Life moves ahead

First, a shout-out to Fred @ seafirechronicles.com which is the only ‘normal’ blog I follow. I don’t always agree with everything Fred writes, but that is just fine, I don’t think either of us want toadying acolytes. Though I’d be happy with half as many readers as Fred has. But Fred writes more, more frequently, usually better, and has pictures.

It seems both of us have retired only to find ourselves re-hired.

Fred documents a small part of his new job to come over at https://seafirechronicles.com/2020/02/24/whores-and-mechanics/ in his usual, pithy style. And includes a witticism regarding ‘whores and mechanics’ I’d never heard. Thanks, I’ll add it to my limited vocabulary, with attribution.

But my new job… I just kind of retired from nearly a decade working as a locksmith, and really I have no complaints about my past employer, a good guy to work for, well enough paid, and a job indoors. But my time was done.

I handed in 6 months notice back in August 2019 and so I was out of work effective Valentine’s Day 2020. And happy.

But then there was an official job offer. A written letter, complete with a full and comprehensive ‘job description,’ complete with what (more or less) is expected of me. It is the first time in my life I have ever had a job with a ‘job description.’ And a written job offer.

As a machinist (my ticket really should have been machinist-fitter in the shipyard sense) someone hands you a drawing and you make whatever is depicted. Or you rebuild the ski-lift gearbox, or stuff for a brewery, or on-site repairs to plant machinery in a coffee roaster or plastic bag plant.

But no one ever wrote all that crap down.

And the closest I ever got to getting a job with a resume was walking in to P+S Engineering (Vancouver) saying I had my machinist’s ticket; the owner said come back on Wednesday. So, I come back a couple days later and the shop foreman hands me a drawing, says ‘use this material, use this machine, here is some tooling.’ At which point I spent a couple hours making a forklift steering knuckle (search duckduckgo.com and picture) for a 25,000 lb capacity forklift. As it turned out I had earned the job in the first 10 or 15 minutes, they just let me keep going.

Oh, ya, where was I going… oh, ya, new job.

So I’ve volunteered at Jericho Sailing Centre for 5 or 6 years, made ‘skipper,’ got good enough to be rated ‘instructor’ for incoming rescue team volunteers, and demonstrated a certain degree of mechanical competency.

And they offered me a job. Not a lot of hours (good) and certainly not going to get rich (fine with me, see Walt Whitman on money) but it brings a little structure to my retirement, will pay for bicycle parts (means my primary transport won’t utterly collapse under me) and gives me a bit of pocket money.

Working at Jericho will, I expect, cut in to my volunteer time but I can live with that. I’ll still volunteer for some events, but I’ll also have a little more time to go rowing and/or cycling as health and weather permit.

So, enough about me. Wishing Fred all the best in the new job.

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Time winds down

This is a very brief rumination on old age, life, retirement.

In a few days my time at the locksmith shop will be done, I’ll retire (after a fashion) a few months before I actually make it to the official Canadian retirement age, and I’ll be very happy to have made it this long.

I have been fortunate in my choice of employer over the last decade or so; he has never fired me, but has been generous enough to hire me back not once, but twice. And I’m grateful for that.

As grateful as I may be however I want the last summer before I hit 65 to be mine. I do not want to sit indoors, in thrall to the sunshine and opportunities that abound just on the other side of the glass that separates me from Vancouver’s outdoors. I want the freedom to spend my 64th summer as free to engage in physical pursuits as my body will allow.

What the body will allow though diminishes as time winds down.

No. My body isn’t collapsing in on itself like some people I know. I don’t suffer the range or depths of physical ailments that some of my relatives have, and continue, to suffer. But the body isn’t 19 anymore. Sorry to say the brain isn’t 19 anymore either. So I take every opportunity to engage in the pastimes that I still can; I ride my bicycle, row a boat, walk. Those things I do as often as I can, some of them I do every day, all of them I try to do every week.

There are other pastimes that I engage in as often as possible; being out on various powerboats @ Jericho Rescue (while a very serious, volunteer pastime, one wit described it as ‘Jericho Towing’ one day) participating in, yes, rescues of people on the water, as well as race/event support for what may be the largest group of recreational watercraft users at one location, in BC.

But time winds down. The day will come when while I can still perform my duties, my body will take ever longer to recover, that is just a simple fact of life. Winding down, and facing that fact, is in effect a recognition and acceptance that one day those pleasures will come to an end.

Now, while still engaging in those things I enjoy doing I must also realize that other pastimes will need to be engaged lest I wind up alone, sitting in a rocking chair, and drooling in my lap. (Insert sarcastic ‘/’ here)

Well, since it has been a while (last November) since I posted, my fingers are a wee bit tired so I’ll hit ‘publish’ and go sew.

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This is just a test

Do not adjust your set.

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He’s gone.

I can celebrate, he’s gone.

Don Cherry, a noted junior-league suckerĀ  puncher, finally got his pale white ass fired.

Ranting a few nights ago in the lead-up to Remembrance Day here in Canada, Cherry goes off on a rant about ‘those people’ who aren’t in his opinion ‘good Canadians’ because “those people” aren’t wearing poppies.

Fuck you Don.

I’m an old white guy and I was shamed by your dog-whistle racial slur. Oh, you’ll say that you’re just promoting caring for Canadian veterans. Bullshit.

Years ago on November 11 I’m walking to the Cenotaph at Cambie and Hastings in Vancouver and two things got my attention. Not ‘things,’ but people, it was people that got my attention.

Walking up Pender, so I’d be on the high ground above the Cenotaph I see an old man fighting valiantly to shed the stoop of the aged, to stand his uniform proud. But the weight of medals and campaign ribbons resisted his efforts to stand erect, at attention as he had decades earlier.

I don’t think I’d ever been ashamed to be a ‘white male Canadian’ before I saw this guy. He, not you Don, he fought for the freedoms I enjoy. The hardware on his chest testified to the effort, danger, and, finally, the respect he was held in.

He fought for a country that treated him, his family, his ancestors as some kind of cheap second-class citizen. He fought for a country that wouldn’t allow him the vote. He lived in a province that would let him graduate from university, but would not let him practice law, medicine, pharmacy, land surveying. It would not let him be an engineer, dentist.

He was a Chinese-Canadian, a young man who probably never sucker-punched anyone Don. He fought for an idea, an ideal, perhaps a hope that one day he, his family, and his fellow Chinese-Canadians would come to be treated like people, like full citizens of this country.

Don Cherry’s dog-whistle attacks on ‘those people’ incensed me, made me feel ill, and contradicted every experience I’ve had with ‘those people.’

The second person, or people, that I noticed at that November 11 ceremony were ALL members of racial/ethnic/national origin groups that Cherry attacked. Probably three-quarters of the Army/Navy/Air Cadets, as well as the St. John Ambulance group seemed to be Chinese-Canadian or South-Asian origins. I was astounded.

A quickly hammered out diatribe against someone who insulted a remarkably broad swath of Canadians; people of a hundred origins cried out ‘ENOUGH.’

The CRTC and the Company that hired Don Cherry responded in the best way possible. They fired his racist ass right out the door.

I only hope he doesn’t resurface with the scum that are Sons of Odin, though insecure white racists seem to be Don’s people.

And to everyone who was disgusted by Cherry’s rant, thank you.

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Depression; it doesn’t look the way you expect

Coffee with a good friend yesterday. Depression came up, they said ‘you looked fine.’

I said that my shrink (many years ago) said “you really care what people see,” and my response was “I’ve worn so many masks, for so long, that I no longer have any idea what I look like.”

That was almost 20 years ago. And the best description I’ve read is here at The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/19/depression-awareness-mental-illness-feel-like

It really is worth your while to read it.

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Death has followed me this year

Yes, Death.

Not in any morbid (particularly) sense but Death has been around a lot this year.

It began early – at an event on the saltchuck – when one of the competitors died. For good or ill he was functionally dead when he hit the water, according to the coroner there was no salt water in the persons lungs, and that means there was no shock-induced intake of water.

While only peripherally involved, two arm spans apart at one point, there was Death.

A little while later I met one of Death’s more delightful emissaries. She was very casual, very professional, and her delightful daughter provided almost comic relief. Invited to help the passing of an old, and very faithful friend, Death’s blonde emissary played her role beautifully. There was a brief introduction, an assurance to all that this was truly the way to go.

Gentle talk, gentle time, no more pain.

Ryder lives on in our memories.

But Death’s emissary showed just how close, how easy, how acceptable death might be.

Then my mother died. Finally. And that makes 3. Personally, it was about time, and when it is my time I’d rather go by my own hand than drag on for years and years.

Number four? The mother of a dear friend. Another mother/child relationship with life-long issues, but one where tears were shed.

Number five was the one I wrote of in my last entry. Wishing my person alive, at the expense of someone else’ person, and mine was alive. Odd that there is some moral unease.

There’s not much left to the year, I hope to spend it without Death making a command performance.

 

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On Death

This past weekend there was a conversation that went something like this… ‘babble abbl gab’ and i replied ‘ugey booi wangi.’

Perhaps Seafire will be able to decode a normal marine VHF conversation but on that day their radio (no, not Seafire) wasn’t up to par, and or the person using the radio was a little stressed. So rather than struggle with a conversation that wasn’t making any sense on VHF I broke down and used my phone.

‘Hi, you wanted to talk to me?’

‘Yes, uh, the police are here and want to talk to you about a deceased body that’s been found.’

This was a bit of a shock; I’m sitting in my boat, in the middle of English Bay, and somebody wants to talk to me about a dead person.

‘OK, I’ll be there as fast as I can.’ So I rowed.

But all the time I’m rowing I am thinking about the homeless guy. Not just any homeless guy, god knows Vancouver is full of homeless people, this is a homeless guy that I know.

I know his fucking name.

And I’m afraid he is dead. Not passed, what a preposterous bit of shit that is, passed. Don’t let him be dead.

Eventually I get where I’m going, haul the boat ashore and go looking for the interlocutor – they who want to speak to me. After telling at least two of the 20-odd cops on scene that ‘you want to talk to me, you called me, now I want in’ I got where I needed to be. Talked to who I needed to talk to.

‘Would you write a statement, please?’ she asked. You bet. So I sat down with a stranger’s keyboard and typed out a statement, printed it off, and handed it off.

Then there are four or five people including myself stuck behind ‘police line do not cross’ tape, just like the movies. And all the while I’m hoping it isn’t my homeless guy.

Why should I care. Worse, why would I prefer it was some other person dead on the ground so that my homeless guy might live, still?

Though the next 3 or 4 hours there is one hint that it isn’t him, my homeless guy might be alive. But only a hint.

But early the next day my fears are washed away. Yes, there was a dead person. And, yes, I could put most of that person’s name down. But my homeless guy lives still.

Guilt has perched on my shoulder and take an occasional bite out of my ear. There is a sense that in some metaphorical universe I have traded the life of my homeless guy for someone’s mother/wife/sister/aunt and a tiny little place inside me asks if I really have the right to make that trade.

It is not as if I have not dealt with Death before this weekend; we’ve been involved since my father’s death, me @ 16, him at 42 and small change. A week later a young man dies at Westwood racing circuit (at the corner I’m flagging) and I meet Death again. And my mother, just this year, in her 80s. Her brother – who’s life I officially ended when I ordered life support be withdrawn – is a death that some would rest solely on my shoulders, but I’ll go before any god and justify my decision.

Friends. My first best friend (you know, the kid you hung out with and every thing you did, your parents blamed on your best friend, and their parents reciprocated) long before turning 20. Ex-girlfriends. Dead. Ex-business (bad business, but, nonetheless) partners, dead.

And the little 6 year old girl. Killed by her drunken father on Marshall Rd, Abbotsford. That’s a long time ago and I’ve not forgot. Unlike his God I’ll not forgive.

Add a couple of people unknown, unnamed, one who died in front of me. One I found in a stairwell.

I never felt a pang of guilt about any of them. Not to say I didn’t shed a tear, at least for two of many, but my homeless guy lives.

This isn’t a cry for help, it is by far one of the worst pieces I’ve written, and I’m not happy with it. But someone who’s name I know, someone I’ve had a conversation with, someone who has taken my boat out for a row is someone who’s life is a little bit closer to mine that that of someone’s aunt/daughter/sister/wife/mother who I’ve never known.

That little bit inside that values mine over yours, my guy with a name.

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