It’s an ill wind that blows no one any good

They shot Pablo Escobar (the original Colombian drug lord) in 1993.  His estate included a lot of exotic imported animals like hippos and giraffes.  So, they put those animals in a nature-park-like area that might serve to support them ‘on their own’ and they have flourished.  As it turns out, the hippos are GOOD for the local environment.  They do things that older, now-extinct large mammals used to do.  The area is thriving.

American farmers are frustrated and angry at the explosion in wild boar populations.  Wild boars ‘root’ out their food and they prefer to do so on extra tasty farms.  But, as it turns out, if the boars root and charge around out in the wilderness, the trees and other wild flora benefit a great deal.  Bears and pigs pooping in the woods are a good thing, it seems.  And extra boars means extra boar poop.  Win win.

Looking for the silver lining in Coronavirus is a lot harder.  In fact, with the exception of a few (not enough) GOP senators getting it, it has been all bad news.  But, as it turns out,  not for a number of criminals who see the virus as a ticket out of jail.  My buddy just drove up from LA.  He said it was practically a ghost town.  When he stopped to get gas, the attendant warned him to “Keep moving, man.  LA ain’t safe.  They just released all the inmates from the prisons!  All hell’s gonna break loose!”

He drove straight through.  Stopped only for gas.  Felt a strong sense of relief crossing the border. A lot of returning Canadians feel the same way.  And I know a lot of Americans would prefer to be here, too.  A lot of guns are ready-at-hand in the states.  A lot of armed-to-the-teeth ‘Mericans are angry and fearful.  Now a lot of criminals are free……that combination suggests more bad news.  I hope not.

But there is no question that silver linings are common in storm clouds.  Sal and I could not have had a better winter (in the aggregate) considering what came out of it all.  Yes, there were the clouds, i.e. the surgery, the flu, the trapped-in-a-moho feeling……but, but, but…Sal got a genius doctor at knee ops, she is healing very well, all hospitals are virtually shut down now so she got in before the closures.  Getting the flu kept us home so – guess what – we didn’t GET C-19!  The ‘downtime’ in town was put to some good use.  Some things still got done.  Basically speaking, the horror-show of February and March turned out pretty damn good.

I dunno….I think I would still prefer to get some hippos and wild boar up here but, in the circumstances, I’ll settle for a miracle knee replacement, needed car repairs and living in splendid isolation in paradise.  But with a few great friends.  It really does NOT get any better.

 

On a brighter note….

We got prawns!  Our buddy let down a few traps and pulled them up for us yesterday.  Then he handed us the results.  A major bucket o’ prawns!  We de-headed them, cleaned them, packaged them and put away 15 pounds of tails in the freezers.  We go through maybe twenty pounds a year and give some away as well to family.  Guests love ’em, too.  Our annual ‘haul’ is somewhere around 25 pounds.  We are one day into the annual harvest and we are practically there!  Very satisfying.

Another buddy has managed to ‘harvest’ a deer.  He’s away right now but we may trade a few prawns for some of his venison.  Maybe.  That, too, is satisfying.

Of course, we have oysters and clams and mussels, as well, but we include fewer of them in our diet as a rule.  Maybe once a month.  Plus they do not need to be harvested, they can just sit and wait their turn.  Sal’s seafood chowder is absolutely fabulous so maybe this year we will ‘do some more’!

And soon there will be wild nettles.  They are delicious if picked at the right time and all…which we never seem to be able to do.  And blackberries, of course, but with the same problem – they ripen and disappear before we ever seem to get to them.  The garden – when planted and attended to – is a wonderful source of fresh produce.  Every plant that comes from the garden seems to taste so much better than their identical cousins from the store.  A really good garden is a wealth of wellness and good taste.

Volunteers are plants that somehow plant and grow themselves….and we usually have a few random potato clumps from volunteers.  They are the best!  Who knew potatoes could taste so good!

Our other buddy, S, is always good for a crab or three.  That’s always great.  And everyone seems to get a Ling cod now and then.  Eating off the front porch and the back forty is not a full menu by any means but it does make for fresh seafood whenever the fancy strikes and plenty of variety to boot.

All this ‘food’ thinking is based on the ‘new reality’.  C-19 will be altering patterns.  Yours.  Ours.  Even the stores are going to change.  We will not likely be shopping in town as often as we did for quite awhile.  Mind you, we shopped less than most people.  Once a month would be overstating it.  More like once every six weeks and mostly for minor things and three times a year (at most) at Costco for a major ‘BULK UP’.

Food is a big deal living off the grid but it is not a big ORdeal.  It’s just that old people, who work less and drink more wine, put a bit more emphasis on ‘good meals’ than say, those who race with the rats and rely on convenience to keep it all together.  That used to be me…not so much anymore.  Now I can look forward to a good plate of nettles.  Weird, eh?

And yes, we are already starting to look at logs.  Soon it will be time to start on the ‘wood-pile’ again.  We likely used almost two full cords this year and it may take a bit more to get through April.  We will need to bring in, chop up and haul up the highline as many as 60 lengths of floating bounty by the end of the summer.  That’s is approximately 600 lineal feet of 10-inch logs required to replenish the winter wood-pile.  Maybe a bit more if we are to build something.  That is a chore of some magnitude and we had taken to using W’Fers during that annual task.  But the W’fer community has also been changed by C-19 so we may just have to get on that chore sooner to make up for their absence.

The propane is full.  I have liquid fuel.  Enough for a few months, anyway.  And, so far, the sun has been out enough that the genset has not been turned on in a month.  We have electricity.  We have our systems and they are working.  We can even use Everything Wine to deliver case lots of cheap swill every now and then.  If we had to, we could stay on the ‘rock’ for six months quite easily.  We could likely stay for one year but it wouldn’t be easy those last three months.

I’d likely also be sick of Ling Cod by then.

Here we are getting prepared for an extended C-19 disruption and so far, it seems, that we are already doing rather well.  A few more months of preparation and we’ll be good-to-go.  Or, better put: we’ll be ‘good-to-stay-in-place’.

 

 

The only constant is change

We borrowed a moho from Vancouver in which to live during Sal’s knee recovery.  Which, by the way, is progressing brilliantly.  Now that we have returned home, we were planning on returning the vehicle as soon as possible out of consideration.  Of course.

“Unh, can you leave it up there?  For a bit?  All hell is breaking loose down here.  I do not advise coming back to the lower mainland right now.”  I did not see that coming.

Sal also has to ‘see’ her surgeon in Campbell River for follow-up and progress measurement. Her scheduled appointment was Tuesday.  “I’d rather not.  My knee is terrific.  I am doing well.  And the knee clinic is deep in the bowels of the hospital and I am not setting foot in there for a long time.”  That is kinda different…’no’ to the doctor?

Gasoline in the US hit UNDER $1.00 a gallon!!  Now that is a surprise but, in BC, we are still paying twice what Ontario is.  And five times what the US customer is.  I didn’t see that price drop coming.

The stock market is down the greatest amount ever.  From almost 30,000 to almost 18,000.  The Dow has lost almost 40% of the ‘equity’ value of how people value companies.  Airlines are parking their planes.  Chain restaurants are closing.  Starbucks closed all it’s Canadian outlets!  I really did NOT see that coming.

There is no question: C-19 is the greatest disrupter in modern history.  And – get this – it is has only just started.  Where does it go from here?

Prognosticating is a bit foolish.  We didn’t see 90% of this coming as it did.  We won’t likely be able to guess where it is going…..but let’s try….just for a bit…..

First a little hyperbole: India explodes with cases.  So does Africa.  All sorts of things shut down everywhere.  But people eat, drink and still get married.  Life, at a local-village level carries on…….a lot of old people die.

New York remains crippled for a considerable time.  So is London, Toronto, Berlin, Rome and virtually all the major centres.  And capitalism morphs but continues unabated – in some adjusted form – and new ‘services’ grow out of the new virus culture.  Invest in pizza delivery!  Amazon is well positioned to get even richer.  Freight planes will fly.  But Amazon will start to buy them up.  Airlines will fail.  Health care products will boom.  Pharmaceutical companies will get richer.  Huge security around borders keeping sick people OUT!

Is it possible we get even less human as we descend into a viral abyss?

I guess I could go on and on painting a changed-world picture but the main point is that we are, as a collective, still mentally waiting for the turn-around.  We seem to think that “Well, that was a horrible month but it will all be better next week.”  But that is wrong.  It won’t be.  NOT next week.  Not next month.  I have no idea how long it will take but it is clear that this is an international sea-change and that a lot will have changed forever even after this virus passes and there is NO indication that it is going to pass anytime soon.

So….news flash!  Life has changed.  You may not be ready to accept that yet but – for a minute – assume that it has and you are trying to wrap your head around that.  The question is, how do you change yourself, your habits, your lifestyle, your location, your job, your plans so as to deal with the new world order?  Or New World Chaos…whatever…..?  Elbow bumping will not be enough.

Like most people, my instinct was to just  ‘go home’ and ‘wait it out’.  But, really?  What am I waiting out?  For everyone to get better?  Do I really think there won’t be major changes to the way life is lived from now on?  Did C-19 just bring about the expected  ‘revolution’ and we just don’t see it yet?

Even if the virus disappears and things are given a green light…doesn’t that mean that airlines would be negligent if they didn’t impose even more restrictions?  Same for Starbucks, schools, hospitals, community centres and cruise ships?  Won’t everything be different?  And what about the poor and already beaten and downtrodden?  Are we gonna take care of them out of enlightened self interest or are we going to ‘write ’em off’? What are we gonna do with the homeless now – just let ’em breed germs?

What about the food supply chains?  Fuel?  How easily the institutions folded up?  Does none of that newly illuminated vulnerability influence your thinking, your plans?  Are you content to say, “Whew!  Glad that’s over.  Now I can get back to working 12 hour days and sinking deeper in debt.  Find me a packed transit bus!  Yippee!” 

The point:  If you have not contemplated change before, now might be a good time.

 

Reality check on power

We didn’t really prepare for this emergency.  In fact, we didn’t even really react to this emergency (we were kinda busy at the time with a gimpy knee).  If we have done anything in the way of responding to Covid-19 it has been to ‘keep doing what we were doing’.

Mind you, I contend that no one can actually prepare for a catastrophic emergency situation anyway because – by definition – that emergency is a surprise.  Ergo: little or inadequate preparation can to be expected – at least at the personal level. 

To be truthful, we kinda think we are somewhat prepared.  A bit.  You know, being OTG and all?  Couple of cases of refried beans.  Extra coffee.  Bag o’ rice.  More toothpaste than God!  But we are – if judging from others – woefully ill-equipped in the toilet paper department.  And there is no such thing as having enough wine and scotch.  So, our main fear is eventually being dirty-bummed and sober – with a dry cough.  Maybe attacked by Otters.   It’s gonna be hell!

Anyway, that is not really the point.  This is:  C-19 is yet another wake-up call.  You are very much on your own.  We pay the government to (in theory) protect us and keep us safe.  Of course, we pay them mostly to keep us safe from them but the protection racket is the protection racket and that is all government really is – at the core of it’s business is the protection racket.  “Oh, you have to pay us money.  We’ll buy guns and hire soldiers and police to keep the bad guys away from you.  If the bad guys never come, consider us doing our job well.  We’ll protect you from the other ‘gang’ with their territory just over the border.  Oh yeah, pay us more and more…the danger is getting worse and worse!”

And, when there is – actually – a real and present danger, the government always seems to respond poorly.  They are always protecting us using lessons from the last invasion.  The next one is always new and different.  The truth is they are not really very good at providing protection in any way.  Their main response to provision of anything is compensation.  “Ooohhhh….that river flooded your neighbourhood!  We’ll get you some money!”

The government’s main response to danger is to let it happen and then pay compensation.

They call the money quantum.  In court, money is quantum.  In the courts – and with regard to contract and tort law – the means by which the victim (who has lost something) is ‘made whole again’ – is with money.  “Lost a leg due to negligence?  Here’s some money?  Lost family members?  Here’s money. 

“And it works to some extent in criminal law as well.  Been bad to others?  Pay us a lot of money?”

So, we, the hoi polloi, pay money (taxes) for some indefinable form of general protection and rarely get it.  Why is that?  Are they all crooks?  Well, yes.  Of course they are.  But that is not the real reason.  The real reason is that all emergencies are surprises!  Even the smartest doctors didn’t know which epidemic was next coming down the pike.  No one saw HIV-Aids, Sars or Mers either.  They knew something infectious this way would come but they didn’t know what.  What could they have done?

Answer: there is a lot they could have done but not after-the-fact.  Our governments are not pro-active, they are reactive.  Like the police, they only seem to show up AFTER the the incident to collect information. They are NOT leaders.

Put another way: will anyone be surprised if the Red River floods Manitoba again?  Or that an oil pipeline or tanker causes a spill?  A terrorist incident will happen? That more people will become homeless?  That tornadoes and hurricanes will cause havoc?  Think we’ll discover more pollution?  More endangered species?  Does anyone really think this is the only pandemic we’ll ever see?

Of course, Trump made matters worse by disbanding the special department established for just such a pandemic purpose but, really, government moves slowly at best.  In the wrong direction as well, as a rule.  They stumble.  They trip.  They fall.  They make matters worse (often as not) as has been demonstrated in the War on Drugs and the War on Terror.  Eventually they get out of the way and the locals put things back to together (see Katrina.  See Puerto Rico).  Government is a heavy-handed, deaf, dumb and blind one-trick pony.  And the one trick is to cut a cheque.  They eventually just give people money.

“So, Dave…, what are you saying?” 

I am saying that C-19 is gonna be your struggle.  Only yours.  Don’t get it.  Don’t share it if you do get it.  Take care of yourself.  And do not go anywhere near a hospital if you can avoid it.  The government is not going to take care of you.

I am also saying, ‘the only thing your government will do for you, is to spend the money they took from you in the first place’.  And, in a corrupt/capitalistic system like ours, the money will go to the rich, the elite, industry and enforcement.  Maybe a few ventilators.  If there is any way in which you can dip into that pool of compensation, you might think to try.  I wouldn’t bother.  It is like joining the bastards and, in that sense, I’d prefer to stay at least two kilometers away.  They are a dirty, virulent bunch.

Not entirely prepared….

Seems we have a mild case of Otters.  A family of the little stink bombs moved in under the boatshed while we were away.  When that happens (more common than you might think) we have always sprinkled granulated bleach around their preferred area and that usually drives them away.  But, we are out of granulated bleach.  “Just have Dave, pee on ’em” said one of our long established neighbours who should know about these things.

“So, how long do I have to pee on them?”

“Until they are gone, silly!”

“If you were an otter, how long would you stick around if you were being peed on?”

“I would leave the second you started and I would never, ever come back.”

“Maybe you should be the one doing the peeing…?”

“No way.  Males were built for that….peeing on others is easy for you….it’s harder for women.”

“But the neighbour who advised us is female.  What are you saying, ‘for lack of a penis, she’s been overrun with with otters?”

“No.  I am sure she improvises.”

“I wanna see that!” 

“Fine.  I’ll ask her to do a YOU-Tube.  Now go do your duty!”

Peeing on an otter is not as easy as it sounds.  And, for the record, it doesn’t sound easy at all.  First off the otters choose a ‘hide-a-way’, tucked up under the boatshed.  It might have two or three feet headroom.  Most men can pee anywhere but some places are harder than others.  Crouching down to less than three feet while standing on extremely irregular ground makes for some creative streaming that doesn’t always go where it was intended.  But that is NOT the hard part.

The hard part was the instruction to pee ‘ON’ the otter.  The instruction was not to pee in the vicinity of the otter but rather more specifically to find a way to douse the little fur-ball in offensive human urine.  Preferably in the face! (OK, I made that part up but once the otter is trapped, it is gonna look at what is coming and that kinda suggests peeing-in-their-face to me.)

Otters can defend themselves, you know?  They have razor sharp teeth.  And they know how to use them.  They bite.  And what would be the most logical target for a desperate otter in such a circumstance?  My guess?  Hint: it is every man’s greatest fear.

One might end up simply feeding the otters and not driving them away at all.  That would be a major disappointment and not in the least a small challenge for our First Aid kit.  “I am having second thoughts about chasing otters with my dick hanging out.  You sure you heard that right?”

“Why not pee in a bottle and then throw the bottle at the otter?”

“Now you’re talkin’….

 

 

We were lucky!

Sal needed a knee.  Went to the knee-guy.  He said, “I’ll give ya a new knee. Get in line.  May take four months, maybe longer.”  A few weeks later, “We gotta cancellation. Late notice.  Ya want it?”  We took it.  We were lucky.

Borrowed a moho and parked it on a friend’s lawn.  Operation went well.  We were very lucky over that.  Surgeon was great.  Then all flu-hell broke loose and we were in moho-hell feeling like dog-poop.  “We are so unlucky.” 

And then Coronavirus struck the world.  And the world ground to a screeching halt.  Stores being emptied.  Surgeries halted.  Sal got in ‘under the wire’.  People stayed home.  I went shopping for a few things.  Sal continued to heal.  J and I fixed a few other things.  It was bloody freezing when it wasn’t raining.  “Well still, all in all, we were pretty lucky to get ‘er all done in nasty month.” 

And then yesterday, we came home.  YESTERDAY WAS HOME-DAY!  It was quite a schlep but ol’ Sal was up for it.  She handled all the stairs, helped with the unloading and has since put most of the stuff away.  Six weeks ago, her entire knee joint was replaced and yesterday she walked through the forest, climbed thirty stairs and put crap away.  We are lucky she is so plucky.  Now everything is ducky.

The house was intact and, more to the point – the water system was full and working like a charm.  Fired up the wood stove.  Fired up the genset.  Took a hot shower.  Made dinner.  We are no longer just ducky, lucky and plucky.  We are blessed and golden!  We are luckier than a lottery winner!

Last evening we sat on the front deck looking out over the sea and sipping wine.  “All we need now is a pod of whales and a few ravens and this would officially be heaven.”

Bottom line: the short-notice and awkward month of inconvenience is easily forgotten.  Sal has a new knee that works real good.  We have new brakes on the car and new lights on the new bush-bar.  And now we are home and self-isolating.  You will understand if we remain self-isolated for the next few years.

To panic or NOT to panic…that seems to be the question

According to highly paid professionals who are quoted ad nauseam saying painfully obvious things that we already know, we do not have to panic over Covid 19.  Not yet, anyway.  And, if we eventually choose to panic and freak out sometime later, how do we most colourfully manifest that hysteria?  What insanity-de-jour is best for you and your family?

Answer: hoard toilet paper. Then hide in a closet.  Stay home.  Don’t talk to anyone closer than a meter away in distance….and, if that meter-rule is broken, run.  Run like hell.  Return to the closet and wait 14 – 28 days (the incubation period is changing) and then, well, spend a lot of time cleaning that wretched closet afterwards.

According to the same ‘experts’, we will all eventually get Covid-19 anyway.  50% is the low estimate and 70% is the high.  Half the population will eventually contract the Coronavirus. 

“So, if that is true, why is panic not an appropriate response?”

Answer: C-19 is NOT Ebola.  It is not a flu but it is very flu-like.  Seems like it is really just a really bad ‘cold’.  It is highly contagious and it carries a higher-than-normal fatality factor but that is primarily aimed at the elderly and those with respiratory problems. C-19 is bad but, gee, it is not THAT bad and anyway, you are gonna get it whether you take precautions or not.  If not this year, then next.

“Geez, Dave, you seem pretty cool about all this.  You feeling invincible?”

On the contrary.  I am reading the tea leaves and listening to professionals.  And, they say, I am very likely gonna ‘get it’.  I hope I do not get it this year (so much to do) and I really hope I am one of the 50% who doesn’t get it at all.  But, like, I have had dozens of flus and colds and even a few ‘real diseases’ like Chicken Pox and it’s offspring, Shingles.  I’ve been sick before.  I’ll get sick again.  It’s the way of things.  Put bluntly, Covid will eventually get me but I will suffer through it and carry on.

“So, why write?”

Because I can get sick, get better and then carry on as I have if – and only if – there is a world in which to carry on in.  If the world has shut down, then it is the shut-down that will cause me more problems.  The disease is a novel bummer, the world shutting down is a major problem – and more than just a small surprise.  Our response to Covid-19 is showing up to be more disruptive than if the disease simply tore through the population taking it’s toll as those diseases are wont to do.

“You saying you are not taking precautions?” 

No.  Not saying that.  Altho, to be fair, I am not taking many precautions.  Within a block of a hospital, I will don a hazmat suit but, generally speaking, I am carrying on as normal.  AND I am saying that precautions won’t help.  Not in the long run, anyway.  Experts say we will all get it eventually.  We simply have to deal with this as if it was the flu.

“So, your blog today is, “Don’t worry.  Be happy?”

Yeah……kinda weird coming from me, don’t you think?  But, you see, Sal and I are going home tomorrow.  I simply cannot help feeling happy about that.  In fact, I am hoping to find love in this time of Covid-19.  These are now the best of times.