Friday, January 30, 2009

Grateful to have this happen in my lifetime

Southern trees bear strange fruit

Blood on the leaves

Blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
- sung by Billie Holiday

“The accusations against persons lynched, according to the Tuskegee Institute records for the years 1882 to 1951, were: in 41 per cent for felonious assault, 19.2 per cent for rape, 6.1 per cent for attempted rape, 4.9 per cent for robbery and theft, 1.8 per cent for insult to white persons, and 22.7 per cent for miscellaneous offenses or no offense at a 11.5 In the last category are all sorts of trivial “offenses” such as “disputing with a white man,” attempting to register to vote, “unpopularity”, self-defense, testifying against a white man, “asking a white woman in marriage”, and “peeping in a window.”
- as cited in The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950

So, I have been around for a while. I have seen a number of things in my life. I’m not yet ancient, but I have been around for a while and I know what things were like, not so very long ago.

We think the world is going to hell in a handcart. We think we have entered into some sort of era of hopelessness and despair, whiners and pansies that we sometimes can be.

And then I turn on my television and I see a black man, and I hear him talking and I hear him described by the title ‘President’. This black man is the President of the United States! Sorry, but I still get choked when the realization hits me. Not because I am a wishy-washy liberal (I mean, I can be, depending on the situation, but can also be a wishy-washy conservative), or because I hero-worship, or fawn. I do none of the above because people are mainly just people, not gods. But, for crissake, A Black Man is the President of the United States! I find that amazing – and arguably and symbolically one of the most wonderful things I’ve experienced in my life.

I was a child in the comedy age of Amos ‘n Andy – loved that old Kingfish: “Holy Mackul dere, Sapphire!” Saw nothing wrong with it back then. The mindset was different. Jack Benny’s sidekick and retainer was lovable old Rochester with his gravely voice. Nat King Cole, as widely viewed as his delicious velvet voiced croonings were, could not get a sponsor for his show, so it was dropped.

“Mel Torme, Nat Cole and I walked into the bar at the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco in the early 1950s,” jazz pianist George Shearing told me in a newspaper interview I conducted some years ago. “We were refused entry because Nat was with us. I never set foot in that hotel again.”

Uber white-bread singer Pat Boone sang sanitized versions of Little Richard songs and made more money than the original artist (and songwriter). “Can’t have decent white kids listening to them jungle beats, now can we. Who knows how may girls’ll get knocked up as a result.”

Reactionary sleazeball columnist Walter Winchell launches a personal crusade against Josephine Baker, forcing her to close in New York and go back to Paris, whence she stayed.

Singer extraordinaire Paul Robeson is accused of communism and his career is destroyed.

Eartha Kitt is refused entry by the front door of the White House.

English songstress Petula Clark gets viewer flack in 1968 for daring to affectionately place her hand on the arm of Harry Belafonte during a TV special.

And there was Selma, and there was Birmingham, and Little Rock and Rosa Parks and Authorine Lucy and top cop Bull Connors with his snarling dogs and Medgar Evers and, of course, Dr. King. ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ indeed, as much as I love the song.

And so it went.

And now the President of the United States is a Black Man!

Excuse me for being astonished.

And grateful. Hey, he may even turn out to be a lousy president.

That has nothing to do with anything.

It’s the everything else that counts. And, in my lifetime, yet.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Come on folks, just calm down, OK?

Just when I thought it was safe to get out of the bathtub; that the world couldn’t get any more insane now, what with Dick Cheney having been secreted in a rubber room somewhere, and in this country, Stephane Dion having gone back to the monastery, then I learn about this.

A terrorism expert has advised the British Columbia government that a security person should be placed on the crafts of the BC Ferries fleet in order to offset any potential threat. Wow! There’s an item that I suspect brought a chill to the heart of Bin Laden in his cave.

“In the name of Allah, BC Ferries are putting security people on their craft, no doubt taking some of those insanely homicidal mall-cops and reassigning them. This spells the end for Al Qaeda!”

Are these people nuts, or what? Yes they are, and they’re nuts with our money!

But let’s say that some governmental moron (maybe redundant) decides this is a splendid idea. How is it going to work? Are they going to scrutinize every passenger and vehicle that goes aboard? Are they going to use the same officious base-pay high school dropouts that they have to do the screening at airports? I mean, hundreds and hundreds of people and vehicles board those ships every day of the year.

So, maybe such security checks are impracticable. Will they use facial profiling? Since half the former population of the Punjab lives in greater Vancouver, they won’t be able to base their scrutiny on questionable ethnicity like I have seen happen at airports (much to the mortification and resentment of all).

“He looks dusky, Fred. Better stop him. Terrorist if ever I seen one.”

Are they going to look in the trunk of every car? I mean, a guy could drive on with an entire trunkfull of high explosives, then head up to the lounge and prepare to detonate it remotely. “Ve are having the technology. Ve can do this!” Yes, they can. But are they going to? Are the BC Ferries really high on the international terrorism hit list? I choose to think not.

I mean, yes, there are circumstances under which strict security scrutiny is demanded for obvious reasons. Two years ago Wendy and I caught the ‘Eurostar’ train in Brussels in order to take it through the Chunnel to London. At the station in Brussels, there was no fooling around with the security checks. They were highly efficient, never abusive, but absolutely scrupulous. Of course they were. We were going through the Chunnel. What a terrorist target, no doubt.
But BC Ferries. Come on. That’s local ego gone mad. If I board a ferryboat in BC waters I’m more frightened of the idea of crew members who are supposed to be working on the bridge out in some back room screwing rather than tending to matters at hand. Hey, it happened. You can read about it. -Big boat sank to the bottom of the sea due to a little inappropriately timed hanky-panky.

The whole terrorism thing is an industry. An industry that has asked us to be complicit in seeing our individual liberties eroded due to state-sanctioned paranoia. Yes, 9/11 happened, and it was awful. Yes there were the attacks in the London Underground, and the attack on the train in Spain. All hideous stuff. Lots of hideous stuff in life; it’s a scary business living. An attack could take place right where you are. You could also win $10 million in the lottery. In both cases it’s unlikely.

I lived in the UK at the height of IRA bombings back in the early 1980s. We’d go to London. There were periodic bombings. We’d still go to London. I was in Montreal in the late 1960s. An FLQ bomb blew out a shop a half block down the street from our hotel. Yes, we could have been walking by that shop, and yes we would have been blown to ratshit. But, we weren’t.

The more officialdom takes from us, the more they encroach on our freedom, the more they convey the message that we’re all in Depends due to fear then, in my humble esteem, the terrorists are winning.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Haggis and pipers? What could be better?

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley,

An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!

Really, I have come to the conclusion that you really don’t need anything else in your accumulated wisdom about life than to understand that brief quote from Scotland’s poetic folk hero, Robbie Burns.

The Scots around the world are making an especially big deal over Burns this year, since it is the 250th anniversary of the drunken, wenching bard’s birth. In fact, he was nowhere near the drunk his roistering fans suggest as they quaff back another ‘wee deoch’ in memory of ‘auld Rabbie’. Auld Rabbie, in fact, after his youthful foray into Edinburgh society, settled back as a rural tax collector, married Highland Mary, and kept his ‘breeks’ in place except for her.

I only know some of this stuff due to the fact I had a paternal grandmother who was almost a militant Scot and demanded I know absolutely everything about my north of Hadrian’s Wall forebears – especially since three-quarters of my heritage flowed from the predominantly English elements in m DNA.

I know it too because I was once called upon to offer the ‘Immortal Memory’ at a Robbie Burns Night celebration by a local Legion branch. So, in order to do that, I had to do a bit of research.

Burns Night, by the way, is a celebration consisting of (usually middle aged or older) lads and lassies of real or imagined Scots extraction to deck themselves out in kilts (or those lovely long tartan skirts), eat haggis (which is combination of rolled oats and sheep guts, which is surprisingly more agreeable than it sounds) and get ‘faced on single malt whisky (without the ‘e’, if you please.) And, the pipers. Always with the
#@%&& pipers.

Anyway, I had to find out what I could about Burns and expand my knowledge of him to exceed a few poems learned in school or from my Gran, and to recognize that the Auld Lang Syne we drunkenly sing on NYE was written by Burns – and best performed, I might add, by Guy Lombardo who was Italian-Canadian, and had nae a drap of Scots blood.

Anyway, I did my research and decided – especially after a few drams of that single-malt (this was still in my imbibing days) -- to do the Burns quotes in Scots dialect. I did quite well, truth be known. Even real Scots commended me. But, I have a natural ear for dialects. I once spent 10-days in Ireland and could have put Barry Fitzgerald to shame.

It went well and was great fun and the organizers gave me a Wallace Tartan necktie to thank me. Appropriate since the Scots part of me is Wallace, as in ‘Scots wha hae …” and Braveheart.

I told my stepdaughter when we saw the video of Braveheart – she was about 13 at the time – that the film was about my ancestor.

“You’re related to Mel Gibson?” she asked, eyes lighting up.

I didn’t pursue the matter any further.

But, I am proud of the Scottish aspect of who I am. I have traveled in Scotland; I love Edinburgh and the Highlands are unexcelled in terms of natural beauty, though the roads are (or were when I was there) pretty challenging.

And Scots should be proud that for a country with a wee population, they have accomplished a remarkable amount in virtually every field throughout the centuries. They may be the heaviest boozers in Europe but they took some time away from the hangover to even invent television – just ask John Logie Baird about that, despite claims of others to the contrary.

Anyway, aside from that digression, I am left with the question: If we have Burns Nights all over the place every February, why don’t we have a Shakespeare Night, a Dickens Night, a Twain Night? I expect it’s something to do with the ‘whisky’.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Ain't your fault, Ma, it's all in that old cellular memory

Last week I had one of those revelatory moments. Almost an epiphany in the sense it explained so much and left me with a bit more understanding about who I am and why I have done some of the things I have.

I have always had a memory with great longevity. To a degree I have a photographic (not to mention highly photogenic, my dears) memory. Not totally photographic but significant enough in impact that I see everything in pictures in my mind. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that I was a brilliant student. That was impeded by a strong element of lazy bastard-ness in me. I only remembered what I wanted to remember. And, that’s not really the subject of this essay, except in a peripheral way.

I also have a memory with great longevity. I remember back to the age of 2½ and not just as sporadic images but even sequentially to a degree.

Now, an attempt to tie this together. Last week I attended an afternoon long workshop for counsellors, social workers, shrinks and other such persons offered by the rather brilliant Dr. Gabor Maté, He is a man who tends to the wants and needs of the inhabitants of what is considered the ickiest bit of real estate in North America, Vancouver’s drug-wasted and tragic Downtown Eastside – a few square blocks of horror and tragedy that you will not find in any tourist guide. It’s a scary and sad place and that’s where Dr. Maté finds his client base.

Anyway, I was familiar with this dedicated man, and had interviewed him for an extensive newspaper article last spring. And, I had read his book. But, I hadn’t heard him speak and he was one of those speakers who was, in a word, riveting. The three hours passed like minutes.

Now, here is the revelation that ‘riveted’ me. He pointed out that we are all victims, more or less, of what we remember from our past. But, the information that took me to a place of revelation was that what we remember is different from what we recall.

Recollection is our conscious memory. You know, when I was five I had a red wagon. True memory is at a cellular level and begins, quite literally, at birth. We remember being thrust from the womb, as it were, but we are not conscious of it. And, what happens immediately after Mom’s final grunt to expel us sticks with us for the rest of our lives. And, if it’s not an ideal situation, for various reasons, then there is a penalty.

I have been bothered for many years by the fact I did not grieve for my mother when she died. I felt little emotion, but assumed it would come later after the news had sunk in. It never has. I have never, I am almost ashamed to say, missed her. I mean, yes, she was an alcoholic, an aloof and not demonstrative woman, she was immature, infuriating and all those other things. But, you know, she was my Mom, and that usually excuses a lot of stuff. Yet, when my grandmother died when I was 14, I was devastated. I still miss her. If there is a big reunion up in the sky after I leave the worldly scene, she is the person I want to see again.

Dr. Maté explained why. And the why is, my grandmother, as far as my little cells are concerned, was ‘my mother.’ Not as strange as it seems. Immediately following my birth, Mom came down with scarlet fever. She was put under quarantine for six months and my grandmother leapt into the breach. So, it was with her I bonded, imprinted, if you will and she was the one who in my vitals always filled the motherhood role.

I have written elsewhere that the happiest time in my very young years was when the family lived with my grandparents for a few months when they were building what would be our family home. As far as I was concerned, they needn’t have bothered because at my grandparents’ I was home. It was where I was ‘meant’ to be. The essence of my being told me that and I had no control over it. If my natural mother was anything she, through no fault of her own, was my adoptive mother.

It all explained a lot, not only my lack of grief for my mother, abandonment issues, and a seeking of numerous female liaisons throughout at chunk of my life, though not in recent years. I am with somebody whom I trust implicitly will not abandon me like my cellular memory told me mother had, even if she had no control over it.

Thanks, Dr. Maté for clearing that up for me. Makes it easier to move on with a little understanding and less guilt.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oh, you're a lad, Harry Windsor. Keep up the silly work

Harry and rich babe de jour

Uh-oh, Harry screwed up again.

Seems he (a few years ago) uttered a term that his critics deem racist. He referred to a fellow military sort as a Paki. Not quite as severe as the ‘N-word’ but not exactly considered a descriptive showing tolerance for ethnic differences.

Yes, it probably is offensive (though evidently his Pakistani soldier buddy didn’t take any umbrage) and Harry should know better. On the other hand, considering the verbal gaffes of his paternal grandfather, the kid comes by it naturally. Prince Philip has never been deemed a paragon of sensitivity. On him, people think it’s archaically quaint, on young Harry they attest it bespeaks loutishness and yobbishness. Maybe.

But, you know, if young Prince Hal is kind of a yob, it makes him rather endearing. He has spunk, like his late great-aunt, Princess Margaret and, I daresay, like his mother. He’s a hell of a lot more interesting than his bland older brother, William, who grows increasingly like his dull and silly father. It’s cool to be the ‘spare’ because you don’t have to tow the mark in the same way.

Anyway, as offensive as I find racism, I am neither condoning nor condemning the lad. That’s mainly because I don’t care.

I don’t care about the entire lot of this group of dysfunctional dynastic foreigners. The Brits pay for their upkeep and I, as a Canadian, remain antagonistic to the fact that the Windsor clan has any sort of even symbolic connection with my country, other than an historic one.

By this, I don’t mean I dislike the Queen. Everybody likes the Queen. She is a tirelessly hard-working woman well past the age most people have retired. She takes her role terribly seriously and serves her subjects superlatively. And, she’s kind of a mumsy old dear who I am given to calling ‘Mrs. Queen’ (not to her face, she doesn’t like that). But, to me, she is the queen of a foreign country, not my country. So, why is her head stuck on my money and my postage stamps?

Now, my heritage is purely Anglo-Saxon, English and Scots, a smattering of Welsh and, supposedly a bit of Jewish in that my maternal grandfather was distantly connected with Benjamin Disraeli, so none of this has anything to do with my forebears. I also lived in England for a year (and loved it) and have traveled there extensively, and have lots of relatives and even more dear friends there. I am an unrepentant anglophile.

But, and this is a big ‘but’, I am not English. I was born in Canada. My parents were born in Canada. My paternal grandfather came to Canada at age 12. That’s more than a century of my kin kicking up the turf this side of the Atlantic. The Queen is the Queen of England, Defender of the Faith and all that rot. She is also Queen of the Commonwealth, of which Canada is a part and this is supposed to give me a sense of connectedness. In that sense it means I am also supposed to have a sense of connectedness with Papua-New Guinea. That’s really kind of a stretch, culturally at least. There may be some rough sorts in the Canadian hinterland, but hardly any headhunters.

I truly don’t believe Canada will become a genuine grown up country until it chucks this archaic connection with a foreign family. Australia seems to have a significant republican movement that continues to gain momentum. What’s with us? Why don’t we have one? If anybody wants to trot out the illogical and sorry excuse that the monarchy is the ‘glue’ that holds this country together, then we’re a pretty sorry lot and must have no home-grown culture of which we can be proud.

Anyway, I say we hang in there until Mrs. Queen goes, but if anybody here thinks I am going to embrace Prince Chuck as my head-of-state, then I’ll seriously consider emigrating.

But thanks, tearaway Harry, for the entertainment.


Friday, January 23, 2009

What if the 'Reaper's' not grim at all?

So, what are you afraid of?

- Flying?
- Relationships?
- Sex?
- Sharks?
- Poverty?
- Climate change?
- Illness?
- Humiliation?
- Beaking wind in public?
- That you’ll never catch up with those episodes of Lost that you missed?

Life on this planet can be a formidable challenge, even in good times. And fear is an element that dominates life so profoundly that some people are rendered immobile, and sometimes even invalided by their overweening sense of doom and destruction. Not that there is anything wrong with a slight sense of doom and destruction – it tends to keep us from making bonehead decisions. It’s all a matter of fight-or-flight survival.

But, at the end of the day, despite all our conglomeration of fears both big and small, there is one fear that overrides all others. Indeed, some schools of psychiatric theorizing maintain that ‘all’ fear boils down to one thing – fear of death!

Even our tiniest elements of trepidation ultimately flow through and pick bits of refuse along the way until they become cluttered with conditions that become increasingly life-threatening.

Death comes to us all and, no matter how much we might try to protest to the contrary, it scares the bejesus out of us. No matter how spiritually attuned we are, no matter how churchy we might be, it’s the end of that long and winding road that invariably gives even the strongest pause. We hesitate and are gripped with negativity because we don’t know what it looks like. Myth or even ‘belief’ to the contrary, nobody has really come back, as far as we know.

This blog was not prompted by the recent death of a friend, I’d actually begun it a couple of weeks ago. Mind you, his demise adds a certain poignancy to it all.

Nor is the blog intended to be dreary and depressing. Come to think of it, why do we consider death a depressing thing? Of course we miss those we love, but in a broader sense, why is it a depressing thing? I mean it happens to absolutely everyone, sort of like adolescent zits.

We find it depressing because we don’t understand what it is. I mean, we absolutely don’t understand what it is other than the cessation of life.

So, during our lives, and out of fear, we endeavor to keep death at bay. Sometimes we do it in inappropriate ways, like lots of boozing and doping and screwing and overworking and watching American Idol. Or, we do it in ways that we think are wiser, like taking real good care of our health and cutting back or eliminating our bad habits and watching PBS. Or, we pray our fool heads off thinking God will intervene and give us an understanding. Some even attest they have gotten that message. Maybe they have, but they’re still frightened, I've noticed.

So, that junkie or street rummy who keeps indulging in practices that will guarantee an early demise, why do they do it? Because, ironically, they’re afraid of dying.

I have no answers here. If I had, then it would mean I’d solved one of the universe’s great mysteries. It's not referred to as the 'Great Unknown' for no reason.

The only thing I can say is that as your cat or dog ages, that pet never thinks about death, nor is it afraid. The fools. Too bad they're not smart like we are.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Life flows and ebbs like the sea

Death really can upset your day and throw your plans asunder.

I got up this morning after my typical lousy sleep, switched on the coffeemaker and then my computer, in my usual fashion. Then the coffee can be ready for when Wendy arises and I will be abreast of what is happening in the world – especially ‘my’ world.

One of the first things to hit my eye was an email message titled ‘How sad.” I felt my heart skip a beat. The two words were both cryptic and powerful. Something bad had happened overnight. My first thought was, especially after the Inauguration hoopla yesterday, was that something evil had happened to the Obamas, God forbid.

But, it was closer to home. Somebody had died. A friend. A friend not so very much older than I. This guy was also a politician. In fact, he was a high-ranking politician in BC government and was, in fact, a long-time member of cabinet.

So, I knew him as a politician. He was a good one who served his constituents well. Sometimes I agreed with him politically and other times, contrarian that I am, I thoroughly disagreed with him and couldn’t support certain stances that he assumed. That’s OK. He understood, that is in the nature of the political racket. I am cynical about politicians and politics. This fellow, on the other hand, lived and breathed the game.

But, my acquaintanceship with him, and unbeknownst to many others, was also at a much deeper level. At a time of unremitting personal woes more than a dozen years ago, this man reached out to me in friendship and support. He didn’t need to. He had nothing to gain by so-doing. His gesture was unexpected, and that is the best sort of gesture. It is also the mark of a genuine caring human being. I cherished what he did, and cherished the words he expressed to me. Indeed, they gave me more hope than a lot of the hollow platitudes that were passed my way at the time.

I have never forgotten what he did, and never shall. When friends and acquaintances would speak with disdain of something he had or hadn’t done as a politician, I would always say: “He was very good to me at a bad time in my life, and that really counts a great deal.”

And now he’s dead. Just like that. Massive heart attack took him out very quickly. That, in itself, is good.

His death isn’t. Right now I am trying to get my head around it. Throws a fellow’s other plans for the day all to hell.


Monday, January 19, 2009

Enraptured by raptors and an award, too

Who's a pretty boy, then?

I have a number of bird feeders in the back yard. During the cold months I like to see the little guys well-stoked on foodstuffs otherwise they die of hypothermia if they can’t get sufficient provender.

I also have the feeders because I like to watch all the little sparrows, chickadees, juncos, towhees, house finches Stellar’s jays and so forth as they flutter around the feeders and the alphas battle the betas for dominance. Finally, I have the feeders in hopes of attracting something rarer than the commonplace. And, I’ve had a few, a lazuli bunting, a few semi-resident flickers, and even a pileated woodpecker.

Yesterday I got a prize.

I was sitting reading in the living room in the mid-afternoon when something caught the corner of my eye. I looked over towards the grape arbor outside the dining room window, and there he was: A large and amazingly impressive Cooper’s Hawk. He was a magnificent specimen.

Hey, I thought, the feeders do double duty. They feed the little birdies in the cold months and, aha, they also act as bait! Trolling raptors can come and scope the scene and then take their pick. Nature in the raw is much more difficult than this setting out of an avian smorgasbord.

I suppose part of my problem in this regard is that I really like the esthetics of raptors. Bloodthirsty carnivores they might be, but they look so magnificent and they’re such astute killing machines.

I like them all, and like them more because I know that they, like all big predators, are threatened. Raptors are among the smartest of our avian fauna and are also possessed of amazing instincts and eyesight. Fortunately, living where I do, they are around in abundance, though the Cooper’s Hawk was a rare treat. Our regular visiting hawks are the little and very pretty sparrow hawks, also known as the American Kestrel.

But, what we mainly have is eagles. Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles as common as sparrows and so ubiquitous that we rarely look when they are aloft above one unless they are doing something dramatic, like being engaged in alpha male conflict with another of the species.

So, sorry, little birdies, but I have to make room for the hawks, too.

On an unrelated topic, I got an award. And it shows cute li'l penguins rather than big, mean predators. It was given to me by the wonderful, creative and very courageous and sometimes heroic Diane at Merely Me. She said very flattering things about me and I am not vain enough to repeat them here (you’ll have to check her blog if you are curious.)

In fact, check her blog, anyway. It is brilliant and it shows how one very gutsy broad deals with things that would make many of us just fold our tents rather than offering excellent life hints for others who suffer from assorted afflictions. So, knowing some of her realities, I feel doubly-honored to get an award from her.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Girls gone mild

This recession is cutting deep into the well-being of many people in contemporary society and it comes to light that even the paparazzi are suffering and that layoffs are imminent for the slimy camera wielders. That’s just not right and for that we can only blame the subjects.

To the professional Hollywood slutbunnies all I can say is, come on, people, folk are trying to make a living out there and you, in your normal self-indulgent and heedless ways are doing your level best to make things tougher.

Take a look at the horrors that are abroad with certain broads and you will see what I mean:

For the last six months Britney has only removed her undies in private like the rest of us do. No leering camera fodder in her limo exits these days.

Paris is continuing to be moronic and wasteful, but she is doing it fully clothed and if she is coiting anybody you’re not going to find documentation on Youtube.

Amy Winehouse (the only one of the crew with discernable talent, and she has a lot of it) has supposedly shunned drugs and is trying to heal, so no more topless antics in the streets of Chelsea at 3 a.m.

Lindsay is still kind of carrying on. But, she is professing sometimes that she is gay (a kind of Ann Heche situational gayness maybe) and is in a committed relationship, and sometimes she isn’t. Who cares? Probably somebody.

There is some sort of child person name Miley Cyrus who is about nine, I think, and is of absolutely no interest to anybody with a lick of taste or maturity. She is, I believe, the rather pedestrian looking daughter of the Achy-breaky Heart guy. Nuff sed?

No, it’s the mainstream bimbos who are letting us and the economy down. Britney, Paris and Lindsay, come on girls. Get drunk, throw panties aside and screw like there’s no tomorrow and you will do more for the state of international finance than any bailout will do.

You’ll also do a great deal for all the “I may be bad but I’m better than that trash” people who glean the supermarket checkout for smutty tab stories. In other words, what are those aforementioned tabs going to write about other than Oprah’s weight woes and whether or not Laura is chucking 'Dubbya' out this week for boozing and fornication? Boring. Yetm one discarding of her Haines for Hers by any of the babes can keep these mags from going under.

And think of the plight of poor old Perez Hilton. How long is he going to be able to survive trotting out bite-after-bite on sinewy and obnoxious Madonna, willowy patrician but utter bore Gwynneth, or the even more tiresome ‘Brangelina’ co-creature, with whom Perez seems to be inexplicably in love and assumes everybody else is? As for Tom Cruise tittle-tattle, well everybody thinks he’s nuts and nobody cares.

But, the point is, babes, if Perez goes under, so goes much of the mindless gossip industry. Then what happens to the economy of a society whose cultural interests sometimes seem to run no deeper than the wit and wisdom of Adam Sandler? How on earth else can we otherwise explain the fact that the execrable (un)funnyman Howie Mandel has not only one, but now ‘two’ TV shows?

Get out there and doff nether garments for the sake of the economy, I say, and give Perez a reason to go on living while you’re at it.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Treat your children well

I don’t mean to be a hardass about this.

Wait a minute, yes I do. I do despite the fact then sentiments I will express will fly in the face of whatever libertarian impulses I might hold. Impulses that suggest that the state should fuck off out of interfering in people’s life as much as it does.

But, I have to say this.

I think the state should seize all children living in drug-addicted or alcoholic homes in which no attempt at rehab has been undertaken.

This isn’t a new thought for me, but it is one that came back the other day when I learned that a client had lost custody of her daughter to the child’s father.

Now, Mom is a very pretty and stylish woman in her early 30s. She is bright and very articulate and looks like a model – which she has been at times. She has a little girl, and mother and daughter are thoroughly devoted to each other.

Sounds OK, no?

Except for one thing. Mom is a crackhead and has been for many years and, as is the case with drug use, her centre is beginning to fly apart. More recently the child’s father had applied for custody of the kid, citing what he regarded as an unsafe home environment.

In that, he would be right. In the home would come dope dealers. To call dope-dealers unsavoury sorts would be to state the case mildly. Yet the child lives in that home. How Mom gets the money to pay for her substance, I don’t really want to ask. Yet, the daughter lives in that house. Mom, sometimes out of it (probably oftimes out of it, since drug users are ‘always’ liars) doesn’t get out of the sack on time to get child to school. School complains. Yet the child continued to live in that house.

Until Dad and the courts intervened. They found that Mom had not been vigilant in working on herself in terms of keeping counselling appointments and she, like Amy Winehouse, categorically refused to go to rehab. Client actually didn’t even bother to get a lawyer, believing (for some remarkably idiotic reason) the court would find in her favor.

It didn’t.

I’m glad it didn’t. Maybe this will be the two-by-four to the head she needs. Maybe this will knock her out of denial. Or maybe it won’t.

I do feel bad for her because I like her. But I am also happy for the kid, because she will be away from the insanity that drug addiction invariably brings about.

So I say, if a home is a threatening situation for a child, then the child should be removed until parents can get a grip on their personal demons and take charge of their lives. Until they can take charge of their own lives, they have lost the right to be in charge of the lives of vulnerable youngsters.

In this I don’t just include drug houses, but also alcoholic houses. I grew up with an alcoholic parent. Mom was a subtle lush and never beat us or was overtly cruel. But, the inner cruelty stemmed from emotional neglect and loss of trust by children.

That causes mucho damage. My brother and I have worked diligently throughout the years, and not always successfully, to surmount the damage done. We’ve both made it, but it took a lot of work and also took a toll not only on us, but on those we loved. Bro and I have five marriages between us, and there are only two of us. It shouldn't have been like this. The third brother never has picked himself up from the emotional morass and has remained a highly dysfunctional human being throughout his life.

When I was a boy we used to drive past an orphanage on the way to my grandfather’s house. I would see the children at play on the grounds of the orphanage. They looked like they were having fun. I kind of envied them, in truth.

That kind of gives you an idea of what I mean. Children in addicted homes are cheated, and ultimately society pays the cost of that.

OK, next blog will be light-hearted, I promise.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


As follows is a series of five questions posed to me by Down Under blogger Meggie at Life's Free Treats. If you would like to be interviewed too, it's quite simple. Just do the following and I will custom design questions for you. Here are the steps:

1.Send me an email or a comment saying ‘interview me’.
2.I will then email you five questions that I choose.
3.You can then answer them on your blog.
4.You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you or comments that they want to be interviewed.

Here are my Five from Meggie:

1. Who, or what, from your childhood can you look back on with fondness, or happiness?

My maternal grandparents especially, both of whom I adored and felt closer to than my parents. I was also very fond of, and as I got older, closer to my paternal grandfather. Assorted aunts and uncles also meant a great deal to me.

2. I know you have an old dearly loved cat, who may not be too much longer for this life. Will you get another cat, once you dear old pal is gone? Or would you consider a dog, & if so what type? Or both?

I got my cat, Griffin, when I was ‘between marriages’. I wanted some sort of companionship because I didn’t want to rush headlong into a relationship at that time. Anyway, if a relationship with a cat goes awry it's much less expensive than if a marriage does, beliee me. So, that was back in early 1997 that I ‘adopted’ him. I was told that he was six or seven at the time, yet he is still going strong. It is going to be a shock when he goes, I realize. I had never truly ‘bonded’ with a cat before him because I had always been a dog person. I still miss my old border collie, Murphy, who was a wonderful companion and terribly clever. As for the future, we’ll probably get something. Wendy would like to have a dog, as she has never been a dog owner before. We shall just wait and see.

3. Apart from Hawaii, is there anywhere else you would love to spend huge chunks of time?

Well, we loved the Cook Islands when we visited there early in the decade, and would certainly go back. I love the tropics and Polynesian attitudes. But, because of their size, I found Rarotonga, for example, limiting. I also love the south of France, southwest England (and I lived in the UK for a year and feel very at home there), the west coast of Ireland (a ‘terrible beauty’ indeed), and southern California, especially San Diego and the desert around Palm Springs. The coast of Oregon is pretty darn nice, too, but quite similar to the coast of BC. I like change when I travel.

4. I know you love to write. Is there any other job, or employment that has given as much satisfaction?

Probably addictions counselling. I am not even sure why and in a way it ties in with writing in the sense I like to hear people’s stories. If I can give them any actual help, so much the better. I think I am an effective counsellor, so it doesn’t come too difficult for me. Years ago, when I was a secondary teacher, I loved the teaching part and the young people, but I detested the politics and bureaucracy of the job. I decided life was too short to keep compromising what I believed in.

5. This may seem flippant, but is there anything about your physical self that you would want to change? Don’t get me wrong, here, you look perfectly fine to me, but we don’t always see ourselves as others do.

I would like to be 6-foot-2 (I’m 5/9) and would like to look just like Cary Grant (I do have the same hairline) and have his charm. An interviewer once said to CG, “I always wanted to be just like Cary Grant.” Grant replied, “So did I.” But seriously, I am generally pleased with what I have and in my life I haven’t really jarred too many people (either male or female, with females counting more for obvious reasons) with my appearance. I’d like to be a little trimmer at the waistline, but wouldn’t we all?

So, that is me in a nutshell.


Monday, January 12, 2009

'Wot'll yer 'ave, my luv?

I wrote the following piece a number of years ago for a UK paper when I lived in England for a year and it is my homage to a wonderful Brit institution. It was written back in the days when I still partook of their offered elixirs of malt and hops. I haven't so done for many years now, but I still respect the institution for what it means and offers and felt it deserved a revisit. I hope you enjoy. When I was last in England in 2006 I actually went back to my local just to see what it felt like to revisit the place. The experience was a bit like a timewarp and the barmaid who poured Wendy's Adnam's Bitter and my Coke was likely not born when this was written the first time. But, even with a clear head, the visit was a delight.

If we were to get our priorities right, we would do away with psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, group therapists and others in the ‘healing’ trades, and replace them with genuine English barmaids. At least those genuine English barmaids of my recall.

An understanding that recently came to me was that a couple of blissful hours at the pub can do more to relieve the cumulative pressures of a day or a lifetime than any hundred psychoanalytical breast-beatings and primal screams. And the beer was only a minor part of the therapy.

Like royalty, dog-racing, stiff-upper-lips and page three girls of certain newspapers, the buxom barmaid is a traditional and distinctly English institution. Other nations, including Canada may have comely lasses purveying potations behind the beer taps, but hey are pale colonial imitations of the real thing.

The true barmaid (at least as she was, and I presume still is) is a combination Wife of Bath and Sigmund Freud, with a liberal dollop of Dolly Parton thrown in. From the good Wife we get the life-experience, from Freud, the understanding, and from Dolly the sense-of-humor and the bodacious cleavage. There is no question that the cleavage and that which makes the cleavage are both essential. All barmaids from eighteen to sixty-five have cleavages. But, the cleavage should not, and indeed must not be construed lewdly. It is merely part of a general bearing that suggests the ideal blending of the bountiful earth-mother with the subtle eroticism of that which may be admired but not touched. Sort of a vestal Dolly Parton.

That is not to say that barmaids are never ‘touched’ in their private domains, but it would be construed as a frightful breach of form to make such an attempt while she is in the line of duty. She belongs to all patrons, friend and stranger alike, when she is working. Even barmaids' husbands and boyfriends are cognizant that they are no more important than any other customer who is ordering a drink and hoping for a kind word.

I recall a pub I recently visited in Exeter and it provided the perfect example of a barmaid who understood her role perfectly. I was a stranger to the house, having just arrived from a road trip. The few other guests on this chilly February evening appeared to be regulars. As I approached the bar I noticed that the barmaid -- a pneumatically vivacious and very pretty thirty-ish lady called Mandy -- was being chatted up by a patron who was devoting his time to caressing her hand as he chatted with her. He had the appearance of a traveling salesman, bad suit and surfeits of lonely drinks over the years. Mandy was smiling tolerantly, appearing to be listening to his tales, and granting him the time because nobody else was at the bar

I approached, and as I opened my mouth to give my order, Mandy smiled at me and asked, "Would you like to hold the other hand?"

You see, even though it was the first time I had ever paid a call to that particular hostelry she was not about to have me feel that I wouldn't get the same service as anybody else. Needless to say, I graciously accepted her kind offer.

So, there you have it. Even though she will not sing for you or give you a bath -- at least not in the pubs I have visited -- the role of the English barmaid is not unlike that of the geisha. Her duty is to make the paying customer feel that for those few moments that it takes for her to draw his pint that he is the only person in her life, and she will see to it that he is well cared for. As she chats she will refer to the customer as "love," or "dear," or, in ever-to-be-savored instances as "my love" or "my darling." Could such personalized, even possessive endearments mean that you are uniquely special to her? Was there not a hidden message that flashed from her eyes to yours at that moment? The answer is negative to both queries.

She will move on to the next customer and verbally fondle him in exactly the same way. But, such is her expertise at her trade you will finish your drink and go home firmly convinced that there indeed was a special frisson happening and that you now have a warm little secret tucked in your pounding heart.

If you avail yourself of her services often enough, you may be able to
throw away your pills and get out of group therapy, because your ego will be bolstered and your loneliness abated. You will not feel the need to go up on the roof and spray the street with an automatic rifle because everyone you've ever known in you life has rejected you; for just that very night a barmaid has called you "my love."


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Or, I could just bang on the drum all day

“Are you one of those guys who plans to work until he’s 80?” asked a friend the other day. She asked because I told her I wouldn’t be able to meet her for coffee the following day because I had to work. As to her entreaty, I suggested that if she would like to lay some huge sums of money upon me I would happily retire tomorrow – I think.

So, I still work. Albeit on a part-time basis, and that is reality. The people of my age who don’t work are those ‘elites’ like politicians and bureaucrats who take full-advantage of an odd dichotomy in our society that deems that some – in the employ of the government, hence those who make the rules – are worthy of handsome pensions. Others, like the rest of us, are scum and unworthy of public purse supplements. We only get to pay for those pensions for the elite via our taxes.

About that two-tiered society, all I can say is WTF? How did that come about? How was it deemed that a collection of drones who probably don’t provide so very much get to spend their later years in luxury?

Oh, don t worry about it. I’m not bitter. I mean, when I got divorced the first time I was fully entitled to attach half my schoolteacher wife’s pension (she retired at 55, BTW), but pride forced me to refrain.

God, I’m a noble bastard.

Since my second wife had scarcely a pot in which to wee there was nothing I could attach from her. In fact, she still owes me, but that would be quibbling on my part. See ‘noble bastard’ reference.

Whew, now that I have that off my chest, let’s go back to the whole retirement thing. On this particular day, February 8th, 2009, I am too young to be retired, and have nothing but contempt and pity – yes, pity – for those who embrace that Freedom 55 myth. You people have lots of talent and education and if your health is good, get your asses out there and do something useful. Wandering a golf course all day, every day, just to put in time until Happy Hour does not qualify as useful.

Am I disparaging these people? You bet I am. I have the right. It’s my blog and I don’t get one of those big pensions.

I used to have investments for my ‘golden years’. I mean, I still do, but I’m afraid to ask what they look like. So, I still work at both counseling and freelancing, and frankly, I like it. Part time gives me freedom to work on my own stuff and, considering the state of the economy, Wendy and I are still swimming in good fortune -- as long as she keeps working, that is. But, she's a whole lot younger than I am, so you see that was part of my retirement plan, too. I didn't suggest I was 'completely' noble.

Yes, that is the truth. I am either very warped or utterly conditioned, but I like suiting up and getting out once in a while. It keeps me vital. And, the fact that there are those who still believe I have marketable skills – and I do – validates me.

I don’t mean to disparage all of those who get those big, fat %$#@&& princely government pensions. I know of people, and respect them hugely, who have taken those pension bucks and run off, no not to the south of France or Tahiti, but to Africa and other third world spots and are giving of themselves unstintingly to better the lives of those in need. One woman I know (and I think she and her husband should be sainted, and could be since they’re both good Catholics) uses her retirement resources and her husbands Air Force pension to finance her work in orphanages in Romania and the Ukraine. She is in her mid-70s.

What I do mean is that life is not over at a certain age, so I, as long as health permits, will be happy to do a bit of work. I also want the freedom to also head off to the south of France, should finances permit. God, that big pension would sure help there.

So, back to my friend; she suggested that she too would likely be working until she was 80 then, when she retires, we’d finally be free to have coffee whenever we chose.

“You’re 20 years younger than I am,” I said. “Will you help me get to the coffee joint? Provided I’m not still working, that is.”


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My views on the 'dubious' year just past

Every year for probably the last 20 the newspapers for which I have worked have exhorted me – ‘exhorted’, I tell you – to do my annual Dubious Achievement Awards article. And now, even though I no longer work as a regular newspaper employee, the request is still there.

I don’t mind. It earns me a few bucks, keeps my hand in, and allows me a curmudgeonly venting that maintains my sanity. So, without further ado, here are my ponderings about the year 2008. Of course, even the title is a blatant rip-off of the long-running Esquire Magazine feature that used to come out each January, and of which I was very fond. But, I assure you that all that follows is original. A lot of it is local and a lot Canadian, but I also attempt to go international with it, always. I hope you enjoy.

The following appeared in the Comox Valley Echo edition of Jan. 2, 2009.

Whew – what a year it has been! It started out well enough, but by the end of 2008 most people didn’t know if the finale was a bang or a whimper. Whatever the case, it wasn’t good, and whimpers can sometimes hurt more than bangs.

In that sense the Comox Valley building bubble was showing signs of stress by year-end, and economic woes were hitting the forest industry in all its manifestations. This is not welcome news for the community since the forest sector is one of the few employment options that had, heretofore, paid anything much above minimum wage in a community that doesn’t offer too many options for those who want to be gainfully employed and to earn enough to actually continue to live here.

But, to not dwell on the negative we still have been blessed with sufficient jesters and jackanapeses in the public realm to both infuriate and also to keep us amused. To be fair, some of those who direct our lives are as much victims of circumstance as the rest of us, but others deserve their lumps and we are happy to accord them in the 2008 version of the Comox Valley Echo’s annual Dubious Achievement Awards. Enjoy.

Boys (and girls) in the ‘Hood

God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board. (Mark Twain): It was not a year that ended well for the Comox Valley’s school board. It should have been obvious to all the trustees who embraced so-called reconfiguration and the closing of schools that hubris and ‘motherhood’ do not mix easily. May all the turfed trustees go on to bigger, better and ‘different’ things in their desire to serve their community.

Comox Valley: “Land of Plenty”: Turned out that some of our plenitude included ‘plenty of homeless folk’ in disproportionate numbers for a community this size. To give credit where it is due, however, a vast array of caring residents mounted an extensive homelessness survey, to which erstwhile Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester lent her name, with a desire to ‘do something’ that might allow us to live up to that motto. A recent check in, however, indicated that no municipality has yet coughed up some land to actually build some low-cost housing. Talk and studies are easy, but the problem persists.

The times they are a-changin’: Some long-time Comox Valley politicians were cast out by the voters in November, including Courtenay Mayor Starr Winchester, RD rep Barbara Price, and some former politicians tried for a comeback, such as Dennis Strand in Comox and Don Davis in the same community, as well as Norm Reynolds and Erik Eriksson in Courtenay and Rick Grinham in Cumberland, but learned there sometimes are no second acts. But, maybe more importantly, some politicians didn’t get chucked out even though their ouster might have pleased many.

Some are just more dubious than others:
Thine and mine insurance company, ICBC, was pilloried for running what was, in effect, a chop-shop as a sidebar business. This is a practice that is deemed illegal in most quarters. So, the corporation fired a bunch of the perps, but also gave them big fat severance packages due to their (huh?) “dismissal without cause.”
Beastly Ferries: Aside from the Queen of the North debacle, which may or may not see any genuine blame levelled before the end of this century, there were the fare hikes, which rendered Vancouver Islanders virtual prisoners on this here rock. Then it was discovered that diminished numbers were actually riding the barges, so the fares declined – slightly.
VIHA, which seems to operate under the premise of “why not continue to give the public what it ‘doesn’t’ want; why break stride? Oh, that and the sensitive idea of distributing crack pipe mouthpieces to those poor souls suffering in Nanaimo. Without consulting Nanaimo itself about the matter, it might be added. Just don’t be giving those whining diabetics free needles, on the other hand.

Not the Everly Brothers, either: Just to clarify, Comox councillors Tom and Ken Grant are not the same person. If the ‘clothesline’ issue comes up again in council then scrupulous identifications will be vital.

Where are they now? Comox Valley MLA Stan Hagen is currently Minister of Agriculture and Lands, just in case you’d lost sight of where he was without a scorecard.

Déjà vu all over again: John Duncan was returned as MP for this riding. See Hagen and scorecard.

My Baby Takes the Morning Train: Actually, if my baby could take a ‘morning’ train the E&N might be put to even more practical use. However, the morning train leaves Victoria, arrives in Courtenay at 1-ish, and then carries folk south to Victoria just in time for all businesses and offices to be closing for the day. Oh, and the BC government has ordered a ‘study’ of the viability of the line. Don’t hold your collective breath. Bureaucratic studies take a while to prove something isn’t viable. We demand that they do find it viable. We loves us our little train.

Beyond the ‘Hood

Phew! Just when the motoring public was heading out to acquire torches and pitchforks from Canadian Tire after the Premier announced his (to the delight of drivers of overpriced hybrids and Greens who wanted to see somebody on their side who was actually in office) much-reviled gas tax, the insanely inflated price-fixed tabs at the pumps began to decline. Maybe that will save the day come spring, although the collapse of the forest industry just might sting a bit.

But, with an ally like this, who needs a platform? Gordo’s best friend in public office is the amazingly unprepared Carole James. If he can’t beat her, with her assorted gaffes and bits of illogic, he doesn’t deserve to win at all. We can be sure the NDP leader is a very nice lady. Margaret Thatcher, on the other hand, wasn’t a very nice lady, but she did have actual leadership skills. Ms. James is, well, just nice and a virtual guarantee that the prov-Libs, as lacklustre as they’ve been in this last term, will likely squeak in.

The Dick Cheney school of PR: 2010 Olympics Grand Potentate John Furlong suggests that Vancouver simply close shop while the Olympics are on so that visitors to the games won’t be interfered with in their movements. That’s right, take a few days off work in a recessionary time to accommodate those who are coming to an event that 98.4 per cent of the people who will end up paying the bills when they are over couldn’t possibly afford to attend. By the way, tickets are selling for a fortune on EBay

Way Beyond the ‘Hood

So, the Vladimir Putin School of Human Resources Training Program didn’t quite work out: Canada’s recently re-elected Tory PM, Stephen Harper was not seen as Mr. Congeniality, especially by adherents to political parties that have little credibility this side of Thunder Bay. Many Westerners, on the other hand, are inclined to refer to Mr. Aloof as ‘Cuddles.’ Possibly humbled by the attempted coup, it may be that Harper has come to appreciate the folly of prodding a bear with a sharp stick.

So near, Smilin’ Jack; so near and yet still so damn far: Jack Layton really thought he would finally have his one (and likely only) shot at sitting in Cabinet with the enthusiastically-embraced Coup, pardon, Coalition concept. You know, the one he sucker-punched Stephane Dion into endorsing. Needless to say, Dion crony (sorta) Bob Rae showed his good NDP roots (all the while pretending to be a Grit) by practically wetting himself in his enthusiasm for the concept. Iggy? Not so much.

Stephane we hardly knew ye: Bizarre choice Liberal candidate polled fewer votes than most Rhino candidates did in times past during the last election. Grey in demeanor and professorially aloof in manner and a testament to the fact that lack of bilingual skills works both ways in this country. Of the Grits, one can only be moved to ask: What were they thinking? What country did they think this was?

I like McCain French Fries: But, McCain Presidential Candidate, not so much. The old warhorse fought the good fight but made a series of lethal miscalculations. The worst of which, of course, is deciding to find a female running mate who just might attract the distaff voters who would have voted for Hillary. So, he chose unarguable hottie and inarticulate reactionary beanbrain Sarah Palin. Huh? Now, Sarah did attract some voters, but not liberal-leaning females, but reactionary redneck males who, when they saw Sarah, immediately began thinking not with the teeny brains they were given, but with quite another brain.

Barack can walk upon water, I tell you!: Well, maybe not, but he is testament to the fact that people can set aside their prejudices and just maybe, just maybe, vote for the best candidate. After eight years of pillorying the Americans for their appalling former presidential choice, smug Canadians might want to take a look at the bozos at our helm and question just what we might be doing wrong.

Happy 2009!


Monday, January 05, 2009

What a difference a mere century makes

What a difference a century makes. This piece was recently sent to me and was originally designed to mark the centenary of the Model-T Ford, which first rolled down the line in 1908 and changed everything. I’ve added a few editorial comments of my own.

Not that the Tin Lizzie was the first automobile as such – they’d been around for more than a decade – but it was the first ‘everyman’ car and as such inspired other manufacturers to produce equally inexpensive conveyances.

So, what was life like back in the day of that first Model T. Mainly what it was like was amazingly different from what we have come to accept as being the norm in our society.

So, taking a look at 1908 – and it serves well to remember there are people still walking the planet who were actually around at that time – what did it look like?

In North America:

The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

In the US there were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower.

The average wage in 1908 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2,000 per year, A dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at home

Ninety percent of all doctors had no college education. (but they did make house calls). Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press and the government as 'substandard. '

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month (eww), and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo. Imagine what that smelled like by the end of the month. Don’t think I’d want to be doing much hair nuzzling.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country for any reason. (I believe there are people who yearn for such a thing to return, alas – screw them old huddled masses. Anyway, that Statue of Liberty sentiment was in the US)

Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza
2. Tuberculosis
3. Diarrhea
4. Heart disease
5. Stroke
The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas was only 30. Lots of room at the Blackjack tables and no Celine Dion, as far as we know.

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, 'Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health.'

Of course, considering the fact that dental care was brutal and inept a body can understand why hard drugs had a certain appeal.

And, while on the topic, people – men especially – consumed much more alcohol per capita than is consumed today despite handwringing over alcohol abuse. Indeed pre-prohibition boozing levels have never been approached since repeal.

On the other hand, there were no rehabs and no AA.

Eighteen percent of households had at least one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the entire US. Today a death toll of 230 would represent a slow weekend.

People actually wrote letters rather than emailing.

Women could not vote and wouldn’t be able to for another decade.

Jim Crow laws were fully in effect, and not just in the South.

Property developers reserved the right to be exclusionist in terms of race or creed.

There was no genuinely effective birth control other than abstention.

Only the rich traveled and the average person lived his or her life in the town of birth and many in their lifetimes journeyed no more than 50 miles from home.
On the whole, I think I'd rather stick with what we have now. As screwed up as we are, at least we have a little more comfort.


Friday, January 02, 2009

That was the year that was -- it's over, let it pass

Is it Tina or Sarah?

The year has come and gone and it behooves me to consider what the preceding year meant. Actually, I lifted this from blogger Me and included some of my own thoughts, for what they’re worth. It’s kind of a fun little exercise if you want to give it a shot.

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before? Had an ultrasound. They’re not as much fun as they’re cracked up to be.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? As I said before, I do ‘intentions’ not resolutions, and I realized that I had attained three in 2008. Well, 3 ½ to be precise.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not that I am aware of, and if so it definitely wasn’t mine.
4. Did anyone close to you die? An increasing array each passing year with two valued, albeit older, friends shuffling off this mortal coil.
5. What countries did you visit? The United States or, as I like to call it, the Great Kingdom of Hawaii where Queen Liliukalani. rests with Pele throughout eternity. Aloha Oe’
6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? To have gone back in time by a year, like Benjamin Button as long as that wish doesn’t mean I have to be saddled with Angelina and the brats – well maybe her alone for an afternoon and evening.
7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? June 20 when I had my health scare incident and Sept. 5 when we took off for and landed on Kauai for 10 days.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Going back to my addictions counseling career on a part-time basis and realizing I still had the skills and actually could get a great deal out of doing it for others.
9. What was your biggest failure? I had none. No, I lie. I haven’t yet entirely quit smoking, although my intake is minuscule and diminishing all the time. This is my quest for 09.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Yes, as indicated. Awakening with a completely numb and useless hand is a frightening thing. Fortunately it passed with no residual after-effects.
11. What was the best thing you bought? Nothing really noteworthy was purchased. I’m kind of proud of that. Oh, well except for the trip to Kauai.
12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My own for taking proactive control of my health. And Wendy for proving the true meaning of ‘helpmate’ in a time of duress.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? The bastards who pass themselves off as political leaders in this country.
14. Where did most of your money go? Paying bills to keep solvent.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Wendy moving back home full-time from Victoria. Was a wonderful thing.
16. What song will always remind you of 2008? Probably Fiest’s 1-2-3-4. Not because it’s a great song, it’s just kinda cute and stuck itself in my mind for a while.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:a) happier or sadder? Happier.b) thinner or fatter? Thinner c) richer or poorer? Financially better off (for now).
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Made love, but I always wish that. Life is short.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Smoking.
20. How did you spend Christmas? A quiet Christmas at home with no fuss, no muss and it was peaceful and serene.
21. Did you fall in love in 2008? I must always be in love.
22. What was your favorite TV program? Probably 30-Rock. And especially that for wonderful Tina Fey who, with no shame, has admitted she was a virgin until age 25.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Nah, I don’t do hate, just detestation.
24. What was the best book you read? I read so many that I cannot narrow it down.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery? Not much in the way of discovery. Contemporary music continues to deteriorate hideously and I keep wondering what has happened to female vocalists (not wailers). But, if you haven’t happened upon screwed up Amy Winehouse, give yourself a musical treat be cause she is remarkably good, and just hope the stupid girl gets well rather than killing herself.
26. What did you want and get? For Wendy to stop having to do the Victoria commute.
27. What did you want and not get? Soaring investments rather than the opposite.
28. What was your favorite film of this year? I do videos not new films. Once the films of this year are out on video I shall let you know.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?Nothing I recall and I’ll only say that I am old enough and not yet too old.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? A month rather than just 10 days on Kauai.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? One of general disregard other than to dress appropriately for the occasion. A sweatshirt and jeans do not do it for a funeral, slobs. Show some respect. Otherwise I don’t follow fashion fads but love classics.
32. What kept you sane? Letting go as much as I could.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Maybe this should read: which celebrity/public figure repulsed me the least.
34. What political issue stirred you the most? Probably the US presidential election and the victory of Obama.
35. Who did you miss? Those that have passed beyond this sphere.
36. Who was the best new person you met? Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside sawbones and compassion guru, Dr. Gabor Mate.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. It’s a good life if you don’t weaken, as my Cockney landlady used to say back in Great Yarmouth in 1980.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometimes, you just might find,
You get what you need.”