Canadian Tire – They Should Call It Canadian Everything

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 12th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yesterday, Papua New Guinea disappeared from the planet as far as the internet is concerned. No email, no contact with anything inside PNG. We can thank Telikom’s one-gateway (Telikom’s, of course) policy for that. When are people going to get angry enough to force the fat-cats to fix these problems?

Enough of that. We’re off to Toronto today. I just have time for a quickie.

A visit to Canada couldn’t be called significant without a stroll around a big Canadian Tire store. Apparently, they did, at the early stages, pretty much sell tires. Forget that.

 Canadian Tire

I’ve been into some amazing stores, but this one takes the cake. In one visit I got parts for my boat, a beard trimmer (very nice one for less than thirty bucks), glue to repair my ageing hiking boots that I refuse to replace, a bilge pump, aluminium polish, wax, toothbrushes, and a bag full of other items too numerous to list.

I only wish we had a Canadian Tire store in Madang.

O Canada – An Homage in Skin

Posted in Tattoos on May 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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After the frenzy of anxious activity and fretfulness of a month spent wrapping up affairs in the USA as tightly as we might, coming to Canada has mesmerized me into a blissful state of leisure and an aimless pursuit of pleasure, amusements, and relaxation.

On pondering this amazing transformation, it came to me as in a vision: I need to do something radical to celebrate this passage. Something like a big exclamation point at the end of a chapter! As frequently results when this brain-gut connection begins to emit tiny purple sparks from my fingertips and toes, my reaction was: GET A TAT!

My bemused but loving daughter-in-law, Tamara, was easily persuaded to provide her always excellent artistic talent to promote my lunacy. It is so very sweet – the way she humors me. Her tasteful designs have already permanently illuminated three locations on my leathery old frame.

As with all of my tattoos, this one tangles many meanings and levels of emotion into a concise dermatological statement. As I am fond of saying, “My body is my journal.”

Probably the most significant impetus is the recent onset of a spectacular manifestation of Canadaphilia.

Though I’ve always been distantly intrigued by the vast unknown to the north – mysterious coins in a handful of change, the engrossing radio adventures of the courageous and oh-so-ethical Sergeant Preston of the Yukon and his faithful, longsuffering sled dog – “On, King! On, you huskies!”, Canada has, nonetheless, been little visited my me.

I suppose, though I know better, I have always been influenced by the sad American view of Canada as, “Just like America, only with strange money and colder.”

Hmmm . . . raving again. Let’s get on with it.

I asked Tamara for, “Something that screams CANADA, but in a sweet, mellow contralto.” (Okay, that’s not what I said, but she got the idea anyway.) She presented me with three delightful maple leaf designs in a Japanese water colour style.

Here’s my tattoo artist (Steve from Wylde Tattoos in Hamilton) with the original artwork. Eunie’s remark on meeting Steve was, “That’s just the guy who should do it.”

Steve from Wylde Tattoos in Hamilton, Ontario

Here’s Steve picking out the colours (Note the Tim Hortons coffee cup):

Selecting the colours for my tattoo

Here’s the finished outline:

The finished outline

LOOK AWAY NOW, IF YOU’RE SQUEAMISH ABOUT TATTOOS. Now the colours are applied.

Applying the colours to the Maple Leaf tattoo

And here’s the finished piece the next day:

The finished Maple Leaf tattoo

I’m calling it O Canada

Thank you, Tamara, for your love and forbearance. And, thank you, Canada, for restoring me. Cold as I am on the outside, my heart is once again warm and serene.

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Coote’s Paradise – Sorting Out the Fish

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 9th, 2008 by MadDog
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Tamara’s first response to my challenge to show me ‘interesting and quirky’ spots in and around Hamilton supplied me with a pleasant and informative afternoon.

A visit to Coote’s Paradise on a chilly, but pleasant spring afternoon appealed to my piscophilic nature. It seems that, though there are no truly ‘good’ or ‘bad’ fish, there are fish that end up in places where they are not welcome (I’ve sometimes had that eerie feeling at parties – do I really belong here?).

So, how does one humanely and efficiently eject unwanted species from the party? It seems that there are ‘fish bouncers’ that handle the task. It’s a lot of work.

Rather than blather, I’ll let the photos tell the tale.

Here’s the sign greeting visitors to the “Cootes Paradise Fishway” (again, with the missing aphstrophe – tsk, tsk). Click on the photo to get a bigger version so that you can read the text on the sign. It will explain what it’s all about:

Coote’s Paradise Wecome Sign

A series of big baskets are underneath the causeway. Fish get into them when going into the marshy breeding area and can’t proceed onward. Each basket is lifted twice a day and the fish are unceremoniously dumped into a big holding tank. You can see them gushing out of the little door:

 Baskets are raised and the fish gush into the holding tank

Once in the holding tank, the fish sorters guide each fish either into the marsh, where they can make merry with each other as they please or, if they are party poopers, be sloshed down the chute back from whence they came. Nice fish to the left. Unsavory characters to the right:

Fish are sorted - invitees to the left - crashers to the right

The nice fish, on their way to the fishy orgy in the marsh, are first checked for health, weight, and other characteristics. I presume that they also keep records of the numbers of different species returning to breed. Here are the nice young ladies who do the sorting, recording, and entertaining between baskets:

The fish bouncers

Thanks, Tamara. I can hardly wait for the Irish Pub on Musician’s Night.

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Donuts to Die For? – Famous, Certainly – Delicious, well . . .

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2008 by MadDog
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Founded in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1964 Tim Hortons could fairly be characterized as a Canadian icon. In mid-2007 there were 2,733 outlets in Canada alone. That was about twice as many as McDonald’s, making Tim Hortons Canada’s largest fast-food chain. The first store is located only a few blocks from my son’s house in Hamilton. Here is the plaque mounted on the front of the store:

Plaque at Tim Hortons #1

Tim Horton was a very famous ice hockey (is there any other kind in Canada?) player between 1950 to about 1968. There’s far too much material to cover here, so check the link. (Sorry, competitive sports of any kind simply bore me – I prefer to compete with myself. When I get tired, I can just quit and declare myself the winner. Yea! Fifty pushups – I’m the champ!) You can read about the hockey stuff on your own time.

What interests me, in a Homer-like way, is the donut shop. Tim Hortons is certainly ubiquitous around Hamilton and, presumably, around the whole of inhabited Canada. Here in Hamilton, near the house we’re staying in, I noticed, at one intersection, a Tim Hortons on three of the four corners. Is this possible? Can you make money like that? I guess so. Here’s a photo of Store #1:

 Tim Hortons Store #1

A guy who heard us mention that it was our first time at Tim Hortons said (I think with pride), “This is my third time today.” It was not yet noon. Does this guy have a job?

Okay, let’s get to the donuts. Frankly, I’ve had much better. I’d give them a seven on a one to ten scale. Please, Canadians, do not have me drawn and quartered. It’s just one man’s opinion. It wouldn’t be fair to compare Tim Hortons donuts to the royalty of the donut kingdom found at Long’s Bakery off of West 16th Street in Indianapolis. Long’s bakes theirs in small batches. With donuts, freshness counts. So does special ingredients and baking techniques. Sorry to say, Tim Hortons are definitely good donuts, but nowhere near the best.

And now, completely off the point, what’s the deal with leaving out the apostrophe for possessive nouns? Shouldn’t it be Tim Horton’s not Tim Hortons. I find this very disturbing. Even McDonald’s, which gets just about everything else wrong, gets this one right. (Although, in McDonald’s defense, I should mention that, in Austria, you can get a beer with your Big Mac. It’s a taste treat that you can live without, believe me.)

And now, as a protective measure, I should mention to my Canadian friends that this is in no way a character assassination attempt on that fine country. I have the greatest admiration for Canada, an excellent, upstanding nation that seeks constantly and earnestly to bother nobody. My latest tattoo (more on that later) will attest to my esteem for my son’s adopted home.

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On the Road – Hamilton, Ontario

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2008 by MadDog
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Things are a little hectic today – no time for frivolity.

Our son, Hans, his wife, Tamara, and our granddaughters, Philippa Jayne (Pippa) and Audrey Rose live in Hamilton.

Hamilton is a steel town and smells like it. The area below the Niagara Escarpment is the primary industrial area. More on that later.

Here’s a panoramic view of Hamilton from the top of the escarpment:

Hamilton, Ontario

I’ve exacted promises from Hans and Tamara to show me the most esoteric and amusing spots in Hamilton, so I will, hopefully, have material with which to amuse you.

Enough for today.

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Things Men Should Never Say . . .

Posted in Humor on May 6th, 2008 by MadDog
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Words a husband should never, NEVER utter to his wife when hiring a car:

“The insurance is just a rip-off. It’s how they make their profit.”

“I’ve hardly scratched a car in forty years. I don’t need the insurance.”

“No, we’re NOT going to get the damage waiver. [sarcastically] I don’t intend to damage the car.”

“I know what I’m doing. Please just let me get on with it.”

These are the sad, sad phrases emitted from the mouth of a man setting himself up for unreserved humiliation.

When we arrived at [city name withheld] to rent a car from [car hire company name withheld] for a month, I didn’t even want to know how much it would cost to ‘load it up’ with bulletproof insurance. I thought to myself, “That’s for the galahs in Trains, Planes & Automobiles.” Experience reminded me that it would nearly double the cost. And then, I uttered that fatal word over and over as the litany of protective options was delivered: no, no, no, no [skeptical eyebrow lift from hire agent], NO.

Yes, patient reader, you’re way ahead of me. Behold the grisly result of my folly:

Sideswiping a hire car - not recommended

Had I made the investment, I could have returned the car with a polite, “Sorry.”

To my great good fortune, it turns out that the husband of my niece Bethany is a whiz-bang panel beater (that’s a body & paint man for Yanks). Zack was agreeable to repairing the car in his garage. He called his brother, Eric, to come down from Chicago to do the painting. The fellows did an excellent job of making the damage disappear despite a little problem with the paint caused by the wildly uncontrollable conditions of an Illinois Spring.

Here’s Eric putting the final polish to the job:

 Polishing out the horrid mistake

I must give kudos to my longsuffering wife for not loading it onto me. She displayed remarkable restraint. I kept waiting for the chagrin to be heaped upon my head, but it was kept in check. I may have been saved partially by what I promoted as ‘extenuating circumstances’.

Virtually everything we still owned in Indiana except the Harley (you read about that one, I suppose) was crammed in every tiny crevice of the interior of the car. The rear seats were flopped forward and the front seats were pushed up as near the dash as their rails would allow. I honestly do not believe one could have found room for a dead cat.

Eunie could wedge herself into the driver’s seat and operate the car safely with her diminutive arms and legs. On the day I was forced to drive the car alone for a while, all the Army vernacular came back to me in a verbal storm. I had the wheel up against my chest and my knees spread wide to accommodate it. Only the tips of my boots could operate the throttle and brake. I made a sharp turn, misjudged fatally, jumped the curb, and scraped a green painted iron pole (useless buggar – why was it there anyway?) down the side of the car from the front wheel to the rear. It was a horrifying crunch.

Family played a huge part in our whirlwind success in Illinois bidding adieu to America as far as worldly possessions are concerned. Without Jim and Mary we could not have possibly finished the packing in time to catch our flights to Canada. Without Zack and Eric (and Bethany, who, I’m sure ‘suggested’ that Zack could bail us out), we could have faced an incalculable repair bill from the hire agency which would have had us literally at its mercy. Hire agencies are not known for their mercy.

Sometimes family is a very good thing to have.

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My Crazy Woman

Posted in Humor on May 5th, 2008 by MadDog
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What sort of kid was my wife? It seems not much different than she is now, in many ways. Cute, adventurous, mischievous – all that, certainly. Daring? Sometimes.

It seems that Eunie was the virtual forerunner of the Mythbusters. She told me the story of how, at about eight years old, she wondered if it were true that one’s tongue might stick to a freezing object. The bright but bored little girl simply had to test the validity of the thesis. The obvious method was by experimentation. If you lived in a cold climate as a child, you probably tried it also.

Surprisingly, the schoolhouse is still standing. Today it is a video production studio. I asked her to show me the staircase where she performed her research. We found it. She said that, except for some minor details, it looks the same as it did when she was in the third grade. I was, of course, compelled to snap a photo:

Eunie’s staircase

When I look at this picture, I can see my wife as precocious child, her little pink tongue stuck fast to the cold iron railing, frantically calculating her next move. She said her tongue was sore for days afterward.

I love my crazy woman.

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