A strategy explained…..by Sean Illing

Trumpism.  What exactly is it?

Trumpism is a style of con.  It is mostly just about his style of misdirection, dissembling and distracting from what is REALLY going on behind the scenes.  It’s about muddying the waters so that truth is confused to the point of fatigue.  Take any story line, any quote, any tweet, any statement, any alternative fact and the point of it is really just to confuse the reader/watcher/thinker.  It is the stuff of the classic con. The important thing for Trump is NOT if his story is regarded as true or false, it is just just that you/they/us are focused on it.  In fact, that is likely part of the reason for the orange skin tone and the crazy hair job.

The important thing is that we’re watching him and and we’re talking about him because the president wants us focusing on him.  Even when he is talking nonsense means we’re not talking about more important things.  Magicians employ the same tricks:  beautiful assistants, bait and switch, sleight of hand, misdirection.  By October, look for smoke and mirrors.

He’s good at it.  In fact, he is masterful.  He may actually be smart!  He is ignorant as hell.  He is totally mentally screwed up.  But his mastery of the tools of the trade he is in is something akin to fascinating – like a constant, real-time train-wreck.

But he is NOT alone in this.  Just as the magician needs a beautiful assistant, a fancy stage and a gullible audience, so does Trump.  In his case, he has many many assistants from the shapely Ivanka, Hope Hicks, etc. to the Fox Network, from the Michael Cohens and Flynns to the Lindsay Grahams and the Mitch McTurtles.  His audience?  That’s the surprising part.  The audience is the mainstream media.  They are the gullible dupes.

“Isn’t the audience the ‘Merican people?”

Yes and No.  Firstly, most ‘Mericans don’t think critically or freely – they are ‘partisan’.  Secondly, many, many, many do not follow the news or politics in any kind of detail – just the headlines or the talking heads.  Thirdly, as stated before, they are easily fatigued.  Hell, most of us are fatigued by this too-long-running burlesque show.  My guess is that some of my readers have already stopped reading this blog.  “Dave is on about Trump again.  I’ll play video games instead.” 

The main audience is the media.  He plays to the media and they, like the guests at the Hotel California, can check out anytime they want but they can never leave.  The media cannot leave because they are addicted/enslaved.  Some call it ’employed’.  They are obliged to find a story even where there is none.  They have a hole to fill and Trump fills it with BS.  He’s a ‘story-pusher’ feeding the habit of ‘gossip’.

There is more, much more…..so much….but I just wrote the intro….forgive me.  I have been distilling what Sean Illing wrote so much better in VOX.  Read it for yourself: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/5/16/21258788/obamagate-trump-flynn-bannon-flood-the-zone

A bit more background…

….a friend of mine lives in Montreal. He called the other night. Amongst other things, we talked about how hard Quebec has been hit by Covid-19. “Geez, man, what is it about Quebec that attracts viruses?”

My friend is Jewish. He said, “Well, the Quebec situation is very much a ‘perfect storm’ kinda thing for a pandemic. In Montreal and other areas, there are lot of Hasidic Jews. Hasidic Jews are usually closely interconnected with other Hasidic Jews. The Montreal group and the closer villages are very connected to the Hasidim in New York. There is a regular co-mingling back and forth all through the year. New York got hit bad. The Hasidim got hit really badly and the timing was such that a lot of inter-travel also happened. Boom! The outbreak in New York became the outbreak in Montreal.

“But it gets worse. There were a lot of Haitians that took refuge after the earthquake in 2010 and fled like refugees to the US. But when Trump started his anti-immigration position, they became afraid that they would be deported back to Haiti so many of them fled to Canada and especially to Quebec because most Haitians speak French. Northern Montreal is an old, crowded neighbourhood and has many, many Haitians. That community is poor and ill-educated and so they took low paying jobs in the service sector. Many of those jobs are in senior’s care homes. There are a lot of Jewish senior’s care homes. The Haitians and the Jews were in close contact. A lot. Added into that mix was the calendar. Quebec took an earlier Spring Break. The timing, the virus, the co-mingling of American and Canadian Hasidim, the poverty of the Haitians and then the intense closeness of the two groups and you get the Mother of all Virus outbreaks. It’s terrible.”

Of course there are all sorts of tragic stories of desperate migrants coming to the poor sections of wealthier cities and the disruptions that occur from that including, no doubt, major health problems. But this one is different. This one is a concentration of disease amongst the vulnerable, the poor, the old, the politically reviled and it broke the system that barely works for the well-off (of which there are fewer and fewer).

In a sense, their situation could be the dystopian nightmare of tomorrow.

Bear with me…..

Since 2000 we have experienced the hottest temperatures on record. Climate change is real and part of that is heat, droughts, stronger hurricanes, flooding, rising sea levels and the like. That all points to more and more people from hot, poor countries trying to go to places more liveable. Migration is a growing phenomena. With that kind of desperate migration comes weak populations putting themselves in even more stressful situations. Disease is common.

Trump won’t help fund the World Health Organization anymore, ignores America’s CDC and wants to get rid of even Tony Fauci, his lead medical advisor. Harper took a similar approach to science when he was the Prime Minister of Canada. So have other ‘leaders’ like Brazil’s Bolsonoro. “We don’ need no stinkin’ science!”

And….they may be right. It may be too late for the Tony Faucis to make a difference after all. Maybe a wall, a big wall, a really beautiful wall, the most beautiful wall ever built is what is needed – because, you see, everything is related. Climate change, migration, politics, poverty, contagions…it all came together in Montreal and it is not a rosy gathering.

I am not alone

Lynn Steger Strong recently wrote an article in the Guardian titled: Grand Illusion – How the Pandemic Exposed We are all Pretending.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/11/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-two-in-five

“I was meant to write about perception versus reality in what I do professionally. The owner of the New York restaurant Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton, wrote an essay about this recently – describing how, for so long, so many of us have been pretending that we were or were about to “make it”. We had checked all or most of the boxes we were told to check in our professions, even as our lives remained in constant states of anxiety and fear”.

And Lynn goes on to basically dismantle the myth of American-style Capitalism and the erosion of the middle class. She’s right, of course.

As I wrote a few blogs back, the basic hard-working person is taking it on the chin and many stories are cropping up about small business owners going bankrupt. The simplest explanation is that they borrowed heavily (often using their home equity) to get a business up and operating and now, what with Big Box stores, Chinese low-cost goods, Amazon and recently Covid-19, they simply cannot keep the wolves from the door anymore. Their struggles will have been for nought.

But Lynn makes a compelling personal observation: “We’ve internalized that our suffering (failing) is our fault – that it is because we must not be working hard enough. I wanted to write about the pervasiveness of this feeling that there are no longer avenues to stability, because I wanted there to be less shame around it. I wanted to explore the ways that, in entrenched and fundamental ways, our struggles were more systemic than just us”.

Two in five Americans would have a hard time coming up with $400 in an emergency. Canadians are in the same boat.

As readers know, I am not a fan of the system we seem to have committed to. I saw all that Lynn writes about a long time ago and I see the dismal picture only getting worse and worse every year.

Of course, just as I would get convinced it was all going to collapse, it kinda would and then the ‘powers-that-be’ would prop it up again with loan forgiveness and Quantitative Easing and now ‘free money’ thrown out the Parliamentary windows. Corrupt Capitalism is resilient, I’ll give ya that! But the resilience is also a lie. It is NOT resilience, it is just postponement. This incredible hypocrisy in finances has happened now several times in the last thirty years culminating in the until-now biggest false Capitalism monetary expansion effort in history – the 2008 banking debacle.

Covid will make that fiasco look like penny-ante poker.

It is almost as if each collapse will be ‘easier’ because we all get another chance…..but the real question is: another chance at what? How many times does the system have to fail us before we tell the truth, redesign and rebuild it?

I suspect that this time may prove serious enough for others to demand change. Real Estate was too expensive, taxes were too high, our infrastructure is failing, the environment is getting toxic, the climate is heating up, tensions are rising everywhere, lies are as valid as truth and facts, leaders are corrupt, education sold out, corporations control the governments and people are getting depressed. But Lynn points out that when YOU get depressed and blame yourself, you are being falsely accused. The fault was not yours. The fault lies with the system.

And I agree.

Dumb leaders, smart businesses and the future of normal…..

Strange news these days.  Almost all the ‘feeds’ are the same, they are content to fill the first ten stories with Covid 19 numbers, “X new cases, Y now dead!”  But these stories usually follow several announcements of re-openings of provinces, states, public facilities, etc.  “We must still be vigilant but kissing and hugging is now gradually re-opening.”

I don’t get it.

South Korea (one of the best managed C-19 countries previously) re-opened (carefully) and so many people caught C19 already from just going to nightclubs they have now closed all the nightclubs.  Duh. 

Quebec is being savaged by the disease and the premier is keen to re-open.  He wants the schools to be amongst the first.  The day before the province began reopening, Quebec public health officials reported 892 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, and added 1,317 cases that had previously been missed by computer error.  I never trust government and have virtually removed myself from their direct influence and yet, they have managed, in their efforts to re-open too soon, to drop even lower in my estimation.

Mind you, this blog is not just about diminished to non-existent trust in government, it is really an observation that the vast majority of people do NOT want to re-open as per government instructions.  Or, better put, they have already adapted to a quasi-reopening of their own making (the lock-down you may recall it was mostly voluntary) and they are content to keep it that way.  A few examples:

Costco is a model of ‘doing business’ in this time of plague.  They are so good at it, their adjusted business model processes (very likely) the same amount of shoppers in a better shopping environment and everyone in the store is masked and gloved.  Half the customers came dressed that way, too.  Costco has a designated traffic controller at the front door letting in the exact number of shoppers as those who are just leaving.  Four go in when four come out.  There is another traffic manager at the cashiers.  The best part of that, is that the lineups are smaller but, for Costco, the cashiers are still going full-tilt.  It doesn’t appear as if Costco is losing a single customer.  We went.  Waited 15 minutes.  Shopped in less time and paid and got out in less time.  Estimate: maybe five minutes longer but much less frustration.  I do not want Costco to go back to normal.

Other stores have adopted their own ‘C-19’ protocols usually just limiting customers to one or two at time.  I guess that cuts down on community transmission and allows the staff to keep their distance.  It also allows a bit more customer service and a more pleasant interaction.  I like it.

Our community has embraced food delivery.  We get a water-taxi delivering about $1500 – $2000 worth of food every week.  For us, that’s only about ten to twelve orders but that is a dozen trips to town saved, hours spent shopping saved, no one exposed to random huggers and kissers and gallons and gallons of fuel saved.  Why would we ever go back?

Admittedly, not every business can adapt and change so easily and well as Save-On and Costco.  But there is no doubt that C-19 will alter the way some businesses operate in future and, in my opinion, some of it is for the better.

But, before I end on a happy note, let us stand in silent condolence for a minute for anything to do with public transportation.  I think C-19 will alter travel habits forever and even with re-opening, the entire industry will never be the same.  There will be more trucks on the road delivering and distributing and even direct-to-customer business models (street kitchens) but the passenger-car-to-the-mall at the drop of a hat will be less.  Flying will be reduced.  Mass transit (already loathed) will be changed by more people working from home.  And so it goes.

Me?  Well, I am thinking about one last winter away.  So, I am looking at ‘how to get there’.  And, to be honest, I was not keen on any of the ways to get anywhere save for driving my own car and that was BEFORE Covid.  Today, I would not even consider a cruise-line and flying is almost as verboten.  Packing in tight with people in a small space breathing recirculated air is simply not an option.  Still, I look and the price of air fares is slowly going down but how is dropping a price 10% going to change anyone’s mind on sucking infected air?  The only way people will fly happily in future is lots and lots of space between passengers, 100% fresh air, mandatory face masks and a dedicated cleaner for the lavatories and – even then – who needs it?

My point?  Re-opening to normal cannot be realistically achieved anytime soon – perhaps never.  It is time for the knuckleheads to re-think what ‘opening’ means now and make the necessary changes so that there is a chance at some kind of normalcy.  Starting with nightclubs was just plain stupid.  Following that with schools is even stupider.

In fact, it is no coincidence that hospitals should be the lead on this – they need to have screening and cleaning stations at every entrance.  Which overpaid knucklehead can get that done?

Hmmm….I may have been a bit shrill…..

I am constantly on and on about getting off the grid.  I kinda harp on it, to be honest.  I think I am getting a bit shrill.  Apologies if it is annoying.  But I realize now that the OTG message I have been repeating is a bit simplistic and further, not quite, not entirely, not fully what I really feel or mean.

For the record, going mostly and purely OTG is absolutely what I feel for me – even tho I am technically pure, I am not.  Not really.  I am too close to civilization to be pure.  But this is heaven for both of us.  96% pure is close enough.

But the urging for others to get off is less about selling them wilderness and more about stress reduction.  I am really urging you to get out, get out now!  ….of the rat race!  Get away from the money culture.  But I don’t really care if you go all Dan’l Boone when doing it or if you find peace and happiness sitting in your living room in a condo somewhere.  What I really believe is that peace and happiness are more abundant out here but anyplace that does not create fear, loathing, stress and worry will do.  Hell, some of my OTG buddies are technically not OTG at all.  They have roads and power.

And I am not too far from a road.  I have mod cons.  We shop at Save-On.  And Costco.  Seriously?  How Dan’l Boone is that?

But HAVING services is NOT the definition (or not) of ‘living’ the OTG lifestyle.  The OTG lifestyle is one of being outdoors more, doing more of your own physical work, fixing, building, living frugally, even minimally.  Being creative.  Being in the moment.  It is really an exercise in finding peace and happiness other than consumerism, politics and materialism.  You can have services and mod cons but the OTG’er doesn’t really need them.  Or, better put, the OTG can do for themselves when required.

Wim in Europe, Sid in his chair, DC in his downtown office, Untidy in Oz….the list is endless, really.  People want out but are not too sure if they want to go TOOOOOO far out.  They see the dysfunction around them.  They don’t like it.  These folks ‘feel’ that the system is off-track and they see OTG as a desirable way to deal with it but, but, but…well, the timing is not quite right.  Stars not aligned.  Money tied up.  Not yet the wilderness.   And I get that.  I waited til my timing was right.  But those folks just named already get me.  They understand.  They know that I am using ‘OTG’ as just a convenient shortcut describing different-from-URBAN.

I do have a problem with urban, I must admit.  By that, I mean; urban urban.  Crowded, line-ups, traffic, expense-at-every-turn, pollution, police, extra taxes, rules, regulations and God-knows-what-else.  I do not mean the modern services quite easily obtained in a small town.  In fact, small towns seem to be the best of both worlds so long as the town is far away and the land parcel you live on is big.

There has to be room for the wildlife, ya know?

Covid is expensive!

A few of my friends have taken quite a financial hit these past few weeks/months. It’s upsetting for me and devastating for them. They do not deserve this. The ones I know all worked very, very hard for a long, long time to accumulate more wealth than they needed but it was what they were programmed to do. They complied by the system and it failed them.

You know how it is….stock portfolios, investments, holdings, money. All that paper-value is now down and some of it is way, way down. One friend had an inclination to oil investments and I hope like hell he was not playing the futures market because that ‘game’ went bottoms-up pretty majestically. One minute you are juggling a whole bunch of $50 barrels of oil and the next you are holding barrels worth MINUS $50.00. That is a hard pill to swallow. Easy to explain. Hard to accept. The problem of risk management, even break-even is exacerbated greatly when that happens. Fortunes are lost and will never be recouped.

But it is also true that the ordinary working Canuck has lost a large chunk of paper-value as well. Real estate is where the ordinary citizen saves up wealth in this country. It’s a crazy system of course but that is where we have all ‘lived’ for a long time. Buy a house you can’t afford, pay interest to the bank for twenty-five plus years and you finally pay off that $200K house that now is worth $1.2M. And we all sit there as old people thinking we are geniuses. In reality, we are just old.

A lot of people lived their entire lives for a house.

Of course, they have to sell that home to realize that increase and the next place they buy into will also be inflated by the other old geniuses that previously owned it. And everyone climbs up a bit on the back of the next generation trying to find a place to live. Crazy system.

The Canuck-buck is also down. Most people don’t notice it when that happens…except that it shows up as increased costs for food and imported items virtually 90% of all products sold in Canada are imported or ‘world-priced’. Maybe more.) When your dollar loses value, you lose buying power and less buying power means that you are with less power (duh). So a diminished buck costs you directly but you only see it as ‘inflation’. The government is OK with that. “Hey, we try to fight inflation by increasing interest rates. Not our fault.”

In a global economy, it is not all their fault but much of it is.

Canada’s economy is hit even harder than many in the first world….because the economy is really just the collective attitude of the people. We do not have enough people to keep the momentum going. You can count cows or houses or paper money and think you have metrics on the economy (Stats Can-type thinking) but the truth is that the number of cows and such is simply not as much of a factor as is our collective mood. If we are keen to consume and spend and have fun, make babies, buy new cars and houses, then the economy booms. If we sit at home with a mask on our face, the economy stalls. Attitude is everything in economics.

And our collective attitude right now is depressed and angry, fearful and cautious. We are not looking at a boom just around the corner. Even if Canada ‘bounces’ back from C-19, the disease, the economy will not. It cannot. Many of the middle class have been wiped out – or hit very hard, anyway. Their HUGE RRSP is no longer huge. Their savings are being used to pay down new debts. Their house (houses, cottages, condos and time shares) are all worth less. Many older investors are also leveraged to be playing that game – and now they are on the losing side with the lever working against them. They are facing margin calls and demand loans. Their energies and productive creativity is on life-support.

And many of them are too old to start over.

Covid-19 is more than just a virus, it should be a wake-up call.

A bit of logging today.

Sally, me and two neighbours did a few hours of wood-getting today.  It’s been a year.  Old muscles.  I can feel it as I write this.  Still, a lot got accomplished and we are all feeling good.  Well, my back isn’t that good (but I will be fine by tomorrow).  And Sal is still bouncing back from a total knee replacement done only 12 weeks ago.  All’s well that ends well and ending well for us does not mean doing a good job – it just means no blood-letting.  Today was a blood-free workday.

When we start, we have to first wait until the tide goes out.  Hard to cut floating logs into rounds, ya know?  And the tides seem to be a bit ‘off’ the printed schedule these days.  Not by much but at least half an hour.  Our work window (given where the logs were) was three hours with the water at our ankles after that.

Then, when the tide is out, and we can actually access the logs, they are all higgeldy-piggeldy on the rocky shoreline.  I climb down the cliff, go out on the boulder field, roll a  log up on a rock or use a peavey to get it up so that my chainsaw does not cut into the mud or a rock.  Sometimes you have no choice…the log is jammed and you have to cut it as it lies and risk your chain….but basically, you cut what you can hoping the smaller portion can then be un-jammed.

The biggest challenge for me is in keeping my balance.  And mine is NOT so good anymore.  I am a bit tippy.  I kinda lurch sometimes.  But, so far, no falls.  The second challenge is that the rounds cut on the beach have to then be hauled up above the high tide line otherwise they will all float away in the night.  Each round weighs at least 25 pounds and some weigh upwards of 75.  I carry them off the beach and toss ’em in a pile at the base.  Sal and the other woman pick one up each and take it up the next ten or so feet to a ‘dry’ spot.  The young fellow we had as our fourth was better at just about everything but together we made a good impression on the task.

Sal had a relatively even slope to climb but she had to lift and carry rounds averaging 40-50 pounds (over 50 and I came over to do it).  Ninety minutes in, she was looking like she was getting close to done.  “Hey, Sal, why not give your knee a rest and go get that floater I saw earlier?”  And so she went log salvaging for awhile.  Came back with two!

As the water began to encroach on our work, we all decided that nature was telling us to quit.  And so we did.  Huge sighs of relief all around.  Over the course of the next month or so, we will do that exercise maybe five more times.  Then there is the splitting.  The carrying.  And then the stacking.

Just a chore.  Just a few hours.  Just ordinary.  But it is real, it is productive and the setting is gorgeous.  This is definitely the way to live!

It’s all a plot by the Chinese!!!

Mike Pence is now promoting the idea that China so badly mishandled their ‘Wuhan’ virus, the rest of the world is suffering on purpose…kinda.  Ooooh, bad, bad, bad Chinese.

The WHO and the CDC have declared the virus was naturally occurring and Pence and Trump reluctantly seem to have conceded that point.  NOT accepted it, but NOT arguing.  Instead, they can still shift the blame to the Chinese anyway by criticizing the PRC/CCP for ‘doing such a bad job and then covering it all up and likely stockpiling supplies to screw us all over.’

So, the Trump administration is looking for someone to blame for the mess they are in.  Scapegoating.   Does anyone find that surprising?

Despite the science saying it was a natural virus and despite Japan, Korea, Iran and Italy being decimated right in front of his eyes while he denied the severity of it, Trump wants to blame the Chinese for the predicament he and his woefully inadequate White House are now facing.

The USA was not even in the vanguard of the virus.  The virus visited itself on Asia and Europe and the Middle East before it made significant inroads into the US.  But while Rome was burning up with fever, Trump fiddled.   Trump denied.  Trump wished it away.  What a catastrophic ass!

Harry S. Truman once famously said, “The buck stops here!”  It was also the motto on his desk.  It meant, Everyone else may have passed on taking responsibility but that is not going to happen here.  If the problem gets here, the responsibility is mine.

Trump has reversed that ethic.  “It is not my responsibility.”  “I do not take any responsibility.” “It is not our fault!”  “Those health supplies are for us, not ordinary people!” 

And now: “Blame the Chinese.  It is all their fault!” 

If you are a MAGA Bubba, are you proud?  I mean is this ‘da man’ you want to follow?  Is this the POTUS you would ‘take a bullet for’?  Really? 

This may offend some readers but here goes: It is bred into the male of the species to provide and protect.  Or, rather, it has seemed to be that way over the ages.  Men are supposed to face the physical dangers to protect the rest of the family.  Then, if the family is safe, we are obliged to go get them some food.  Maybe a roof.  A fire would be a nice touch.  In other words, to be a real man is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for provisions and protections.

Fortunately, we are not expected to do much more.   

Presumably, the president would be a real man.  HE would provide and protect.  HE would take the responsibility.  Or at least the president would be a really, really smart and responsible human being (female).  But this president is a shame to his gender.  Well, a shame to the species, actually.  I admit that most of us males are pigs in some all-too obvious ways (especially him).  But most men would still step up to provide and protect.  It is one of our basic, primal traits.  That feeling comes with muscles, size, savagery and ambition.  Indeed, we are pigs.  But we are pigs in a blanket..we want the family to be happy, warm and sleeping close to us.

This dickhead is just a pig.

Circle of Love

I guess the Circle of Love all started a long time ago…..maybe 35-40 years.  It was nothing, really.  I had a lot of friends from all over, from refugee and immigrant communities to folks who lived on boats, skid-row types, petty criminals, doctors, lawyers, roller-hockey players….you know, the mish-mash of people one gets to know as you get on with getting on?

Side note: You should have seen our wedding…it was a masquerade ball because everyone invited was so different and from such weird walks-of-life we thought we could break the social barriers by having them in costume.  It worked remarkably well.  

Then, as I worked as a mediator and arbitrator, I added to the list along with neighbours and friends and kind encounters with strangers.  It was not a real list.  It was just a running mental list of people who were ‘good people’ and who could be counted on to be ethical and fair and kind to someone in need.  I would guess that, at any given time, there were only about 15 to 20 ‘active members’ who, in fact, did not even KNOW they were members.  It was really just me keeping a list of who was naughty and who was nice and I would check that list more than twice.  Ho Ho Ho.

Anyway, one of them was a young man at the time.  He was going through some kind of hell and I helped him out.  After a year or so, he was into clean air and tacking well to windward.  He was free.  We stayed friends.  And there was another and I helped him and then he and I were friends.  One day the first guy needed some kind of special skill and the second guy had that skill and I introduced them.

“B, this is S.  He needs 123-doing and you are the best I know at that.  He’s in the Circle.  Go help him”.

‘B’ said, “What’s the circle?”  I explained that good guys get help from other good guys and we do it freely because we know they will do the same for others.  They may even do the same for us someday but that would just be a coincidence.  You are in the Circle because the love goes out to the good who need it.”

“Wow!  I am part of that?”

“Yeah.  Think of it as being part of a type of Rotary or Lions service club or something without the breakfast meetings.  And the demands on your time might happen only once in lifetime.”

“I’m in!”

“Dude!  You’ve been in for the last three years.  Now go call S and help him out.”

” I don’t know this ‘S’ guy.”

“Just say, ‘Dave sent me’.  That should do it.  If you don’t like him or don’t want to do it, do not do it.  You are totally free but you are obligated to meet him, look at the issue and, if you can, do your best.  That’s it.”

And S and B became friends.  And so did maybe twenty guys get called and every time, the term Circle of Love was invoked and strangers helped out strangers.  It is a great system and there are no dues.

S called me the other day.  “Dave, shouldn’t we all know who is in the Circle of Love?  I mean, I am now doing pretty good and I am more well positioned than so many people during this virus, shouldn’t we all meet one another and see what we can do to help one another?”

“Well, the CoL was never intended  to be obligatory.  Someone would call and someone would be called and that was basically it.  But I see your point – they all went through me.  And that should be remedied, I suppose.  My problem today is that some of the members are older than me.  W is now 90.  H is 90.  I have more than a few J’s in their late 80’s.  I would venture to say that some in the circle are of little use now.”

“All the more reason to organize a meeting and draft some youth.  We can’t let this slip away.”

So, I am thinking of doing that.  But I coined the phrase, Circle of Love, as a word-joke. I rarely use the term.  The only members were hairy guys who didn’t even really know there was a CoL unless they called for help or got called to get help.  Only S liked the name so much, it endured.

My friend D in Hong Kong has been a HUGE help to so many, only a few of which were CoL members.  That is just who he is.  Same for D and most of the J’s.  Many members would be surprised to get a call for any other reason than to ‘just go help somebody’.  If there is anything special about it, it is that they do it for a stranger who then, inevitably becomes a friend.

The reality is that the CoL is not a circle at all.  It is more like the Olympic Rings, interlocking.  S has his own circle of which I am a member.  BK, D and D and D and the J’s all have their own circles.  It is NOT an organization, it is an affiliation of good eggs.  And the influence is way wider than just the members who do not even know they are members.

Craig at Comox Fountain Tire acted in exactly that CoL manner the night we had the flat tire on our way to the hospital.  He was not (then) in the CoL.  And I do not know him well enough to call it official but, if there was anyone in that area that needed that kind of help, I’d call Craig and say, “Circle of Love, man.  Go help this woman.  Her name is S and she is near you.  If you charge, I’ll pay.  She’s poor.  If you don’t charge and do a good job, you are in the CoL officially.”

He’d say, “Who is this?  Is this a phone scam-thing?”

So, I would re-introduce myself and provide an explanation and I have never been disappointed yet.  He’d go.  She’d get help.  They’d be friends.  That’s how it works.

Now, dear reader,  don’t be silly as you envision all this….if Craig had to replace a tire or fix something, he might charge.  He may have costs.  CoL does not mean free.  It means ‘YOUR TIME AND YOUR CARING IS FREE.  Any real outlay of expenses and parts are the recipients cost. You can waive them or collect them, your call.  The only real requirement is that you help NOW and you are the best you can be.’

God, the world is weird, eh?

 

 

I had to pee……

….and we were in town returning a borrowed cane to The Red Cross.  I parked in front of the red brick building located at the end of a small side street.  There was an alley around the side.  Sal went in to the office, I got out and looked around.  Pretty private.  Private enough for me…..I am not ‘picky’ that way….and, anyway….who’s gonna look down an alley…..? More to the point: do I care?

I walked around the corner of the building and there, sitting on the ground under a blanket, was a young woman.  She had a bright red top-knot of hair sitting on a black, blunt-cut base.  She looked up.  “Do I have to leave?”

“Not on my account.  I was gonna pee there but I am happy to move on down behind the dumpster.”  But I didn’t move right away.  I stopped and looked.  Her hair was clean.  The blanket was clean.  It was raining slightly.  She had a small pack sack acting as a cushion for her back against the wall.

“Homeless?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“Four months.”

She looked pretty good for being homeless that long.  “Addicted?”

“Yeah.”

“How long?”

“Off and on since I was 13.”

“How old are you now?”

“Twenty three.”

“Drug of choice?”

“Chrystal Meth”.

“Ten years is a long time on meth.  You could be too far gone.”

“Can’t.  Gotta get off it.  I have a son.”

“Where’s he?”

“With my parents.  He’s good.  But I am gonna get him back.”

“How?”

“I’m workin’ on it.”

“Oh…..that’s good.  What are you doing when you are workin’ on it?”

“You know, just workin’ on it…you know…thinkin’….gettin’ by til I am ready to….”

“Well, I hope that works for you but it hasn’t worked that way for anyone else.  Gettin’ by means going deeper. You need to get away from whatever you are doing and try doin’ good work with good people. Change your friends, change your life or something like that…you know…..?”

“Yeah.  I need a place to go to. I am gonna apply for a residence in a treatment centre or something.  I have my name with some social workers…and….like, maybe she’ll get me in somewhere.”

She was intelligent in a way.  Well spoken, at least.  Sentences made sense.  She was almost charming. Definitely pleasant. I had interrupted her as she was writing in a small notebook. It was some kind of journal.

“What’s your name?”

“Ashley.”

“What’s your kid’s name.  How old is he?”

“Alex is four.”

“Go to the forest.  It’s healing.  Find some cabin or something.  Just get out.  Get out to some place like where we live, a remote island up the coast.  No meth.  Nothing.  Just go to the forest, work at a resort somewhere or take care of an old couple or something.  Work for food. Or just get some food and camp.  If it doesn’t work out, go to another place.  Get out of the city.  There’s no real help here.”

Sally had joined me by then.  She and Ashley started talking about island life.  I went to the dumpster.  When I came back, she asked “How do I get in touch?”

I gave her my name and phone number.  But I told her that coming to our island is hard.  She’d work like a dog.  “Wood, gardening, no TV, no young people. I’m grouchy. We just do chores out there but it’s easier doing that in a paradise like ours.  Easier for us, anyway.”

We got back in the car.  We had those just-mentioned chores to do.  We drove in silence for a few minutes.  Sal said, “Breaks your heart.  She seemed alright, you know, deep down.  Not a good idea leaving your kid with the parents, tho.  She gonna make it?”

“No idea.  But do not be fooled by her charming manner.  All addicts tell the truth to the ‘mark’.  Telling their story is easy after awhile.  It works for them.  Then, when the mark believes them because of their sincerity, they set up the mark for some kind of exploitation – usually theft.  Addicts tell the truth to manipulate.  It’s how everyone is fooled.  Addicts know what to say.”

“Yeah.  I know.  What are we gonna do if she phones?”

“Answer the phone.  How do you not?  She’s a kid in trouble.  You have to.”

“What can we do?”

And so we drove and thought about Ashley.  We did not talk about her much but we were both thinking.  I had spent years working with wayward youth and drug addicts.  I even knew someone from my past life in this town. Then I remembered the burn out and depression not to mention constant stress. “We can’t help her. Especially if she wants to bring her son. If she calls, I’ll refer her to an ex-addict I know. We’re a bit too old for that stuff now. It’s an ugly truth but I think she is already way beyond us.”

“I agree. But, it is sad.”