Hey Dad, it’s an anniversary of sorts. Miss you

de old man

Today is approximately the 20th anniversary of the death of my father. Seems odd to think he has been dead for two decades. But the thought gave me a spur to write something about the man and what he was to my life.

To state the case simply life with my dad was not an easy haul. Not easy because he was a difficult man in many respects. Very talented and very smart and very different from me. I was much more like my mother, which wasn’t always a good thing. But this screed is not about her.

He was a temperamental guy, given to huge rages at the drop of a hat. My brother and I have often referred to the fact that while other kids in the neighborhood delighted at the arrival of ‘Daddy’ home from work; we by-and-large dreaded his arrival because we feared we would be in shit from some transgression or other. That wasn’t old Ward Cleaver or Andy Taylor parking the car in the driveway.

Now, he was a bright man and extraordinarily successful considering he was only a high school grad. Due to his perspicacity and recognition of his considerable talents by those higher up he evolved in the world of technical academia and by the time of his retirement had become a community college dean. Pretty darn admirable and his success showed his dedication to hard work. Of course when I was a young kid I did not recognize those aspects of him, I only was left with a brooding resentment of a guy who seemed for the most part to be a bit of a prick.

While he was all tech and mathematics I was artsy-fartsy and dealt in realms miles from his interests.

001As time went on I became less intimidated by his rages and oddly in a way our relationship improved in incremental ways. I never knew if he appreciated what I did, but I came to increasingly appreciate what he did, and to also appreciate his company. Ironically, after his death, my Aunt Freda (Dad’s beloved baby sister) told me that the old bastard had clipped and saved every newspaper column I had written. “If only he had told me that,” I said to her, “it would have meant so much to me.” But, alas, telling me would not have been who he was. In retrospect I kind of respect that.

There is more, much more, but on this the two-decade anniversary of his death all I can say is that every day I miss you a little more, you cranky old bugger.

What do we do with society’s misbegotten?

tent cityWhat to do with society’s misbegotten? The downtrodden, the poor, the addicted, the addled are all part of the world we live in. Always have been, likely always will be.

I recall reading a comment years ago by a man who was high in the Soviet hierarchy in Stalinist days – I cannot recall who it was – and he noted that when the revolution came they convinced themselves that the bums would go, once they were provided the material benefits of an egalitarian society. To the surprise of the party the bums did not go. They were still there. His only conclusion was that they were there, as bums, because they chose to be bums.

There is an implied freedom in ‘bumdom’.

And this all, of course, leads quite naturally to Victoria’s so-called Tent City: a square of public space that has been co-opted by an ever-increasing group of indigents and ostensibly ‘homeless’ folk as their own little bit of squalor in an otherwise pleasing little city.

It has become dirty, nasty, and violent, if reports are to be believed, and I suspect they are. Those who reside in the area are aghast as this ‘thing’ continues to exist. It has its supporters, some souls who believe the folk therein are genuinely needy and a compassionate society must ‘care’ for them. Our lame-ass judiciary (lame-ass and judiciary seems like a tautology at times) seems to side with the placators and will not order the lot to move on.

This is to say, shelter has been provided for the genuinely needy and many have opted to go there – to be safe – to be clean. Who are the rest? Why would anybody willingly stay in suck a place that has come to resemble the shacktowns of Rio? Well, mainly, I suspect, there is an implied ‘freedom’ in being able to carry on being dysfunctional; lots of booze, lots of dope and lots of sex, I suspect.

Why hasn’t the provincial government done something about it? It has been aptly observed that if the squalid mess was in Vancouver – well, it wouldn’t be. The province would address it. But since it is in Victoria, and even though the Legislature sits in Victoria, the government has consistently proved it doesn’t give a flying fuck about the various plights of BC’s capital.

And so it stays. And festers a little more each day.

And some people are happy with that. People who have apparently chosen to be bums.

 

Victoria is a lot more fun than was the old bat after whom it’s named

wictoriaVictoria. The province’s capital city and named for the crusty old crone whose birthday is being marked this weekend by all monarchist loyalists and also the 99% of the population who are not.

I like Victoria – the town. Not so much the Queen who provided a watchword for moral restrictiveness, racism, White Man’s Burden, and gave spawn to a motley crew of seedy monarchs like the Tsar and Kaiser whose greed and ineptitude led to the greatest slaughter of young men in world history. Some legacy, lady.

But the town is nice. Wendy and I lived there part time a few years ago and loved it. Great eating town with a plethora of inviting restaurants. Nice cultural town with lots of theatre and music as well as a couple of the best bookstores anywhere. The Provincial Museum is sans pariel and so is the scenery along Dallas Road (where we lived) and Beacon Hill Park and so forth. No, it’s a good place in which to spend time, especially considering it’s actually a modest sized city as cities go.

It has also arguably been the most ineptly governed city in the province in recent years. They decided a few years ago to put in a new bridge, though it remained debatable that there was not much wrong with the one the ‘new’ bridge is replacing. But a stunningly inept council prevailed so it was off with the old. Or was it? The old remains the only bridge that is usable. And the new. Ah yes, the new. Well, the pricetag must be verging on a trillion dollars by now and it keeps going up and up as more shoddy Chinese steel arises in the mix.

And then there is the sewage treatment plant, or why nobody wants anybody’s poop in their front yard, And at one level, who can blame them? But Victoria seems to have been literally unable to make up its mind where the poop should flow. That is after fighting long and hard to reserve the right to keep befouling Juan de Fuca Strait.

But none of the foregoing is anything to do with what Victoria Day is about. What it is about is that it is a May holiday and we like holidays. And if you took a poll and asked people why we have Victoria Day I suspect the majority would not have a clue. And who could blame them. Why should they care about anything other than having a three day weekend just before summer.

 

Men do not do small change. It’s as simple as that

two bucksSo, we have this issue about small change, herself and I.

You see, as a male, I don’t ‘do’ change. This is all genetically predetermined and nobody can blame me for it.

One of the dreariest things to have happened in this otherwise relatively decent country was to have done away with the dollar and two-dollar bills. I believe females in both the finance ministry and the federal mint made the decision.

No man would have approved the elimination of paper money. Truly, one of my many joys in traveling in the US (and I’ve never once had to dodge bullets whilst traveling therein) is getting my hands on all those greenback singles.

The reasons men like me hate coins of large denomination is that they are big and eat away at pocket linings and cause ‘coin-rash’ on the upper thigh front, and also because even though they are $1 and $2 denominations, they feel like &^%** change and I tend to forget about them. Or more accurately, reject them because, as I said at the beginning, I don’t ‘do’ change.

Every week or so I clear that change out of my pocket and dump it atop the bedroom dresser. And I grant Wendy the right to help herself. That’s because it’s not ‘real money’, it’s just ‘change’.

But sometimes I forget. Like when I was ordering coffee the other day and handed the pretty barrista a $20 bill. She wondered if I had anything smaller. “Oh, just a bunch of change,” I replied. “Well, let’s have it then,” she said. “Put it out on the counter and let’s count it.” I said that would be fine, mainly because she was a pretty barrista, but assured her there probably wasn’t enough. She looked at the array of coinage and asserted: “There’s easily enough here.”

And there was, and I even got some change back from my strewn change.

My biggest bugbear is when I’m at the checkout in a grocery store, especially the express lane. I’m told the tab is, say, $2.17, I’ll hand the clerk a fiver. If Wendy is there she’ll say “I’m sure you have it in change.” Probably I do. But if she’s not there, I’ll fork over the five. It’s not that I’m innumerate, it’s just that I’m both lazy and I hate holding people up, especially if I’m in the express lane. I know they won’t want me scrambling in my pockets and dropping my pennies and other crap change on the floor. They’ll look heavenward and mutter: “*&%$# asshole” under their respective breaths. At least that’s what I’d do if somebody did that in front of me.

 

Sometimes you can really resent a literary hero

brysonI am in the process of reading Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling. I am loving the book and that is just making me resent him even more than I already do. I love him and I hate him. I love him because he is a brilliantly witty and intelligent writer who has countless followers. I hate him for pretty much the same reasons. Or otherwise, that I am not him.

I spent a long time lamenting the too-soon demise of Douglas Adams, but Bryson fills the gap admirably, even though his themes are different.

But, I resent him mainly because he is so damn good and is the writer I often and vaingloriously envisioned myself wanting to be – that is ‘successful’. The tale is a revisit of his earlier work Notes from a Small Island. That one concerned his lengthy trek around England. This one is a similar theme but many years later.

At the same time I must say if you haven’t read any Bryson you are missing a great deal in your life. His topics and themes run into the plethora realm. He has written tomes about Britain, Europe, hiking the Appalachian Trail, the English language and its perversities and more and more and more. Where does he find the goddamn energy. Yet another reason why is he is likely more successful than am I.

His writing is smooth, intelligent and highly entertaining not to mention panties wetting funny at many instances. Bastard,

He is now a British subject and such a committed anglophile that he devotes much of this ‘other’ energy to cleaning up the rubbish on English roadsides and verges. An odd departure for a chap who grew up in the US Midwest and still loves his country of origin, but in other regards he is more Brit than the average Brit.

And so this is my love/hate message about Bill. Oh, and did I add, he is also a nice guy? He even sent me a personal email once. It is a prized possession and I shall share it with you.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

—–Original Message—–

From: Bryson, Bill [mailto:bill.bryson@durham.ac.uk]

Sent: Wednesday, December 27, 2006 2:53 AM

To: Ian Lidster

Subject: RE: Your litter war

Dear Ian,

Many, many thanks for your message, and apologies for the long delay in

replying.

I’m delighted to tell you that I have had an overwhelmingly positive

response to my anti-litter plea: over 800 messages so far and more coming in

all the time (which is why it is taking me a while to get to them all —

sorry!). I had a meeting the week before last with the chief executive and

chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and they have agreed to

launch a special crusade against countryside litter in the spring, and I

will be seeing people from other organisations in the new year, so I am

hopeful of making some good progress in the coming months towards tackling

the problem all over (and getting some sort of national initiatives under

way). I’ll keep you posted, if I may.

Forgive my haste now — I have a lot of messages to answer! — but thanks

again and all very best wishes for 2007. Also, thank you for your kind

words about the books. I hope that you enjoy the rest of Mother Tongue.

Yours most sincerely,

Bill Bryson

 

Spending a fine summer with a friend with whom I am finally reunited

graffitMost friendships from youth and childhood are relatively fleeing and circumstantial matters. Kids are kids and don’t necessarily form deep bonds. In my life I make 3 exceptions in that regard.

There is dear Karen, who lives in Nanoose Bay and whom I have known since first grade. We keep in touch – not neurotically – and phone and email sporadically, and I have visited her at her place and she has visited me here.

And there is John. My friend since we were about 12. The bastard moved to Australia in the early 1990s, which I resent the hell out of, but we do keep in touch and within a few weeks he and his wife will be coming to call. Haven’t seen them for a decade. Woo-hoo.

And finally there is Roy. We were great buddies in jr. Hig1h and for part of high school and then he moved to California with his family. But, it turned out not entirely bad in the early stages. In the summer of 1961 my parents took a road trip to CA to stay with an aunt and uncle. And as it turned out they lived less than a mile away from Roy and his family. So, I decamped and went and stayed with that crew.

We had a great time. He lived near San Jose and in the evening we would cruise the strip, looking at the cool cars and cool girls and it was just like the cruising the strip scenes from American Graffiti. Not such a strange thing since those scenes were filmed in San Jose in a tale that fictitiously took place just a year later. In other words AG was a few weeks of my youth. Even the drive-in, with the babes on roller skates was the one we went to. It was called ‘John’s’ and those scenes were authentic to the degree that there was actually a cop car positioned at the eatery.

DSCN0976We also went to the hot rod races, and I consumed my first taco (not commonplace in the frozen north at that time) and we mainly just hung out. And then I had to come back home.

Subsequently Roy and I lost touch. We desultorily corresponded for a while and then we basically didn’t, and we got on with our lives; got girlfriends; went to college and university.

Yet Roy always stuck in my mind. Later on, when the computer age dawned, I Googled his name a few times. And then with the arrival of Facebook I also scanned the names. To no avail. I wasn’t obsessed, but I knew I wanted to link up. Always did. Finally, via his brother who is on FB, I found him. We connected and the rest became history.

He and his wife came for a call yesterday and we found the bond was basically unbroken. Also found that he did not live so very far away.

What a lovely day it was with them.

 

Rumors of her death were wildly overstated

bettyWhat pleasure does it give certain people to be fraudulent mean shits? I mean is it empowering to spread falsehoods and lies? Is it agreeable to paint beloved people in mortality codswallop?

The latest example of this is the fraudulent posting announcing the death of beloved comic actress and tough old broad Betty White. I mean, you can sucker a lot of folks in with this one since she is 94 and spent her childhood playing with Moses. But why do it

Is it, for such tiresome people, empowering to make other people feel bad and sad? Or do they want to be first off the mark by noting her demise that will happen someday, possibly sooner rather than later. I mean, truly, I just don’t get it. So, all I can say is, thank God for Snopes and I must confess I fell for the ruse and that pisses me off.

A number of much-loved public figures have died of late, like David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard and so forth. These people are loved and their passings make members of the public feel bad. Thank God we still have Keith Richards and possibly always will.

As for Betty White, I first encountered her when I was a very small boy and first saw TV at the home of my aunt and uncle in Seattle. Miss White – very young and dimply – was on a sitcom called Life with Elizabeth in which she played a ditzy young bride and my female cousin and I were still of an age where ‘pants-wetting funny’ offered a certain real warning as Betty was just that as she got up to her assorted shenanigans.

She never basically changed her style, whether is was on the Mary Tyler Moore Show or Golden Girls. Her trademark was to play horny old broads with a ribald style. And we loved her for it.

And as of this writing Miss White is very much alive, and fie on people who would spread nasty falsehoods.