On my last trip south I learned that I had a tumour in my bladder. Yes, you can call that a “piss-off.” I’m getting used to being sliced and diced in the name of medicine so it’s more of an inconvenience that something to worry about. I went to the lab in the Bella Bella for some routine pre-op samplings and we discovered that once again I have tachycardia. I know I’m a tacky fellow but this is ridiculous. For the second time this year my pulse has set itself up around 140. The cure is a procedure called a Cardioversion. Essentially you are electrocuted and resuscitated successfully. Hopefully the heart rate is reduced to a normal thumpalong and life goes on after the reboot. That’s why I’m sitting in a hotel room in North Vancouver. Actually the Lonsdale Quay Hotel sits atop the public market and is a lovely, affordable hideaway in the heart of the mess which Vancouver has become. It seems weird to be here after sitting in the Bella Bella terminal, such as it is, barely three hours ago. The raucous laughter of the local women working behind the ticket counter surged while really good blues music boomed out of the coffee bar satellite stereo. They’re still there, now I’m here. I was amazed to realize that while I waited in the air terminal of the remote village of Bella Coola I was emailing to and from contacts in Scotland, Arizona, Nanaimo and South Africa, all within seconds. What an amazing world we have in our hands, if only we would learn to be more positive with it.
I’m no city boy. Vancouver has risen from a somewhat quaint city to a sprawlng steel and concrete monster with none of the personality I recall it once having had. Combine that neo-chrominess gleam and harshness with zero-minus temperatures the place has become like a metal dog bone. How people live here amazes me. I’m sure they’d feel the same way about seeing my boat frozen in at the dock in Shearwater. In the three hours of travel from the mid-coast rain forest I’m on a different planet. The flight from Bella Bella arrives at the south terminal of YVR. A direct flight takes less than two hours. My flight was via Campbell River presumably to round up the load with more passengers. For some God-stupid reason everyone flying out of Campbell River has go through airport security. That means get off the plane with all your baggage and be inspected by a squad of geriatric goons wearing latex gloves. Then tyou get back on the same plane. “Ziss ischt ze border to ze real vorld.” WTF? There are no security checks on a direct flight to YVR.
It is the goofiest thing I’ve ever experienced. A flight to Vancouver is in domestic airspace and why US Homeland Insecurity is this far-reaching completely baffles me. One’s person and one’s possessions are x-rayed. Belt buckles and keys, laptops ecetera are fondled, drinking water dumped out, shaving kits swabbed. Geez Louise! I beginning to brace for rectal probes, DNA swabs and a thorough dog-sniffing. This, on previous inspections here, was accomplished by burly Amazons hurling commands in Eastern European accents. If I’m a bit non-plussed, you should hear the indignations from Amurican travellers caught in this foolishness. Some hefty corn and pork-fed hombre, probably named Duane, with an Iowa accent, crossed his arms and whined “Wots with all this shit anyhoww?” Last time I looked, Campbell River is not spiked to the world map anywhere near Islamabad or Kabul. I find it hard to believe that the friendly town is a nest for ISIS, El Quaida or the Taliban. Paranoia and politics have no bounds and I’ve learned not to voice any questions when being processed like a sheep. “Jus’ shaddup Lil’ Pokey and get back on the plane. They ain’t friendly heah!”
A shuttle bus wafts the traveller to the main YVR terminal where one easily finds the Sky Train connection. For a very modest fee you are rocketed into the heart of the city, the train stopping to accumulate more sardines, between high-G accelerations and stops. I found myself disgorged in the old CPR station which is the hub of all lower mainland transit. I made my way to the Seabus (More fishpacking) for the ride across Burrard Inlet. My hotel looks down on the terminal. As I write I reflect on the mass-movement of urbanites.
World-over they have a perpetual need to push and shove and try to be first in any crowd. “Look you old bugger, that seat is going to same place this one is. Just relax!” Almost all have their heads bent to their texting, music plugs wired into each ear. All this density, all this detachment. Eye contact and smiles apparently frighten most people, but because I am a bit burly, and know how to fluff myself out like an old cock owl, I feel safe to conduct my ongoing survey for my amusement and research. Even a geriatric babushka seems to think a smile may be the foreplay for some indecent assault on one of her massive oaky legs. C’mon now! I know better than to smile at children, I might just be one of those!
At the entrance to the hotel there is a Christmas tree lot where young couples painstakingly select the perfect tree. I’ve spent a lot of time in the forest, and being a logger I wax nostalgic to any coniferous smell, but there is something unique about the aroma of all those cut trees in the crisp winter air. It must be the blend of the different species but that fragrance instantly brings up images of Christmas memories warm and good, dark and painful. I move on quickly.
After occasionally sampling the fare of the only restaurant in the Shearwater / Bella Bella community it is a shock to indulge in a wide choice of ethnic restaurants and pubs. Meals are priced quite reasonably (compared to Shearwater) and the food is very good. You are not ignored if you are a single patron (unlike Shearwater) and the only problem is savouring the aromas of other restaurants once out of the one where you just ate a bellyful. I believe that was a simple essay on the merits of competition. Well, home is where the boat is and I must go back…for the time being.
I’m now writing from my hotel room after two visits to the Lion’s Gate Hospital. Yesterday I had to endure a procedure that required me to endure a phallic object being stuffed down my throat in order to do an ECG of the dark side of my heart. I was semi-medicated. Today I was given the treatment; a Cardioversion. Yes, it was indeed the religious experience that it sounds like. Once again having to dress in a bum-flapper I was wired and plumbed like a fighter jet, all the while a geeky little doctor advised me about “THE RULES ” as he plunged and twisted an intravenous needle into the back of my hand. The broohaw was about how I would get home after the procedure. I walked a mile downhill to the hotel yesterday. Today I was wheel-chaired into a bus, hydraulically loaded aboard and driven down that same mile to a corner nearest the hotel. Landed on the sidewalk, I immediately walked three blocks back up the hill to a pharmacy to have a prescription filled. It felt great! What I really needed was a walk.
I’m grateful to all the good folks at the hospital, who work twelve-hour shifts in those windowless beige and puce chambers filled with moaning, groaning patients. Most seemed to enjoy my attempts at stand-up comedy. There’s nothing like a little comic relief to stir the pot.
One nurse asked me to “Wiggle up in my bed,” then “a little more.” I had some fun with that and discovered who did, and did not, have a sense of humour. To me there is nothing more comforting than a care giver with a sense of humour and nothing more frightening than one with none. Finally it was time for my treatment, the dreaded ‘Cardioversion.”
With a large electrode placed on either top and bottom of my heart, and a light dose of La La juice, there was an instant bolt of lightning in my chest. KA BLAM! Wot a buzz dude! All’s well that ends. My pulse rate is back within the speed limit.
Now I’m resting and waiting for the morning when, hopefully, I can return to Weirdwater. There is a snow storm forecast for Vancouver tonight. The windchill factor where ‘Seafire’ is berthed is predicted to be minus fifteen celsius. The adventure continues and getting ‘Seafire’ south never seemed more hopeless. This is the time that something really good might happen. We just have to hang in there.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.”
….pub signboard downstairs