They Made A Wasteland

Great to see it’s over, or almost over. I hope so anyway, whatever’s next. I must say I haven’t seen a log truck loaded like that since I left the industry myself. I was on the point of getting all misty-eyed with the memories I was so blown away with such an awesome sight. Cedar, all of it, fine good-sized red cedar logs.

I did a lot of second loading myself, happy and proud to do it dodging around the claim with the loader in our own pickup. Boomer was a master and I thought it strange, in a way, that I’d come this far in little more than a year from a rookie setting beads to second loading for Carl Boomer, city slicker and gentleman amateur that I was.  I must have been good.

We loaded eight trucks one day. Most impressive, The Woods Foreman was content. Boomer could pour you a cup of tea with the grapple on his loader and spill nary a drop he was that good. Always a pleasure working with someone who knows what they’re doing. I wish it happened more often. If you’re still out there somewhere, Carl—Avanti!

It’s 2019.  It’s all good.  I loved being a logger.  It’s a lot of logs later. I don’t know what’s happening in the Alberni Canal and have to say don’t much care. But it was important to me once, it was a job. All of it. I wanted the work. But it’s 2019 and do we still need the wood? What really was of absolute necessity here? Deforestation as an issue hasn’t gone away anywhere.

Human beings are great. They will justify the unjustifiable forever. Why? Pride. As the Tsawout Edler explained not too long ago in the spirit of reconciliation, “We can’t get rid of you and you can’t get rid of us.”  It’s all good.

Someone’s got to do the esplanin around here so there it is. That’s why woodland massacres happen like the one that unfolded out here on the rarely visited, wild and woolly lands to the east on this mysterious island.  Maybe it was the belief that no one would notice.

I couldn’t help it. It was the first thing that came to mind as we motored past that new road off the main drag to the east, way out past the Winter Cove Road junction, mud from the new road splattered all over the pavement.  It certainly looks like a purpose-built road for logging hacked out and built up with one thing in mind.


A clearcut by any other name is still a clearcut. And those few lonely, tall deciduous trees left standing in the middle of this big patch of decimated woods are left to represent what? Conservation? Some people have odd senses of humour.

I couldn’t help it. “They made a wasteland and called it peace.” They made a wasteland and called it progress, initiative, getting our own back, it’s ours and we can do what we want with it. But apparently what’s gone on is also, to some, looking a lot like a fiasco, with, you guessed it, unintended consequences. Perfect. I don’t have the details in front of me. Who needs details when you can see for yourself?

I had an affliction once that fortunately I was able to outlive—a weakness for Penguin Classics. I’d buy them at the drugstore when I was supposed to be reading other stuff during my mis-education at university. Tacitus. Agricola. Stand back here it comes.

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.

They made a wasteland and called it peace. I know. My Latin’s a tad rusty too. I don’t concern myself too much with it and you shouldn’t either. Don’t worry about it. Times have changed.

My Latin was as non-existent then as it is now which is why I was reading Tacitus in good old English provided by a couple of fine old English scholars when I should have been reading my psyc textbook which I quite naturally found an agonizing bore. Psyc had the days, Tacitus had the nights.

I liked the Romans, thought they were cool. They got by without a lot of stuff we take for granted today like power saws and log trucks. The use of slaves wasn’t cool but the Romans weren’t without their good qualities. Aqueducts. What’s cooler than that?

And they had some pretty good writers and some pretty lousy emperors. The question remains even now. Why wasn’t I in “Classical Studies” as they were called, at the great university? Because, like so many humans, I’m contrary.

Everything’ll be okay. That’s what Nana always used to say and Nana was always right. Almost always anyway. I can go on making my dubious distinctions and  doubtful, arcane references and the rest of the wood on the ground will be taken away and the future will unfold. Nana was brilliant. Of the making of controversy there is no end, Nana used to say. Eat your porridge. Try it with some Roman ruins. Yum…

Temple of Artemis, Jordan. David Bjorgen/Wikipedia

Pansies courtesy CS Nicol

The Ferry III

Nobody thought there’d be a remake of the remake. Today nobody even remembers the word “remake” it’s so passé. There are no remakes, only series until I don’t know how much more I can stand, even Game of Thrones. I wish I knew what it’s about. It’s not that bad. Mostly I get it. Mostly because I’m not overly interested in what other people are doing, I’m only interested in what I’m doing. So I don’t watch it. Whatever it is.

Those aren’t bad words to live by, as if anybody could live by words when that meaningless expression “words to live by” was invented, much less now. But actually lots of people have lived by words which would have had no connection to whether they believed what they were writing or how they were living or what-not. I’m going with what-not.

The living is occasionally good and more often bad to non-existent. That’s why there’s other jobs. The Ferry III is a job like any other. It’s an all volunteer crew of one. Sometimes that’s all it takes. And I know nothing about the actual work of running the actual ferries, those boat things that float and go on the water. All the cute little BC Ferries. Even the big ones are cute. No one and nothing can help it if they’re attractive.

There’s no way forward in all these multitudes of fantasylands but there is a way forward right here with The Ferry III. Join me and get stranded on Ferry III. Oh, that darned wind.

I wish I’d been on the Queen of New Westminster. I mean for the experience. I’ve never had ferry plans ripped to shreds before my eyes and thrown away in the wind, completely destroyed like they were nothing. They were something to me! So it’d be kind of good for research.

I read the Queen of New Westminster took shelter in “calmer waters near Pender Island” after taking a look at Active Pass and declining the nomination. That has to take extraordinary circumstances because the Queen of New Westminster’s a tough old bird and doesn’t back down easily. I wouldn’t want to be up against it.

The news feed, the only kind I eat, didn’t say if it was North Pender Island or South Pender Island that provided the shelter of calmer waters. Doesn’t matter. North Pender likely unless it was way off course, the ferry that is.

I’ve taken the shelter of calmer waters near Pender Island myself and can’t say for sure today whether it was North Pender Island or South Pender Island and not only have I taken shelter near Pender Island I’ve taken shelter on Pender Island and that was definitely South Pender Island but we did a lot of partying on North Pender Island as well. Just thought I’d throw that in there.

The Queen of New Westminster returned to Swartz. Probably a good idea, better than running out of fuel spending hours idling away, taking shelter near Pender Island. Something like that would really put the pickle in the pot.

But trapped on the ferry! Were babies crying? Babies don’t like taking a lot of crap, especially from ferries. They show their displeasure early and often. I think everything must have been okay though. A cancelled trip is better than dying.

The ferry, for all it does, has an enviable safety record.  Nobody’s died since the  “Queen of the North”.

I missed the excitement on the “Mayne Queen” too. Of course I did. I was nowhere near a ferry last Saturday morning. I’ve never been on that museum piece when it did a u-turn and you’re back on the island you just left because of a weather event. That darned wind. I can only imagine it’s the normal stages: rage, grief, acceptance. Even if it means you have to sleep in the dirt tonight. The ferry can be a great source of wisdom too.

The Ferry

I knew it’d come to this. The ferry can be a bit of a preoccupation sometimes along with the ferry schedule. The ferry comes to you in your dreams. Will it be on time? Is there room? Have you got your reservation in your hot little hand? You better. Ferry lady’s going to want to see it. Ferry man. Depends who’s on shift. How long are you willing to wait and then you keep on waiting. That’s the ferry.

And that’s just when you’re leaving the island. You’re in a desperate fight to get away before the boredom and solitude get you. May I speak in the third person here? How do you feel about it? Is it going to be okay? Will the ferry make it or has the whole schedule been destroyed by weather and all the ferries have gone down with no survivors. It’s just terrible. What is a guy who just wants to go to town going to do? Does this sound like you?

But those days are over. I’ve got my family with me in 2019, all two and a half of us. But we’re all getting used to it. Sort of. Pretty much.

The ferry makes you feel silly some times. Like when you thought you’re getting on the “Bowen Queen” but it’s really the “Mayne Queen” and there isn’t a nice lady to take your money for a coffee at her tiny, perfect, little live-action snack-food and coffee dispensary there. Instead it’s a bank of vending machines. That happened once.

Riding the ferry for years can be a terrible experience. All I need to do is exaggerate a lot. But when you get back on your regular “Mayne Queen” the vending machines, you realize quite quickly, are your friends. And if there was an actual person behind a tiny service counter like on the “Bowen” it’d probably drive you insane with upset.  I feel a hypothetical  example coming on:

“Excuse me, Ma’am. Where are the vending machines?”

“There are no vending machines, sir. I’m it.”

“What? No vending machines? This is awful. I’ll have a coffee and one of them little “Toasty Toasters””.

“Will that be all then? $13.47 is your total.”

“That was a good year.  Thanks very much.”

You can’t really say too much about the ferry but that doesn’t stop a person from talking about it. Where it is. What it’s doing. How long’s it going to be? Is it here yet? Why’s it taking so long? What’s going on? Ah gee. It gets a bit repetitive and it’s just all part of the mix with the ferry.

You’re brain goes soft on the ferry. I know mine does. It starts to melt when I’m in line. You have a car and you’re lined up with everybody else in the order you arrived to wait for the ferry.

We always like to get here a bit early just to say we did and because it often works but not always. Being first in line feels like a champion but that doesn’t happen too often. If I’m walking on like the rest of the refugees I don’t really have to be here much ahead of departure time, if there is one. There’s advantages to that but I forget what they are. I haven’t been a walk-on for awhile but I think of those days. I know it’s still out there for me. That’s something.

I’m either coming on the ferry or leaving on it. That’s how it works. No other way. The ferry is the ferry and it’s best that you just get used to it. That’s what I’ve found. The ferry goes at its own pace. It won’t speed up for you and it won’t slow down for you. It’s not about you, us, or me. It’s what the ferry needs.

It goes in its ancient steady way, plodding from island to island and if it’s really lucky, like if it’s going to the mainland on one of those rare voyages, one of these antediluvian so-called “inner-island” ferries out there in a game attempt, the tiny ferry that it is, to breech Georgia Strait and get to Tsawwassen or whatever they call it, it’s a happy ferry. How could it not be? What a brave ferry!

I only saw the ferry once out there. I wasn’t on it. It was the “Bowen Queen” again. It looked small and vulnerable rolling slightly as it chugged on in the middle of the strait, but it didn’t look lost. I took one last look as I headed for the vending machines. Chips, man. Chips. Potato chips. In the bag. In the vending machine, man. Get them now. It was my inner voices compelling me again to act. I was on the “Queen of Nanaimo” at the time. What a fine old tub.  It was a shame her going down like that.

Or “Swartz” bay. That’s a really ridiculous name. It must be tough working there. Rather too many Swartz lying about. But it’s just a shift. You get through it like all the others, and it’s okay. Actually what’s not to like about working for the ferry? It’s just a machine. It’s doing the best it can and trying to be the best ferry it can be which is so admirable and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? I like the ferry myself. I feel like a child again.

So that pretty much wraps it up with the ferry. There’s more to the ferry of course. And it’ll be along in good time. The ferry is memories and the future and impressions each and every time I’m privileged to tread these hallowed decks. Chug chug. We’re getting there. The ferry makes it look simple.


Miami Sunset courtesy CS Nicol

The Dock

Pulling In To The Dock At Lyall Harbour

It’s hard to get interested in the dock, right? I think it’s mostly because it hasn’t burned down recently. That’s the sort of excitement that’s all too rare around here. Mostly the dock is okay though. It’s a dock, a little dock at the entrance to someplace called “Lyall Harbour” which for some reason has always struck me as a really strange name for a harbour.

Lyall’s kind of an old fashioned name sort of like “Waveney”. My step-dad had a friend name “Lyle” but you don’t hear of guys named Lyle too much anymore. I suppose there’s Lyle Lovett. I’m not huge on Lyle’s music but that’s irrelevant. There’s Lyell Island too so there’s a bunch of different ways to spell it. The dock doesn’t have a name except some official name and those are usually pretty dull.

How about “Dick” Dock?  Not “Dickorey” Dock.  Too nursery rhyme-y. Or “Betty” Dock. Let’s give it some character, people. How about Aloysius dock? I like it. Alright then let’s head down to Aloysius and get in the boat. Fish is jumpin.

I wonder how you could get something like that started, giving the dock a personal, cool name? Probably take a referendum which’d probably set the whole initiative back years. But it might be worth the agony.

I’ve been on the dock and looked at the boats at the dock but I only ever boarded a boat at the dock once and only ever stepped out of a boat onto the dock once and it was the same boat both times. The boat was called the “Anne Elizabeth” which is a very nice name.

Riding in the Anne Elizabeth was like being in some old movie. It brought back memories I could never have because I wouldn’t have been around then, but it fired the imagination, you know? The Anne Elizabeth has literally been put out to pasture which isn’t a bad way to go after a life at sea.  Just amazing.

I flew to Lyall Harbour in a plane once and stepped out onto the dock and sitting here right now writing these immortal words I can’t seem to recall if I ever actually stepped onto a plane from the dock to fly out of Lyall Harbour. I believe I may have had other arrangements at that time to get off this pokey island, which, as everyone knows, is nice to take short breaks from but, oh, the return. Back on the island! Yay!

A dock has to go on. What else is it going to do? I’m a dock. I’m here for these people. They can tie up to me so they don’t drift away. It’s a wonderful thing to be a dock. And people built me, maybe some of them were named Lyall or Lyell or Lyle or Lyla maybe, or Layla. Beautiful. If not it doesn’t matter now.

I’ve got it. “Lyla” Dock. “Hi Passengers. We’re now approaching Lyall Harbour, that’s it right there, “Lyall Harbour” straight ahead, a fine harbour. And coming up, where we’ll be disembarking, “Lyla Dock”. Folks, you’re going to love it here. Lyall and Lyla have been together a long time.  We’ve got camping, showers, a store, lots of nothing going on and beautiful scenery!

Okay. The dock is history. It’s got flavour. This is funny because “Word” keeps wanting to do American spelling “flavor” and I refuse! I’m British! We’re all British! We put the British in British Columbia! Back off!

It’s British, English, whatever. It’s spelling and we’d feel lost without that “u”. It’s the way we were raised.

Boats at the dock come and go. Some stay what starts to look a very long time. Some, decrepit, go on and on. It’s like an experiment. How long before this ship disappears? What’s holding it together and why? What is it about boats? The thing is boats hold a mysterious fascination for human beings and docks are inextricably joined to boats because every boat, no matter of what size,  will have to get to a dock at some point in time. And that’s just the truth.

That is the romance of the dock. Everything’s connected, the boat to the dock, the dock to the water and tides, the people who use the dock or maybe are just having a look around. You can get fuel at the dock which has been a godsend more than once.


When Jody Comes Home

JWR Opens Up

The site took rare advantage of an opportunity to re-visit the University Women’s Club of Vancouver in my old Shaughnessy hood on McRae there at “Hycroft”, courtesy of an invite from the Liberal Party of Canada.  The Member of Parliament for the federal riding of Vancouver Granville was taking a meet and greet with constituents in the lower ballroom of the venerable old institution, site of many weddings over the years.

The last time I’d been here was some years ago to attend a wedding.  It was a fine wedding with all the pomp you’d expect of a wedding at Hycroft and the marriage lasted one year.

Many are the memories of me tricycling around “The Crescent” when we lived close by before Dad had to go to jail and our family became destitute.  The Crecsent was lined with cars tonight but we found a spot not far from the venue and eased in our beautiful old car.

We’d thought first to walk up from our residence down the hill several blocks but with the threat of rain, a threat we took seriously, the car it was.  I had my own, personal reasons for coming to a thing like this.  Not only had I voted for Jody Wilson-Raybould in the last federal election but I had never been to anything like this before in my life and I was curious.  And it was Hycroft.  In my old Shaughnessy.

I’d had invitations before to functions like this because I’m a pretty important person to the Liberal party.  I give and no donation is too small, which is a good attitude.  In a fit of reverie one lost night I’d thrown the party a fiver in hopes they’d call off their dogs and stop hectoring me for a donation.  It didn’t work but I guess that’s politics.

And politics can be good in minute doses infrequently, and in my case, very infrequently. And this was a case of that.  And she was with me.  My consort had attended that old Hycroft wedding and had also voted for Jody Wilson-Raybould in the last federal election.

It must be admitted we were also here because our MP was a pretty important person and one who had also recently experienced some pretty intense, career-altering events.  These events, as everyone knows, have been all over the news all over the country.  Jody Wilson-Raybould, until recently, was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the reason she was no longer in that fine position, to a lot of people, had some unseemliness attached to it.   A lot of controversy had erupted and, you guessed it, politics.

So it sounded like fun and we both had the evening off and it would be an opportunity to be in close proximity  to the very public person of The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, P.C., Q.C., Member of Parliament for Vancouver Granville.

Even though the event is more than two weeks ago the Honourable Member’s saga won’t die.  It wasn’t dying before the event either.

It was a good-sized crowd.  There was wine and beer at the bar by donation and most people from what I could see were donating a fiver.  I didn’t see what brand of beer was on offer but the only wine label I could see was “Oculus”, a retail $135 a bottle red Bordeaux-style from Mission Hill in the Okanagan.  Everybody knows that.  We took two modestly filled glasses from the barkeep for a fiver each and were well pleased with our adventure.

Occupying seats against the wall near the grazing table it was scant minutes before a nice gentleman in his mid-forties, impeccably dressed in business caj and sitting to the right of my partner initiated conversation with her.  I wasn’t close enough to hear exactly what he was saying above the hubbub prior to the start of the show but it turned out he must have surveyed the cut of my Kitten’s jib and deemed her harmless and was sharing a few jokes with her.  Something about lobsters and surfing or something.

He was most pleasant, a largish white guy with french cuffs, monogrammed, and nice looking links on his sharp, blue stripe shirt under the dark blue jacket below which, right again, were blue jeans.  He’d introduced himself and we’d done the same but his name blew right past me and I didn’t catch it.

It developed that he was a member of the legal profession, had worked in Ottawa but was now back home working downtown.  I gathered he’d been a supporter of the federal Liberal Party for some time, but then, in reality, so had we with the one difference that up until tonight we had pretty much been closet liberals but not our  jovial friend.

I always wonder in a crowd if I’m going to run into somebody I know.  It happens, right? So it was gratifying to see Leslie Hurtig happen by.  Leslie and I are old friends and contacts from the book business.  These days she’s doing an excellent job as artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Festival.  We chatted a second, joking about marriages at Hycroft and other stuff.

The constituency president came to the podium and said a few words then a middle aged gentleman in a light grey suit took over and introduced Jody Wilson-Raybould to the assembled multitude to enthusiastic applause.  But not before mentioning that the event was being held on the land and traditional territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

Jody Gets down. Baldy guy unknown

She looks just like she does on TV and in the newspaper.  Exactly the same and her visage, as above, has been splashed all over everywhere these weeks.  Jody Wilson-Raybould comes across as a very solid, down-to-earth person but no less a polished professional at ease at centre stage.  She was relaxed.  One of the first things she said was the acknowledgment that we were on traditional territories meant a lot to her hearing it.

That revised my opinion somewhat that this statement regarding First Nations “traditional territories”  heard at the beginning of just about any event of any sort now was already in a state of tiresome cliché with barnacles of political correctness all over it.  The Honourable Member is First Nations herself.  I already knew that and that she’d done a lot of growing up here but she brought the message home somehow.

She said she’d been in politics five years and had been drawn to the idea of doing politics differently, which, as everyone knows, was a campaign concept from 2015.  Jody added that she was also drawn to an idea of, “non-partisanship to grapple with the serious problems we face.”  And that, “The last five weeks have been hard on me and my family.”

I don’t know why, but I felt myself choking up slightly because with those words Jody Wilson-Raybould  got choked up just very slightly herself for an instant.  I know it’s difficult to believe the hard-assed administrator of has feelings but I was thinking here is a human being.  This is the person, not the TV and newspaper packaged semi-cardboard cut-out for consumption.

The member for Vancouver Granville said she’d been very proud to be the minister of justice and attorney general and proud to be the minister of veteran’s affairs.  There were a few more words.

Photo Op Post Address

And that was more or less it.  We strode purposefully up the stairs and out into classic grey month of March twi-nite Vancouver rain.