Monthly Archives: March 2016

There are big ships and small ships etc. etc.

friendshipMost friendship is feigning;

Most loving mere folly.

Shakespeare, As You Like It

There is a dichotomy between a friendship and a love relationship, it is believed. About that I am not entirely certain. In a love relationship there is of course sex, nakedness and assorted secretions. Therein lies a difference from friendship.

But in both there is emotion. In that, friendship love and sexual love are similar . It’s all just a matter of degree. I have some very intense friendships with females and, yes, there is a sexual component to such friendships. But since I am a faithful guy, that component isn’t permitted to segue into the situation as tempting as it might be.

I also have female friendships that are not sexually enticing but they are every bit as valuable.

And male friendships can be equally loving though, in my case, since I am straight, never sexual. But the feelings in those situations are just as deep as they would be with a lover. I only have a couple of such friendships now, but I cherish them. I had a couple of further ones that were rent asunder due to the untimely deaths of said friends. Those incidents shook me to my core and have never left.

So, there is no doubt in my mind that ‘love’ is as big a component in a friendship as it is in a sexual relationship.

And if a friendship goes south, especially if it goes south inexplicably, then the pain can be virtually as great as it is with the demise of a marriage or a sexual relationship. I have one such. A person with whom I had a strong tie and thought the world of. We were not lovers nor ever courted the idea. Just really good boy and girl friends who seemingly understood each other well. I valued it. By this point I am unsure as to her view in the matter.

After a few years she ceased being available. Made excuses to avoid my company or to not return calls. Finally I got to the point of well, ‘fuck her’. But, of course my mind went to what I might have done to earn her opprobrium. I have no idea and by this point I have no interest in exploring the matter further. I only think that if I had done something to offend, then I am sorry.

 

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Top o’ the Easter Day to yez all

blarney castleThe day before Easter of 1981 I actually hiked up the long steps of Blarney Castle, in Cork, Ireland. I remember the incident fondly, despite being hungover from surfeits of Guinness the previous evening. I think my hike to the castle and up the long steps was a modicum of penance for my transgressions. In a bit of gratitude I tried to recapture some of the spiritual (as opposed to spiritous) aspects of the experience in the painting at right. Easter of 1981 is one I remember with fondness and even a modicum of grace. Ireland, with its entrenched, albeit convoluted form of Catholic Christianity seemed to go well with the Crucifixion and Resurrection tale.

And then, of course, there is the Easter Rebellion, also in Ireland and such a different and tragic tale of the convoluted history of this charming place, and the day on which, as Yeats would have it, a “terrible beauty” was born.

I have a problem with festive times of the year, both Christmas and Easter, for it is at such times I am struck by intense sensations of isolation in the universe. Oh, I do not intend to be dreary. There is a world of difference between sensations of isolation, or aloneness, if you prefer, and loneliness. I am rarely lonely. I have many friends whom I cherish and would do anything for, as they would for me. No, it’s more a sort of existential aloneness that comes from a virtual lack of family. That reality can lead to a feeling of loss-of-place in the world. I am happily married, and my wife and I cherish each other deeply, but that is a relationship of choice, and not family in quite the same sense. My parents have been gone for many years. I don’t miss them so very much because ours was not a warm and cuddly home. I have a brother whom I love deeply, although we see each other rarely. I have another brother who chooses to remain utterly detached from any familial connections. That’s his choice. I respect it. Maybe even understand it.

But, festive times can make me acutely aware of loss. Here I will mention a person I lost. I have no children, by choice of my first wife (a choice I respected but was hurt by). But, I do have a stepdaughter by my second marriage. She chose to alienate herself from me. Shit happens in God’s universe. I can live with it. And I miss Max more than I miss her, because he treated me better and was grateful for any generosities I bestowed.

Ultimately, even though I have lost many others in my life, we learn to cope and I for one am very happy to be with my loved friends and adored wife on this Easter of 2016 and not maybe in the best of all possible worlds, but certainly in the best one we’ve got.

Happy Easter.

 

Third best in the known universe? How about that?

munrosI see by a news item that Victoria’s Munro’s Books has been named the third best book emporium in the known universe. Well, the actual designation, according to National Geographic which bestowed the honor, was third best on the planet. But since no other planets apparently have a literary bent, I will stick with my suggestion.

Quite an amazing thing for this store. Not only was it co-founded by a Nobel Prize winning author, as in Alice of the same name as the store but now this.

It is deserved, in my esteem. Munro’s is one of my ‘musts’ whenever I am in Victoria and I have parted with a fair amount of cash in the place. I like wandering around its shelves in its lovely home that was at one time a classically appointed bank building from the days when banks looked like banks. I mainly like the place because it sells books and that is a good thing.

I have bought many books in my life. I have bought waaaaaaaaaaaaay too many books in my life and someday before I croak I am going to have to offload some of them. Our living room bookcases are abrim, and all three bedrooms are chock-a-block with tomes. And that’s not to mention the garage. No, I asked you not to mention the garage.

When I travel I am sucker-punched by bookstores, and especially vulnerable to iconic ones. A wander up Charing Cross Road in London is almost a sexual experience – I said ‘almost’, nothing is exactly a sexual experience other than sex – because that rickety West End street is the home of bookstores of every strip from cheap smut shops to the renowned Foyle’s, the biggest bookstore in the world. I have been to Foyle’s a few times and it is amazing in its masses. Frankly there is too damn much in the bound volumes department therein for a mere mortal to actually savor the astonishing nature of the place. I believe I bought my first Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in Foyle’s.

I fell in love with bookstores when I was in university and had no money but I would still take myself down to Duthie’s in Vancouver just to be in the presence of volumes I wanted to buy.

Anyway, I am happy about Munro’s. In the age of the repellent shit of a Trump, and the horrors of Brussels it was the feel-good story I needed today.

 

In light of the tragedy in Brussels today I think I’d be wary to use the ‘Eurostar’

Eurostar-train-tmstWe had been in Brussels for a few days back in the autumn of 2006. A few surprisingly delightful days in the Belgian capital, a major city that turned out to be much more enchanting than we had anticipated it would be.

It was a pleasing change to arrive there after a few weeks in France. Pleasing because we found the Brussels folk to be pleasant and welcoming and not shits like the French can be. Oh, we loved France. The scenery and history and culture were all wonderful, and the food was superlative. But, the French. Well, they are French. What can I say. They don’t like people who cannot speak their lingo superlatively. I speak it rather pathetically. But, at least I fucking tried. Those good intentions seemed to matter little.

We had a teeny-weeny room in a ‘quaint’ little hotel. One that served, however, and included in the room tariff, superlative breakfasts.

And we did Brussels stuff. I had no idea what to expect even though I had been in plenty of European capitals like London, Amsterdam, Vienna and Rome. Brussels turned out to be a delightful surprise. The first glimpse of the Grande Place and you will lose your breath at a beauty more remarkable than any wonderful woman can offer. And we saw the cute little Mannikin Pis, and we ate mussels and truffles and at no time did we ever feel vaguely unsafe.

We linked up with a couple of friends from back home and spent a delightful day exploring the streets, roads and culs-de-sac of this capital of the European Union that holds more history in a single block than most other places I had visited. Even Waterloo, the site of Napoleon’s ignominious defeat is just a few miles from Brussels.

Like all good things our sojourn there had to come to an end, but I was also actively anticipating our departure because we were to leave for London via the famed Eurostar and would be using the ‘Chunnel’. That had to be cool. We booked the train trip a few days ahead, which is advised. And when we made our reservations we were told that we ‘must’ be at the departure area before a specific time. Even a minute later and we would be refused. Seemed strict, to me. But we acceded and got there in plenty of time.

Well, inside it wasn’t like a conventional railway station departure area. The customs part was easy. We had our papers and passports and though we did feel a bit like Lazlo and Ilsa fleeing that North African town in the film Casablanca we played along. Customs done, we then had to deal with some tough looking military guys who also wanted to see our documentation. Fortunately all was in order and there were no embarrassing questions revolving around any sort of neglect on our part.

Ultimately the hurdles were completed and we realized that in a European capital, security was not taken lightly. The Chunnel trip was a delight and was something I had wanted to do for years.

I always thought I’d like to do it again.

But, you know, in light of the tragic events in Brussels today I think I would be loath to take the trip what with saboteurs and all.

The world grows increasingly crappy, is all I can think.

 

Maybe it’s time BC showed its critters a li’l love

urinseI could launch into a tirade here. In fact I think I shall. The tirade revolves around the fact that British Columbia, mine own home and native province, apparently hates its wildlife and wants to be rid of it as expeditiously as possible.

The other day I mentioned how I had seen a sign on a favorite walking trail noting that a cougar had been spotted in the area. ‘Cool,’ I thought. Among the most magnificent looking wild beasts around here and one that I have regrettably never seen in the wild. In so saying I’m not suggesting I want a close-encounter with one. They can be mighty dangerous, but at the same time I like the idea of them being out there, and I like the idea of them being unmolested and if people are going to pee in their panties at the idea of them being there well, tough patooties, go and do an extra load of laundry.

And, of course, along with the sign being posted there were the helicopters scoping the pretty parkland in a scene from Apocalypse Now. Just needed a bit of Wagner to set the mood. Blessedly the scrutineers spotted nothing and life could return to normal and I could breathe a sigh of relief in the thought that one of our ridiculously mistitled ‘conservation’ officers didn’t catch sight of the big feline.

The point of this diatribe is to indict this province in its attitude towards its magnificent wildlife and the only conclusion I can reach is that certain sectors in Victoria find wildlife to be a nuisance that must be gotten rid of. Oh, yes we mount little conservation measures for boring and harmless stuff like Island Marmots and we do nod to the iconic like the orcas and the kermode bears. But otherwise we have curious attitudes. We invite outsiders to come and blast away grizzlies so that they can stick some cool rugs in their homes in Oklahoma or wherever. BC professes the big bears are not in danger. Others think otherwise.

Meanwhile, we get them same old cougar-hunting choppers up in the air to post against wolves in the believe that they are ravaging elk and caribou populations rather than the systemic deforestation by the big timber companies having a role in that regard. Nah, kill the big bad wolves, they’re scary. Fairy tales tell us so.

In Cumberland some bears position themselves in trees in the village. They’re there because dumb people leave eatables around and don’t pick their damn apples. The bears do what comes naturally, they go after the apples. The ‘conservation’ officers come and nail the bears. To take an apple from a tree is a capital offence in the ursine world. Sad.

One decent conservation officer takes steps to save two orphaned cubs after their mother had been slain by his peers. He is toasted for his efforts – or, ‘re-assigned’ is I believe how that tale unfolded. Silly man, he believed in ‘conservation’ apparently.

 

What? Me worry? Oh yeah, a whole lot

Charlie bI am a lot like Charlie Brown in that I am a worrywart. A lot of us are like Charlie Brown because he is an effing metaphor for human insecurities.

I don’t know where my tendency to travel to worst possible scenarios comes from but it has always been with me. I love to travel, for example. Yet, the day before I take off I am a basket-case. If it is a road trip then my vehicle is going to career into a highway overpass at a great rate of speed. If I am flying then the aircraft will plummet to the earth in sheets of flame. If I am to find myself in an alien place then I will be mugged in a dark alleyway somewhere.

None of the aforementioned have ever happened, but it’s the possibility they might that puts burrs under my serenity saddle. Might just as well stay home is the thought that prevails the day before. And yet, once I am underway the angst dissipates rapidly. I just need to get myself in ‘process’. And then, once I have been in foreign parts for a few days or weeks, then I don’t want to leave.

I don’t want to leave because that means going ‘home’. And in our absence the house will have burned down; a tree will have fallen on it; burglars will have come to call; the pets will have died or run away.

Doctor’s appointments fill me with a great deal of premonitory agony. That mole on my back, is it benign. I indulged some bad behaviors in the past. Have they caught up with me? I have some friends suffering the rigors of very serious illness; is it my turn now? Will my blood pressure be over the moon? Will my cholesterol be in a ghastly state. Some people die; is it my turn now? Oh, and how long will I have to wait in the main reception area of the clinic with its shitty magazines before being ushered into the ‘little’ room wherein I will have to wait a further half hour at least sending my blood pressure even higher?

And in that context age alone causes me anxiety. I scan the newspaper obits (past a certain age you just do). It seems to be a compulsory behavior. If I spy somebody who died really prematurely it depresses me. Or, as my brother once said, you hope it was a suicide because that person made a choice and the reaper didn’t sneak up unexpectedly as he does with the rest of us. Other than that I prefer the obits of the really really old folks. “He/she got a good innings” is my catchall here.

Other than that, the sun is shining and no evidence of skin cancer so far – phew!

 

 

Maybe those kindly priests weren’t so kindly at all

nobodyIf you don’t start behaving I am going to send you over to the priests to take care of you,” was my grandmother’s direst threat if any of us were being little jerks, as only kids can be.

Threats of wooden spoons or being locked in the closet had failed, so it would be left to the priests to work their mayhem. I didn’t know if those clerical chaps brought about Inquisition style mayhem in those days. I wasn’t a Catholic. Neither was Granny, but the spectre of torture chambers a la el Greco loomed somehow in the back of my mind. However, I was never actually sent there.

And if I had been it would have been confusing. I mean, we used to go over there to play in their gym and we knew the priests, nuns and (what we called) Priory Boys. Known as Westminster Abbey the operation, after 1954 moved to Mission, BC. Actually I found the appellation Westminster Abbey rather odd, since the original of that name is an Anglican institution. But, I am not to quibble. The priestly sorts set up camp on what was known as the Fairfield property in Burnaby in the 1930s. A lovely spot that latterly became an arts and culture centre in that municipality, and which was possessed of a couple of grand houses even when the churchy lot was there.

I liked them being there. When I was little I liked talking to the priory boys because they came from all over. I had a conversation with one when I was maybe about seven. I had no idea, of course. “I come from Africa,” he said. Oh come on, I thought. People from Africa (within my limited scope) were somewhat duskier of hue. I think I did ask him if he was afraid of lions, what with living there and all.

Anyway, they were good people. We always made sure we went to see them on Halloween and the nuns were very generous. And then there were the bells. The Priory Bells were a daily occurrence to mark time, and on Sundays, however, the whole array was put into action. The institution boasted a carillon and on Sundays the full array of bells would punctuate the mood of the adjoining neighborhoods. Nobody complained, to my knowledge, and I was too young at the time to have hangovers so I just thought it sounded nice. When it sounded especially nice was during the Christmas season when carols would be played throughout.

And then they went away. I was by then old enough to no longer fear their wrath so I guess I didn’t pay too much attention. I only paid attention when they were replaced by a wacky cult religious order run by a charlatan of the vilest sort. What were the good Fathers and Brothers thinking of when they sold to such assholes? In any case, from that point and for a few brief years the place was verboten in terms of access to non-cultists, which for us was, of course, an invitation to invade. Oh we didn’t vandalize, we’d just go on to the property and see how far we’d get before some dickhead screamed at us to get out and threatened police intervention.

The good priests never threatened us with the cops. We missed them.