did all the touristy things. Being nerds, they located a Harry Potter store, bought wands, and enjoyed butter beer. They couldn’t find a platform #9-3/4, but they booked a tour on this old steam train, like the Hogwarts Special. The views of the countryside, the quaint little railway stations, and even a castle on a hill, were delightful.

Happy, but resigned, they returned to face the workaday world.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

On a personal note, this is my 1100th published post since Nov. 2011. Also, if you note, it’s FF #197. If all goes well, in a couple of weeks, I’ll reach another milestone of 200.   😀

’18 A To Z Challenge – M

Alarm Clock

By dark and dreary mundane passings, are clipped.  (Psst!  Wanna read some poetry?)

A travelling salesman approaches an old codger, sitting in a chair outside the flyspeck-town’s general store.
“Excuse me sir, do you know what time it is?”
“Oh, ‘bout Tuesday, ah reckon.”
“No sir, I need to know the correct time.  I have a train to catch.”
“Tuesday’s close enough.  Ain’t no train till Friday.”

Once, people toiled from sunup to sundown, not caring what time it was, and only vaguely knowing, when the church bells rang, to tell them that it was time to tithe.

As towns and cities grew, it became more important that most folks were doing things at the same time, so the Latin horas became English language hours.

Passing Time was chopped up into 1/60th pieces of the hours.  Compared to the ‘hours’, these little chunks were MINUTE (my-nyoot), and that’s what they were called.  The original meaning of, tiny, small, is still pronounced that way.  Centuries of mush-mouth slide have changed these chunks of time into MINUTES (minnits).

With the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, especially steam trains and their schedules, even smaller bits of time became necessary, and the MINUTES got carved into 60 smaller bits.  Since these were the SECOND smaller sections of the hour to be established, that was what they were called.

As modern technology relies more on computerized electronics, and even quantum services, time must be chopped up into finer and finer little portions.  The state-of-the-art technologists of even only a half century ago, would probably be astounded by the use of millisecond – thousandth, microsecond – millionth, nanosecond – billionth, and picosecond – trillionth.

It’s no wonder that Ethel GPS put me in Oregon, instead of Ohio.  She probably just needs new batteries in her watch.  I’ll watch to see if you stop by again soon.  😀

Starvation Wages

Horses

A beggar walked up to a well-dressed woman
shopping on Rodeo Drive and said,
“I haven’t eaten anything in four days.”
She looked at him and said,
“God, I wish I had your willpower.”

***

A blonde bought two horses and could never remember which was which.

A neighbor suggested that she cut off the tail of one horse, which worked great until the other horse got his tail caught in a bush.

The second horse’s tail tore in the same place and looked exactly like the other horse’s tail.

Our blonde friend was stuck again. The neighbor then suggested that she notch the ear of one horse, which worked fine until the other horse caught his ear on a barbed wire fence.

Once again, our blonde friend couldn’t tell the two horses apart.

The neighbor then suggested that she measure the horses for height.

When she did that, the blonde was very pleased to find that the white horse was 2 inches taller than the black one.

***
A man and a woman who have never met before find
themselves in the same sleeping carriage of a
train, after the initial embarrassment they both
go to sleep, the woman on the top bunk, the man on
the lower.
In the middle of the night the woman leans over
and says, “I’m sorry to bother you but I’m awfully
cold and I was wondering if you could possibly
pass me another blanket.”
The man leans out and with a glint in his eye,
says, “I’ve got a better idea … let’s pretend we’re married”
“Why not”, giggles the woman.
“Good”, he replies, “Get your own fucking
blanket!”

***

A couple are rushing into the hospital because the wife is going into labor. As they walk, a doctor says to them that he has invented a machine that splits the pain between the mother and father. They agree to it and are led into a room where they get hooked up to the machine.
The doctor starts it off at 20% split towards the father. The wife says, “Oh, that’s actually better.” The husband says he can’t feel anything.
Then the doctor turns it to 50% and the wife says that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much. The husband says he still can’t feel anything.
The Doctor, now encouraged, turns it up to 100%. The husband still can’t feel anything, and the wife is really happy, because there is now no pain for her.
The baby is born. The couple go home and find the postman groaning in pain on the doorstep.

***

How many Witches does it take to change a light bulb?
It depends on what we are trying to change it into.

***

How many gorillas does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Only one, but it sure takes a lot of light bulbs!

***

I asked my friend why he walked away from his last job.
He said the pay was so poor that he couldn’t afford a car

***

 

Flash Fiction #97

Telecommuting

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

FULL PAST – EMPTY FUTURE

I’m not sorry I’m retiring tomorrow. This train station used to be a bustling, interesting place, a social hub, full of people coming and going to actual places, meeting and talking to other, real people, doing the same.  Train travel was interesting, exciting, educational.

Then, along came the Internet – and telecommuting, work-from-home, and stay-cations. It’s no better over at the bus terminal.  Nobody actually goes anywhere anymore.  They all just sit at home, in front of a different idiot-box, staring at pictures that somebody else took of all the great things that this country has to offer.

I’m outta here! 😦

***

Here’s a YouTube link to Arlo Guthrie’s song, The City of New Orleans, an elegy for the passing of a time when trains were so important that some of them even had names.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Flash Fiction #45

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

© Jennifer Pendergast

Title Yard Sale – Read the following short story, and then pick the title you feel best applies.  No extra charge.

IRONY
DICHOTOMY
REDNECKS IN TRAINING
COGNITIVE DISSONANCE
IMAGINE BUM-PING INTO YOU

****

SAME SEX MARRIAGE??!  Over my dead body – better still, over theirs.

These filthy fags parading around – “I have a job.  I pay taxes. I want the same civil rights as everybody else.”  They’re worse than the niggers and Jews.  Niggers are just weak-minded jungle bunnies.  They don’t know no better.  The Jews may be Christ-killing heathens – but these perverts are sinners.

Civil rights??  I say cut their junk off and throw them all in jail.

Here we are at the church.  Take a look at the sign Bobby.  What’s Reverend Larkin’s sermon theme today?  “Love One Another.”  Awww – that’s nice.

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story

They Paved Paradise

So said Joni Mitchell, some years ago.  The same thought was echoed by Chrissie Hynde, when she wrote, My pretty countryside had been paved down the middle, by a government that had no pride.  The farms of Ohio had been replaced by shopping malls.

Travel/transportation is another technology which has advanced greatly over the last couple of centuries, and especially the last 50 or 60 years.  Some will say that’s a good thing.  Some will claim it’s necessary.  It has definitely opened up North America, and Americans’ social eyes, but old guys like me still miss the old days a bit, even if they weren’t “good.”

Travel used to be difficult and time-consuming.  BrainRants can rant about taking 36 hours to get from Afghanistan to Kansas, but it’s not too long ago that it would have taken 36 days, and before that, 36 weeks.  I’m reading a series of books about a Virginia town, transported back to 1632 Germany.  In those days not many people travelled more than 20 miles from where they were born.  The Americans found travel particularly difficult, because of what they had been used to.

Twenty miles was about as far as you could go in one day.  The word journey comes from the French word, journée, a day’s work or travel.  Most people had to walk.  A lucky few had riding horses, somewhat faster and less tiring, but not terribly comfortable.  Merchants and the like had wagons, but roads were rutted, pot-holed, and often muddy, and wagons had no shock absorbers.  It was rough on the butt and back.

The Romans built a bunch of good roads which lasted, but were still hard on the feet and spines of travellers.  It was not until the 1880s that the idea of mixing tar or asphalt with sand and small stones allowed the construction of “permanent”, smooth roads, and speeds and personal comfort to increase.

Even a hundred years ago, most freight and passengers moved around the country on trains.  The U.S. has maintained a lot of track, but sadly, much of Canada’s has been torn up.  Both countries now rely heavily on motorised vehicles.   To serve them, roads and parking areas have burgeoned.  The big, multi-lane highways are fenced off, preventing both humans and animals from crossing.  You can’t get on, and you can’t get off.  They’re finally getting smart, and building animal overpasses on the Trans-Canada Highway in a couple of the big National parks

In the areas of Michigan where I’ve driven, instead of blacktop, they’ve built their roads from poured concrete.  Concrete expands and contracts differently from asphalt.  It is laid down in 50-foot sections, with rubberized joints between them.  This creates a most annoying tick, tick, tick, as you drive over them, almost like the steel wheels of the old trains.  The concrete lasts longer than asphalt, but when it does need repair, pouring concrete into a pothole is more difficult, it takes longer to set, and the repair falls apart faster than blacktop.

The American Interstates, and Ontario’s 400-series highways didn’t come into existence until the mid-60s.  As a child, about 1950, I hadn’t even visited the little neighboring town, 5 miles away, and my Father took us to Niagara Falls on vacation.  Nowadays, it’s a four-hour, 200 mile trip.  Back then it took most of a day; even paved roads were only 2-lanes, they ran into and out of every little town, signage was poor, or non-existent.   I don’t know how Dad managed to find the place.

We rented a little cabin for an overnight stay.  Dad was paranoid enough, that he put his wallet under his pillow.  The next day we crossed the border to visit some relatives in upstate New York.  It wasn’t until Dad tried to buy some gas for the trip back, that he realized his wallet was missing.  Two adults, and two little kids got into the States without a shred of I.D., almost no money, and not a bit of fuss raised.  Imagine trying that at the border today.  The owner of the cabins was holding the wallet when we got back.  An honest cleaning lady had turned it in.

If only roads went only where very little grows.  Sadly, that is not the case.  Here in Southern Ontario, and many other places, 10 and 12 lane super-roads are eating up hundreds of square miles of the best farmland in the world.  Recharge areas for underground aquifers which supply drinking water to our cities are being paved over for roads and parking lots.  All that black paving sucks up the heat of the sun, making cities up to five degrees C. hotter than the surrounding countryside.

As a small-town boy, I appreciate the ability to get to interesting places quickly and easily.  I like having all the conveniences that a city can provide, but there are an increasing number of times I wish we could go back to a simpler, more pastoral time.  Do any of you feel the same way?  Residents of Newfoundland need not reply.  Void where society is already 50 years behind the times.

Archon – The Early Work Years

My mother worked every day of her life, both as a mother and wife, inside the home, and later, as a fellow-wage-earner, outside it.  This was before automation, and often before electrification.  She instilled in me early, a strong work-ethic.  Between ages eight and twelve, I had three paper-routes for two different newspapers.

The first job I remember her having was as a waitress at the lunch bar/dining room of a local hotel.  Since she worked from 11 till 3, my brother and I ate our lunch where she worked.  I remember a lot of hamburgers and fries, or hotdogs and fries, and the reduced cost of our meals came out of her earnings.

She eventually developed a circle of people she cleaned homes for, both year-round residents and summer visitors.  She was requested to do more than just clean.  She cooked food for soirees, and served as waitress.  A tiny woman, there were often things she wasn’t strong enough to do.  From 12 to 16, I occasionally worked with her, taking down shutters or storm windows, putting up screens, cleaning out garages or storage sheds, mowing lawns, trimming trees, and sweeping or shovelling sand off sidewalks and driveways.

One customer my mother had, was a grumpy old fart who owned a convenience-store and eight cabins near the beach.  He made most of his money during the summer months.  Since my birthday was in September, and I had to be 16 to get a summer job in a factory, she arranged for me to work for him in the summer of 1960, for the lordly sum of 50 cents/hour.  Nothing difficult or complex, a retail clerk.  I took money, made change, directed customers to product, kept an eye out for shoplifters, stocked shelves, swept up and hand-dipped ice-cream cones.

One slow, hot afternoon, I made myself a cone.  The old man came in the back door just as I was putting money in the till to pay for it, and asked me what I was doing.  When I explained, he told me of the girl he’d had the summer before.  She just about ate him out of house and store.  Pop, chips, candy bars, ice-cream cones, and never thought to pay for any of it.  He was impressed with my honesty.

The next year, my father arranged a summer job at the R.C.A. Victor plant where he worked.  For the first week, I moved raw material, sanded some edges, and wiped dust off cabinets about to be packed.  For this, I was paid $1.27/hr.  After last summer’s 50 cents, I was rich.

They moved me to the spray-finishing department.  TV and stereo cabinets came in on rollers from a half a dozen assemblers.  I was to take them off the rollers, and place them on large trays which would carry them by chain-drive through the spray booths.  One of the sprayers came over to tell me that, I could probably move the individual TV cabinets by myself, but the five and six-foot long stereo cabinets needed two people to move safely.  While they liked a mix of big and small on their line, he told me to accumulate several big ones at the end of the rollers, and call him or one of the other guys, who would help me load up a batch at a time.

While I got an hourly wage, these guys were paid piece-work.  They lost money every time I called them.  About the third day, a little light went on.  I walked up the line, and gave the next empty tray a pull.  Sure enough, the drive pin to the chain wasn’t attached, it was merely pushed.  I could pull a tray forward till it touched the end of the previous one, and it would just sit there till the drive caught up to it.  This gave me lots of time to swivel one end of a big cabinet out, and place it at one end, then move to the other end and safely repeat the process.

About the end of the next week, my spray booth guy suddenly commented that the cabinets were randomly mixed and I hadn’t requested any assistance.  When I explained my process, he was thrilled.  They could do it that way when they didn’t have an assistant, and could teach next year’s intern.

Next year I worked there again, just not in that department.  The wage scale had increased to $1.34/hr.  I was rich as Croesus.  Good thing too, I had a car to support.  The plant shipped most of its output in train cars.  I and another young lad were given the job of loading the boxed cabinets into the cars.  The work was sporadic.  A batch would be inspected and packed and sent down a delivery belt, to a set of rollers.  It was our job to roll them out and stack them in the car. 

Often we would finish one lot before another came down.  Since the shipping department was right outside the office, it would not do to have us standing around.  The shipping foreman told us that, if we weren’t loading, we were to be in one of the cars.  He said that we could eat, read, play cards, go across the street to the store, even sleep, but when he stuck his head in to say there was another shipment, we’d better be there, and ready.

My assistant got a case of the runs one day, and was gone for a lonngg time.  Another batch started and was piling up on the delivery belt.  I used the same system I had the year before, only vertically.  I pushed a row against the wall, then another row in front, then lifted the next one up by one end and pushed it back.  Put another row in front and pushed some more up, then repeat, using layer two to lift layer three.  By the time he got back, I had packed the entire lot myself, and the foreman never even knew he was missing.

I was just too damned dedicated.  If there was a job to be done, I was the fool who done it, but I think it made me a better me, and helped me get jobs later in life when I badly needed one.  I feel my work ethic shone through.