Money, eh?

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

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

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

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

Did I mention wine…..

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

And so true.

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

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

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

That’s pretty cool.

Preparations Paranoid and Preposterous…? Or just feeling a bit peckish?

Trump cut taxes to US corporations.  Trump increased military spending.  Trump ‘irritates’ his allies (Nato, Canada, UK, Germany, etc.) and Trump ‘rips up’ agreements with all and sundry from trade pacts to climate change, from foreign aid to now the nuclear arms deal with Russia.  Plus he opened up resource exploitation and eviscerated environmental protection.  And the US is all-the-while stockpiling oil.  Throw in a little saber-rattling, insults and open aggression (against China, Iran, journalists, Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, free-speech, truth-telling, etc) and waddya got…?

War preparations?

There is some prominent Republican, rich, connected, GOP woman in California that has been part of the ‘elite’ for some considerable time. NOT this time.  “I am voting Democrat this time.  Trump is preparing for war and my son is of age to be drafted.”  She had no trouble with all the other tyrannical acts that Trump has been playing at until it threatened her own family.  Couldn’t have cared less about immigrants and families being separated and all that…..but, of course, her son is special.  She’s changing her vote.  Trump went too far for this GOP gal.

She may be on to something……

And that, it seems, is how it works for most folks.  It has to hit close to home.  “So, how does that effect me?”  “How does that impact on my wallet?”  Until it gets personal, most people don’t care too much about politics.  Too boring.

There is a historical perspective that cites that people will not revolt until they are hungry.  Hunger is their last ‘straw’.  Family members are disappeared, people are jailed and beaten, taxes and fines are unjustly levied, neighbourhoods are razed, corruption runs rampant, police brutality goes on the increase, the rich get richer and on and on it goes ad infinitum but no one acts until they are actually, physically hungry.

…..like dogs and rats, actually.    

And yet we can see it all play out until that very moment when our stomach growls.  We can see it coming from a long ways off.  But we choose NOT to see until then.  The Jews did not see either until November 9, 1938 and the Night of Broken Glass.  But the evidence had been piling up for years before that.  They saw it all clearly but much too late.

“Dave, you are paranoid. Trump is not preparing for war!”

I do not know that I am being paranoid.  Maybe.  Probably.  I tend to see every Ebola outbreak as the next ‘beginning of the end’.  I have that tendency.  On the other hand, what have we actually seen these past two years?  Really seen?  A clown prince acting the fool, a bigot ranting.  A racist, misogynist, tax-evader crook that fake ‘battles’ with mainstream media.  MAGA rallies riling the deplorables and lots of golf.  It’s all like WWF – fake wrestling.  A show.

What have we actually seen?

Mueller has not yet revealed……

Most topics are dropped after a week or so……

What have we actually seen to be fact…?  Well, tax cuts for the rich and corporate.  Increased military spending…etc…(see first paragraph)…..a weakening of ‘the West’ but a strengthening of the US…….that is what we have seen.  We’ve seen support for strong-man dictators but antipathy for democratic allies and we’ve seen a virtual sundering of institutions.  We have seen many of the first steps to tyranny.

Put more bluntly: we are actually seeing tyranny.

But, it is Sunday and I have been spending more time thinking these past few days than is likely good for me or any hapless reader who takes me too seriously.  And, I am getting a bit peckish….

OTG revisited…..?

It kinda feels that way…..’visiting’……we’ve spent so much time in the city these past few weeks that it kinda feels like we have just come to the cabin for a holiday weekend.  In fact, we are just NOW really, really home.  God it feels good! 

Travels and travails took us to Vancouver and then to Victoria.  Then down to Victoria again.  It’s all some kind of crazy down there but that is not news.  In fact, it is all kinds of crazy everywhere.   And, sadly, that is not news either.

Even THIS is not news: we figured (and we kept it to a minimum) that we spent in excess of three wasted hours a day driving in traffic, parking, lining up, standing at check-outs and generally doing nothing constructive whatsoever on average per every day we were away while in the city.

THAT’S 20+ wasted hours a week!!!

Some days were even more stupid.  (OK, shopping and restaurants are somewhat constructive but barely.  Sustaining is the word.  NOT constructive.)  Put another way: too much of my diminishing energy is spent complying with rules and systems designed by others for the benefit of others and that I pay too much for when I am there.  Plus I just plain hate it.

My son recently added about 400 square feet to his house with an addition that had him jump through more hoops than a slinky and some so crazy I can’t imagine him handling it.  I’d have gone nuts.  Did you know that Victoria has an ‘inspector’ for drywall? 

Yesterday, in a hurry of course, I did the ‘shopping’ at one store in just under 11 minutes and that included putting all the crap on the conveyor belt.  I waited 15 more minutes to get through the cashier process.  I was apoplectic.

“And how are you today, sir?”

“Impatient.  Angry and getting angrier by the moment.  I am experiencing homicidal feelings towards people who can’t seem to pay and move along.  I am especially frustrated by women who do not get their wallet out of their purse to get their air-miles cards and credit cards – which they can’t seem to make work anyway – and don’t even start that hunt-and-search method until the bill is already wrung up.  Do you think that I am being sexist?”, I growled.

“No, sir.  I’ve been working here five years and it drives me crazy, too!”  And that made me feel a bit better.  And then she rang through my stuff in record time.  There may have been some fear in the air…… I was still angry as I left.   That is no way to live.

“Dave, stop complaining!”

OK.  I’ll stop after this, but I am NOT complaining, not really.  I am COMPARING.  I am 70.  My day has only so much energy available for me to do stuff.  Let’s pretend it’s 8 hours.  It is NOT REALLY eight hours, it’s more like four because the last four are so much slower paced and include wine-drinking and dinner-making.  Productivity trails off pretty rapidly.  But, in the city that theoretical eight hours is either reduced to five or three extra-frustrating hours are added to it by city-time (driving, parking, lining up, etc.)!

That’s a huge Gross Domestic Productivity kick in the cajones.

Anyway, I am back now.  I am happy.  I vented.  I may even vent a bit more some time in another blog.  Old men do that, it seems.  But I am happy.  The fire is roaring, the sea is beautiful, the air is clean and it is cathedral-quiet except for the Ravens giving us orders to fill.  Sal and I can get back at it – whatever we are at in any given moment – and enjoy ourselves again.  God, it is good to be home!

Thank God I saw a bear….

…in the back yard of my in-laws, no less.  Practically ‘downtown’ Victoria.  It was a plump, medium sized black bear and he/she was just passing through from one yard to the next.  Good to see ‘im.  Sal and I have lived off the grid now for just about 15 years…..on a remote unserviced island up the coast….way, way, WAY out there…never once saw a bear.

It’s more of that rural exodus thing, if you ask me. Like coyotes at the golf course, raccoons in the backyard pool and eagles at the dump. Everyone wants a condo these days.

Oh, well….

There are other things to worry about, other things to be happy about, other things….

Right now, naturally, we are wondering about life, death, getting old, doing things, NOT doing things….it’s a pensive time for us – for the family.  We’ve had a loss.

If there is anything constant in the universe when something big happens to shake you up, it’s quilting.  There is always quilting, it seems.  It’s our ‘rock’, our foundation.  It gives us a point of reference from which to see the world.  For Sal it is a centering, calming thing.  For me, quilting is the opposite, the sheer madness of it all.  Randomness.  Illogical.  So, quilting is the yin for Sal, the yang for me.  It proves unequivocally that we both see the universe through different lenses, eyeballs and grey matter.  At least one of us has some grey matter.  One of us is a whack-job.  Sal says it’s me.

She could be right.

I hear the climate guys are ratcheting up the alarms.  Seems we’re all gonna die.  Soon. Climate change is gonna get us.  They are now even saying that recent weather events are harbingers of things soon to come.  Not long ago they would say, “Well, it’s weird weather.  I’ll give you that.  But you can’t call it climate change – not on any one event, you can’t.  No single event is climate change.” 

Not anymore……

NOW IT’S CLIMATE CHANGE!!  NOW WE ARE GONNA DIE!!”

And, in the meantime, Trump wants more oil (we have pumped more oil in the last year than in any previous year in history).  Trudeau, the environmental hypocrite extraordinaire, is pushing for the TransMountain pipeline and, of course, all the deplorables want more coal to be mined.  So do the Chinese.  And so it goes.  Madness.  Plain and simple.

But I am likely the whacko.

Brett Kavanaugh, on the other hand, got appointed to the Supreme Court.

Still, I am likely the whacko.

Here’s a thought that might not yet have crossed your mind……we have enough.  That’s right, ‘we have enough’.  In fact, we have so much of enough stuff that we leave working stuff on curbs for free take-away.  There’s a small subculture of people who make a living recycling, re-purposing, refurbishing and re-selling all the ‘stuff’ people have thrown out.  They sell that stuff to people who still want more stuff.  Some people want so much stuff, they eventually become classified as hoarders.  They pack-rat themselves up tight with stuff til they can’t move.  Then, maybe, the local government carts all the crap away and the hoarder starts all over again.  And, during that process, the re-purposers and re-sellers swoop in and recycle some of that hoarder’s stuff so they can sell it to other hoarder wannabees.

The new thought on this is: this phenomena is not a minor, eccentric thing anymore.  It is not just a few people with a junk shop anymore.  This is a full-on thing complete with travel routes, selling schedules, evaluation printouts and it includes ‘all the old familiar faces’. EVERY WEEK!  Two maybe three times a week!  On a good summer day, the subculture ‘hunts’ for three days and then cleans, glues and ‘merchandises’ their stuff for the next weekend.  Doesn’t that kind of say ‘having enough’ is NOT the problem…maybe distribution or sharing is…?

Forgive me.  Seems I am a whacko.

Well, partly, anyway.  As you can see, I am now just topic-wandering…ruminating, reflecting, wondering where it is all headed.  Loss of a family member does that, I guess.  The real message here? How am I spending my time, limited as it is?  Mind you, it’s all a wonder, really.  Harder to understand all the time.  I think that’s why the bear was such a treat to see.  A bear snuffling through the back garden makes sense to me.  The rest…? Not so much.

 

 

 

 

October 6, 2018.

My father-in-law died yesterday.  Peter was 94.  He went as he lived – active until the final moment.  No ‘old age nonsense‘ for him.

Peter was a physical marvel.  He just stopped single-handedly sailing his own sailboat up to see us a few years ago.  Just gave up badminton two years ago.  Gave up driving a year ago.  His life ended officially on a nice sunny morning at the mid point of a short walk to get the morning paper.  I am not so sure that it gets much better than that.  No lingering.  No suffering.  No pain.  It was how he would have wanted it.

People die.  So I won’t write a long blog about it…. there’s nothing new there, nothing profound.  We come and we go. If there is anything profound it is felt by the next generation and, to some extent, on the one behind them.  We all just moved up a place in the process.

So be it.

I called a few people we mutually knew but that was a short list.  Virtually all of Peter’s friends had predeceased him and his wife.  But R is still with us, thank God.  They had gazillions of friends but none with the really-long-lives gene.  At the end, it is the younger family and a few next-generation friends as a rule.  For many, not even that.  I am not so sure there are any of their contemporaries left.

Seems wishing someone a long life and prosperity might also be wishing them isolation and loneliness.  Neither P nor R are or were isolated or lonely really…they have the family.  And great neighbours.  But getting on into the nineties limits one’s travels, socializing and, actuarially-speaking, most of your Christmas card list.  Life becomes smaller, more private, as you age, I guess.  You come into the world small and alone and so – I guess – you leave that way as well.

Sally and I lucked out in an odd way……we went to Vancouver to ‘do some good work’ for some friends who, it seems, didn’t really need that much help at all.  We kinda wondered if we had wasted our time.  But our trip down took us by way of Victoria and our grandchild, Leo, and, of course, we stay with R&P when down island.  They like the extra visit and an ‘unexpected’ one was appreciated.  We just recently spent two unplanned days with Peter.

The timing was good in that sense.

My relationship with Peter was good.  We met when I rode up to their family home late one night (10:00 pm) on my 650 BSA motorcycle almost 50 year ago.  I had come over from Vancouver after work one weekend to see Sally and, with the ferry and all, showed up on the ‘edge of late’ by my watch.  It was way past the edge and well in to the unacceptable time zone by Peter’s.   He yelled through an open window: “Go away!  Come back tomorrow.  Good NIGHT!” 

But it was all uphill from there although I acknowledge a slight dip in the polls when Sal left home two years later to come live with me.  She was just 19 even then.  But, by the time the two of our kids were adults, I am pretty sure Peter and I were on an OK footing.  He was a British seaman, after all.  Had his captain’s papers.  I was barely an able seaman my whole life and rank has it’s privileges.

Still, I will miss him.

 

 

The Hunger Games

My daughter is driving with her husband to Texas and then back to Calgary by way of Chicago and some of the Northern states. It’s a business trip. “The worst part is the empty highways, Dad. You go for hours and pass through small towns most of which are like – or are – actual ghost towns. We have passed a lot of empty, deteriorating, shuttered places. It’s depressing.”

Sal and I were staying aboard a yacht moored in False Creek, Vancouver when she phoned to tell us that. We were surrounded by the modern high-rises of Yaletown. It was almost Hong Kong like in density.  ALMOST – not quite.  All around us was new and bustling – even the yachts. Jimmy Pattison’s immense yacht, Hotei, was a few berths from us and had a constant crew going out every few days. An even bigger one (After Eight) went out more often. The seawall has people on it all the time. So do the waters of False Creek – there is kayaking and dragon-boating and boating in every sort of way, all day every day – so much so that the ‘creek’ resembles much more a busy parking lot than a mooring place. The area is a hive of activity ten or even twenty more times what it was when we were last living here thirty-four years ago. Amazing.

And stupid-expensive. Street parking is $4.00 an hour. A simple Chinese food dinner sets us back $50.00. A metal water bottle sold at the Urban Fair Market was $58.00. (some imbecile ahead of me in the line up bought two!)  I think the city requires a person to make at least $100,000 a year to live downtown (more if you drink water!).  Maybe two could do it – barely – on $150,000 but, of course, they’d share community cars, ride bikes and hike for entertainment. Maybe share a water bottle?  It ain’t easy being a young Vancouverite.

Sharing cars, by the way, is brilliant.  A friend uses EVO (one of several such services).  He finds an EVO-car near his home in New Westminster, climbs in and starts it by way of his ‘phone’ and drives to Vancouver.  Downtown.  He parks in any one of many usually very-close by spots and locks up and walks away.  Total cost: $14.00.  Maybe less if it takes less than an hour.  No parking fees.  No gas or insurance.  No car payments or repairs.  If I lived in the penitentiary they now call Vancouver, I would do that.

But, I have to admit, it is all a much nicer environment than the little dead towns of the old Route 66 or similar ‘lost’ towns in the US.  Vancouver is nice.

Lesson: cities good. Small towns bad.

And it is all kind of news-to-me.  Kinda.  I have been to the Rust Belt. I have passed through the ghost towns of the Midwest. I have seen Appalachia. But I didn’t ‘put it all together’ like I did recently.  On my previous travels, I would usually find a nice place or eventually enter a larger town (Boise, Spokane, Taos, Albuquerque, etc) and the dead and dying spaces were quickly forgotten. Plus most of that traveling was done twenty years ago. It wasn’t as bad as it is now. I do recall being in Globe, Arizona, three years ago. Just outside Phoenix, that town was striking in its obvious death throes. It was rapidly falling into disrepair and vacancy. Given the juxtaposition (66 miles) to Phoenix, it was shocking.

Given our recent Thailand sojourn, it is now even more shocking.  Which country (USA or Thailand)is third world in YOUR mind?

But, in the past, I would remember the nice spots or the real horror shows and not really see all the more common, little dying towns dwarfed by a Walmart and gone in a blink. Such was the way of RV travel back in the day.

According to my daughter, small town USA is not doing even that well. Small town USA is in deep trouble.  Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul…..on the other hand….?

Trump knew it. The Deplorables know it.  The deplorables live there in Globe.

But, according to Michael Moore, the Democrats didn’t seem to know that or care. There is a scene in Fahrenheit 11/9 shot in Flint, Michigan, with Obama showing abysmal disregard for the water quality there.  The Dems, it was intimated, were too busy riding bikes, buying expensive water bottles and frequenting Starbucks to care about the deplorables. They forgot their hinterland. They forgot their country cousins. They worked on computers and did not get dirty. They became the modern ‘perceived elite’.

It’s really all about equality……………

The point? Vancouver is the centre of the BC universe and is doing very well, thank you. Vancouver is also very clean. Tourists are everywhere and it was even well-past the end of the tourist season when we were there.

The news reports that real estate prices are now ‘over the top’ and we all know what that means . . . every other price in Vancouver will soon follow. Vancouver will move from the much-vaunted ‘world class’ status to the ‘elite’ class and only the rich 1% will live here.  BCers (like us) will soon plan a ‘visit’ to Vancouver like we do to New York, London or Tokyo. Whether you accept it or not, you (if you are a BC’er) have been shunted to the lower echelon. Most of you/us, anyhow.

Personally, I am actually more than OK with that.  World class, I am NOT.

I’m not so sure, though, that small town BC will go the way of the Rustbelt or Globe, Arizona. It seems, at least on Vancouver Island, the opposite is happening. Nanaimo is more expensive, active, growing. Comox is too. Even Campbell River is keeping pace to some extent.  But Victoria may soon go ‘over the top’ on cost of housing and, eventually, cost of living.  I wonder about Cranbrook, Nelson, Salmon Arm and Vernon. Are these towns going the way of decay and vacancy as the migration to the city continues?  Or are the baby-boom retirees and the urban rejects keeping them viable?

Is that what happened in Ontario? Is that how a populist like Doug Ford follows on the heels of Trump? Do the small-towns-dying create more deplorables who reject the ‘new establishment’ and the foreigners and the latte mochas all at the same time? Is that how it works?  Is this how we are divided as a country, as a province, as citizens?

If there is a whiff of plausibility in that crazy picture, it would do Horgan and the gang in Victoria a lot of good to put additional resources into the small towns. If they don’t and we turn against each other (like in the US), some new Nazi-wannabe will emerge from the financial sewers promising to make BC great again.

Michael and Me

Writing the blog is a changing process for me.  I still want to write but I have nothing new to say on such a regular basis as I once did.  I do have stuff……..but…….not so much….

And why do Ravens: episode 37?

When that ‘hitting the wall’ happened in the past, I just went to my second passion (after living OFF the grid) and dabbled, roiled, messed about in and ranted about politics.  That was good for me and a select few readers but was, for the most part, like DDT was to birds, what nicotinoids are to bees, what Warfarin is to rats.  They all left the ship.  Politics means: readership exodus.

(The way to get ‘em back is to mention sex, drugs, rock and roll……)

But I am not all that keen on that easily accessed but more hormonally incented group (though I do enjoy their company from time to time).  I prefer to write for the thinkers, those who ‘wonder’ about things, those that question the topics of the day, those that have a streak of cerebral independence.  I like free thinkers.

There is PAP thinking, ANTI-PAP thinking and Free-thinking.  I prefer free.  Pap is for those who ‘follow the recipe but don’t follow the news’, believe what they are told to believe, do what they are told to do, aspire to what they are sold and bleat like sheep as they march in step to cliché, jargon and petty social tyrannies.  I hate pap.  I once hated pap so much, I went anti-pap and resisted everything, argued against anything, disagreed with everyone and even considered a tattoo….. but that was just as lame as pap.  Both thought structures are manufactured by the status quo.  Both thought structures rely on the other to exist.  Both are very, very un-free.

To think outside the box of pap and anti-pap is pretty tough.  Probably impossible.  Most thoughts start (at the very basic level) with words.  They are building blocks.  In the beginning there was the word (says the bible).  Words were constructed by the ‘institutions’, old thinking, society, parents, culture, peers.   Words are historic.  Semantics shapes our thoughts.  To get outside words is so tough that most free thinkers are still totally constrained by the words they use (thus laying the foundation for the blight that is political correctness).  Artists know this – that is why they express through different mediums.

But what of the writer?  Don’t they start ‘expressing’ but are constrained right at the start?

How does one express angst except by saying ‘angst’?  ‘AAaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh’ kinda works but I define ‘A-h’ more as frustration than angst.  Love?  By any other name….?  Most of the basic words we work with are now bruised and out of date, hackneyed and repeated to death.  We are almost hypnotized now by words.  Words press buttons that represent whole emotions.  Say the ‘N’ word as proof.  Say ‘bomb’ in an airport.  Using words is almost a cage in itself.

It is even worse when you have style.  A writer’s style can mask the message.  Like a rapper doing hip hop, the audience sees the style, the rhythm, the optics before hearing the message.  Elmore Leonard, Lee Child, even Hemingway…after a while you are seeing and hearing the author rather than the story, rather than the message.

Actors get ‘condensed’ even quicker.  Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, Cher, even Helen Mirren…they are all now THEMSELVES before they are the ‘characters’ they portray.

(Laurence Olivier was the last great thespian…….)

And so it is with bloggers.  I am writing this blog and yet saying a new message…but, but, but…who reading this doesn’t ‘hear’ Dave?  Same ol’, same ol’?  And, if you are read as same old Dave, no matter what you write, why continue?  Those who like same ol’ Dave will read ‘im but not the message.  Those who don’t read him won’t know this one is different…..

“Dave, what are you saying?”

 I am saying, ‘I have some new material’.  But it will be heavily ‘Davidized’.  I can’t help it.  It will be new but sound much the same.  I am me, after all.

“But why write that in this blog?”

 Because it is RELEVANT NOW!  I am in Vancouver (practically paying to breathe the air, it is so expensive) and will spend an evening at the movies.  I am going to see Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore’s new film.  And, of course, I mentioned this to a few friends.  “Really?  You’re going to see a Michael Moore film?  That old reprobate?  Same ol’, same ol’?  Seriously?”

 Yes.  New material, tho.  Same ol’ style but, so what?  If the story is new and true, why not?”

“Oh, man!  Like, he is so ‘yesterday’, ya know?  I liked him when he was funny but like, who cares what Michael Moore has to say?”

 Turns out my friends are right.  F11/9 is ‘bombing’ at the box office.  No one is ‘into’ Michael Moore.  Too passé.

My readership is down, too.  I feel Mike’s pain.  I’m gonna send him a card.

Is truth always this hard?