Archive for September, 2010

If you have not done so, read Mouse In The House before you continue reading this.

For those of you with weak stomachs, you may not want to look at the picture that follows.  Obviously one of our crew caught the mouse…ate the mouse, and then threw it back up.  Hey at least it was not on the bed.  It was out in the open and not behind a piece of furniture where it would start to smell. 

For those of you paying attention here is what we found when we got home today


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Mouse, In The House

6:15am, I had just gotten back from walking the dog for the second time that morning. My wife informed me that she thinks there is a mouse in the room.  Four of the six cats were staring intently in one particular spot under the desk, always a sure sign that something is going on.  I took my shower and headed back to my side of the bed.  On the way Floyd attacked Gumdrop.   I nabbed Gummers as she flew passed me and put her on the bed, hoping to give her some relief from the usually laid back Floyd. “SHE HAS A MOUSE!”  says my wife.  Seeing as I was holding her from behind and she does have a ‘wide load’ I leaned over her back and sure enough she has a wiggling mouse hanging out of her mouth.

I got a good hold on her and moved her to the floor and held her while trying to figure out my next move.  Immediately the two largest cats began to circle like land sharks.  My wife suggested that I move Gummers along with her prize into the bathroom and close the door. Good idea, as it will avoid a fight over the mouse, and keep the mouse contained in the off chance that it gets away.  Less than a foot away from the door Gumdrop dropped the mouse!

When we left the house the cats were still under the bed looking for the mouse.  I’m a little afraid of what awaits us when we get home tonight.  I’m seriously hoping we don’t find mouse innards on the bed…again.

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Penn State University was having a one day sale on Fir trees. My wife and I decided to purchase three Canaan firs. Yes we live on 11 wooded acres, but that doesn’t mean the trees are all where we want them. At the very top of our driveway there are five dead trees and we decided we could cut down the dead and dying and plant new ones.

I asked, okay my wife asked my neighbour if he would help, and as always John was more than willing. So there the two of us were, chain saw in hand looking up at the trees trying to figure out how tall they were, and how to cut them so they wouldn’t fall on the power line or the well head for John’s house, or the houses themselves. After very careful geometric planning using the contours of the ground, the wedge shape we would cut out of the tree and the velocity of the wind, John and I came to the conclusion that the trees, undoubtedly would fall down. For one tree John suggested we use a rope to pull the tree in the direction we needed it to fall. Of course that would mean one of us would be pulling the tree towards us…interesting. As I was getting ready for the first cut John was trying to figure out if the term ‘widomaker’ referred to the instance where the tree kicks back taking out the logger while on the forest floor, or if the term refers to when the logger is actually in the tree and the kickback knocks the logger out of the tree. I was trying to puzzle out why it mattered, either way the probability of survival seemed pretty slim, hence the term ‘widowmaker’.

A few thoughts came to mind as the wood chips started to fly:

1) We should probably be video taping the project so we would have something to show on America’s funniest video’s.

2) I really hope the insurance was paid up.

3) This is probably not the smartest idea I’ve ever had seeing that John’s expertise on the subject came from lying on the living room sofa watching ‘Axemen’, his favourite character being some guy named ‘Swamp Dog’. My expertise came from the school of, ‘I am way to cheap to hire somebody to remove and clean up these trees’.

The trees came down and to our amazement nobody was hurt and no property was damaged. I spent the rest of the day cutting tree limbs from the trunk and reducing the trunks to manageable sizes. There are a few logs and one nest of branches still atop the driveway waiting to be cleaned up but other than that the day was a success. Unfortunately and mainly due to weather the new trees are still in their pots awaiting a permanent home in the ground. I’m pretty sure even swamp dog would have been proud.

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This should probably have been titled Street Urchins Part Four, but it is not. It is titled, So You Had a Bad Day.

Saturdays at the bank were particularly slow, as a result we had one desk person (who takes on a supervisory role) and two tellers.  Check cashing at the bank was very strict, we had to be connected to the person cashing the check or the check itself, meaning the check either had to be drawn on the bank from an account in good standing, or the person had to be a customer in good standing.  The following happened on a Saturday and started about 11:30 and lasted an agonizing 20 minutes.

 The Painter:

I have decided to leave out the colorful swearing that the Painter liberally infused in his speech.  Suffice it to say that every second word was not pleasant.  He was loud, he smelled and his breath was horrific.

The painter handed me the check he wanted cashed.  The second thing I noticed about the check was that it was not drawn on our bank; The first thing I noticed was that it was written in crayon:

 “Sir,” I asked, knowing the answer, ‘Do you happen to have an account with us?”

“No, but you have to cash this check”

 ‘Sir, I am very sorry but I cannot cash this check…”

“You have to THIS IS AMERICA”

Obviously he knew by my ever present Canadian accent that I was not from America.

“Sir, please let me explain the probl…”

“THIS IS AMERICA! You have to cash my check, I worked for it, I deserve it that money belongs to me!  You cash it right now!”

“Sir I…”

“You cash the check! Are you an idiot? What don’t you understand?”

Here I have to point out, bank tellers don’t make a lot of money, certainly not enough to tolerate abuse.

“listen to me for jus…”

“American Money!  This is legal tender it is as good as cash, now cash the check now”

“Sir, if you interrupt me again I’m calling the police, plain and simple, a check is not as good as cash, the only thing as good as cash is cash,  it is not legal tender it is a check.  Legal documents such as a check must be signed in ink not crayon.  I can’t make out the signature, the check is not from our bank, and you are not a customer here….”

“I worked for that, hard-earned money!”

“I understand, I suggest you go back to the employer and get cash, or a check drawn fro…”

“Why?  Just cash my check now”

At this point the desk person, Kim, had come up behind the teller line and was standing at the teller window next to mine, phone in hand, giving me the questioning look.

Sir, it is enough, one of two things are going to happen, you are either going to leave on your own, or I’m calling the police.”

“Why can’t you cash it? You can cash it, you have to cash it, it is the law”

“Sir, I have tried to explain why, and you keep interrupting, you can explain the law to the police when they arrive.”

At which point he glanced over at Kim who started to dial.  For some odd reason he decided to show Kim and I his middle finger, and if you ask me there was nothing special about his finger, except it had paint on it.  And with that, he left the bank.

The following Monday he walked back into the bank and waited for me to finish with my customer. As he walked over I picked up the phone.  It was Monday, Monday’s are my, ‘I don’t have any patience for crap’ days, (so are Tuesday through Friday):

“Sorry about Saturday it was a bad day and I wasn’t thinking.” 

“Yeah, we all have ’em.” I never did see him again.

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I will not forget my first encounter with David. I had been working at the bank for a precious few weeks. Out of the corner of my eye I spied him standing at the door.  David is a little over six feet tall, about two hundred pounds, he has a pocked marked face brown eyes and short greasy black hair. I know all this because as I watched him I figured I had better cement a description of him in my head so I didn’t look like an idiot in front of the police when they asked me for a description.  he seemed to be looking at us, the cameras, the windows, his toes were lined up at the threshold of the door and he stood absolutely rigid. When David finally entered the bank the lobby was almost empty. I looked around to see which of the other four tellers was going to help him. Imagine my lack of surprise when I saw that all of my co-workers had magically vanished!

Okay, so it was throw the new guy to the wolves day. David walked over to my window and proceeded to re-arrange the must have teller paraphernalia, the deposit slips had to be in a perfectly squared pile. The pile had to be two finger widths from the edge of the counter and two finger widths from the edge of the wall and yes he used his fingers to measure. The chain on the bank pen had to be just so, the pen itself had to be lined up along the deposit tickets. All of this was done repeatedly and in silence.

Finally he reached into his pocket and removed his wallet.  He held it up to his face, right up to his large nose.  He opened the money part just a fraction, just enough so he could peer in with one eye, then he closed the wallet and put it back in his pocket.  “May I help you?” He looked at me and removed his wallet again, peered inside it again.  Put it back in his pocket and re-arranged my deposit slips…again. He looked over at my coin tray,  “Do you have any Sacagawea dollars?”  understand he is looking at them in my coin tray, “Yes, looks like I have about eight dollars worth do you want them?”  Once again he reaches into his pocket and repeats the wallet ritual several times.  “May I see them?”  I spread them out on the table.  He carefully looks them over, but does not touch them. “What dates are those two?”  I turn them over so he can see the dates.  He goes back to his wallet ritual.  I look around for some help and I see the tellers have drifted back to their stations and they all had huge grins. 

He leaned in a little, looked around the bank.  “My name is David, but please don’t say my name out loud. I have an account here.  I also have a safe deposit box here.” 

“Okay, Da..sorry, Sir so what is it I can help you with today?”  Back to the wallet ritual.  “Can I have two dollar bills, four quarters and those two Sacagawea dollars? I have a five dollar bill in my wallet.”

“Of course you may, I start to gather the money while he starts his wallet ritual.  Lucky for me I adhere to bank policy, all my bills are face up and in the same direction.  I think David would have had a heart attack had I given him the bills any other way.  Finally he removes the five dollar bill.  I happen to notice it is the only bill in his wallet.  Now that it is out David has to check it repeatedly.  He held it up to the light, front and back, checked it at different angles, he checked to make sure it was indeed only one bill over and over.  He smiled almost shyly as he handed over the five and gathered his coins.  Interestingly, he didn’t even look at the money I gave him.

He leans in again, points to my coin tray, “Is that a half-dollar?” 

Now I have to admit there are times I do things or say things that I’m wishing I hadn’t done while I am still doing it.  And for some reason, perhaps nerves, perhaps a coping mechanism but looking at that half dollar with David standing in front of me I lost control.

“Yes, but I should let you know that it is a magic half dollar'”



long pause while he is thinking this through.  Over the course of the next five years there would be many such pauses during conversations between David and Myself, sometimes to the point where he had to go sit down for a few minutes while he processed information.

“Magic, how?”

I picked up the coin with one hand and placed it in the other and closed my fingers around the coin.  I looked at David and slowly opened my fingers I watched his face as I opened my fist revealing that the half dollar had changed into a quarter.  And like Braveheart from a few years ealier there was no reaction.  None.  I patiently waited him out.

“That is just a trick, right?”


“Are you sure?”


“Can I see the quarter?”  And once again I don’t know what came over me.  I picked up the coin and handed it to him.  But when he held out his hand to recieve the quarter, it vanished completely.  

“Is that also a magic trick?”


“You are sure?”


“Where is the quarter?”

“Right here” Reaching into the air with an empty hand and producing the quarter at my finger tips. “And the half dollar is right here” Tossing the quarter into my hand, closing my fingers around it, and when I open them the quarter has changed back to the original dollar coin.

I’ve done this a zillion times to people, before David and after David, but to Davids credit he earned my respect in his next move, he did something nobody had ever done before and have not done since.  He reached into his pocket and counted the change I had given him earlier.  He looked up at me and smiled.

“I like you”

“Thanks your alright yourself”

“See you next time”

Much to the relief of everybody in the bank David became my customer.  I spent five years at that bank, and I think it is David I miss the most.

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Picking up from my last post,  Vancouver, like everywhere else has its share of characters.

The Sweeper:  he was an odd dude, nobody was sure about him.  He would just stand there. Now and again he would put his hand out.  Occasionally he would get upset if you didn’t give him money,  I call him The Sweeper because I was in my office and I heard the manager of the video store ask him if he would like to earn a little cash by sweeping up the sidewalk in front of his shop.   “No” came his response, “I really don’t want to work”.  I guess begging pays.

Braveheart: I was in the shop one day cleaning the display cabinet and this guy walks in.  I knew he was schizophrenic the moment I saw him.  It was a cool cloudy day and he was wearing really dark wrap around shades, when he walked his knees hardly bent, his arms did not swing, his back ramrod straight.  Not only was he schizophrenic he was off his meds.  We had the following conversation:

Me: “Hey, how you doing?”
Him: “I am Braveheart and I’m afraid of no man”


“Well Braveheart, that is good to know.  Can I help you with anything?”

All I could think of was my cousin who works with schizophrenics I really could have used a little help. I also remember the bandage on my cousins face when one of his patients punched him in the nose.

 “What type of magic do you have?”
“Magic tricks, for entertainment.  Here let me show you.”

I showed him a trick, there was no response his face never showed any emotion. He didn’t move, when he spoke only the lower part of his face moved. It was spooky.
“Is that a trick?”
“Yes, did you like it?”
“Has anyone been bothering you?”
“No, everything is fine.”
“Well if anybody does, I am braveheart and I am afraid of no man”
“You do good magic”

Months later this guy comes into the shop he introduces himself as Steve, he looks familiar, but not.  He tells me he just came in to say hello and to say he was sorry if he scared me.  He then explained that he came in earlier in the year calling himself Braveheart!

The Con:  Once again in the magic shop. This time there were two other magicians with me.  This scruffy guy who hangs around the mall comes in. 

“Do you have a fiver for five loonies?” 

Loonies, for my non-Canadian friends are Canadian dollar coins

“Yup” as I reached for the cash register I noticed he was holding his loonies like they were poker chips so I couldn’t really see them. I held out my hand for the loonies but he refused to part with them.

Him: “Give me the fiver and I’ll give you the loonies?”

“I don’t think so!” but I was curious, so I held the fiver just in front of him where he made a grab for it, at which time I pulled the fiver back and knocked his hand that held the loonies, four loonies and a washer fell to the counter. I looked at him, scooped up his money and his washer and handed it back to him while motioning him towards the door.  The other customers began to chuckle, “Dude, look around, you are in a magic shop!  Did you actually believe that was going to work?”

Of course I can’t leave good old State College out of the picture, after all, State College is called the Happy Valley.

Table Thrower:  Early in my short lived banking nightmare career I had to go stand outside the bank at a table we had set up with giveaways for returning students.  This greasy long haired freak of nature, complete with tattoos, bad body odour, scars and more than a few needle marks comes weaving up the street and of course he is heading straight for little ole’ me.

“Hey, you have to do this shit for your job?”
“Yeah pretty much”
“Wouldn’t catch me doing this shit!”
“Ahh, well, bills to pay family to feed, gotta do what I gotta do.”
“You get paid extra for standing out here with this shit, you should you know’
“Well, it just goes along with the territory, it is not so bad.”
“I’m telling you, this is just shit, shit work, shit pay, you should quit! Lets throw this table and all this shit into the street.”
“No really its fine thanks”
“Whatever but I’m telling you its shit!”

 In the end he was right.

Benny:  I know we already had a Benny, but this guys name was Benny. Everyone in downtown State College knows about Benny.  He has an orange jumper and is harmless, but crazy.  So he walks up to the teller next to me, “Miss, do you have 4 quarters?”  Katy, being new, young and naive gives Benny the quarters. Benny thanks her and walks out of the bank.  The rest of us are busy laughing.  Katy, looking at the empty lobby with that bewildered look in her eye, “But…b…but he didn’t give me a dollar!”  Yes Katy that’s why you get the money before you give the change, especially to the staggering, swill smelling homeless guy!

 And then there was David. David and I were buddies. David is also the topic of my next installment. Street Urchins: The Saga Continues.

 Thanks for reading.

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My last post, I Don’t Take Pennies got me thinking about other ‘street urchins’ I have come across.  Not all of the following are necessarily homeless, but they qualify.  After page three of my first draft I realized that this topic was too long for one post so I’ve broken it up into three segments, (so far).  Hope you enjoy.

The corner of Van Horn & Victoria in Montreal Quebec is a cultural melting pot, often times the older Jews and Italians can be seen standing on the corner solving the worlds problems, One block is home to many Jews, another is the Vietnamese, The Greek’s live up the street, the blacks down on the other side.  There are the Indians, (from India, not native Americans)…in short, the rainbow of skin tones is always in full bloom. There are no less than four bus stops, a metro station, a school, a strip mall, magic shop, bakeries, drugstores banks, dollar stores and restaurants of all ethnic styles.  It really is a wonderful thing.  Of course with that comes the cast of characters’:

The Walrus:  My brother gave him this name.  He is a very large, very dirty, Walrusy type of fellow.  He does have a tooth, it is round and pointed and sticks out of the center of his mouth.  He was often found just standing at the corner, just standing.  For all I know he is still there, odds are however he is no longer alive. Much to my horror I walked into the Jewish Bakery and there he was behind the counter.  The woman in front of me asked him for a challah, (type of bread) and she wanted it sliced.  He reached down picked up a twist tie and put it in his mouth like it was a toothpick. He reached up with his grubby hand and took down a wonderful looking fresh Challah loaf and placed it into the slicer.  He never thought to put on gloves so I was already shuddering.  He then slid the bread off the slicer and into the plastic bag.  He then took the twist tie out of his mouth and used it to seal the bag.  As he turned around the lady left, I left and so did the two people behind me.

Benny Hill:  Benny Hill looked exactly like Benny hill and he would walk up and down the street I never heard him say a word, I never even saw him stop.  He would walk all hunched over wearing the same tan button down shirt and brown pants.  What made Benny interesting was his shadow. An elderly lady, presumably his mother would always follow him from a respectable distance.  They never spoke when I saw them, never even acknowledged one another and it took some time for me to realize that they were connected, but where ever Benny went, mom was sure to follow.  It did happen one day that I passed Benny on the street and mom was nowhere to be seen.  I waited but she never appeared.  I continued to see Benny but I never did see his mother again.  I’m thinking she must have been watching from above.

Spare Change: This lady was on a mission, she knew exactly what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to ask. “Excuse me, can I have two dollars and thirty seven cents?”  The next time would be different, “Excuse me, can I have 41 cents?” Once she stopped me on the cross walk…’Excuse me, can I have seven dollars and twelve cents?”


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I Don’t Take Pennies

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts Perfect Magic Vancouver was located up stairs in a strip mall.  At the bottom of the steps just outside the door our resident beggar always sat on the little stoop asking for change. 

It was a beautiful summer day, nice and cool, the type of cool you get after a rainstorm.  I opened my two windows as wide as I could, breathing in the crisp air. 

 Through my open window I heard the beggar speak, “Excuse me Sir, could you spare some change?”  In my mind I could see her holding out her styrofoam coffee cup jingling the few coins, her cigarette in her free hand, (she didn’t care much about the smoking ban).

Much to my surprise the voice responding voice was Shawn Farquhar’s.  Those of you who know Shawn can tell you his voice is unmistakable as is his manner of speech.  And he is a very giving person. 

I rolled my chair over to the window and peered through the slats in the blinds.  Sure enough there was Shawn digging through his pockets and asking the beggar about her day.  He spent a few minutes chatting and started towards the door that leads to the steps to the magic shop.  As he was about to open the door the beggar calls back to him.

 “Excuse me Sir, thank you very much but I don’t take pennies”.

“Excuse me?”

“Here Sir, you can have your pennies back.”

Shawn looking like a deer in the headlights


“No Sir, pennies are too much to keep track of and they weight too much so I don’t take them. Here take them back.”

  Having sorted through the change and extracting the pennies and holding them out to Shawn

“B…but you are begging for change!  What do you mean you don’t take pennies?”

Holding out her hand with money, a beggar in reverse

“I don’t take them Sir”

“Well then give it all back!”

“I’ll take the silver it is the pennies I don’t want”

“But you are begging!  Did you know 5 pennies make a nickel? Why not keep the pennies and give me back my nickel?’

“Because, I told you Sir, I don’t take pennies!”

Shawn steps through the door and up the stairs into the magic shop only to be greeted by me with tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.

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Third Times A Charm

Twice before Sequoia has managed to escape us!  The first time was from my wife who was home alone at.  That time Sequoia managed to get loose from her leash, (as my wife tried to untangle her from the banister).  That ended with a dead rooster, (not ours as we don’t have roosters).  The second time Sequoia escaped from me as I tried to untangle her from the banister.  That ended a few hours later with my wife patrolling the roads by car and me running through the woods halfway down the mountain with a hotdog in my hand calling for a dog who while started out going down the mountain, managed to circle around me and settled down on the porch of the people who owned the above mentioned rooster.

Well, I’ve heard that things happen in three’s.  I don’t believe it because shit just keeps happening and we group them into three’s, we may as well group them into 11’s because if its not one thing its another.  But here we are, several years later and yes Sequoia escaped again.  This time however was different.  She escaped while my mother-in-law was untangling her from the banister.  Okay, so it wasn’t that different I only said it was for dramatic effect.

My wife and I are watching TV, (something on Video On Demand) nice and comfortable in our recliners.  My mother-in-law is outside untangling the dog. When she went out I was getting a bad feeling and was already trying to stand up when I heard the call.  “SHE’S LOSE! SEQUOIA IS LOSE!”  As I am getting my shoes on I can hear the dog running back and forth across the deck.  My wife hears the same sound.  ‘Open the door!” my wife yells.  I dive for the door, the hope being that I can get there and coax Sequoia in before she heads off the porch and into the woods.  Success!  It was raining.  Sequoia, the princess of the husky world doesn’t overly like the rain and she makes a bee-line for the door.  I almost lunged for the collar but held back, logic being if I lunge she may step back outside.  In a matter of seconds she is in the house the door swinging closed behind her.  Crises over!  Not so, oh no, nothing in life is that easy, Sequoia and the cats never occupy the same space at the same time.  When Sequoia is in the main part of the house, the cats are locked in the bedroom.  In true husky form Sequoia is a hunter.  Anything smaller is prey.

My wife is scooping up one of the cats, two are on the kitchen table Sequoia is heading for the bedroom where there are two more.  I manage to get my hands on the wet wooly coated husky and pin her against the sofa where I can get a firm grip on her collar.  There is no cat in her mouth, now the crisis is over.

Thank god Video On Demand has a pause button!

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Life Savers

As I said on a previous post the magic shop in Vancouver was located on the second floor in a strip mall, on the other end of the mall was a large drug store.

One sunny afternoon Shawn Farquhar walks into the shop.  For those of you not into the magic scene, Shawn is a huge player in the magic field in fact in 2009 he was named the Grand Prix World Champion Of Magic, The International Brotherhood of Magicians named him the Stage Magician and Close up magician of the year, making him a two time champion in the same year.  He has also worked on the X-files, Highlander, The Fly II, he as performed on the Ellen DeGeneres show.   More importantly he is a friend and a really nice guy.  

Shawn comes into the shop one day and as usual we spent a good deal of time shooting the breeze and talking some business, we were making plans to bring in a lecturer (Daryl) to give a lecture for the local magic club.  Just before he leaves Shawn mentions that he is going to stop in the drugstore and probably perform the effect ‘lifesavers’ when he goes to pay.  I didn’t think anything of it at the time because Shawn is always performing.

‘Lifesavers’ is an effect that was designed to be totally impromptu. The magician walks into a store getting ready to pay for his purchase, checks his pockets only to find that he can’t find his wallet.  Magician looks around and spots the lifesavers, picks out one package and opens it in front of the cashier, after the first few are pulled out something can be seen protruding from the center, a few more lifesavers are removed and it becomes clear that the object in the lifesavers is a five dollar bill.  Which the magician uses to pay for his purchase” For you magicians I believe the effect can be found in Michael Weber’s ‘Life Saver’ book.

Approximately twenty minutes later a few of the employees from the drug store come into the shop carrying 4 boxes of lifesavers.  They explain to me that this guy walked into the store bought a few things but couldn’t pay.  They go on to explain, that this guy then looks at a few rolls of lifesavers picks one opens it and there is five dollar bill inside.  This ‘guy’ proceeds to explain to them that Lifesavers is having a secret promotion and they put a five dollar bill in certain rolls of lifesavers.  Not only that, this ‘guy’ told them that the rolls are marked and the guy in the magic store knows what the mark look like.

The employees, hesitant to ask me about it opened about a dozen rolls before they summed up the courage to come to me with lifesavers in hand and ask me which ones contained the five dollar bills!

 Thanks Shawn!

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