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Archive for the ‘Small town life’ Category

We needed a new roof.  We chose a black metal maintenance free roof that is guaranteed for life.  But should you try to call us on the telephonic equipment don’t be surprised if we don’t answer. We only have cell phones and the metal roof blocks the cell signal in certain spots within our house.  Not to worry though, you call always call Millheim Pa ask the Amish person who picks up the phone to speak to Henry, then tell Henry you are trying to reach the guy who lives across the street from Amy, the one with the new lawn mower and the shiny black metal roof, who is making a racket with his working chipper shredder.

Okay, since you asked so nicely I will explain.

Millheim Pa sports a large Amish community has a population of 907 people consisting 322 families. Millheim also happens to be located 45 minutes away from our home.  We were in Millheim because my wife works with Jamie, Jamie’s husband, Nick is a general contractor who owns his own contracting business Nickolas Klaue Construction.  We were hiring Nick to put on our new roof. For you locals, if you are working on a project I’d give Nick a call.  His rates are reasonable.  He does good work, he was done in the time he said it would take and when done he cleaned up everything.  We could not be more satisfied.  My wife started talking to Nick about our two lawn mowers that don’t work.  Nick suggested that we visit Millheim small engine repair because even if the mowers are not worth fixing, Henry the owner would probably take them as a trade.  My wife and I loaded up the ole’ SUV with the incredibly heavy chipper shredder that I have not been able to start in two years and went off in search of Henry and his Millheim Small Engine Repair.  We spoke to Henry and told him Nick sent us.  We discussed the mower situation and he said bring them on down and we can work something out, after all we are friends with Nick.

Two weeks later we went to pick up our chipper shredder.  Rather than bring the mowers down we decided to take pictures.  From the pictures alone Henry offered us a deal.

While filling out paper work the woman who works for Henry noticed our address and says to my wife.  “Do you know Amy?”  To which my wife replied yes we do, Amy lives across the street from us and is the sister to our neighbor John with whom we are good friends.  The woman explained that she knows Amy and her husband quite well but does not know John, but knows of John because Linda’s daughter is currently dating John.  “Really” we said, we know John is dating but we didn’t know who, nor do we know this Linda.  The woman explained that she knows Linda well but not Linda’s daughter and it is Linda X.  The name to me sounds familiar.   Suddenly I perk up, I know a Dean X we work together or at least in the same company, just different departments.  Dean also lives on our street.  Yes the woman explained, Dean is Linda’s son so John is dating Dean’s sister.

So 45 minutes from home, a complete stranger is informing us of the socio-geographic landscape of our street.  Nothing like life in small town, but wait my big city friends, the saga continues.

The woman helping us with the paper work notices that my wife works at Penn State.  “Oh, I used to work there” she says, “where do you work at Penn State?”  My wife starts to explain and the woman interrupts my wife because the woman used to work at the same lab my wife works!  And their time over lapped each other!

So we ended up supporting two local businesses, learning the gossip on our street, a working chipper shredder, a new riding mower, and a new roof.

Do you remember Nick?  Yeah, well after all was said and done Nick purchased one of our non-working mowers from Henry.  It is the circle of life I’m tellin’ you.  THE CIRCLE…

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The air conditioner in our car doesn’t work.  That is the good news.  The bad news is we can’t get it fixed at the moment because the air conditioner in our house isn’t working and that takes priority.  We have central air so we know it is going to be costly and we were not disappointed.  The first time it broke down it cost us around three hundred dollars to get it up and running. This time we got a quote of twelve hundred dollars.  It has been a day or so since we got the quote and my heart is almost back to its regular rhythm.  After doing a little research we found that it is in our best interest to bite the bullet spend a little more money and get a new one, a better one because the one the contractor originally put in is pretty much the bottom of the barrel.  This time we are smarter.  My beautiful wife got on the phone and has managed to set up some appointments with different companies and contractors to come out take a look and get an estimate.

But the above paragraph is not what this post is about.  This post is about small town living.  You may be asking yourself, “What does all this have to do with life in a small town?”  I am so glad you asked. 

The company I work for is moving and we have been setting up the new warehouse.   My wife was picking me up from the new location and we were exploring the area and we saw a company that deals with air conditioners.  We found out that they are strictly wholesale, but the owner gave us the name of a contractor.  In further discussion with him we found out this was the contractor who installed the air and heat in our new building at work.  And I know our facilities supervisor really liked his work.  So my wife added him to the list of people to talk too.

This contractor shares the last name of Norma, a woman I used to work with.  While Norma’s last name is very common in these parts I jokingly said to my wife that maybe they are cousins and we could get a discount of some sort.  My wife called him up and really liked this contractor.  He is related to one of our neighbours who he recently did some work for and he just installed a unit for somebody who lives just down the street from us.   So my wife asked him about Norma.  Not only are they cousins, Norma’s daughter just married this guys best friend.   

There is nothing like living in a small town. And who knows, perhaps my next entry will be from an air conditioned house.

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Back in the day (1979 – 1998) my father hosted an annual magic convention with Vim Vermeys.  One of the features that we always looked forward to was the after party. This party was always at our house and it was a time when the dealers, performers and lecturers could sit back and enjoy each other’s company without the magic monkey looming over our shoulders

The only rule was there was absolutely no magic at these parties.  I remember one time when my father and Dick Zimmerman of magic and Ragtime fame sat at the piano while a few of the magicians and their wives sang along.  The parties always amazed me, so many egos, so many personalities all crammed into such a small place and everyone had a great time.  To me, these parties seemed to be reminiscent of scenes played out in movies based around the 1920’s. Our house was the speakeasy only with no gangsters, flappers, illegal liquor, cigarettes, prostitution, the only contraband was magic.  Okay not exactly a party like the roaring 20’s but you gets the idea.

There was one magician, Bob Little from Hat borough Pa who attended all 19 conventions in the Magie Montreal series.  Bob was a magic dealer, a lecturer, and a performer.  

Jump ahead many years.

 When I first arrived in Pennsylvania I got together with a few of the local magicians and started a magic club.  As the club took root my wife and I decided to throw a party and invite the magicians along with some other more civilized guests.  

The party which was a BBQ at our house quickly snowballed out of control.  My wife and I learned that not only were the local magicians attending, so were the Penn State Performers which included magicians, jugglers and clowns.  

 I used to work at a bank downtown,  I happen to be sitting in the lunchroom of the bank looking down the street and much to my disbelief I saw Bob Little walking down the road.  I had not seen him since the last convention, a good 5 years earlier.  I ran out of the bank and caught up with Bob.

Me: “Bob, remember me?”

He looked at me for a moment and said;

“Phil’s son?”

“Yes, how are you doing?”

“Aren’t you in the music business in Montreal?”

“No, I’m the other son”

“Don’t you have a magic shop in British Columbia?”

“I did, but I don’t anymore. I live here now.”

“Here? As in Pennsylvania?”

“Yup, I met a woman who attended Penn State and works for the university.  We got married and now I live up in the mountains.”

Bob at this point looked very confused but we chatted for a bit.  I found out he was in State College because as an alumni of Penn State he was being given some sort of an award and was asked to make a speech.  Also there was some party the next night that the magicians were taking him too.

“Ahh, that would probably be my party” Again he looked a little confused.  I shrugged and went back to work.

Saturday afternoon guests began to arrive.  There were jugglers juggling, magicians showing each other tricks, people were talking eating and being very noisy.  At one point I slipped inside to take a breather, and there was Bob all alone sitting on the couch. He looked at me a little confused by my presence.  I knew he was still trying to process me being here and not in Canada.   

Bob; “This is a really nice place”

“Thanks”

“No really it is so nice up here.  I went for a walk in the woods the path is covered in moss and is shaded by trees you should really check it out.  I was told the owners have 11 acres.  Do you know who the owners are? “

“Bob, remember yesterday when I said I lived in the mountains and that the party you were invited to was mine?  Well here we are my party, my house.”

We sat for a moment, looking through the window two of the jugglers were juggling torches, magicians were in little groups showing one another card tricks,  a fire was going in the fire pit, the grill was fired up and spewing hamburgers and hotdogs.

“You know” Bob said, “The last time I was at a party that was anything close to this was at your father’s convention I miss those days”

As I sit back during this holiday season and think about all the twists and turns my life has taken me I find myself wondering where it all went, when did I do all that stuff? Where has the time gone?  How can my friends have grown children? How can my little sister have two kids? Where did it go? When did it all happen?  I don’t understand the difference between a 3G and a 4G network!  Did an inner city Jewish Canadian really go get a live Christmas tree from a tree farm in Central Pa?  Was it really 25 years ago that my best friend and I were riding our bikes through the town of Hampstead?  Do I seriously get out the blow torch to fix the copper pipes in my own home? Did my wife seriously buy me the greatest winter boots and gloves so I could be comfortable while I am out SNOWBLOWING my driveway?  Are there not other people who are supposed to do that sort of work? 

Bob, I too miss those days.  But I love my days now.  I love my wife, my family, my life.  I hope in another 25yrs I’ll be sitting with my wife missing the ‘old’ days and still loving the current ones.

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This is akin to things that annoy me, only they really don’t annoy me, they just make me roll my eyes:

The term ‘Ink Pen’

Them: “May I borrow your ink pen?”

Me: “Sure would you like some pulp paper as well?”

The Phrase, ‘In my life’ as in:

Them :”Never in my life as I seen such a thing!”

Me: “Really have you seen it in somebody elses life?”

3-6 of  ‘Angry Birds’ 

Oh, I not only beat it, but I conquered it.  But it took way to long to accomplish something so utterly stupid.

Phrase, ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientists’ 

Why do we even have rocket science?  It seems nothing takes rocket science.  I am beginning to wonder if rocket science actually takes rocket scientist.

Long Story Short:

unfortunately I am guilty of saying this as well.  But seriously if you are using the statement, ‘long story short’ your story is already 3 words too long.

I was recently reminded that you can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.   So to keep things balanced the following is something I enjoy. 

Troy Craig is one of my favourite bloggers.  I would love to be able to write the way that he does.  I first learned of Troy while he was working as a DJ on a local radio program, ‘Qwik Rock’.  Now he has taken some time to go and teach English as a second language in Korea, but he keeps us informed on his wonderful blog.  Today the title of his latest post has quickly risen to the top of my favourite phrase list, Hurricane of Stupid.  

Troy, although I’ve never met him personally, fits in with my, small town life theme.  A friend of mine Kevin Nelson is a long time DJ (Kevin and Pat in the morning). who works for the same company that owned both ‘Kevin and Pat in the Morning’ and ‘Qwick Rock’.  The marketing Director where I work, used to be the marketer for Troy’s show and is also friends with both Troy and Kevin.  It really is a small town.

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I have a lousy sense of direction.  When I interviewed for the job I am currently in I was informed that we cover not only State College but Lewistown, Huntingdon, Lockhaven, Lykens, Tyrone and we help out our sister warehouse, (who my supervisor also supervises) Williamsport. I was asked if I had issues if asked to travel to any of these destinations.  I was perfectly honest about it and told them that I had no issues about traveling to any of the locations.  Lykens, being the farthest out is only two hours away.  So really it’s no big deal. 

“Nope, no problem” I responded.  However I immediately started thinking about the time I showed up to work at the bank and they asked me to help out in the Avis office. I wasn’t sure what a bank teller was going to do at a car rental agency, but what the heck. Then I remembered that there is a place called Avis Pa.  I had been there once before and my wife was driving.  I was told just go towards the mall and keep left, it should take an hour.   If you look at Google, to get from the State College branch of the bank to the Avis branch you would see it is a basically a straight line.

Two hours later I found myself at the Jersey Shore!  I had no idea when I crossed into Jersey, I didn’t even know Jersey was so close!  What I did know is that something went desperatly wrong.  It turns out that just as there is no Port in Port Matilda the Jersey Shore is not actually in Jersey!  Oh I’m sure there is a shore in Jersey but it is not this Jersey Shore which is probably a good thing because as much as I didn’t want to be lost, I really didn’t want to be lost in Jersey, (new or old) I didn’t have a GPS, I didn’t even have a cell phone, I was in the wilds of Pennsylvania and lost, eventually I had to (gasp!) ask a man at a local business how to get to Avis.  The man was very nice and pretended to understand how I missed the exit.  After all, it is really hard to see that large glaring Avis exit sign.  I think he saw my eyes gloss over as he gave me directions which were basically, ‘drive down this street and make a right’ And this very nice man got in his truck, yes a beat up red truck and had me follow him to the bank. 

In Montreal I never got lost.  Not that my sense of geography or direction was any better, I just didn’t drive.  I got from point to point by walking, transit, or bike.  And if I did get lost all I had to do was find the giant cross on top of the mountain and head for cross.  Once at the top of the mountain I knew where home was.

In Vancouver I never had to travel.  Everything I needed was in a four block radius.  And if I wanted to go downtown I took the skytrain which only went in two directions.  Even I could navigate that. 

My wife and I were hesitant about a GPS. Our only experience with one was through my father.  My folks came to visit, my father had a Tom-Tom and loved it.  We wanted to go to a restaurant in Altoona called Don Pablo’s.  My father punched it into Tom, we explained it wasn’t necessary as the only reason we ever go to Altoona is to go to this particular restaurant and it is easy to get too, it is right off the exit.  But my father insisted.  I watched Tom-Tom as we drove and I too was soon in love with the machine.  But Tom got it wrong.  It had my father get off the highway an exit too early.  We told him no, but he was going to listen to his buddy Tom.  Fine, it was just going to take a little longer.  Then Tom told my father to turn Right.  This was totally the wrong directions.  Images of a cab ride of long ago came to mind.  We convinced my father to disobey Tom.  Lucky my wife has a great sense of direction because now I was as lost as Tom.  My father refused to admit Tom was wrong.  He informed us that there must be another Don Pablo’s.  Why yes, yes there is as Don Pablo’s is actually a chain.  The next closest one to us is in Virginia!  We got to the restaurant and my father still refused to admit defeat, (he is loyal that way) and told the waiter what happened and if there was another Don Pablo’s in the area.  Yes, yes there is if you consider Virginia part of the ‘area’. the waiter understanding my father’s predicament did offer a way out.  He mentioned that there is a Mexican community on the other side of town and perhaps Tom-Tom new a Don Pablo that lived over in that direction.

Of course my father only listened to Tom when it was convenient.  For example we knew how to get to Don Pablo’s but on that occasion my father decided Tom knew better.   However when we were looking for a restaurant in Lancaster Pa, a restaurant non of us had been too, in an area non of us had ever been before, a time when we were at the mercy of Tom-Tom to guide us through the back roads of the Amish country side was the time when my father decides to disregard Tom’s directions with all of Tom’s fancy global positioning.  Tom was telling my father:

“In 500 hundred feet turn left”

“In 200 hundred feet turn left”

     …no turn signal

“In 100 feet turn left”

     …no turn signal no turn.

“Turn Left now!”

     …No turn.

“Recalculating, make a u-turn in 50 feet”…Father continues to go straight. 

Eventually and with enough of us pestering him he makes the U-turn and Tom leads us safely to the restaurant.

I was offered, and accepted the job two days after the initial interview.  My date of hire was a few days before my birthday.  We also had made plans to drive down to California to visit my father-in-law.  All things considered it seemed a great time to purchase a GPS. 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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I enjoy words.  How words mean something.  How hard they are to take back.  The impression they make on people.  The impression you make on people using your words.  Often one hears the expression, ‘Actions speak louder than words’ the problem is there is usually more words than action (which says something in and of itself) but often times words are all a person has to judge by.

Here are some interesting words or expressions I have come across since moving to Central Pennsylvania.  I’m not saying that they are exclusive to Central Pa or even originated here.  I’m saying that this is where I’ve heard them.  Don’t judge my spelling I’m sounding them out so if you are reading them out loud the pronunciations should be correct.  My spell check is going to have a cow!

REDUP:

 A co-worker at the bank said to me, “I’ve got things to do, I really have to redup”

“Excuse me?” I said.

 “I’ve got things to do” She replied. 

“No, I understood that, it is the other part.”

“Redup?”

“That would be the part”

Redup equals get ready.

Yes, that day I hugged my Canadian citizenship.

LEFT:

Left, what is so odd about the word ‘left’?  Well, try this on for size;

“I caught a rabbit, but I left it go.”

GUYSES:

“Excuse me, I found this, does it belong to one of your guyses?”

BORROWED:

Nice normal word, usually.

“He didn’t have a drill, so I borrowed him mine.” 

Yes, I still cling to my Canadian citizenship, eh.

Heard this on the local news:

A tanker truck turned over, the newscaster looked into the camera and said: “Hazmat has been called because the roads are very slippy.”

Youins:

Texas has ya’ll but we have Youins.

Anyway I have a busy night. I have to left the dog out but I have to be careful because the driveway is awful slippy and I borrowed my flashlight to my neighbour.   I hope youins is enjoying my blog, but now I gotta go and redup.  Oh I found a set of keys the other day, does it belong to any of you guyses?

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Today celebrates my first guest poster and I am honoured that it is my mother who, through this example shows us that this is not just a small town, or a small country, but a small world.  So, take it away mom!

Somewhere between 15 and 20 years ago, my daughter received a frozen turkey from her boss at Thanksgiving. That was the good news. The bad news was that it wasn’t Kosher and my home is.

After some consideration I decided to give it to my non-Jewish friend, Joni. She kept it frozen and made a scrumptious turkey dinner for Christmas and invited us. That bloomed into a tradition that still exists, even though she moved from Montreal to Kitchener Ontario.

Although we were friends prior to the turkey and often got together on a Saturday night, we always ate out.  Since that time, whenever a turkey was involved we were invited. We were not the only ones at the table. There was usually an assortment of interesting people there.

For instance, while still in Montreal, Joni and her husband, being skiers, shared a chalet in Stowe, Vermont for the winters with a bunch of other people from Canada and the U.S. who were skiers.

One day Joni called to invite us for turkey dinner as one of the people who shared the chalet, Ron from Washington, D.C, was in Montreal for the Tour de l’Ile, an annual bicycle race around the island of Montreal (I think it’s a race or marathon) and people come from all over to take part in it. Ron, Joni, her brother and the regular writer of this blog used to partake in the race. Anyhow, here we are all sitting around the table enjoying our dinner while Ron told us stories about his recent trip to Tibet. He went with a tour. They were at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains and the guide asked if anyone was interested in climbing. He was. It turned out that only he and a couple from Montreal were fit enough to make the climb. He said the three of them became friendly being the only ones there and the fellow he befriended gave him his card and told him to call if he ever came to Montreal. I asked the person’s name.

“Oh, yah, right. How many people in Montreal, 2 million? I don’t think you know them.”

“You never know” I replied.

He took out the business card and handed it over to me.  I freaked. The person on the card was Irving, the son of my father’s close friend. My father and his friend were both custom tailors. They were part of a group that used to play gin rummy every week, often at our home. When I told Ron, he thought I was pulling his leg. But the best is yet to come. When my husband saw who it was, he said that the Irving’s father made his Bar Mitzvah  suit for him some fifty years ago, and he has a movie of his Bar Mitzvah* where at one point they are showing off the suit and show the label.

So before I even knew my husband we were connected. I did know that my father’s friend made his suit.

When my Dad was phoning the whole world to tell everyone his daughter was getting married and to who, his friend said, “What do mean, do I know them? I made his Bar Mitzvah suit for him!”

It’s a small world, after all!

*For those that may not know, a Bar Mitzvah is when a young Jewish boy (13yrs) is called upon the read from the Torah.  It is a right of passage where the boy becomes responsible for his  adherence to the laws, traditions and ethics of the religion. Before such time it is the responsibility of the parent.

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