OOPS

‘Rolano’ lives no more. I posted a photo in a recent blog of this venerable old North Sea beam trawler. She was clearly dying of cancer, too far gone to be rebuilt. There is now a crane on the barge beside her and she is being dismantled. An honourable death for an old work horse and someone’s dream, she did not sink or burn. I wrote a poem about this old girl which I’ll be happy to send on request.

Something in the process of correcting spelling, punctuation errors and typos prevents my twisted brain from seeing them all until after I have posted or submitted a piece of writing. I just e-mailed an application for a writing job and as a sample of travel writing, I provided the copy of a recent blog. It has been out there, floating around in the ether, for several weeks so I could see no point in proof reading it again. But there was one more glitch. Arrrg! Yes, I do use my computer’s spell-checker but how does it catch things like, “It was to wet too burn.” It tries instead to correct things like “I checked my cheque book.” That infuriates me. I am Canadian and I speak English, not Amurican! The computer is set for UK English, not US English so what’s up? ( Nothing personal my dear American friends!) What sort of spell-checker did dudes like Shakespeare use? And texting? OMG! I hate abbreviations. LOL.

In the poem based on my impressions of ‘Rolano’ I describe her old engine as a Petter diesel. Oddly, this past week, I saw this ancient Petter being pulled along by this huge tow truck. It is a very unusual sight. It is twice as heavy as it looks and was once a popular  commercial marine diesel engine. Long-stroked, slow-turning they sounded a lot like their name. “Petter, petter, petter”! I count twelve guides on the pulley at the back. Twelve monster belts drove a generator or a pump. Of course, if a belt broke, it would be the one next to the flywheel.

I watch other folks peck out machine gun-fast text, full of every possible error, then push a button and their think-box corrects everything for them. So far as it knows! But I wonder, if they are too illiterate to even try to exercise correct language skills , is it simply acceptable now to use language which is essentially correct? “The crew landed their jet ten metres from the end of the runway. They were essentially correct.” What about surgeons being essentially correct? Gudnuf! Next! Well, ya know wot I mean.

I recall a story about a kayaker paddling closely to a beach portion of the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. They were in a morning fog. They saw a man walking along the sand and shouted out an inquiry about where they were. A thick German accent replied, “Ya… Canada.” How wonderful it would have been had they retorted, “VAS! Ziss ischt nicht Denmark!?” I once sat in a Vancouver pub with a cousin from the English Midlands. His regional accent is twangy and nasal. He was chatting up a lady at the next table. Her partner, perhaps a bit jealous, said “I know where you’re from, you’re Australian! The response was a flat, “Clouse!” That, in turn, reminds me of an anecdote from a Bill Bryson book. He and his family are checking in for a flight to Austria and the agent says, “Oh wow! I’ve always wanted to go there. I love kangaroos!” Essentially correct. Uhuh!

I read somewhere that all humour is a form (I first typed ‘from’…close!) of sarcasm. Isn’t it wonderful? All I’ll say to close (Two sentences, two words, same spelling, different meanings… it is confusing.) in this particular musing is that if an old bog-trotter like me can take the time and acumen to do my best to get it right, what about the clever people? Language is the foundation of all cultures and if it is slip-sliding away, there are obvious questions.

Leftovers. It appears that much of this year’s bumper blackberry crop goes unharvested. Come winter, the birds will be grateful.
It came in the night. It is the time of year when toadstools, mushrooms and other fungi mysteriously appear. It is always a wonder how such delicate organisms can push their way up through hard, dry dirt.
“The end is nigh”. Leaves which did not do their bit to support the tree are the first to be rejected by the tree. There is a lesson here. “Put up or put out”.

And one more note, which also may be construed as sarcasm. For some reason, Twitter randomly e-mails me headlines. One came recently about a “Straight Rights” parade in Boston and a heavy police presence. Damn, that made me feel good! I am no right-wing nutter (or left for that matter) of any flavour and I am willing to live with whatever other people do…in private. So long as you do not harm children in any way, or for that matter any non-consenting innocent being, that’s your business. If you have a thing for ducks, and you have its consent, then get quacking! But, why the hell do you have to get in the world’s face about your personal intimate preferences. Go about your business with dignity and please, please leave the rest of us boring, normal heterosexuals to do the same. Straight Rights! It’s overdue.

Once, decades ago, I worked as a ranch hand. Ranchers regularly sold their bulls and bought different ones to avoid all the genetic issues of inbreeding. There was a prolonged bull sale each autumn in nearby Kamloops, a central BC interior cow town. We acquired a new bull which, back at the ranch, soon made it clear that his preference was steers, only. This, of course, would neither enhance nor enlarge the herd and old Boris, the Broke Back Black Bull, was soon being prodded back up the auction ramp at the next sale. Yep, there’s not much that’s new.

Another sign. A dry creek bed is littered with fallen alder leaves.
Reach! Maple branches seem to reach away from the afternoon light.

I mentioned my twisted brain earlier. Suddenly out of that echoing abyss, as I wrote the above, came a TV ad from my childhood of over fifty years ago. That’s scary! Two tins of sandwich meat are having a chat. One says, “Say Moo.” The other tin only ever replies, “Oink.” Finally asked why it can’t say Moo, that one can replies, “I guess I just don’t have it in me.” Take that as you will. It may well have been an ad for Spam so far as I can recall but there were several other disgusting meat spreads on the market. I will not eat any to this day and there are times when I have been plenty hungry.

Millions of flat-bellied folks would not understand my reluctance, although in a pinch, I can manage corned beef. That stuff will choke up a lot of palates but there are at least bits which are recognizable as meat even though the rest may be hoofs, horns or beaks. If we think of all the things which humans eat, good grief! Then some of us are disgusted when a dog wants to lick our face! Depends on what we’ve been eating I suppose. There are some types of junk food which old Jack will only allow himself one sniff. The Jack test works for me.

It occurred to me as I write to read the label on the bag of potato chips sitting on the corner of my desk. Ingredients:

potatoes (OK) then canola and/or mid-oleic sunflower oil, seasoning [sugar, salt, corn maltodextrin, inactive yeast, yeast extract, hydrolyzed corn protein, brown sugar, dried onion, natural flavour (including maple-and bacon-type flavour) huh? Caramel colour (Contains sulphites), high oleic sunflower oil, citric acid, spices, spice extracts, calcium silicate, silicon dioxide]. YUM! Where’s the hint of battery acid? We wonder why obesity and cancer are prevalent. During the Irish Potato Famine, some folks chose to starve rather than eat lobster which which commonly used as fertilizer on the fields. “Wot! Eat bugs?” I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

Over, under, or around? Apparently some dog tried to tunnel under this windfall. Jack choose to go around and pondered the excavations.
Afro Cedar. Some hedge-trimmer has a sense of humour. I like it.

Two days ago I sat shirtless in the broiling afternoon sun, reading a book and realizing that this was one of the last days this year in this part of the world that I would feel good doing this. The daylight is shorter each day, the evenings cooler. Let there be goose bumps. The leaves are yellowing and crispy, there is dew in the mornings. As I sit writing this afternoon I realize that I would not be uncomfortable in long pants. In fact, I’ve put them on. It’s chilly. It is time to seriously start a Go South plan and do something about it. Turkey vultures are flocking up, circling together in afternoon thermals and then gliding southward. Living proof, time flies.

How’d this look jacked up with big fat wheels? It is a coveted McLaren 720s. Prices start at $325000. Cdn. A neighbour’s guest parked it behind me. As I backed out, for a moment I forgot it, and almost…. BIG OOPS! Where the hell do you park a King’s ransom?

You do not have to sit out in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.

But the stars themselves neither require nor demand it.”

….Annie Dillard ‘The Abundance’

Groaners

A glittering softness hangs over the stream bed. Water levels are very low this year.
That’s it! An August water level in June.

Nearly everyone knows about Gary Larson’s “Far Side” cartoons. When you mention the man’s name, folks instantly tell you about their favourite one. A former family doctor, when sending files to a specialist, would glue a Larson to the folder. He claimed that file would always end up on top of the pile. After an accident which required major heart surgery, I was able to get near the head of the line-up relatively quickly. Perhaps a Larson cartoon helped save my life!

Down to a trickle.

Half of Larson’s work goes right over my head. I don’t understand it at all. The other ones are indelible. I cannot name a favourite because I have several filed away in my brain. Among them is one about a boy entering the “School For The Gifted” and pushing desperately on a door marked ‘Pull.’

Two dogs have a man on his back while they tickle him and laugh at his twitching leg.

There is one about the “Boneless Chicken Ranch.”

Cows grazing placidly in a field stand on their hind legs until someone shouts “Car coming!” Two old salts sit at a bar and exchange yarns. One with a wooden leg says “Well that’s interesting but let me tell you how I lost this.” His buddy has a wooden peg sticking up from his collar with a sailor’s hat hanging from the top.” The humour is often dark and sarcastic, but then all humour is a form of sarcasm.

Our cartoonists and comedians are among our modern philosophers and Larson is there with the best. One of his works depicts cattle in a long queue which goes up a ramp into the Acme Abattoir. One cow stands at right angles to the line with its head jammed between the tail of the cow in front and the face of the next cow which says, “No cutting in eh!” How’s that for social comment?

Two morgue workers attend a body in a drawer, sheet over it, toe tagged. They are going through the deceased’s pockets. One worker finds a winning lottery ticket. He says,“Lucky stiff.” As you recall one cartoon yet more come to mind.

Humour has been my salvation. Mr Larson has certainly helped sustain me in a few different ways. I’d like to buy him a beer and discover what sort of fellow he is in person. I often employ humour to ease my way through difficult situations and in interactions with other people. If you can make someone laugh, especially yourself, things are going to work out. Folks who don’t laugh leave me baffled. Everyone needs levity and the endorphin release induced with laughter. “Laughter, the best medicine” is not just a cliché.

No-one is as broke as the person who has lost their sense of humour. I think of the people out there with no apparent sense of humour at all, ever, and I wonder how they carry on. Many of those dour characters are in prominent places making global decisions. I’m sure they carry a sobering load but wouldn’t it be great if people like Mr. Trump, for example, just stepped up to the microphone and asked, “Did you ever hear the one about…?” Suddenly the world would become a much brighter place. Imagine Gary Larson, Billy Connolly, Steven Wright or Rowan Atkinson as a political leader. Prime Minister Bean, that does have a ring to it. Mind you, they probably do more for humanity right where they are. Volodymyr Zelensky, the new President of the Ukraine, was a nationally prominent comedian. Considering the dangerous clown named Putin with whom he must now lock horns, he is perhaps imminently qualified for his new role. I know nothing about politics, especially in Eastern Europe. Politics here leave me plenty baffled.

The bee’s knees. You can see them sticking out from behind one flower.

Even here at home, where everyday the political news is yet another groaner, it would be nice to laugh with, instead of at, all those manoeuvring to get themselves re-elected. On a final note about politicians and humour, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has just announced the government’s approval of the very controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline . I am reminded of Steven Wright’s line, “I just took a lie detector test…no I didn’t.” 

A promise of green apples. “Anyone can count the seeds in one apple, but who can count the apples in one seed?”

On the subject of groaners, my little rotted trailer is gone. It sold at a salvage price to some very nice people who clearly understand, and want, the project they have bought. No matter how I did the math, I could not make sense of building myself a mobile monument. I could easily have spent all of the summer, and up to another ten thousand dollars, building the ultimate f.r.e.d. trailer (freaking ridiculous economic disaster) Now the albatross around my neck is gone and so once again I can start over. After attending URVU (Used RV University,) I can find another trailer now that I think I know what to look for. Meanwhile I feel that I’ve stood over the toilet and ripped up ten thousand dollars for one mighty royal flush. That much money is a fortune to me these days but I keep telling myself that I’m getting off lightly. I know of folks who have bought houses, vehicles, boats and RVs for a very much higher tuition.

Closed. I know, it’s irrelevant to this blog, but I could not resist the image.

You can well imagine some of the language I’ve used in consideration of recent events. Coincidentally, a friend just e-mailed me about the origins of the word “Shit.” Lord, I hope this is true! Before fertilizers had been invented manure was often shipped by sea. To reduce weight, it was always dried first. (Some places on earth had natural deposits of seabird droppings which was mined as “Guano.”) Once at sea, this cargo tended to absorb moisture and begin to ferment. Fermentation produces methane. Any flame below decks, such as a lantern, would cause a huge explosion. Several ships were lost this way before the cause was eventually determined.

After that, these cargoes were marked with the warning, Ship High In Transit. S.H.I.T. Thus ends the nautical portion of this blog.

My nautical image for this blog. It is of a stowed gaff-mainsail and an explanation of the term, “Knowing the ropes.”

The stream beds are dry, the snow on the mountains is gone. Folks continue to soak their lawns and continue to wash their cars and boats. This, in a community where sprawling subdivisions have been permitted to spread like cancer. The newcomers water their new lawns as oblivious to the problem as the municipal fathers. Water levels, this mid-June, are lower than many years in August. We have twice the population as only a few years ago with the same water supply, let alone in a year of drought. All those new roads, and driveways are freshly paved. That in turn sheds any precipitation we do receive. It is no longer retained as it was in the forest ecosystem which is now gone. When the tap to the hot tub coughs out a puff of dust, who will we blame? Water, clean fresh water, even in our toilets, the most precious commodity on the planet, is something with which we are abundantly blessed and take absolutely for granted. I close my eyes and hear Joni Mitchel singing ‘Big Yellow Taxi’… “They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Who would have ever thought that British Columbia would face water shortages?

Jack, now very hale and healthy, indulges in his favourite pastime while there’s still fresh water to wade in.
Summer!

So, two quotes for this posting. One leapt out at me from some research I was doing. I am a sucker for anything Steinbeck so I was immediately hooked. It thumped me between the eyes. The lyrical blessing of the second quote was graciously sent to me from a friend who apparently understands perfect timing. Is it possible? Can one’s stumbling progress come together as if there was a higher purpose that will make sense in the end? Only we can make that realization.

The hairy monster. A dog we met on the trail was furious at the sight of the microphone.

Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” 
― John Steinbeck, East of Eden

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

– Edward Abbey

Touching Nerves

After the war
After the war

I began writing this blog about a year ago as a narrative of one old sailor trying to describe how he is working toward a dream. Sailors are generally free thinkers and prefer to live outside of any box, often much to the consternation of bureaucrats, politicians, CEO s and those who choose conformity as a way of life. I have found plenty of support and occasionally criticism about the regular insertion of ideas running against the grain which appear in my writing. Sometimes I hit a nerve and receive disdain and rebuke. That, I think is a good thing which encourages new insights and expanding thought. An old friend who is a sailor, and a very seasoned one at that, took deep exception to my last blog and my anti-military remarks. (Our exchange can be found in the comments section of this blog) He did not understand that I hold a deep empathy (But NOT sympathy) for military people throughout our entire human history, the ubiquitous lambs led to the slaughter. From my own personal loss, I mourn all lost lives, both in body and in spirit in conflicts around the world; and certainly not just on one day of the year.

Even a cursory study of history shows how it is the naive youth of our populations, those already in a mindset that they are invincible and immortal and so go off to better the world, vanquish the enemy and are certain they will return to a full life with a fair maiden. I challenge you to find a veteran, who is actually willing to discuss his combat experiences, who will tell you that they knew they would probably be killed or maimed and so went to war anyway. Invariably, they will tell you that they believed they’d be home again. Further inspired by the hype of his or her military commanders they went to war knowing they would be coming home glorious heroes. Of course, millions were wrong. Remembrance day is all too often used as a day to glorify our war dead, and the heinous crime of war. There is never mention of the millions of innocent civilians, who are also lost in man’s eternal pursuit of greed and power.

Never, never on Remembrance day is the futility and stupidity of our incessant warlike nature considered. I have no lack of respect for those who nobly and bravely served and serve our country, both dead and alive, even if their intentions may have been misguided. They did their best, they gave everything.

But when will we bloody learn? I say that in dire concern that we are well on the way toward a third world war. And folks just won’t look up and see it! As a writer, I am a devil’s advocate who encourages open thinking and questioning minds. I will not apologize for refusing to say “Baa.” If I can save or improve one other life by encouraging the use of the intellect we are born with, then my efforts as a writer are well rewarded.

The following is a quote I just received from a friend. Although written almost sixty years ago, it is very timely and profound. Thank you Mike!

When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self – sacrifice, you may know that your society is doomed.”

Ayn Rand ‘Atlas Shrugged’ 1957

On a cheerier note, the same friend who has just excommunicated me, recently forwarded me a YouTube link to a group of three British singers calling themselves ‘Fascinating Aïda.’

These not-so-young ladies are a wonderful blend of neo Gilbert and Sullivan and are elegantly rude. Their humour and music is uplifting and a celebration of fully emancipated feminism and humanism. Do yourself a treat and check out  their video ‘Cheap flights’. I challenge you not to laugh, gaspingly. Go ahead, it’s good for you.

MY TREE! How the war began.
MY TREE!
How the war began.