Remembrance Day

I barely acknowledge it.  I don’t hate it like I hate some stupid societal rituals but I don’t feel what I should about it.  So, it comes.  It goes.  I should put on a better show than just buying a poppy, I suppose, but my father didn’t have much time for it.  I learned from him.   And he should know.

Seaforth Highlanders.  Italy.  WWII.

My father was wounded badly in a historic battle at Ortona.  Hit by heavy artillery. Lay hanging in a tree in the battle ground for three days.  Carried out on the dead cart.  Received a 100% disability pension.  They not only didn’t think he’d live, they thought that if he did, he’d be a vegetable.  And they were right for about 15 years – like the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors, though.  After that, he got a bit of life back but even then, it was corrupted by PTSD writ HUGE.  He was pretty wrecked.  Crazy dysfunctional.  Dangerous dysfunctional.  He was literally a ticking time bomb of violence for two decades.

If you get both your legs blown off in battle, you get an 80% disability pension.  His was 100%.  Think about that.

I have.  I always wondered why 99% wasn’t the highest rating of disability and the top number – 100% – wasn’t reserved for dead.  But, what do I know about war?  I do know this: my father wouldn’t talk about it.  Maybe once or twice.  He thought it was all madness.  Evil madness.  Money madness.  He didn’t think freedom or liberty or ‘our way of life’ or any of that had anything much to do with it – not up the ladder, anyway.  The soldiers were just kids but they were okay.  Governments were all complicit in war.  They were NOT OKAY.  Whatever was true, he never knew it.  It was nothing but a big lie.  It was about ego, empire, lies, money and more lies.  He was not proud for having served his country.  He was not a flag waver.  He just survived a lie.  He was fodder for a corporate agenda.  And he knew it….too late.

Did the country stand behind him?  Maybe.  Some.  Not much from my perspective.  He got two years in the hospital (much of it in a coma).  He got pounds of drugs for years.  Literally.  A box the size of a loaf of bread would be delivered every month.  I once saw him pouring his pills down the toilet.  “Dad, shouldn’t you be taking that stuff?”

“The war almost killed me.  This stuff will kill me.  And they know it.  I flush them to stay alive.”

“Couldn’t you just send them back?”

“Then they would stop my pension.”

I guess I remember.  I just remember it differently than I am supposed to.  I remember the effects on my father, the effects on my mother, the effects on our splintered family.  I distinctly remember the hugely dysfunctional community of veterans and their alcoholism, violence, and inability to cope with civilian life.  I think a lot of people suffered other than just the soldiers but theirs was the worst.  I feel for them.  They were lied to.  They were used.  And then they were ignored.

Until Remembrance Day.  And then they are dead.

OK….I’ve been thinking about that suppressed anger written above.  I am NOT as angry over the past diabolical schemes of governments and corporations and their lies so much anymore.  It was bad.  Our family paid a huge price.  I am angry still.  But it is over and the past should not own me.  The real anger is more fresh and present when I see those who were never there, never suffered, never served, walking somberly and saying platitudes, laying wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  All those rich men.  I get angry when I see Trudeau and Trump ‘posing’ and acting.  Those bastards make me remember in all the wrong ways. 

Potpourri, incidentals, miscellaneous and……whatnot?

Sal worked at the post office the other day.  As she was coming home, she saw a sea lion heading towards her accompanied by a flock of gulls trying to snatch bits of lion-lunch.  She stopped the boat and the HUGE sea lion swam slowly right alongside her.  She could have touched it.  But, the best part?  Just as she was enjoying the moment, two huge humpbacks surfaced on the other side of her 11′ Whaler (only about fifty feet away) and made their presence known with a blast of fish-breath and mist.  “Cool!” 

The creek water that won’t flow downhill has presented again for the umpteenth time.  It’s crazy-making.  This time, the big guns are being brought to the equation.  I am going up with the chainsaw.  This past couple of months saw some short-lived flash flooding type stream behaviour and lots of debris is moved around when that happens.  Sal has tried to clear the small stuff away from the pick-up but the water pressure just isn’t getting up there.  So, hiking and climbing up and down the length of the jumble-in-the-ravine is the next most logical tactic.  “Free the pipe”.  It may be squished somewhere and maybe needs freeing.  Fingers crossed.

Follow-up: we spent three hours yesterday doing all that.  Nothing.  NO water.  Both of us exhausted and sweating from wrestling through the underbrush and me doing the odd bit of chainsawing.  Very discouraging.  My friend, water system sharer and designing partner and neighbour stayed warm and comfortable in his cabin waiting and hoping for our success but thinking all the while that he knew better. “I think it is just bleeding the system, really.  Gotta bleed it right.”

Yeah.  Whatever.

We dutifully reported in that we had been – yet again – unsuccessful in getting water to flow downhill.  Plus we bled everything all over the place.  Blood and water.

After we got home chagrined, soaked and humbled by the sophistry of gravity, we had a shower and settled back into the sloth of a late afternoon and a roaring fire. Sal made a great curry for dinner.

“Hey, Dave!  J and I went over to the water system after you went home and really bled it.  Like, for an hour.  Nothing.  So, I cracked a little tap open a bit and left it overnight.  That did the trick!  Water is a-gushing!” 

I love my neighbour.

This month has been travel hell.  Seems people and things need more than the usual amount of attention and none of that could be done several demands at a time.  Each event needs a separate day and trip.  We will ‘go in’ to the other island at least ten times this month.  Maybe more.  Some of them at night.  That’s 3 hours of travel each time and at least 30 hours of driving this month (mid Oct to mid Nov).  Does that make any sense?  Seriously?  Feral seniors living on a remote island COMMUTING at least thirty hours!!  I just refilled my gas tank and some boat-totes ($160) and have not gotten off the neighbouring island!  Does that sound sane to you?

It sounds insane to me.

Speaking of insane……Trump. Sanders. Conway.  All of them on point with the bald-faced lie of Acosta ‘putting his hands on that young intern.’  Man, oh man.  A president who is a pathological, serial liar and his friends deny what was captured live on camera and then, submit a doctored version of the same film to persuade for the lie.  This is Orwell over-the-top.  This is 5-year-old type behaviour.

In that sense, TRUMP is right.  It’s all fake news.  Nothing is real.

Speaking of hopeless…..Keystone XL is hung up.  Trans Mountain is hung up, (the latter maybe hung up to dry).  AND the price of crude is dropping!  I met Rachel Notley years ago and took an instant dislike.  She too, like Trump and Ford, is rude, arrogant and a self-centred bully.  Nasty piece of work.  I have no time for her.  But, but, but….can you imagine being the NDP premier of the Oil, Cows and Guns province at a time like this?  She’s got the worst job in the world.

Well, Teresa May doesn’t have it easy either and Angela has had enough.  And Trudeau really should hide out more.  Mr. Selfie has gone more low-profile.  The genius of John Horgan?  Mostly invisible.  It is a tough time to be a politician right now.  I suspect that even Trump is unraveling even faster from whatever made up universe he lives in.  I think I see the signs….but then again, he has been mad as a MAGA hatter from day one so it could also just be more of the same.  Hard to tell when they are THAT evil-crazy.

Anyway…….

Now to something ‘interactive’……a question…..waddya think?  Winter is coming on.  We hate February here.  It’s bleak, wet and dismal.  Sometimes even cold.  It is NOT unendurable but it is the least best part of being here (altho the extra quiet is nice).  We usually go away, tho.  One month.  Maybe two.  Six weeks is good.  And we have a place to go to.  Arizona.

But, I dunno……?  Arizona?  Yes, it is sunny.  Yes, it is cheap.  And it is likely safe because 90% of Arizonians can’t even spell ‘politics’.  And I am white.  I doubt anyone there reads.  They follow professional sports instead.  The Kardashians.  But it feels wrong.  It just feels wrong to even go NEAR the US/Mexico border surrounded by Republicans at a time like this.  Does anyone know what I am talking about?  I mean….NASCAR-fan, Bubba flipping burgers may be as stupid as the hat he is wearing but he’s no real threat to me.  The sun is shining.  We have a roof over our heads.  Avocados are cheap.  Food is very cheap.  Wine is also very inexpensive….what is NOT to like?  But, still…….it feels wrong…

Know what I mean..? Please way in….

Winnipeg Free Press Editorial cartoon for Nov. 9, 2018

NOT good….

….the midterms.  The midterms were not SO bad but so clearly NOT good that it is a form of bad simply because it was so bereft of good.  Let me explain….

Trump is bad.  Trump sucks.  The GOP toadies are bad.  The GOP toadies suck.  Any 3-digit IQ knows that – even the embarrassed GOP!  And that blanket condemnation could be applied to all the rabble deplorables as well but I tend to forgive the blind, the halt and the lame…and the massively ignorant, addicted and fearful as well.  THEY are conned victims even if they don’t know it.

But here’s the really bad part: November 6th could have been a ‘correction’.  It could have been an ‘oops’.  It could have been a ‘sorry‘.   It wasn’t.  Trump is horrible and that is totally evident but the masses could have ‘sent a message’.  But they didn’t.  As Sarah Sanders said, ‘it may be some ripples but it is not a wave’.   She’s right.

Americans stood up and got counted as bigots, fools and fear-mongerers.  Americans stood up and got counted as idiots.  They turned out in the millions to support a bully-cum-tyrant who lies, cheats, steals and intimidates his neighbours.   Americans stood up and applauded all that.

It is hard to believe but the evidence is there.  Those slimy sycophantic, power-tripping crooks, McConnell, Ted Cruz and Orin Hatch, along with Pence, the ultimate toady-in-waiting, are NOT alone.  There are millions of them!  November 2016 was NOT an aberration.  Trump was NOT a fluke.  It was NOT an accident.  Trump IS AMERICA!

Well, he speaks for half of it, anyway.  The other half are as shocked as I am.

And therein lies the genesis of the two bigger threats.  Civil war and international war.

Let’s face it, Trump (and friends) can make life hell for a lot of people and he has done it every which way but one.  War.  Now that the House of Representatives can partially hold him in check, he has only one viable place to go.  It’s the same place dozens of presidents before him have gone for little reason.  Trump makes up an enemy and then fights a war.  It doesn’t matter who the ‘enemy’ is.  Not really.  War on Iraq.  War on Drugs.  War on Terrorism.  War on WMD.  Waddya got?  Grenada?  Let’s hit Grenada again!  The economy surges, Congress unites behind the flag and a few million pigmented people die by drone strike.  And the idiots continue to march with guns, MAGA hats and wave the flag.

The original All American recipe.

If it ain’t broke……

But something else might be at play here.  It could be Russia.  Probably not.  But maybe. Could be the elite 1%.  Could be simply built-in-the-genes programming.  But wouldn’t an American Civil War be good for Russia?  Good for Iran, maybe?  DEFINITELY good for business.  The elite, the corporations and the GOP could make more profit, consolidate more power.  They would be GREAT AGAIN!

Hell, maybe an American Civil War would be good for the whole world!  Why not?  Let ’em blow each other up for awhile.

Look, I have lots of US friends and I care for them deeply but let’s be honest: the Civil War was never over.  They kept it going.  The North and the South have had an acrimonious relationship ever since Lincoln freed the slaves.  The American marriage isn’t working.  The US is like a very dysfunctional family that only gets it together when fighting someone else.  Hell, they mock-battle every weekend with the NFL and every other kind of violent sport.  ‘Mericans like to fight.  They think it makes ’em stronger.

Fighting gives them meaning.  Something to live for.  Purpose.  They believe in competition, they believe in fighting.  They believe in winning.  They love the game, the stage, the competition, the spectacle and the celebrity.  They love the cheats.  They love the heroes.  They love the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  They watch pro-wrestling.  They love the smell of napalm in the morning.  Most of all, they like to see the other guy fall. If you have any doubt about those preceding sentences, you have not watched even a dozen ‘Merican movies. 

And that, my dear friend, might just be a blockbuster action-thriller coming to a theater near you.

“Do you really think so?”

I dunno.  What do I know?  I guess I know a bit about history.  I guess I know a bit about war and economy.  I guess I know a bit about American culture and I guess I know what they value and worship…..and NOW I KNOW HOW MANY OF THEM THERE ARE LIKE THAT……..

So, yeah… it is a definite possibility and an OBVIOUS choice for a little man like Trump.

Dinner OUT

We left at 4:00.  Dinner at the neighbouring Island hotel was at 5:30 but it was rainy.  It was dark.  We had to go part way by boat.  Also winter is coming and sometimes the trees fall along the logging road to herald the change in season.  An hour and half to get in was a reasonable allowance.

We could go all the way by boat?”

“Yeah.  Never thought of that…..but…nah….not smart.  Not really.  The wind is getting up, our running lights are not working.  Fog has filled the channel every night recently.  I think the logging road is safer.”

“We have the new GPS navigation app on the phone….?” 

“Great!  You suggesting we test it out by intentionally heading into a rainstorm with fog?”

“No.  Guess you are right but I will work the app and see how we do the along the safe route and that will be a good test.”

The group was pleased we made it.  They asked about the journey.  Sally pulled out her phone and showed them the app.  It was still on and indicated the whole route.  Dinner chat made adventuresome thanks to Navionics and a small boat ride in the rain.

At 7:30 while the dinner was slowing but still lingering, I reached over to the new couple we met and said, “It’s been great.  Goodbye.  Time for us to go.”  They were a bit taken aback by the abruptness but there was obviously no offence intended and they understood that being out at sea, at night, in a storm, in the rain, black as pitch meant an early departure was logical.  We said our goodbyes and left.

Getting back was a bit slower.  The rain had intensified and the wind had risen.  But most of that was to be expected and we did.  To a rainy trip home, we were adequately prepared.  Emergency kit stuffed somewhere.  Boots, wet weather gear, flashlights, the GPS….we had even left our house lights on so that we could see the house before we got close.  Basically it was all good.

But, OMG, it was dark.  Black as coal was the night.  Usually when I travel at night going in any direction southerly, I can make out a glow of lights in the distance.  That would be Campbell River or maybe Heriot Bay depending.  Not this night.  This trip was blind.  Even in this kind of darkness, I can usually get enough ‘night vision’ to see the silhouette  of our island and the neighbouring one.  It’s quite amazing how well you can manage your way simply by seeing familiar topographical humps in the dark…..but not this time.  This time – nothing.

So, this time, we used the new GPS and Navionics.  And also aided by the slight flicker of light in the foggy distance, we headed straight home.  Confidently, too.  As our destination loomed out of the not-so-dense fog, we saw our neighbour’s light on as well.  They had considerately left a workshop light on for us, it being the closest light that might have helped.

We got into the house, shed our wet weather gear, stoked the fireplace and put on slippers.  I put on the kettle and checked the time – almost 9:30.  Two hour dinner party…three and half hours of travel.  An evening out hermit-style.  In the forest, on the ocean, in the rain, in the pitch black dark.  Conclusion: we may do it more often.  It was a pleasant evening.  Plus we learned a thing or two about phone apps.

 

That time of year…stock taking

“Well, all in all, we did good.  NOT great.  But, after a very slow start and an even slower mid-term, we managed to drag our sorry butts over the finish line before being disqualified.  Good on ya.”

“What the hell are you going on about?”

“You know I like to get projects done and, of course, every year I have a list – usually just a few things added to the unfinished list from last year. So, this year was quite long and extensive.  I had projects up the yin yang.  Still do.  Big year next year!  So, I was taking stock to see where the bottleneck was and I am pleased to be able to report that it was not you.  You did good.”

“So?  Where was the bottleneck?”

“You’re lookin’ at ‘im.”

“Oh, sweetie.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. You were OK.  NOT a dynamo but OK….mostly…..I am not complaining except for…oh, never mind, I think you did good, too.  ‘Cept for all the naps, I guess.”

“I did a lot more dishes, vacuuming and cooking this year, too.  And there were Woofers and guests.  And fish frys.  Plus there was all that community volunteering – that is very draining work.  But I didn’t really get any of my big projects done.  OK, we rebuilt a deck, rebuilt the lower stairs, fixed the sea-stairs and did some minor boat projects.  And we got in the wood.  We re-arranged all the batteries.  Fixed the funicular.  Put in the new gas tank.  Fixed the water pump.  Re-did the stove.  And you must have done the creek-pick-up water line five times at least!”

“We also fixed the marine ways and built a magnificent boat cradle.  Plus you fixed a couple engines.  And we helped out our neighbour some.” 

“I know.  But do you see what I am seeing?”

“Never do.”

“We’re slowing down.  Butts-a-draggin’.  I mean, this year was a real go-slow year.  This year was mostly working just to stay-in-place.  The empire did not expand one iota this year.”

“You concerned?”

“Not overly.  A little.  Lots still to do, tho.  Gotta plan better for next year.  Gotta ‘rope in’ some volunteers……more Woofers at the very least.  Maybe cut back a bit on the quilting…..?”

“I think you just lost half your workforce, buddy-boy!”

“Well, no workers to supervise just means more naps.  Let’s hope next year our labour relations are better.”

 

 

Beginning of my redundancy……

We heat with wood.  To do that requires more work and maintenance than most modern people do, but it is, for the most part, good exercise, not long-in-the-doing and, strangely, interesting in a zen-kinda way.  And always different.  Of course we add to the fun by wrangling logs found at sea and hauling them up a small cliff just to get started in the process.  Heating with wood is a long story and today we just added a new chapter.

As regular readers know, we have had the wood stove for over a decade and we like it a lot.  Pacific Energy.  It’s just the right size.  But burning salt-water wood ‘eats’ the stove from the inside out and so we recently took the whole thing apart and had it rebuilt.  Made a bit more skookum this time.  I told the stove guy: “I’d like it to see me out.” 

“How long you plan on livin’?”

It’s a heavy sucker and it required dismantling, removal, down the hill.  Onto the boat.  Off the boat.  Into the truck and then, a day later, delivered to the master stove builder who resides down island.  And, of course, all that in reverse.  A week later, we were $800 lighter but the stove was a little heavier.  Plus we added two new lengths of pipe.  AAaaannnnnnd ……thennnnnnn, we put it all together and waited for the first cold day.  That was about a week ago….or so…

The stove was better.  It was NOT THAT MUCH better but we had gone for maintenance and longevity, NOT high performance, so being better was good.  Still…….it was really, REALLY not better-better and we kinda thought it should have been.

Then, a few days in, the smoke started.  That was a bit unnerving.  Smoke poured forth from the chimney pipe seams.  THAT was weird.  Weird because part of the restoring process included taking down the entire chimney and cleaning it out completely.  It was pristine when we put it back up.

Mind you, the through-the-roof part is a fixed-in-place unit that I can only service by pushing a bristly chimney sweep brush through without being able to see inside but I have been doing that for years and it has always resulted in ‘clean’.

A day or so later, Sal had thought about it.  “I think I have to go on the roof.”

“Sounds like a plan. What for?”

“The chimney.  I’ve been thinking, I think the chimney cap is blocked.”

“I cleaned it.  I half-filled a plastic bag with soot.  I am pretty sure it’s clean.”

“I am pretty sure it’s not.”

So, I threw a rope over the whole house and secured it.  Then we got a bucket of tools and cleaning apparatus and hauled it up to the peak.  And then Sal climbed up onto the sleek, metal roof and headed up to the chimney top.  When she is up there, she is 28 feet from the rocks below.  Mind you, if she slipped, she would likely slide to the lower, gutter level and then just flip off the edge and fall only twenty feet.  But rocks are almost as hard at 20 feet as 30 and so we try to avoid that.

She removed the chimney top and discovered a 6 inch crusty build-up that had been just a few inches above the reach of the bristly brush and had slowly built up over the years.  By the time Sal discovered it, it was almost closed.  Imagine: a large soot-bagel (6″ in diameter) stuck at the very top and just a small bagel-hole opening for smoke.  She was right!

Sal cleaned it all out, then came down and cleaned all the gutters and then we went back inside to test the stove.  It worked and ‘drew’ like a model stove at a home show.  It is perfect again.

But the main point of the story is, of course, Sal.  My wife is 66.  She’s fit, flexible and fearless.  Plus she does yoga.  She went up that roof like she was 17.   More to the point, she was ‘thinking chimney’.  I know that sounds crazy but, typically, that kind of thought process is ‘Dave’s stuff’.  Sal thinks about all sorts of things, of course, but systems, physics, how-things-work and repairing and building challenges are usually left to me to figure out.  But when I drew a blank she ‘got on the case’ and re-examined the whole thing in her head and came to the proper conclusion – one that I might never get to since I was 99.99% sure it was all clean.

Nor did she hesitate.  “I have to go up on the roof.”

Why make such a big deal of this?  1. We recently had occasion to visit an old person’s institution, a rest home, a seniors living kinda thing.  When we were there, I asked how old the people were who lived there.  “Our youngest is in her late 50’s and our oldest turns 100 soon but the average is about 70 to 75.”

“Why would a person in their 50’s live here?”

“They feel old, I guess.  And some people are old especially by their late 60’s.”

“I’m 70.  My wife is 66.  I don’t see this for me or her for at least another 70 years!”

“Neither of you look that old!”  

So Sal, it seems, is doing pretty damn good.  This life is doing us both good.  But there is a second reason to tell the story.  Out here, you do for yourself.  There are no services.  There are few people to hire and little money to throw around.  Plus, few people can know what we know about our self-built house and it would probably take five times longer to explain and prepare them than it does to just do the damn job in the first place.  And I have the extra goal of having Sal as able as anyone to do anything as it may arise.  I want Sal to be as capable as she can be.

Somebody has to see me out.

She has proven more capable than me several times but I was always needed for – at the very least – problem solving, initiative and supervision.  I generally knew more about the problem and the solution needed even if I couldn’t get into the space or crevice to actually do it.  NOT this time.  This time Sal had it all covered.  From the get-go.  Problem solving, planning the attack, choosing her tools, implementing the plan and doing it right.  Being right.  Being able.  I was just the go-fer.

And I made the tea afterwards.

Money, eh?

Annual Fish Fry Saturday night.  Medium size gathering.  Nine.  Plus a dog.  It had been raining that day.  All but two close neighbours came by boat.  Started at 4:30 due to possibly eroding maritime conditions later.  Ended at 8:30.  When everyone left it was black-as-pitch and, as each togged up in wet gear, checking flashlights and looking into the night, they were also checking their phones and the GPS Navionics program to make sure they could safely ‘see’ their way home.

We help a bit.  Our house is visible for awhile so we turn on all the lights so that they can have a visual bearing as they leave.

When rural folks travel for dinner, they carry.  Usually it is just a bag or two.  Sometimes a tote is added.  Pot luck dinners require the tote for the two pies or the huge salad not to mention the bottles of wine, ice cream, fresh-picked berries and, at this time of year, a cauliflower sized chunk o’ mushroom.  They came bearing weight.  They left with so much dinner packed in, it was likely the same weight leaving.

Prawns, scallops, tuna medallions, huge cod, seafood chowder, three salads, bread, the best scalloped potatoes (sounded fishy) and carrot cake and two pies.

Did I mention wine…..

It was a great evening.  Lots of fun.  Lots of laughs.  Everyone had a good time.  Even Sadie (dog) was happy.  But one thing stood out for me.  Not because of it’s uniqueness but rather for it’s ubiquity.  Once again….like almost every time we gather and socialize…someone makes reference to ‘how great this life is’.  The conversation goes on and on about this being ‘heaven’ on earth and how it doesn’t get any better and words like paradise and perfect and ‘never gonna leave’ flow like wine.  It is all so nice.  So nice.

And so true.

Median age: probably 65.  Three in their 50’s the rest 65 plus.  At least four over 70.  Sadie is 3.  But more to the point, they are all happy.  NOT giggly happy (altho the wine does seem to have an effect) but rather content, satisfied, comfortable, and pleased with their lot in life.  These people are ANYTHING BUT comfortable by urban standards but they are totally comfortable with their physical and financial level of forest-dwelling comfort.

That kinda says something about money, don’t you think?  As an aside during our ‘happy circumstance’ discussion, I asked, “By the way, just out of curiosity, how many of you are carrying money or your wallet?”  Answer:  NO ONE.  

Find a comfortable, rich, mansion-dwelling 65 year old in West Vancouver or Shaughnessy and I don’t think they are in the least one bit happier than was our collective group Saturday night.

That’s pretty cool.