Barroom Humour

“All parents are an embarrassment to their children.”
(novel) The Rosie Project

Sometimes I’m grumpy, foul-tempered, negative and impatient. At least that’s what I’m told. And apparently not everyone appreciates what I consider to be a marvelous sense of humour. But, here goes…

My daughter had a summer job bartending. I found this ironic because until she scored this plum position she didn’t even know how how to open a bottle of beer. I kid you not. She calls me a
“raging alcoholic.”
Imagine that.

The thing is, I’ve dropped into ‘her’ bar a couple of times in the past two weeks, mainly because I discovered that her night manager picks up my beer bill. So naturally I became a little distressed the other night when I mounted the stairs with my arthritic knees and sore back to the terraced bar overlooking Dow’s Lake and saw no one. No servers, and more importantly, no bartender. Fortunately I had the presence of mind not to panic and proceeded to the window separating the outside patio to the indoor section. Several waitresses were sitting around a table, as if their night’s work was over or something. Of course my only recourse was to tap loudly on the window.
“Hey, where’s your bartender”? I was a little put out and possibly, I was told later, a bit too loud. “What kind of operation are you running around here?”

Which was met by some blank, but mostly indignant stares. As if they didn’t know who I was or something. Maybe my daughter had failed to mention that the short, stubby guy frequently drinking beer on the premises lately was her father.

The embarrassed barkeeper made her way quickly back to the bar when she noticed who the late -arriving patron was. No use allowing him to hang around even longer, making an even bigger fool of himself than he was, and what’s worse, reflecting badly on her.

“What kind of draft beer do you have ?” I inquired, hoisting myself onto a stool at the empty bar.
“You know what kind of draft beer we have,” came the answer. “We go through this every time you come here.”
“The usual, then.” My memory was coming back to me. “Does anyone ever call you Porky?”
Another indignant glare. My daughter is a university hockey player and she works out at the gym every day year round. Porky she is not.

So I had to tell her the story from my own university hockey-playing days. My New Jersey friend, who also happened to be the team manager, Mike Dunn, and me, had taken out a young rookie on the team to what was probably his first foray into any kind of bar. We were in Massachusetts, just after Christmas, and we really shouldn’t have been out the night before a game. But remember, this was the ’70s.
“I’ll have a Budweiser, barkeep” said Dunn. With his New Jersey accent barkeep sounded more like ‘baakee.’
Our rookie friend, Johnny Parker, was from rural New Brunswick and hadn’t really attuned his ear to the tones of deepest , darkest New Jersey. He looked at our server, heavy-set and scowling.
“Yeah, you can get me the same thing, uh, Porky.” Poor Johnny had misunderstood the nomenclature. Back in the day it wasn’t unusual to call a fat guy Porky, especially if you’d just heard one of your friends use that moniker already. However, our service for the rest of the night was grudging and intermittent.

My story done, I thought I’d finish off by impressing my daughter with my generosity. After all, that virtue had been the subject of many a lecture. “Beers for the house,” I announced,”and keep ’em coming.” I circled my finger in the air, using the universal signal of barflies everywhere. You might be startled by my generosity, but I have to admit I was the only one still on the premises.
And the beers were free.

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Apple Pie

“Baseball and hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet,” rang the t.v. commercial back in the 1960s when I actually had to stand up and take a few steps to turn the channel. And even that would usually break into a fistfight with my brothers after an argument as to who had changed the channel the last time.
All of those products are out of favour in modern life. Baseball: too slow. Hot dogs: don’t even think about what’s in them. Chevrolet: too American. And who actually makes apple pies anymore ?

Nepal does. The Annapurna Trek through Nepal’s Himalayas is nicknamed the ‘Apple Pie Trek’. A lot of the teahouses along the way serve up what is a usually-delicious apple pie that we often ordered and sometimes ate before our actual meal. This could be partly explained because the high altitude’s thin air not only makes exertion difficult, but also seems to impede normal brain functioning. After making short work of her second piece of pie before lunch,Brenda had to deal with a breathing problem. In my characteristically sympathetic manner I assumed it was because she had eaten too much too fast. Brenda waved me off. “I’m having a heart attack,” she informed me. She’s usually indignant with my superficial ways but this time she surprised me with her forgiving request. “If I die I want you to do my eulogy.” Funny what becomes a priority when you visualize the Grim Reaper’s scythe on your jugular.

We couldn’t afford to have Brenda die on the bare floor of a Himalayan teahouse with a half-eaten piece of pie left on the table, so a couple of hours of uphill trekking brought her back from death’s doorstep. A $2.00 charge at the next teahouse brought Brenda pause. “Pricey,” she said. “Usually they let us stay for free if we promise to eat supper and breakfast there.” Her old parsimonious self back, I knew Brenda had recovered from her moment of mortality.

This time it was me who couldn’t walk any further. “I’m staying here,” I declared.”Even if they are over-charging.” A glance at the door showed a calendar with the page showing February. Today was November the 8th. “They’re a little behind the times,” I pointed out. “I hope that they’re a little more prompt with their meals.” Then I noticed that the calendar’s year was 2009.

We gathered around the woodburning stove at 5 p.m. waiting for a little supper action. There were four other guests present. Three German girls named Sophie, Francie and Ronia and one other French young woman who introduced herself as Anne. All of them were outgoing and cosmopolitan. We spoke French and German and I even contributed with my caveman version of the Teutonic tongue. We eventually found our way into English, which they all spoke quite well. Sophie the blonde German girl had almost finished medical school and had already worked as an intern in a Kathmandu hospital. She could get by in the local dialect and was not averse to lending a helping hand in the kitchen. She was also outgoing and funny. Anne the French girl had travelled through Mongolia and China. She was now hiking the Annapurna of course, and then would continue on into India. Most of the young males I knew of her age were still playing video games in their parents’ basements. But Anne worked in the aeronautics industry in France, where it is law that all employees could have a year’s sabbatical with a guarantee of having their exact same position back upon their return.

Supper was fried potatoes and vegetables; all we could eat. Anne had misplaced her phone and that sparked a frantic search until Brenda reached into her pocket and pulled it out. She had mistaken Sophie’s phone for her own. There were no angry accusations and I was able to good-naturedly joke that “Brenda had given you some of her fried potatoes. We figured your phone was a fair exchange.” All of us had a hearty laugh.

The sense of humour of both the French and the Germans is greatly underrated. We stayed, laughing and joking around the stove until 8 p.m. when the fire died out. With nothing to keep us in the now-unheated kitchen, it was time to bunk down in our unheated huts.

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The Breakfast Club

It’s something I’ve always wondered about… do assholes know that they are assholes ?
At breakfast after playing Saturday morning hockey I posed this question to my friend Dave G. He immediately looked further down the table and re-directed the query to one individual in particular.
“I don’t know…. Chris???

I know…I know. I apologize for the use of that crude term. I don’t even like to use it myself. Years ago a wise old gentleman told me that he doesn’t like to compare that most essential part of the human anatomy to a jerk. But my Saturday morning hockey and the post-game breakfasts do serve as a salve to my soul after living in this world all week long. Most of us are 50 plus years of age, the younger players don’t usually join us for breakfast. They probably don’t want to waste their time with people who still receive daily newspapers on their doorsteps and have landlines.

Ahh.. not me , of course! But those of us now receiving Canada Pension Plan deposits in our bank accounts now seem to feel wonderfully liberated when it comes to speaking the truth… as we see it. And if our editorializing might hurt the feelings of one of our peers, well, that’s his problem. We’re all far too beholden to our egos anyway. One of the guys has his own electrical supplies business, owns a fleet of classic cars and who I’m sure could sell it all now and spend the rest of his days basking in the sun on Club Med cruises. But watching him move on the ice reminds me that what most of us hear from others is a long list of our weaknesses, errors and blemishes. “Hey, Jacques,” I ask Mr. Electrical Supply as he comes gasping back to the bench,”you should get yourself a Handicapped sticker for your windshield.”
As my wife says, “You are emotionally stunted, David.” I don’t even know if she thinks I have any redeeming qualities at all.

But the thing is, most of us in the Breakfast Club realize that the world has moved on without us, but instead of being bitter, it is instead served up as a good story. For instance, a couple of years ago when my youngest (daughter) was still in high school she belonged to this organisation called ‘Link.’ Their goal is, I don’t think even they know exactly, but it’s supposed to link up the senior Grade 12 students with the young Grade Niners just entering high school. Anyway, I suspect its true value was another notch on university and scholarship-seeking students’ resumes. This particular incident happened right in the middle of the compassionate, socially just, gender- fluid years of Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Ontario government. My daughter walked to the front of the room and in her direct way asked the curious class, “What pronoun do you want to be known as?”
The Grade 9 boys blinked in confusion and stared at her. After several seconds one of them raised his hand.
“What’s a pronoun?” He was genuinely curious.
“He, she, they… there are quite a few of them now, my daughter informed them as only a young, confident and morally and socially-just young university aspirant can be.
“Well, I’m a he… aren’t I?” asked one of the confused young males, looking up from his cell phone for maybe the first time since he entered the class. Sounds like this 14 year old could be a future member of the Old Guys’ Breakfast Club.

Oh, I’m not a complete dinosaur. Young people seem a lot more tolerant, kinder and gentler than we did at their age, at least until they get on social media. But even when I was young I held a grudging respect and admiration for, ahem, older folks more plainspoken and direct speech. My grandfather, an old farmer, had an abandoned wee dog wander up to his kitchen door one morning in 1962. He became his constant companion until he died fourteen years later (the dog, not my grandfather.) His name throughout all that time ?
Wee Dog.

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Being There

“Sometimes it’s heaven and sometimes it’s hell and sometimes I don’t even know.”
-Willie Nelson

A friend answered an e-mail that I had sent to her. “Good rant,” she wrote. “But so true !”
Rant ? I wondered. I don’t rant. I’m just telling the truth.

I’d like to say that I ran into a guru, like the ones we’re always seeing in the comic strips, on one of the peaks of Nepal’s Himalayas. I could then pass on to you this wisdom, but at the altitudes we were at I had trouble even remembering my own name.

I usually come back from trips either sick or injured. To tell you the truth, there’s a lot about our trips I don’t like. In my doddering old age I’m a homeboy at heart. The best day away is usually more difficult than my worst day at home, but I’m always trying to learn something, to come away with a broader perspective than when I left. What I really love in life is to watch sports, play hockey, work out in the gym or golf and then go out with the boys for a beer afterwards, not necessarily in that order. I even like walking our dog around our neighbourhood’s Dow’s Lake or in the nearby arboretum. I realize that some could consider this a shallow life, but I’ve mellowed a lot and no longer harbour delusions of grandeur. I don’t argue politics or religion anymore because I’ve come to realize most politicians will say or do anything to get or stay in power and now that I’m collecting Canada’s Pension Plan I’m older than all of them anyway. I don’t discuss religion because people would think I’m a weirdo, if you can believe that. The following are some random observations from Himalayan mountain-tops that don’t necessarily make me a better person, but found interesting anyway.

Despite the often bad raps that the millenial generation takes, kudos to their sense of adventure and initiative. We met several twenty-something females who thought nothing of quitting their jobs or taking a year’s leave of absence and trekking through India and Nepal. A lot of them were English, German, Dutch or French. One young Aussie journalist had been to one hundred and twenty-eight countries already and she was not yet twenty eight years old. We met another young English lass who had spent the last month in New Delhi and “… didn’t suffer one day with the dreaded ‘Delhi belly’, an intestinal affliction which is hard for travellers to avoid in that city. Her name was Millie, she told us.
“Millie… what’s that short for?” I was charmed by the old-fashioned moniker.
“Millicent,” she answered.
“Wasn’t that the evil fairy’s name in ‘Sleeping Beauty ?” I asked.
I’ve never lost my charming ways with the ladies.
But enough with the praise already. I still find those millenials way too politically correct !

I love those Hotel Trivago commercials. But a hotel ? Who needs ’em ? If you don’t like bare-bones rooms with two single beds on a cement or wooden-planked floor and a roof of corrugated tin and a Turkish toilet somewhat nearby, don’t hike the Annapurna Trail. But the price is right. Rooms are very seldom more than two dollars a night for two, often being offered for free if you agree to eat supper and breakfast at the establishment.

The hike often seems to be at a seventy degree angle, going up or down, often stepping over boulders. If that’s not your idea of fun, then don’t come.

I saw a Nepalese, he must have been in his fifties, carrying a huge pack on his shoulders up the side of a mountain. The bulging pack must have been at least forty five pounds. He was wearing flip-flops over a pair of socks, a feat in itself. Didn’t faze him anymore than me walking my dog around the block.

I know that we’re not supposed to generalize, but Spaniards are noisy. (Full disclosure- my last name, Perras, is originally Spanish.) Early on in the trek we would run into different groups of Spaniards, as the Annapurna Trek must have been well-publicized on the Iberian Peninsula. If you should end up seated at a table beside them and you’re sensitive to noise, you’ll probably go to bed with a headache. This was shortly after the Catalonian vote for independence and there were very passionate opinions one way or the other. Too bad I couldn’t follow the arguments. You have to admire their passion however; we in Canada let our politicians off the hook far too easily.

We start to think about bed at about seven p.m. By this time it’s been dark for at least an hour and a half and it will be another long day’s hike tomorrow. One night I find myself seated around the woodstove with three generations of Asian women: grandmother, mother , daughter. They are all smoking, snorting and spitting. I don’t happen to smoke so I fit in by doing more snorting and spitting.

Our porter, Sunil, speaks hardly any English but he’s always ready to learn. After a brief respite, a group of Frenchmen sitting nearby get up and prepare to move on. They must have nicknames for each other, because one calls out to another, “Allons-y Dum-Dum.”
Sunil gets up, shoulders his pack, looks at me and smiles. “Okay, Dum-Dum?” he asks.

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Up and At ‘Em

Lately, it’s occurred to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been.
‘Truckin’- The Grateful Dead

“Doesn’t Dad weigh about,like ninety pounds now?”, my son Adam asked my daughter Rachelle from the outback in Australia where he has been working on a sheep ranch. He and Rachelle had been messaging, or whatever you call it, on Facebook.
“I told him that you had put on most of the weight you had lost on your trek in Nepal,” Rachelle informed me. “But I also said that you hadn’t speeded up any, either. Remember that last trip to Costco when we were grocery shopping and you walked into the freezer area to pick up some milk and eggs, I think it was. Do you remember the sloth in the movie ‘Zootopia’? I told him that you moved at exactly the same speed.”

Maybe some old injuries and illnesses have something to do with this present sad state of affairs. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the roads through the Himalayas are not paved at all. That was my first thought as we set out on our first morning of actual trekking. The previous night spent at the teahouse of the laughing-man-peeling-potatoes had been surprisingly pleasant and comfortable, with a large and delicious breakfast on outdoor tables overlooking a fast-moving river and a suspension bridge. It was the first of many that we would have to cross, so many that Ieven began to think of myself as a bow-legged, limping Indiana Jones. And across from this rushing river was a very large and ornate modern edifice. “What’s that?” I asked our host.
“Chinese government building,” came back the answer. Apparently these structures are now all over Nepal, as Chinese expansionism has not limited itself to Tibet. I couldn’t help thinking that Nepal could use its own version of Donald Trump and I pictured a large, orange-coiffed Nepalese with a golf club in his hand, tweeting out nightly about the need to build a wall and keep out the Chinese. Maybe he could even get the Chinese to build it, seeing as how they’d already had the experience a few thousand years ago.

Thank God, however, that I was finally away from Trump coverage twenty-four seven. We aimed to spend the night at a place called Ghermu. The first couple of hours were pleasant with vistas that reminded me of the Swiss Alps,but my mind jumped ahead to what could be considered as possible Terrors of the Trek. Such things as earthquakes, Yeti the Abominable Snowman and spending time twenty-four seven with your spouse.

I of course include my own company in this nightmare scenario. Was it only yesterday that my loving daughter remarked in the middle of a grocery-shopping expedition that “I can only take you in small doses, Dad.”

My mind was brought back to the moment by jeeps roaring by raising dust. Washing clothes could be a problem for us, I mused, but then almost immediately we passed by a woman doing laundry in a washtub with her feet, a cigarette stuck in the middle of her mouth and a big smile on her face. So that was good… I would not be stuck wearing dusty clothes throughout the next three weeks. I wondered if the North American media machine could get womenkind…oops… I meant humankind, adopting this new and very practical method of low-impact aerobics.

The village of Gherma was still several hours ahead and apparently there were lots of teahouses from which to choose, not just the one recommended in ‘Lonely Planet.’ We kept on walking, Brenda usually outpacing my limping, bow-legged gait. My arthritic knees made me feel like the crippled kid who couldn’t keep up in the Grimm Brothers’ Fairy Tale ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin.’
O.K. … I’m showing my age with that particular turn of phrase.
I was walking like a special needs child.
One day down, eighteen more to go.

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Trek Take-Off

As we organized our backpacks in the Kathmandu Guest House the evening before the actual trek began, Brenda offered me plastic bags to keep my things organized. “You know, one for the heavier clothing, one for the laundry,” blah,blah,blah.
I thanked her and then threw everything willy-nilly into my backpack.

The thing is, I wasn’t even going to have to carry all this stuff by myself. Brenda had arranged for a porter to carry a share of our stock. “Come on,” I had protested at first,”we walked the whole Camino Santiago, 800 kilometres, me with blisters so bad until the two hundred kilometre mark that every step was agony,not to mention Machu Picchu, where I was Rachelle’s packhorse as well and now you want to go the British aristocrat route with some poor, what do they call them, sherpas, carrying everything ? Is the poor devil gonna have to call me Bwana Dave as well ?” Despite my well-earned reputation as a scoffer at all things millenial, I’m an egalitarian at heart. Brenda was used to my bellicose bluster after more than thirty years.Taking your spouse with a grain of salt helps make most anything a little more palatable. “Look,”she said, “the Camino is a summer trek. Lighter clothing. We’ve got a lot of heavier supplies this time around. We’re hiking up the Himalayas, reaching almost 5000 metres. And you’re almost sixty two years old.” She hadn’t quite finished. “And what about those arthritic knees that you’re always whining about?”

The porter’s name was Sunil and he was eighteen years old. The same age as our daughter, our youngest child. It didn’t seem that long ago that I was carrying her bag on Peru’s Machu Picchu trek.
Where, by gum, have the years gone ?
We were to leave by six a.m. the next morning. There was an A.T.M. at the exit to the Guest House and although it had been empty the night before departure, we were assured it would be stocked with hundreds of crisp new rupees by the next morning. Actually, we had arrived with plenty of American dollars, good as gold anywhere in the world we had always found, but our travel coordinator Chandra wanted to be paid in cash, as Visa always takes five percent from the merchants. Brenda was responsible for the money. “I organized the trip,” she responded when I mouthed my mild protests. She also claims I’m not wary enough of pickpockets, too much of a soft touch with beggars and not a hardnosed negotiator while haggling. But despite her usual sagacity with a dollar, Brenda seems to be a soft touch with Buddhists and Hindus. She takes a harder line with Christians and Muslims, and me. Must have something to do with past lives and karma working itself out. We had even tried to get a cash advance on our Visa card the day before, making the rounds of the banks. No luck. Every banker looked at us in bewilderment as we profferred our Visa, as incredulous as if we were offering them Canadian Tire money. Visa may be everywhere you want to be, except in Nepal. That Morgan Freeman is full of shit, man.

So it was back to the ATM that morning of departure. I inserted my debit card at 6:15 a.m. Nothing happened. There was a security guard standing nearby. “This machine worked a couple of days ago,” I informed him. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“They don’t bring the money until 8 a.m.” Wonderful. We were supposed to have put in the first hour of our bus ride by then.

Sunil still hadn’t arrived by 6:30. We put in a call to Chandra, who had hired the guy for us. “He’s on Nepal time,” was Chandra’s explanation.

When he showed up at 6:45 a.m. Sunil’s bloodshot eyes made it look like he had already spent his first day’s pay on some Nepalese celebratory liquor. No big deal. We wouldn’t be doing too much hiking this first day anyway. We hailed a taxi and while loading up either Sunil or the cabbie slammed the trunk on one of the backpacks’ clasps, leaving it inoperable. The sun hadn’t even come up yet and already we were departing late, short of cash, with a hungover porter and now a partially-disabled backpack. But if we were quick we could still catch our bus at the terminal by 7:00 a.m.

At 7:30 a.m. we were still seated on the bus in the terminal parking lot, going nowhere. We were joined by two other apparently lost souls. Brenda finished her second banana of the morning and looked over at the bus driver. “Where’s the garbage?” she asked. He merely looked out the window at the litter, a trash-strewn parking lot. “Oh, okay.”

After an hour-and-a-half wait sitting on a near-empty bus we started to see some action. The bus was almost full by the time we pulled out at 9 a.m. but the drive getting out of Kathmandu was agonizing. Apparently we weren’t the only bus leaving the city. The bus drive, while slow, was very civilized however, with a washroom break after an hour and a half and then a stop for lunch. The dal bhat buffet was very impressive and service was carried out with friendly smiles. The friendly smiles remained constant for the three week trek, but my gastro-intestinal system did not stay as cheery.

Seven hours later the bus pulled in to Bessarabi, its last stop. Not one of the tree ATMs was working. I asked our porter, Sunil, if any of the villages we would be hiking through in the next few days had any money machines. He shook his head, sadly. Well, no matter. We had been in worse predicaments and the universe had not yet pulled the plug on either of us. It was getting dark and it was supposed to be a three and a half hour walk to Bulbule, the village where we planned to spend the night before our first full day’s trek. We found four other hardy souls who were on the same mission and hired a jeep that started out on roads that would have been right at home in battle-scarred Afghanistan. A little more than an hour later we rolled out of our seats and I spotted a guest house right beside a suspension bridge and a woman who seemed anxious for our business. We were in no position to argue. I’d had enough for one day. Even if we were heading into the House of Horrors I wasn’t going any farther and Brenda realized that.
We shouldered our backpacks and made our way to the front door. Outside the kitchen there was a small man peeling potatoes and laughing non-stop.
Maybe he knew something we didn’t.

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Apparently the way to go for any wannabe writers are romance novels. They are the best sellers in modern day literature.
But for a guy whose first gift to his prospective wife was a tiny cactus plant, followed by a dozen plastic roses after the birth of our first-born, I don’t know if I have the right stuff for that line of literature. I’m still trying to find my niche.

But I have discovered that critics are everywhere. Usually in close proximity. My wife Brenda usually ranks # One on that list. She’s an irregular reader of my blogs, at the best of times. But she did read the latest; Stage One of our travels to Nepal.
“You’re always so negative. Why don’t you write about the good features, the great experiences of our trip. You sound like an embittered, grouchy, grumpy old man.”
Before snapping back in self-defense as I usually do, I decided to think about it for a little while.
“Yeah… so ?” I countered.
Or I could have come back with the line Jimmy Moore, my university hockey coach in the 1970s and as an old-school individual as one could find, used to give us when we’d come to him with complaints about everything from ice time to the amount of meal money on road trips. “As they say in Russia, Davey, tough shitsky !” he’d chortle.

I remember reading something Ernest Hemingway wrote about it being the writer’s job to always write the truth, and to report on what the weather was.
At least I usually get the weather component right, usually.

But to be truthful, there was still a lot of damage from the huge earthquake of two and a half years’ previous. A Nepalese named Chandra was the coordinator through which Brenda did our booking. “Tourism has only come back to about 40 % of the level before the earthquake,” he informed us. Chandra had started in the tourism business as a guide, had improved his English to a high level and decided he didn’t want to work for other people for the rest of his life. Other people would work for him. His booking us into the Kathmandu Guest House was an inspired choice. The staff was unfailingly friendly and the buffet breakfast had me returning for three or four fill-ups. There would be a lot of calories to burn off during a three week Himalayan trek.
That’s being positive, isn’t it ?

One cannot make a trip to Nepal without visiting the Royal Palace. It’s located in something called Durber Square and it had been badly damaged by the quake. Admission inside most buildings was not permitted throughout the period of renovation, leaving us with a sense of dissatisfaction.
Cracked or not, the architecture was superb. But even so, the kings or the ancient Hindus or whoever had done the designing to please the gods and goddesses had had the practical foresight to leave room for a sizeable market square. Someone had to pay the bills, after all.
This area was dubbed Grasshopper Square. Maybe the initial proprietor had been a fan of David Carradine and the t.v. show Kung Fu. But the salespeople within, whether they had any connection to grasshoppers or not, were relentless. When Brenda cast her discerning eye over a small statue of Buddha, the salesman was more than slightly encouraged.
“You want that Buddha? I give special price for you. Only $20.00”. My wife’s obvious lack of interest forced the poor soul to rein in his hopes as she turned her back and began her walk out of the overpriced square.
“One dollar?” was the last offer heard coming from the luckless vendor. Poor devil had overplayed his hand and karma was not cooperating.

Outside the square and into the streets scooters and motorbikes had taken over the streets, going in all directions at once and leaving little room for an entitled and arrogant Ottawa pedestrian. Joining us on foot were stray dogs and the odd sacred cow whose only pastureland was the occasional overturned garbage can. Somehow, someway, collisions seemed to be avoided until one motorcycle wheel ran up the back of my leg. Predictably enough, I received no sympathy from my travel-hardened wife. “You’ve got to watch and be careful,” she warned me, too late to do any good. “Thanks for the advice,” I grunted, limping quickly out of the way before any other motorcyclists decided to finish me off. I glared back at my ever-loving spouse. Everything happens so fast in an Asian city. One tiny, innocuous shove might do the job. No eye witness account would stand up in court.

Fortunately, both of us were able to make it back to the hotel unaided. Two, maybe three of those Nepal beers might help me recover from my trauma. Tomorrow morning, early, we would be catching a cab and then a bus which would take us off to, as the wrestling announcers of my youth used to say, parts unknown. “What time are we leaving tomorrow,” I asked the boss. My contribution to trip preparations usually amounted to grunting when Brenda asked if the itinerary met with my approval.
“Does that mean we miss that buffet breakfast tomorrow morning?” I inquired.

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