A Canadian Hero…

Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo
Cpl. Nathan Frank Cirillo

Rest In Peace

Artsy Fartsy Les Becker Designs Season's Greetings!

Snow. And a Sales Pitch.

Yup, That's Snow. Photo © Les Becker, November 27, 2010Taken with Nokia N97 Smartphon
Yup, That’s Snow.
Photo © Les Becker, November 27, 2010
Taken with Nokia N97 Smartphone

I got up this past Saturday morning to no hot water. Not “run out of hot water” no hot water – I mean, “no water coming out of the tap” no hot water, so… No shower for me.

Luckily, as it turns out, because I was surprised (oddly, considering I’ve lived in the Great White North all my life) to find my vehicle buried under 8 inches of snow.

It took me 20 minutes to shovel the Prissy Van off. I can’t reach the middle of the roof, either, so for all of Saturday she looked like she was wearing a frozen mohawk (now THERE’S a good name for a drink – somebody should invent that).

Thankfully, the plowman had been in during the night, so the driveway was clear. As I was wading my way around the van, brushing and scraping, I had a thought that ‘wouldn’t it be a bugger if I got stuck in that slush border surrounding me?’

And didn’t I get stuck…? Yes. Yes, I did. Note to self: don’t say this shit out loud.

Finally, after wailing to the Universe that I was only kidding, dammit, the van rolled straight out. I went squishiing in to work only 3 minutes late, with both shoes full of melting snow.

Anyway… that’s what’s new with me. Oh yeah, other than Christmas. Christmas is all over the freaking place here. Check out my 2010 Christmas card at Les Becker Designs… in fact, click on that and go buy a dozen cards from me. Your mom will love it, and right now, it’s 50% off! * – use promo code CARDFREESHIP .

And until Jan 1, 2011, you can save 25% on ALL cards at Zazzle – use Promotional Code: CARDSALE25ZZ

Better yet, come to the mall and buy a flat screen tv – I got lots left.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Raise Your Glass” – Pink

Little Bits of Stupid Real Life Video...

Gangsta Geese

This video was taken in Clergue Park almost three years ago. Those of you familiar with the visage of The Evil Hypnotist as a teen may enjoy the journey back. She was not quite 12 when she was nearly eaten by these monsters.

And yes. I sic’ed ’em on her. I make no apology. It was me or her.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Andy, You’re a Star” – The Killers

The Landlady

For Mushy – I Think We’re Wearing Her Down…

Joycie, Rex, and Ruby – 1928

Hey, a picture is a picture, right? Ruby dug this out especially for me to post here. That’s her on the right, sitting behind her brother Rex, on their tricycle – doesn’t she look like a little devil? And I’ll bet Rex dropped Joycie on her head off that trike about 30 seconds after the shutter clicked. Not that he did drop her on her head – just that he probably did. Just sayin’.

Rex is the brother of Blackberry Summer fame. Ruby hadn’t told me much about Rex up to this point, so when she presented me with this photo, saying, “There. I wonder what that Mushy fella will say to that?”, I asked her about him.

Rex was about 18 months older than Ruby. She was about three in this photo, so he’d have been a little over…. five maybe? He had asthma and it plagued him all his life. When he was eight, it almost killed him because of a Scarlet Fever vaccination.

They didn’t have a doctor in Northland, so every year or so, one would come in by train and stay a few days, checking up on people and taking care of any emergencies that might crop up while he was there. The rest of the time, Northlanders most likely were doctored up by midwives, veterinarians, and God Himself.

On the last day of an annual visit, if there were any school kids of the right age, the doctor would innoculate them all one after another, just before he jumped back on the train out of there. The kids would all be lined up, and with the midwife assisting, the doctor would stick them all, assembly-line fashion, no questions asked, no names taken. Prick, prick, prick, prick, pack up and go home.

Rex had asthma, but the doctor didn’t know that, and he didn’t bother to ask. If he had bothered, he’d never have given him the shot. Five minutes after the doctor left for the station house (which, ironically, was where Rex’s dad was, being the section foreman, after all), Rex went into convulsions. The quick-thinking midwife scooped him up and ran for the station house, where the train was just pulling in, and Rex’s dad watched the doctor save his boy in the nick of time.

When I asked Ruby what the doctor did to save him, she said she hadn’t a clue, just that it had been close. She also laid dollars to donuts that the doctor never gave another shot without asking a kid’s history first.

Rex survived, though, and grew up to work for his dad on the railroad, which kept him employed until World War II. He tried to sign on, of course, but his asthma did that idea in. He ended up working as a time-keeper for a chain-gang of POWs for the duration of the war, at a camp further up the ACR.

The POWs he was in charge of were mostly Italians. The were a friendly bunch, and the Canadian government treated them very well. They may have been called a “chain-gang”, but not a one of them wore a chain. Where would they go if they ran? Into the Northern bush to starve or freeze to death? No, they weren’t that stupid. Better off where they were, where they were housed and fed fairly comfortably, considering, and each and every one of them worked hard, Rex said.

In the evenings, some of them built tiny little ships, with masts and sails that were squished magically through the necks of whiskey bottles and glued down. The masts, sails all furled up, would be stuck to the ship with rubber cement, and laid flat on the decks with little strings attached to the tops of them. The tiny dab of rubber cement stayed flexible long enough that when the whole works went through the bottle neck, the strings could be pulled gently and the masts would stand up straight and the sails would unfurl. Rex said it was a great thing to watch. By the end of the war, he owned three ships in bottles, and had them ’til he died.

A lot of those POWs applied to stay in Canada when the war was over. We must have been pretty decent people back then, I guess. Who would choose to stay here otherwise, and freeze for six to eight months of the year?

Random Song for the Day: “Belgium or Peru” – Cuff the Duke


Snow Blind

"Snow Blind"Taken November 29, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
“Snow Blind”
Taken November 29, 2007 with Canon PowerShot A550
Short Fiction The Landlady

A Pockage from the Ult Contry

“Who Sends a Box of Sand from the Old Country?!”

Just in time for Hallowe’en, Ruby came out with a never-before-told story. It’s a little bit comedy. It’s a little bit horror. Ruby leans toward the comedy in a really big way, for some reason. Me, I think I’m still wearing a creepy-feeling expression on my face. I don’t know if it’s the story that bothers me so much, or if it’s that Ruby still finds it so damned funny. Anyway…

In honour of the Horrifying Holiday, I’m going to tell this one myself. Ruby laughed all the way through it – I swear I kept waiting for the punch-line, and when it came…. well. Let’s just say I’m gonna tell this one myself, and leave it at that. And Ruby, by the way, swears it’s a true story, and has made me promise to change the names and the type of business being run, in case relatives of long dead proprietors happen upon my blog somehow – (“I don’t trust that Internet!”) – and take offense.

So, I’ve changed their names to something nondescript, and instead of running a [EDITED BECAUSE I’M AFRAID OF MY LANDLADY] store, they have become Soup Mongers. I’ve even given them a fake accent, phonetically spelled, which you may have to read out loud to understand. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

When Mr. and Mrs. Smith came to Canada from the Old Country, they did everything they could to fit in and prosper. They did manage to prosper, after a fashion, but the “fitting in” might have only happened up to a point. Canadians being Canadian, no one would be so rude as to give the new people the impression that they were anything but exactly what they felt they were: just like everybody else.

There were oddities about them, though, that they just couldn’t see in themselves. One was the name they chose, believing their own was too unwieldy for the English palate. “Smith” was generic enough, but it didn’t once occur to them that their accent gave them away the second they spoke. They swore to speak only English in this new country, even to each other, and after a time, the Smiths managed a fair grasp of the language, but the accent, if anything, grew thicker with the passing years.

Mr. Smith was a shoemaker, by trade, but was dismayed to discover that Canadians in the ’70’s in the backwoods little berg along the highway had a penchant for wearing running shoes. Everywhere. Everybody was on some new health kick, known as “jogging”. Even the mayor jogged to work in the mornings. It soon became apparent that the Smiths could not get by repairing shoes.

“Schneakas,” Mr. Smith would snort in disgust. “Mock my vords, dey vill all haff flot feets in der ult aitches.”

Mrs. Smith never worried, however. She knew they would get by. They always had. So, she would pat her husband’s head as she set a bowl of soup in front of him, and say, “Don vorry. It vill ull vork out. It ulveys duss.”

And Mr. Smith would eat the soup, and he would feel better, because his wife made the best soup in the world. The whole town thought so, too, and the Smiths were invited to every Potluck ever held, for that very reason.

It wasn’t long before Mrs. Smith was convinced that they should turn the store-front they lived in back of into a lunch counter establishment. Mr. Smith agreed, believing he’d lucked into early retirement, little knowing that he was going to be working harder than he ever had before, waiting tables and washing dishes all day long.

The Lunch Counter, which is what they named the place (pronounced “Loonch Conter” in Smith-speak), was an instant success, and Mrs. Smith ran it like a boarding house. There was no menu; customers ate what was put in front of them, and for awhile, the repertoire didn’t change much. No one complained, though. The soups were delectable, and no one had ever eaten better anywhere else.

“Vy you don mack [UNPRONOUNCEABLE] soop?” Mr. Smith asked one day.

“Day don haff [UNPRONOUNCEABLE] spess in dis contry, das vy,” Mrs. Smith replied. She thought she would write home to the Old Country, and ask her sister Klara to send her the spices she needed. For reasons Mrs. Smith couldn’t fathom, spices she needed for her best soup recipes were not available in Canada.

Klara was happy to oblige, and once or twice a month, a small package wrapped in brown paper, and addressed in “foreign-looking” bold handwriting would be reverently passed among the staff of the post office. They would hold it by turns, sniffing at it, all wondering what the mysterious spice inside might be, and what kind of soup it would become a part of.

One day, Mr. Smith brought home a package that confused him.

“Klara is okay, you tink?” he asked his wife, setting the package on the kitchen table. Mrs. Smith looked up from stirring her soup, worried.

“Yah, I tink,” she replied. “Vy you usk me dis?”

“Look da pockage. Klara don write dis,” he said, pointing to the mailing label. He was right, Mrs. Smith agreed; that was not Klara’s familiar handwriting. A closer inspection showed that the package was addressed to Mr. Smith rather than his wife, which made it that much more confusing. There was no return address.

Mr. Smith opened the package to reveal a bland-looking spice. There was no letter, no note, no indication inside as to who might have sent it, or what it was. Just the spice.

“Vat it is?” asked Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith lifted the package, and sniffed it.

“I don know,” she said. “Don smell lack nuttin.” She dampened her finger, dipped up a bit of the spice and tasted it. She furrowed her brow.

“Vell?” said Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith couldn’t place the taste at all.

“I tink mebbe it gotta cook. Den ve find out vat is it. I mack sumtin new!” Excited, Mrs. Smith began right away. When the water in a large kettle began to boil, she tossed in some vegetables, some noodles, and a tablespoon of the mysterious spice from the Old Country. When the soup had been simmering for an hour, she tasted it.

“Vell?” asked Mr. Smith. Mrs. Smith shook her head.

“Don tast lack nuttin,” she said, disappointed. “Mebbe I gotta need more.” She scooped a half-cup of the powder into the pot and stirred it up. She let it simmer a little longer, but it still didn’t taste like anything new to her. She had Mr. Smith try it, and he agreed. It was Vegetable Soup and nothing more.

Exasperated, Mrs. Smith poured the last of the spice into the soup and stirred it around. There were people to feed, and the Potato-Leek Soup was nearly gone. This “Just Vegetable Soup” would have to do.

Her customers accepted the soup, and enjoyed it, many commenting that it was the best vegetable soup they had ever eaten.

“Dat’s ult family recipe from da Ult Contry,” Mrs. Smith said, as usual. “Big seckret.” She would never admit that it was a secret to her, as well. She would have to write to Klara and find out what the spice was, and why it didn’t taste like much of anything at all.

Over the business of the next few days, though, both Mr. and Mrs. Smith forgot about the mysterious spice completely. In fact, they didn’t think of it again until a letter arrived for Mr. Smith, addressed in the same unfamiliar handwriting as the strange package had been. He opened the envelope.

“Who rite dat?” inquired Mrs. Smith, stirring the latest concoction at the stove.

“Is from my cussin in Ult Contry,” Mr. Smith said, glancing at the bottom of the letter.

“Red to me vile I cookin,” she asked, and Mr. Smith complied, reading slowly, translating the language haltingly into English as he read.

“Hullo from hom. Ve hop you iss bote okay. Ve send sad noose dat grundmadder iss not vit uss now, but she usk uss to send loff to you bote before she die, and say she ulveys vish she go to Canada to see beautiful new contry and to see you vun last time. So ve send you ushes of grundmadder dat she be vit you vonce more.”

Now, obviously, these people didn’t feed “Grandmother Soup” to the whole town – I made up the business the “Smiths” were in, after all, along with the wicked accent, but Ruby swears on her life that these people really made soup with the ashes. The whole box. And that they didn’t find out until weeks later, when the long-delayed letter arrived, what the “spice” really was. And she laughs hysterically when she says “Grandmother Soup”.

Random Song for the Day: “I Think I’m in Love” – Beck

CANADA Photography Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Vicarious Tourism

“Millenium Fountain” at Night, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

"Millenium Fountain" at Night,
“Millenium Fountain” at Night,
Clergue Park, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario”
© Les Becker, 2006
Taken June 6, 2006, with HP PhotoSmart R607

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Sheep Go to Heaven” – Cake