Friday, October 31, 2014

THERE'S GOLD IN OUR GARBAGE BINS

There's gold in our garbage bins. There has to be. Almost every late evening and early morning there are people scavenging through the building's outside garbage bins. And I don't think they are poor because the vehicles they drive are new, the gold they wear around their necks and on their fingers and wrists are quite shiny, and their clothes are neither torn nor tattered.

When I hear them going through the garbage I look out my window and watch as they dig through the dog feces, the dirty diapers, the rotten remains of our meals, the cigarette butts, and countless other dirty disgusting things, and wonder what possesses a person to do it. What can you possibly get from the garbage that is worth getting sick or hurt over? Especially nowadays when we are all so careful of what we throw out. I mean, if we don't want something we put it in a pile and save it for a garage sale, or we put it on Kijiji or Craig's List. Nothing of value ever gets thrown in the garbage anymore. And do these people even care about their health and safety? 

We live in a First World country, a highly developed industrialized nation. We have various resources for anyone and everyone. We have welfare, healthcare, shelters, soup kitchens. Now, I'm not gullible, I know poverty exists, but going through the garbage when you're wearing gold, driving a new car, and wearing nice clothes just doesn't make sense.

And the recycle bins are untouched. Mind you, recycling is mandatory so you’re not going to get anything for cans and bottles unless they are liquor cans and bottles. But, for the most part, people who drink usually take their own cans and bottles back to the store.

So why do people go through the garbage? 

Is it identity theft? Maybe. They won’t get my info – I’m a shredder. With the hullabaloo about identity theft, I think a lot of people shred. 

Is it for clothes? In this community, we give to the Salvation Army or Value Village; our used clothing gets reused.

Is it for metal? Metal is usually piled up alongside the garbage bins for scrap guys who collect such items. 

Is it for food? There are places to get a free meal and food banks. Wouldn’t a person go their first? Instead of eating something that could make them seriously ill?

So, why do these people go through our garbage? Because "dere's gold in dem dere bins!"









Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I LIVED IN A HAUNTED HOUSE



When I was a child I lived in a haunted house in Flat Bay, NL.

One night, when I was about five years old, I woke up and saw a man, or a very tall woman, staring at me from behind the wood stove. The apparition was transparent, so I could see its bones, and it had a kind of wispy glow surrounding it. It did not move; it just kept staring at me with its hollow eye sockets. 

I sat up in bed and thought that I might be dreaming. I kept staring at it trying to figure out if it was real. The more intently I stared, the more intently the apparition stared. I thought that I was seeing things, but then it moved ever so slightly. I decided that I wasn’t seeing things and started screaming.

My mother and father woke up and came to see what the fuss was about. I had been sleeping in a small bed, in a room that wasn’t really a bedroom, more like a living room with a bed in the corner, close to the bedroom where my mother and father slept. 

“What, what is it?” my mother said.

I kept screaming, never taking my eyes off the skeleton. “Over there, it’s over there!”

“What’s over there?” my mother said.

“The skeleton, it’s over there!” 

My father walked toward where I was pointing, but when he got nearer to the stove, it moved over behind a chair. I kept screaming and pointing, my father kept going back and forth from the stove to the chair, and the skeleton kept running away from my father. 

Finally, my father stopped, and said, “There’s nothing there.” He got fed up and went back to bed. 

My mother tried to reassure me, told me that I was having a bad dream, and that it was just my imagination. There was nothing to worry about. 

I stopped screaming, not because the thing had gone away, but because I knew that they couldn’t see it. It was staring at me, and I was scared out of my mind. My mother pulled the blanket up to my chin and went back to bed. I kept my eyes on it until I couldn’t keep them open any more. I pulled the blanket over my head and never moved an inch. I prayed and hoped that it wouldn’t come get me, then I fell asleep.

I remember that night as if it were last night. When something affects you like that, your brain vividly remembers everything.

As years went by there were a lot of strange things seen and heard in that house. Cutlery would be heard rattling in the drawers, cupboards would be heard opening and closing, and ghosts would be seen cooking and going about their business in the kitchen.

A year or two later the house was sold to relatives and they experienced occasional hauntings until they eventually built a new house to live in. The haunted house still stands and is used as a shed; however, its doors have been locked up for quite some time. 













Later, when I grew older, I found out that the house had been hauled over to Flat Bay from Sandy Point, a small settlement on a peninsula just off the coast of Flat Bay that used to be inhabited by early European settlers who seasonally lived in the area during the summer fishing season. 

As time went on Sandy Point became home to MiKmaq, English, and French settlers. Eventually, after confederation, government forced settlers to move further inland to the community of St. George’s. Apparently, a huge storm in the 1950s caused a gap in the peninsula creating an island.  
  
So, there is no doubt in my mind that the house was haunted by those early settlers. 









circa, 1882


Monday, October 20, 2014

QUICK AND EASY CHILI


You will need:

1 pound of extra-lean ground beef
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic: 1 clove, 1 tsp powder, or 1 tsp minced

1 medium onion, red or white
½  red pepper, chopped
½  green pepper, chopped
1 Cup of chopped fresh mushrooms or 1 can
1 Cup of chopped carrots
1 Cup of chopped celery

1 can of Heinz beans in tomato sauce (I hate Kidney Beans!)
1 can of Hunt’s tomato sauce, any style
1 Tablespoon of chili powder, use more or less to suit your taste  




On medium heat cook the ground beef in a large pot, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. 


Chop the vegetables while your beef is cooking, and when the beef is done, add all the vegetables at once. Stir the mixture, cover the pot, and let cook until carrots are tender; carrots need more cooking time. Make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn; extra-lean ground beef contains little fat.

When the carrots are tender, add the Heinz beans in tomato sauce and the Hunt’s tomato sauce. With the empty Hunt’s can, fill with water and add to the pot. Add chili powder, stir the mixture, and reduce heat. Cover the pot and let simmer for about hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve hot with a topping of shredded cheddar cheese and warm buns or biscuits.










Here is a recipe for biscuits to serve with your chili.

You will need:

4 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of baking powder
1 cup of butter
2 cups of milk

First, heat the oven to 375.

Mix the flour and baking powder together in a large bowl. 

Using a potato masher, (yes, that's right) mash the butter into the flour until you have coarse crumbles. 

Pour 1 and 3/4 cup of  the milk over the mixture, and stir with a fork until you have a ragged dough. 

You will now knead the dough, so lightly flour your working area, and keeping hands floured, knead dough until it comes together in a soft ball.

Get out the rolling pin, or whatever you use to roll the dough, and roll out the dough to about 1/2 inch to 1 inch thickness. 

Using a drinking glass as a cutter, cut out rounds, and place on ungreased baking sheet. Keep gathering the dough and repat and repeat process until all the dough has been used up. 

Brush the tops with the remaining milk and place in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. 








Tuesday, October 14, 2014

THE RISING COST OF FOOD

Ten years ago a weekly trip to the grocery store for food cost about fifty bucks, not including toiletries. And there were three of us. 

These days I go to the grocery store, spend about 150 dollars, and run out of things before the next shopping day.  There are still three of us. 

We used to go out for breakfast every weekend and the total cost was less than ten dollars. Now, we are paying over ten dollars each. Needless to say we don't do that very often any more, perhaps once or twice a year.  

So, I figure one of two things is going to happen, either we are all going to get very thin, or we are going to do without other stuff in order to pay for food. 

Something's gotta give. 

The cost of meat has skyrocketed this year, not to mention chicken and fish. I've read about diseases galore with beef, pork, and shrimp, and it is scary stuff. Even the cost of oranges has gone up due to some kind of insect- born disease. And coffee growers have been dealing with the worst drought in years, as well as a fungus they call coffee rust.

I’ve never looked through store flyers or used coupons, but I’m finding that when I do come across a coupon I tend to use it and I also grab the flyers as soon as they are distributed in the mail room. I have come to understand the meaning of “price matching.” I tend to cook in bulk, making large pots of stew, soup, and chili to portion and freeze. The Bulk Barn has become my number one grocery store because less packaging means it costs less. 

When I was a child oranges were a Christmas gift in our stockings. Grapes and apples were only affordable once a year at Christmas, as well as nuts and seeds. We lived off the land hunting and fishing and growing hardy vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes. And, if we came up short, there was always bologney. We might have been a lot healthier back then, too. Nobody talked of high cholesterol or diabetes. 

Now, I’m wondering if we will have to revert to that way of life. I mean it seems with regard to climate, we have come full circle. Last winter was one of the worst winters in ten years, and not just in Ontario. So, it only stands to reason that our food industry will change as well because climate affects food supply. 

I guess all we can do right now is hope and pray that our government will review its policies on biofuels, invest in smallholder farmers, and support emergency reserves.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

WE ALL NEED THIS REMINDER SOMETIMES



Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, but today is here, now, waiting to be taken advantage of. 


Yesterday is just a fading memory. So why waste the time you have left thinking about things that don't matter. We can't change anything, the bad choices, decisions, and mistakes we made, the regrets, they are all behind us. The carefree days, all night parties, the ignorant bliss, those days have been replaced by our responsibilities, families, and survival. Times have changed. All the things that we said we were going to do but didn't, all the things that we should have said but didn't, and all the things that we should have been thinking about but didn't, we cannot dwell on these things for they will rip us apart inside. 

Tomorrow is an illusion. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. The future is uncertain, accept it for what it is. We can only plan as if there will be one and live each day as if there were none.  

Today, now there's the kicker, and, of course, nobody says it better than Rocky Balboa: 

"Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!"





Sylvestor Stallone, Rocky Balboa

That was a great motivational speech for that particular scene and movie, but not everyone needs to hear something so moving. Not everyone believes in that kind of motivation, but when we do feel like we have been kicked to a pulp by life, we need something to get us back up and to keep fighting. That's what life is, one big fight. If we want to get where we want or get what we want, we have to fight. 

Nobody said life was easy, but it is as easy or as hard as we make it. Every person is different, every person wants something different out of life. And I think that we have to remember that life happens regardless of what we do, it's a game without rules. Anticipate the unexpected. You know that there are things that are out of your control. Don't be a slave to that.

When we are down we need to remind ourselves of all the good we have done in our lives, all the great things that we have accomplished, and all the wonderful things we have experienced. We have to see the good in ourselves, in our loved ones, and in our surroundings. We have to build ourselves up because only we know our worth and only we can pick ourselves up and out of the dirt when we have been beaten down by life.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, but today is here, now, waiting to be taken advantage of. So what are you waiting for?

JESSIE TEMPLAR - THE WOLF THAT NEVER WAS

Jessie Templar sat in her car in the Walmart parking lot fumbling with the AC buttons; it was a hot one, but thank goodness the humidity was low and there was a light breeze blowing.  It was the first beautiful day of the summer, one where you just wanted to skip work and go to the beach or park with a few cold ones. She sat there in her tank top, jean cut-offs, and flip-flops letting the cool air blow on her face.

She didn’t have to work today so she was out and about running a few errands, and now that she was done she was thirsty and restless. She pulled out of the parking lot and instead of going home to clean her apartment as she had planned she took a detour to her brother’s place, hoping he was off work today, too.

Jessie lived in a small apartment in Brampton, a suburban city of a half a million people, and getting more populated by the year, but it didn’t seem to be crowded because there were so many trees and parks scattered throughout and with no industrial area. And if you wanted to go into the city of Toronto, it was only a half hour away. Her younger brother, Phil, also lived in Brampton, but across town in a basement apartment. He didn’t drive and never picked up his phone, so she drove over to see if he was home. As she was pulling into the driveway Jessie noticed that Phil’s bicycle was parked by the door. Her eyes lit up. 


“Yes!” she said and went to the door. She knocked and waited.

“Yah, I’m here!” her brother said.

She opened the door and went inside and down the stairs. The apartment was small, but the rent was cheap, and if you wanted to save money, that was the way to go, cheap.

“Wassup, sis,” he said. He was sitting at the table scraping bits of tobacco in a pile hoping to have enough to roll a cigarette. He was wearing jean cut-offs and sandals.

“Not much, man, have you been outside yet? It’s beautiful.”  Jessie sat facing him. 

“No, I just got up and had some breakfast.” He nodded toward the stove for proof; he knew she worried about him.

“Oh, yah, well what are you doing today?” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. 

He knew that she had an idea and he laughed that big hearty laugh, his straight white teeth gleaming and his eyes bluer than blue. “Why, what do you wanna do?”

“Well, ya wanna go get a few beers and go to the park somewhere? It’s too nice to be inside; we can’t waste weather like this, man.”

Phil needed no convincing. “Yah, right on, I’m kinda broke this week though, just gotta enough to get me through to next payday, and I don’t want to dip into my savings.”

“No problem, bro, I just got paid.” She knew he was saving to buy a car.

She got up to leave. “Never mind those butts, I’ll buy you a pack on the way. Come on, let’s go.”

“Alright, now you’re talkin’.”  Phil got up, checked the stove, and grabbed a tank top and his keys. 

Jessie wasn’t familiar with that part of town so Phil told her where to go. They got to the beer store and went inside, both trying to figure out what they were in the mood for. 

“Hey, how about this cranberry cooler,” Jessie said, pointing to the four pack of bottles on the shelf. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever tasted that before,” he said.

“Okay, cranberry it is.”  She grabbed two packs off the shelf and headed for the cashier. Phil grabbed two more and followed. 

When they got back to the car, Phil directed her to the gas bar for cigarettes, then to a park where he occasionally went when he needed to be alone.

They drove farther across town, chatting all the way. After a short drive, he pointed to a small road. She signalled left and waited until the traffic cleared. There was a sign which read: CHURCHVILLE VILLAGE, Established 1815.

“1815 wow,” Jessie said as she accelerated onto the two-lane road. 

“What is this place?”

“It used to be one of those mill towns. At the end of the road there is this really nice park and a trail goes into the woods and along the river. And best of all, it’s so quiet, it’s like you’re in the country.”

Jessie turned off the AC and opened the windows. The posted speed limit was forty which gave her the opportunity to look around.

“That place is huge,” she said, pointing to one of the mansion style homes.

“Imagine living in a place like that,” Phil said.

They passed a few more large homes and a few smaller ones. At the end of the road was the park and just like Phil said, it was very quiet. There were a few weeping willows in the large field and the grass was freshly cut. There was nobody around.

Jessie parked the car and Phil grabbed the coolers from the back seat. 

“There’s a park bench over by the river,” Phil said, leading the way.

The bench was under the branches of a weeping willow tree and right alongside the river. A warm wind gently blew the tree branches and the sound of the flowing river was soothing and mesmerizing.

Jessie and Phil passed the day away, chatting and laughing about old times and childhood days, work and working out, and his relationship with his new girlfriend. Before they knew it, it was nearing dark and they were both pretty tipsy.

“Hey, you wanna go for a walk along the trail before we go?” Phil said.

“Yah, sure,” Jessie said.

They opened up the last of the coolers and headed for the end of the field where there was a trail leading into the woods. It was almost dark and the moon was absent, but neither was concerned. They tripped and fell and laughed about it. When they got through the woods the lights from the traffic on the 407 lit the rest of the way through another field. As they approached the support beams of the bridge they could see graffiti spray painted all over them. 

Phil had his lighter in his pocket and flicked it, both trying to pick out the writing on the beams. They were reading and laughing when rolling rocks came from the far corner joists of the bridge, where the cement met the dirt. Somebody was up there. 

Phil, being the bat-shit crazy person he was, yelled out, “Whoever’s up there better come down before I go up there and get you down.” He took a few steps forward using his lighter as a flashlight. 

The hair on Jessie’s neck stood on end. She stepped back, eyeing the trail back to the woods, getting ready to sprint. 

Phil stepped closer and yelled again. “I said get the hell down from there.”

No response. 

Phil took a few more steps. Fifty feet in front of him was the CP railroad tracks. On the other side of the tracks there was a steep inclination leading to the joists of the bridge. Phil was now on the tracks flicking his lighter so as not to get his fingers burned and trying to focus long enough to pick out who or what was up there. 

He looked back at where Jessie was, but couldn’t see her. “Hey, are you still there?” he said to the darkness. 

“Yes, come on, let’s go.” The adrenaline shooting through her body was making her sober. 

Rocks rolled again and Phil whipped his head around. He kept flicking his lighter, trying to see what was up in the corner. The lighter grew hotter and with each flick something slithered down from the joist toward him. Phil could see red eyes and started to step back. With each step back and each flick of the lighter Phil saw more of the thing’s features. It was hairy and black, with pointed ears and a hunchback. It was cautiously approaching the tracks. 

“Phil, come on!” Jessie said from somewhere in the darkness.

The thing raised its head and began to stand on its back legs. It stood about twelve feet with its ears down and back. The shadowy outline of its face was tilted to the side, eyeing Phil as he slowly stepped away from it. The lighter was now too hot to hold. Phil dropped it and kept backing up. He was too afraid to turn and run, but then he heard voices coming in low and getting louder. He only saw a black shape of the thing as it dropped and took off up the tracks. That’s when he turned and ran toward the sound of Jessie’s voice. 

“Jessie, run!”

That was all Jessie needed. She bolted with Phil close to her heels. 

When she got to the field Phil grabbed her arm and told her to stop. 

“Wait,” he said. “I heard voices back there.”

“What was it, what did you see?” Jessie was trying to catch her breath. 

“I don’t know what it was, looked like a coyote, but too big, maybe a wolf.”

“A wolf! No way! Around here?”

They both turned towards the bridge. About a dozen flashlights were coming up the tracks.

“Shit, we better get outta here. We’re not supposed to be anywhere near the tracks. Come on, sis, let’s go.”

Phil trudged his way through the field heading for the trail. Jessie was right behind him, breathing heavily. Both were now completely sober and out of breath. It was dark going through the woods, but to the right of them brightness from a few street lamps shone through the trees helping them see. Phil stopped in his tracks. Jessie froze. Something big and heavy was plowing through the trees coming up the rear.

“Get down.” Phil pulled Jessie down to the ground. 

They listened. Whatever it was charged by them blowing up brush and dirt then it splashed into the river on the left. They crouched down, listening to the thing as it crossed the river. They heard it crash through brush on the other side of the river and then it was gone. As they stood up they noticed flashlights coming through the trees. Neither one spoke, just made their way back to the car. 

When they got back to the car Jessie started it up and headed for the exit. Locked! The gate was locked.

“Dammit,” Phil said. “I forgot they close the gates at dusk.”

“Oh, no, they’re going to know that I was here.” Jessie backed up and parked again. 

They both got out of the car and started walking out to the main road to catch a bus. They heard voices coming from the end of the field and started to run. Neither one of them wanted to get caught up in the politics of whatever the heck was going on. Obviously, they were hunting something.

“No, they won’t know, they don’t know what time you left the park.” Phil tried to ease her mind, but he knew that they would find her by her licence plate and question her.

“So, did you see what it was?” 

“I told you it looked like a wolf, but when it stood up, it was more like a werewolf. And what ran past us in the woods was much bigger. There might have been more than one. Jeez, I thought for sure it was gonna attack me. I was lucky those people showed up when they did.”

They walked and talked all the way to the main road and caught the bus within fifteen minutes. Phil ended up staying at Jessie’s for the night. The next morning they both got up and went back to the park. The gate was open and her car was still there. They walked back to the woods but all was quiet. At the tracks, Phil found his lighter where he had dropped it. They searched the area, but it looked like all the dirt under the bridge had been raked. 

“Something’s definitely not right here.” Phil said. “That was no wolf I saw. I bet if we search the woods we’ll find some tracks or something.”

“No, thanks, bro, I’m done. Besides they might be watching us.” Jessie felt the hair on her neck stand on end. “I’m going back home, now, I’ve got work in a few hours. Aren’t you on the night shift tonight?”

“Yah, I start at ten.” Phil looked around. It was strangely quiet. “Okay, let’s go, this place is giving me the creeps.”

They walked back to the car and discussed last night’s event. They both agreed to keep it to themselves.

Two weeks later, a man claiming to be from parking enforcement came to Jessie’s apartment to ask about why her car was left overnight in the park. She told him that she had had a few beers and decided to bus home instead of driving intoxicated. When he asked about what time she had left, she told him early afternoon. She hoped that he didn’t have the resources or time to check satellite imaging. The man was satisfied with her answers and left.

Months later her brother Phil decided to move back home, he was tired of the city. Jessie made a habit of going to what she named Phil’s Park whenever she needed to be alone. And sometimes she would feel like something out of sight was watching her.