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Jewish Humour – Crying ‘Till You Laugh

rx8mfonadg-12

Decades ago I spent two years writing nothing but short stories. It was one of the happiest writing experiences of my life.

In the midst of all this, I used this ‘short story’ that I adapted from memory from something read years before that. I have no idea where I originally read it. A Google search finds four results, all citing the original story but not saying where it originated.

It actually (to my memory) originated in the Concentration Camps during the Holocaust. Perhaps nobody knows its direct source.

However – here is the way I expanded and presented it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In 1935, the Chancellor of Die Dritte Reich, Adolf Hitler, invited his friend, Benito Mussolini, and his adversary, Neville Chamberlain, for a quiet meeting in southern Bavaria. An old castle was put at their disposal, complete with acres of woodland and a small lake. During a break in the talks, Hitler invited his two guests to go fishing with him. It was a warm day, not too hot, but enough to make one feel drowsy. Chamberlain proposed a fishing contest to liven the occasion. They would see who could catch the most fish in a given half hour.

     The others agreed, and the British Prime Minister went first. He sat calmly beneath a tree, fishing line trailing in the water. When his half hour was through, he had a respectable pile of fish beside him.

     The next half hour was Mussolini’s, and he took full advantage of it. He dove headlong into the water, his arms outstretched, and started grabbing frantically at anything which swam past. After a hectic and wet half hour, he came out of the water and stood by his large pile of fish, grinning happily at Chamberlain.

     The final half hour was for Hitler. He spoke into a telephone, and immediately bulldozers, heavy trucks, loads of pipe, and numerous pieces of equipment arrived. Hitler had the lake drained. Within twenty minutes there was nothing left but a muddy hole, filled with flopping fish. Hitler stood on the rim and looked down.

     “Well?” asked Chamberlain. “Aren’t you going to get them?”

     Hitler looked over to the Prime Minister with a cold, condescending glare in his eyes.

     They have to beg me first.”

(image)https://cdn.drawception.com/images/panels/2013/12-27/Rx8mfOnaDg-12.png

In Port, & Dry Land Ain’t All That Great

It’s Thursday in the Port, and I’m walking in what some folk call the rougher part of the city. This always means “poorer”. Which always seems comparable to what the more genteel folk of a place class as, well, genteel. Go three streets over and one down. You’ll be walking where the genteel live and money talks up a storm. In a genteel way, of course.

But where I’m walking, money only whispers if it says anything at all, and there are bars and used furniture shops and tenement buildings. The cars are old, not vintage. As I walk along the sidewalk a van enters the driveway immediately ahead of me. Stops so its ass is on part of the sidewalk and I have to swerve.

The side doors slide open and out come a dozen or so men and women. Poorly dressed. Unkempt. Quiet if not sullen. They are intent, and follow the gestures of the driver. This way. This way. They are all headed to a tavern on the corner. I follow the group along the sidewalk, although not into the drinking establishment. As I pass I notice the marker-on-cardboard signs in the window. ‘Two Bucks a Drink Thursday’.

I continue up a hill and then down a hill. I’m aiming for the harbour because I like the water, and the boats, and the vistas. This part of the harbour is also genteel, because there is a large hotel and retirement homes along the genteel boardwalk. There are benches upon which to sit. I appreciate all this. I chose a bench and I sit.

I can sit literally for an hour and more. I am no where near my quota when a roughly, though neatly dressed, young man sits on a bench a couple away from me. He stares out to sea in silence for a number of minutes. Then he starts to talk loudly enough for me to hear. I am the only one present.

“Gotta storm coming down the coast.”

“I heard.” And I have.

“Going to be bad.”

“So they say.”

“Not good to go out on that.”

“I bet.”

“I gotta boat waiting for me.” He mentions the name of a fishing village. “Haven’t been out for awhile.”

“I wouldn’t start today.” And I wouldn’t, but I don’t fish.

“It’s a bugger.” He has not once looked at me. “Gotta go back sometime.”

“I’m sure you do.” And I am.

“Lost a man last time.” I’m not sure I hear him correctly. “Messy death. The sea’s like that.”

I feel I should say something, and I’m sure I should have. But what? I am not certain, truth be told, that he is even – really – talking to me. There is no emotion in his voice. He has yet to look at me. At best it’s a monologue and I’m the audience.

He then opens his outer windbreaker and takes a large bottle from an inner pocket. It looks like a bottle that commercial mouthwash is sold in. He screws off the cap and starts to drink. He does not gargle.  He takes a number of drinks in quick succession, and I am convinced it is not mouthwash. But I do not know. He screws the cap back on and puts the bottle back in his pocket. He sits. He sits in silence.

“Sea’s getting rough.” He stands. “Lot of wind.” He starts toward the railing along the boardwalk. “I’ve got the Spring run, but I’m not going out after that.” He leans against the railing. “Time to stop. Yes, it is.”

He stands, looking out over the raising waves for a couple of minutes. Then he walks away.

 

(Jacques Brel’s “Port of Amsterdam” via David Bowie)

Down To The Sea In Ships On National Lighthouse Day

nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse

Cape George Lighthouse

Since it is National Lighhouse Day, let me celebrate.

I have enjoyed going to lighthouses, and have done so for years. If anything, I keep finding them more and more evocative. A number of years ago, from high cliffs over the Northumberland Straight, this is what I saw one afternoon from a lighthouse.

One old fishing boat:

One sleek new fishing boat:

One chubby fishing boat:

One fading green fishing boat:

One distant white sailboat under sail:

One close white sailboat under sail:

Two small outboard boats:

One tugboat pulling . . .

One rusting barge.

Happily, the Cape George Lighthouse is now listed as a Heritage Site by the government of Canada.

(photo)https://opto.ca/sites/default/files/pictures/featured_items/nova_scotia_-_cape_george_lighthouse.jpg

DE

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I have also written a couple of chapters in one of my novels that were set in a lighthouse. This is a section of one of them.

Let the light shine.

 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Excerpt from: He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country

“Well, Blaine, the place is as sturdy as the rock it’s on. Government inspected every spring. We even sat pretty through the Great Groundhog Day Gale in 1976, the worst storm in over a hundred years.”

Fred Gannet nudged Blaine to the huge windows. He pointed into the distance, although neither could see through the fog.

“Waves forty feet smashed up against us. We clocked winds at one hundred and thirty-seven miles an hour. We had the warning, so we got most of this battened down. Turned over my van, but I had it far from the cliff. Smashed out a window in the living room. I had a bitch of a time getting plywood over it. Lost power and phone of course, but everything here can run on emergency generator. And part of the roof lifted, but it didn’t do that much damage.” He jabbed his finger at the rain spattered windows. “This is a baby compared to that whore.”

He gave a whoop of a laugh, and took off his cap.

“Old George Crenshaw, he’s the keep on Goat Island, a mile square drop of nothing about eight miles further out to sea. Well, he took the brunt of that bitch, and we were all sure he was a goner. For hours after it passed, there was no boats could get through the waves, or helicopters through the wind. Even the radios were gone, and no one had talked to the old bugger for twelve hours.

“We kept trying and trying, and finally I heard his call letters, but real faint like. I turn my juice ’til the needle’s in the red, and I’m yelling, to find out how he is. You know the first thing any of us hear that old son of a bitch say?”     The large man’s body was actually shaking with laughter, something Blaine had rarely seen in anyone.

“Old George’s thin voice comes out of the radio, like a fart out of a ghost, and he says: `Well, boys, that was quite a breeze’.”

Flying Fish in Halifax Harbour

fresh and tasty

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I https://media.pitchup.co.uk/uploads/mackerel-fishing-trips.jpg

There is a relatively new and very long pier at one of the container terminals in Halifax. It seems to go out a quarter of the way into the harbour. It offers the best view of the mouth of the harbour, along with some (now) unique views back into the harbour itself.

As I was standing at the end, jutting into the harbour and watching the passing ship traffic (hello, cruise ship), I noticed a man with a fishing pole, casting away. He did not seem too successful, but did toss the occasional fish (mackerel) into a large pail. As I watched my ships, he cast away. Sometimes his fish leaped from the pail and flopped about on the pier. He did not seem concerned, though I rather hoped one of them would slide under the fence and return to the water far below.

I stayed about an hour and was preparing to leave. So was the fisherman. He called me over and asked me if I wanted any fish. I did have interest, but, in addition to transporting fish on a bus, and also having to gut and clean them, I declined. It was then he offered the grandest of shows.

He reached into his pail and started tossing the fish over the high, barbwire-topped fence which enclosed the container terminal. On the other side was a vast platform, upon which waited a flock of seagulls. As each mackerel sailed over the fence, and slid across the cement, the gulls descended. I anticipated many bird fights. I was surprised to see each gull that reached a fish first, just swallowed the mackerel whole.

Gulp.

Slide into gullet.

Fly away gull.

The other gulls then turned their attention to the next flying fish.

It was quite the entertainment.

DE

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