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.

Pathogen Picnic Days

March 13. Covid-19 “pandemic”. People are nuts. You can’t get a roll of toilet tissue in this town now. Shelves are empty. What the hell do they plan to do with it? Eat it?

March 16. I’d say most people are looking forward to this pandemic dealy being over soon but no expert can be found who will predict that. It’s like the world is learning to ride some weird new bicycle. It’s never been done by the world so it’s something new that it’s learning. There’ll be a mishap or two before the world gets up on that bike and rides.
We scored two 12 roll packs of toilet tissue at the Shopper’s Drug Mart on Dunbar Street. We’re living large. We’ve defeated the hoarders and closed all the borders. I feel a song coming on.

March 18. Things keep getting stupider. What’s closing next? Booze stores? What an unimaginable catastrophe that would be for the drinking classes. I’m telling you, friend, this whole thing is unprecedented in my long event filled life. Something like this happens and you feel pretty small.

March 19. Businesses are closed, banks. We can take out at coffee shops but can’t lounge around inside. We’re all right. I drove out for an hour late morning on deserted streets. Things have a small town feel to them. Let’s work together and keep it that way. Danger equals opportunity, I just don’t know how. Things are decidedly “in an abundance of caution.” International travel is shutting down. We’re not shutting down. We’re open for business. Fly with us. It all comes back to we’re human. We’re vulnerable. We’re living organisms subject to the whims of pathogens. Pathogens. They make a cool sound. Ladies and gentleman—The Pathogens!
The provincial Health Minister and Provincial Health Officer are giving daily briefings at 3 p.m. So for today there are 40 new confirmed cases in British Columbia to bring the total to 271 with one additional death to bring the total to 10. 22 cases are on Vancouver Island.

March 21, 2020. BC cases are at 424. More testing is being done so the number spikes. Track down and shoot the Pathogens on sight. It’s the strange general uncertainty we feel and a kind of bewildered, but not overly bewildered, we’ll save that for later, but amazed, thoroughly amazed feeling at how amazingly fast, how quickly this strange situation has hit. It’s all come down in one week. This is science fiction year. I predicted it, right? Not right. I’ve just spent the entire afternoon scanning newspaper sites. Shame on me. It’s 5 p.m.IMG_6092

March 22. “We are seeing some unsettling images in our corridor in regards to the lack of social distancing and measures to #FlattenTheCurve of COVID-19. We can only watch with extensive concern for our communities health and safety,” the RCMP tweeted along with photos of packed parking lots at Stawamus Chief Park.” Vancouver Sun.

March 23. We straggle on. “Self-isolating” today. New concept. “Social distancing.” Tomorrow, we go out. We’ll meet any challenge. But today we self-isolate. It’s fun to cooperate. This is the second time in four days we’ve done this so we’re doing our part as the prime minister has requested I think it was yesterday? Time blurs in self isolation. I mean all the time.
I just want to reassure people out there that Santa Claus will pull through. ICU is just a way station to a better life upstairs in the chapel on the second floor. Says “Hi.”

March 24. Day after dreary day of this Covid thing. And all we hear is it’s only the beginning. It can’t be because a great number of people are in process of going broke fast. Not us, fortunately, just yet, but many are feeling the financial squeeze starting. It’s not good. Not pleasant. Been there done that. Overrated as to an experience.
The provincial health officer doing her daily 3 p.m. (except Sundays) briefing. 145 new cases in the last 24 hours to bring the total to 617. The number for the country is around 2500, three times what it was four days ago. This is the bizarre-ist thing.
I look at people askance now as to whether or not they might have the plague. I’m far from the only one. There’s vastly fewer people about and plenty of parking on usually heavily car-ed main streets. We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing during this outbreak and wasting a lot less time looking for parking. So that’s good.IMG_3328

March 25. I’m not even writing grocery lists on my hand anymore. I’ve gone to paper. Things feel a bit cuckoo. That’s a euphemism for another word that can’t be here because it’s been quarantined. Like those cruise ships. “It’s Pathogen Picnic Days brought to you by Carnival®. Today’s major events include our “Haven’t a Hope or a Prayer” barbecue starting at high noon right after the coffin races.”

March 26, 2020. Covid capers past half a million as of today with the mighty United States coming out of nowhere to rocket into the country lead at something over 80,000 cases, surpassing former top dog the People’s Republic of China. Our country has cruised into the 4300 range and showing no signs of not going higher. There’s just no quit in us.
There were very few people on the False Creek seawall in wet conditions as I proceeded further east. What would happen if False creek turned out actually to be true? And all these years everybody was wrong?  That there’s nothing false about it.  Strangers were dutifully keeping their interval and there was plenty of room to give almost everybody passing by me a wide berth as per the prescription.

March 27. The world is heading for 600,000 confirmed cases and Canada is at 4700 or so. 5:30 p.m. Rain and the wetness rain brings. Things are quiet. Nice and quiet. We think our rat or rats have finally exterminated themselves on our service providers tasty poison in the black plastic lockable box. We had to get him back because the initial stuff didn’t taste good enough, I guess. It’s good to see them gone. They were digging up and devouring the spring bulbs my roof deck gardener had planted, some of them last winter. Disgraceful little pests. Shame on them. They paid a heavy price for their misdeeds.

March 28. The world has bucketed up past 660,000 confirmed cases and Canada, no slouch, is pushing up towards 6000. The United States is comfortably in the country lead with near 123,000 confirmed cases. Their sad president disgraces himself every day but it seems not a lot can be done about that. He’s a true sociopath although I’m not an expert. He’s telling state governors they better speak nice to him or no help from DC with the efforts they’re making. He’s such a hateful goof-ball. May the Lord God Goofy strike him down in his iniquity.

March 29. World cases 716,000, U.S. 137,000, Canada 6200. Nice day around here, Sunday now. Cool, and a few clouds but mainly sunny. March is staggering to an end. It seems like a very long month. But it does that anyway.

March 30. The world’s at 784,000. The States at 163,000 is expanding its league over Italy who’s at 101,700. Canada’s doing her beaver-ish part and is at 7400. It’s sobering. Waiter! Dos cervezas muy frio y una poquito bourbon doble. Muchas gracias! I think my Spanish is getting worse.
It’s depressing to read most of the comments on stories in the press, if the particular site is doing comments, some papers have stopped, that are obviously composed by bots or individuals, and if individuals obviously individuals drooling in ecstasy as they compose their paranoid, sadistic, negative conspiracy theory riddled comments unless they’re in someone’s pay to do that. Those ones go home and drool. It’s a sick world sometimes. Downtown stores have boarded up their windows because there’s been some smash and grabs and break and enters. Who are these sick pricks? Oh sorry, I forgot. We’re not supposed to use foul language around here. Fuck I hate some people and don’t get me started on bots. There I go again. Let’s see. Ten cents per infraction adds up to twenty cents in the language piggy. Just like that I’m down twenty. I hope this Covid thing winds up soon or I will be going broke.

March 31. 857,000 World cases across. United States in the lead with 188,000 with Canada creeping up to 8500. 43 new cases for British Columbia bring us up a little over 1000. More tests are being delivered so as night follows day more pathogens are being outed. If only it was just about the numbers. Unfortunately, the numbers represent individual people. We’ve heard from someone on southern Vancouver Island who had this thing and her comments mirror accounts people elsewhere have reported in news sources what it’s been like for them. This thing really does the nasty. Worse. I hope to be around in April. Right now I have to check my duplicate bridge scores.

Daffodil courtesy CS Nicol

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The General

“A 336,000 word memoir written in one year. By the time I’m done the cancerous growth on the side of my neck is the size of a baseball. And baseball hasn’t even been invented yet. I die. But my beloved bride Julia and my family are well provided for. I was flat broke. I was busted out by a swindler and it didn’t matter that I’d just spent eight years as president of the United States. Or that as top general of the army I’d won the war for the union. I was toast. Finished.

I was decisively brilliant in some areas of my brain and fantastically naïve as to certain conniving individuals in another. It happened more than once. My brain was divided into two halves like everybody else’s. So it’s complicated.

A guy named Mark Twain thought I should write my memoirs to restore my finances and him and Webster published the book and it’s still in print 135 years later. My widow, who outlived me by seventeen years, holding the copyright, realized $650,000 in U.S. dollars and the family’s fortunes were restored. Not every memoirist can say that.”

Graduated West Point 1843 at twenty-one. Fine horseman. Served in Mexico and at Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory. Resigned the army 1854. Hardscrabble existence. Returned to the army 1861. Reduced Fort Donelson, Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chattanooga, Appomattox. Never lost a battle. Made general of the army, the first to hold that rank since George Washington. While I was reading the book I couldn’t stop myself from wondering who was George Washington? I love history so that was my problem to solve, not somebody else’s. Grant kind of reminded me of myself.

Ron Chernow. Never heard of him until his big bio of the general. And I’ve hungered for the general since I read his memoirs about a hundred years ago. Grant was also a literary marksman of the first order. Luv big books. I remember my Daddy telling me just before he packed it, “If it’s the right book you often wish it was longer.” I hated my Daddy but that don’t mean he was wrong.

Chernow’s a good read. Ulys had a problem with booze and the author is about the first to really bring that forward. Other biographers have alluded to it slightly and some have ignored it altogether. The problem as with all problem boozers is that he became a totally different person when gooned and drank to the point of insensibility exclusively. A long serving adjutant and his wife greatly influenced his staying away from alcohol, doing their part to save the union.

America hasn’t changed much. Then as now it was a glowing fireball of rabid partisanship except in Grant’s time the mad, drooling partisanship came from the Democrat side while the Republican party was the voice of reason, compromise and unity. The south was Democrat and still thought slavery was cool even after losing the war. A lot of bad actors wanted to overcome that result, sowing terror and murdering black people. Grant spent a lot of time as president using federal troops to round up and prosecute the Klan because the states down there couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

Ron Chernow has a thing for biographies of major American figures. He’s covered off George W. and Alexander Hamilton. The hugely successful play “Hamilton”, at least it was before the pathogen showed up, was largely based on his biography. Movie rights to “Grant” have been sold. The book is good, all 958 pages of it plus notes.

Find if you can the deluxe edition with the stars in Grant’s eyes to match the ones on his shoulder bars. Don’t bother. I put those stars there myself because I didn’t want Grant’s eyes following me around the room and giving me the creeps every time I put the tome down. If you’ve got any gold stars lying around you can do the same.


In these interesting times don’t forget your prayers…

Thou shall not be afraid for any terror by night
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day
For the pestilence that walketh in darkness
Nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day
A thousand shall fall beside thee
And ten thousand at they right hand
But it shall not come nigh thee


Excerpt Psalm 91 Church of England Book of Common Prayer

Slightly different version in the King James version of the good book

Peace

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.

Acorn Lane

 

My stock is up and it’s got nothing to do with “Acorn Lane”. Yeah, what a name for a lane or anything else. Lanes are horrible. They’re lanes. What are you supposed to do in a lane? What can you do? What you can do is almost nothing. Turn around, maybe? Try to get out of here? You’re lost and just don’t know where you are? That’s enough questions. Maybe that’s what lanes are for. I never thought of it like that. This is cool.

I was thinking of fabled, well-storied “Salal Road” a moment ago and how there’s no salal anywhere around there. And that put me back in that place where Saturna is worse than Ireland.

You’re getting the gears everywhere. Of course, there’s no acorns on Acorn Lane. Everybody knows that. That was the intention the whole time. Ever since the name went in. It’s like “Saint Kevin’s Parade” in Dublin. It barely exists.  There’s no Saint Kevin and no parade. Search in vain. But once you get used to the idea, you kind of like it. I do too. Or should that be, “Me as well.” I wish I knew.

It’s nice here and I also think again, “How do they do this? Who are these crazy people living around here in such a beautiful place? It doesn’t make any sense. What’s wrong with them?”  Don’t’ they understand that it isn’t any good to say, “Well, I live in a beautiful place. I mean after all. What you’re saying is you don’t see any acorns in Acorn Lane? You’re not looking hard enough.” And I’m thinking, “maybe that’s right.”

Dig it up because I’ve been to the acorn show and there aren’t any acorns around here. Not that I can see. An Acorn Lane would take an Acorn Lane tree which would be an oak tree. Zero oak trees to be found. Not here, leastwise. There must have been one here at one time. It’s about the ones that aren’t here now. Moving on.

But I think of Acorn Lane. It’s often in my thoughts wherever I am and it’s a blessing considering all the other things I have to think about that are vastly more confusing and complex. I get through everything because I’m tough. I’m a tough acorn. I have the little acorn hat and here I am falling to the ground, separated from my mother oak in the usual way. Hoping for germination is a very confident little acorn down here. I’m an acorn. It’s me. I’m free. I’m back. We’re everywhere all the time. Acorns are us! Acorn Lane!

Finally, I understand what Acorn Lane is about. Motivation. Acorn Lane represents motivation. I need to say it twice because I need it, need motivation.  Motivation motivation!!

Now I know. Acorn Lane. You know what? I’d pay to see it again. One thing I really like is it’s highly unlikely I’m going to run into somebody around here who stops, focuses in, says, “I know you! You owe me 42 million dollars!” And runs off. And even if it did happen I’d do what I always do, without exception, flee the scene myself, but in a leisurely way. No panic. Some derelict gambler. It’s just the creativity talking.

It’s been a beautiful few months and a fine summer and everything is looking good on Acorn Lane. I don’t know, it’s silly, but I remember the great Fats Domino. And I don’t mind that I might be a bit chubby because Fats validates me and I’m definitely looking for some of him next time at the Free Store. Fat chance.

This Just In From Acorn Lane