The Square Bottle

Both guest blogger Paul Curran and I were both on a more comfortable Saturday schedule this week. So you lucky readers are back to the regular early Sunday start for his weekly Cuppa. Take it away, my Canadian friend.

Paul Curran, our esteemed writer.

Paul Curran, our esteemed writer.

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today, and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B have prepared a nice, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is warm at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit with a few clouds (for those of you flying in). As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer. We have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership, and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a sweet – electronic sweets are all calorie free!

Yum, Yum

So, Happy Easter! I would be remiss if I didn’t wish everyone the very best on this important Christian holiday. We splurged on chocolate sweets this week in honor of the Easter holiday – so all you folks won’t have to watch with envy when your kids dig into their chocolate bunnies and such.

Well, Friday there was an occurrence that will happen only twice in my lifetime – my birthday, March 25, fell on Good Friday. Now 2016 and 2005 were the only two years in my life that occurred on. My good friend Steve brought over a classic square bottle of Jack Daniels (the 375 ml version was quite sufficient for two old geezers like us), and we sat and drank and solved all the problems of the world. It occurred to me that that iconic bottle had been present at a number of funny incidents in my lifetime and in stories told by my friends.

New York City Here We Come

It was mid-November and my good friend Elroy and I had turned in our temperature-controlled trailers for flat beds and we had started hauling Christmas trees from Nova Scotia to New York City. The hardest part of that job was finding the tree lots where we were to unload. Occasionally we unloaded at garden centers or large stores, but 90 percent of the trees went to unnamed tree lots that sprang up for the season in empty lots in the city without addresses and often without the knowledge of the locals. We were given directions with each load, but they were approximate at best, and, of course, there was no phone service and no business name at these temporary lots. My good friend Elroy was loaded for one such tree lot when he exited I-95 into the bowels of the Bronx. At the bottom of the ramp stood a liquor store with all the attending bars on the windows and garbage blowing down the sidewalk. Elroy made a note to drop by on the way out as he was an avid Jack Daniels fan and happened to be out.

Home of Jack Daniels

He followed the directions carefully and after 15 minutes found himself driving by the same liquor store without having seen a tree lot. Thinking he must have misread the directions, he continued on with another attempt to find the lot. When he came back in front of the liquor store a third time he realized his directions were wrong and so he stopped to see if the shop owner knew of the lot. Picking out a 40-ouncer of Jack Daniels, Elroy paid and then asked the owner if he knew of the tree lot. The store owner replied: “No, can’t say that I do, but it can’t be far. I just saw two of your trucks go by here.”

Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet?

Another time, I was laid over at our Maine office on a Friday night. I had arrived before closing but had to get some work done to my trailer that couldn’t be done until Saturday. I asked our accountant, Deborah, who was a very attractive single mom, if I could take her and her 4-year-old daughter out for supper. She agreed, so we actually picked up some food and a bottle of Jack Daniels on the way back to her place. After supper, her daughter went to bed and I poured Deborah and myself a drink of Jack. We were just friends at the time, but I was not above trying to impress her as I saw a glimmer of a possibility there. There was a wood stove in the living room and she said she had never used it. I loved a good fire so I decided to light it. I asked Deb if she had any newspapers to use to get it started but she did not. However, she said she had Kleenex in the bathroom garbage can and would get it. I went out to the shed to get kindling and wood that had already been stored there when she moved in.

Ahh, Great Ambience

When I returned, arms full, Deb had placed a bed of tissues in the bottom of the stove. Without checking, I just put in kindling and then a few logs. Checking to make sure the damper was open and there was good airflow, I lit the tissues and the fire roared to life. We sat back down, a little closer this time and sipped our Jack Daniels. Relaxed and watching the fire we were completely surprised when there came a huge explosion in the stove and ashes flew out and smoke started pouring into the room. The explosion caused both of us to startle so bad that we almost fell off the couch. We jumped up and stomped out the cinders burning on the floor and then she got some water to quench the remaining ones while I checked and found the damper closed. I opened it and the smoke began to clear.

When we had cleaned up and the fire was burning again, Deb asked if this was normal as she had never had a wood stove before. I assured her that it wasn’t and asked what had been in the garbage can besides tissue. She confessed that there had been an empty shaving cream can but she hadn’t thought it would make a difference. Sigh. There wasn’t much romantic atmosphere left but we did a good job on the JD and I got the local radio station that we were listening to to play Deb’s favorite – Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero.”

Whiteouts

One night I was trucking along in a snow storm with whiteouts in Newfoundland when I saw one of our competition’s trucks upright down in the ditch on the opposite side of the road. I stopped to make sure he was OK as the trailer lights were all on and the tracks were fresh. I found him OK in the truck, which was running, and we checked out the scene with flashlights. He had apparently just gone off the road, but we found not even a scratch on the truck or trailer. The problem was that he was in a ditch so deep that the roof of the trailer was level with the road. I told him to forget a wrecker, that he would have to hire a crane in the morning to get him out without damage. He looked pretty depressed so I told him to wait a minute, and I went back to my truck and got a bottle of Jack Daniels I was saving for when I was empty and gave it to him, explaining that he was going to need it more than me. He brightened up considerably, thanked me profusely and retired to his cab where it was warm and he could enjoy the whiskey.

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation, and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great long weekend and a Happy Easter. 

Easter Tea

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31 thoughts on “The Square Bottle

  1. Well, talk about a bang of a night, Paul. LOL. Remind me to light my own fires when you’re around, just in case. You have a so many good stories… you should really have a book by now. Anyway, Happy (belated) Birthday… here’s to you surviving another year, but even better, here’s to your best new year ever! Cheers! Make it with JD if it suits . 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Robyn! Thanks so much for dropping by for a visit. I hadn’t had any JD for a decade before Steve dropped by Friday night. That’s one of the reasons it brought back so many memories. Drinking was such a part of that driving culture in those days. Alcohol has a much more negative connotation now days. Times have changed my friend. Happy Easter!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’m the same Mark. i usually drink a glass of wine now. it was a small bottle of JD that Steve brought – 375 mls or 12 ounces – and there was some left over and two of us drank all evening from it . Ha! Lots of mix – in my younger day i drank it straight. No more, i’d fall over dead if i tried that.

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  2. I can only imagine driving round and round that Island of Manhattan, Paul. I’d surely need a bottle of something in the Christmas cold if I couldn’t find that pop-up Christmas tree seller, that’s for sure. Thanks for your warming tale on my blog today, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh they were a challenge Mark. A new guy could get into trouble so easy. Those pop-ups often dodged the tax man too, so when a load was COD they paid in cash to avoid any paper trail. If you were new and took the cash, you would get held up before you got out of town. The trick was to refuse the cash and have the owner walk with you to the nearest bank and get a cashier’s check made out to the trucking company. That way there was no record for the tree-seller and yet the driver couldn’t be robbed. And you had to have an eagle eye when 10 guys were unloading, that some trees didn’t go missing. They would always want to unload both sides at once but that was so they could steal some trees when the driver wasn’t watching. You had to leave the steel posts in one side and just allow unloading where you could watch everyone working and watch where the trees were piled. This was especially true when your load was the second or third load in and there were already trees there that could be used to hide new trees. And you ALWAYS collected all the money and did the check thing before unloading or they would inevitably be short in paying. and so on. It was a challenge but kind of fun.The smell was heavenly – nothing like a 53 foot, 20 ton pine tree air freshener – Ha! And there was no way to break or damage a fresh tree as they are so flexible – so there were never any load damages.The shipper always loaded and the receiver always unloaded – so they were no-touch loads. And when a guy is operating without paying taxes, they will unload whenever you get there and as fast as they can – even if it is 2 am (we had to give the supplier an eta to pass to the receiver when we loaded). Deliveries on weekends or outside of regular hours had to be paid with a cashiers check. That made for very fast turnarounds and drivers that were comfortable with it would always choose to haul trees and could make a lot of money in 6 weeks. You always came back empty – the loads were priced to take that into account – and could make great time and burn very little fuel. That just left the minor detail of keeping the log book legal. 😀

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  3. Happy Birthday (a few belated days later…)I’ll take my cuppa Black this a.m. as I am baking away for our big Easter Feast here in sunny Florida. I don’t know Paul but that JD it will kill you!!! Eck…LOL double trucks driving by-bahahahaha. Have a great day. The Gatorette

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    • Happy Easter Gatorette! Best wishes to you and your family. Thank you for the birthday wishes and for dropping by here for a visit. Wow,you are up early cooking Gatorette -yum,yum. I hadn’t had any JD for over a decade – Steve surprised me – that’s likely why it brought back so many memories. I actually pondered doing another subject because I figured some would object to the alcohol but it was a very real part of the driving culture back then. It is much different now. You have a great day, eh, and I hope all your cooking turns out perfect!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well…back in the days of your youth and truckin” it was a part of that time for you-we get that-it was a funny story. Alcohol has been around for ages and will always be around-either you like it or you don’t-I do not-it does not agree with me eck…I am high on life-get my drift Paul?! You can talk about whatever feels right to you-no problem…Time to frost the cakes and cupcakes-Have a safe one Paul. The Gatorette!

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    • Hey Tony – thanks so much for dropping by for a read. Happy Easter! That is neat that you live close to the Jack Daniels plant. I understand that county used to be dry too – which is rather funny. I don’t drink much of it anymore either – but sharing a drink with a good friend makes a pleasant evening.Thanks again for the visit Tony. Please drop by again.

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  4. You are true story teller Paul. Your travels and work life lend to a bounty of fantastic stories. I look forward to my cup with you this morning. I didn’t take any sweets, thank you though, have a big dinner I’m heading to. Thanks Miss Ellie for sitting with me while I enjoyed my visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Colleen and thank you for the great compliment. One cuppa coming up – no sweets? Electronic sweets are calories free you know. Ha! Ellie enjoys getting patted so she thanks you. Have a great Easter dinner Colleen.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Elyse! thanks so much for dropping by for a read and comment. Yeah, it is an acquired taste. But if you want something to shake up your taste buds, it could do the job. Clears the dust from your cockles – ha! Happy Easter my friend. Great to have your visit. Stay well.

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  5. I dropped by to visit Mark, because it’s been a minute, but instead, I find Paul!

    Loved these stories. I was waiting for the fire to explode, once you were cozying up on the couch with your lady friend!
    Jack Daniels – nope. I would be drunk after about two sips.

    Happy Easter to both of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Samara! Awesome to have you visit. I read your posts regularly and enjoy them immensely – you are true to life with no bullshit. I do this weekly guest post for Mark every Sunday. He is a gentleman and a scholar who tolerates my stories. He allows me total content control so I bop around from the serious to the funny. Last week I did the full post on LGBT legislation in Australia so I figured i’d lighten up a bit this week. yeah, the romance was gone from the evening after the explosion. I figured i’d at least keep it positive by getting her favorite song played to enamor me for future efforts – even if I wasn’t her hero this time around. Ha! I actually got onto JD because my friend Elroy drank it and it was always around. Ha! It was a common drink for drivers at the time – maybe because it was easy to deal with a square bottle in he cab. Besides it was from Tennessee – the home of the best whiskey. Ha! It was cherished by drivers as a stress reliever. I remember one hot summer day Elroy and I and a big dude by the name of Keith who used to be a member of a motorcycle gang were checked into the Travelers Motel in St. John’s Newfoundland. We all jumped into one truck and went for dinner and when we came back there was smoke pouring from the window of Keith’s room. We grabbed the fire extinguishers from the trucks and ran into the room. Elroy pulled the burning mattress out into the parking lot while I put out the wall behind the bed. Keith made a bee-line for his bottle of Jack Daniels and as he grabbed it and stuffed it into his suitcase I overheard him grumbling: “Jesus Keeerihst, my goddamn room’s on fire.” Ha! we saved the motel – it turned out there was aluminum wiring in the wall and it had overheated and set the bed and wall on fire. The Jack got rescued.

      Anyway, Happy Easter Samara – here’s wishing you and the little dude the best long weekend. thanks for the visit and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey CM! Thanks so much for dropping by. i don’t usually advertise my birthday but I mentioned it this year because it fell on Good Friday. i had a great day, thank you. I pretty much stick to wine or port now too – my heavy drinking days are long gone. thanks again for the visit, I am honored – Happy Easter my friend!

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    • Hey Beth! Wonderful to see you here. Thanks for dropping by and thank you for the birthday and Easter wishes.And thank you for the compliment. I mostly drink wine now – it had been over a decade since I had any Jack – and we used lots of mix. 😀

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  6. Paul – I laughed out loud at the Bronx story!! You have the best stories!! I have many of my own JD stories from my younger years . . . yeah doubt I’m sharing them 😉 I hope you, Mark, Karen & Ellie B. had a nice Easter. We did – all the grandkids had a blast hunting eggs at my sister’s.

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