Friday, July 16, 2021

Lasagna in the Highest

Lasagna in the Highest 


One of Seinfeld’s old bits was about being forced to go to the bank or to pick out wallpaper with his mother, his little body collapsing under the weight of boredom. “I couldn’t take childhood at a certain point,” Seinfeld jokes, in his special “Jerry Before Seinfeld.” “You get tired of it. I just couldn’t build one more balsa-wood glider.” The impetus is to grow up quickly, so that people will listen to you, at last, when you point out how ridiculous and unfair being a child is…

When I was twelve, I had a paper route that took me all over town and I was curious as Hell about who was going down there and about how you got up to heaven. When my Dad died four years before, Robinson the mortician helped me out with what we should put in his coffin. We decided on his compass from me and a photo of him with Emily when they were first married. Robinson befriended me; he and Sam, the bar owner, were my first adult male friends and now at forty, I still think of them almost every day 

 Robinson didn’t show up often at social things in our town. Not that he was disliked; he was welcome in Whitefish, but like all morticians he bore a stigma detrimental to social life. People didn’t know how to act around him because he handled dead people. Was there a whiff of embalming fluid when he passed? If it wasn’t there, people imagined it. “I like the man,” I heard Mrs. Inch say at the pharmacy, “but I don’t want him passing the peas at our Sunday night dinner.”  If you wanted to see Robinson you went to his office in a storefront on Main street. We talked once a month about the Lutherans and the Catholics when I collected the paper money. 

The Catholics in town hoped if someone died, it happened Thursday through Friday when Father Cassoti, our part-time priest was in town. They found it easier to deal with a priest for a ceremony than the mortician. Nothing personal—it was just the idea of a mortician. You could call Father, and he’d take care of everything. Most important for Catholics, he’d give the last rites and bend the rules if necessary, giving it to the non-practicing Catholics too. Even If he was called to a Protestant death, he’d offer them a blessing.  When the strictest Catholics objected to Cassoti’s generosity, I heard he said,”I think the Good Lord would be happier to see compassion for the dying rather than a rule enforced.”

Our small Catholic population couldn’t support a church or parsonage. The Bishop, stretching his budget for money and men, assigned the young and energetic Cassoti, three small parishes and urged him to earn his own personal spending money. Mr. Kidd hired Father to work at his service station, Phil’s Service, Thursday and Friday afternoons changing oil and doing brake adjustments. The Bishop approved.

Phil and Marilyn Kidd set up a system at the station where Father could change oil and hear confessions at the same time. The penitent sat on a stool beside the grease pit, confessed and received absolution. The Kidds painted the stool navy blue, “the color of hope,” explained Mrs. Kidd, and reserved it for confessions only. As a courtesy to all, she turned the radio volume up when someone confessed loud enough for those waiting for new tires in the front office to overhear.  

Mrs. Kidd seemed eager to convert the service station to a shrine and argued with Phil about rigging up the Stations of the Cross on the walls. He said it would be bad for business. “A little of that goes a long way,” he muttered while oiling wrenches. He’d hired Father out of charity to assist the parish but he also hoped to upgrade the Kidd’s image from grease monkeys to something better. Mrs. Kidd took herself into Edna’s beauty for an overhaul. 

”Marilyn was in here all aflutter over having Father in the station. We did a bob cut and henna color on her and would you believe she had a manicure?” the beauty operator, Vina, told me. I didn’t stay in there long because the permanent wave stuff made me sneeze. 

Besides, Emily warned me when I started the paper route about the things I’d hear at Edna’s and about keeping gossip to myself, so I never said anything about that to anyone. Or about how many times I heard the ladies in town call Father a dream boat. They’d tsk, tsk and say “...such a waste...” when he walked by. I asked Emily what they meant. 

“It’s a compliment, Chad,” she said with a smile. “They think he would have been a good husband and father.” The guys at the Two Dot called him Father Farley, after Farley Granger, with his dark curls and blue eyes. The Italian family that made him a big lunch every Sunday called him a “good eater”— the highest compliment one Italian in White Fish could pay to another. 

Mrs. Kidd acted as hostess of the grease-pit confessional. Phil told everyone she was a bureaucrat at heart. The penitents were lined up according to their time of arrival. Degree of sin and urgency played a part in how fast they’d be heard at her  discretion. In an emergency, someone might have to skip to the front—for example—a person taking a first plane ride. Oh yes, people would remember the money part, to buy a flight insurance policy from Mr. Sibert, but it was always the last minute when they remembered to get their souls in order.  “We’ve got to leave in an hour to get to Butte for the plane,” an anxious traveler might plead. Mrs. Kidd, sighing, would scoot them to next.  

Mrs. Kidd let us all know in an uppity way that she’d gone to a marketing class at the State College in Butte where she learned people would rather experience a position in a line, than have a specific number. There was next, next to next, second to next—then the lasts started. Third from last, second from last and last. “Or dead last,” Mrs. Kidd chuckled. When I asked her questions about the class, she answered them and said, “Call me Marilyn, Chad. You don’t have to be so formal and you can ask me anything.” 

  Always enthusiastic, Marilyn greeted everyone with a big smile and information about their place in line. The green colors on her Hawaiian shirts matched the neon ring around the Sinclair gas clock on the wall. She was the only woman I knew who wore dungarees every day. And saddle shoes. 

“Hi Frank.” she’d say. “You’re in luck. You’ll be fourth from last and third from next.” People would smile back at her, take a seat and look at the old Life magazine with Gina Lollobrigida on the cover or thumb through the selection of car tire catalogs, waiting to advance to next

The Catholics in town adapted well to the grease-pit confessions. Everyone agreed the Kidd’s set-up was better than the dark wooden booths in the big Missoula church. Like upright coffins, those Missoula confessionals brought on claustrophobia attacks. The kneelers were warm and tiny—far too small for White Fish sinners. 

“It gets hotter in there than a whorehouse on nickel night,” said Sam, owner of the Two Dot and a regular confessor. “How can you concentrate when you keep slipping off the kneeler?”  

Young Catholics in town, who only knew the grease-pit way, were disappointed when they left town and went to regular church confession. Without the smell of gas and oil, they claimed, they couldn't get in the mood.

I delivered the paper one day and watched Marilyn finish typing out her invoices on the Smith Corona. I liked watching her fingers fluttering over the keys and the sound of typing—clickety, clackety, clack, ziiip, zing! We hardly noticed when the bell on the wall dinged and Jerry Perkins, the short-haul truck driver, rolled into the station. At the bell, Jimmy the gas jockey, put on his cunt cap, er life-boat hat, went outside and turned on the Texaco pump.  

Emily had a fit that year when I mentioned the cunt caps Jimmy wore. “What did you say Chad??” she said. When I repeated myself she sat me down and explained what c-u-n-t  meant. I knew the word was dirty, but I thought it was okay to say it about a hat.

“If it’s okay to say tit when you’re talking about a titmouse or cock when you’re talking about a ball-cock valve, why not cunt cap?”

“Stop that Chad,” she interrupted as I continued my list of examples—“titwillow, cockamamie…”

  “Don’t say it again. DO NOT.” Emily said, pulling at her hair and hissing at me. I’d probably asked too many questions, again.

I got the message, as far as out-loud speaking went, but inside my own mind I still thought of the hat as a cunt cap. I had a good start on my For-Men-Only vocabulary from the Two Dot bar and I was all ears at Phil’s. Later in life, I realized the station was still more like a fraternity house than the shrine Marilyn was hoping for. 

“Do you think Father can squeeze me in now?” Jerry asked. He was combining a gas-up and a confession. Marilyn removed her horned-rim glasses, gave them a wipe, put them back on and checked the time.

“Yup,Jerry—you can just make it. Go on in.”

He took a last long drag off his Lucky Strike and tossed the butt out the door. Shoulders slumped, he shuffled off to the blue stool and took a seat. I dropped the paper on the counter and headed to the bathroom. As I walked behind Father’s bay I could hear Jerry’s hoarse voice.

 “Bless me Father for I have sinned,” he croaked. I peered through the door and saw Jerry leaning forward on the blue stool, hands clasped. He coughed something up into his hankie—a bubbling rumble of junk that must have come from deep in his lungs. With Jerry’s bulk on the stool, it looked like furniture from a doll’s house.

“Yeah, go ahead. I can hear you,” said Father from under a Pontiac coupe. 

“Well...since my confession last week, there's the regular sins–commandments three, four and ten.” He shifted on the blue stool and asked, ”You know it’s me, right Father?  Jerry out here? 

Father heaved a loud sigh. Everybody knew it was difficult for him  to keep his parishioners anonymous during the grease-pit confessions, but Jerry didn’t even try. I wondered if he wanted credit for his sins! The idea made me laugh, but only an inside chortle, so they wouldn’t know I was listening. 

I learned later, after Jerry died in the crash, that Father set up a code with him because he confessed so often. There was an understanding between the two that Jerry was remorseful and despite the rote laundry list of his sins he would work on his spiritual health between confessions. 

“I took a load of sweet potatoes over to Big Sky on Monday and stayed at the Kosy Inn Motel, the one off Hwy 54? said Jerry. “The one you stay at when you go to Butte? Anyway, darn it, I found my way over to Irene at the HofIR.” 

“Again?” asked Father. “What do you mean ‘you found your way.’ You’ve been there dozens of times, Jerry.”

“Yeah, Father. Souls willing, spirits AWOL. Are you sure it’s still adultery when you pay?” asked Jerry. “Irene and I are just pals when you get down to it. She’s a buddy to all of us truckers, Father. She has a good heart.” He stretched his arms  out in front, cracked his knuckles and looked toward the door where I stood. I held my breath. Getting caught eavesdropping on a confession must be a sin, I thought. Maybe the worst of all? 

“Just because Irene has a heart, that doesn’t change your sin. And yes, I’m sure it’s still adultery,” said Father. 

Jerry was silent for a minute. Then he said, “Irene says,‘Hi’ by the way.” I couldn’t believe what I heard! Irene sending a message to Father? The pneumatic screw gun went off in the next bay, just as Father replied. I never heard what he said.  But when the noise stopped, Father forgave Jerry and told him to say fifty rosaries. Fifty rosaries seems like a lot. When I asked Marilyn how many rosaries was usual after confession, she laughed. I think she knew I’d listened because she said,”Father raises the penance for Jerry every week. I think he hopes Jerry won’t have time for sinning if he’s on his knees praying every night.” 

Sundays, Father celebrated mass at 10:30 am in the Moose Hall. Catholics brought their pillows from home for kneeling. The big buffet table, used for checking-in at dances, became an altar when three white table cloths were placed on top and two fat candles on either end. George Evans was the altar boy and got to wear that white lace shirt over his dungarees and say the Latin responses to Father’s calls: “Dominus vobiscum,” said Father. George’s answer: “Et cum spiritu tuo.” 

Father arrived early for mass and got the big cross out of the utility closet to hang behind the altar. He kept the chalice and communion wafers—his on-the-road sacraments–in a black Samsonite briefcase with a combination lock set to 12345 like all of our school lockers. Nobody in White Fish was combination-locked out of anywhere. People would wonder what you had to hide if you reset the numbers.

George helped get everything arranged on the altar and made sure Father’s dog collar didn’t have grease stains. He filled up the swinging chalice with incense powder and lit the wick. After Father dimmed the lights, with the incense in the air, you couldn’t imagine people had been square dancing there the night before. 

We weren’t Catholics—Emily and I weren’t anything since we found out about the unbaptized babies in Limbo and since Ricky got polio and since Dad had died at only thirty-nine. But I liked the Latin and Emily didn’t care if I sat at the back some Sundays just to hear the sound of it. 

“Kyrie Eleison, Miserere Nobis, Credo in unum Dominum,” the Catholic girls chanted up in the second row. The little Johnson kid next to me picked his nose for most of the service except when his mother reached over and pushed his hand into his lap. When we got to the English prayer part, I could hear him saying, “Lasagna in the highest,” instead of “Hosanna in the highest.” I could hardly wait to tell Ricky that one. 

As often as he could, Father based his sermons on life around White Fish. In our town full of bars, hangovers and regrets abounded on Sabbath mornings. Father spoke about excess and asked St. Bibiana, patron saint of hangovers, for a mass forgiveness. He encouraged private prayer to Saint Monica, patron saint of alcoholics. His messages were hopeful and he never said Hell, even once, that anyone could remember. 

One Sunday I heard him give a funny sermon about saying prayers correctly. “Sometimes I think you people all need hearing aids,” he began. “Mary is full of grace not grapes. I’m sure Mary liked eating as much as the rest of us, but come on, why would we pray to her like that? She was full of grace and don't forget it.”

Another time, Father Cassoti used his service station job as an example in the sermon. “You never know when something you learn will come in handy.” he said. “I worked as a mechanic in my uncle’s garage in college. Never thought I’d service a car again and yet, here I am,” he told his flock. Smiling, he quoted Proverbs 1:5 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning.” Hardly anyone fell asleep during Father’s sermons, not like over at the Lutherans where everyone nodded off. 

If Father had an evening free in the winter, he played hockey with the kids. Watching him speed around the rink and slam the puck at the goal, no one would ever guess he was a priest. Once, when he missed a shot, he said “Bullshit,” loud enough that everyone heard. After the game, he told the guys “Bullshit is a Catholic-approved curse because the Lord’s name isn’t taken in vain.” Everyone laughed. He added,”Try to use better words than I do boys. Be gentlemen.” 

He joined in the weekly poker game with the guys at the Two Dot but only for toothpick wagers, never for money. Sam, the bartender, kept a missal card for St. Josephine taped to the inside of the refrigerator door so Father would see it when Sam got him a beer. Father liked the jukebox, just like the rest of us. Whenever he dropped by, Sam pushed A12—Glow Worm, by the Mills Brothers and D23—Jambalaya,  by Jo Stafford, both Father’s favorites.

Even though Dad hadn’t been a Catholic, he played cribbage and drank beer with Father. Dad called Father his friend. I remember one weekend when they went fishing at Webster’s landing. “Too much hiking,” they said, and I couldn’t go along.  

One year, two days before Christmas, Father was cranky and impatient with the line of holiday confessors waiting with Mrs. Kidd. He climbed out from under a red Buick, wiped his hands on his overalls, kicked the blue stool and walked into the crowd.

“Listen,” he said. “Like you, I have a life and want to spend Christmas with my friends. If you’ve got small sins on your minds, the usuals, like you fought with your relatives, exceeded the speed limit, said the Lord's name in vain or missed mass, I’m giving you a blanket absolution, right now. Say a good Act of Contrition, go home and wrap presents. If any of you have big sins, and you know who you are, come back at nine.” 

We liked what Robinson called Father’s practical Catholicism. It worked well in a town of people used to adapting and making do.

If Father Cassoti wasn’t in town, and somebody died, Robinson took care of  the details. If Robinson was also out of town, picking up a coffin or at an AA meeting, Thorvaldsen, the Lutheran pastor, was the last resort. He smelled of lutefisk which nobody liked, particularly around dead people. Still, you couldn’t avoid him because all the funeral ceremonies happened at the Lutheran church—the only sanctified church space in town. 

I wondered what the Jewish family would do if someone died or if somebody in Keiko’s family died—they were Buddhists. What would happen to a dead Buddhist in a small Montana town? 

If Dad had been around, he’d know.     END

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Summer Bounty. Bah Humbug

I've had enough gardening to last a lifetime - at least for the rest of my lifetime. The planting process is a pleasure for me; I love to dig a hole and feel so optimistic when the plants, fresh from the nursery, snuggle into their new homes. The on-going maintenance is the part I don't like. After a frenzy of planting two years ago, I'm now stuck with pots, pots, pots packed with plants all panting for trimming, fertilizing and various kind of specialized care...the sissy grevallias don't like phosphorous and can't be watered during the day, only during the night. The dragon fruit likes sex and pollination only in the moonlight. Am I getting up at midnight to propagate these plants or water them? What was I thinking when I dragged them home?

My vegetable plantings last year were very unsatisfactory. I harvested a single pitiful fava bean after hovering over the damn plants for a month. I had a few tough, stringy Chinese long beans.  I can buy a handful of these beans (good looking ones) at the market for a buck. The gophers, ever present, always nibbling, drive me a bit bats. If I want a good fight, I can think of bigger fish to fry...wasting the energy battling gophers is the very epitome of the lost cause. All that remains of the vegetable garden is one giant fennel plant, mint (which you have to dynamite to get ride of), a few chives and a very persistent lemon grass plant. Fine with me.

I've killed plants by overcrowding them, overwatering them and underfeeding them. I've killed them by drowning, drying them up and letting various fungi overtake them. A plant murderess, I should turn myself in at Armstrong's and ask them to lock me up and let me out only to travel.

The future is bright. Fewer trees, succulents, artificial turf and a few, very few pots. Free at last. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Sepia Saturday 572 Remaining Belongings


I hope this photo isn't the record of an unhappy or unwanted move. They have the essentials—a coal scuttle, a tea kettle, a mattress and a chair. 

I'm cleaning out our attic and garage and other storage spots around the house. The top shelves of closets and cupboards. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Now that I work at the Angel Shop and watch the donations coming in, I see we
all accumulate the same kinds of things—half completed craft projects, broken things you think you're going repair some day, paintings and wall hangings and decor stuff that doesn't fit into your decor anymore. Tons of clothes. Every time I hesitate over a thing, I envision it priced for a dollar at the shop. 

Here's a typical heap of stuff I sort through on the Angel job. 

George Carlin calls it what it is: shit. And like everyone else, we have too much of it.

Here's what George has to say:

 "A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else's stuff is all over the goddamn place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven't used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven't moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there's usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there's NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else's shit is on the dresser."

Here's the whole schtick:

An interesting story about Hartlepool from Wiki:

Hartlepool is known for allegedly executing a monkey during the Napoleonic Wars.[44] According to legend, fishermen from Hartlepool watched a French warship founder off the coast, and the only survivor was a monkey, which was dressed in French military uniform, presumably to amuse the officers on the ship. The fishermen assumed that this must be what Frenchmen looked like and, after a brief trial, summarily executed the monkey.

Historians have pointed to the prior existence of a Scottish folk song called "And the Boddamers hung the Monkey-O". It describes how a monkey survived a shipwreck off the village of Boddam near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Because the villagers could only claim salvage rights if there were no survivors from the wreck, they allegedly hanged the monkey. There is also an English folk song detailing the later event called, appropriately enough, "The Hartlepool Monkey". In the English version the monkey is hanged as a French spy.

"Monkey hanger" and Chimp Choker are common terms of (semi-friendly) abuse aimed at "Poolies", often from footballing rivals Darlington. The mascot of Hartlepool United F.C. is H'Angus the monkey. The man in the monkey costume, Stuart Drummond, stood for the post of mayor in 2002 as H'angus the monkey, and campaigned on a platform which included free bananas for schoolchildren. To widespread surprise, he won, becoming the first directly elected mayor of Hartlepool, winning 7,400 votes with a 52% share of the vote and a turnout of 30%. He was re-elected by a landslide in 2005, winning 16,912 on a turnout of 51% – 10,000 votes more than his nearest rival, the Labour Party candidate.

The monkey legend is also linked with two of the town's sports clubs, Hartlepool Rovers RFC, which uses the hanging monkey as the club logo. Hartlepool (Old Boys) RFC use a hanging monkey kicking a rugby ball as their tie crest.

Monday, May 24, 2021

A Good Idea

The Sepia Saturday prompt this week is the letter G, as we are working our way through the alphabet. I couldn't find anything appropriate, so I've scraped the bottom of the barrel. G, for this post, introduces a Good Idea.

I watched Marie Kondo's show on NetFlix, Tidying up with Marie Kondo. Although she's a pleasure to watch, two episodes were more than enough. I'm not disorganized enough to benefit from most of her suggestions. The show features people drowning in stuff—epic messes far beyond my experience or imagination—families immobilized by their possessions. We're not that bad. All I have to clean up are two garden storage sheds and fifty boxes of memorabilia which I fear will end up in a thrift shop when Richard dies.

But I have some important organization failings. One of them is my mess of a purse. How I confront the problem every day but continue to endure it, I don't know. It's my Waterloo. I've never managed to have an orderly purse and have so envied my friends who can reach into their bags and effortlessly retrieve an item. If I need something, there will be several minutes of pawing around and cursing and in the end, I'll have to half-empty the purse to find the thing. 

The purse is black outside and inside—the inside is a dark maw. If I drop something into it, the item will probably get interleaved with the one hundred pieces of tissue or the twelve yards of cash register receipts floating around inside. If an item sinks, forget it. Fishing through the layers of paper is tedious and usually unproductive. It's so bad, that I frequently don't put important items into it, preferring a pocket or something I can trust, like my hands. How crazy is that?

I hand carry my phone when I'm shopping because if it drops in the purse, when it rings I have to search to find it, and when I do, it's usually too late and I've annoyed everyone around me with the uber-loud ring (which I have set like as loud as an air raid siren because of my bad hearing and because the phone is often muffled by the purse garbage when it slips to the bottom.) Yes, the purse has exterior pockets, but too many. For me, extra pockets just mean extra searching. 

But all of that is now in the past. This morning, I cleaned out a drawer in the bathroom near where I keep my purse when I'm at home. As Marie instructs, I emptied the purse into it and then from the mess, picked out the items I need—phone, wallet, key fob, pen, post-it notes. The rest remained in the drawer. Every day you do this. 

Purse drawer
Purse and purse drawer
You might say that this is simply cleaning out your purse every day. Not so. Dumping (my word, not Marie's) everything out into a temporary holding area and starting over isn't the same as cleaning it out. Not by a long shot. Dump/empty, I can do. Such is the particular genius of Marie Kondo.  

Stuff from purse
Once a month, you empty out the drawer which you will find is full of tissue and cash register receipts and grocery lists you couldn't find when you needed them, spare change, wrapped mints from restaurants, flyers someone stuck under your windshield wiper, maybe an expired coupon. You do not look at any of it. It's proven itself to be useless by its very presence in the drawer. You dump/empty it all into the garbage.

Stuff remaining after purse is refilled

Using this system, you could actually change purses with confidence that you'll have everything you need. I have ten or fifteen purses, like most women and use none of them, because changing a purse—oh my God—is a huge hassle. 

Speaking as an old dog, I'm very happy to have learned a new trick.

Essentials back in purse

Monday, May 17, 2021

Sepia Saturday 570: Shadow of Frankenstein


I've got a special box of several dozen photos sporting my father's white ink captions. The ink bottle and the special pen he used were stored in the same drawer as our photo and negative boxes—both of which I sort through when recalling days of my childhood. During Canadian winter weekends when it was too wickedly cold to go outdoors, when the jigsaw puzzle was finished and it was too early for cocktails, Dad would get out the most recent photos, his pen and ink, and catch up on the labeling. 

At the time I thought the photo captions were corny and that he was defacing the images. Actually, I was five years old in 1947 and I probably didn't have an opinion at all. It was later, during my early teens, when I knew everything, that I remember criticizing my father for this practice.

Since then, I've learned a lot and realize what a good idea his notes were. Dad's been dead for almost sixty years and aside from one diary in which he wrote sporadically, I have little tangible evidence of his wit; these photo notations capture some of it; even though he's not actually in most of these photos, the notations make him a part of them. I wish I could go back in time and apologize to him for my baseless teenaged righteousness. 

The "Shadow of Frankenstein" note, referring to himself as the photographer, was both amusing and a bit macabre. I like the way he fit the writing across the shadow. It's another clue to his creativity and my match for the prompt.

I wondered what my Uncle Louis (on the left) and the other man (unknown) were doing out in a field dressed in their office attire? The date turned out to be a major clue and explained that knot of people in the background.

September 1st, 1947, the day before this photo, thirty-one people died in a disastrous train wreck in Dugald, Manitoba. The Minaki Camper's Special, a seasonal excursion railroad service, loaded with students and families riding the rails back to Winnipeg after the long weekend, hit a standing train in the station, head on. It was one of the ten worst train accidents in Canada. 

From the Manitoba history website: 
"Fire spread at a frightening rate, as the old wooden coaches of the Minaki Special were lit by gas lamps. Only seven of the victims could be identified and the remaining 24 were buried in a mass grave at the Brookside Cemetery, Winnipeg."

The wooden passenger cars were flimsy and Pintsch gas lights used in them ran on a compressed fuel gas derived from distilled naptha and stored in tanks. These lights were brighter than the alternatives of the time, but unfortunately the gas was very flammable. 

From the Lethbridge Herald, the Lethbridge ,Alberta newspaper, Sept 3rd, 1947:

"While relatives and friends returned to the Transcona morgue again today, hoping that in a second visit they might recognize jewelry as belonging to the missing, work was resumed at Dugald of clearing away the maze of debris covering the tracks by the little red-walled flag station. Their overnight rest was the first the workmen had had since the collision took place late Monday. Even before they retired last night carloads of spectators thronged the area, anxious to get a first-hand glimpse of the wrecked train.

Twelve R.C.M.P. constables were needed to control the traffic, while others were constantly on the alert to prevent the almost 10,000 visitors from pushing their way through the ash-strewn wreckage. Today the number of visitors was down, only the odd automobile stopping at the small village. Workmen continued sifting through the ashes and police officials said that some of the dead would probably never be discovered, even if the sifting continued for a week, so devastating had been the flames which swept the train."

I'm assuming my Dad, my Uncle and their friend decided along with 9,997 others to rush over to Dugald (population in 2011 was 384), fourteen miles from Winnipeg, to take a look. We didn't own a car in those days, but I presume Uncle Louis had one. The crash site must have been an incredible situation to keep under control with only twelve RCMP constables on duty and 10,000 rubberneckers! My guess is that the two men in my photo are "playing" in response to having viewed the gruesome scene; a bit of comic relief perhaps. Maybe they were simply stretching their legs before returning to their car. Dad must have taken the camera along with him thinking they'd record the event, but if he got any photos, they weren't in the photo box. Maybe he thought better about keeping disturbing photos of the wreckage at home.  Here's one from the scene on that horrible day after. 
Transcona Historical Museum

I wonder how many people caption their digital photos? —now that we have 60,000 (like me) or millions, like some?

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Fiction - Rescued

I saw you drive by and tried to look the other way to avoid your line of sight. That’s difficult when you’re stuck on a canvas like me and wedged sideways in a garbage can. Let’s face it, even though I’m one dimensional, my measurements are 36 x 36”. Pretty zoftig by today's standards and hard to hide.  
Unknown artist: photograph by Nancy Javier

I’d just gotten out of the basement. For twenty years I was shuffled in a pile of half-finished paintings—a stack of poor judgment and bad taste; a heap of crappy art with mold growing on the fake Picasso at the bottom threatening to engulf us all. Mr. Artist, pardon my sarcasm, painted and repainted me trying different styles—take a look at them below my text. Can you imagine how I felt. I should be thankful, I guess that I ended up at the top of the heapthe others are still there with the junk.

Feeling the sun on my face that morning when he took me outside was the best thing that happened in decades. At first, I relished the warmth and the light but later, I realized where I was. The sign to my right said FRE, and I hoped it said, Freida, because that was my name. But the wind blew the paper sign and I could see it said FREE. I realized I wasn’t on an easel (sometimes it's hard to tell). I was so humiliated. FREE? I’d hit bottom.

When I heard you brake, I cringed and if you’ve never seen a painting cringe, you can’t imagine. And then I realized the engine was going into reverse. A shudder ran over my canvas. Here we go into a thrift store, I thought. That’s what happens when you turn FREE. I’d almost rather have remained in the moldy basement than plunked on a shelf at the Angel Shop. Once, I spent a humiliating six months in the store being pawed over and rejected, before he took me back. Every day, thrifters peered into my face trying to see if there was “something of value” on the canvas, rejecting me to buy a cheap, chipped cup or a bad print.
Now hanging on the wall in your living room I can recall those days and laugh. Do you notice me chuckling? I try not to do it when you’re around because I know you like me as I was . . . kind of sad and thoughtful. Do I worry about mold, or the Angel Shop or that tortured painter? No! My biggest concern is what we’re watching on Netflix tonight!

Something artsy-fartsy? I hope so.

He painted me like this....

And then he tried this.

Then, multiples.


He ruined my eyes!!