The Ides Of March
Monday morning, February 28th. BC Ferries, Queen of Cowichan. It’s all grey out there, but the visibilty is thirty miles beneath the low overcast. There’s a wind warning up but for the moment it’s a piffling 15 knots, on the nose of course. It’s not my idea of how to go to sea sitting here at this tiny desk with herds of landlubbers stumbling by and yucking it up by my elbow. There’s a young fellow hovering around, practising his manly walks and trying to display the new tattoo on his skinny arm. He is the sort who gets duped into going to war. A young family settles at the desk beside me and tries to set up a card game with their shrieking youngster. Another BC Ferry announcements booms out extolling passengers to re-install their Covid face masks between each sip of coffee. And then …”Thank you for choosing BC Ferries.” Arseholes! As if we had a choice!
Once off of this old gutbucket there is a gauntlet ahead. There will be a freeway marathon around the north edge of Vancouver and then out into the grey bowels of the lower mainland. Hopefully I’ll be off that snot chute before rush hour begins, not that this old bogwump can tell when that might be. It seems like a lemming race to me all day, every day. At the moment this jaded old salt is looking out at Jedediah Island and the south end of cloud-wrapped Texada. I remember long black storm-tossed nights at the helm of some greasy old tug. There were other spells of sun-dappled days on one of my own boats anchored safely in some nook when you’d lost track of time and didn’t really give a damn. How I cherish those memories and long to feel a small vessel rocking beneath me again.
The ferry stumbles into its second notable swell of the trip. The whole vessel shudders like a monstrous drum. Rain now lashes the window. I look out and up Sechelt Inlet to more fresh snow on the distant peaks. I’ll close this computer, find a corner and try to have a nap. That’s how you get to meet any screaming babies on board.
A day later finds me in a friend’s brand-new apartment in Langley. Fifth floor, looking down on another of these box mushrooms rising up. First thing in the morning, the crew has set their pace at full plod. I get it, the rain is spattering down as the workers staple together the bits of lumber and soggy plywood. Safety first and how do you get motivated with hours of dreary travail ahead? Overhead cranes spin in a slow choreography, dipping and lifting all the countless bits and equipment in and out of place as required. Beeping back-up alarms, the din of hammers and air guns blend into a strange jazz for the ballet of industry.
A half-million dollars or more for each of these domicile boxes with rot built-in from the beginning but how do you erect a whole new city without working in the rain. Not much would ever get done. No matter to me if folks chose to live like stacked rats, the cancerous spread of this megalopian cancer is well to the east in the Fraser Valley. The high-rises look down on the last of the old barns and the new corner stores where soon the milk will come from China. In the distance I can see excavator booms bending and rising with loaded buckets as they prepare the foundations for more buildings. When I looked up this address on Google Earth a red teardrop placed it in a forest behind a farm. No-one will hear the call of a rooster or the bellow of a cow here ever again.
There was a time when home was a place where you could piss and then jump safely from the back porch, returning inside with a fist full of fresh eggs or an arm load of fire wood.
Now, peeing without a face mask ist verbotten, someone in a brown shirt will show up to charge you with inadequate exposure, the eggs need to be approved by the health department and the egg marketing board, the firewood must be certified ozone friendly with carbon taxes paid. Old George Orwell was a clever chap. I’m glad to be the age I am.
The week slips by quickly. All too soon the visiting must end and I find myself back on the ferry. This time I’m on a top deck and can stay in my vehicle. I put my seat back for a nap and find myself awakened over two hours later by the announcement that we are nearing the Duke Point Terminal. I race up to the washroom on the passenger deck and can’t comprehend why other passengers are glaring at me. I’ve forgotten my Covid mask. I complete my mission and return to my car. I can’t find it. I’ve long found amusement with the lost souls in panic stumbling the decks wondering what in hell…. now I’m one myself.
Welcome to the world of senility, where nothing is as it seemed. On the ferry, I always note the door I’ve used and the car was just where I left it, on the other side of a bulkhead. I’d simply had a brain fart. There was a local restaurant which mischievously placed a sign inside the men’s washroom which simply read “Women.” Same feeling.
Now at home again I sit at my desk and check the latest news. Once again, nothing seems real. It is unforgivable to me that an iconic aircraft, the AN-225, has been wilfully destroyed. The aircraft was a symbol of Ukrainian pride and achievement.
These are civilians, trying to live their lives, who are now fleeing with their children or taking up arms to try and defend their homeland. That such humanitarian horror has been imposed on a peaceful Western nation is terribly wrong. All because of one pig-faced short man. An indelible image for me has been that of a Russian soldier’s body laying spread-eagled on his back on the frozen ground beside the tracks of a burned-out tank. He is covered in an inch of snow. His comrades have not claimed his body. Even more horrifying, there are images of civilian bodies laying in the street where they fell. Wars have become real-time live entertainment and it is appalling that someone’s misery and carnage is our casual distraction as we sit down to dinner.
In our own homeland, greedy bastards have popped the price of fuel up by ten percent or more using the invasion of Ukraine as a thin excuse. Our roads are still jammed with hurtling traffic. No-one is thinking economy although (in my opinion) we are paying a dollar per litre more than we should. Life goes on. I’m loading up the Hemouth with beans and heading into the woods for a while.
“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. “ Albert Einstein