So why am I still in this jerkwater place?

photo_water7I arrived in this little community half way up Vancouver Island the year I finished my teacher training at the University of BC. My intention at the time was to stay for a year. Two at the most.

And here I still am some forty-plus years later. That’s just not like me. I don’t like to stay in the same place for too long. While I am not a gypsy, I cherish roving. So I have no answer as to why I am still here. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I’m more insecure than I think I am. Familiarity, the cliché goes, breeds contempt, and it does with me and this place is entirely too familiar for my liking.

In my last year of university, when I was on the cusp of something or other in my life, though nothing was clear to me, I would look out the windows of a favored room for studying and regarding assorted coeds with poignant fantasies regarding divesting them of their panties and coiting with them right below the carrel at which I was ostensibly working. In other words, I had normal impulses for a guy in his early twenties. At the same time, when I wasn’t being moist lingeries obsessed, I would look over at the snowcapped mountains of Vancouver Island and think, I’d like to be there.

And within less than a year there I was.

And here I still am.


I got away once. Back in 1980. I went to England for a year. I loved it. I felt like I was at home there. I do not recall any incidents of homesickness. And mainly I did not miss the community or the lovely waterfront home that awaited my return. No, all I missed was my dog. Dogs are always missed.

But, after the year-long sojourn I came back. And, aside from some soul-enhancing trips – not to mention a brief stint of commuting between here and Victoria where we maintained an apartment for a couple of years in the middle of the first decade of this century while Wendy was working for the province — here I stay. I’m still not entirely certain why.

As I wrote, I had every intention of staying for a year or two and then after that to hit the road to elsewhere. Having grown up in greater Vancouver I wanted to get back to the ‘smoke’ as early as possible. In the big city there was theatre, there were clubs, there was entertainment, there were bookstores galore, there were galleries. In the Comox Valley – then – there were none of those things. We had a sad little cinema that appeared to favor offerings of the Rock Hudson and Doris Day sort, a difficult slog for a cineaste snob who’d learned to love Fellini’s and Bergrman’s respective oeuvres. An audience of loggers doesn’t tend to appreciate a plethora of subtitles – though I am certain there are exceptions. And as for book access there was, aside from an eighteenth-rate library, the drugstore paperbacks, and that was about it.

To top that off, there were only two TV channel choices. I felt like I was in a time-warp.

Anyway, when I first arrived I cut the hicks very little quarter and we left for the city – either Vancouver or, at the very least, Victoria, whenever we could.

But, as we were teachers we were able to take advantage of those luxurious two months of hiatus from the classroom. And don’t tell me that teachers don’t boast a huge advantage when it comes to down-time. Their lives in terms of vacations offered are unlike those of any other working stiff. And what we did for our two months is to go to the United Kingdom, Ireland and continental Europe. Despite the fact that journey was so many years ago, so many of the impressions gained still stick happily in my mind, from sausage bun and beer lunches in Munich to getting shitfaced on poteen in the Ulster village of Templepatrick. I have written elsewhere of our odd little hotel in London, so no more about that here. These comments aren’t meant to offer an elaboration on our European travels but just to explain how what was meant to be a single year in this place tended to expand to what is arguably too many years.

By the time we returned to the clunky li’l Comox Valley we were exhausted and the new school year was about to begin I was feeling considerably more confident in the pedagogical realm as a veteran of already having had a year in harness. And it looked like the makings of something I could continue to tolerate – for at least a little time longer. The ‘bearability’ of the year to come was vastly improved by a new teacher on staff. An English lass named Fiona (we shall say), who was arguably one of the most delicious females I had ever set eyes. She looked considerably like the actress of the day, Joanna Pettet and was tallish and blonde and possessed of an enticingly risqué mind and wore skirts so short that I pretty much was able to memorize what most of her panties looked like, especially since she was so casual about the way she sat. I had such fantasies about her, as did a lot of staffers and, as a male colleague once said: “It was a good thing Fiona left in short order (as she, alas did) or there would have been broken marriages all over the place.

Aside from Fiona, however, there was something else that rendered the place more alluring to us. We got a chance to move out of the sterile apartment we’d lived in during our first year and into a beach cottage. After all, if you are living in a waterfront community, then why not live on the beach? And so we did. And we lived in that humble rental cottage for the following five years. What can I say? It was pleasing to build a roaring fire and feel the place shake in a southeaster. It was more than pleasing to take the little boat out and catch a salmon to barbecue for dinner. And so, there we stayed. We got ourselves a cat and seemed to be in a state of domestic serenity.

Sorry kids. I am trying with all my might and main and I still can’t muster caring

brad-etcI have serious doubts as to whether I am being all that I can be as a man, or indeed all that I ‘should’ be. Not that there are rules about such matters but sometimes the observations and comments of others leave me feeling less than adequate.

By being a ‘man’ I especially mean being a man of a certain age. I base my observations on the things in life I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in. As follows are some of the elements of life about which I should be enthralled and yet I find myself wavering between apathy and disdain (and sometimes even contempt) depending on the circumstances.

At the same time I bear no malice towards those who favor such things. I’m a friendly guy and I like people to feel at their ease when in my company. So, if you want to go into raptures about your boring fucking golf game don’t anticipate me to pee on your parade. I’ll even refrain from citing Mark Twain who described golf as a way of ruining a perfectly decent walk.

I guess for me it goes back a long way. I remember telling a kid some factoid of information when we were in about 9th grade – junior high being the most repulsive stage of human development – and he asked me how I knew that.

I read it,” I said, and not in a smug way. I mean, I wanted to say it in a smug way, but that’s not my nature.

Read it?,” he said, a look of disdain crossing his ‘challenged visage, “Is that all you do is fucking read?”

All I could do was shrug, palms out. I mean, how was I supposed to deal with that?

Otherwise I was as normal as could be expected from a 14-year-old boy. I liked girls. I mean, I really-really-really-really liked girls; I was longing for the day I got my driver’s licence, which meant I liked cars; I liked rock-and-roll; I liked parties; I liked TV; I liked movies. Oh, and I liked to read, and I read a lot – adult books, not juvenile-oriented ones.

Now, by my age here is where I sit about certain aspects of life:

– Golf: I think we covered that ground

– Sports in general: Pretty much as per golf. I really don’t give a rat’s about what team does anything. I don’t know those people so why should it matter to me?

– Entertainers’ lives: Like athletes, I don’t know them so I don’t care what they do, what drugs they use, how much they drink, who they are screwing, what their sexual preferences are, and in that I’ll add to the fact that when I look at magazine covers at the supermarket I don’t know who at least 80 percent of them are, so why should I care. I do care however when a supreme talent like Mr. Hoffman decides to end his live by a badly-considered decision. There are performers I like and admire so I’d rather they stuck around. But waiting in a grocery store queue this morning I was struck by the plethora of ‘Brangelina’ magazine stories. And therein I tried very hard to muster interest and I failed. I didn’t feel too bad about that since they showed no interest when my previous marriages went awry.

– Socializing: I’ve concluded I never was a partier. Back in my drinking days I numbed myself and too often made a horse’s ass of myself and that was mainly due to shyness, I have realized. If I socialize I like small gatherings of maybe us and another couple or two other couples and I hope everybody calls it an evening early.

– Friends: I don’t have a vast array of people I would call close friends. Scads of acquaintances, but my charmed circle is few. My friends too are both male and female. I have a teeny handful of blessed male friends, and actually a slightly larger handful of blessed female friends.

– cars: Some people obsess about getting new vehicles on a regular basis and go into raptures over them. I drive a rather elderly car and I love it and it still runs well, so I don’t give a damn about getting another.

– electronic crap: I am writing this on a nice laptop and that’s pretty much me in the world of electronics which I find to be a massive bore. My cellphone plan ran out a while ago and I haven’t replaced. I have never texted, or sexted, for that matter.

Otherwise, I am still an outgoing and friendly chap who is comfortable with his own company and periodically interacting with people he holds dear and I hope they are around forever. And yep, I still really like girls.

No, really my life is quite off-balance

elephant_inner_ear_I tend to think it goes back to the time I lost balance and did a face-plant in a hallway at home. A face-plant that led me to the emergency ward, but other than a bloody nose there was no real harm done.

But, in retrospect I know my ‘affliction’ goes back further than that. It goes back to 2014 when we were on the Island of Hawaii. Just little signs then, including not wanting to walk great distances – unlike me because I love a good walk – and not wanting to drive long distances and hence turning the rental car over to Wendy.

I have been loath heretofore to mention my ‘affliction’ in this space in case anybody construed it as a plea for sympathy. Not so. But, I am a highly private person despite the twaddle I post in blogs and on FB. But, I thought it was time to come clean. Trusted friends know about this shit, so why shouldn’t others?

Anyway, since 2014 I have been suffering from compromised balance and it fucking sucks, I must confess. It encroaches on my joy of walking, as I suggested, and it renders me fearful of falling. It also leaves me deeply fatigued and moderately depressed, mainly out of anxiety about the whole damn thing.

I have been for clinical tests, MRIs, CT-scans and damn near anything you can think of. I am slated for a neurologist appointment, but knowing how compromised specialist access is in this dumb province I have given up holding my breath about that access. Frustrating. Meanwhile I have had physio sessions, have had my inner ear perused by a specialist and continue to take twice weekly sessions directed at sufferers of Parkinson’s, which I don’t have but symptomatically my case is similar. Help? I’m not sure yet, but have met some very nice people there and we have a brilliant session coach in Jill Nelson.

So, what do I have? It’s not yet entirely clear. It is believed I have a vestibular disorder stemming from a small stroke I had in 2008 and subsequent brain bleeds. Fun, eh?

But at the end of the day, it seems that nobody really knows and for a guy who hates dealing with the medical fraternity, it is galling.

I arise in the morning feeling relatively OK, but as I used my limbs me strength diminishes as the day goes on and my gait becomes more plodding and my lower back gets compromised. I must consciously swing my arms as I walk as that no longer happens spontaneously – you know, like it has all my life up to this point. The sad part of that is I heretofore loved walking and could walk great distances.

And I must constantly be vigilant about my footing so I don’t trip. And I must be careful about how far I lean forward because if I pass a certain point I will just keep going forward until my head touches the ground, and then it’s a beast to get back on my feet without help.

I want my old life back. It could be worse, but this does not resemble a picnic.

As Joni Mitchell said, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

The day Roy dropped ‘da bomb’ in a Halloween reminiscence

This summer I had a welcome reunion with my valued old friend Roy, a guy whom i had not been in touch with for decades. To my delight, we still get along as famously as we did those many years ago. And in light of that, and also in light of the fact Halloween is coming up, I offer you a bit of a reminiscence from a slightly edited manuscript  from a few years ago.das_bus_41

We had a number of school bus drivers over the two years I went to my junior high. Most were OK, some were assholes, but we did have one we cherished. This guy looked, with no exaggeration, almost exactly like Edward G. Robinson and he let us basically do what we wanted. We smoked, we cussed, we felt up (only willing) girls and just had a wonderful old time on that ‘party’ bus. Let’s face it, it’s a pretty thankless job so I have to retrospectively admire this man for the liberties he gave us. But, I’ll be his liberalities did not sit well with his employers. Then one day he disappeared never to manifest again. He was replaced by a smooth talking cross between a car salesman and a televangelist who, in reference to the latter, was fond of quoting scripture to the more obstreperous amongst us. He also ruled with an iron fist, and was not averse to reporting misbehaviour to the principal. We did not like him. And we decided we must be rid of him. Not quite sure how that was going to happen.

stock-vector-cherry-bomb-235346980The chance we were waiting for, we deluded ourselves into thinking, happened near to Halloween one year. As we rode along home the bus was entering into a right hand turn lane near the Lougheed Highway. Sitting in the through lane was a police car. My friend Roy lit one of those red cherry bombs that were still available to kids in those days. Roy, who was not a bad kid at all but obviously a bit impulsive, dropped it out of the bus window and onto the roof of the cop-car, whence it exploded with a significant crack. In a trice the cruiser’s roof light was flashing and the siren activated, and then the cop car swerved in front of the bus and pulled us over. Two RCMP members entered and vainly tried to get somebody to own up. We were all utterly innocent in expression, especially Roy. Eventually the cops left, and the driver was mortified and enraged. We, of course, like the kids on The Simpsons collapsed in gales of laughter. And of course the driver ratted us out to our jerk of a principal.

This jerkish principal, who shall be left nameless, threatened us with all manner of mayhem, including cancelling the school bus forevermore. However we knew parents would never allow that to happen, since we all lived over five miles from the school. In any case, some fink ratted out Roy and he g, and with a bonus. We got a new driver. He was not good, not bad, just sort of there, so we let him got the boot from the bus in perpetuity. But, he was my friend so I often joined him on the long trek home, a trek that often included hitchhiking in those more innocent days.

He suffers a lack of ‘Maxness’ but we don’t care at all

dscn1015Today we took Nelson to the dentist. How you know that you live in a first-world society is that you take your dog to the dentist. I mean, really.

Buy there is justification for such egregious excess when there are hungry people even in our society. When Nelson was 3 months old he was hit with distemper. An ailment that could have easily killed him and did wipe out half the litter. It left him with nerve damage that gave him a wonky leg and it compromised the enamel on his teeth.

So, we made an appointment with a doggy-dentist to find out what the deal was. Well, we did find out that he has an ‘underbite’ and that was as far as we got this morning. He then had to be put under for x-rays to happen and that meant we had to leave him there – possibly even overnight.

Overnight! He’ll be scared. He’s just a wee bit of a thing. We don’t know for sure yet whether we do or don’t get him back today. But this little adventure has proved one thing to me. He suffers, of course, from the affliction of “not being Max” and that took me a while to get my head around. His paucity of Maxness is significant He is very small – 13 lbs as opposed to 80. He likes to play quite frantically. Max didn’t play, at least in terms of chasing balls and sticks; Nelson lives for such shenanigans.

Nelson likes to climb on the bed at night. Max never did. You literally could not make him. It wasn’t his territory. Nelson loves all manner of foodstuffs; as well as dogfood, which he favors, he is open to fruit and veggies of all types. Max believed he was a carnivore and carnivores eat meat and let that be an end of such a discussion

Anyway, they are (were) righteous dogs in their own way and only shared the similarity, as Plato would have it, in their ‘dogness’.

And both were, are hugely lovable. Both were rescues, and it kind of broke my heart a little bit to leave Nelson with an unfamiliar doggy dentist this morning.

I think perhaps we’ve bonded. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed such a thing was possible, to ‘bond’ with a dog that wasn’t Max.

Buncha goddamn rural hippies

kimmieThere was a blessedly brief interlude in the mid-1970s when we all grew beards. The men, that is. And I don’t necessarily mean all men, but a lot of us did assume a certain Jerry Garcia persona about ourselves.

But, this isn’t about beards, it was just that beards seemed to go with the attitude and the attitude was to embrace that which was rural. Some friends, acquaintances and colleagues bought themselves little spreads; small rural acreages upon which they’d plant huge vegetable gardens and raise chickens and ducks and sheep and goats, etc.

Me, I bought 80-feet of waterfront with manicured lawns and gardens. But, I kept my beard for a while, though balked at bib overalls and ‘chawing’. But what I did do as an indulgence to ‘ruralism’ was get myself a little flock of chickens. Kept them for a number of years until I got weary of sharing them with predatory raccoons. Raccoons, by the way, are anomalies in the animal kingdom. They don’t just kill for food, they kill because they ‘like’ to murder other defenseless animals. Or so I believe.

Now the only reason I am rambling on here about chickens was because of a thought that came to me last evening when I was watching the PBS offering on NATURE: Animal Odd Couples last evening. As a certifiable softy I was enchanted by the tales of interspecies pair-bondings with the most enchanting to me being the tale of the 16-year-old billygoat who would daily lead his pal, a blind 40-year-old horse to a pasture where there was good eatin’. I get teary at shit like that. And then there was the lab and the cheetah, and the golden and the fawn, and the lovely old great dane and the fawn and the lion and the coyote. They were all good.

And what came to mind was that I had an interspecies experience. No, not of my own, in case some of the more warped among you were going that way.

This means going back to the chickens. I had a little white hen that had run afoul (used advisedly) of the rest of the flock. They didn’t like her and were mercilessly pecking on her to the point of drawing blood. I knew enough about the species to know that the flock had a hit on her and were in the process of pecking her to death. Armed with that knowledge, I liberated her. Took her out of the pen and let her go about her business outside of stir. She seemed very happy with that turn of events.

Only trouble was, chickens are social animals so she gravitated towards the next available animal – my lovely dog, Murphy. Now you might thing a dog would tear a wayward chicken to feathers and fleshy shreds, but this wasn’t so. Murphy knew that the chicken belonged to us so he was (as master of the domain) honor-bound to protect it. Border collies are like that.

So, the little white hen hung around with Murphy; followed him around the yard; roosted on the woodpile in the carport if he was lying down on the doorstep; and merrily shared the food in his bowl if it looked tastier than chickenfeed. Murphy never balked. He patiently let the bird do what she had to do and eventually it came to seem like the natural order of things to him.

In time the little hen died of natural causes not by being brutalized by its erstwhile peers, and Murphy too went to the big kennel in the sky.

And I shaved my beard off and no longer have the waterfront home.

I guess it behooves me to give a bit of thanks

thanksgiv-dayIt is Thanksgiving Weekend here in the frozen north. Or, ‘Thanksgiving Lite’ as we like to think of it. None of the aforementioned is true, including Frozen North, except in the bad parts of the country, but not here. And the Thanksgiving Lite is just waggishness.

Be that as it may, Monday is Canuck Thanksgiving and the ‘lite’ part is reflective of the fact we only get one lousy day off rather than the two the Americans get.

Thanks giving in Canada is kind of odd. When we were in school we were taught about the Pilgrim Fathers and all that fol-de-rol. What utter bullshit. We didn’t have Pilgrim Fathers in Canada. We did have turkeys and we stole whatever we could from the natives, so in that we were of accord, but the rest of it is all US tradition, not ours. Not entirely sure what ours is based on other than that it goes back a long way and the advantage being that it doesn’t juxtapose Christmas like the US one does. I have honestly no idea how Canadian Thanksgiving came about and I am not about to research it now.

However, Thanksgiving is all about giving ‘thanks’, gratitude and so forth. I believe in expressions of gratitude, though some days I have my doubts.

What I am thankful for:

having enough to eat so that I can debate whether I do or don’t want turkey. I’ll opt for prime rib any old time, as I think turkey is horribly overrated, but we’ll probably have it. The bonus is turkey sandwiches and they are the best part of that stupid bird.

– that I don’t live in a country with a Donald Trump. Oh we live in a country with a lot of Trump wannabes, but not the real deal.

that I have a nice home and a nice wife and a lovely little dog.

– that I am sober and have been for two decades.

– and while I have some health challenges I am still relatively functional.

– that I have some dear friends; some old-time ones and some new and some right here on Facebook, including some I have never met but whom I love nonetheless.

– I have been married three times and this marriage works best of all. But I also was, over the years, ‘involved’ with some amazing women all of whom I cherish to this day and do not regret those involvements for a moment. But, they will stay in the past.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. And eat a ton of pumpkin pie if you can find it under the mandatory whipped cream.