Thursday, 30 April 2015

Coffee Shops

 I’ve been going to donut shops for donuts and coffee my entire adult life. I went to donut shops when I was a teenager with the munchies after a concert or a movie. I’m sure that my mom and dad took me to donut shops every now and then for a donut with sprinkles as a child while they rethought the whole decision about parenting. I know something about donut shops.

I liked it when donut shops sold donuts, muffins, coffee, tea and soft drinks. I liked it best when donut shops sold only donuts, muffins, coffee, tea and soft drinks. You would go into the store, tell the clerk what kind of donut you wanted and what you wanted to drink. You would pay and they would put a donut on a plate and the coffee in a porcelain mug right in front of you. There would be sugar on the counter within reach of everyone sitting down, cream and serviettes. You would enjoy your break and be on your way. Time elapsed about twenty minutes from the minute you walked in till you walked out. Sometimes, we would sit talking through several cups of coffee and an hour or so would pass. No one cared. It was a civilized time.

Things started going downhill when bagels were introduced. Bagels took longer to prepare, needing to be toasted, buttered, sometimes cream cheesed and wrapped in paper. I suppose that coffee shop owners realized that their profit would go up if they gave the customers more selections to go with their coffees. Next to come were the fancy flavoured coffees and those iced coffee drinks that women find so very refreshing while they are wandering up and down the supermarket aisles in their flip flops. Soups and sandwiches! Soups and sandwiches were the next invaders and yet more time was taken to prepare them, causing line ups to order and pay. Line ups!

Who lines up for coffee? Yep, I do now. The coffee is much the same but now the people who are in line ahead of me have to look at the overhead menu to decide what they want to order. They couldn’t make up their minds while waiting in line for five minutes; it had to wait until they were talking to the counter clerk. Foolish people! Incidentally, the selection of donuts has diminished over the years. There was a time when I couldn’t decide which sugary delight I would treat myself to. Now, I am hard pressed to find anything I actually would like to eat. Oh, and they are half the size they once were! They are even selling the donut holes.

Today I was sitting there, having a coffee and wondered whether it would be cheaper to buy a box of those donut holes or to buy one of those tiny donuts. I looked up to the high tech menu boards to find the price of a donut vs. the donut holes. I waited for the menu board to scroll through all of the selections and realized that it had scrolled through and the price of donuts and the holes weren’t there. What?

I was amazed to say the least. You can find out the price of a toasted bagel with herb and garlic cream cheese, a BLT panini, egg salad sandwich, French vanilla coffee, mushroom soup, sausage breakfast sandwich, breakfast wraps and even hot potato chips, but you can’t find the price for a donut.

I suspect that it won’t be very long before I go to my favourite donut shop and find that they have done away with donuts altogether since they don’t generate enough income. I wonder if I will be around when they stop selling coffee in the coffee shops.



Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Body Odor and Farm Animals


So, here I am down in the pit trying to come up with another blog before I have to get my tired ass off to bed.
 
If this were one of those Medieval castles this would be where I would entomb older brothers, outspoken clergy, unwanted wives, poachers and any enemies that were foolish enough to have been captured alive. I would have dark cells that people are tossed into and never again see the light of day. I would have my armory down here and I guess the next level up, my men at arms would have their barracks. Behind a fireplace there would be a secret door that only I knew about where I would keep the family gold. There would be storerooms for the more mundane needs of everyday life and of course a secret escape tunnel for when the castle would inevitably be invaded. Such was life in medieval times.
 
In modern day, I have a couple of bedrooms where the kids lived in moderate seclusion. Now they double as a guest room, a sewing room, a workroom, a wannabe bathroom, a storage room and an unfinished rec room. Every now and then I tidy the basement up, but the grandkids just love to hang out down here and it is nearly impossible to keep clean. Well, impossible for me. I have good intentions this summer to get the place into a more useable state, but if I were a betting man…

The reason I am down here is that we are having some company drop in for an evening tomorrow on their way to a family get together on Vancouver Island. A stop over in Calgary was the best price for flights and we are looking forward to even a short visit. We normally have the big queen sized bed down here and the bedroom upstairs have the beds for Hurricane and Tornado. We just thought that Kathy would probably rather not spend the night in the pit. Who knows, in a past life she may have spent some time in a dungeon? Knowing her, there is a better than average chance she ended her life in chains. No one wants to relive that kind of experience.
 
So, we have spent some time tidying and getting the house to a state where it looks lived in by humans, not farm animals. The big push is on for tomorrow, but it shouldn’t be too bad. The upside to a messy house is that no one wants to come back a second time. The down side of course is that it is messy and those that you want to come back a second time won’t. 

Life is too complicated. It was much easier in the Middle Ages when people did what you wanted them to do out of fear or greed. There were horrible diseases of course; universal ignorance and everything smelled of body odor and farm animals. 
 

Come to think of it, that is what I have been smelling since I have been down here.  

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Kiss a Boy


When I was just into my teens, our family would go on vacation for two weeks in Hollywood Fla. We had never gone on a real vacation before, spending our holiday time at my grandmother’s cottage usually. I guess mom and dad had a little more discretionary income they needed to dispose of as I got older. God knows they didn’t spend it on good haircuts or stylish clothing for their youngest son.

I had been to the US before when we would visit uncles and aunts that lived in Ohio. I liked everything about the USA, they had candy bars that we didn’t, cherry cola, mini golf and archery ranges open year round. There was also my second cousin Debbie that I had a major crush on. She tolerated her cousins from Canada, the retarded giant country to the north, and we managed to have fun. At the time, I figured that the US was at least ten years ahead of Canada socially, economically and pretty much any other way you could measure. I always had a great time in Ohio.

Meanwhile, Florida was an unknown. It was the US of course but it also stayed warm year round and of course there was that ocean. I was beyond sand castles for the most part when we went down the first time and I was just a smidge too early to talk to girls. I appreciated them from afar and they looked wonderful in bathing suits. It didn’t help that I tagged along behind my older brother and the friends he made down there. He had no problem with being shy and consequently the girls tended to hover around the “cool guys” and the little brother.

I spent a lot of time wandering up and down the boardwalk, sun tanning and looking for shells. Come to think about it, it’s been fifty years and I still do the same thing when I am at a beach. I may not be advancing in this life, but I’m not slipping backwards either. There was this cafe I liked to spend time in, but I think I have written about it before, nice place.

Anyways, two days before we had to leave, I did manage to meet a girl. Looking back, I suspect that she just got fed up with my brother and his asshole friends and wanted to spend time with the quiet, shy guy walking along the beach. I fell pretty hard for Lois. She was the first girl that I ever thought about in a romantic way and the first girl to want to kiss me. Of course there were promises to write, phone calls at the time were far too expensive, and a few letters went back and forth across the border. Several months went by then a year and then fifty. I still remember Lois Alquist and can’t help but hope that life has been good to her.

I wonder if it would have made a difference if when we met there was email, facebook and Skype to make keeping in touch that much easier. Kids today must get in long distance romance situations. Is it easier for them to keep in touch or harder for them to forget that vacation fling? I guess I will have to wait until Hurricane, Tornado and Tsunami get old enough for those holiday romances. I will also have to hope they are comfortable enough with Poppa to tell me about their budding love lives.


I just know that Tsunami will kiss a boy one day and he will still be thinking about her fifty years later.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Still Nothing


This seems to be happening more and more often of late. I have no idea what to write. I don’t think I should leave it till the end of the day anymore, even though sometimes pressure can work wonders.

Nope…I got nothing. I was thinking I would tell a story, but you have much better things to do. Hmmmm…


I met a man in a donut shop; this was pre Tim Horton’s, so you can imagine how long ago it was. Anyway, this old guy walks into the shop and goes behind the counter, busying himself with getting a mug of coffee and a donut. He dropped some change on the counter and went to a table that was across from mine. The odd thing was that no one seemed to notice him when he was getting the coffee. Strange.

He was a funny little guy, with thinning white hair, a well trimmed beard and moustache, a check scarf, woollen coat and brown leather gloves. He was kind of self absorbed and it took him a while to look up and see me looking at him. He looked astonished and checked behind himself to see if anyone else was there for me to be looking at. He turned, closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate very hard before opening those eyes once again and looked directly at me.

He picked up his drink and donut, came over to my table and just sat down saying “Well, this is something new in a long life of the same. What is your name and what are you doing here?”

I told him my name and that I was lured here by the hot coffee on a cold night, much as he had been. I held out my hand expecting a hand and a name to go with it, but all I got was a stare and a frown.

“You shouldn’t be able to see me, my coffee, my donut or the bird.” he said.

“What bird?”

“Well, at least something is going right tonight!” He clapped his hands, rubbed them together and took three deep breaths. His brows furrowed and he reached a finger out towards my face.

I pushed the chair back but he just said “Not to worry, not to worry, this won’t take but a moment and you will feel better than you have in years.” Something about his voice was soothing and believable. He reached out that finger again and touched me right between my eyes.


Hmmmmm…Still have nothing, maybe tomorrow. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sleep Well David


I don’t know why, but for some reason I have been thinking about public speaking today. Perhaps it was because I saw a couple of minutes from the movie “Larry Crowne” while I was flipping through the channels and in the movie he takes a community college course on public speaking. Yeah, that would be why.

I don’t think it is natural to enjoy speaking to large groups, I suspect that most people have a natural reluctance. We are all at one time or another worried that we might make fools of ourselves if we open our mouths and something stupid comes out. That isn’t bad if there are only one or two witnesses, but for a large group of people to know you are an idiot is kind of embarrassing.
 Image result for jesus and the masses
I was quite shy as a boy, and it took me years to force the shyness below the surface and let a more outgoing personality take charge. I still think of myself as shy, but I doubt anyone else would.

I have never been very good at chatting on the telephone. There was a time when I had to call hundreds of parents to tell them news about their kids and soccer. It was very difficult at first, but eventually with repetition it just became a pain in the ass. I suppose most activities are like that, if you do them often enough and long enough you get very good at it. There are probably natural speakers that just love the spotlight, but I don’t know who they are. Perhaps teachers find it easy to talk to groups because they do it all day long. That might explain why my brother-in-law Mike seems to be so at ease when speaking at family gatherings.
 
Whenever I am in a situation that someone is speaking, I try to get a sense of their comfort level with the audience. Most of us just aren’t that comfortable being the centre of attention and there are indications such as “umms” and “ahhs”, constantly looking at notes and not looking at the audience. Sometimes you can hear a trembling in their voice or the all too studied speaker. It is tough to talk to crowds.
 Image result for stewart mclean
There are some I have seen that are very, very good. What makes them good isn’t that they know the material well, whether they look at the crowd or that they seem to be comfortable talking. That is good of course. The best speakers for me are the ones that seem to be talking to just me in a crowd of hundreds. They don’t look at me but somehow they let me know that although there are others in the building, both of us know that we are part of a private conversation. Stuart Mclean and his Vinyl CafĂ© shows are a great example. The other one I want to mention is David Sedaris. You just know that you would be good friends if only you could meet socially somehow.
 Image result for david sedaris owl
I wonder if this is how a stalker begins? The little voices in my head are telling me that I should meet David in his darkened bedroom holding a knife I found in his kitchen late at night. We could be friends if only he would stop saying “Don’t kill me; I’ll sign your book for you…”


Sleep well David.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Kenny Two Sugars


Every now and then I am reminded about just how lucky I have been in all aspects of my life. Lately I have been thinking of the wonderful people I used to work with and all of the fun we used to have.

I can’t remember the circumstances that led up to it, but one day Sue and Cecil were going back and forth teasing each other about pretty much everything. Sue is a native Canadian and this particular day Cecil asked her if her Indian name was Susy Big Bottom. Of course we all laughed for a while until Sue said “Why do you ask Cecil Little Paddle?” Yep, Sue wins…again. I can remember that day as clear as a mountain lake.

I wasn’t given an Indian name, but whenever I paint a room in the house I sign it H. Tennek. My reasoning is that if I spent the same length of time on a painting or a carving, I would sign it, so the room shouldn’t be any different. I had thought that I might do some carvings that were inspired by native art and sell them under the name of H. Tennek. Well, I did until I found out that it was illegal to impersonate an indigenous person to make a profit from art. Strange law, but probably necessary to protect a small but significant income stream for our native peoples.

Louise and I were in Tim Horton’s the other day to meet a friend. It was a weekday and Louise was getting the drinks while I went to visit. The woman at the counter who knew Louise from when she would buy coffee on the way to work was surprised to see Louise so early since she had just retired. Louise told her that it was our friend’s idea to meet so early. They laughed and then Louise brought me my coffee.

There are a lot of Tim Horton’s around, but we prefer this one because of the people who work there. They are friendly, efficient and don’t make too many mistakes with the orders. They also get to know their customers and over time develop relationships with all of us. My buddy Ken and I go quite often and usually chat a little while they are getting his medium, black two sugars and my medium black, one sugar. If he shows up without me he is asked where his friend is. The same happens to me when I am by myself. It is nice to have a relationship like that where you get your coffee.

Yesterday Louise and I were there yet again but this time I was buying. The girl at the till asked me where “two sugars” was. I told her that he was in Vancouver helping his sister-in-law helping her move. I thanked her and took my coffee and Louise’s tea to our table to do some serious people watching.


It occurred to me that if you live in this country long enough you will get an Indian name. Just ask Kenny Two Sugars.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

List


Whenever I have to leave home for any length of time, I make a list of the different electronics that I need to bring with me. Laptop, iPad, cell phone (turned off), eReader, various cameras, MP3 player and all of the various cables and chargers that the aforementioned electronics need to function. I also make a list of clothing and other absolutely necessary items that I will bring.
 Image result for travel electronics
The list of electronics is important because while I am away from home the list will keep the electronic device I forgot company until I return. I always forget something that needs electricity. This last trip I forgot my eReader which was pretty devastating because I planned a lot of reading time. Thankfully, there were a few shelves of books I could access and I found a new author or two. Still, I should have had the eReader with me for the airport and airplane times. I did have a couple or ten books on my iPad which I somehow managed to bring with me.

I should just pack an hour before bed on the day before I catch the plane. Maybe then I would remember all of the electronics and forget the over abundance of clothing I took just in case Hawaii suffered a freak cold snap. At least if I forgot something I could blame it on last minute packing.

I was watching a show on TV and one of the characters had a “Go bag”. It had everything needed within to get out of the country and manage to survive a few days in a foreign country where ever it may be. I suppose it would have a passport, money, change of clothing, eReader, Laptop, international cell phone, cables, Ninja throwing stars, lock picks, Walther PPK, laser watch and some after shave that women can’t resist. I need a “Go bag”!
 
I probably could do with a scaled down “go bag”, but the premise is one I can get behind. When Louise says to me that we should go somewhere, it would be so cool to reach behind the sofa and pull out my “Go bag” and say “Let’s go baby!” A plus would be that I could probably just take the bag carry on and not have to check it at all. I’m sure the security people would have problems with the Ninja stuff, laser watch, lock picks and the James Bond gun. I would probably have to leave that stuff at home in a smaller “Go nowhere bag” that I would have to hide whenever Hurricane and Tornado came over.

Speaking of Tornado, it’s his fifth birthday today. We didn’t get to see him but he has been on my mind all day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY little guy! We got you something nice and your birthday card has someone farting on it. Yep, hehehehehehe!
 
I think I will put together a go bag of sorts for the next time I need to leave home. I have some spare cables and chargers, a spare eReader and I should be able to find a pair of underwear some socks and perhaps some light weigh, fast drying pants and shirts. I just need to make a list of what I will need. Hey, I have a list!

Now…where did I put that list????



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Grass and Seed Keys


Just a quick one today if that is alright with you.

I have always loved going for walks in the woods. I’ve loved going for walks in nature of any kind, be it woods, mountains or fields. There is something primal when you get into a wilderness of sorts. Most cities have overgrown areas that are easy to get to and provide that important natural high. Perhaps it has something to do with where we all came from and is somehow wired into our DNA. I just know that it is comforting and relaxing to be out in the wild. Not in the dark, that’s another story entirely.

Today, I had to tend my own little bit of nature. I needed to cut parts of it (still pretty early here), rake all of those irritating tree seed  thingies from the Ash tree that seem to have choked my front lawn and I used the last of my fertilizer. I figured that by cutting it and following it up with fertilizer all of the blades would have a level playing field for growth. I have never been a fan of raking the lawn and the only reason I did it today was to get rid of the bulk of those flying seed keys. Most people around here (the ones that care) rake their lawns to rid it of dead grass that accumulated over the past year. I think its called thatch.
I don’t remember my dad ever raking his lawn and it grew all too well. I have a vague memory of his burning the lawn in the early spring, but that might have been at the cottage. Incidentally, burning the dead grass away is wonderful for new growth. Personally, I don’t see a big difference between raked yards and unraked yards and for many years I kept track of the lawns on my letter carrier walk. The only thing it does is to make the people raking the lawn feel that they have made a difference. They haven’t, but it makes them feel good.
 

I think it would be pretty cool just to let all of the lawns go back to nature, patches of grass here and there, a cluster of dandelions over there, some weathered wood in the corner covered in moss, a small pile of leaves decomposing in a corner and the odd beautiful little wildflower dropped there by some passing bird. That would be a perfect yard, and no cutting, raking or fertilizing. 
Maybe in another life…

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Friends


I have been blessed with friends during my life. Never too many (can you have too many) but as many as I can handle.

It seems that for me I can only handle two or three close friends at a time. I don’t know why, I just have never had more than a couple of really good, close friends at any one time. I have had lots of friends I wish I was closer with, but more often than not, distance played a role in keeping the numbers down. I have friends who mean a lot to me and they have been close for decades, it is just that I hardly ever see them. Every year I make a pact with myself to keep in touch with these special people and every year I just don’t. I am not a bad person, just one that lacks drive.

My first friend that I remember lived right next door to me and we quite literally grew up together. We have been close on and off throughout the years and currently we are Christmas Card friends. Whenever we do get together it is like pulling on an old sweater, warm and comfortable. I met a lot of friends while I was in school and still count many of those people as friends to this day. I suspect that if I had been less self aware and more open to others, I would have even more friends from that era.

When school was over, I made friends from work and for the most part got on very well with all of the people. Some more than others of course, but by this time not only was it important that I liked the friends, but Louise had to like them as well. Lucky for me, our taste in friends run along the same lines. Again, there were just a couple of friends at a time, not planned, just the way things worked out.

Since we had kids, pretty much all of my friends come from meeting parents of their friends or parents of kids that were in the same activities. Louise and I did a lot of volunteering over the years for those activities and have made and kept many of those friends. However, kids grow up and the potential friend pool dries up as well. I don’t get involved like I used to and it is rare that I make any new friends. Lots of acquaintances, but few real friends.

In the past month, we met a fellow and his wife while we were in Hawaii that were good material for being a friend. Well, they would be if they lived in the same country as we do. I suppose I should keep in touch, it isn’t that hard today with all the different forms of instantaneous communication we have available. Maybe I will.

Last week, while dropping Tornado off at play school, Louise and I met a couple that were dropping their granddaughter off at the same playschool. We started a conversation in the parking lot and visited for 45 minutes. Louise and this fellow were both from the same small town in Saskatchewan and both lived in Windsor. He was even friends with Louise’s brother George. Small world! Two days later we talked again and arranged to meet on the following Monday after dropping the kids off and have coffee at Tim’s.

Unfortunately, when we dropped Tornado off our new potential friends were no shows. I suppose that there could have been a sick kid, change in travel plans, death or illness in the family or at our age, they just may have forgotten the coffee date. We went and had coffee anyways, but I kept looking out the window kind of hoping that they would drive up just a little late. The coffee in the cup kept getting lower and lower as the time ticked away, until finally I had to admit that they weren’t coming and I had finished my coffee. Oh well…

I regret not meeting them and I suppose this is what it feels like to be stood up. It’s my first and hopefully the last time I have my friend hopes dashed and ride this emotional roller coaster; by myself…



Monday, 20 April 2015

Changing Times


Buster and I were walking past the high school today just around the time class was about to start. Hundreds of kids were getting off of city buses, parking their cars, being dropped off by over-protective parents and the odd few were actually walking to school. How the kids get to school is the subject of another blog.

I always smile when I see these kids going about their, oh so important lives, laughing and yelling obscenities at the top of their voices. Good times. Right now there is nothing more important for them than to have a good time. There will be plenty of time in the near future for them to worry about jobs, car payments, love, children and how to fix that leaky faucet. It is a wonderful time for them, but there are a lot that can’t see the joy that surrounds them.

I remember my high school days fondly, and I suppose there are a few things I would do a little differently knowing what I know now. For the most part however, life has progressed pretty smoothly with only minor bumps and detours along the way. When we were walking this morning, I wondered just how much I had changed over the years. I don’t think I have, but when I look at my friends from those days and how they have changed, I have to assume I also have morphed into a different creature.

Some people from those days who were free thinking, liberal minded hippies are now staunch conservative thinkers. They worry more about where the money is coming from instead of how to feed the people and find places to live for the homeless. Perhaps they are right, and I just haven’t grown into an adult yet. I actually thought that my generation would change the world. We did in a way, but the changes seem to be superficial and we just replaced one group of fat cats with another, hipper group of fat cats.

I wish that I could talk to teen aged Ken to see what it was that he really believed in. Did he really believe or was he just trying to fit in? Probably a little of both. I guess what I really would like to know is if that young guy would approve of the man that he becomes. There are some dreams that slipped through the cracks, but on the whole he had a happy life and now has three wonderful grand children that make the world glow with youthful energy.


I just hope that those near and dear to me can say the same when they put more than a few years on their lives.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Disruptive Influence


I can remember the thrill it was as a little boy to shuffle across the wall to wall broadloom carpet in my slippers and when I got to the table a spark would jump from my finger. I had no idea that first time it happened what was going on. The subsequent three or four thousand times I was well aware what would happen and I suppose that I learned something of static electricity. Of course, my older brother did his learning by shocking me when I least expected it.
Image result for carpet static electricity 
Whenever we had balloons in the house we would rub them on our heads and then stick them to pretty much any surface they would stick to. By the end of the day the walls were covered, we were covered and there were bits and pieces of balloon all over the house. “But Mom…it’s science!”
 Image result for balloon static electricity
I can remember a scout leader teaching us how to save ourselves if we were ever lost in the woods. Well, we could save ourselves if we managed to have a sewing needle, a piece of cork, a plate to hold water (very still), and a magnet. By stroking the needle against the magnet it becomes magnetized and then rest the needle on the cork and it will point out magnetic north. Of course this assumes that you actually know where you came from initially. Personally, I think it would be far easier to carry a compass than all of that other stuff that would make a poor compass at best. That might be why I was kicked out of scouts for being a disruptive influence. Many years later I was almost kicked out as a scout leader for the same reason strangely enough.
 Image result for pin and cork compass
In school we learned how to make an electro-magnet by wrapping a wire around a nail and then hooking the ends of the wire to battery terminals. When the teacher told us we were going to make an electro-magnet I had visions of those huge things that wrecking yards have that pick up cars and toss them around like they didn’t weigh a thing. My nail and battery could barely lift an iron filing and really struggled to pick up a coin. Perhaps if I had a bigger battery…
 
Probably one of the coolest weird things you could do with electricity is lighting a bulb with a potato. You needed two pieces of wire, a potato of course, a very small bulb and a couple of nails to shove into the potato. When I first heard this, I thought to myself “BULLSHIT!!!” It turns out that it actually works amazingly enough. It isn’t powerful enough to do anything with, but the bulb lights up and is powered with a potato. Crazy.
 Image result for potato electricity
I thought the potato thing was pretty incredible and would be impossible to top. As usual, I was wrong. Today I performed an experiment that I saw on Facebook. Most things you see on facebook won’t work as advertised and I expect to be disappointed. This entry today said that with just a paperclip, a small piece of paper and two coins I could recharge a cell phone. Hmmmmm… I collected everything together and did what the video told me to do and my dead cell phone started to charge! I know, crazy!

I didn’t wait to see if it would actually charge the phone enough to make a call or send a text, but if I am ever in a situation where I am no where near a power outlet, need to make a call, and in my pocket I just happen to have a paperclip, paper and two coins, I will give it a go. It would be just my luck that there would be no cell service.


Mind you, just like when I was in scouts all of those years ago, it would be much easier to keep the phone charged when I am going into the wilderness. I guess I am still a disruptive influence.