November 28, 2021

The Big Stupid

 

“Since then, TV and the malls and the drugs have annually compounded the Big Stupid we live with now.”

Donald Fagen

Last night I had a strange dream where I was riding in a Cadillac with my friend Darryl, and my friend Steve Taylor.  Darryl wanted a beer, so we stopped near the casino in Richmond.  Instead of going into the casino, Steve started running in the opposite direction.  Now Steve and I have been friends since the Eighties, but I have never seen him run before.  We were now on a trail, and Steve was far ahead.  I called to Darryl, who was also ahead of me, to slow down.  

Then I came upon a large hole in the ground, barely covered with sticks and branches, a hole that was more like a trap.  Darrell called to warn me to watch out for the trap.  We then made it through a couple narrow passages where there were large rectangular blocks of stone, and a baby black bear emerged.  It was small, and cute, but I knew that Mama or Papa bear was not far away.  

I realized then that the previous trap was for the Mama bear.  At that point I awoke, and remarked on the dream, where the discovery of the bear put foreshadowed the revelation of the baby bear. 

I did my exercises and made some breakfast, avocado on toasted spelt bread with some Boursin, and another piece of toast with Michelle’s grapefruit marmalade with Bourbon.  

I was reading an article on Steely Dan, and Donald Fagen’s memoir, Eminent Hipsters.  He talked about his influence of a radio DJ named Mort Fega. 

Fagen recalls “pulling the radio under the covers, in order to escape my parents’ wrath. […] I’d usually drift off before the closing theme.”

This prompted a memory of mine of living in Aberdeen Washington in the Sixties, listening on my transistor radio under the covers to late night talk radio KGO with Ira Blue. 


He had an unusual voice for a radio broadcaster, nasal and with a New York City accent similar to that of Howard Cosell. Like Cosell's, Blue's unconventional voice had a riveting quality to it.

KGO was from San Francisco, and I marveled at how I could listen to them two states away in sleepy little Aberdeen.  

Probably because of the dream earlier with the black bears, I started thinking about the polar bears that used to live in the Stanley Park Zoo.  

These beautiful wild animals always looked so sad and out of place.  They were slow, lethargic, and aroused more pity than fear. 

Scout Magazine notes “The story of the zoo dates back to 1888, the year Stanley Park officially opened. Henry Avison, the city’s first Park Superintendent, captured a baby black bear on the grounds and chained it to a stump, thus beginning a 108-year tradition of the park’s display of wild animals. 

The large concrete polar bear grotto was built in 1962 and quickly became the main attraction for park-goers. The four bears – Nootka, Jubilee II, Prince Rupert, and Princess Rupert – were born on Southampton Island in Hudson’s Bay, and were donated to the zoo by the Hudson’s Bay Company. 1962 also saw the arrival of Tuk, the bear who is fondly remembered for once “rescuing” a kitten that had been thrown into the exhibit. “

The zoo closed in 1996, when my daughter was three.  The last animal to leave was Tuk, the polar bear.  Due to its poor health, they kept him there until he died.  

On our last visit to the zoo, all we saw was a very mangy squirrel with a half eaten tail. 

Music listened to this morning: 

Cat Stevens Foreigner Suite

Camper Van Beethoven  Joe Stalin’s Cadillac 

Can   Vitamin C

Stephen Malkmus  Vitamin C

Steely Dan  Black Friday

Donald Fagen The Nightfly 


 

 

November 27, 2021

My new red Hunter boots


Today is on of those miserable wet days that Vancouver is so famous for.  Grey and gloomy.  There are rivers in the atmosphere that want to rain on our parades.  Yet I am happy, which might seem strange. 

I have new red Hunter boots. Today is the first rain day since I got them.  I am so excited to walk in the rain and not have my feet get wet.  The new red Hunter boots have bestowed upon me a new power.  

I literally can kick the sodden leaves that dam up the catchment, and suddenly there is a small stream flowing down the hill. This is freedom. As the rivers flow from the sky, I am making my own little rivers here on Earth. 

My new red Hunter boots are now covered in leaf debris.  This will not do. I find a nearby puddle large enough to wade through. I swirl my new boots in the puddle, and they are new and red again. 

Across the street there is a new sinkhole.  You can look down and under and see that the earth has been eaten away for about ten feet in all directions.  Clearly this little hole is wanting to be a bigger hole.  The warning tape only covers the actual entrance to the sinkhole, and not the impending larger disaster waiting to happen. 

I walk to the bakery and I buy some decaf coffee, half a loaf of bread and a maple pecan swirl. As any self respecting man over 60, I ask the person behind the till if I can offer a suggestion.  Of course she says with a forced enthusiasm. 

 “ You used to make a pastry with raisins.  

An escargot she says.  

That is because of the snail shape, not because it includes snails , or slugs. 

Raisin aux pain.  

She confesses that she loves them, but alas, us poor raisin lovers are few and far between.   I commiserate of the tragedy of the shriveled grape,  and speak of the travesty that is a butter tart without raisins.  It is really a sugar pie!  

We laugh and I leave. 

A woman is walking a wiener dog.  They are always male wiener dogs, have you noticed?  How can you not notice. The wiener almost as big as the dog itself.  I tell her of my joy in splashing in puddles today.  Her dog sharply barks.

It’s always the little ones who make the most noise, I say.   I have a cross terrier who frightens small children.  They always want to pet the cute little doggy.  The woman, who has an English accent, says enjoy your new red Wellies.   

Yes I will, I reply.  

Yesterday I received the boots in the mail, which is always a delight, receiving things in the mail.  It was a dry day yesterday, and I had to go to the local library branch to get my card updated. The one I have is a strange shape, with the corners broken off from time and disuse. 

The librarian is from the Maritimes, evidenced by her use of the hard R. 

You have fines owing from 2006.  $3.  

Is there interest, as that would probably be onerous. 

No.  No interest is charged at the library.   You don’t have to pay now, just after you accumulate fines more than $10. 

I say, I would  prefer to pay now, clear the slate.  

I wander the shelves and see a mother towering over her small child who is sitting in the floor, looking at a picture book.  I remember all the great times as a child, going to libraries.  Wandering through the shelves, no aim in my mind, but wandering. Let’s just see what fate would provide.  I could spend so many hours in a library, or later on, bookstores, something my daughter loves as well. Although it is fun to read on tablets, there is nothing is like actually going to the library.  

It has been almost 14 years since I was last at the library, out in South Surrey.  

There are many young mothers here today with their children, and even babies in strollers.  Did I say this was Black Friday?  For me it wasn’t Black Friday.   It was Red Friday, for my new red boots, and my three dollar fine. 

I check out a book, the new James Ellroy, Widespread Panic, which came out this past year.  Ellroy created a new shorthand for crime writing in the last 20 years, but recent novels have seemed like rewrites or paler imitations of previous masterworks.  Hopefully, this will be a ‘good one’.  One thing I do know, is that there is little risk, as the book isn’t costing me anything. 

Why?   

I got it at the LIBRARY.  




November 20, 2021

Code White!

 

In the hospital after my triple bypass surgery. my journey began under the influence of anaesthesia, and I awoke in a narcotic dream state.  As I lay in the bed, the nurses, the kind angelic nurses, kept me sedated with more drugs.  As Rowland S Howard calls it, my narcotic lollipop lasted for about 5 days before they started to wean me. 

After a few days I was able to get up out of bed, and with the support of a walker, make it as far a the bathroom.  In the bathroom, I would attempt to “return to normal”; but for a few more days, it was wishful thinking and waiting.  

Back to bed I went, and the world went on without me. Voices, sounds, smells swirled around me, my only control and response was to receive.  The clock was a measure of the incremental day, now split into 12 to 24 micro days, broken up only by new medications, measurements of blood pressure, and needles in my stomach which left little bruises resembling moles.

Throughout the day and night, I would hear them announcing Code White.  As the chart explains, Code White is the code for a situation where a patient, or guest or complete stranger exhibits violent or aggressive behaviour.   Code white on level two, code white in emergency.  So many Code Whites.  

One of the by-products of the pandemic has been an increase in violent or aggressive responses to situations. We feel thei pain, these weak links….we see the stress that is causing fractures in the social construct….we hear the mental timebombs exploding on the sidewalks, just like the young Dense Milt warned us about back in 1979.   Look at all the angry people, protesters,  Christians acting unchristian like, people taking their fears and paranoias out on others, living their lives and drama on the street, and in the grocery aisles, and the lineups for gas, and in the hospitals where we come to heal. 

I tried to find current data on what I believe is a dramatic increase of violent and aggressive behaviours since the pandemic, but reporting has been replaced with emojis and memes.  We have so many platforms and so many ways to communicate. We are inundated  with too much sharing of information.  And yet, it’s not the kind information I was looking for, which is statistics on the increase in Code Whites in a hospital setting.   

Have you experienced unnatural reactions from friends, been in situations with strangers that would lead you to believe that violent and aggressive behaviour are on the rise?   Life is stressed to the limits; look at the cracks in the dykes. There are leaks and water everywhere, rivers rising, more rain on the way, highways washed out,  drained lakes returning to the lake status of a hundred years earlier.

Drowning in natural disasters is a part of the scenery. Heat domes, cyclone bombs, atmospheric rivers.   But while these dramatic changes, events, disasters rain down on us, people are also suffering inside. We can see the effects of the psychological tsunami which is the pandemic.   Dear Mr. Cohen, cracks are not only where the light gets in.  Cracks are where the darkness is secreted.   

Code White.  Cleanup on aisle four.  

Shooter situation in the schoolyard.  

White male, white male, white male. 

Code White is washing over us. We lie helpless in a metaphoric hospital bed, unable to move, unable to help , unable to understand what is going on around us, 

Code White! I see a teenager with an automatic rifle on the roof.   It’s his birthday. 

Code white! Customers fighting over gasoline and ground round. 

Are we witnessing the collapse of society and the end of civility?  Is this the end of the world? 

Do you feel fine? 

Has the constant friction, the incessant scratching and the repetitive dark thoughts finally caused the already inflamed social stomach to violently heave the remnants of our poor diet choices?

As the acidity in the air increases, and the storm waters rise, and the gas runs out, and the food on the shelves disappears, will we have the strength to still be kind to one another? 

When the safety nets, which have so many holes in them that they resemble sieves, start leaching microfibres along with micro aggressions, will we hold open the door for ladies, will we give up our seats on the bus for the pregnant mother, the disabled veteran, the weak, the sick, the poor? 

Code White!  You can legally open carry assault rifles in some states, the same states where you can’t get an abortion, the same states where your white supremacist neighbour is held in higher regard than the honor roll black student gunned down for having the audacity of jogging? 

Code White.  Is it no wonder that I can’t sleep?  Nurse! More painkillers!

November 16, 2021

At the crumbling edge


At the crumbling edge, where the earth gives way to the sky, the birds in the air seem to stop mid-flight, as if someone is holding them in place by the wind. Someone built a wall of decomposing leaves,  deciduous rot. It is waiting to be pushed into the abyss below.   

I could see a small black dog burrowing her nose in the fragrant duff.  Did she know just how close she was to the edge? 

Overlooking the small black dog is a girl. Her hair is black, like her heart, and long like the river below the crumbling edge.  She has an anger inside her that only she can satisfy.  She looks into her heart and wonders if dogs can fly. 

November 13, 2021

Oops! No Internet. Try Again.

We are living in a Land of Loneliness.  We are living in a time of Isolation.  We are living in a time where we have many tools of Communication, yet we are afraid to simply talk to each other. 

The community we have built includes the families that we are born into,  as well as the friendships we have personally chosen over time.  But what is a community when we are not talking to each other? 

Oh, there is plenty of talk going on, just like there are plenty of fish in the ocean, or plenty of possible dates, or mates - SWIPE RIGHT, SWIPE LEFT, DO THE HOKEY POKEY! 

But in this race to make our point, are we actually listening to what others say?

Social media tends to herd us with Like Minds together.  That is because the purpose of social media is not to enhance our social ability, but to create more exact market segments who can then be targeted for maximizing advertising revenue. 

Social Media reinforces our opinions, and weaves a web of Like Minded strangers. But does it create a platform to better communicate?  It is another tool of communication, just like a hammer is a tool.  And sometimes you need a hammer.  But sometimes you need a screwdriver.  

Who are these friends anyway?  Do you know these people?  Do you really know them?  One thing that the pandemic brought us is a narrowed palate with only primary colours.  We can call this palate our pod, or our core bubble, or core cohorts.  

What do we do when a cohort’s clumsy thumbs mistype and mangle their messages?  CANCEL. If they leave out words in their rush to respond, or if their spelling is so atrocious that it is nigh impossible to understand what their incomplete thought might have been?  CANCEL. Is it any wonder that their ability to communicate is impaired? 

What we have here is a failure to communicate.  Like they said in Cool Hand Luke.  And right there I have segmented the reading audience into those who still remember and romance over Paul's blue eyes, and those who just bought his salad dressing. 

Various political factions have created some shorthand to help you find the right advertising segment. Does the term Let’s Go Brandon have any meaning to you? It does if you identify as a Fox Friend.  You know that Let's Go Brandon is the conservative version of OK Boomer. There is a tone of derision, and condescension, but also familiarity, and contempt.  Are hashtags helpful in your daily life? #hashtaghelper #boomerburgersurprise #emojisRus

Do you speak emoji?  I never would have thought that understanding emojis was necessary for success in business, but there you have it.  When in doubt, add a smiley face.  This is part of our modern shorthand.  Even though it is an infantile addition, it is effective.  Why let your poor business letter writing skills ruin a relationship, especially when the helpful insertion of a colon and parentheses can create an impromptu emoji :)  Voila! Smiley Face.  Perhaps a pyramid of communication like Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs is necessary.  

On the bottom would be your typical social media meme- don't share, but cut and paste blah blah blah - wide distribution and self-identifying. But be careful if you are not fluent in memes.   This may be data mining.

Next rung is a social media post.  What is your friend trying to say?   Are there any code words or dog whistles?  Posts are open to misinterpretation, so remember the words of your mother.  If you don't have anything nice to say, ...... Anyone can become a troll.  And if you have been drinking or taking any reality warping influencers, best to stay off the old social sharing circle. 

The next rung is email.  This form of communication replaced faxing.  Were you pro-Fax or anti-Fax?  Do you remember the annoying sound of faxes?  I remember getting a fax at work, which looked like it had a post-it note attached that said, " Check this out!  D."   So you thought this was from someone you knew who wanted you to look at the fax.  This was one of the first Fax spammers.  Emails are usually confined to business, they offer more words, and in the right hands can be a modern form of letter writing.  But beware of the Reply All.  Many times in business I get lists of contacts when someone in accounting or a recent college graduate with no work experience think copying everybody is more efficient.   Yeah, but now everybody knows everybody you know.  Any competitive advantage just went out the window. 

The next higher rung is picking up the damn phone, and using it as God intended, as a phone.  Call someone.  Hear their voice.  You can add their face with Facetime or Zoom or one of those communication tools, but remember where you are, and what you are wearing. Pants are not optional on the Zoom.  Don't be like Jeffrey.   Phone calls are much more direct.  Hopefully you can tell by the tone of voice whether the call is welcome.  What to do with the phone call that goes on forever?  How do you politely disengage?  Sometimes there is no polite way to disengage.   OH MY GOD! The cat just jumped on the table and knocked over my coffee!!!  Sorry, I'll have to call you back.  Ghost......

The highest rung is talking to someone the real old fashioned way- in person.   Face to Face.  There is still some danger of miscommunication, but there is also the possibility of hugs.   Look into my eyes.  You are getting sleepy.   So sleepy.  In person communication also brought us ghosting and gaslighting, so nothing is perfect.   And as with social media posts, if drinking or taking mind altering substances, best to make sure you are on the same page.   

Still, there is the possibility of hugs, which is close to the top rung.  And hugs really help with Loneliness.  Hugs can cure isolation.  But hugs can be welcome or unwelcome, so watch for clues before getting all huggy, especially with someone who clearly doesn't want one.     

You might notice I left out postcards, letters, telegrams, and pigeons.   Try cancelling a pigeon.  Can I recall this pigeon?  Nope.  Once the bird is in flight, you will have to live with what was written.  Unless you have a gun or a bow and arrow.  You can cancel the message, but you also kill the messenger. :)  

 




November 7, 2021

Does anybody really know what time it is?

 So it is 5 something on this Sunday, after the clocks were turned back to Standard Time, from Daylight Savings Time. This arbitrary changing of time feels so wrong.  

Many people and their governments have different ideas about this annual change. Two years ago Washington state passed a law to keep Daylight Savings time on an annual basis, with no changes in Fall or Spring.  Our province of BC in Canada looked at a similar law.  

But this state law was never enacted,  as it requires Federal Congressional approval.  As we know, getting Congress to agree on anything beside raising their own pay is near impossible.  And BC would never make a change unless Washington, Oregon and California all made the same change, as that would cause nothing but chaos.  

Personally, I have always had challenges with sleeping, but especially since this past month after my surgery. Truth be told I have always had sleep issues.  From a young age, I tried to stay up late and get up early.  What is it about night and sleep that bothers me?   

Is is a fear of the dark, or a fear of missing out?  Is there a relationship between my reading encyclopedias under the covers with a flashlight and waking at 3 in the morning on Christmas?  

I remember a time in my teens, I was leaving a house party around 4 in the morning.  I was surprisingly loud, and woke one of the neighbours. 

“ Do you know what time it is?”

I replied at top volume, singing Chicago’s hit,  “ Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really know …..about time?”  

Needless to say my drunken existential humour was lost on the sleepy homeowner.   Being serenaded by an asshole singing Chicago at 4 am is not on most people’s bucket list.  

I grew up in the Sixties, which was a very different time. In the Sixties, we had crazy TV shows like The Time Tunnel, with former Beach Blanket star James Darren, where these two young scientists who invented the time tunnel accidentally become trapped and travel through time into different historical events and the future.

We also had My Mother, The Car, where someone’s mother is brought back to life as a ….car. 


Then there was It’s About Time, where time travelling astronauts are sent back to the caveman age. 

This sitcom nonsense went hand in hand with race riots, assassinations, War in our living rooms, the Sexual Revolution and The Beatles. 

Seriously, time and lack of sleep can really mess with your health, reducing your …ahem…time on this planet. Lack of sleep is a major cause of heart issues, as you might expect, as your heart is the body’s timekeeper.  Nobody fucks the drummer and gets away with it. 

Drummers are the first to arrive and the last to leave. They have the most gear to set up and tear down. It is not uncommon for drummers to play other instruments as well.  Drummers are the original multitaskers.   

To summarize,  we’ve gone from clocks, to TV to drummers. Is is any wonder that I can’t sleep?   Actually, I have spent about 90 minutes ruminating and either have to make coffee or go back to bed. 

Don’t get too excited.  I only drink decaf. 





November 6, 2021

Building a new monster, by popular demand.

 
You might think this is the finest pearl
But it's only cardboard balls
Seamed in glue
Overwhelming technique
Done t' diligence
It's all happening from the inside, you say?
Done from the inside
Where it barely shows on the outside
It's remarkable
I think this is the best batch yet
We don't have to suffer, we're the best batch yet
Baked in special, we're the best batch yet
White flesh waves to black”. 
Don van Vliet, Doc at the Radar Station
In this long process of recovery and rebirth, there is work going on that can be seen from the outside. There is also an interior work and life changes that are also happening.  A metamorphosis of methodologies.  
What we have here is an opportunity, dare I say, a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a better monster. I know….many of you liked the old monster, as did I. But that clogged creature is gone, replaced with spare parts. “Cardboard balls seamed in glue…” 
But the sky is blue ( in my dreams) and the road goes beyond the horizon, over the ice wall, past the double rainbows to a land I can only imagine. We have the keys to the convertible. The top is down, and the hood is up and open.  Tools out.  
Some minor tinkering after the major overhaul. I am informed in a very real and physical way that changes must be made to prolong this show. As such, we have been making alterations to the script. Some cuts are deep and you may need a program to familiarize yourself with the changes, but many of you will hardly notice. And if the results are positive, then notice you will, as the run will be more than the measured walk that I currently am engaged in.  I am committed to the character, as I understand this character as if he were myself. I long to be kissed by fortune and held over due to popular demand. “


Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” 
― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein


Please allow me to confess, and get this off my bifurcated chest. There was a cookie, a small cookie, with a silly name, slathered in dulce de Leche. I dreamed of this cookie for two days, it being the last cookie.  Dare I break my self imposed hiatus from these temptations or simply misplace the manual for a short time?  “There seems to an edit in the tape, an 18 minute gap. He said it was his secretary Miss Woods, who through no maliciousness, accidentally turned off the machine for about 18 minutes.  This brief interlude provided sufficient time to consume the said snickerdoodle, so none’s the wiser.  Keep this on the hush-hush. 

OK. Nobody is perfect. I will own that one.  But for the sake of the long program, the small temptation has been removed, as I removed it. Truth be told I shared it with my sister, who made said cookie and Dulce de Leche.  It was delicious and the memory haunts me to this day.



 “It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.” 

 Mary Shelley, Frankenstein


It is amazing just how much closer I have become to my darling love. How fortunate I have been to enjoy her nutritious meals and love and encouragement. 

I recall the early days back from the hospital when she hand washed me in the shower, me sitting on a chair so I did not fall down.  

There is less of me to love, as I am about 20 lbs lighter.  The bags under my eyes must have weighed a few lbs, but they are disappearing too.  

And everyday, a few more steps.  Now the muscles and skin and other secondary concerns are undergoing changes, with some pains and difficulty as expected, but all of this is acceptable as part of the process to build this new monster. 


Please note, I am accepting friend requests, ( except the Soviet porn girls that Zuckerberg keeps suggesting) real calls, texts, bowls of soup, money, NFTs, bitcoin.


If I am tired, I will simply tell you, and you can come back another time.  


New slogan: Scars before Bars.  

Fun fact: New monster doesn’t drink.  


If you owe me $, now is a good time (living on 50%).