Archive for April, 2011

What I Saw

On Tuesdays I usually have to make the half hour trip to Lewistown for my job.  While not far, it is interesting as I have to cross over a place called 7 mountains.  In the fully loaded box truck you find yourself standing on the gas pedal all the way up the mountain and standing on the breaks while finding a new relationship with God all the way down.  In our fully loaded cargo van down isn’t so bad, but I do find myself standing on the gas pedal on the way up.

 Some of the interesting sites I’ve seen while making this trip:

  • Some Amish folk hooking up a horse team to pull some fallen trees of a farmer’s field.
  • An ornate buggy being pulled by a horse
  • Turkey vultures lazily circling overhead
  • Red Tailed Hawks playing in the thermals
  • A ground hog standing on its hind legs beside its ridiculously large hole and an even larger mound of earth
  • An iron horse, (see above)
  • A detour sign.

I’m not overly fond of detours especially since I have found that they make you get off your route but they don’t always give great directions on how to get back on track.   I slowed down and looked for the signs.  I didn’t find one sign that said: “Brian, to get back to work go that-a-way!” not one!  If you read my previous post about Garmi the Garmin you know I don’t have a great sense of direction.  But I’ve traveled this route many times before so I didn’t have Garmi turned on.  Garmi was safe in its case in my backpack on the seat beside me and I am way to lazy to pull over and plug Garmi in.  So I kept going.  I have theory about driving when I am lost.  I go straight.  There are two reasons for this.  1. If I have to backtrack I don’t have to figure out where I turned.  2. If I go straight long enough I will eventually circle the globe and end up back where I started, and with a little luck by that time the detour will no longer be there and I can continue on as normal.

  • A wasp, on the inside of the vehicle!

A few minutes into my journey I realized I was not alone in the van.  Crawling down the inside of my window was a wasp.  I am somewhat of a jumpy kind of fellow.  Even if I know you are about to touch me, I  will flinch when you do.  Spotting the wasp out of the corner of my eye almost caused me to have a heart attack. It could have been worse, it could have been a spider!  Slowly I lowered my window.  If you are my employer I was going 55 mph, for the rest of you I was doing about 63mph.  I gave the wasp a flick and the wind flung him to the passanger side window where he sat pouting.  I closed my window and we sat in silence.  I tried to talk to him, but all he did was pout.  I called him Ant. Being a wasp I am not sure he liked the name Ant, but he didn’t complain.  I looked back over to him but he was gone. 


“Ant?”  No response. I wasn’t happy and he could be anywhere, in the back, under the dash, in my hair.  There was just no telling where he had was and we had just met so I couldn’t even guess as to where he would think to hide.  Then I saw him, on my arm just below my shoulder.  I don’t think it was a coincidence that at this same time I almost drove off the road.  But I didn’t, instead Ant and I got into an altercation.  I punched him in the face!  Ant flew back to the passenger side window and went back to pouting.  I felt a little bad about punching him in the face. 

“Hey Ant, you okay buddy?”  He seemed to be, but he was sulking.   I gave him some time alone with his thoughts and he seemed content to stay where he was.

“Listen Ant, we are about to go over Seven Mountains, it is a stressful enough ride when I’m on my own.  All I am asking is that you stay on your side of the van.” No response.  he still seemed to be pouting.  I couldn’t blame him after all I punched him in the face. “I understand you are upset, but look at this way.  At least you are not paying for gas!”  I think that made him to smile, but it was hard to tell. 

We were doing pretty good until I took the exit off the expressway into Lewistown.  Perhaps his bladder realized that we were almost at the end of the ride.  I know my bladder always does.  Anyway, Ant got antsy and starting to fly again.  “Hey Ant, your nose feeling better?  Don’t make me punch you again”  He flew slowly towards me, just kind of hovered over my steering wheel for a moment then back to ther rearview mirror and back to his perch along the passenger side window.  Finally we reached our destination and we both went on our way. 

I wonder, if And were writing this, what did he see?

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Hail of a Ride


I-99 the one up top
I-99 is the one going across the top

T’was an interesting drive home  tonight.  One moment we were enjoying the usual drive over the mountain via route I-99 , the next moment? There it was. The storm only seconds in front of us and it was bad.  There was just enough time for my wife to tell the person she was on the phone with that she had to go as we were heading into a storm.  The next second we were in the thick of it.  I was trying to concentrate on the car ahead of me who never turned his lights on so I was concentrating on his break lights.  I had no idea where we were on the road as I could not see the lines, I couldn’t even see the road.  I did know we were close to one of the hairy overpasses and I seriously didn’t want to go over the edge.  Some smart people had pulled off to the side, hazard lights flashing as were ours.  I was worried about the car behind us if I pulled over would he see?  If I pulled off would I be pulling off into somebody else who didn’t have the hazard lights on?  Yes it was that bad.  My wife suggested I try and keep up with the car ahead of us that way we had something we could see.  As I gently pressed on the gas peddle an 18 wheeler pulled up beside us.  At least we could see that.  In a moment it pulled ahead, the truck could not be going faster than the 15 or 20 mph that we were doing.  Yet like a whale vanishing between the waves it too was gone in seconds.  Again the idea was to keep up with the truck, suddenly there it was still in the passing lane but this time at a dead stop.  A car was pulled off the road at least I thought it was because all I could see were the hazards.  We pulled off right behind it, the car behind us pulled off as well. The truck was idling beside me, traffic all around was now stopped.  In the slight break in the weather, through the mist we spotted another truck this one half on the road, the cab was well into shoulder, my wife started to call 911, we could still barely see and another wave of hail was heading our way.  The truck managed to straighten up.  And then another wave hit, we watched as the hail bounced off the car.  This time traffic stopped all around.  Luck would have it that the storm passed quickly. I was suprised to see we were on the overpass pictured above.  Traffic started moving slowly, drivers and passangers all looking a little dazed, everyone moving with a little more care.  A new river was born as the water flowed down the mountain by way of the median.  As we started moving we saw how bad it could have been.  The truck that was half in the lane had swerved to avoid an accident, just ahead of him there was a minor accident between an suv and another truck.  They were all fine, we were fine.  A little shaken, A little stirred but we survived. 

As we got out of the car we heard the siren bell going off in Port Matilda.  On the weather station not only was there storm warnings there was tornado warning but we didn’t see exactly what area it was for but it couldn’t be far. 

It is good to be home!

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Matzo, mmm good! Not!

Seeing as my post on Chanukah proved to be so popular I thought it would only be right to try my hand at the story of Passover.

If you don’t know about Passover and went to a Jewish home during the first night of the holiday and rudely arrived really late missing the reading of the haggadah (the story of Exodus as told in the Torah) you may think that Passover is simply short for ‘pass-it-over’ as in: “Hey you, the one closest to the brisket do me a favour and pass it over

Chances are you will arrive before the reading of the Haggadah in which case you may think Passover is short for ‘pass-this-over’ because after the first two hours of being read to, (usually in Hebrew) you may find yourself thinking: “Can’t we just pass-this-over and get to the food already?

Passover commemorates the story of the Exodus when the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.  Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan, no silly, not the car, the first month of the ecclesiastical year and the seventh month of the civil year, on the Hebrew calendar.  More simply put, the first month of the festival year.  This holiday, the most celebrated among the Jews lasts for seven days.

The telling of this story is the responsibility of the Jews to pass onto their ‘sons’ “And thou shalt tell thy son in that day, saying: It is because of that which the LORD did for me when I came forth out of Egypt.” Exodus.13.8

The first two and the last two nights are special meals kicked off by the reading of the Haggadah. The meal ceremony starts at sundown and if you are lucky you start to eat around 9pm, during the reading of the haggadah you get to consume four glasses of wine, a crumb of bread, and a few measly bitter herbs that we dunk in salt water to remember the plight of the Jews.  This dunking is so nice, we do it twice!  Okay we do it twice to reinforce the tears shed.  But you also get to do fun stuff during the ceremony like:

 Dipping your finger in the wine 10 times and letting one drop fall to the plate for each of the 10 plagues.  One may think this is alcohol abuse but if you have ever had Manashevitz, (a kosher wine) then you might just agree that it is better on the plate then in your mouth.  

And then there is the fun game of ‘hide the Matzo’.  I have to admit I never knew the significance of the hiding of the matzo.  There are two ways to go about hiding the matzo, in some families the head of the table hides the matzo and the kids look for it at a particular point during the ceremony.  When found the kids get a little cash.  Some do the opposite the kids hide the matzo and get a little cash when the head of the table finds it.  Still makes no sense!  So, just for you my faithful readers I put in the leg work and asked Rabbi Google.  I didn’t like the first response, or the second or even the third.  The more I searched the more pissed I became.  The hiding of the matzo is a scam!  It has no religious significance, it tells no tale, and it represents nothing!  It exists because the evening is so long the powers that be decided to create this little task for the sole purpose of keeping the children awake and attentive during the ceremony!

Other than that you sit breathing in the aroma of wonderful food that sits in the other room waiting, waiting to be eaten as you slowly starve to death.  I think this is done purposely in order to truly understand what it is like to wander through the dessert for 40 years.  

I’m not going to go into all the Passover details, as there is way too much that goes on during the holiday.  But there are some interesting things you may want to know about…or the salient points according to me:

  • God helped the Israelites escape Egypt by inflicting 10 plagues upon the Egyptians before the Pharaoh would release his slaves.  The last one being that the first born son of every Egyptian would be slaughtered.  It could have been avoided if Ramsey had just listened to Moses when he said; “Let my people go” or at least when Charlton Heston said it in the movies.  My other favorite Charlton Heston line is; “Get your hand off me you damned dirty ape!”  But that’s another movie.
  • Speaking of the movie ‘The 10 Commandments’ which theatrically tells the story of the exodus. I think they need to re-make the movie and Angelina Jolie should play the role of Nefertiti. 
  • The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes saving them from the 10 plagues, hence the name ‘Passover’.
  • When the Pharaoh finally gave his word, the Israelites left so fast they didn’t even have time to wait for the bread to rise.  This was so traumatic that to this day Jews around the world have to eat Matzo (unleavened bread, see picture above) for seven consecutive days every single year.  Oy!
  • I couldn’t figure out why it took forty years to find the holy land.  Certainly somebody could have stopped and asked for directions even if the men wouldn’t I’m sure a woman would have.   Later I learned that this was a clever plan by God. You see when they reached Mt. Sinai the Jews went a little crazy and started making false idols and made a little party of it, as a punishment God made sure that generation never got to see the Promised Land.
  •  Moses led the Jews through the dessert for 40 years, yet Moses himself was not allowed to enter the holy land.  He wasn’t even allowed to cross the Jordan River!  I thought this highly unfair.  After a lot of time and research I found out that there was a moment when my people were getting really thirsty during the crossing and Moses started to doubt God’s plan and asked God; “Why? Why are you doing this, why am I leading these people through all this only to starve to death?”  God told Moses to tap the rock and in tapping the rock water appeared, but God was pissed at Moses for doubting his word and so Moses was not allowed into the promised land, the lesson here is don’t piss off God.
  • During the Passover ceremony there are four questions that the youngest male at the table is supposed to ask: 1 Why is it that on all other nights we eat both Bread and Matzo, but on this night we eat only Matzo?  2 Why is it that on other nights we eat all kinds of herbs, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs? 3 Why is it that on all other nights we dip our herbs once, but on this night we dip them twice? 4 Why is it that on all other nights we eat either reclining or sitting, but on this night we eat reclining?

You may notice that I have answered all the four questions except for one, the last one.  Could it be that I don’t know the answer?  No people, I have the internet at my disposal I have all the answers.   I didn’t answer the final question because in all my Passover’s past I never got to eat reclining.  I never even thought about it, and now I am feeling a little pissed off so figure it out yourself!  In the meantime grab your favourite pillow, relax and enjoy your freedom. 

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Some bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way.

1) One of the first times behind the ‘Perfect Magic’ counter at a magic convention I was performing an effect for a customer when two very prominent figures in magic walked up to watch, (Sid Loraine and Frank Garcia).  Suddenly I became a jumble of nerves.  Later Mr. Garcia found me sitting in the lobby and he said to me that I should never be nervous when performing in front of another magician.  “A true magician,” he said,” will always be there to help you. We are after all, a brotherhood.”  I try to remember this bit of wisdom when dealing with people in general.  I’ve got to tell you, I’m not always successful.

2) While I believe it is true that when you fall off a horse you have to get right back on, I am also old enough to realize that some horses are just not meant to be ridden.

3) Yes poop rolls downhill.  But really if you keep your eyes open you can usually step out of its way. Of course there is an equally good chance you are going to get poop in your eye.

4) Stay away from people who say they don’t like ‘drama’ in their lives as they are usually the ones with the most, and create the most drama, and can’t seem to function without it.

5) I’m more of a finesse type person.  I like to approach things slowly and delicately.  However I have learned that there is something to be said about the bull in the china shop approach.

6) I don’t like confrontation.  But you really cannot make a good omelet without breaking those eggs. 

7) The more I look for things to write about, the fewer things I find to write about.

8) Most of the time it is not about blame and it is not always about you.  So when something happens stop trying to come up with excuses as to why it is not your fault.  instead why not try to find resolution for the situation.  

9) There is an incredible amount of value in knowing when to shut your mouth and open your ears.

10) Even though Ghandi said it first, my wife, more that anyone has taught me through her actions, that you really do have to be the change you want to see in the world.

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While still dating my first wife we found ourselves in the car sitting in front of my house, (I was still living at home) when J (for lack of her real name) says to me:

J: “You must be embarrassed by me!” She said this with quite a bit of tone.

Me: “What are you talking about?”

J: “We have been going out for quite some time and you never invite me up to see your parents”

Me: “Well we are here now, let’s go up.”

I think she was expecting an argument because as I got out of the car she just sat there.  So I walked around the car and opened the door for her, she didn’t want to get out of the car.

Me: “So? What is the problem?  You sit there and out of the blue accuse me of being embarrassed of you because you have never met my folks.  You are right, you never met them but not because I am ashamed of you or them or anything. I just never thought about it. 

J: “Perhaps we shouldn’t do this tonight.”

Me: “Nope, you brought it up, now it is sounding like you just wanted to start a fight. I’m going up the stairs, you can follow or not.  Either way this conversation is not happening again.”

What I had forgotten was that it was a Friday night.  At that time we had a Friday night tradition.  Some friends of my parents would come over for a rousing night of Trivial Pursuit.  This particular night there was more than the one other couple.  I had to feel a little bad for J first she wasn’t expecting to meet my parents, she was just looking for a fight, that backfired and now she was meeting her boyfriends folks for the first time and to make it even worse she had to meet them in front of a room full of strangers.  And just to add fuel to the fire it was a room full of magicians.  I know many of you can’t fully understand the significance of a room full of magicians so you will just have to trust me when I tell you that magicians are not like ‘normal’ people. Despite ourselves a good time was had by all.  Even J had to admit it was a fun, different and interesting evening.

In retrospect J had it easy. 

Fast forward many years…

I lived in Vancouver, Denyce my current wife was living here in Central Pa and my folks live in Montreal.  Denyce and I had been having a long distance relationship for quite some time.  We were waiting for the go ahead from INS to allow me to move to the USA.  I was moving here on a Fiancé visa which means once everything is clear and INS says jump you have to move and be married within a very short period of time.  We planned as much as we could in advance but without an actual date there was a lot left in the air.  Our saving grace was we were going to be married and have the reception in our back yard.  Finally after two years of planning, paperwork, checks being written, doctors appointments, background checks, more forms being filled out INS said jump.  With help from my parents we got the loose ends in BC tied up and I started my journey to a new life.

Denyce had never met my parents or any of my family.  They had talked on the phone but never met.  We set our wedding plans in motion, picked the date and sent the official invitations.  Poor Denyce not only did she have the stress of a wedding and being married she was going to get to meet my family for the first time on her wedding day.  Denyce, over the phone expressed to my youngest sister, (Mommy Said What?) how nervous she was about meeting her family-in-laws for the first time at her own wedding.  My sister replied; don’t be silly we will all meet the day before the wedding.

But it gets worse.  Denyce had decided to invite her father to the wedding.  He lives in California and they had been estranged for at least 10yrs.  While she wanted him to show up she really didn’t think he would.  Surprise! He was driving down for the occasion. Denyce was not only meeting her future in-laws she was also meeting her father all on the day before her wedding.

Can you say stress?

I am not just typing all this out for my health, there is a lesson here.  If you ever find yourself in a similar stressful situation I highly suggest having a keg or two of beer waiting for you at the end of the rainbow.  We did and it was wonderful.

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