I have a friend. Surprising perhaps, but actually, yes I have a few. I’ve always reckoned that if someone claims to have lots of friends, they may well have none. Perhaps acquaintances are considered friends by some, but you find out quickly whom your true friends are and who are not when the chips are down. You need to be relied on at all costs, and vice versa. I have a few of those and of course they have me.
Jimmy is a buddy whom I have known over forty years. Anyone who can put up with me for that long is worth keeping in touch with. He’s also the same age I am and tonight as I write he’s setting up his tent somewhere in Northern Yukon. From here I can hear the whine and bump of bugs outside the thin fabric as he settles down to rest from a long day and recharges for the next one ahead. An avid and seasoned motorcycle dude, he has ridden his Suzuki DR650 toward Tuktoyuktuk.
Once he’s had a sip of Arctic Ocean he’ll turn southward to return home to Ladner, an entire trip intended to be completed in six weeks. Phew, there’ll be no moss on his wheels! You’ve seen other folks making videos about similar feats, but Jimmy and I are the same age. We’re firmly into our seventies. He has previously ridden a motorcycle all over the continent and also sailed several boats all over the Pacific. You can’t keep a good man down and…there’s a lovely wife who provides him with excellent ground support; long-suffering Donna.
I’ve been following Jimmys progress on Goggle Earth. Donna sends me his position on SPOT and I survey where he is. Tonight his wee tent is set up about fifty feet from a huge bear pile, right behind a blueberry bush. His next town will be Dawson City. I’ve noticed that just to the north is the place name of Off Leash Dog Park. In all of that vast wilderness that’s got to be the town for me!
As a young man I was deeply inspired by Francis Chichester, an Englishman in his mid-seventies who incidentally also had cancer. He had already become famous with global exploits in his tiny Tiger Moth biplane. Now in a newly-commissioned huge and hard-to-sail yawl he sailed off to go around the planet once again. Crews of younger men have since tried to re-create parts of the original voyage in that same boat. It beat them down until they had to head for port. It’s clearly all about attitude. I’m afraid mine is terrible at the moment. I don’t want to discuss issues here but I do want to thank the inspiration of folks like my friend Jimmy. My sense of mission in life is to create a little light in other people’s eyes. You’ve certainly done that for me amigo. Thanks!
By strange coincidence I stumbled on a YouTube video about a 94 year old man who still rides his fleet of Triumph motorcycles. He began racing Triumphs in 1952 (The year I was born) and became known as ‘Fast Eddie’. So he’s been riding all my life and is still going strong although he can barely walk out to his barn full of kick-start motorcycles. Inspiring!
There is no glory in vicarious adventure. No-one will ever be recognized for what they watched on television. You’ve got to get out there on your own and light your own little star. I can also state from personal experience that often there is a quiet courage in the business of simple daily living. As I get older and my body decomposes while yet I breath, like everyone else, I endure physical pain as well as the guilt and frustration about all the things I could have done differently. There is great anxiety about not being able to do what I want due to lack of funds. Still there are people who make excuses and those who get things done. The two seldom mix.
There are a lot of folks my age and younger in a similar situation. Trying to make it through the month on a tiny pension without ending up a little further in debt is an acheivement now. Bought a cabbage lately?
Inflation is when you pay fifteen dollars for the ten-dollar haircut you used to get for five dollars when you had hair.” ― Sam Ewing
This morning, while posting my daily Facebook blog, the app. showed my own mugshot to me and advised that this guy and I have nine mutual friends. OK? Lately, they’ve been sending out repeat friendship requests on my behalf to various facebook acquaintances. Interestingly, Facebook has no live complaint department a person can contact. Social media, oh yeah! I’m weary of young girls, and a few men, who want to show me their body parts and are declaring their profound love to this old stranger. I’ve unsubscribed from Facebook in disgust once before, which was a biblically complicated ordeal but I’m close to leaving again. I’d been persuaded that Facebook was the epicentre of social media and e-commerce. I needed to be there to further my interests. It’s the way things are done now. Well, I’ve seen no cheques. Haar! I’m losing interest. If this is indeed one of society’s prime fulcrums, we’re deep in the cack!
Perhaps I’m in an advanced state of cabin fever after a long, grey winter. Jill has been ill the whole time, we have tight funds and are restricted to a close-range dull existence. I am frustrated and yes, angry. I do find delight in events like multi-billion dollar jet fighter defense umbrellas being thwarted by simple balloons. I’ve found some fun in inventing scenarios like an explosion in a North Korean condom factory. A friend reminded me that during WWII Japan was successful in sending paper balloons with bombs to North America. Simple wins! So, when an F-69 blasts a carnival because some child lost their birthday balloon….. Yep, it’s crazy out there!
This last week has tipped my canoe. I am tired of feeling like a sub-species because I am an older man. I have lived my biblical span of three score and ten. To make things worse, I am a white male heterosexual, married to a woman for more than six months, and I have earned a living from different BC resource industries. Wot a loser! I have realized that I am a member of the “Last Nation.” Do I sound jaded? Bet yer arse Billy! I’m burned out from years of bashing and smashing myself up in the woods and at sea. That doesn’t compare with the thrashing you take from the squadrons of bureaucratic desk jockeys along the way who cavalierly try to control a person’s existence. I feel tossed out at a time when I have my best to offer. All those years of experience, developed skills and perspectives to pass on and I’m left to feel like a discarded fast-food wrapper blowing in the wind. I guess I never did learn to work clever instead of simply hard. Clever like a donkey. All I can do is try to make a difference with my writing and photography.
Now understand this, I refuse to regard people in terms of age, gender, race or social circumstance. Religion? Believe what you want, just do not try to impose it on me. Part of my spiritual dogma is tolerance, but don’t press your insecurity on me, just show me your better way. As one of my senior employees once told a snippy young government brown shirt, “ Son if I come over there and pull down yer pants, we’re gonna find a belly button and an arsehole just like the rest of us.” His message, in best Redneck eloquence, was that we’re all in this together and nobody is superior, or inferior, to anyone else; not if we’re all doing our best.
Twenty-three years ago I endured an accident and injury which required the installation of a dacron aorta and some other repairs to my heart. Doctors told me I’d never be able to go back to work as I had. The surgeon gave me twenty years to live but the bugger refused to sign a letter agreeing that a severe trauma was probably the cause of the injury. That gave license to WorkSafe BC to cock their leg on me despite all the other medical reports. The union was not inclined to take its feet off the desk and support the cause of one paying labour brother. At a time like that, you don’t have the berries to get up on your knees and fight for yourself. You need a little help. Life is not fair, I’ve made my own way and, for a while, have even gone back to the type of work I was advised to avoid. I’m not complaining although it’s damned tough to survive as a geezer with a tiny pension. Bought a cabbage lately?
What does piss me off is all the folks who seem to think the world owes them something for simply showing up and that the solution for their problems is to throw huge lumps of money their way. I’m damned tired of one ethnic group or another claiming discrimination because someone didn’t get a mortgage as expected, or a promotion at work or a political appointment. Fewer folks in this province now work in a resource-based industry, they don’t actually produce anything. Poking at a computer keyboard a few hours per week has nothing to do with the raw mass we eat and otherwise consume. I’m also fed up with some folks asking me to step aside and bend over because of their personal anomalies. If you choose to marry a duck, and have that bird’s mutual consent and affection, go for it. That’s your business, you don’t need to make it mine. We are all engineered to be heterosexual. That’s how you got to be here. If you have other gratifications, it is your business, not my obligation, to embrace. So, when are we going to have a heterosexual rights parade? We’re normal!
This is in a province that should be entirely self-sufficient in all ways. We should be exporting much, much more than we import. It seems to me that a lot of folks are very detached from basic reality and have ridiculous expectations. Not fitting into this new world order, and I don’t want to fit, leaves me feeling that I am a member of a group that is indeed a “Last Nation.” And to all of you self-appointed “environmentalists” who live somewhere in a multi-level condo within the biggest clear-cut in the province, commonly called the “Lower Mainland;” quit all your consuming and go learn something about what it is you say is so precious to you. Otherwise, go to hell. How’s that for politically correct?
Considering so many other places on the planet, we are all so very well off here. We’ve no real clue about suffering, deprivation and discrimination. So, when I hear from a group wanting to start a special appeal for funding research about women’s heart health, or someone complaining about not getting a mortgage because of their ethnic tone….Jeez Louise. REALLY? If staying alive meant accepting the implant of a black male pig heart, would you turn it down? You cannot have equal rights and special rights at the same time. I’m beginning to clearly understand the discrimination that seniors endure living in a condition towards which we all progress without choice. Just remember, don’t piss us off, we don’t have much left to lose! I worked hard to get here and I will not be dismissed as a minority.
I do worry about ending up in a hospital bed, plumbed with a macrame of tubes and wires, staring endlessly at a poo-brindle beige ceiling while waiting for the lights to go out and knowing I still had much more to give. I’ve been there; it’s horrible. I’d prefer to die in the saddle, trying to still do something positive and meaningful.
I refuse to watch those ridiculous TV wilderness survival unreality shows, but I’m wondering about one for not-so-sexy geezers doing the same sort of thing. Remember the story about the old bull and the young one? Upon discovering a herd of heifers, the young bull wanted to run over and make love to one. The old bull suggested that by walking over, they’d have enough energy to make love to them all. We could call the program the “Last Nation.”
In a few days, I’ll travel to Astoria, Oregon. For the first time since Covid reared its ugly head, we are meeting again in person. It is a gathering of professional mariners, especially fishermen, who write, read and sing some amazing material about their life at sea. Check out fisherpoets.org. Love to see you there, or have you listen on the various radio taps available.
I learned how to sew when I was a child. It began with darning socks. Yep, back in the day we repaired our clothing instead of talking ‘green’ and then throwing everything away as soon as it was less than perfect. Of course, most of our clothing was organic and not made of something synthetic, which is certainly a lot harder to repair. To repair a sock’s worn heel you inserted a special wooden disc beneath the hole then stitched back and forth in two directions, weaving the new material together into the old until there was a completely new heel in place. The trick was to make the repair smooth enough so that you could not feel it when wearing the sock. My skills evolved to sewing buttons and making dolls out of old socks. Eventually I could sew patches on shirts and jeans and my ability with a needle has served me well and often. Those were times when nearly every grocery store sold sewing supplies, cloth dye, iron-on patches and patterns for making your own clothes. Home Economics was a popular class in school for both genders. Not no mo!
As an aircraft mechanic I learned how to sew new fabric onto rebuilt aircraft wings, an exacting endeavor with a perfect number of perfect stitches per inch and long stitches through the wing fabric which helped hold the linen in place during flight. Everything had to be done quickly so the organic material did not sag excessively before the first coat of nitrate dope was applied. This shrank the cloth into place and weather-proofed it. If you messed that up, you stripped the fabric off and tried again. Successive coats filled the weave of the cloth and produced an aerodynamic glass-like finish. There have been a lot of marine fabric and sail repairs through the years, all hand-sewn. I still have my leather palm and awls used to push needles through heavy material, including leather.
On a recent morning I set about repairing a beloved pair of old sweat pants and tried threading a needle. My arthritic fingers made it a challenge and actually seeing the eye of the needle well enough to insert the thread was certainly humbling. The experience was a sobering milestone in my aging process. It goes on the shelf beside the first time I was asked if I qualified for a senior’s discount. I was indignant at first but have soon learned to demand every break as often as I can. Shovelling a foot of snow today was another marker, but that’s not an age problem. Let’s just say i bought some wine today bottled under the label of ‘Fat Bastard.’ Enough said.
A friend recently speculated on what I can find to write about in these Covid days when we are essentially under self-imposed house arrest. Sometimes I wonder myself. Unfortunately there are far too many Covid-related issues which deserve comment and so there is always something to raise a question about. Hopefully some day soon this will again be the travel blog it was intended to be.
Despite the near-quarantine conditions there are still a number of out of province, and out of country, license plates. I’ll assume nothing but certainly do wonder what’s up. The borders are supposed to be closed. I recognize Pamela Anderson’s SUV with its California plates, but she is a hometown girl who again lives here a lot of the time. So I don’t want to assume anything about who’s doing what here. I do wish folks could respect themselves and each other a little more. The face mask issue rages on. A fellow ranted that now they’re trying to make us afraid of fresh air. I can see his point but I’ve had friends and family fall to this virus and I believe it’s real. If you’re not prepared to wear a mask out of respect for your fellows, will you volunteer to dig a few graves?
I’m an old bog trotter who knows there is a lot I don’t understand but it seems that shutting down the planet’s commerce for a few weeks would stop this bug in its tracks. We should have done that a year ago. Think of all we’ve lost because we did not. Despite all the dire consequences, it seems a small price to pay to stop an apparently thinking virus which will keep mutating faster than we can concoct new vaccines. Remember the old mantra “An once of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We must stop putting economics ahead of our health and that of our planet. This is not a suspense movie. Morgan Freeman nor Dustin Hoffman cannot save us. It’s real life. What sort of economy will there be when millions more are dead?
Yeah, there’s a lot to write about. Unfortunately stupidity is infinite and it gets boring. I know I’m the same wooly-headed sheople as the rest of the herd but I insist on retaining the judgment to step out of its core, breath some fresh air and try to think for myself a bit. Instead of “Baaa” I choose to say “Woof” and that is not going to be tolerated.
At the moment we’re experiencing an intense winter high. It’s cold and windy with threats of “significant” snow fall. The media is trying to turn winter into another dark story. Perhaps it is my old fart memory but I swear that 40° in Winnipeg, or snow in Toronto or Calgary was once regarded as normal.
While walking Jack a few mornings ago we came upon some rabbit tracks in freshly-fallen snow. They travelled up a trail then abruptly ended in a tidy pile of rabbit fur with a tail. Leading on up the trail from the scene of the ambush a set of large house-cat tracks meandered onward. Garfield lives! It has been snowing here all day, a fine sifting sort of snow that manages to pile up quite quickly and will require shoveling a second time by day’s end. At least I’ve heard no-one mention Global Warming for a few days.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less” – Marie Curie