Thursday, October 18, 2007

O Canada

As a novice truck driver in 2002, I heard numerous horror stories about the perils of driving a big truck into Canada. Two months after my solo-driving career began, I was dispatched to Toronto, Ontario. At least I didn’t have a trailer – it had been dropped along with $500,000 worth of printing plates from Mexico at a Kodak facility in Rochester, NY.

When I got to the border, two lanes of trucks were backed up for about a mile. When I got to the border guard, he was very pleasant. He asked to see my CDL, asked me where I was from, where I was going, what I was picking up, how long I would be in Canada and where I was going to re-enter the States. He handed back my license and said, “Have a good trip.” I was in.

I picked up an empty trailer at one of our customer’s lots in Toronto and headed to my pickup. Of course my directions sucked and no one I asked seemed to know where that particular industrial park was.

After about two hours of driving around the outskirts of Toronto, I finally found it.

The warehouse where I picked up my load of pastry dough was in an office/industrial park and had a very small dock area. Add to this the fact that there were employee cars parked everywhere. There was also a trailer parked in their only other dock, making it a very tight squeeze. As I wrestled with my truck, trying to get it into the hole, the employees decided it was break time. About 15 women, primarily Asian and Hispanic, came outside to sit and smoke cigarettes. They witnessed the entire, terrifying spectacle as I tried to dock my truck. When I finally did get into the loading dock, I got a standing ovation.

Trailer loaded, I headed for Chicago. My route took me across the Ambassador Bridge and through Detroit customs. It was another long wait, and the scrutiny was a little more thorough getting back into the States. They asked a few more questions and studied my license a bit closer but finally, I was back on home soil. What really pissed me off was that I had to pay to get back into my own country.

There were other trips to Canada – some of them a little hairier than this one. I’ll save those for another time.



Friday, October 05, 2007

As Promised - A Long Time Ago

No, I did not die. Just haven't been into writing for the past few months. I have, however finished two furniture projects and started on a third. Oh yeah - I've also repainted the walls in all but one room of the house.

The piece of furniture that I alluded to in one of my last posts was a birthday present for my daughter. For as long as I can remember (and I'm an old fart) a small, dark- colored desk sat in our living room at home. I can still see my father, who died in 1964, sitting at that desk paying bills. When my mother passed away in 1999, the desk became mine. It sat in my home office, basically unused, for the next 8 years. When Cayta was about to turn 30, I decided it was time to pass it on.

It looked like the above photo by the time I got around to working on it. It had taken a beating, but it was still structurally sound. A lot of sand paper, steel wool, elbow grease and sweat later, it became Cayta's birthday present. I know it's over 50 years old, but how many years it was around before then are a mystery. The picture below is the end result of my labor.

The other piece that I undertook was an ancient 3-drawer chest that Barbara and I bought at an old antique/junk shop in Binghamton, NY in the early 70's. It's selling price was written in crayon on the inside base of the top drawer and it's still there - $8! I refinished it not long after we got it, but it still looked like shit. Over the ensuing years it sat in our living room enduring a variety of misuses. At one point, it was a stand for a 30-gallon fish tank. That particular incarnation seriously damaged the chest's structure. The top became waterlogged and and it listed to one side.

When I began the refinishing process this time I found it impossible to get the top sanded smooth - I kept running into soft spots. I even tried a belt-sander, but could not get to sound wood. The solution was a screw driver - I gouged out the rotten spots, filled them with wood filler and painted the top satin black. I added support to the chest's frame, realigned the drawers, added a false back for appearances so that it doesn't need to be against a wall and started on the sanding and refinishing process. Sadly, I don't have any "before" photos, but the picture below is how it looks now.

The current project is a little less ambitious. Barbara bought a set of antique dining room chairs about 20 years ago. We used them for a while, then acquired a new dining room set. The chairs were relegated to our basement - and no good can come from that. They are not yet finished, but below are "before" and "afters."

So, that's how I spent my summer. The impetus for my getting back to the blog was a comment this week from a new fan who seems to enjoy my ramblings. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.