Category Archives: Diversions

Delicious Gibberish

Reid Dickie

Gloria, the suicide blond waitress at the Moondance Diner, calls out to Wilf, the cook who hasn’t shaved in three days, “Angels on horseback, two bloodhounds in the hay, one cowboy with spurs, Adam and Eve on a log and wreck ’em, Bossy in a bowl and give her shoes, one jack mouse trap, zeppelins in the fog, walk a cow through the garden and pin a rose on it and Eve with a moldy lid on wheels. Got it?” “Got it,” Wilf snarls back.

Obscure and/or arcane forms of communication have always had a place on my blog. I’ve posted about languages specific to certain needs from a symbolic hobo code used in the early 20th century to obituary euphemisms to reports on my personal experiences with human/spirit communication. All of them provide a new way of experiencing the world, of describing what we see and getting the job done.

Recently, as I listened to some of Tom Waits early material, I realized he was using diner phrases that I didn’t understand like “Adam and Eve on a log.” I started researching diner slang and found a delightful and fresh language that’s been in use for over a hundred years in diners all over North America.

Starting in the early 1900s, diners were originally railway dining cars, no longer used by the railroads, that were parked on a street and opened to the public. Their basic design persisted long after the last railroad dining car became, simply, a diner. In that same spirit of transformation, diners were places where salt and pepper became side arms, coffee became java, mud or joe, sugar was sand and the works meant the works! Edward Hooper’s iconic 1942 painting Nighthawks depicts a late night diner.

Online I discovered hundreds of phrases used in diner lingo. I enjoyed
the metaphorical leaps, witty playfulness and simple appropriateness of the terms, the constant forward movement of the message and the
quaint, rather silly sound of it all, like delicious gibberish. Some diner lingo has found its way into our everyday speech, giving us BLTs, mayo, cow juice, moo juice, sunny side up, over easy – bland terms compared to the wild richness of waitress-to-cook communication required for clarity and sanity in a small, smoky, noisy tube at three in the afternoon or three in the morning where over easy becomes kiss the pan.

Here’s what Gloria actually ordered:

  • angels on horseback – oysters rolled in bacon served on toast;
  • two bloodhounds in the hay –  two hot dogs with sauerkraut;
  • one cowboy with spurs – western omelette with french fries;
  • Adam and Eve on a log and wreck ’em – two scrambled eggs with sausage;
  • Bossy in a bowl and give her shoes – beef stew to go;
  • one jack mouse trap – grilled cheese sandwich with jack cheese;
  • zeppelins in the fog – sausages and mashed potatoes;
  • walk a cow through the garden and pin a rose on it – a hamburger with tomato, lettuce and onions;
  • Eve with a moldy lid on wheels – apple pie with a slice of cheese to takeaway.

Here are a few more I find especially evocative:

  • blonde and sweet – coffee with cream and sugar, alternately, hot blonde in the sand
  • Bronx vanilla – garlic;
  • chicken in the hay, hold the grass – egg salad sandwich no lettuce;
  • cluck and grunt – eggs and bacon;
  • dough well done with cow to cover – buttered toast;
  • elephant dandruff – corn flakes;
  • first lady – an order of ribs (Eve, get it?);
  • leaves in the hail – iced tea;
  • mother and child reunion – chicken and eggs (ask Paul Simon)
  • put out the lights and cry – liver and onions;
  • radio sandwich – tuna fish sandwich (tuna as in tune a radio);
  • shingle with a shimmy and a shake – buttered toast with jam;
  • splash from the garden – vegetable soup;
  • two dots and a dash – two fried eggs and a strip of bacon;
  • whistle berries – beans;
  • wrecked and crying – scrambled eggs with onion

Spend 51 seconds in a modern diner from the plate’s point of view by clicking the word cackleberries

For clarity the term “suicide blonde” means a woman who has dyed her own hair, punning on “died (dyed) by her own hand.” The term certainly predates INXS’s song of the same name. My friend Steve Black suggests it originated in the 1940s.

Gloria offers a third refill. I decline. She takes my ten to the till and slides four-eighty to me in change. I leave her a dollar tip. Blondes can always get a buck out of me. I reach for some lumber. Wilf nods good night. The glass door squeezes shut behind me as I step out of the din into the cool night air, my burp echoes long and loud up and down the street.


Filed under Diversions, Humour

The Hobo Code Video

 Reid Dickie

A set of very specific communication symbols developed in the late 1800s among the homeless of that time: hoboes, tramps, drifters. Innocent looking chalk marks on a gatepost or a piece of equipment next to the railroad tracks could mean life or death to a passing hobo new to the area. The Hobo Code became the language of the transients, a kind of tramp telegraph that was used for over fifty years. Fans of Mad Men will recognize the term from the first season, episode eight titled The Hobo Code. I have posted previously about the Hobo Code.

In my video I draw some of the symbols of the Hobo Code and explain their meanings and also update the Code with its modern usage. Click the pic to watch the video. Enjoy!

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Sex and the Solitary Heritage Site

Reid Dickie

 She watched the fuzzy dice sway gently back and forth from the rearview as the Chiffons sang “He’s So Fine.” He was large and hot, increased his pace inside her, did a few dick tricks and groaned. She told him to bark like a dog and he always did which made her even hotter and hornier. His face and shoulders were getting red. He was just about to come when…

It’s impossible to visit as many heritage and sacred sites as I do and not notice that some of them are used frequently as lover’s lanes. Very often these places are secluded on little-traveled gravel roads that some locals and a few tourists know about. Often they are remote and utterly dark at night. A common clue are the worn tire tracks through the grass indicating the basic biological imperative can be satisfied just about anywhere.

Though the hazy distance of 45 years separates me from my last experience of having sex in a vehicle, I understand the urge, the need, the excitement, the lonely but safe darkness wrapped around your sexual cocoon, your car or truck. 

Speaking of safes (when was the last time, if ever, you heard a condom called a safe?), the obvious clue to an area’s sexual usage are the bright flowers that turn out to be condoms blooming in the tall grass, often accompanied by their wrapper.

Walking trails through the bush attract mating couples, especially in spring. Besides the warning grunts of a bear, the only other uptrail sound that immediately turns me back are the amorous cries of rutting humans trysting among the timbers. While the visual doesn’t appeal to me, the way their groans and shrieks are enfolded into the sounds of the forest makes the sex seem at home, traditional, sacred. When you get right down to it, fucking in the forest is as old as God.

I won’t mention all the locations where I’ve seen evidence of love nests but I did interrupt a nooner this summer at St. Albans, the Criddle/Vane Homestead just south of Shilo. My apologies, folks. And to the guy getting the BJ on the hood of his car deep in the Marsh Lake oxbow, sorry buddy!

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Filed under Critters, Day Tripping, Diversions, Local History, Natural Places

Scale of the Universe – The Size of Everything

Stimulating animation of actual sizes from before minute to beyond massive. Use slider at bottom to navigate. Click the image and size everything up!

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Peregrine Falcons Nest in Downtown Winnipeg and Brandon

Another repost as the basic imperative spreads

Peregrine Falcons Nest on the Cliffs of Downtown Winnipeg

Following an alarming decline during the 1950s and 1960s, this spectacular falcon, also called the “Duck Hawk,” is on the increase again, now that DDT and other pesticides that caused thinning of eggshells have been banned. After an intensive program of rearing birds in captivity and releasing them in the wild (a process called “hacking”), this large falcon is reclaiming nesting grounds from which it disappeared a few decades ago. Although their habitat is mainly open country, especially along rivers and coasts and near lakes, a favorite nesting site nowadays is a tall building or bridge in a city. These urban Peregrines subsist mainly on pigeons. Since 1989, pairs of reintroduced Peregrines have nested high atop the Radisson Hotel on Portage Avenue in downtown Winnipeg. Characteristically, Peregrines return regularly to favourite nesting sites. One pair after another has used the same spot in England since 1243. Since 2006, CBC Manitoba has provided a falcon cam in the nest of the downtown birds. Soon the feeding frenzy will begin. Click pic to start live falcon cam.
The Peregrine Falcon has been the favourite of falconers for over 3,000 years, ever since the nomads of central Asia first pursued game with trained hawks and falcons. Extremely acute eyesight, even in dim light, allows falcons to be very effective hunters around dawn and dusk. Peregrines often migrate very rapidly between breeding and wintering areas, flying as much as 500 km per day. A female Peregrine that nested in Edmonton flew to Mazatlan, Mexico, in less than eight days and returned in six days. With the exception of Antarctica, New Zealand, and Iceland, the Peregrine is found around the globe. Twenty-two subspecies are recognized throughout the world. Their great powers of flight have enabled them to establish nesting populations in the Arctic, and as far south as Tasmania, South Africa, and the Falkland Islands. Peregrine Falcon Range Map Peregrines breed from Alaska and the Canadian Arctic south locally through the mountainous West, and sparingly in East. Winters coastally, north to British Columbia and Massachusetts. This post can also be found permanently on my Birdland page.

Peregrine Falcons Nesting in Brandon, Too!

When I posted the first story about the falcons in Winnipeg a few days ago, the Brandon cam wasn’t up and running. Today it is and what a great angle on the future festivities! The nest is situated high atop the McKenzie Seeds Building in downtown Brandon. There are two tabs along the top of the image, one for Winnipeg nest, one for Brandon nest. Click pic for both cams.

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Four Docs

Reid Dickie

I’ve been pillaging the Winnipeg library system’s terrific collection of DVDs for recent documentaries and have four to recommend to you. I’m sure you can find some or all of these on the internet.

Gasland by Josh Fox Wanna see a guy light his tap water on fire? Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, is a dangerous and earth-killing technique that oil and gas companies all over North America use to release natural gas from shale deposits deep underground. A combination of water, sand and over 900 chemicals under enormous pressure is pumped into the shale, fracturing the rock. Trouble is, without any oversight, the drillers pollute the groundwater of area residents with natural gas and chemicals causing dire consequences. On the Canadian prairies, fracking is used extensively in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan. It would be interesting to look at the groundwater purity in places like Waskada and Melita, MB and Stoughton, Carlyle and Weyburn, SK today and see what happens to it over the next year or two. Click the pic to watch a preview of Gasland.

Buck by Cindy Meehl Buck Brannaman is an American “horse whisperer” of sorts. Raised by a violently abusive father, Buck bucked the typical imitative lifestyle of the beaten-young and lived the opposite life, one of compassion, love and understanding for people and animals, especially horses. We follow Buck as he travels to various four-day horse-training workshops and we encounter the people and horses he meets and tames using his gentle technique which he teaches to the horse owners. We get to listen to Buck’s country philosophy delivered with humour and true wisdom. As Buck says, “Often, instead of helping people with horse problems, I’m helping horses with people problems.” I was honoured and humbled to spend ninety minutes in the presence of someone as highly evolved as Buck Brannaman and you will be too when you watch it. Click pic to see preview.

Exit Through the Gift Shop by Banksy When Linda and me first got together in 1977 we made all sorts of art including street art. Our outdoor work included putting fancy decorated bras on the “breasts” of fire hydrants, postering neighbourhood telephone poles with paper collages and so on. (You can find out much more about our early art efforts on my DTC Art page.) The spirit of street art has grown since then to the degree that one of the genre’s most shadowy figures, British graffiti artist Banksy, has made an Academy Award nominated documentary on the topic. Banksy tries to give us some direction here but this film twists and turns until you’re not sure who or what it is about. Fascinating glimpses into the lives of Shepard Fairey (OBEY) and Thierry Guetta whose role changes as the film progresses. Overall a statement on art beyond post-modernism demonstrating that the distance between graffiti on a brick wall in an alley and on the wall of a cocktail-muzak art gallery is very short. There is some indication the whole movie was a hoax, a prank by Banksy. Decide for yourself. Click pic for a preview.

Catfish by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost After a discussion on the veracity of the internet, my friend Kenn recommended Catfish to me. Thanks Kenn! Here we find a nice Jewish photographer who starts to buy art ostensibly painted by a little girl over the internet. Soon he meets her older sister, again over the internet. They talk on the phone, exchange pictures, check each other out on Facebook and he starts to fall in love with her. He desperately needs something to believe in but gradually things about her don’t add up so he and his filmmaker friends decide to visit her in Michigan. That’s as far as the trailer takes you and I’m leaving you there too. You’re on your own for the rest of this fast-paced eye-opener. I didn’t have much sympathy for the gullible photographer who seemed incapable of any kind of critical thinking, dumbed down and fully in the sway of Born-Yesterday Syndrome but I was richly entertained by the film. The upshot: Believe nothing you read on the internet, including my reviews, unless you can personally verify it, which in my case you can by seeing the films. Click the pic for trailer.

Four non-docs I recommend: Red State is a departure for that Kevin Smith and the antidote to Clerks. Tyrannosaur is a powerful British film completely peopled with despicables. The first season of British crime drama Luther features the incredible Idris Elba in the scary title role. Pirate Radio is a nostalgic romp that includes one of the best Beatles homage moments ever.

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Good Night Weyburn!

Reid Dickie

Day into night in a prairie city

Time lapse out my second floor window of the Canalta Hotel in Weyburn with service road, Highway 39 and CPR train tracks all lined up against the sky. As night descends on the prairie city, running lights and headlights flicker like sparks in the dark.

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Three and a Half Minutes at the Country Boy

Three Spontaneous Videos

 by Reid Dickie

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Filed under Accommodations, Day Tripping, Diversions, Humour, Prairie People, Saskatchewan

Seagull Steals Go Pro

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May You Sing As If No One Is Listening

Click the dog to play the thing.

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Pendulum Waves

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You have a great eye for tacky, Reid!

Reid Dickie

That statement came from my dear old friend Terry after we had rummaged through a couple of thrift stores in rural Manitoba yesterday. We went picking blueberries, that`s what we call it when we drive around and see the sights, just a couple of retired guys wasting gas. Linda and I did a lot of rummaging in thrift stores over the years. She had the classy eye. She could walk into a secondhand store or thrift store and immediately see the Moorcroft vase ($3 which we later sold for $800) or the stylish 1940s ladies`hat. I have the tacky eye and it was very productive yesterday. Here`s what I found at the Morris MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) store:

These are from the 1950s and they are postcard display boxes with a little oriental scene inside each one. There is a slot at the top back where you can slide in the scenic card. One is a souvenir of Perce, PQ. Cost: 25 cents each


Also at Morris MCC this amazingly tacky souvenir of the Athabasca Tar Sands, as if the tar sands need any further souvenirs to add to the millennia of degradation it will leave when the oil is all sucked from the sand. Cost: 50 cents. By the way, in Saudi Arabia it costs $1 to extract a barrel of oil; at the tar sands, it costs $26. Oil is about $100 a barrel these days so you figure out the greed potential here. I remind you again, we all need to know about abiotic oil.


At the Niverville Thrift Store I found two more very tacky items. This little ceramic bear is from Falcon Lake in eastern Manitoba and the Fahrenheit thermometer still works. Cost: 35 cents.

Besides tacky souvenirs I collect tacky religious items. This lamp was laying in wait for me in Niverville. After testing it out – it has a dull red glow in the centre of the picture which is convex – I brought it home even though it exceeded my limit of $2 for any one item. It was $3 but I felt since the shells were complete and original and the item was made in Italy, it had at least an extra dollar of tackiness.

 My total expenditure for the day: $4.85. A good day for my tacky eye. And a good day of picking blueberries, too.

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Filed under DickToolery, Diversions, Linda, Prairie People

Ball Plays Bach in Forest

         The Oxford dictionary describes a xylophone as: “A musical instrument consisting of a graduated series of flat wooden bars, played by striking with a small hammer or by rubbing with rosined gloves.” This musical gravity or gravitational music project, built in China, plays Bach’s Cantata #147 aka Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring deep in the forest. Prepare yourself: close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, find a peaceful spot then click the pic.


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3 Brief Diversions: a table walks, a whale gives birth, we enhance in under 3 minutes

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