Trial Opening….

I recognized him instantly.  The $2000 suit was quite a hint but the silver-templed, perfect-postured and extremely well-shod gentleman locking up his 7 series Beemer right in front of me could only be my old friend, Jack.  “Yo!  Dawg!”

“Dave!  What a great surprise.  How are you?  Long time.  What are you doing here?  Say, do you have a few minutes?  Grab a coffee?”

We walked into a nearby Starbucks.  Jack turns heads.  Even at 70.  That is because he is 6′ 4″ in perfect shape and looks just over 50. He has the aura of a movie star around him.  Never a hair out of place.  The guy moved like a thoroughbred racehorse amongst old Shetland ponies, donkeys and various assorted asses of the urban kind. It was great to see him.

“How you doin’, Jack?  You look great.  Bit like Dorian Grey, tho.  Kinda spooky. You drink formaldehyde or something?”

“Yeah.  I do.  Yumm.  Along with Tums and a handfull of pills.  And I had surgery.  But I get that a lot.   What you don’t see is the heavy scarring.  I am broken inside but I look good on the outside.  Part of the job.  So, it seems is two heart attacks, a third wife, almost a bankruptcy and not just a few nasty lawsuits but, other than that, the last forty years have been a walk in the park.”

“Geez, man, heart attacks?  You don’t mean extreme romance?

“Yeah, I am sure they are all connected.  Karma through litigation.  They say that the next one might get me but I don’t intend to have another one.  I watch my diet.  Exercise at the gym every morning at 6:00 am.  Try not to take the stress home with me.  You know, try to relax more?”

“You mean you are not chasing skirts anymore?  Well, I guess lawyers and heart attacks are as common as lovers and partners splitting up, eh?  Sorry to hear that.  And I knew that you and Joanne separated and I suspected that you and Sarah would hook up but are you telling me she is also gone?  So who are you with now?”

“Jackie is my third wife.  She’s OK.  Kinda.  Great boobs!  But, I am really still with all three of them, ya know?  At least in support payments.  And then we have the kids together.  Two with Joanne.  And Sarah’s daughter.  Jackie and I still have two at home or at college or finding themselves in Europe or Thailand or something.  Who knows?  I am kinda supporting them all.”

“Jack!  Joanne was forty years ago.  You mean you have been supporting her for forty years?.  Dude, even doctors will take people off life support after a few years.”

“And there are the kids. It’s a cancer.”

“What kids!?  They are in their mid 40’s aren’t they? They aren’t kids!”

“Yeah, but you know, it has been hard for the last generation.  Barry got two degrees and his masters and still can’t get a job.  Overqualified for oh so many things and only qualified for a few things that he just can’t seem to find or else they choose someone else.  At his age, he kinda lacks the experience now, ya know?  It’s hard for him.”

“Damn!  Tough to hear.  So, what does he do all day?”

“Ahhh, let’s not go there.  Lives with his mom in the basement.  Lots of video games.  We don’t get along.  Don’t talk.  It is not good.”

“OK.  That happens.  Sorry.  How about Madeline?  She good?”

“No.  Not really.  She costs a lot, too.  Three grand kids.  All brats.  All the time.  Not married.  Unemployed. Depressed.  In therapy.  She won’t talk to her mother and she only talks to me to get more money.  She gets support from two ex-husbands but not enough.  I think she is on something, ya know?  Some kind of addiction…looks kinda unhealthy to me.  Lots of tattoos.  But, I don’t know.  I don’t know much of anything, really.  I just write the cheques.”

“Geez.  I am sorry to hear that.  It must worry you.”

“Well, oddly, it does not worry me so much anymore.  My first set of wife and kids has been like that since the very beginning and it has been going on so long now, it feels like the way things are, ya know? Like an STD you can’t shake.  Like Herpes.  Personal but ugly.  But how about you?  Still with Sally?”

“Oh, yeah.  Be a fool to quit that gig.  She’s great.  Absolutely wonderful.  Makes me happy and makes me dinner.  What’s not to like?  Nothing to complain about.  And she is really happy where we are now.  We live off the grid.”

“What, you moved from Tsawwassen?”

“Yeah.  Twelve years ago.  Remote island up the coast.  Built the house ourselves. Hammering.  Nailing.  The whole hippy, whole-earth, mountain-man thing.  I even call her Cougar Sally now. ”

“What does that mean, built the house yourself? You can’t build.”

“Can now.  Read books.  Asked questions.  Listened to the answers for once.  Sal did half, maybe more.  Up on the roof.  The whole shebang.  We could build anything now but, to be fair, it won’t look all that good.  Lot of blood stains.  But it will be structurally good.  Just a smidge ugly is all.  If it has cedar siding, we are on it.”


“Why build?  Well, we felt we had to.  Or I did, anyway.  Some sort of ‘a man’s gotta do’ kinda thing.  Mind you, I wouldn’t have been able to finish without Sal so it was something I had to do and she had to help finish.  But here’s something I didn’t know.  If you build it, they will come. That statement from Field of Dreams applies to cabins as well as baseball diamonds in cornfields.  We got peeps and they come in droves.  Like a form of pestilence.  Who knew?”

“I’ve been meaning to ask someone and you are obviously the right person, what does off the grid mean?  I’ve heard that expression  a lot but I don’t get it.  What is it?

“Oh, it’s just a phrase like sustainable development, community building or love thy neighbour.  Means nothing, really.  Nothing you can nail down.  No one can be entirely off the grid anymore but a lot of us are trying to get away from something we seem to embody in the word ‘grid’.  Other people have referred to ‘the man’, or the ‘system’, or Big Brother. I personally think the life we have been brainwashed into believing is a good one is the Big Lie but I tend to the dramatic and coin phrases.  We are basically just looking to shed some of the life-sucking leaches and umbilicals of modern life.  Escape the matrix.  Get ourselves free of the cobwebs and cling-ons, ya know?  By some definitions, it means not on the road system, not on the electrical system, not on the giant water or sewer system. No home delivery.  Out there.  Remote.  Banjo music.

“We are moving away from all the modern systems and blatant consumerism but, of course, not when it comes to food stuffs and petroleum products or quilting materials.  We shop Costco so that we can go visit off the grid in spurts, really.  In a sentence, it is living simply, rurally and Green but unplugging as completely as is reasonably impossible.  And then flying south to Palm Springs for a month in the winter.  But we know people need people. And Sally needs chocolate.  I need scotch.  We are all in this together.  We just want to be as far away from it all as possible, that’s all.  And what happened to Sarah?  I liked her.”

“Well, that is what happened to her, actually.  Everyone liked her.  All the males for sure. Especially my ex-partner.  And she liked them.  And him.  I found out and so she divorced me.  Took half of the half I had left from when Joanne and I split.  Left a lot of debt that I picked up.  And support payments.  I’ve been paying her for almost twenty years, too.”

“She slept around?  And you didn’t tell me?  Twenty years ago?  What kind of a friend are you?”

“You are right.  I wasn’t thinking.  Shoulda been you.  Why not?”

“But why are you supporting her?  Didn’t she run off with your partner?”

“No.  That didn’t last.  They split, too.  She is almost 60 now.  No one is going hire her. She won’t apply anyway.  She has a kid from him.  Not mine.  But my ex partner with my ex wife made a kid for me.  Nice.   Since she is living in my old house and I pay for most of everything, his and her daughter feels a bit like mine.  She isn’t.  But it feels like it.  She won’t talk to her real dad, for instance.  But she talks to me. What can you do?”

“You could quit?”

“You mean, retire?”

“Yeah.  Stop working to earn enough to keep others in a lifestyle to which they feel entitled and just go do what you wanna do?”

“Well, that’s how I got into this mess.  Doing what I wanted to do.  OK, doing who I wanted to do, I mean.  I support three women because I liked to screw them.  Now I pay.”

“Well, you are right.  A man’s gotta pay for having hormones these days.  The provincial NDP won’t have them anymore, you know?  No Damn Penises is what the letters stand for now. But, you are 70 or so, right?  No hormones anyway except grouchy ones is my guess.”

“Hey!  I got ‘mones.  Just slower ones is all.  And I just told you about the Ho’s.  I belong to the Vancouver Club, the yacht club and my house is worth $7 million dollars.  I have a nice car, I winter in Whistler.  OK, I can’t actually ski anymore and my third wife lives upstairs and I live downstairs in our house so that part is not so good but I am pretty well off and I am at the height of my profession.  Does it get any better?”

“No.  Probably not.  Sounds successful to me.  I am glad you have all that money, I really am. I think you are wining at the game you play. ”

“Don’t lie to me.  I know sarcasm when I hear it.  I’m a lawyer, after all.  Are you happy doing whatever it is that you do off whatever island grid thingy you live on?”

“Yeah.  Pretty much.  I chop wood, build sheds, write, watch Netflix on satellite.  Sal and I always have projects to keep us busy and, when that isn’t true it’s because we have guests running all over the damn place.  We are good.  Kids are good.  Health seems alright for now.  Doesn’t sound glamorous, I guess, but it is beautiful out there.  Healthy. Quiet.  Whales.  Ravens.  Sea lions.  We are pretty happy with it.  I am not so sure I could cut the mustard in the city anymore, anyway.  I get a bit jangled by the traffic now, if you can believe that.  Weird.  I used to love traffic.  I used to love the city.  Now, not so much.”

“Damn.  I gotta go.  It was great to see you.  Give my love to Sally.  When you come to town next call ahead, let me know, we can tee something up.  Bye.”




12 thoughts on “Trial Opening….

    • Don’t know, really. Last book started with a bang so I thought I’d try a whimper. And who said it was fictional? You want names? It is a bit of a composition but it is all real and not uncommon. Life is like that for some….


    • Don’t know, really. Last book started with a bang so I thought I’d try a whimper. And who said it was fictional? You want names? It is a bit of a composition but it is all real and not uncommon. Life is like that for some….


  1. The details do ring true. Seen some of that stuff up yonder at the lodge. Been wondering if Harold will ever leave the den. Nothing works not even not paying the wifi bill cause the boomerang kids just head to McDees and sit around there. They will work for 50 bucks an hour if they can start as the supervisor and take smoke breaks as the spirit moves them. Aim straight and keep your powder dry. Red green.


    • You should know that I saw Harold in another flick the other day. He may be conning you.
      Actually, I am NOT judging (too much). There are way too many 40 year olds living in their parents basement for it to be entirely their fault. I think the world economy is changing and contracting and many of the children of the middle class have no place. In fact, many of the middle class have no place. Not a natural, go-to-, step-in function anyway. The world has changed and it has left some people behind who just play video games or take drugs. Or both.


  2. and who said “Money cant buy happiness”?
    Oh to be a fly on the wall at the reading of his Will, after Mr. Money Tree has his last jammer.
    “And to my ex wives and assorted children……. I bequeath my Line of Credit debt”…………..


    • More sex is what got Jack in to such a predicament in the first place! Poor fool. That’s what comes from having receptionists. Even their job title is a hint of what that is all about! I say, “Work alone. Be an independent contractor. You may get hairy palms but they can’t sue you for that!”


      • Exactly! I think there’s a little it of voyeur in all of us. And those us that aren’t 6’2″ and blessed with millions of dollars appreciate what happens to those that are when they get plugged into their ‘receptionists’. And then we can rejoice in the justice for being born poor and plain.
        Yup, you’re onto something!


    • Well….not much of a moral….maybe ‘be careful of what you wish for…’.
      Or, maybe: we all find our own place in the giant scheme of things…eventually….the universe…unfolding….you know….
      But I don’t really know. I was just thinking of the next book opening and, although I have a lot more accidents to describe in the manner of the first book’s propeller-disaster opening, thought I should open the next one differently. And that fairly common-to-me conversation seemed like a good opening so I ‘floated it’ on ya. Waddya think? Hooked?
      I have since heard that it has possibilities but……..’where ya goin’ wi’ dat, Dave?”
      So, I dunnooo…………still musing…..mulling….chewing cud.


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