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.

 

Pathogen Daze

April 8, 2020. 4:50 p.m. Decent day. To get out we go for a drive. We decide to tour the Kingdom of Richmond because it seems like years since we’ve been there. The “downtown” around No.3 road has become a nightmare of new–built concrete, steel and glass with just a few remaining dumpy little strip–malls. Once out of this it’s the same old Richmond, impressively flat and straight–as–a die wide roadways miles long. And you can still occasionally find deep, watery ditches on both sides of the road which is the reason some people used to call it Ditchmond. One is doomed in Richmond without a car.

We extended our adventure to the distant metropolis of Steveston and its multitude of new–built, low–rise row dwellings facing the sun–dappled middle arm of the Fraser River. I spent some time looking for more adjectives in a patch of grass while observing, of course, the two metre rule, and there were signs posted reminding us of it, but realized I’d brought more with me than I thought. You just have to luv these guys.

From Steveston we blustered our way into deep east Richmond on the charmingly named Blundell Road and its many curious, absurdly overbuilt forty room and eighty bathroom mega–houses. We’ve heard and read about them and here they are. Not a great deal of curb appeal but we only saw one with a fancy portico supported by twelve foot, fluted Corinthian columns, so that was good. I can see the guy saying, “No. They must be Corinthian columns! I don’t want any of this Tuscan nonsense.”

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I’m reminded of the old Royal Canadian Air Farce joke. “Things are getting less worse more slowly.” The roadways in Stanley Park have been closed to traffic. We’ve been very wary in these interesting times of people doing stupid things with their cars on our currently low-traffic streets. Fewer cars seems to translate for some into thinking, “Hey, it’s interesting times!  Normal rules don’t apply!”  Right.  If for these guys they ever have.

We’ve seen some of what we feel are these peculiar examples in our travels and that’s what closed down the park to cars, apparently, but we made the cut. We drove around Stanley Park as in days of yore two days ago for most of the same reasons Richmond happened today. We also had occasion to wonder about at least two congregations of human beings. They weren’t large but they weren’t hanging around keeping their distance from one another and we didn’t get the impression they were members of the same, pathogen-free households. We didn’t virtue signal. We drove on.  We were going in the right direction.

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Sidewalk Chalk in Deepest Dunbar

April 9.  Yes, it’s today again.  Always today.  We can’t be anywhere else.  Yesterday’s yesterday and tomorrow’s tomorrow.  And this is today.  We’ve got a yeast culture going.  The boss has started it from scratch.  Anybody out there ever do that in Home Ec.?  Start a yeast culture?  Anybody ever heard of Home Ec.?  I never took Home Ec.  I kind of learned to cook on my own.  I started a yogurt culture once but never a yeast culture.  I just don’t think it’s something that would have occurred to me as something to get excited about.

Yogurt was different.  I’d discovered yogurt.  Yogurt hadn’t been invented yet in the places I grew up.  I was already in my mid twenties the first time I had yogurt.  I think one or two people I was sharing a house with were buying yogurt and I helped myself to some of theirs when they weren’t around.  It was plain yoghurt.  I don’t recall the fat content or if it was even stated on the container in that era but I liked the yogurt.  It was deceptively bland.

When I heard I could make my own yogurt from my own self–perpetuating yogurt culture and never have to buy yogurt again I wanted to try it.  I set to and in just a couple of days here it was, a little dab of yogurt.  I tried it.  It was okay.  It wasn’t long before the novelty of making little dabs of yogurt wore off and I  also became worried about drawing attention to myself as some kind of weird, yogurt guy.  From then on if I  wanted yogurt I’d just buy it at the store like most people.

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I’m quite interested in the yeast culture but have no plans to get personally involved in nurturing it along.  The yeast culture’s name is “Yuri”.  It was suggested that the culture is a living thing, like a pet, so why not give it a name?  Yuri the yeast culture.  Yuri Yeast then.  Hi Yuri!  How you doin’ in there?  Yuri lives in a jar right now.  It’s a medium sized round canning jar complete with lid.  As a yeast culture you could do worse.

World 1,582,604 confirmed cases.  Canada 19,773.  United States 454.304.  It’s not funny but it is a very interesting science experiment.  Some good will come of it too.  It’s only natural.  We just don’t know when.

Beach Avenue

I didn’t realize until I saw for myself. They put a monster building on the site of the old Black Top taxi lot and disappeared the “Beach Cafe” coffee shop at 701 Beach Avenue. The coffee shop was in the old style with round stools with red vinyl padded seats at a counter and a few booths where generations of hard-driving cab drivers tried to drink enough coffee to obliterate the miserableness of their lousy cab driver existences.  

The walls of the coffee shop were adorned with a few old, framed black & whites of extinct Black Top cabs and their extinct drivers.  The taxi offices, such as they were, were connected to the cafe.  The shift dispatcher, the formidable and indomitable Ella Read, took and made calls from an office the size of a closet.  She sat in there all day working the phone and smoking cigarettes.  When I didn’t have a steady car, that is the same car with the same number for the same shift five days a week, I worked “spare”, as it was called.  

The call would come from Ella in the early afternoon asking if I wanted a car for tonight.  If she was calling and I hadn’t already worked five days that week as a spare it was a good idea to say, “Yes” or Ella would come through the phone line and bight me.  I think, though, that inside her hard exterior was a soft interior.

She’d give me the car number and I’d come down to the lot at the appropriate time, pick up the keys in the driver’s room with the sheet, being the legal-sized “trip sheet” with the carbon copy where you were supposed to record every “trip” involving a paying customer or customers and the time and the pick-up and drop-off location, and then I’d head out to the lot to find the car.  Sometimes it was on the lot, sometimes it was parked on the street somewhere near the lot and sometimes there was no car because the day driver had a longer last trip than he’d planned on.  If he was more than a few minutes late he’d give me a couple of bucks to make up for it.  I remember only two lady cab drivers. 

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The gas station next door at 711 Beach Avenue is history too although the shell is still there with the old pumps. The fleet used to be all gas powered then it went to natural gas. It was common on the afternoon shift which was 3:45 p.m. to 2:45 a.m. to drive two or three hundred miles and go through at least two full tanks of gas.  

If I got low on gas and was far from the lot gas station I bought gas at a gas station and put the receipt in the cash envelope at the end of the shift, deducting the amount of that gas as well as the gas from the lot pumps from the car owner’s take for the night.  The split was 50 – 50 after that between the owner and the driver with two per-cent deducted from the driver’s share and held back for income tax.  

Unless a trip was dispatched it didn’t necessarily have to go on the trip sheet.  This was when you picked up a “flag” fare, somebody waving at you to pick them up if there was nobody but you in the cab.  It was a hard-scrabble hustle business and if you were getting lots of flags on a busy night you wouldn’t record them all and the cash was yours. Everybody did that within reason.  It was a cash business.  Only a fool of a cab driver would ever accept a cheque for a trip.  There were credit cards, and taxi vouchers and company accounts, but no debit cards.

Few gas stations at the time also dispensed natural gas so if the cab ran low it could still be switched to run on gas.  When I was out of natural gas and had a trip downtown I could make it into the lot to re-fill on natural gas.  Driving a cab for ten or eleven hours wasn’t necessarily a gas.  

On the afternoon shift I didn’t have to stay out until 2:45 a.m.  I could park the car around 2 a.m. especially if the night was slow.  Graveyard shifts were 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. with the expectation that the cab would be in service the entire 12 hours.  Some drivers only worked graveyard, some only worked day shift.  In my career I worked all three shifts, most of them afternoon but occasionally I’d opt for the thrills, chills and spills of graveyard.  Cool. Graveyard.

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This sign wasn’t in place during my career.  It’s at the northwest corner of the taxi gas station.  The chain link is new too, much newer than the sign.  That pole has to go.

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Then there’s this thing.  It’s hanging above Beach Avenue from the underside of a section of the famed Granville Street bridge just past what would have been the eastern end of the Black Top cab lot.  The cab lot and the high, vaulting, dun grey concrete of the bridge support arches towering directly above what at one time had been the False Creek terminus of downtown Granville Street before the bridge was built wasn’t much to look at unless you loved driving cab and lots of dun grey concrete. 

I called cab driving the worst job in the world.  I was never robbed or threatened by anyone and only ever physically removed a customer for being drunk and disorderly once. I doubt that it was the worst job in the world, then or now, but the pay was lousy considering all the hours in a shift and wouldn’t be great today either.  But it was better than nothing which is what I was looking at otherwise, at the time.  Today all the Black Top cabs still have black roofs and yellow bodies but the drivers now, who used to be all white, are all brown.  And I doubt very many of them can afford to live in Vancouver where they do most of their driving. These chandelier things and just about everything else in town costs more than it used to.

Salal Road

It’s just weird that anybody thinks they can get away with this. But it couldn’t have been just one person. It took a whole lot of genius brains to put this act together. This is the shortest road in history. And they call this a road? What’s next around here?

I didn’t know I’d lost my mind because I’m so old but I read the story at the Postmedia site starring the so-called Vancouver Sun newspaper. There’s nothing bright about the Vancouver Sun to light up your day. Darkness blots out the sky, but that’s not what I’m talking about. And that’s not my whole opinion. Postmedia through senility or whatever still employs a few good writers. Despite itself.

It’s about according to the experts my brain disappeared a while ago. And I did my best work in my twenties. How I profoundly wish that had been the case because I did no work in my twenties. I lazed around enjoying my twenties and work intruded hardly at all. If I’d worked harder I’d be even more famous today than I already am. I just didn’t need it. My opinion.

I’m not sure what I’m driving at but it makes about as much sense as Salal Road. There isn’t even any salal on it. I don’t see any salal anywhere around here and I’m a pretty good salal spotter. I’ve been around. I even know what it is. It’s green.

It’s alive, unlike my brain apparently. By my forties I’d already tailed off significantly, according to the experts and their expert study. Now it’s really over. If you read it’s true it must be true. It’s just that nobody wants to admit it.

Why at that time didn’t I wonder more why I still walk the earth at all? Why didn’t it occur to me then that it’s over for me, I need to die. Because, they’re right. I don’t remember losing my mind which, according to them again, just proves what they’re saying. I lost it a long time ago. I’m glad I know about this now. It’s about time because I’ve been thinking, even now, with the advancing years, that I’m such a smart person. So brave. Pretty incredible.

That’s how hard the truth hurts. My “cohort”, the most recent stupid concept of what group I supposedly belong to, my legion of doomed legionnaires, my generation except I don’t have a generation and never strived for or wanted to be part of anything resembling anything called “generation”, it sounds so dirty, makes me wonder why we many, we who apparently are so many, in our elderliness and confusion in still being here after forty, if that was really the case and we knew we were finished, then obviously we’ve sucked it up because we function yet. We’re getting used to it and we’re not forty anymore. We timed the market. The way I have to about Salal Road.

We walked away with the picture, upstaged everybody and left town at midnight. I wouldn’t change a thing even if I didn’t have a brain, which, and now I agree with the experts, was in retrospect pretty much the case. But I was brains enough to survive and I’ll get through this news too, that my brain died a long time ago. I’m okay with it.

The days get shorter and you get longer. That’s the bit of wizardy and wisdom communicating itself to me now at Salal Road. I won’t say on Salal Road because from everything I’ve seen we’re down to a pretty much sort of private short driveway here. I need to know more about this sign. Forgive us our press passes but what is your name, please? I said to the cop on the phone, “I’m not walking past the door. I’ll come down Alder.”

The road sign. The highway to nowhere and that’s what I kind of like about it after all. Perforated steel post and a ten by six inch or so or whatever in metric metal sign, ivory white background behind block capital letters in black. Same old. Beautiful. Walking back everything is great. My mind is a basketball and I’m bouncing it around on the road and doing a little dribbling. It feels good.


Last in a series

The Clearing

After that hailbomb we walked up…

I like it. A lot of land has been cleared up here. The exposed soil is a cedar brown. There’s a lot you could do with this big new patch of ground although I can’t think of a single thing right now, mostly because of where this big clearing is. So I presume there will be a reforestation effort across the curve of time. There’s nothing like big wide open spaces and new vistas to make you think.

I like it. It’s always a learning experience. It’s after the battle. The trees are down and gone away, the earth has been churned up and all the woodland creatures have run off. The world up here as it was is ended and it’s new times.

The land has really been ripped up but it’s not anything different from what I’ve seen elsewhere. Vast tracks of ground have gone through the same thing for all kinds of reasons for many moons. I’m not shocked or feverishly wringing my hands and weeping for all the terrible devastation. I like it. It’s different. It’s business.

Impressive towering pyramids of slash have been built up and they’ll make for some cozy barbecues when fire season’s over in the fall. It’s quite an easy “show” really, just rolling lumpy land unlike some of the hairy sidehills I recall, logs tumbling down and bonking off each other like ten ton toothpicks.

That reminds me of something funny. Saturday Creek. The Super was standing on the road looking up the hill and something like what I’ve just described was happening. “What the hell’s going on up there?” He said, looking at me. “You the hooktender here?”

I was green as grass and it was my first morning in camp. Any camp. I was standing on the road a few feet from this guy who’d just pulled up in his pickup. If I was standing around it was because I was waiting for somebody to tell me what to do. There were four sides going at that time and I guess it was hard for Finnerton, his name was, to keep up with who was doing what where. He had a beautiful daughter. I never worked a side as tough as Saturday Creek the rest of my time in the industry.

Please. Please. No more logging stories. A heavy steel swing gate, locked, blocks the entrance to this new logged-off land on this new punched in road off the main drag not far from home. Other people now I hear are using that expression, my expression, “punched in” and I’m not sure how I feel about it. Am I a force for good or just another glib hacker? The gate is solid but could use some paint. What’s left of the original paint is a vomit yellow, frittering away, but it’s a fine, solid gate and it feels good.

One note about woodland creatures. I never saw “Bambi” before. I mean there was “Lady And The Tramp” and “Pinocchio” and “Dumbo” which is probably the greatest movie ever made, not the remake, the original, and “101 Dalmatians”, but I never had the opportunity as a kid, I guess, to see “Bambi”. I always thought Bambi the little deer was a girl. I didn’t, for the life of me, know Bambi was a boy until two nights ago.

Years, friends. Decades. Eons out here in space. The ravages of time. I didn’t know and the realization comes at last. I’ve been taken down by an assumption, long held. It’s like you’ve made up your mind forever and you think you know what this movie is about. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen it. As it turns out you don’t have a clue. You feel like a fool but finally you’ve learned. And you feel stronger.

Don’t worry about forgetfulness. I don’t. I want forgetfulness. I do. It helps me relax. I have a lot of complicated things I deal with every day and relaxation is vital. It’s self-interest. And self-interest appeals to everybody. I’ve seen it.