Cougars

As Sal and I were heading home after a hard (but short) day cannibalizing our old boat, Wasabi, we came across a gaggle of tourists at the end of the road.  There were six.  Five were women ‘of a certain age’ (meaning 55+).  One was quite attractive.  Sal was already schlepping stuff along the trail to the new (to us) boat ,Pumpkin, and I was coming down from the parking lot when they politely engaged me in some tourist-meets-local chit chat.  I’m usually good for a minute of charm-offensive (emphasis on the word offensive) and, as three of them were smiling a lot and regarding me as some kind of out-there, kinda-odd, hill-billy ‘character’, I was easily seduced. We chatted and had fun.

I think it was a somewhat unique encounter for them (and me) and it was actually flirting quite soon after the initial introductions and one woman was so attentive and animated that I found myself saying, “You should come out and stay one weekend.  Then you’d learn more about this lifestyle.”  (Yes, that was the attractive one.)  Of course, it was all said with a smidge of insincere, but polite, tone of double entendre and they all giggled at the hinted prospect.

Well, okay, it may have been gagging and choking but they maintained their smiles so I choose to interpret their guttural sounds as giggles.

I mentioned that Sal was at the boat . . .right?

Anyway, like all cougar encounters, this one was brief, exciting and I was left breath-taken at the beauty of nature in the wild.  I wish I’d had a camera.

My friend, D did. There she was . . . another attractive cougar…..just passing through on his side of the island.  Not even so much as a real encounter.  No flirting.  No giggles.  But he saw and experienced the beauty of the moment as well.

Reflections

Reflecting: the act of looking back for the purpose of understanding the present and maybe anticipating the future.   Is that even possible nowadays?

“Why would you ask that, Dave?” 

Because you can’t make most of the current present up.  How does one understand it all and know where it came from.?  Or where we are headed?

Small example: Stormy (porn star) Daniels is on a major TV show cracking jokes about having illicit sex with the president of the United States (is that fiction-humour or facts stated with grin?).  He denies everything which, in Trumps case, verifies everything (lying all the time is now the new norm?).  His lawyer admits everything, gets it all wrong and then repeats it all (presidential lawyers and press secretaries consistently contradict themselves?).  And the porn-star wants to reveal more (there’s more???).  And this gong show goes on and on and on.  Somewhere along the line, a porn star became the voice of reason and is leading the fight against a pathologically lying president.  Who could have imagined that?

Any idea what is real anymore?

But Trump is NOT my topic for today.  My topic is my own reflections on life.  Me.  Us.  Where are we?  How did we get here?  And where are we headed?

By ‘we’, I mean Sally and I.  Mostly.  I can also reflect on the larger ‘we’, those of us living off the grid and the even larger-again ‘we’, those of us living on a climate changing planet in more-than-just-interesting times.  There is a lot to reflect on.

But, at a gut level – I am starting with us.  We are here and loving it.  So, residing here is mostly a given for the foreseeable future. We are getting markedly older and so our future here will be different than it has been.  It is already changing.  We need to make some additional adjustments.  For instance: wood-getting used to be a three day blitz chore.  Maybe four.  Now it is a few weeks.  We have to do less per day so that we can do it all.  Blitzing any job is pretty much over.

Another element seems to be emerging – we keep planning on winters elsewhere. In the beginning (here) we left every other winter but, if we are being honest, we are slowly changing to annual snow-birds and it is unlikely we will ever stay more than one or two winters in future.  So, that needs attention.  Do I re-visit the insane, expensive and dangerous USA simply for the sunshine?  Do I look for an RV?

AND we have a grandchild.  Surprising what a schedule changer he’s become.

We may also have developed a writing habit.  Hard to say.  We’ve done three books in three years and enjoyed it more each time.  The reading public hasn’t, but we have.  So, it may be a habit, it may not.  Rejection and/or acceptance will determine that, I guess.  Writing is fun but selling them beyond a token number is essential to keep the ego motivated.  We’ll see.

Our bodies are basically good.  Very good for our age, I guess.  But that is no way to judge.  They have to be good-good, not good-for-the-age-category.  And bodies, like cars, surprise their owners now and again with breakdowns and repairs.  So far, we are good but a few months back, Sal had two flat tires (on her car) and so surprises DO happen to all of us.

Money is always a bit of an issue.  Not much because we don’t really care so long as we can eat and drink wine but it is of some concern because we are not rolling in it.  We live within a budget.  Which is fine…as long as you can REMAIN within the budget.  And the world is heating up in that regard.  BIG BUSINESS relies on inflation and the BIG BOYS want it back and want it bad.  They are trying to stoke the inflationary furnaces every time I look.

And it is working.  Slowly interest rates are rising.  Virtually everything we consume has gone up in price.  The official ‘cost of living index’ is a total lie currently pegged at around 3%.  Stats Can doesn’t buy gasoline in BC, I guess.  Nor avocados, wine or building materials.  THEIR (fantasy) basket of goods is Kraft Mac and Cheese, milk and maybe salt? Who knows?  But whatever it is, it ain’t real. My cost of living is up 10% over the last two years and climbing.  That will play a role.

Friends, family, society…….everyone is aging so some will pass.  Some will become less engaged.  Many fall into the margins of just-memories.  And society-on-the-whole holds less interest for us so we are less engaged overall.  Squirrels and gardens seem to appeal more, tho.  It’s all natural but it’s also another change.

This is a surprise: I read less.  Well, I read MORE, actually, but fewer books.  Two reasons – even tho I am NOT a good writer, my writing has improved and so I find myself less tolerant or accepting of poorly written stuff.  I should be MORE accepting because I know how hard it is but I am not.  If the book doesn’t grab me, I stop reading.  I do the same with movies too, now.  The second reason: my brain and eyes are getting old so, if it isn’t worth the effort, I don’t work ’em.  Weird.

I might fish.  I know…….who woulda thunk it….. but I like to eat ’em and I have slowed down sufficiently that doing nothing for hours at a time doesn’t drive me mad anymore and, if you are not reading as much, you may as well fish.  Right?  We’ll see about how that works out.

So, there you have it…a bit of reflection.  Where is Dave and where is he going?  Is he even moving?  Check his pulse.   

 

Transitioning – some have a hard time

A friend of mine is retiring.  He’s sixty.  He’s cutting back on his work commitments but doesn’t quite know how to do that and get into full-on retirement.  He gets up at the same time, does the same things and rushes to the family business still – out of habit mostly.  But now he stands around micromanaging the new manager until the stress cracks surface in both of them.  Then he realizes that he is being silly so he goes out and exercises and shops and does chores and dreams up ‘retirement’ ideas.  He maybe has a long lunch at a service club to talk about community commitments.

And then he goes back to the shop to ‘just check in’.   Stays until new stress cracks surface.

He’s driving everybody nuts. 

“Look!  I KNOW I am retired but, damn it, I still have a business and a huge family and four community gigs a week not to mention all the rest of the stuff……!”

“Your children are all grown.  Leave them be.  The new manager is good.  Leave him to it.  Four community gigs a week is too much.  And most of the ‘rest of the stuff’ was quasi business related anyway.  Get a grip, dawg!  Relax.  You are still biting off more than you can chew.”

“I know.  I know.  So that is why I signed up for the “Round the World Race!”

“WHAT!!!!”

“Yeah, I have to train for two months and then I sail from Capetown to Sidney.  Oooh, man, pretty cool!”  

“That leg is the Roaring Forties.  That’s the Southern Ocean!  Oh my God, the Southern Ocean!”

“Yeah.  Scary, huh?” 

“Maybe you and I need to have a talk about what retirement actually means; slowing down, bbqs, fishing, gardens, that sort of thing.”

“Fer sure, man!  Soon as I get back.  Gardens.  Yeah, that’ll be the ticket.  I am sure I will love gardening.” 

In fact, all my friends who went from working to retirement went through an individualistic transition phase.  No two were alike.  Some transitioned smoothly, others just took on new jobs and wrestled with the clock in a different way.  Some took up hobbies and some took up lethargy in the form of golf and TV.  By far, the most common was starting off by doing some cliche’ traveling.

But that doesn’t work for everyone.

Some got into ‘the cottage’ lifestyle and that, for the most part, has pretty universal appeal but, if there is an exception, it is that one of them has a lot of social ties back in the city.  Country guy and city girl encounter scheduling conflicts sometimes.

Health and family issues can keep people rooted in retirement at the same place as they were rooted in employment.  But, in this modern age, those two strong forces don’t seem as strong as they were in yesteryear.  Not for my guy at 60 anyway.

Sal and I transitioned rather well, actually.  But that was mostly because we leapt before we looked.  We kept the transition time short.  Hours, maybe.  And then we were engulfed and overwhelmed with the task we had undertaken and, surprisingly, the added task of surviving the learning curve.  You have to learn to swim quickly when you fall in the deep end.

But now that we have survived the initial shock, we have embraced retirement to the extent that we could not – not even for a week – get back on the merry-go-round again.  Too hard.  Just can’t do it anymore.  We’re slow.  Think slug-slow.

It takes awhile to get to slug-dom.  For me?  Ten years of transitioning.

And that is the point of today’s blog.  Slow is beautiful.  Slow works for me, now.  I like slow.  I am still impatient by nature but not with slowness per se.  If a sloth walks slowly in the forest, the sloth is enjoying himself and still getting somewhere.  I like that.  I am NOT impatient with that.  If a sloth watches TV and falls asleep and wonders why the hell dinner is late, well then I feel a little impatient.  As long as slow is an attitudinal choice and not an ugly personality trait, I accept it fully.  I think I have transitioned. Mostly.  Kinda….

I was never a pack rat before…..

….but I am now.  Man, oh man, I have collected a lot of weird stuff.  Lots.  Had some of it awhile, too.  I have stuff in boxes where the boxes have deteriorated to the point that things are spilling out and that is the mark of a bona fide pack rat.  Sal mutters ‘pack pig’ but it’s the same idea.

I am a pack rat for three reasons.  The first reason is that when we started on this mad quest, one of the few things I COULD do was shop, scrounge and salvage.  So, my imagining projects in my head generated a weird kind of wish list and shopping for those things exposed me to other crap and so the pile just grew.  I knew I’d need steel, for instance, so I picked up steel. I got some pretty good steel cheap.  I had no actual plan for the steel but it was cheap.  So, I got steel.  And, as life out here determines, you eventually use everything you bring and so the steel has been largely used.  I look like a genius.  

But I am just a pack rat.

The second reason for pack ratitis or ratatouille d’ pack is that once something gets here, it is a helluva schlep and a major mental obstacle as well to even think about taking it back. Once here, it becomes part of the family.  In fact, because it is HERE, it is MORE a part of the family than family.  Most of them (family) never come here.  But my junk stays forever.

The third reason for having excess junk is to help out.  I have square steel and round rings, I have plastic hoops and rubber hoses.  My neighbour has round steel, oval rings, brass ball valves, plastic hoses and rubber rings.  If I don’t have the right thing and John, Roger and Doug don’t have it, Steve or Scott likely does. Collecting junk is a community-building kind of thing.

Packing ratty stuff is a good thing as a rule.  A bit unsightly (Sal keeps stuffing junk out of sight which, ironically, is just a way to add more to the inventory.  “Hmmm, I could have sworn I had eight different armoured cables of varying length around here somewhere.  Guess not.  I’ll get some more when next in town.”).

But it can be a problem.

No.  I am not a hoarder.  Hoarding is different than pack-ratting.  Much less status to hoarding.  Pack-ratting done right elevates social status and allows work to get done.  Hoarding erodes social status and you can’t move for all the junk in the way.  Hugely different syndromes.

Same spectrum, tho.

The problem is when pack-ratting and getting older. The older pack rat can turn into a doofus pretty easily.  Trust me.  One, the rate of utilization starts to slow and shades of the hoarding syndrome start to loom.  And second, older people have trouble actually remembering what they have when keeping a million unrelated items packed willy-nilly in boxes stuffed everywhere out of sight and not well inventoried.  I kind of forget some of the goodies I have.  And, because Sal tidies up so much, I can no longer remember where to even look.

“Hey, Sal!  Remember that bronze hook that was big enough to hang a life ring?  I need it now.  Can you remember where it is?”

“Sweetie, that hook is off our first boat over forty years ago.  I have no clue.  But, I do seem to recall seeing it.  Try the old green tote with the cracked lid under the house.  Maybe up on the north side by the old tec cable.” 

She used to be right every time.  Now she is right only 60% of the time.

I blame Sal.   

“I’m too busy to shop for a gift for my wife.” (Trump)

As if any president ever went shopping for gifts.  PULEEEZ.  That’s the second main reason why Bill had Monica.  “Get yourself something nice and put it on my tab, Mon.  Maybe a new dress?  And, while you are at it, could you get something for Hillary, too? It’s her birthday coming up. Thanks, hon.” 

But Trump did say, “I got her a nice card.  A really nice card.”  Seems he snuck out of the White House long enough to shop for a nice card.  What kind of idiot would even SAY that?  Trump is on record as speaking total nonsense through gibberish but very few husbands are so stupid as to say THAT!

Kim Jong-un and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in have said they will denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.  HUGE deal.  This done after a successful Olympic Games that included both countries.  The Koreans are getting along.  My guess?  China had a word.

Emmanuel Macron cosied up to Trump only to diss him completely when making a speech before the US Congress.  He said Trump’s policies are insane.

So……which of the two ‘world leaders’ sounds better right now?  Kim or Trump?

Call me crazy but Kim is lookin’ better by far.

I dunno.  I have an appetite for politics and I confess that Trumpism is, if nothing else, a constant spectacle of political dysfunction and madness for me.  But that nutcase is addictive.  He reminds me somehow of the comedian Bobcat Goldthwait.   When I first saw the Bobcat, he was so manic that I thought a crazy person had accidentally gotten on stage.  His delivery was so insane and intense that, at first, it made me squirm just watching him.  His voice was screechy and he seemed to be unraveling right on stage.

But then I kinda got used to the Goldthwait shtick and, while still amusing, my getting used to him diminished his affect.  The Bobcat hysteria and the appeal (his and mine) waned.

Trump is doing much the same to me now.  NOT completely but some.  The more I am exposed to the voice, the rambling, incoherent illogic, the lies, the contradictions, the less he matters.  It’s weird.  He is still POTUS.  He still has the nuclear football and he can still wreak havoc and seems clearly intent on doing so but, like, I dunno….it’s something akin to watching a Chihuahua go nuts….it can still bite but, really…?

Anyway, consistent with that observation is my disinterest in that observation.  Right now, I am more interested in book 3.  ACCIDENTAL FUGITIVES will be released in a couple of weeks.  LOTS of fun.  It’s a quick read.  Approximately 275 pages (different number depending on the format – if it’s an Amazon print or a kindle e-book or a private, local printer, the page numbers change).  The story is an action adventure starring two old people.

I can’t recommend it because doing so is kinda self-serving and obnoxious not to mention egotistical and pompous but, what the heck..you know me by now….so seriously consider getting it and do so with the complete understanding that your money will be wasted.

Do it for Sal.

On a closing note….the water pump is pumping, the funicular is funning and the new fuel tank is in place (lifted and placed by Sal and I – NOT easy).  Sal’s boat motor soon to be serviced, the garden starting to go in and a little soiree planned for tomorrow night.  All is currently right with our world…..mostly….

….a few aging friends are of concern.

Oh!  And get this: Grandson, Leo is 6 months old and doing fine.  My son called last night to tell me, “Leo ate his first clam tonight.  Actually ate two.”

“Clams?  Leo is eating clams?  What the hell….?”

“Yeah.  Seems to love ’em.  Mom put a clam between her fingers and he sucked and chewed at it till it was gone.  So she did a second.  He likes clams.”

“That’s hysterical!  Weird.  Sheesh.  Who woulda thunk it.  Thanks for sharing that.”

DAVE!  Why tell us your grandkid eats clams.  You losing it?

The way I see it is this: POTUS is insane.  Trudeau is barely a man-child wanting to act in dramas of his own making and the Korean clown that was Kim Jong-un is starting to look good to me.  Is reporting on my grandkid’s appetite for clams any more insane than all of that?

  

Thin veneer of confidence with complications of HFS.

That’s me.  I have TVC.  Thin veneer of confidence.  I have HFS, too.  Hollow fragile smugness.  It’s why I drink.

They say that, “If a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right!”.  I’ve even said such nonsense myself, now and again.  Usually when talking to younger people.  Amongst my contemporaries, however, no such pretense is ever uttered.  We incompetent old guys know better.  The rule of thumb we operate by is, “Get ‘er done.  Just get ‘er done!”

My ‘most capable’ neighbour has a much more realistic approach.  “Everything breaks, Dave.  Just haywire it together using baling wire and duct tape and plan on doin’ it again next year.  Now, let’s get er done and get back to havin’ fun!” 

He’s a professional mechanic.  But I think most doctors operate on the same principle……

When we were building the house, we had a lot to do and little (read: none) experience with which to do it.  Plus we had little time.  So, we read books, asked for advice and got used to doing everything twice….OK…maybe more than twice…plus we did the first and subsequent tries as quickly as possible.  Had to.  Two fools can take forever building a house from scratch if they try to do everything right.  They’ll die of exposure.

Another term that came into play during those days, “It’s good enough for the girls we go out with.”  (Sal couldn’t use that term effectively but once she did and it was hysterical – maybe you had to be there?).  Or, sometimes, “Never mind, no one will ever see it.  It will be covered up by the whatchamacallit.”

All this is by way of introducing why the blog has been silent as of late.  I have been trying to make some ‘old’ established systems that I DID NOT install properly but which worked well for the past fifteen years (thus the TVC and HFS) but which unexpectedly quit on me over the last few days.

‘Bloody incompetent workers!’

My funicular (a total cobble) crapped out on me leaving 1000 pounds on the lower deck which Sal and I had to slog up the stairs.  Degree of difficulty: I carried a new genset up those stairs!

And, to add grime and sweat to an already grimy and sweaty situation, the water system went down.  No shower.  No running water. The pump went on the fritz.

Bummer.

So, the last few days have been machine focused. I have been giving my water pump my full attention and yesterday I got it working.  ‘Bout the third or fourth attempt.  HFS shattered.  But now it’s a beautiful thing.  Showers – one of the great modern inventions that are rarely fully appreciated until you don’t have them.  You can add flush toilets to that list.

Now to the impossible: the funicular.  The funicular has a Siemens motor controller (a little grey boxed computer) that does some magic but it’s written in German – what madness!.  It also has twenty or more wires coming and going from various switches, buttons and such.  I haven’t a clue as to how it works.  Not a friggin’ clue. 

But I have mastered whining and complaining and sharing my dilemmas.  I cried out into the wilderness (literally).  Lo and behold, Scott.  Seems Scott knows motor controllers.  Who knew?  So, we may have a solution in good ol’ Scott.  We definitely have a dinner guest in good ol’ Scott.  Dear Scott. Miss him more than I knew.  Hope he comes soon.

 

 

Life, eh?

The only thing occupying my mind these days is Kinder Morgan and, of course, the colossal, slo-mo, ongoing train wreck that is the clown-prince Trump.  But you know how I feel and what I think about both so there is little point in repeating it.  So, I won’t.  I will add this, however, Trudeau is stupider than I first thought (and that was pretty damn stupid) and Rachel Notley is showing more and more of her ugly side (the one I personally encountered eighteen years ago when she was a privileged intern with the then Attorney General, Ujjal Dosanj.) She was a nasty piece of work back then and hasn’t lost a bit of the poison it seems.

And I am kind of pleased with the way Horgan is deporting himself….but, we’ll see how that unfolds.  At least he is understated and calm.

Instead, let us turn for the moment to community.  I’ll keep it short.

Our community – such as it is – is spread out over approximately 250 square miles and includes not quite that number of people on a busy August day.  We have a density of less than one person per square mile but I am including the water between islands  and so, for the sake of simplicity: one person per square mile.  Say, 200 people including everyone and that may be a bit generous.  At any given time, I doubt you could find 100 people (not quite true – when there are the fewest people out here, it is winter.  When winter is well-established fewer people travel.  Still, the 11 student, one room school can usually count on 100 people in the audience for the kid’s Xmas play.)  But getting 100 people at just about any other time is next to impossible.

The other day, we had a community potluck (40 or so people) and a show-and-tell slide show about a local environmental project underway.  It was good.  Interesting.  Sal and I will contribute.  But the real message for me was the make-up of the audience.  Everyone was 55 or older except a few (maybe 5-8) and their children (maybe another 5-8).  The balance were older people.  Like me.

I sat with S (70+) and R (also 70+).  J and K were just behind me (70+). The presenter was 60. This was a senior segment of the population.  They are also – almost 80% – of at least modest means.  These folks ain’t rich.  Not in financial terms, anyway.  They are not poor, tho.  Not ‘homeless’ types but old clothes, old boats, older, beaten cars.  Minimalists without working at it.  They don’t spend BIG. But they are healthy, active and well-fed.  They do what they want.  They go where they want.  They are pretty free.  I sorta feel I am amongst my peers.

Of course, I take Ibuprofen, occasionally nap, eat less red meat and drink less scotch these days so, if age is attaching itself to me, it is to them, too.  Our potluck was populated by white-haired people who appeared a bit shorter than they did last year.  But they are all on-the-go and none needs a walker or oxygen bottles.  These guys still chop wood, go to sea in small boats and carry heavy things around.  They are doing good.

But age is showing by…well,. not showing.  What I mean by that is that more and more old-timers are either moving to town or spending a helluva lot more time there.  Some, actually spend a helluva lot more time in a warm climate over winter but, no matter how you look at it, more of the community is NOT here more of the time.

To be fair, there is always an inflow to counter the outflow but, being part of the inflow requires energy and less years.  Older folks (and the teens) tend to be the outflow.  I am aware of this.  Increasingly so.  If I project, I can see Sal and I doing something similar.  I figure by the time I am 80, I will be spending more time in some ‘easier’ place.  By 90, I may not be here at all (in every sense of that).  We’ll see.

Life, eh?