Disrupter Disrupted

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image Yui Mok PA/via AP via The Guardian


This is the funniest man in England right now.  Dominic Cummings.  The guy is hilarious.  He views himself as a “disrupter”.  He thinks governments are a joke and despises the media.  He’s prime minister Boris Johnson’s top advisor and controls with an iron rule what goes on at 10 Downing Street.

Until very recently most Englanders, meaning anybody not living in London, had only heard of the guy.  They didn’t really know anything about him.  Didn’t know what he looked like or that he had a funny, northern England accent.

They certainly didn’t know that the guy who’s at least as in charge of the country as the prime minister, and some pundits suggest the prime minister, like a puppet, does everything he says, is a gormless baldy with the morals and scruples and integrity of an elderly, moth-eaten sock.

This funny man blatantly ignored the lockdown and self-isolation rules that he helped write that were imposed on the entire country.  Why?  Because he’s special.  And the rules for the specials aren’t the same as for the general public.  It’s hysterical.  For some reason he doesn’t like all the attention he’s getting at the moment and many politicians in his putative boss’s governing party very much desire that he fuck off.

Sorry about that.  That word is an old English colloquialism.  I’m using it to lend an air of authenticity to keep this piece from being too fluffy.  I mean, there’s fluffy and there’s fluffy and then there’s fluffier and fluffier and then there’s fluffiest and we’re not going by there today.

No.  This joker takes umbrage at any suggestion of impropriety.  I believe he’s offended.  He resorted to a weaselly press conference statement in 10 Downing Street’s “rose garden”.  I’ll be gooned.  I didn’t know 10 Downing Street had a rose garden.  It’s invisible from the street.  I should know.  I go by there all the time.  I guess it must be somewhere out back.

It’s just common sense.  Power.  The guy who commented on its corrupting properties was English.  It’s Englisher day around here today.  Having nothing more splendid to do in the long hours fighting off the pathogens I took to the overseas press and here was this incredible comedian, top advisor to “Bojo” as the exalted prime minister with the crazy hair is affectionately called.

England, like some other countries I could name, has a terrible affliction right now that it can’t seem to shake.  Weak at the top.  Very weak.  And it’s something just as dangerous as the pathogen but there will never be a vaccine for it.

This joker’s got a soul bro in the U.S. White house named Stephen Miller.  But I’m not going to take him apart right now.

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Rose Garden

 

3 p.m.  Shopping spree.  Helps.  Irritation of lining up outside a supermarket and the line isn’t moving.  Look, I just want to buy some groceries, all right?  Is that all right with you?  Pathogen?  You there?

Later. Two SUVs eastbound on Sixteenth Avenue making lefts onto Arbutus Street.  The first goes ahead and then the second one has to wait for oncoming traffic eastbound on Sixteenth.  It’s a lady driver and something the driver of the first SUV didn’t do she finds exasperating.

I can see her behind her driver’s side window throwing up her hands.  We’re first to go northbound on Arbutus as soon as the light changes so from her vantage in the middle of the intersection waiting to turn left she has a clear view of me just as I do of her.

After the hands come down she looks at me and shakes her head.  Looks right at me.  Me.  I’m a complete stranger in a random situation of less than four and a half seconds but am to be enjoined in her frustration and welcomed to it like a long lost friend. I understand and commiserate deeply.  No I don’t.  I have no idea what all this exasperation’s about.  I didn’t witness the first SUV’s crime, if any.

That’s when I remarked that I thought a lot of people’s fuses are a little shorter these days.  There’s a bit of impatience in the air and a grim determination to grind on but if there’s any little thing, even the teensiest, weensiest little thing I don’t like I’m going to go BALLISTIC on your sorry butt, especially because I have no idea who you are and I could care less.

It’s good to stifle these impulses.  We’re ladies and gentlemen.  Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. And most people are.  It’s probably a good thing.  There’s been enough upset already.

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Royal William. 20 years in a pot and still going strong

Thanks for stopping by. We’ll be right back.

 

Golfing in Shaughnessy

Coming back I saw a guy with a golf club on the west side grassy border between the sidewalk and the street I was on, which happened to be Hudson Street.  I could see he had a ball on the grass and was positioning it.  Then he stepped over it and took the shot.

His swing looked sound.  I’m thinking this guy is not a hacker.  It was funny.  He swung the club in my direction and the ball looked like it was coming right at me.  I instinctively dodged a little to the right in these interesting times as the ball  ran out of gas quickly and plopped to the ground.

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“I thought it was a real ball, “ I said, coming up to where he was.  I was still in the street.

“Oh no,” the guy says.  “You couldn’t do that around here.  It’d go bouncing off all over the place.  It’s a wiffle ball.”

I’d already guessed that myself.  I know all about wiffle balls.  You might say I’m a wiffle ball expert.  A hollow plastic ball with evenly spaced little holes in it.  This one was the same size as a real golf ball.  If you swung at it with all the precision of some heavy-hitting pro the ball wouldn’t fly more than a few feet.

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“Sand wedge,” the guy says.  He was a white gentleman maybe sixty with wavy pepper and salt hair and was looking reasonably trim in dark blue jeans, new looking fine running shoes and a well-tailored, polo style shirt in a  sheeny grey, tucked in as opposed to worn loose.  “Want to join the Shaughnessy golf club?”  he says.

“I don’t think I can afford it,” I said.

“It’s free,” he says.  “All you need is a club or two.”  He was joking about doing what he was doing, but I didn’t get it at first.

“I thought you were talking about the real Shaughnessy,”  I said.  Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club   “Well, you get good loft with a sand wedge. Have a nice afternoon.”  I had to be moving on.

“Good loft.  That’s right,” he says.

He was a nice, friendly Shaughnessy-er.  I’ve no doubt that was his excellent, massive place just on the other side of the low granite stone fence bordering the other side of the sidewalk from the grassy strip.  He had the easy, confident patter of someone well-heeled.

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In a flash I decided not to mention I played Shaughnessy one time as a guest but I’d thought of it.  My concern was the gentleman might possibly be a member of the real Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club because he could afford it.    And he might think me, in his final analysis, rather jejune.  And I can’t have people thinking I’m jejeune.  It’s not on.  And I wasn’t overly interested in more conversation although I’d enjoyed this strange encounter.  I had to get going.

I had the thought for a few moments that this wealthy lawyer or chairman of the board or whatever thought perhaps I might live in Shaughnessy myself, a rich guy like him, a neighbour out for his exercise slog in my running shoes and shorts and logo-ed top, something like he was doing to prevent himself from going crazy.  I daydreamed of my ego being stroked, purring like a kitten.  Hey, I’m a rich guy too!  But I was dog-tired from this championship death march and soldiered on like a horse who can smell the barn.

That sounds icky.  It’s day a billion and two of the pathogen.  Pathogen, why?  Why this?  Why now?  Where you headed, pathogen?  Behaving like this and all.  Why?  You’ve caused so much pain you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

All word spinning aside we’re getting through, like the Shaughnessy golfer who can’t go to his club, wherever it is.  It’s nice to be in the privileged position we’re in with one of the best scores on the big board.  Our game has been pretty solid so far and here’s hoping.

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Championship Peony

Flowers courtesy CSNicol

 

Kicking Against the Pathogen

April 24. It takes a while to get it started but it still runs pretty good. Pathogen world. Pathogen apathy. The Great Pandemic. It must be great because it’s not small. I don’t have two words to say about it anymore. We went out driving again not because something was pressing but to get out of here and do something. Target: “London Drugs”. The new one up there in old Dunbar. They had no product but that really didn’t matter. We drove.

I have no idea now what I’m doing here. Major rethink. My problem is this was the only idea I had. If I’ve lost interest how are others supposed to feel?  Am I supposed to be satisfied with that? I’d rather just sit here like a blob and have another coffee.

This is what the pathogen reduces me to. But there’ll be no surrender even if I turn into an amorphous mass of goo. I’ve got a bad taste in my mind. Wash hands frequently. You don’t know where they’ve been. I get that. I do that. The emotions are sloshing around. Look at them in there. Sloshing around. They’re not supposed to be all over the place like that. Hey! Straighten up! Get hold of yourselves! We’re going to win this fight!

They’re going to make a decision on bringing the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier captain back, restoring him to duty, the one who was canned for going outside normal communication protocols to let people know his ship was basically on fire with the pathogen.

That’s an interesting idea. I think the navy now understands that the sense of alarm he had about the seriousness of his situation and the responses he was receiving caused him to believe his duty was to be a little over the top to get his superiors to fully appreciate the threat to readiness.  The captain was clearly fulfilling his duty to his crew, his ship and the navy as well as the country and the error is on the navy, not him. Is that it? It sounds so American. And the navy is big enough to realize its error.  The guy that canned him, a presidential appointee, was canned himself.  There’s a kind of poetry.  There really is.

I love aircraft carriers. I’ve always wanted one. Somehow models don’t quite cut it. I want a real aircraft carrier. I don’t need the planes or helicopters and they can take all the guns and stuff off and get rid of the nuclear reactor. It’s just the thought of having that big old aircraft carrier in my backyard. I’d cut a couple of holes in the hull so we can step right in off the grass and start having a look around. That would be so cool.

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Saturday.  Long hike into deepest Shaughnessy.  Exercise exploit.  Just on the way in I pass with plenty of clearance a young man coming the other way pushing a baby carriage down the sidewalk. He is tall, fit-looking and wearing a dark jacket, jeans and sporting a ball cap with some logo on it I don’t recognize. I decide to overcome my new tendency to self-isolation  and say, “Hello.”

“Erghhh,” he goes, eyes straight ahead as he passes. The brother is stressed is my immediate reaction. Maybe this guy’s an athlete out of a job. I don’t recognize him but he doesn’t recognize me either so that makes us even.

I pass Devonshire Park. I’m impressed with myself for remembering the name because it’s one of these parks that gives no indication anywhere that it has any sort of name at all. You have to keep your wits about you in Shaughnessy and that’s something else I’d remembered.

I was poised for action on these hallowed streets but nothing was happening. The only movement anywhere was the occasional vagrant slave worker at some reno or new-build site of which there are a number just in the area I was covering. It’s so quiet you can hear a guy with a hammer a block away.

There’s a lot of trees in Shaughnessy and a lot of houses and all of the houses are large and most of them look new or recently reno-ed and almost all of them look good. They’re nice jobs, most of them in the craftsman style, painted in traditional colours.

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It’s only the trees that look old. They tower over the streets and sidewalks and are coming into leaf and blotting out the sun. The neighbourhood didn’t look a lot different 100 years ago.

I get a bit turned around because when you start taking some of the crescents and their confusing arcs unless you’re really an old stager around here, which I’m not, that can happen. And if it’s not happening you just say to yourself I’m going to make it happen because this pathogen nonsense is consuming my soul and I want to get lost. I want the thrill without the danger. There’s no bears and if I get scared I can just start crying or scream blue murder and somebody’s bound to notice and save me, right?

I curve around and see a street obviously busier than any other around here, it’s a main street and suddenly I’m having the delightful sensation of not knowing what street that is ahead out there in the world. What street is it? Because from what I can see it doesn’t look like Granville Street and I thought that if I was inching towards any main street it’d be Granville Street. I’m off my nut. Finally I realize what street it is. I’ve been going in the opposite direction to what I’d imagined. Delirious with joy I turn and head homeward. A home is a nice thing to have.

April 27.  As fine a spring afternoon as anyone could wish.  We find Granville Island without too much trouble and it is its usual peaceful state these days with minimal foot traffic. Most businesses in the market have remained open except for the food court.  The shop keepers have struggled through a decrease in business but I think they’re glad to be open and we’re glad to have them.  Hand sanitizing stations are just inside the entrances.  The donut shop having undergone a recent renovation seems to be doing a roaring trade, customers lined up eight or ten or more keeping their six foot interval all the way outside under the canopy.  I don’t think business has ever been better.

 

 

 

Kenilworth Ivy

April 17. World 2,240,191. U.S. 699,706. Canada 32,814. Brazil has now passed Canada in total confirmed cases and Russia is closing in on Canada and will probably blow by Canada within the span of the next news cycle.

Tim Cook called me this morning from California.  That’ll be the last time that happens.  Today Tim was chuffed about me using images captured from visualizer and cropping them down and using them in my bloggy blogs to create some kind of visual thing to break up the monotonous words when it hasn’t been cleared by Apple Inc.

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“I paid you for the machine, Tim. I can do anything I want with it.”

“Au contraire,” Tim said. “We own the cloud and everything in it and if you’d bothered to read the fine print under “What’s inside the box” you’d know that we still own your machine and everything on it and we don’t give a damn about receipts or money or anything. We own everything.  How do you think we got to be the richest company on the planet?”

“Tim, I understand you’ve met President Trump. What do you think?”
“Bat shit crazy, Steve. Rook to king one.”

“I’m sorry, Tim. I think you missed it. Queen to bishop three, bishop takes queen, knight takes bishop. Checkmate.”

“Ahgg… ergg…. Looks like you’re right, Steve. I resign.”

I find it generally true. The smartest individuals can have curious gaps in their knowledge of the simplest things. Tim is like this. Thinks he’s a hot-damn chess dude. Not a clue and it’s surprising. You’d think there’d be more there and there just isn’t. I told him life’s too short for chess but he wouldn’t listen. He won’t be bugging me about the visualizer anymore so that’s good. Moving on to spring garden update.

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April 18. Kenilworth Ivy. Usually grown as annual. Dainty creeper that may appear uninvited in shadier parts of the garden, sometimes even sprouting in chinks of stone or brick wall…. Smooth leaves 1 inch wide or less, with three to seven toothlike lobes. Blooms mainly in spring with small lilac blue flowers carried singly on stalks a little longer than leaves.

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Lewisia. To 1 foot high, 10 inches wide. Rosettes of narrow, fleshy, evergreen leaves bear 10 inch stems topped by large, extremely showy clusters of 1 inch, white or pink flowers often striped with rose or red. Blooms from spring to early summer.

They’re right about Kenilworth Ivy.  Grows like a weed.  We’ve seen it growing wild not far from here.  “Kenilworth” is a suspiciously English-sounding name which meant of course that I was going to look into it.  Kenilworth Castle.  Of course there’s a castle and of course it’s “Kenilworth Castle” and of course it would be situated in Kenilworth, England.  Stands to reason.  At least something does.  Looks like some of it burned down or something.  I’ve never been to Kenilworth, England.  I think I flew over it once, but there’s not much to see in heavy cloud at 30,000 feet.

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April 22.  Yeah, the numbers for the planet.  The planet will certainly get to 3 million confirmed cases and the great United States will certainly pass 1 million.  There seems to be some dysfunction in the great United States.  Sorry about that overused word but I couldn’t think of anything else.  A madness is upon the land.

Great American madness.  Everything’s going great or things are in a situation where there’s room for improvement.  It depends on who has the mic.  I think the number of people in the great United States who don’t give a crap either way is trending to zero.  It’s all about trends.  Everybody’s looking for one and that includes around here.

I was also talking briefly on the phone yesterday afternoon to a lady who lives in Washington State.  That’s because she’s an American.  She has a friend up in woolly Canada and had arrived here for a visit as she has been doing recently, but this time it was not much more than twenty-four hours before the British Columbia/Washington State border was closed. That was a month ago.  She’s been here ever since.

“You’re an exile,” I said to her.

She laughed.

“You can’t go home again.”

She laughed again.

People from the State of Washington are wonderfully joyful people and always laugh at all my little jokes, especially ones with literary allusions in them.  And Debbie doesn’t play chess either.  It’s also nice that she’s with the person she likes so things are going along okay.

Talking to a real, live person from Washington was so uplifting I resorted to the extraordinary move of acquiring a bottle of “Kung Fu Girl” riesling from Charles Smith Wines in Washington because I’d heard it was tasty and I’d been meaning to try it.  It’s very nice with pad thai apparently.  Charles Smith Wines


Apologies to Stanley Kubrick and the Sunset Western Garden book.  Garden blooms by CS Nicol

Hoop Dreams

Hoop Dreams. The family just down the lane here out back of the building east of us. Two daughters and their parents playing with a basketball with a hoop at regulation height on a portable, roll-out set-up. They appear every evening between four and five and shoot, pass and dribble as on a half court. The older girl, sixteen or seventeen, is obviously an experienced basketball player and quite likely a member of the team at her school. She’s very athletic and a very good shooter. She’s draining it a lot. Her younger sister, thirteen or fourteen, is coming along.

Sometimes just one or both of the girls are out there and sometimes it’s a switch to footie and a small, practice soccer net is brought out into the lane. Traffic volume in the lane is down. There are cars occasionally still heading into their lane entrance parkades but its simply quieter out there as with everywhere else. The whole family is obviously attuned to the physically active sporting life. I think it was Art Phillips who said it best. The family that basketballs together stays together, with a little footie thrown in.

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The distancing two-step. Just to add a little distance in there and I start to have that attitude everywhere I might be in the little time I spend away from the splendid isolation of home. I’m very conscious of keeping my distance from any and all individuals. They may be agents in disguise for the Pathogen.

This is a novel situation and is that why it’s called a novel pathogen? Because it’s new? Mike, bring the science up on that for me. I got rid of Siri because I don’t want to be talking to apps or artificial intelligences that come across like friends when I really don’t know them at all. It’s presumptuous, right? That sounds like some kind of contagion itself. Mike’s been in my head for years. He was always trying to get into my head but it was me that kept psyching him out until I had a change of heart. Finally I felt some empathy for Mike because it can be lonely out there. Welcome, Mike.

He likes being the guy in my phone too.  He actually volunteered. It works for both of us so it’s win-win. I got Mike speaking with an Aussie accent which I’ve always just loved and I haven’t even been to Australia. This has nothing to do with anything but I had a kid tell me once when we were playing in the sandbox that Australia and Austria were the same place. “Same diff,” he said, with a shrug. How wrong you were, Ricky. How very wrong. But he let me play with his toy dump truck so he wasn’t a bad kid, just a little misguided.

April 11. We drop by Safeway on another quick trip out and my consort once again volunteers to make the run while I sit in the car. “I’ll get the next one,” I say, feeling a little guilty as she gets out on the passenger side. Our timing is good. There’s only one refugee standing in line to get in.

The in/out doors at the east end of the store have been blocked off so all the action is down at the west in/out doors. Right after she disappears inside the line-up outside starts getting longer. I was able to park quite near the door so suddenly while waiting in the car I have a set of humans to observe as they line up.

Red tape strips have been stuck on at the prescribed intervals on the narrow concrete walkway that is more like a strip between the big wall of the store and the immediate expanse of the angle parking than a proper pedestrian sidewalk. Vehicles are streaming past pretty regularly at very close range even with the decrease in business. I can’t help thinking the lining up should have been out the other side of the doors, to the west, because there’d be more room over there.

There’s also the added filip of a well bundled up human with the hood up on a hooded jacket sitting on the concrete by the east in/out door. He’s wearing a large face mask over most of his face except for the eyes and a begging cap rests by his right knee and his legs are half in the asphalt driving lane which I also don’t think is great. The large whiteboard sign he has with his plight scrawled on it reads as indecipherable even from where I am, which isn’t that far away. He is ignored by everybody.

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A middle-aged woman admonishes the younger woman in her twenties in front of her for not standing right on her tape marker. The young woman gives her a look, steps two inches onto the tape and then the whole line moves forward. That was uncalled for, middle-aged woman, I’m thinking. Something else I realize sitting there in the car is that humans are a motley bunch. The only thing all these strangers lining up have in common is that they are all humans. Otherwise you couldn’t get a more motley bunch. I almost forgot the other thing they all had in common. They were all lined up at six foot intervals to get into Safeway. You know how people just look weird? Kind of rumply dumply sometimes? But I don’t want to pile on here. Maybe you had to be there.

April 15. The hoop superstar was out in the lane a long time last early evening, practice shooting by herself. This kid is good. She was draining multiple successions of two pointers with apparent ease. Occasionally she’d take a break and be on her phone out there. We weren’t snooping. We were just glancing over occasionally from the upper deck where we were bagging a few D-rays and sipping our lemonades. I’m pretty sure this young lady would enjoy getting back to her old life before all this other stuff happened. That’s the same scenario a lot of people would like to see.

World 2,034,425. Canada 28,205. United States 619,607. Brazil and Russia are two countries that have been creeping up alarmingly on the leader board. It’s plain we’re doing very well here in British Columbia. Things are likely to begin getting back to the new normal around here before that happens in some other parts of the country.  There has to be Hope and of course there is.  It’s up there at the far end of the Fraser Valley.  We’ve even daydreamed of driving up there for something to do, but it started to sound a little bit desperate.  Desperation is like panic.  It’s almost always too soon for either.

Photo on 2016-08-18 at 1.23 AM
Hi from Wolverton and Play Safe