Standing still in two directions

Unlike some people, my life has been one of constant change and transition. I was in 13 different schools before I graduated high school, lived in 20 – something separate homes before I was 20 (almost 20 more after that) and…well, there has been a lot of that sort of thing in my life.

I have even had four major careers. I was a social-worky type for twelve years, a real estate developer for eight, a consultant for six and a mediator/arbitrator for close to twenty. Throw in a lot of travel, some cul-de-sac time and living on boats and you might get the impression that I lived in a state of flux so much that change seemed constant and, worse, routine probably became unbearable. And you’d be right. The short form of routine is rut and, for me, routine is hell.

I have enjoyed lots of ‘life’ changes and, of course, with that comes the inescapable transitions between them. Aye, …and there’s the rub!’ You cannot go directly from A to B. You have to cross through the empty space from A before getting to B. That space is uncomfortable and, for me, basically an ordeal. When you get to B, you get to start adjusting, adapting, coping, learning…new people, new situations, new interests, new, new, new, new. It’s all good once you make it to B.

Transition time feels more like a wonky knee, something chronic and crippling…no progress….I came to recognize those transition times as such. It’s basically frustration….the fork in the road, so to speak. All progress, growth and learning stops while you make the next choice. Of course, the ‘new’ phase chosen is super interesting, challenging and an adventure. The new phase, once recognized, is attractive.

That time spent musing at the fork-in-the-road….? Not so much.

Imagine (for a sec) that you are really into something and doing well and learning and growing. You will inevitably start to make a regular routine or process from that growth path. That’s natural. As your expertise or familiarity grows, you anticipate and plan more effectively and you slowly go from apprentice to journeyman to (if you are lucky) an old pro or expert stage. But, as that happens, the excitement and enthusiasm diminish but at least some comfort usually ensues. Wealth of some kind might accumulate. You might even relax? After comfort maybe comes a bit of boredom (for me, anyway) and then restless disinterest combined with fatigue creeps in.

You start to think…..’maybe it is time to ‘move on‘…..that is the inner feeling I am now recognizing again. Frustration. I am full-on into some kind of transition mode.

Don’t misunderstand me; it is extremely unlikely the next phase has me moving back from OTG. Each phase teaches you something deep and established and I am deeply established here or, maybe, somewhere else OTG…(you never know what kind of fork in the road will loom into view and a foreign country OTG is not out of the question) but some things in my life are pretty much firmly established. OTG. Sal. Kids. Friends. Values. I do not see where the next phase is coming from or going to is but I can feel the familiar itch of the transition phase.

“Dave! You losin it, man? You ON something?”

No. Not in the least. And I can prove it. I call to the stand my first witness, Ms Gail Sheehy. She was/is the author of Passages (1972). In that book (I read it in the early 80’s) Sheehy explained that adults go through phases just as children do. The major difference is that kids go through a lot of ‘recognized’ phases from the Terrible Twos to the pre-teen, the pubescent teen, the troubled teen, the young adult and all the phases in between. Young people got phases up the yin yang!

Adults, she claimed, only went through two or three ‘adult’ phases which she never quite defined in years. But her second book, New Passages did. She says….

Provisional Adult: 18-30 years old (includes Turbulent 20’s and the transition to 1st Adulthood)

First Adulthood: 30-45 years old (includes early 40’s Middlessence – a 2nd adolescence)

Second Adulthood: 45-85 years old (includes 45–65 Age of Mastery and 65–85 Age of Integrity)

Seems the last phase for Ms Sheehy ends there…. At 85 I might become a master of something and have integrity. Harrumph!

I don’t think so…..I believe her basic theory, her ‘phases’ concept and I have the life experiences as corroborating evidence to back it up…but, well, Gail went only through some phases and some people go through more. Some maybe less. I think we all get the phases we seek and choose. I tend to be a bit greedy and I choose to have more……I think….I mean….I am once again at a transition fork. Progress has stopped while I choose…. first I have to look down another road or two……..

Back to the safety of topics OTG…

……………quasi political/economic/philosophical ranting (no matter how satisfying it is for me) is not a popular read it seems. Observations regarding Karl Marx and idiocy reinterpreted floated like a lead balloon. One dear reader even questioned my mental health……

So, here we go . . . back to the more familiar . . . Sal saw a few logs floating by and got the itch. And it needed scratching. Bad.

Log Dog – The Steel Kind

Errant logs have been fewer this year. There simply are not as many ‘floaters’ floating by and what few there are were of pretty poor quality. We were down on our logs. So Sal’s senses were piqued, her antennae tuned and she was Sal-the-Super-Salvager waiting to pounce if something came along. Upon seeing two likely stove-fillers, she was gone in a blur of jackets, ropes, hammers and dogs (the steel kind and the furry kind). My intrepid salvage crew of three were in the boat and zooming out before I knew they were even gone!

Log Dog – The Furry Kind

She had to navigate a veritable morass of wood debris out in the channel to find the two good logs but she succeeded, drove two steel dogs in them and attached the tow ropes. Then, with two furry dogs watching them follow aft, she slowly towed her prizes back to the ‘sorting yard’.

And it is there that our oft-told log salvaging story gets a bit more interesting……

Sal manoeuvred two twenty-five foot long, 10 – to 12 inch diameter logs behind her 17′ long boat (with an unruly crew jumping and wagging and getting in the way) into the lagoon that fills with water at high tide and goes dry by mid-tide. It was high tide. She drifted in slowly.

The goal is to creep the boat and the salvage forward so as to keep the logs behind the boat as she aims for the shore looking for a good rock or cleft upon which to alight. Sal nudged the bow gently into one such convenient ledge and quickly danced over the furry dogs and untied the two logs. Then, walking lightly along the 4″ inch wide gunwale, she moved forward to the bow with logs in tow. That is not easy unless you weigh much less than say, I do. I tend to tip the boat almost over.

Then she stepped lady-like to the shore with both lines and quickly tied them off to a hook, other fixed-in-place log or a nearby tree. Meanwhile, the boat floated ever-so-slightly higher when she stepped off and that freed it from the ledge and it started to float away. Finished securing her prizes, Sal nimbly danced back across the rocks and simply long-and-deftly ballet-stepped back to the bow. Good balance. A minute later, she was back in the captain’s seat with the crew acknowledging her skills and good fortune with some well placed licks and an enthusiasm of tails.

Ms Nimble Salvager is north of 70.

And, well, so am I. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I was rather well south of 80 but, really, who’s counting? I mention it because the next day, we all went down the hill to the lagoon with my chainsaw and cut those previously gathered (16) logs into thirty two winch-liftable lengths.

Of course, the chainsaw required servicing before I went down (despite having serviced it in late Fall). It seems I did not compressed-air-pressure clean the insides and, with winter moisture, the fine sawdust that gets everywhere absorbed enough moisture to form a kind-of dust-concrete that stuck to and limited the controls. A half hour later that was rectified and off we went.

Yes, the dogs came, too.

When logs come and get tied up, the do not just sit where they were placed. They move around with each turn of the tide. Since we ‘collect’ over time and do not address our stash until there is enough to warrant the work, the logs ended up all akimbo on the shore. Some are perched on rocks, some are laying on others and all are on slimy rocks and mud. If any are on an algae covered rock, they are likely to be left there until later because algae-covered granite is treacherously slippery and the slip is always followed by a hard and painful fall onto other rocks, logs and dogs.

But, with judicious choosing, planning and cutting, we got all but one yesterday. The lone survivor will meet it’s division soon enough. We still have time. Yesterday was the first day of Spring.

Rural idiocy

Karl Marx, that great ‘communist philosopher’, once said, “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life“.

He said that like it was a good thing……

I used to basically agree with that statement (until I went rural). How could I not? All modern breakthroughs seemed to happen urban, institutional, governmental. Ya know? Where the university profs and the young geniuses hung out? MIT. Harvard. Oxford. The Sorbonne. All the BIG companies. Amazon. Microsoft. Exxon. The ‘world’ was centered in New York, London, Berlin and Paris…..right? All the great voices, actors, writers, capitalists and politicians were urban, sophisticated and well, recognized as geniuses on magazine covers. Country rural was, well, country and rural, ya know? Hick. Redneck. Bubba. Hillbilly. A bit on the dumb side…….if anyone noticed them at all.

Y’all don’t get no astrophysicists or brain surgeons from Podunk, mister“.

But Marx’s theory has a few minor flaws. For the record, Marx was the son of a rich lawyer and lived off his father’s estate until it petered out. Then he lived poor. He lived in Germany, England, France and various couch surfing locations along the way…..presumably as a really smart urbanite. He never resided in, or even visited, Russia. Marx was more of a philosopher bum than a revolutionary economist. He may have just rationalized his personal failures….I dunno…who am I to judge?

Sill, he had a point or two to go along with the flaws……

I can now judge the phrase, ‘rural idiocy’ a bit better. I can judge it because I believed it and then I went rural and lived it and I now have an urban-gone-rural perspective. I kinda get it…..and I still kinda don’t.

First – brains migrate to the city. Mostly true. Non-physical-work oriented brains definitely go to the city. But some nature-oriented folks who are really smart don’t go and stay on the farm instead. I’ll give the edge in numbers to the urban smarties but I think that there are more of them mostly because the urban gene-pool is larger and more attractive and because larger libraries and institutions are there for the more intellectual (non-sweat requiring) pursuits. I.e. less physical work.

So, yes. More smarty pants are in the cities. Hard workers, making real stuff, fixing everything that breaks and doing so sustainably without endangering others…? Maybe not so much….

And, even though a lot of blithering idiots are also actually in the city (judging by the sheer numbers), they fall faster and farther than do the silly ones in the country. In the country, there is more open space and less opportunity to be revealed as stupid even though chainsaws and the grape-vine does an admirable job at trying to sort that out. Out here, we kinda know the idiots from the foolish, the silly from the feckless and the cretins from the dummies if by no other means than the number of remaining digits and appendages they sport.

Put more succinctly: country mice, like farmers, are capable generalists and city mice are very dependent specialists. I think that’s the basic difference.

Even a real simpleton working his hog farm has to master a lot of skills and can carry on that way for a long time (even if he loses an arm to a chainsaw). An idiot driving in heavy traffic dies in an inferno rather quickly. Even faster if he is a one-armed driver. Or gets shot. Or arrested. Or is addicted Or bankrupted. Or made homeless. Or worse, cancelled! Country life is more general and physical but it is, overall, more balanced and less dangerous to life if not limb. The dumb can linger here. They are accepted. They fail and die much quicker in the city.

Which, in itself, gives an intelligence edge to the country mouse – they live longer and are happier. Duh!

So, how does the longer-lived homesteader influence his greater rural life? Not a helluva lot. Generally speaking, the rural Bubba is a good enough neighbour. Usually salt-of-the-earth type. Nice enough. His or her influence is entirely local, tho. No campaigning. No selfish fund raising. They are a bit prone to populist influences and conspiracy theories but generally harmless – for the most part. Often brilliant with a lever, a hammer or a saw. Geniuses at ‘making do’. They rarely protest or join political issues except on behalf of the environment. They are sometimes inclined to a bit more religion and a lot less formal education. They are also increasingly unable to cope with the rapidly evolving complications, sophistications and convolutions of the modern urban era. They have trouble with cell-phones, computers, forms, laws, regulations and bureaucracies. Ergo, their interaction with others is less. Their influence on others is even lesser.

I think we all have trouble with modernity to some extent but, typically, the country bumpkin has much slower thumbs than does the city slicker (calluses on their hands?) Can’t keep up on Twitter. Many don’t even have internet. Or a blog. Trump has a huge following. So does Kim’s butt. But no one follows Bubba. Country bloggers have only about seven or eight readers at most.

Bottom line: it’s a significantly different kind of intelligence out here. Better oriented for the individual, the family and the neighbour. Better for nature, too. Not suited for Harvard and MIT, Exxon and the Military Industrial complex…. not so much, anyway. And country smarts does less harm to others. Jus’ sayin’…

But there is one thing that makes the rural guy like me an idiot-cum-victim. Our lack of modern sophistication makes us more vulnerable to those that actually do widespread harm. The tricksters. The politicians. Our folks do not understand the Machiavellian machinations, the sophisticated skullduggery, the permutations of perversions that the city slickers come cloaked in. Like laws and taxes and regulations. They do not hear past the bureaucratic-legalese words spoken, they do not see the invisible, in-camera cheatings and double crosses that will impact their otherwise innocent lives harshly. Rurals simply do not count in the corporate boardrooms or the government offices. They are the rubes, the hicks and the fodder for the movers and shakers. They are the targets of the confidence men, the banks, the credit companies and the bureaucracies. The country mouse gets run over by the bigger rats of the city.

Latest example writ large: Fox News saying publicly one thing and saying the opposite in private. They lied to their public entirely for their own sake.

Trumpism bears that statement out rather dramatically and colourfully as well (if you count camo as a colour). See riot at the Capitol Building. Hear the call for donations to Trump! So do polluting mines, ravaged forests and depleted fish stocks illustrate the great sell-out. People just ‘livin’ their lives’ in the forest find out that someone just polluted their river, killed all the animals and gave ’em cancer. And they don’t know what they can do about it……..

Dramatic fact: half the wild fauna bio mass on earth has disappeared over the last twenty years. There is now three times more domesticated animals than wild animals. There are now as many pounds of just pet dogs and cats as all the pounds of all the wild animals in the world.

So, I have had to revise my take on the term, Rural Idiocy. It is not that rural folk are stupid, it is that they are more innocent, vulnerable and trusting than they should be in this dog-eat-computer, make-a-buck, amoral world of double-speak, jargon, lying and not saying anything at all. Government is slowly working to get rid of us all. Corporations are slowly working to get rid of them country folk. Policies, plans and budgets do not recognize them. No one wants the country mouse in the way of things, they are regarded as harmless but they don’t make anyone who is important very much money.

Worse, they are witness to all the environmental crimes.

In this sense rural idiocy means naive and so Marx was not entirely wrong.

“Dave! Where the hell did all that come from?”

Well, ….it comes from deep down but it was sparked by our local government currently up to yet more ‘secret agenda crap’. They (like all governing agencies) are always disingenuous. They lie. They pass bylaws in secret. They are now on a power-acquisition quest. And they even publicly diss locals who speak up while they smile and say phrases like ‘community engagement’. They are basically ambitious penny-ante liars and cheats but it just reminds me (too much) of my time in the city where that was the common style of play.

And then that reminded me of Marx and well, you know how it goes from there for me…..

Purchasing Land OTG

The most desirable way to own land is called ‘freehold’. Of course that does not mean ‘free’ in any real sense but it does mean entirely owned, controlled, managed and occupied by the title-holder (kinda). People LOVE freehold. Weirdly, most people love the concept of freehold more than they do logic or common sense. They would prefer to own 1/8 of an acre freehold in a subdivision, one they can put a fence around, than they would like to own ten acres with a partner or a 100 acres with ten partners. Somehow, the term freehold bestows a sense of freedom, separation and independence from others.

It is not true, of course. If you have a 1/8 acre lot you own freehold and it is surrounded by 799 other ‘freeholders’ then you are actually sharing 100 acres with 799 others. In the city that means roads, sidewalks, building codes, design restrictions, fences, water, electricity and sewage at the very least. You may have a fence on your ‘freehold’ property but even that came with zoning and design restrictions. Your property is freely held in name and concept only. If you have any doubt about that, try not paying your property taxes or turning your home into a brothel.

There are other ways to own land. Strata titling can allow ownership in large tracts of land or apartments in highrise buildings. Strata titling is usually interpreted to mean that you own a box in or on a commonly owned property. In theory, one could remove one’s box from a stack of boxes (like containers stacked at a port) and go somewhere else but, in practice, your box (surveyed, mortgaged and insured) is permanently affixed to all the other boxes at construction and removal is impossible.

Then there are Co-ops. Co-ops are very much like strata titling except the unit you occupy isn’t actually yours. Instead, the unit is part of the common property and you own a share in the entity that owns the land and the living units. That should work for apartments but doesn’t work all-too-often simply because the rules of the co-op are established by the originators and they often put a lot of financial restrictions on it so that each member was not vulnerable to the financial problems that any one individual member might experience. The strata owner of a unit can go bankrupt but that would not affect others in the strata complex but, if a co-op member went bankrupt their share being sued might affect other members. Basically, co-ops are just harder to finance. Co-ops and Strata are similar but different.

And that brings me to corporate ownership…..the form of ownership we employed 49 years ago. Corporate ownership is much like Co-operative ownership, with the attendant early-owner drafted rules and restrictions, but the company format is a more easily understood concept (or it was at the time) and owning shares in a company that own the land made for a small amount of comfort in the event of a sale or the sale of a share. Corporate ownership is also same but different…..but mostly same as Co-op.

“Why bother with all that? Why not just buy freehold and be done with it?”

The main reason was that property OTG is not often subdivided into what is referred to as ‘bite-size’ (meaning affordable by one buyer). Land OTG is more often available in large chunks. Ours was 86 acres. A Co-op along the way on another island is 120 acres. A neighbour or two has 160 acres. When I was 26, I could not even afford a modest condo in Vancouver, let alone 86 acres of waterfront far away up the coast.

But me and nine others could.

After meeting with the ad hoc group that proposed forming a company to buy the land, Sal asked if I liked all the members in the room. NO. I do not!” I liked three or four and I was ambivalent or non-judgmental over another four or five but I did NOT like two of the possible partners at all. “So, you think we shouldn’t buy in?” “On the contrary. I think we should. It doesn’t matter where you go, you will have neighbours. And some you will like and some you won’t. So, liking them is not an issue. The issue is that 10 shares of 86 acres provides us with 8.6 acres of separation. That is the kind of ratio that allows for space between us. We cannot afford 8.6 acres any other way.”

As it turned out, some of the original shareholders changed their minds and wanted to sell later on and so we bought them out. Eventually, six of us remained the only shareholders. My share is, theoretically now, 14.3 acres. In reality it is more like one square foot or inch in six square feet or inches. Everything except our building site is ‘common area’.

In a weird twist the Regional District restricted (at the time) lots to a minimum 10 acres which might have dictated that we would be limited to eight shares but that new regulation allowed for two homes on each 10 acre parcel. So, maybe we could have 20 shares? In fact, a company can issue thousands of shares but the zoning might still restrict the number of homes to 20….it is all rather silly, actually. Especially when you consider that a large parcel adjacent to us is Crown Land and, when hiking through the forest, our separate parcels are indistinguishable. In real life, forest is forest.

Our governance, the Regional District, really does not care very much about us. They provide no services or amenities, no support or even on-the-ground presence. We have logging roads and some docks and that is about it. They don’t care. And, even if they did care, they have violated their own rules any number of times. We have some one acre parcels cheek-by-jowl with 160 acre lots. They are not consistent. More to the point: they do not want to care. They do not want to provide service. The tax base just isn’t there to pay for it.

“Why mention all this, Dave?” Because most people have a conventional mind-set when purchasing real estate. That ‘mind-set’ involves realtors and listings and house inspections, financing and insurance. That mindset carries over…..and little of that urban mindset applies out here….well, not in the conventional sense, anyway. Realtors are not interested in working to sell a remote site at a lower price than a nearby condo…too much trouble and expense for them. Most houses would not pass a house inspection because most of the systems are ‘cobbled’ to fit the circumstance. Some old places still have outhouses. We have a stream. Some have a well. Others catch rainwater. No one has conventional Hydropower. There is no ‘professional’ fire protection or police. We do not have roads that actually go anywhere…..

…this is much more…free….hold.

Moving OTG is different. Really different. A lot of conventional real estate purchasing thinking is inapplicable and, more to the point, unworkable. Just the property’s orientation to the sun is a different requirement! This OTG ‘difference’ using real estate as an example is just one part of the difference that a person moving OTG will likely experience, from building to food gathering, from social engagement and entertainment to the kinds of dogs you might have. Tools and machinery even take on a bigger role. I cannot honestly state that living OTG is like living in a foreign land but it is definitely a slightly foreign culture with many different life-adjustments to make it work.

My interesting, interpretive, twisted observation……(politics)….hell, maybe it’s even a prophecy?

Trump catalyzed the January 6th ‘insurrection’ that was not, really, a bona fide insurrection. Even if the mob had taken over the Capitol Building and killed everyone there, a national, cross-country revolution would not have begun. The J6 event was more like a symbolic, ‘fake’ insurrection, a dramatic ‘scene’ for the media, a stage on which Trump pranced and posed. It was ridiculous and absurd but, still, verging on ‘something’. But, what kind of something? What was that farcical ‘sacrifice’ of exceptionally gullible foot soldiers all about if not just for satisfying Trump’s insatiable ego?

Bear in mind that Trump has no real political substance or philosophy. He is all poseur, all con, all-fake, all-showmanship all the time. This is a narcissistic man who lives for ‘likes’ and craves attention; any kind of attention. For Trump, there is no such thing as bad publicity and he has kind of specialized in creating the much-easier-to-achieve BAD publicity.

But could J6 really just have been about publicity? Was it all about just furthering the great Trump confidence game? Or a run for office again? Is Trump really all about ramming the ‘brand’ down so many throats that it creates a following that he can grift, cheat and steal from? Is that all it is?

I confess: I thought that it was just that – a giant, American style circus. PT Barnum with orange hair.

Some ‘serious’ people think that Trump and Trumpism is a legitimate threat to the government, democracy and even the rule of law. Trump, they claim, is a threat to the USA as a nation.

I was not convinced. But lately something is niggling at me…

January 6th was supposed to be (and was eventually) just a formal confirmation of the final vote (electoral college vote, I believe). Do you launch a revolution on a formality? A ceremony? Does a true revolutionary just throw a bloody but metaphorical pie in the public’s face?

Maybe you do if you have to fight your revolution symbolically? Let’s face it, Trump can’t raise an army, a navy, an air force. At best he had less than half the population….and no forces…..

And, well, here’s where the ‘niggle’ comes in….Trump will be indicted. Soon. Maybe first in Georgia, then New York. I do not know because I have grown ‘bored of it’ and Trump has lost even the attraction of a train wreck. But imagine that his war-model, his strategy, his modus operandi is actually BASED on dramatic stages being set….on dramatic scenes being set…on de facto ‘flash mobs’ symbolically fighting a revolutionary war? If you do NOT have the troops or the ships or the planes, can you ‘puppeteer’ a war? Are staging rallies across the country and inciting the crowd a practice at that, a dress rehearsal for a Broadway show?

Don’t forget: the only time Trump succeeded at anything legitimate was the TV show, “The Apprentice.” That was NOT real life. That was a TV SHOW! That was NOT real, it was, in effect ‘virtual’….a ‘fake’ business….it was pure showmanship….like his whole life!

So, he gets indicted. Atlanta, Georgia. Fani Willis (AG) indicts TRump. Of course It’s on TV. Trump of course announces (on TV) that he will go to Atlanta (being careful NOT to say that he will face trial). He will then invite his Maggots to attend the Atlanta ‘rally’ with him. He will invite them by saying, “Be there. Will be wild!”

And, once again, he has dog-whistled his minions. Once again, they will come armed and in camo. Once again, a mock revolution will be staged. Some people will die. The National Guard will be there in force and without hesitation. A bigger riot may ensue.

Another ‘battle’ has again been fought. The USA will be further polarized.

And a revolution takes a closer step towards reality…….

…….or am I just crazy?

…another beautiful day in the neighbourhood…..

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late…….

….NOT ME!! Not late for nothing! Not me.………..I am OTG. I am free!

Well, that is the OTG myth, anyway. I am free in the sense of the Beatles’ ‘Day in the life’ song or compared to a wage-earning urbanite but I still have responsibilities, duties, chores, routines, loose schedules but still schedules. I have a wife. I have dogs. I have machines. Gotta eat. Gotta shower. Gotta pee…..ya know?

Seriously: I have been trying to clean my shop up now for months…no time! Sal has been meaning to organize some cupboards…no time. The dogs are full-on bushy again…where is the time? The outboards need some attention….

Did I mention that we wanted to paint the inside of the house (and have for the last two years)…it really needs some attention….?

“Dave! What are you saying?”

I am saying that ‘LIFE IS DEMANDING’. The older you get, the more demanding it gets. Time demanding! Or so it seems. When we were young, we worked full-time, managed a house, raised two children, did community work, had a busy social life and even had time for some recreation. Damn! I even watched too much TV!!

That is no longer the case. Today, we went down to ‘service the boats’. After breakfast and e-mails, we went to work. Walked past the lagoon. “Maybe I’ll cut up some logs tomorrow”, I said. “Focus on the boats!” she said.

So, in the lovely, bright sunshine, we set to work dealing with a boat that had somehow gotten water in the fuel. It happens all the time, actually – condensation inside half full tanks. We know what we are doing. We can fix it. Two hours later (2 hours!) we had Sal’s boat running fine. We went over to mine. The sunshine had gone. A dark cloud appeared and it began to hail. So, we’ll do that job tomorrow.

We put away some tools, got out the wine, put away some other stuff, petted the dogs…and it was dinner time!

Think about that: two healthy people got just ONE task done and it took all day. Yes, yes, I know… really have to plan for the time it takes to just live life as well (and I do tend to linger in showers). I know that. But, but, but, it is taking more and more time just taking care of those ‘daily-living’ tasks and there is less and less time available for the maintenance of things and projects-for-adventure.

Fuggedabout recreational pastimes. We are too busy ‘existing’ to have hobbies or sports or even an active social life. I am for sure too busy for an active social life. Sal’s still got a foot in, tho….

“Dave! Is it really that bad?”

Yes and no. Yes, it is that bad for BIG projects. Maintenance will get addressed one way or the other. Daily life tasks get done in a timely manner (I am a two-shower-a-day guy and that will carry on for as long as I do). But I am not even thinking about building a boat or converting a bread truck into an RV anymore. Those kinds of all-day, all-week, all-month projects are NO MORE. Well, at least not for now… should never say never.

I am now more focused on the here and now and what-needs-doing today. Put more succinctly: I will not even start a long series on Netflix. If it says, “Season six coming soon!”, I do not even look at the pilot or the trailers. I wouldn’t start Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones and Yellowstone hasn’t got a hope.

I guess it boils down again to this:…….. time is our only real currency and like all our currencies in retirement, they are dwindling. Less energy, less time, less dreams. And that’s OK. It just means that we take more and more pleasure in the here and now. We have a smaller vision of our world but it is a good one. We have less of an attention span but that just helps the wine flow. Our money might last long enough because the costly projects are gone.

It’s a weird kind of system but we seem to be slowing down as we age and use up our reserves but we are having a fine time of it.

Throw in a beautiful day and I am not sure that it gets better than that.

Hmmm….real estate OTG prices….?

Real estate prices fluctuate, of course, all around the province but the perceived value of OTG properties seems to fluctuate the most. Most people new-to-the-dream do not understand that and, to be fair, the reasons for such disparities are generally vague and somewhat complicated all at the same time. It is hard for anyone to make sense of OTG real estate prices.

I am gonna take a run at it…….

……well, a second run at it. The first effort to get a handle on it was expanded on in my second book, “Choosing” (albeit not in great detail) and in a passing kind of way now and then in a few blogs.

I was recently prompted to think more about OTG real estate prices for several reasons: one; a British student doing research found my name and asked about it. Two; a few more readers have expressed interest in moving OTG and three; I have a sense that the usual OTG market around me is also changing even more so lately……so here goes.

  1. That mainstream urban and suburban markets continue to rise or at least remain high transfers to all real estate everywhere in a generally increasing price kind of way.
  2. That so many people over the next ten years will be leaving the workforce (Baby Boomers retiring) and many will jettison their high-value urban home for retirement capital is also a factor. But they still need a place to live. When you make a ‘retirement/lifestyle change’, many tend to leave the city for the country.
  3. Construction costs are over-the-top everywhere and have more than tripled – so people look for cheaper land and that also means ‘heading out’. Mind you, construction costs OTG were and still are even DOUBLE that!
  4. The meme that the world is going to hell in a handbasket is an increasingly common one. There is a general sense of insecurity and fear of maybe even civil disruption that also adds to the desire to “Get out!” There are a lot of forces that suggest all real estate rural and OTG will increase in demand.

A. On the other hand, current inflationary forces seem to hit rural and OTG properties a smidge harder. Distance means fuel and my $1600 fuel-tank-fill (gensets, chainsaw, boats) is now $2500. That’s a significant deterrent.

B. We also employ more product delivery than we used to (because of Amazon, age, time, convenience, etc) and so a loaf of bread has a 15% percent surcharge as does everything else.

C. The OTG burden of NOT having bank-financed mortgages commonly available is also a deterrent as more cash is required for a purchase. Financial services do not want the risk of an OTG property – the market is too small and often too volatile – they do not want to foreclose on a distant property. Plus most OTG properties are next to impossible to insure (no roads, no fire protection, etc). Those forces and many more act as a limit on rural real estate prices.

Put more simply, there are now new forces even stronger than before driving people out and away from living rural or OTG. Living poor now costs a lot of money. Societies around the world have experienced a strong urbanization influence since the Industrial Revolution and that trend has not stopped. And the more people become ‘civilized’ the less capable they are of living away from systems of convenience. A large family in the 1930’s lived simply, independently but not very well on the prairies or on farms. They did not get fat. They did not drive cars with AC or heated seats. Today, few people have the skills, the will, the family size or the attitude to live that way. Rural has lost a lot of appeal for a lot of people.

But so now is urban life seen as becoming more unpleasant. The retirees are fed up with the cost and the stress. Immigrants can’t afford it. Crime, violence, restrictions and rules have replaced the attraction of the gene pool, theatres and Starbucks. A lot of city people now want out. And there are now fewer people to actually want in because the Boomers did not make a lot of babies! Populations are shrinking.

So how does all that affect real estate prices OTG? I cannot make an accurate and related correlation of those influences and end up with even a rough determination. Being smart, informed and analytical is not my thing…I just see the influences and I shared them with the student researcher.

And I know that there are many, many more factors to consider. Honestly, I could list many more pulls and pushes and quadruple the length of this blog.

But here’s one that is counter-intuitive – there is a lot of land rural and OTG available but there is not a lot of exceptional and desirable land for sale….at least not that anyone can find without being in the area. For instance: if you are OTG and intend to utilize solar, you need to have a south-facing lot. You also need to be sure of your ground water. You need to consider the extraordinary cost of access. That list just goes on and on. And the answers to the list are not found unless you are physically on the ground.

Few realtors want to work hard at their job and they are very disinclined to spend a lot of time and money trying for a commission on a lower priced, very distant piece of land. The interested buyer is hard pressed to find a realtor interested in OTG. That synergy is just not available.

Here’s another one: the potential buyer is also somewhat spoiled or limited in their own willingness. They do not want to, or maybe can’t afford to, go looking for a needle in a haystack. Looking is a major task. It’s expensive and very time-consuming. They expect service and there simply isn’t very much of it for rural or OTG property.

When you think about it, it is a HUGE challenge to find a rural or OTG piece of paradise that a retiree can handle and it is also a rare retiree who has the skills, energy and the knowledge to even make the effort.

That may sound a bit egotistical on my part and I apologize if it does…but I was an exception. We bought the land we are on when I was 26. It was all the rage to go ‘back to the land’ in the 70’s. So, we went. But we didn’t stay. We remained urban for the next 30 years and then we went to the island. And we lucked out. Without knowing anything, we had found the right place. Relying on luck is a not a path I recommend.

Anyway…just a rumination, a reflection, a bunch of thoughts prompted by a British student asking a question….

What a difference a day makes….and we had sixteen of ’em!

Left paradise on February 17th. Destination: Sal’s mom’s. Metchosin (just outside Victoria). Purpose: help her move from her 2000 sq ft home-of-forty-years into an assisted care facility. She’s 95 in a few weeks. But she is entirely ‘with it’ and it was her choice. So far, so good.

A quick assessment suggested that five days should do the trick. A lot of selecting, some packing, some storage, some cleaning, some paperwork…ready, set, go!

But a minor health issue with good ol’ mom stopped our immediate progress. So we ‘putzed’ around doing some small stuff, some big stuff, removing junk, fixing minor building flaws…etc. Caring for mom. And a few days went by……like the Chinese water torture…..

By day five things were looking up. Even better, mom was up. We all went for a ‘facility’ reconnoitre and ‘sussed the place out’. It was not her first time there but it was her first day in a while and the visit set her back some……moving day postponed for another few days.

So, we continued with the putzing and fixing, cleaning, packing, selecting and the other gazillion distractions from the main move. But day six saw the movers taking the big items, a few bits of furniture, some packed boxes and the various belongings needed to make a shipping container (her apartment) a home. And the snow started to fall as did the temperature. It was getting bloody cold for Victoria.

It was even colder back in paradise. Our neighbours reported snow and below freezing temps for days. “The hill is a sheet of ice. People can’t get out. People can’t even walk up or down it!”

That bad news had a tarnished silver lining……we had a home to stay in with all the mod cons and our own home would have required us to use totes for water and burn copious amounts of wood. Still, by day twelve the original chore was still not complete. There was also mom needing some new-home adjustment time…..

All in all, it took sixteen days to move Sal’s mom into a small, 350 sq ft cell and make it suitable. That included installation of hooks, rearranging furniture, decorating and introductions to the ‘processes’ and ‘expected behaviours’ of living with others. It truly was an adjustment…..for me, especially. Mom was good. I was half traumatized every time we went there (every day).

The above explains the dearth of blog posts these past couple of weeks but, wait! There’s more! The internet and phone were cut off on our fifth day there. But that’s OK. We’re not addicted. Well, hooked, perhaps, but not addicted in an extreme way…mostly…..(I thought I’d go mad). In a way, it was a good thing that there was so much to do because there were no outlets for other interests.

Sal coped by walking the dogs. The three of them would traipse the woods around her mom’s old house most of the time but every day included a short drive to a nearby beach and the three of them would regain their sanity there before coming back. I stayed home and slowly descended into madness.

My ‘fun-with-dogs’ was limited to being the ‘guy with two humongous black and curly dogs’ who went to visit Sal’s mom and went through the main lobby to get to the elevator. Those dogs created an energy not common in an assisted care home and we always attracted a crowd. It was always fun.

We cooked at the old home but half the time did take-out. Firstly, we were always busy and secondly, we were trying to reduce the amount of foodstuffs that would be chucked when it was all over. Our meals were NOT great. Restaurant food sucks now (for us). Single exception: Sabhai Thai in Langford. They were good.

Our return day was, as usual, hectic and stressful. The highway had a multi-car accident just as the snow was at its thickest. We sat on the Malahat waiting for emergency vehicles. Then, after Nanaimo, it started snowing again. Heavy. All that and a vehicle so laden that we bottomed out on every medium bump, the stories of the frozen hill and the prospect of a frozen home to get to tended to dampen out enthusiasm but not our determination.

As it turned out, the snow let up and, by Courtenay, the sun was peeking out. We caught the no-longer reliable ferry on time (whew) and charged up the neighbouring island through the snow on the logging road with full-on sunshine overhead. The hill was not so bad….I crawled down and got to the halfway lot and stopped there.

A beautiful, lovely, home-welcoming boat ride and a couple of hours later and we were in the house. Well, the engine on the boat started to conk out halfway home but we responded appropriately, effected repairs and made it home. Temperature outside was 4C. Temperature inside the house was also 4C. Four hours of robust wood heat and we were at about 16C and that would be our high that night.

The best part? I checked our batteries and they were full to the brim! Sixteen days of cold and a few minor draws (small ghost loads) and they had just soaked up the sun (when it shone) and charged up.

Happiness is a fully charged battery bank.

The World According to Ziehan

I write about OTG, boats, politics, engine repairs, firewood, my wife, economics, aging….kind of an eclectic grab-bag of my daily-life thoughts. I spare you dinner recipes but they occupy more than just a bit of my mind-space, too. And, of course, now and then, I mention the dogs (almost 14 months old and still growing!). This all about someone else!

In a sec….first me, of course.…..There is no denying that I have a bit of a doomsday streak running through a lot of what I write. The End of Days kinda thing. “Git yerself a cabin in the woods if ya wanna survive the Zombie Apocalypse!” “Get out. Get OUT NOW!!!” “Climate Change is coming!” “It’s here!!!!”

I can get a little hysterical.

I’ve been trying to tone it down a bit. “The sky is falling” gets a bit lame after awhile…..altho, the sky is dropping large balloons lately…jus’ sayin’…..

I have also been up front about all that – my dramatic warnings stem from a lack of good scientific data and information, media manipulation and a healthy but unchecked imagination. I tend to believe some of the ‘others’ when they warn us and ignore the ‘stupid others’ that say otherwise – but I do not know who is who. Not really. And I am not a researcher. I mostly go on feelings, inferential scanning (unconscious observation) and whatever madness comes with getting older. I am not really much of a bona fide source of anything except, perhaps, that I acted on my feelings. But so did Evel Knievel (and his son). Feelings are not always enough.

I mention all this because I just discovered an even more obnoxious, more arrogant, prognosticator than myself and he claims to actually KNOW something. His name is Peter Ziehan and he is a Geopolitical Futurist. He is a bit hard to listen to because he likes himself a bit too much. Even worse, he speaks faster than my cerebral absorption rate. I can barely keep up. If he says something I question (or do not hear quite right) he has already said three other things before I can scramble back aboard the Ziehan train. I really should not be too critical of his style, tho. I kinda like the guy in a ‘fellow-boorish‘ kinda way.

But having ‘style’ does not mean he is wrong. And I think there is an element of logic and accuracy to what he is saying. He is saying that the last 35 years have been mankind’s most enriching, most peaceful, most cooperative and most productive years in world history.

And they are now over.

And that Golden era was because of a few key things: The US kept international shipping lanes, safe. Globalization allowed countries, with only one or two things to offer for trade, to get other products and so further develop themselves. It was that new global trading synergy that created new markets and floated all boats. Plus we (mostly First World (FW) but including 2nd and eventually third world countries, too) had the labour and a system to make good use of it – i.e. Capitalism and the baby boomers.

He is big on Geography, too. Geography is and was a destiny definer throughout history. Still a huge factor for him. And, as an aside, he thinks the USA (the NAFTA zone, actually) enjoys the best geography in the world. It is the only large geographical entity that can run wholly independent of other countries. (There are a few other small ones that have the ‘right stuff’ like New Zealand and France.) Most countries NEED to still trade with FW foreign devils so as to better develop their burgeoning and infant societies. North America can continue on with just domestic devils.

He also notes that globalization is in retreat. The USA is backing away from being the world’s policeman. Nation states (autocrats) are re-asserting isolation/independence to their own and everyone’s detriment. He claims China is almost done, primarily due to population imbalance, Covid, poor soil, autocracy and trade dependence. He claims Russia is done. The Middle East is unsustainable without free trade — they don’t grow food! You need good geography, properly-balanced demographics, robust and varied agriculture and across-the-board industry – only the US has all that in abundance.

Covid exacerbated all that was going to become a disaster anyway as nations fade into oblivion caused by their aging populations and/or bad management. The Russia Ukraine war and climate change is adding to the deglobalization trend. We are all, it seems, downsizing — some quicker and more catastrophically than others.

But the biggest negative influence on the status quo is the aging of the First world. Consumption is falling. Workers are retiring. Capital is constricted. There are not enough young people to replace the retirees and the immigrants who are younger are not as skilled or integrated. Growth has been ruled out. Do not even hold your breath for the status quo.

We are doomed!

Well……..we are doomed to ‘transition’, anyway. Change is underway. BIG CHANGE is underway. HUGE CHANGE IS UNDERWAY. Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing?

In fact, Ziehan says this month is a bit of a reveal. It seems February 2023 is when the Baby Boomers wave of retirement really peaks. And transition time is for a long period, probably…well….it is hard to say…..because we do NOT know what we are transitioning to……but he figures it will take a two or three generations at least to sort out the new ‘world order’. It won’t be an easy transition and he has stated that those fifty years or so will experience great hardship and many countries and populations will go without what we have all come to expect. Life will get harder. Food choices reduced. Food volumes reduced. Trade and wealth around the world will drop. Much of the world will regress, devolve……

Ziehan makes me look like Mr. Sunshine.

So…let the sun shine in….he has not factored in robots, artificial intelligence, ingenuity or even technology — not really. He has not opined that Gaia might appreciate a rest and recuperation period as populations fall and abuse lessens. He has not considered the rise of the few countries that have young populations (sub-Saharan and South America) or those youngish, such as India and some SE Asian countries. There should be a lot less war (again, fewer young people). Nor has he considered the one aspect of our species that has served us the best – adaptability.

Regardless…Ziehan has entered the conversation with a new perspective…..something to think about.

Reflections on getting old

Observation #1. After turning 70, just for fun, try NOT reflecting on getting old. Can’t be done. Firstly, getting old makes itself known all the time – once you hit 70. 70 is a big year. You just naturally reflect on getting old rather than trying to deflect it.

But, I have to admit, getting old is, well for me, getting kinda old. I am bored of it. Been at it for five years now. And others my age aren’t helping much. It seems to take nothing before a group of best-before-dated oldies start to discuss all their ailments and pains. By the time the conversation gets going several have nodded off and I just wander away. Old age is just NOT that interesting.

Observation #2. Oldies also talk of ‘popping off’ or ‘buying the farm’ or ‘leaving this mortal coil’ a lot. Which, I suppose, is mentally healthy but, upon (that annoying habit of) reflecting, must have another purpose…I think… Some really old geezers I know always want to discuss their ‘going away’ as if planning and discussing are their way of accepting it….? Or maybe they just want a party?

At first, I used to just say to them, “Oh, Hell, man, sure you are old and decrepit but you’ve been old and decrepit a long time. Since your early thirties, actually. I am sure you are still just half way along some old, boring and dusty road. Discussions of your imminent termination are premature. Hell, you can still buy green bananas, take out a mortgage, date some young thing and pick out baby names. Buck up!”

But that wasn’t always quite the right thing to say – especially if they were in hospice or otherwise utilizing more tubes than just a CPAP machine. I was not as sensitive to the topic in the past, perhaps, as I should have been (too late now to fix some of those discussions I am afraid). I must confess to empathizing more these days even if I am a bit late.

Observation #3. God. God comes up now where, before, God was just some silly church-invented concept that smart people rejected as a crutch for sheeple believing in fairy tales. Today? Not so much. The biggest converts in my social circle are my Jewish friends. They were all so very hip and intellectual when young. They were non-Jews, modern Jews, Reform Jews, Atheists and newly practicing Buddhists who saw the light in yoga. Now, well, Synagogue is on the weekly schedule. So is Shabbat dinner, and a lot of old rituals have gained a place for them between doctors appointments.

That is also kinda true for my Asian friends who, for reasons unexplained are now attending Protestant churches. When asked why, the typical response is, “Well, you never know. Best to spread your bets.”

The white guys haven’t changed much. Still heathens, pagans and barbarians although there is the occasional reference to the Great Spirit or the Spirit Bear Rainforest or some kind of gobbledygook. Gaia comes up now and then amongst the few ex-hippies.

My indigenous friends don’t talk at all about it but they do kinda listen and roll their eyes and walk away looking for a drum to beat or something.

Me? Oh, I have been a believer in something unifying for a long time and so there’s nothing too new for me on that score. Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) envisioned a great spiritual pool into which your eternal essence (soul) was eventually poured to mingle amongst the trillions of others and I like that image.

Observation #4. I am getting ripped off a lot. No one is really cheating me directly. The fault lies with me. I have been eligible for senior’s discounts for twenty years in some cases. Definitely for the last ten years. I just never ask. I just don’t think about it. It’s irritating…in the same way NOT winning the lottery is irritating. I never buy a ticket but, damn…..

Observation #5. Sleep. Blessed, elusive, erratic, undependable, geriatric sleep. What an irritant disrupted sleep is! If I sleep well, things get done, Sal gets kissed, the dogs get walked and I help out with dinner. No sleep? Everyone pays a price. Sadly, good sleep is getting more and more infrequent. I guess the great spirit pool expects me to catch up when I have officially left the building and gotten into the great public pool.

Observation #6. Movies. Good ol’ hero type, wise-cracking, shoot-em-ups are getting too real and gritty now. Andaa sappy Morgan Freeman playing God bugs me. The producers have moved away from space movies, which I still really like, and rom-coms are just plain stupid now. I guess what I am saying is that age has made me so much more picky now and that I am not even happy with Netflix. That’s annoying because Netflix was my retirement plan.

Observation# 7. Travel. I still have the bug but it is an ant now. I am easily crushed by airports, security, epidemics and Tourista. I have kinda gone soft. I’ll still chicken-bus but only if they have air-conditioning and the driver doesn’t play local salsa loudly on a tinny portable player. Some chicken buses still do that. I tend to pay the extra pesos for the quiet ones now. I know that I have a few trips left in me and I think logic suggests the sooner the better but, damn!, y’all know what’s going on out there!!?? If I can wait for an air conditioned bus, I can wait for the epidemic, revolution, cartel shoot-out, war and general corruption to subside a bit, can’t I?

Observation #8. They were wrong about wisdom. I am older. But I am not wiser. I used to know everything. Now I know nothing. The only thing I know for sure is that I am where I want to be with the one I want to be with and we eat and drink well together.

I may have to work on my Netflix plan.