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:

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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Satan, laughing all the way

Well kids, at this point 21:35 PST, I predict that Trump will win.

Satan, known colloquially as Rupert Murdoch, will be laughing all the way.

And I hope all Americans will join me in welcoming Attila the Hun to the United States Supreme Court. You will now see the repeal of Roe vs Wade, best get your coat-hangers out. Same sex marriage? Well, I reckon that will disappear pretty quick too. Equal Rights Amendment? I’m so sorry you ain’t equal.

If you ain’t rich, and you voted Trump, well you just fucked yourself. I don’t want to hear one word of moaning in two or three years time that you were misled, didn’t understand, thought he would ‘make America great again.’ Sheer, unadulterated, lies on one side, stupidity on the other.

And at 21:41 PST I’m heading for bed. The pundits should have asked me… clueless morons.

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The day of the US election

This piece started off a couple days ago and I was headed in a direction completely different than the one I’m headed in now. That’s the thesis, more or less, and the rest is about the U.S. election before the Eastern seaboard polls start to come in.

When this electoral race started there really wasn’t much doubt that Hillary Clinton would eventually triumph and become the Democratic party’s nominee for President of the United States. In the Republican camp there was no such surety – a number of people who might have made it to the final race existed – oh, and one person regarded as a self-interested, lying, perhaps fraudulent, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, isolationist, blowhard named Donald Trump – someone, it seemed, who’s only reason for existing was comic relief.

Donald Trump would never win the nomination. Well, he did.

It is now election day in the US, November 7, 2016.

Hilary Clinton, if elected, won’t make life any better for the displaced factory workers in the Rust Belt. She will not curb illegal immigration. She will not…

Donald Trump, on the other hand, probably won’t either. Those Rust Belt jobs disappeared decades ago, and what most of the people weren’t paying attention to was that they went from individual States with hard-won labour laws to ‘right-to-work’ states, like Kentucky. Evidence? Ford makes a line of heavy trucks to this day, named Louisville, after Louisville Kentucky where they are built. To this day.

And look at the record of other goods manufacturers in the industrialized states above the Mason-Dixon line… read the newspaper reports from the late 1960s and on in to the early 1980s. Manufacturer after manufacturer moved south, into right-to-work states, states that were quite happy to give tax breaks, lower employment standards, whimpering and grovelling to get any industrial development. And those states didn’t give a rat’s ass about their northern brethren. Not a whit.

By the early 1980s it had become apparent that, ever so slowly, wages and other costs were climbing. An interesting, and historically repeating thing had begun south of Mason-Dixon. Skilled labour wanted more money. Not much. But more. People who had land that could be developed in to industrial and commercial holdings wanted more money. All of the thousands of spin-off businesses, jobs, property holders and more all wanted a slightly bigger bite of the pie.

So what could industry, commerce in general I suppose, do to maintain their competitive advantage?

In the short term – NAFTA – in the slightly longer term, China. And now, November 2016, one finds that low-margin, labour-intensive, low-tech industries have been moving from China to South East Asia. Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam have all benefited from the shift.

The Donald is not bringing those jobs back. Any person, or group of people, that thinks Trump will suck those jobs out of Vietnam is, at best, deluded.

That’s the ‘money’ thing covered, well enough at least (because I have dental appointment to go to) but before I leave, this is what I really wanted to say.

The nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican party candidate for the Presidency of the United States has allowed something really quite freeing to happen. What? Am I out of my mind? Well, in a manner of speaking, yes I am.

Donald has made it perfectly OK to say and act on the following things, and I assure I’ll miss a pile.

‘I don’t much hang out with Black folks’ is now ‘Goddamn niggers.’

‘I’m not comfortable with same-sex marriage’ will now be spoken as ‘Faggots are an abomination against God.’ Insert Charlton Heston as Moses here.

Cheap, and sometimes illegal, Mexican labour will now be ‘raping, drug dealing Spics.’

Oh, and if you thought the abortion debate was rough, well, ladies, you’re fucked. Every self-righteous fundamentalist will be burning you at the stake after they force you to carry to term. Teach you to have ungodly sex outside the sanctity of marriage!

I could go on, I’m sure, but three examples ought to be enough to demonstrate not so much what I think of Trump, but what I think of his followers. An uncle once said to me ‘don’t shoot the leaders, shoot the followers,’ and Trump’s ‘brand’ has a lot of followers.

Think of the worst zombie apocalypse movie you can – all those living dead out to get you before anything else – and think of what Trump’s followers will be baying for…

The end.

I don’t like Hillary Clinton and I cannot articulate quite why, and I’m old enough to remember her political presence a ways back in time, but I hope she wins tonight.

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SVOP: small vessel operator proficiency

This is all guesswork because I won’t take an SVOP course until sometime early in 2017, probably mid to late February at the earliest, nor do I expect to get a job because I’ve got it.

Forty-some years ago I spent 6 months on a tugboat operating in and around Vancouver’s False Creek pulling scows in to the Creek from the then existing ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ mooring buoys. Assisting bigger tugs as they pulled scows through the Kitsilano railway trestle – thankfully my skipper never sunk a boat doing that – and a variety of odds and sods towboat work. So that ought to buy me some credibility, eh?

Hell, at 02:30 (pretty much the middle of the night) and in pouring rain, I find myself trying to haul up mooring lines with a pike-pole. I’m soaking wet in rain gear, I’m cold, bitch, bitch, bitch. So much for the romance of the sea. Brrr.

And then for pretty much the next 40 years the biggest thing I drove on the water was a really, really nice 16′ aluminum ‘tinnie in the Queen Charlottes, now once again Haida Gwaii. There were kayaks, and rowboats, but nothing powered until a couple years ago when my ‘new to me’ rowboat got me involved with Jericho Rescue. Well, now I have to have a PCOC (Power Craft Operator Certificate) and I have to write an exam.

So I called a local Power Squadron’s training officer and said that ‘more or less all I remember from 40 years ago is ‘red right returning’ and they said “You’ll pass.” I did. And I got the radio ticket. And the low-level first aid with CPR and AED. Shocking, eh?

But I thought I’d like to know more about buoyage, and ‘aids to navigation,’ and other stuff. So I thought, naturally enough I suppose, of Power Squadron… but my searching also led me to the SVOP. And, well, the SVOP is the lowest possible version of a commercial vessel operator ticket. No more than 5 passengers, no more than 5 GRT (that’s not very big in boat terms, though I notice there are ‘cargo’ boats built specifically to meet the ticket limits) and I really don’t think you can call yourself ‘captain,’ maybe ‘Master,’ but not Captain. Captain is a much tougher gig.

Hell, ‘Captain’ in most Canadian cases includes the trauma-inducing Marine Advanced First Aid written of earlier, and that is only a tiny part of the qualifications…

But I’ll be happy with SVOP. Anything more I want I can take with Power Squadron; I’m sure I can find some chinos and tasseled shoes so as to kinda/sorta/maybe not be too noticeably and outsider. 😉

Time to read; knots and BVMs and airways and shock and signal flags and dayshapes and Not Under Command and ‘underway’ and ‘making way’ and burn care, eye injuries, on and on and on…

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Learnin’ is tough

A long time ago, and far, far, away from where I sit, I failed Grade 7. How the hell do you fail in elementary school? A few years later I would walk out of grade 11, about 3 days in to the new academic year, and with some crude (and perhaps inappropriate reflections on the sanity of my teacher) remarks wandered off.

That was a failure, both times, and in both cases in many individual ways.

Childhood, a time of wonder and exploration (what a misrepresentation that is) was cut short by doubt, by family troubles, by mental health problems. Oh, yes, even then there were strong indications of things gone wrong. Even in elementary school I had been ‘referred’ to the local health authority’s doctor’s attending to the mentally somewhat fouled up.

No more hall passes for this kid, no more hassle when I said ‘I’m going to the doctor,’ no need for note to excuse my absence.

But nobody ever told me ‘why,’ why me, out of all the kids in the skool that were a little off the bubble why was I the one considered problematic? The knives? Or the off-the-shelf meds? Or something else?

I don’t know. Didn’t know then, don’t know now, afraid to find out.

‘You’re psycho!!!’ my charming mother screamed at me one day.

Takes one to know one.

Besides, I knew by the time she said that, by the time I was 15, that I didn’t want to have kids. And that wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in women. ‘Girls’ would have been the term then, but now it seems wrong to use the term, when I’m old enough to be the great-grandfather of young women I though of as girls at that age… Great-grandfather? Yes, just do the math; if I had kids who became parents at the same age that I became sexually active, and their kids repeated the curse, I’d be a great grandfather by now. Indeed the kids would be – damn, doing the math I could be a great-great-grandfather.

Glad I didn’t allow any of that to happen, but the process of learning to not allow it was tough.

And school was tough. I just didn’t fit. Could out-think the tough kids, and out-tough the cool kids, my saving grace was charging the tough kids $20 a shot for essays in English class. That was in the days you wrote your essay by hand – and I told the tough kids that if they handed it in my handwriting that I’d beat the shit out of them, that if they ratted me out, I’d beat the shit out of them.

Well Cam Dagg thought he’d caught me cheating – but I earned that money, the tough kids took their lumps in ‘lowered marks,’ – and Dagg eventually got charged with sexual molestation of under-age boys. Underage boys assigned to his care by the justice system. Fucker. All that learnin’ was tough, too.

One day I walked in to the Registrar’s office at Vancouver Community College and when the staff asked how they could help ‘well, I was here in 1977, I think, I’m just trying to figure out when…’ After some diligent searching on the part of the staff I was informed that I’d been there twice; ‘oh, yes, in 1977, and again in 1985 (or 84, I can’t remember) to do great and wonderful learnin’.

The a desire, a need for proof that while maybe I’m psycho I’m not stupid, I got in to UBC via Langara College. And I graduated with a mark that was raising the ‘average graduating mark’ (or GPA if that’s your thing) that year. And that learnin’ was tough.

For reasons unclear to me much of this has been brought to the forefront of my day by two things; the first is sharing a quick note to someone about the collections of essays ‘Nobody’s Father,’ and the second is the sting of failure.

The second sting of failure.

Trust me, you want your first aid personnel to know what they’re doing. If you’re floating in the water, face down, non-responsive I have a pretty good idea what to do. Into the boat, check for consciousness, check for pulse, get help (assistance) start CPR, maintain CPR and (if your ticket say’s you trained that way, rescue breaths) just keep doing it until relieved…

I can do that. Adults from 50 kg to 140 kg I’ve managed to get in to a rescue boat, by myself. One time (and really not in ‘great’ danger) 10 people in 2 1/2 minutes. By myself.

So I’ll accept the offer of free training to a much, much higher level of first aid competency.

Four days of Hell.

I’d never heard of much of the stuff in the first aid kit. What’s BVM? A SAM splint, Spider strap? And all of this at great speed, in an atmosphere of RUSH, LOAD, LOUD, SCrEAminG…

I knew I’d fail. I read, and I read, I watched endless videos on youtube. I thought and I fought, and worked at it. How to read blood pressure (it’s actually a pretty simple, kind of cool thing, that sphygmomanometer) in a hurry, in a loud and echo’y room. Heart rate, systolic, diastolic, sinus rhythm, PoUNd, pouND, whoosh, shoosh.

And I failed.

I felt overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stuff I didn’t know coming in to the course, the amount I had never heard of, the screams of gloved patients, the sense of unreality in so many ways.

And now I have to do some of it again – this time on my birthday – is practice, it’s not the real deal, it is filling in as the ‘body’ in a group short one person. But I will have to do it.

Learning. It’s tough.

SVOP (Small Vessel Operator Proficiency) is next, after the Marine Advanced First Aid, not because I’ll be any more or less Proficient, but I’ll have some slip of paper that says I’m proficient.

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