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’

Two Hundred!

Venus. The Christmas star and the planet second-closest to the sun.

Well, well, blog 200! How did this happen? It does not seem so long ago that I was writing my first blog and declaring my intentions, one way or another, to do wonderful things with my boat ‘Seafire.’ Then again, rocketing through my mid-sixties seems incredible as well. I don’t know how I ended up here! I clearly recall being a teenager just a few months ago. Of course, in my tiny brain I am still a young fool. Well, still a fool! And, I’ll admit, not a lot has happened to see me travel in the direction I intended since writing that first blog. ‘Seafire’ is still at the dock, here. How that grieves me!

I looked back to see if you looked back…and what the hell are we doing out here in this driving rain?
Pull for home before the wind.
Many is the time that I’ve been in the warmth and din of the wheelhouse knowing that soon I’d be out on the tow in the cold and wet keeping visions in my head of somewhere warm and dry at day’s end.

One of the things about blogs, or any writing, is that no matter how diligently one checks for errors, there is almost always something askew which you do not notice until the “Post” or “Send” button is clicked. Rectal-linear as I am about grammar, punctuation and spelling, there will be, almost always, something I’ve missed which does not stand out until the piece has been committed for someone else’s perusal. One of the tricks I’ve learned is that if in doubt, use a hyphen such as in the invented word in the previous sentence. It always seems to satisfy the computer’s spell checker. The existence of that in every computer leaves me amazed at how many mistakes I find in other folk’s writing. Of course, sometimes, you just have to know the nuances of language. And, I should add, sometimes the spell-checker can be wrong. We now communicate with grunts and flying texting thumbs, abbreviations are used extensively LOL and well, you know what I mean eh? But, I’m old-school and believe that language is indeed the cornerstone of culture and that every point of the art of communication matters. Grunting is for cave men.

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.”

That quote is attributed to both Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert. In any case, that is where this blog is. I wrote half a page and then deleted it. I caught myself being far too cynical. Why employ negativity in this season of light and hope? CUT! That was easy enough. So there, Bum-hug. I’ve declared that things will soon get better, and when they do, I’ll drink to all of my readers…the hell with what the doctor says. Yes, I’m daring to say that there is something wonderful just around the corner, I just have to fill in a few blanks.

Storm Warning
The brassy sky before the wind comes.
” Heh, dude, there’s a storm coming, I’m heading inland.”
“Yeah well, I’m an eagle and I’m heading south, no matter what.”
A moment of calm and symmetry in the light of the ominous sun
And then it hits!
“Dad! Get me out of here!”
Jack and I prudently decide to escape out into the open. There was  crackling and crashing of falling trees everywhere. Nature does its pruning without finesse.
You know something is up when the eagles pass overhead going sideways. I could not hold the camera steady in the blasting wind.

On my desk I have dictionaries in several languages, a thesaurus (not to be confused with a sore ass when I sit too long) a rhyming dictionary, a book of synonyms and antonyms as well as the ubiquitous copy of ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves.’ My texts are still often embedded with errors. So God bless the editors and proof readers out there. I cannot imagine myself doing either of those jobs for a living. There are indeed many different kinds of courage.

At the moment, I’m typing away in the dark. Thankfully this lap top, (Or whatever I’m supposed to call it these days) has back-lit keys. The battery is dwindling. The power went off a few hours ago so I’ll have to go and watch TV in the dark. We have had a vicious surging wind most of the day with gusts coming from all directions. Trees are down everywhere, the power is off all over town and we are reminded of how incredibly dependant we all are on the electrical grid. We take so much for granted including fresh clean water, food in the grocery store whenever we want it, health care on demand and all the things that millions of others have never heard of. It is Christmas time, and for most of us, a pinnacle of consumer celebration but suddenly, here we sit in the dark, our comfy little world has come to an end for the moment and I’m sure some folks out there are fuming that “Someone ought to do something about this.” Well, a little slap therapy can be a good thing.

Prepare To Stop. I love that road sign…as if there are folks out there NOT prepared to stop. Actually…there are a few. Nearly every road this morning was blocked like this. It will take a while to clear everything away and put Humpty back together again.
On placid pond the plungers do paddle. Weirdly, this peaceful scene was within sight of the previous one.

Down at the marina there was an exceptionally high tide, brought on in part by a storm surge; boats were leaping violently at the ends of their skinny little lines. The vessels which really did not need to be worried about, had sturdy lines and owners on hand to make sure all was well. ‘Seafire,’ a solid old ark, sat nodding her head serenely while most her neighbours were slam-dancing in their berths. This wind was not that bad compared to many I have known in other places and times but it is a big deal here. I had a hard time appreciating the drama that so many others were invoking. Such vigorous winds are uncommon here and the flora is not designed to cope with it. The storm turned out to be a real old limb-ripper with varying degrees of devastation all over the South Coast. Trees blew over everywhere, someone in Duncan, a few miles south, has been killed when a tree fell on them. Houses were damaged and there is general chaos. Thank the gods that the leaves are now off the deciduous trees, otherwise we would have a truly horrific mess. All’s well that ends and this night will surely pass.

And so it did. I rose before daylight to go for my morning swim at the local recreation centre. It was clear and calm outside. Venus, the Christmas star, (Actually a planet shrouded in clouds of sulphuric acid) gleamed down as I scraped a frost-encrusted windshield. After a torrential rain everything froze, including the doors and locks. Driving across town, it soon became obvious that a large portion of the community was still without electricity. The pool was also shrouded in absolute darkness. Clearly I live on the right side of the hill. The power came on last night just after sitting down to a candle-lit dinner. Jack the dog nestled into his blanket in front of the gas fireplace. That item certainly proved its worth; there was no need to burn any furniture. Today, the twenty-first of the month, is winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Soon the daylight will be noticeably longer and all will be bluebirds and rainbows. Yeah right!

Winter freshet. Three months ago I waded this stream and barely got my ankles wet!

The Aftermath: Jack and I went out for our morning walk and could not go to any of the places we wanted. The roads are blocked nearly everywhere. All routes are cluttered with debris and broken power wires. In Nanaimo, the water treatment plant was “Compromised” and folks are out buying up all the bottled water they can. There are few stores and no banks open because folks can’t do business anymore without computers. You cannot buy gasoline, the fuel pumps are all defunct. Traffic lights are hard-hit and hanging dead over the intersections. Christmas roads are a tangle. Wonderfully, nearly everyone is being interactive and things are flowing as best they can. The smell of crushed fir needles from all the shattered branches fills the air everywhere and that is the perfect perfume for the season. One whiff of that takes me back to childhood Christmas’s and then into my years as a logger. Many houses have downed trees laying on them (Imagine waking up with a tree top up the old wahoolie!) and let’s simply say the roofers will be very, very busy for a while. The line crews are making some good overtime pay but they are out there around the clock in extreme weather, facing nasty conditions that must be quite dangerous at times. And apparently, we here on Vancouver Island are considerably better off than many on the mainland.

Amazing to me, a little further along the road this old fruit tree had kept all its decorations. Storms are like that.
HUH! Next door to the decorated tree, a plastic monkey sat in the sun pondering what all the fuss was about.
Only two months and the worst will be over.

This is all due to a windstorm that lasted a few hours. Imagine how life would be, should the dreaded “Big One” earthquake were to occur. The sun is brassy and hangs above the pallid sky within a distinct sun dog. There’s more to come! Now that I’ve spread some good cheer, Happy Christmas everyone. May it be warm and fuzzy. I hope that your New Year is filled with good things to do, something to look forward to and someone to love.

Courage! The alders are in bud already.
Have a warm and fuzzy Christmas

Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.” …Ovid

Beyond The Smoke

(Note: All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. In this blog, all images were taken with my cell phone.)

Skyfish. I’ll let you figure it out.

Last blog found me apologizing for the dull content I was producing. Well, isn’t it interesting how mundane drama can punctuate routine? And Oh Lord, how i hate routine! It does not have to be an international crisis, any little bump in the road will do. I bought a used Ford truck earlier this year from friends whom I trust. I know I have a way of stumbling into bad luck but “Geez Louise!” Other friends have raved about their Ford trucks and I was confident I’d done something right this time.

My truck is one of the nicest vehicles I’ve ever owned. It drives nicely, looks good, is easier on fuel than my previous small SUV and pulls and stops my little trailer with ease. I’ve been upgrading it a bit and preparing for a driving trip southwards this winter. Then began a intermittent herky-jerky idling issue. OK, I’m a mechanic. I did my homework, poked about a bit and decided the issue was with something called VCT solenoids. I could easily deal with the job myself although unfamiliar with this particular engine. I believed that it would take less than an hour to put things right.

Pushing rope. Towing a broken-down charter boat to safety. Just as I snapped this frame, the tow rope shifted on the overhead tow bit. Note the crack-the-whip bight in the towl line.

I’m “Old School” and well aware of the fact. I’m reluctant to mess with modern hi-tech computerized engines because I don’t fully understand how they work and I do not possess the computers I need to diagnose and adjust them. I may be a mechanic, but I’m no motor head. My reasons to exist have nothing to do with knowing the latest in automotive technology. For me, a ride is just a ride. My ego is not influenced by the way my camshaft is ground.

Manshadow photographing bicycle in morning light. Life moves slowly for some folks.

When all my parts finally arrived I dove in under the hood. There is an external seal around these solenoids which sit in a pocket in a valve cover on either side of the engine. My new seals looked slightly larger. I assured myself that it was only my imagination and removed one seal. Damn! They were different and I assumed I’d acquired the wrong parts. Then I learned the rest of the story. The Ford dealer was soon able to determine that the factory had “upgraded” the valve covers at the time the truck was built. With the new, smaller seals much of the top of the motor has to be disassembled so the valve covers can then be removed in order to change the solenoids. Air conditioning lines, along with various sections of plumbing and wiring need to be disconnected and stripped off to achieve this. A forty-five minute job has become eight hours.

Having no choice but to proceed I left the project in the hands of a local repair shop whom I trust. Fortunately I’d conceded the matter before I’d starting disassembling anything. Mechanics absolutely hate someone bringing in a job that they’ve already messed with. I certainly do. Because of extreme corrosion (due to road salt damage) the bolts holding the valve covers had broken. That’s a misery at any time. Theses bits were only available as part of a kit which includes new valve covers. Then, also due to corrosion, even the transmission dipstick has broken. So much for Ford’s “Better Idea.”

I’m amazed at how calmly I’m taking all this but I’ve learned that foaming at the mouth accomplishes nothing. I’m becoming an old fart and have learned that everything passes. It does seem to be a classic tale of two conjoined events, Sod’em and Go for more. Haar! I think of the clanky-bangy $4500. Nissan truck with which I dragged a trailer to Mexico and back. I believe I’m inclined toward Japanese vehicles from now on. In actual fact, everything on the road is over-priced junk and while they are bliss when running properly, the costs to buy and operate a vehicle are stunning. All that money which should be going into ‘Seafire. The cost of this one repair (almost $1800.) is much more than I’ve paid for many vehicles in the past.

Manyberry season. Despite the dry summer, we have a bumper crop of succulent blackberries. These vines have enveloped a cherry tree.

So, language. We understand that language is the foundation of culture. We also understand that the English language is corrupted with many Americanisms. That’s understandable due to the overwhelming global influence of the US. See, I’ve just used one. Abbreviations are increasingly popular to the point that sometimes I don’t know what the hell folks are saying. As I write, my radio is on and I am intrigued at how careless radio announcers are with language. There was a story just aired about a school which will not permit children to bring sugary drinks to class. The announcer said, “From now on students will only be allowed to drink water.” What, no studying? I think the statement should have been “From now on all that students will be allowed to drink in school is water.” Yeah, yeah, I know we know what she meant but my point is that every word and combination thereof actually means something specific. Anything else is babble. Say what you mean, mean what you say. And don’t, like, LOL get me going on slang and texting. OMG! I mean yeah no because like I totally do. Whatever dude! Shaddup! Good clear communication is the art of saying as much as possible with as few words as possible. That’s what makes for good writing. Flowery digressions are not what people want to read; even when you’re writing about flowers.

The public piano. This sits on the waterfront in Comox. Some folks, like this woman, play it very well.

When I was in school penmanship was an important class. Not only was legible handwriting import, but spelling, grammar and formatting a letter were all part of a basic regimen. I enjoyed exchanging letters. There were always distant relatives to share news with as well as “Pen pals.” Blogging, I suppose, is an extension of that lost art. Nearly every exchange of information is now done with a bleep and an emoji. We descend toward gibberish. Perhaps one day we’ll all speak dog. Being “Barking mad” will have new meaning and I’m not looking forward to the bum-sniffing.

Happiness times five. Dog spoken here. A Comox parking lot moment.
Ziggy. The boss’s dog. He’s a beauty and dignified too. Not just the dog!
Jack surveys part of his kingdom. This photo is looking northwest toward Comox and Cape Lazo. We’re on top of a mountainous coal pile that extends fro many acres. It was once part of a coal-loading terminal. Imagine the foreshore being ringed with full-rigged sailing ships.

On a final note about communication, I’ve just heard from my friends who are in the Caribbean with their boat. They’re fine and that’s a relief. I thank them. I’m intrigued at the coverage of Hurricanes Hugo and Irma balanced against that about the massive earthquake in Mexico. Both disasters are horrific and incomprehensible but it seems however that there is not a lot of interest in the aftermath of the events in Mexico. I cheered to learn how Mexico has withdrawn it’s offer of aid to Texas in response to Trump’s lack of reciprocal interest. Mexico was not asking for help, it just wanted the minimal dignity and support of recognition. You don’t insult Latinos. I’m told that the most popular pinata in Latin American these days is an effigy of Donald. Apparently, when you finally get one broken open, there’s nothing inside. Much gusto!

When wild roses go bad. I’d like to learn what this sort of blight is called.

Here on the coastline of BC, where we’re once again reminded that we sit in a paradise on top of a major earthquake fault, we luxuriate in the last sultry days of summer. For the moment, we are safe from the misery out there beyond the smoke. But any minute now…

Sunup once again.

I like to think of myself as a natural disaster. If you really piss me off, naturally there will be a disaster.”         … anonymous