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.