Saturday, August 06, 2022

My Own Impostor Syndrome

 In the last two weeks,

  • someone I have never met, whom I am unlikely to ever meet, sent me a pair of tickets to see Jake's Gift in November;
  • a friend made reference to "something divine" in me, and clarified that she wasn't using the word simply as a synonym for 'lovely' or some such. She meant actual 'Godlike' qualities, and I am so so so so so uncomfortable even relating this; it's not the first time
  • A friend actually said this: "Maybe with time we could all be more like you because we sure need to be" oh god the pressure please don't lay this on me and really, no, don't be more like me because I am a fraud.
There's a lot of talk about social media right now. About how we compare our outtakes and bloopers to the highlight reels that are everyone else's timelines. I can't help but think there's something to this, because many people do seem to treat Facebook as an ornament, a little pretty bauble to share and enhance the reputation. 

I didn't always live here, you know. For the first six years, I felt less than zero obligation to post every day, and for probably three of those years I was virtually unknowable, for all the lack of substance I posted. I didn't post pictures: at first I didn't know how, and once I did it still didn't appeal to me. Pictures alone usually don't. There's that babyish voice inside that insists picture books are for babies and none of the literary greats you revere wrote comic books and arrogant wrongheaded shit like that. But there's also suspicion: if you show me a picture, I'll wonder what's just outside its frame. You can, of course, likewise hide things and spotlight things with words: any writer worth anything at all knows umpteen ways of doing both. But with pictures it always feels more blatant..with moving pictures, even more so. 
Do you remember, back when TV "channels" were a thing, how some movies would be presented on your television as if you were in a movie theater? Except not really, because in every movie theater I've ever been in, the movie takes up the whole screen. On your TV, this "letterboxing" technique renders two thirds of your screen area unwatchable. And there were people who preferred this, who insisted it was the only right and proper way to watch a film. (Never a movie, always a film: these are the same people who never took a shit in their lives, but only evacuated their bowels). 

Anyway, for the first several years I was here, this place was Twitter to me. Today, Facebook asks "What's on your mind?" In days of yore, it said "Ken is..." and I always resented it for forcing me to start my sentence in the middle of the sentence.  I mean, look at the opening to this blog. It would never work on Facebook circa 2008.  I couldn't very well perpetrate something like "Ken is in the last two weeks:" and put it out there on my wall where people could see it and judge me for it. And yes, that thought went through my head every...single..time I thought about sharing something. Can I contort whatever it is I want to say into Facebook's one and only arbitrary status update format? If it presented any issues at all, I didn't bother. 

But as I got my bearings and found more and more friends, I began to notice something. Many people use Facebook as a kind of event recorder: today we went here, ate this, did that. Nothing wrong with that at all, of course. But few people seemed to be interested in deeper discussions, and their walls did feel somewhat antiseptic. It's not as if I'm in an all-fired rush to share all my biggest flaws, but when they pop up -- and they do -- it feels like a lie to hide them. 

I used to be a chronic liar, once. I lied because duh, the truth hurt. But my mom always used to say that I'd get in ten times more trouble with a lie than I would with an unpleasant truth. Mom was full of it on some things -- there is no reason whatsoever to wait half an hour after eating to swim -- but on this she was 100% right. I pledged to myself to tell the truth on social media, even when it made me look bad -- perhaps especially when it made me look bad. There are several good reasons for that. One, it's authentic. Fakeness just doesn't appeal to me: it never did. Cut the small talk. I want to know about your dreams, your fears, your proudest moments and your most embarrassing moments both. I want to know your thoughts on where you were before you were born and where you'll be after you die, if anywhere. You know, the real stuff. 
Two, being real opens you up to other real people, and there is no greater joy I've found. 
Three, it's easier to keep the story straight when there's only one story and it's true (or at least, true from your perspective: my dad once said that the number of sides in any story equals the number of people in the story plus the truth.)
And four, it just feels right to me to present myself as I am, warts and all. 

A word about reactions.

I have always had to convince people, over time, that I have no expectations. I have desires, sure, and when I'm not careful they can look for all the world like expectations, but they're not. This is true in things both large and small: you don't have to say I love you back if I say it to you and you don't have to "like" or respond to what I post. Would I love it if you did love me back, or if you did laugh at my silly pun and leave a nice comment? Of course I would. Anybody who says their Facebook wall is only for them is lying: nobody ever wakes up of a morning and say you know what? Everything I post today is going to lose me friends. Does that obligate you? Hell, no.

Of course I don't share everything.

I've ran this blog round and round in my head and I can't think of a way to prove what I'm about to write without severely compromising someone's privacy and mental well-being. So I think you're going to have to trust me when I say: I have been a jerk. More than once, to people very close to me who are no longer very close to me. I have hurt people, occasionally deliberately. In the heat of the moment I have said things I instantly regretted. On more than one occasion it's resulted in an immediate block. I especially lost myself in the pandemic, making strong and spurious judgments on the characters of all of those people not fully vaxed, and expressing those opinions in caustic and cutting terms. I would blame the stress we all lived under, but that wouldn't be the truth. Not really. You let Mental Sarcastic Bastard out of his hole and he relishes taking over, insulting people in the most withering terms, TAKE THAT YOU SCABROUS SHITGIBBON. Feeling of absolute moral righteousness. 

Not exactly "divine".

I try to be a good friend and because "friends" were imaginary to me for so long I'm still -- STILL -- at a loss as to how to do it, oftentimes. I share too much, then misread your surprise as criticism and share too little. Even with my closest friends, I often stop myself from reaching out because Ken again? Guy just talked to me last week, Jesus, get away fly! My head knows you're not thinking that. Hopes you're not thinking that. Imagines you might not be thinking that. Are you thinking that? Maybe you're thinking that.
Shit, I bet you're thinking that. Now what?
If you ever catch me thanking you for something utterly banal like listening to me, that's the thought process that prompted the thanks. I'm just so grateful that there's another human being in front of me (virtually or otherwise) who isn't going to punch me, insult me, or worst of all, turn their back on me and walk away. 

And yet people have walked away. Sometimes ran. For good reason.

You know who I think had something divine in him? Mr. Fred Rogers, that's who. Here's a man who lived much of his life in public and by absolutely all accounts he never acted anything less than loving to everyone he met, in person or at a distance. No matter how tired he was, no matter what was going wrong in his life that day. That's a man we could all do to be a bit more like. Not me. I'm just a large quivering network of flaws stitched together with the best of good intentions, is all I am.

Please. That's all I am. If I'm special, I'm no more special than you are.

I mean that. 

Thursday, August 04, 2022

After the "Storm"

Warning: this blog is likely not at all what you're expecting from its title. 

Second warning: you're gonna think Ken is fuckin' nuts


SCIENCE: "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

SPIRITUALITY: "concerning the human spirit or soul in harmony with life and the universe."

MAGIC: "The art and science of effecting changes in consciousness through focussed intent."


 I am consciously cautious with popular artists of all kinds to whom I have not been exposed. Fifty Shades, Twilight and W.A.P. aside, usually things are popular for a reason, and my passions tend to consume me, at least for a short while. The deep dive into gotta-experience-everything-in-this-artist's-catalogue-multiple-times is even more exhausting than it is exhilarating.  So I try, often in vain, to limit myself. Right now, I'm trying to resist the pull to buy everything Michael Connelly ever wrote, because his Lincoln Lawyer series has me flipping pages as if it's 1985 and the world wide web doesn't exist. 

The effort of restraint... It usually doesn't work. I'm easily overwhelmed, especially musically. Just in the last year, I've gone through massive Jacob Collier, Pat Metheny, Marillion, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Tori Amos kicks. And right now I'm trying not to drown in Tim Minchin.

I've run across the Aussie musician, songwriter, strong atheist, crackerjack pianist, actor, humanist,  comic, and Matilda only knows what else before: he wrote the book for Groundhog Day: The Musical, which is if anything even better than the movie, and I say that as someone who considers Groundhog Day, the movie, to be one of the few watchable rom-coms. Minchin also played Judas in an excellent 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar. But until YouTube alerted me, I hadn't discovered his collection of comedic/philosophic songs. 

The first thing I heard was Prejudice, among his most famous works. I devoured this, and an umpty-fuck number of reactors to it: this is quite possibly the greatest work of comedic misdirection in the history of comedy. It's funny as hell, and if you care to examine it and your reaction to it critically, it'll leave you with a lot to think about. 

I read the comments below the reactor videos, because even text can give me that dopamine hit of shared joy. One commenter said something to the effect of "you think this is good, watch STORM. It'll change your life."

If you can spare me nine minutes of your time, above and beyond your reading this, the beat poem is worth your while. You really ought to see Tim perform this, but if you'd prefer not, here are some annotated lyrics.

At a few different points in my life, I would have let out several emphatic YES!es as this played out. Had I found this in my late teens, I would have memorized and performed it. And now, as an adult (ha) of fifty years: I love the wordplay, and I appreciate where Tim is coming from....

...but I just can't agree with him on some of it. Had I not once agreed with him on ALL of what he says here, I might be tempted to hold him in at least a little of the contempt he has for Storm. 

It speaks to an evolution in me. Some might call it devolution: I'm pretty sure Mr. Minchin would. 

In the poem, Tim is at a dinner party with his wife, another couple, and a fifth named Storm, who is your quintessential tramp-stamped vegetarian hippie. Tim struggles to restrain himself from attacking her "bullshit", and eventually can't help himself: he eviscerates her, making a hell of a scene.

I've known a lot of people like Storm. As time goes on, I'm becoming just a little more like Storm myself. Go ahead, laugh. I can take it.

Now don't get me wrong here: I'm not some kind of science-denying, anti-vax, anti-GMO, anti-reason person. Not at all. Science is and remains the best way we have of discovering what things are and how they came to be. Indeed, in many respects, the only way.

Nor do I feel that scientists are coldhearted simply because they reduce love to an aquarium in a living room: a bunch of indoor fins. You can't tell me the scientists who made and monitor the James Webb Space Telescope aren't blown away by the beauty of the images it's producing, even as they can explain each image clinically. 

But I feel like Tim, as comfortable as he appears, is in fact standing on one leg of a tripod. His worldview is wobbly because it is fundamentally imbalanced, says I. That's a harsh accusation, and the fresh hell of it is I can't prove it in Tim's own language. I freely acknowledge this. I freely admit as far as Tim and a great many others are concerned, I'm the one without a leg to stand on. And yet...

I contend that this is because science itself shies away from...this is hard to articulate. Not so much topics, exactly, but...

Okay, take ghosts. I've been interested in ghosts since long before I saw (or rather, felt) one in my early teens. To my knowledge, there is no scientific evidence whatsoever for ghosts. None. Zip zero zilch. Ergo I've never seen a ghost because nobody has seen a ghost. Science posits all sorts of explanations for hauntings, from hallucinations to carbon monoxide leaks. And while I'm sure that explains the majority of spectral sightings...I just can't bring myself to believe it explains all of them. 

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Can you bring yourself to consider that humans are -- partly -- energy? A teenage boy produces, on average, 6500 kilojoules of energy in a day.  That's 1553 calories -- and you'll recall a "calorie" is the energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Centigrade.

Put another way, the average human at rest puts out 100 watts of power. Expressed as light, that's reasonably bright. Some athletes can emit a burst of up to 2000 watts. A 2000-watt lightbulb won't blind you, but it's uncomfortably bright to look at. 

Are you really dead when you die? The answer is obvious to a rational mind, just as obvious to a spiritual/magical mind -- and the answers are diametrically opposed. Of course you are, says science, because it's never been able to measure otherwise. Of course not, says spirituality and magic, because there are other [worlds/realms/planes] than the world in which we find ourselves.  and if you really back a scientist into a corner, she'll admit: we don't know what consciousness is or how it comes to be. If she's really feeling honest, she'll admit something persists after death. Yes, folks, in case you didn't know, now you know: when you die, you'll understand that you are dead. Incidentally, this is relatively new knowledge...unless you talk to people who view the world outside a scientific lens. 

Sure, none of this constitutes any sort of scientific chain of evidence for ghosts. But speaking only for myself, I find it hella persuasive. Especially when you add in a couple of pertinent scientific facts. 

Do you know how much of the electromagnetic spectrum we can see? I've been asking people this question for years and absolutely everybody is off by least THREE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE. The answer is 0.00035%.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Tim, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". Yes, of course we have ever-increasing knowledge about the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum we can't see...what the hell is going on HERE?

You know when you first hear information you've never heard before and it just CLICKS? Like "oh, I didn't know this but I feel like I've always known this"? How do you measure that? What are the mechanics behind "love at first sight"? 

I went to see my mother in the hospital about six months before she died, tragically, in a fire. She was emaciated and clearly very ill, but her eyes BURNED with vitality. We say that phrase -- I'm reasonably sure you grasp my meaning, and can picture bright, blazing almost-not-quite power. Almost? Not quite? Are we sure? Many faith traditions talk in some manner about a "life force". Does that exist? I for one believe it does. Can I verify that scientifically? Kinda doubt that. 

Speaking of faith traditions, every one of them going boils down to "WE ARE ALL ONE". I absofuckinglutely 

Look up Rupert Sheldrake on 'morphic resonance'. Sheldrake pisses science off because his experiments are scientifically reproducible and they yield TOTAL FUCKING WOO.There should be no reason why untrained rats learn a maze faster the more rats have been trained to learn that maze. The guy takes Lamarck, who has been universally branded a crackpot, extends his hypothesis and finds evidence for it. And science looks at that and goes "oh, well, that's embarrassing" and hides it away.

I feel like science, as wonderful and valuable as it UNDOUBTEDLY is, often stops as soon as it has a measurement. It grounds us in 'reality'...but as you've already seen, we perceive a tiny, tiny portion of ultimate reality. And, understandably, what can't be perceived by traditional senses is easily dismissible. I just can't help but think, pace Tim Minchin, that we throw an entire universe of babies out with our bathwaters. 

All I'm trying to say is that science is one way of looking at the world. It's magnificently suited to the observable, but it tends to break down as you move inward. That's what Tim is missing: any sense of an inner world to go along with the outer world. The inner world, you know, the world of emotions (which I have often seen cast as an abbreviation for energies in motion, and which they clearly are: what, are you going to try and assert that rage doesn't have an energy? Bitch, please. I feel these things. Daily. By a process I can't put into the language of science, but that's okay. It would be a diminishment. 

I have little doubt that some people may take me to be completely off my nut. That's okay too. I've been told as much since I was in kindergarten, I'm used to it. I still believe that if science ever gets the nerve to really follow quantum mechanics where it leads, it'll find itself merging with spirituality and magic both.

Magic. I lost some of my readers with spirituality. Magic is even more taboo in today's society: it's been relegated to sleight-of-hand parlour tricks. That's not what magic is at all. See the top: magic is quite simply focussed intent that changes consciousness. Visualizing success before a big game is using magic. Voodoo (more properly voudou) is a magical system, and while you're right to scoff at the mythmash Hollywood has made out of the practice, do know this: it has been shown to work under certain conditions. If a hexed person (a) believes they've been hexed and (b) believes in the power of that hex...the observed effects will match the hex. Science will call that a placebo effect -- and it just kind of peters out going any deeper. How does a placebo work? It shouldn't.  You shouldn't be able to believe yourself into curing a disease, and yet it happens all the time, all over the world, every day. It's almost as if your beliefs are some sort 


Can't be. 


I have two people to thank for this widening (I'm sure some would still say narrowing) of my thought processes. You undoubtedly know of the first because I feel like I never shut up about him: John Michael Greer. This man is at home in every realm of thought there is, and he has a way of making the way-out-there relatable and compelling. 

The other is Mark.

Mark came here in 2016 and I can tell you, when I first got to know him, I often thought really nice guy. Full of shit on some subjects, but a really nice guy. Well, I'm no longer quite so certain he's full of shit on anything at all.  He, too, has a way of couching what seem like odd beliefs in language I can understand and apply. What he refers to as different planes of existence, for example, can be viewed through a religious lens or a magical lens (and I am confident science will catch up one day). I don't necessarily see the world through his eyes, but I can, at least a little, and I think that's valuable. Even if science scoffs and sneers at it, I still think it's valuable. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Around (part of) the Bay and Back Again, Part II

 Day 3: Midland-Collingwood

First stop today is a place I've been wanting to see for a while: Sainte-Marie-Among-The-Hurons. This is a painstaking recreation of the first European settlement in Ontario, ca. 1639. As always in places like this, I can feel...not so much presences exactly, more a kind of weight, a conscious awareness of standing in a story, or rather, many of them. It's not at all an unpleasant feeling, but it demands sober, almost solemn,  contemplation. 

It was interesting to me to learn that the Wendat (the proper name for the people the French called the Hurons) not only coexisted peacefully with the missionaries, but welcomed them, traded with them, and, according to accounts, grew quite fond of them. The Wendat are a matriarchy, so the culture shock must have been intense both ways. Some of the Wendat converted to Christianity, and the site reflects both cultures. A product of the Wendat/French collaboration is a song you may have heard, or perhaps even sung. This carol was actually written by Father Jean de Brébeuf, one of the two priests martyred at the hands of the Iroquois, a neighbouring tribe that had warred with the Wendat many times before. The Iroquois themselves were fortified with firearms acquired from the Dutch. Proxy wars take many forms. 

On March 16, 1649, Brébeuf was captured during an Iroquois attack on the Huron mission. He chose to stay with his people instead of fleeing. He was dragged, received a shower of stones, was beaten and bound to the torture pole. Boiling water was poured over his head in a parody of baptism, a necklace of white-hot tomahawk axles was slipped around his neck, and a hot iron was shoved down his throat and anus. He was then burned alive and his body was cut in several pieces with knives. Following his death, his heart was torn out and eaten.

Imagine for a moment my sense of utter horror and shame upon learning these details from an Indigenous person on site, in response to my question.  I was so mortified by her brief dark expression and her words "we don't like to talk about this" that I could not bear to ask if she herself was Iroquois. But given that expression and those words, I believe she is. This is going to bother me for a while, an ill-thought-out question. I was practically riven with conflicting moral impulses. I was born and baptized Catholic, but have rejected that faith and everything associated with it...nevertheless, I felt oddly complicit all of it. I feel very strongly against evangelism of all kinds.  How to tell this lovely and wise Iroquois woman that I deeply respect indigenous cultures, so much so I believe I'd feel much more at home in one than I do in my own society? Is that in itself presumptuous? It feels as if it is. I was struck entirely mute by embarrassment and a renewed sense of history pressing down on me, this time almost crushing,  and I awkwardly took my leave and shuffled away, head down. 

We were both quite fascinated with the minutiae of Jesuit and Wendat life. Two and a half hours passed in an eyeblink. I could actually have stayed longer, but we wanted to see the neighbouring Martyr's Shrine

We felt even more awkward here. We hadn't realized until we entered it that this place is still a fully functioning Catholic church. (We were told one of the chapels on site at Sainte-Marie still preaches the Mass every Sunday, but oddly, I didn't feel half as conflicted there.) Here, it felt disrespectful even to take pictures. This is odd, because if you haven't guessed, I respect nothing about Catholicism at this point at all, and Kathy is emphatically non-religious herself. Yet there was still a sense of the sacred here. We could feel it.

It really is a gorgeous edifice. 


From here, we made the hour long trip west to Collingwood, to stay at the Blue Mountain Inn. Our initial impression of this place was favourable: the room is perhaps the nicest we've stayed in, marred only by a bathroom that belongs on a plane, not in a hotel room. 

But then we went out to Blue Mountain Village and...

Okay, look, I'm not stupid. (I AM, but not in this.)  I know to treat tourist destinations in my own country as if they are in some other place that uses some other currency. But the prices here were beyond insane. $3.50 for a single bite sized chocolate? $5.25 for a 600ml bottle of Coke?  $100 for a hat? It got worse. 

There were three things we had wanted to do here. I did research prices before leaving home, but somehow missed that in order to do even one of the things -- a gondola ride to the top of the mountain -- would require the purchase of a day pass. Another -- minigolf -- was an add-on not covered by that $70 $35 a head, a ridiculously priced add-on. Under no circumstances are we paying $70 for a round of minigolf. The third thing -- that suspension bridge I mentioned earlier -- was of course on a different adjacent site requiring a different day pass to visit, and, well...Blue Mountain seems designed to clinically, surgically, separate people from their money. We declined to be operated upon. It's fair to say we were disgusted. So much so we have no intention of visiting this place ever again. 

And there are no pictures, to reflect this fact. 

 West to Thornbury, where we found "the Fishway" as seen from the "Bridge of Kindness". Beautiful little village. 

Dinner was at The Corner Café and Grill. We love finding these little local gems: the food is always tastier and often less expensive than at a bland chains. My club sandwich was exemplary. 

We came back to the top of Blue Mountain, to a stunning lookout we had visited before, and lo and behold Blue Mountain had clutched its greedy little tentacles around it in the interim: merely to park there required that damned day pass. This just cemented that we would not give this highbrow tourist trap one more penny of our money or attention. 

Then to Northwinds Beach, which cost $10/hr to park at -- payable only online. I've never encountered that before, but bit the bullet and relaxed on the beach, where Kathy got what might be the best shot of the trip:

Back to Blue Mountain Inn. I'll give this place one thing: the beds are quite comfortable. So much so I laid down just to shut my eyes for a minute and woke up the next morning. 

Day Four: Collingwood-Owen Sound-Waterloo/Woodstock

Another plus for the Blue Mountain Inn: the Pottery. Breakfast here is (sigh) expensive but (smile) very worth it. I had a farmer's breakfast and Kathy had French toast she pronounced the best she's tasted. 

Checkout was painless. The suspension bridge nixed, we drove to South Bay Fields Lavender Farm.

You can't tell, but all the sunflowers are pointing at Kathy

I enjoyed this place more than I thought I might. Adirondack chairs dot the lavender and sunflower fields and it's just a really nice place to spend some time. 

We decided to visit Webwood Falls (since waterfalls are obligatory on our treks). This is a pretty little cascade, very easily accessible. 

Another falls resisted our attempts to find it. We pulled into the road marked Indian Falls and at the end of that road is not a falls but instead two or three private residences. 

One of the best things about our road treks is that we may be fact, we expect to be at this point...but we always find alternatives that work out well. I think it's at least partly because we are people with simple tastes. As such, there is always beauty to be found even in the simplest things. Like, for instance, this tree, in a bayside park in Owen Sound:

We lunched at an honest-to-God Mexican food truck called Ted y Gracias. I think Kathy was initially hesitant, but this turned out to be one of the best values of the trip. For $23, we got two delicious and substantial soft tacos (messy as hell, but yummy), a massive order of loaded fries -- three pounds if it was an ounce --  and drinks. 

We dined al fresco in the park overlooking the Bay, chatted for a bit with a biker couple we found, and then, with a mix of emotion, headed for home.


We're looking at, perhaps, one more abbreviated trek this year, not counting day trips, and hoping circumstances permit that great circle trek next year. I said that that trip was 1006 km, not including detours? Well, all in all we travelled almost exactly that far in the last four days. I think it's doable. Might be doable. Hope it's doable. 

Reiterating some thanks I have already given, and adding some: a hearty and sincere thank you to the people in Kathy's family who ensured this trip could happen at all, by making Kathy's "side chick" -- her name for her car -- purr. Thank you again to my father and stepmom, who gifted us with that unforgettable dinner cruise, joined us for lunch, and invited us to spend a couple of hours at their home. 

And of course thank you to Kathy, who put up with me for FOUR WHOLE DAYS. AGAIN. I must be doing something right. 


Around (part of) The Bay And Back Again, Part I

 DAY 1: Woodstock/Waterloo - Midland

This was supposed to be a more ambitious road trek for Kathy and I. 

We had intended to do a great circle to Tobermory, Manitoulin, Sudbury and home. As recently as March, I was hoping we could pull that off. But Vladimir Putin and the corporations who used his war as an excuse to price gouge us had other ideas. That great circle tour would have taken up 1006 km not counting ANY detours off the path for any reason, and there would have been many of those. 

Cancelling the whole thing was unthinkable. We both needed some time off from the world. And so we trimmed it down: two nights in Midland and a night in Collingwood.

Why those places? Midland because we'd been before and hadn't done everything we wanted to. Last year, Midland was mostly just a place to break up the trek, but we discovered some things we really wanted to do, notably a dinner cruise that had been unable to run for the duration of the pandemic. They were just getting ready to resume operations after we got back.  I'd also wanted to see Sainte-Marie-Among-The-Hurons and the Martyr's Shrine, but adverse weather scuttled that. Collingwood? Two words. Blue Mountain. We've wandered past it and we've even been on top of it , but I've never been to the village and resort there and I wanted to go. Ontario's largest pedestrian suspension bridge is there, and that was something I really wanted to experience. 

Less than an hour before departure, I received an email informing me that our dinner cruise on the Georgian Legacy was cancelled due to lack of interest. I thought about emailing back that we had enough interest to cover for any number of other people. But we weren't prepared to pay for all those other uninterested people. So we resolved to find something else to do, while really lamenting we couldn't have dinner on a boat.

We 'staircased' our way to Midland, left-right-left-right. We made good time: alla marcia, you might say, march time. We checked in at the Midland Inn and Suites, which we stayed at last year, almost to the day. I was amazed to discover the rates had not increased year over year. It's a no-frills motel, but it's towards the tippy-top of that tier of accommodation, with fairly comfortable beds, a larger-than-standard room, and a delicious full hot breakfast. I had absolutely no qualms booking this place again and would recommend it to anyone.

Dinner: Fish 'n' Fry Inn (no website). This is apparently a Midland institution: an overgrown food truck with some delicious halibut, battered to perfection, crispy without being overpowering. Good fries, too. If you do happen to stumble across the menu, the one I can't seem to find again, be warned it's likely the menu from 2019 and prices have increased about three dollars across the board. But in 2019 the prices were so cheap they were almost suspicious, so it was still reasonable value. 

We wandered over to Penetanguishene ("Pen-net-ANGuish-sheen"), or "Penetang",  which is basically a suburb of Midland. We viewed  the boat we were supposed to  have taken the following night (sigh). 

We also found the S.S Keewatin, five years older than the R.M.S Titanic. This is the last surviving Edwardian steamship in the world, and it served as a museum for 45 years. It would have been a marvel to tour it. But it is regrettably shuttered by a battle for ownership (ship-owner?), its future uncertain.

Then we explored Patterson Park  (can't get enough of that Georgian Bay air!)

 ....and went back to home base to crash.

DAY TWO: Midland-Port Severn-Parry Sound-Midland

Busy day today...and much better than expected.

We had lunch reservations at noon sharp at Tailwinds in Parry Sound, with my dad and stepmother. On our way north, we stopped at Port Severn to watch a couple of boats traverse the first (or last, I suppose) lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Called "one of the finest interconnected systems of navigation in the world, this 386 km (240 mi) route from where we are deep into the Kawarthas has a long and storied history in this province. Last year we tried to find this lock and either Gertie the GPS lady was drunk or Ken acting as Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest failed to do his 'one job on this ship'. (It's more likely than not the latter, but Ken notes in his defence that Gertie has indeed acted drunk on more than one occasion and also his boobs aren't quite as fetching as Sigourney Weaver's.) 

But today we found it and we loved it. We got to see not one boat but two go through the lock.

As we were watching, my phone rang. Dad. "What are you up to tonight?" We weren't sure. Tonight was supposed to be dinner cruise night. That ship had (not) sailed, and we hadn't yet found an alternative activity. Whereupon Dad offered to get us passage on the M.V. Chippewa...dinner included.

I will admit I was almost in tears of gratitude. 

"Oh and by the way," my dad said, "Tailwinds is closed today, so let's meet at Turtle Jack's" Turns out Tailwinds was a victim of the "nobody wants to work anymore" plague that followed Covid-19 like the night follows the day. 

(Aside: that's another of the many sayings  missing a critical part of the phrase. "The customer is always right" ... in matters of taste; "one bad apple"... spoils the bunch; "nobody wants to work anymore"... for shit wages, taking abuse from bosses and customers alike.)

This is not to disparage the staff and management of Tailwinds. It's entirely possible there are other, more benign reasons the restaurant was forced to close. I merely note that many other operations around it were open and bustling. Parry Sound in summer is a busy, busy place. The four corners (James St. and Seguin St.) will put you in mind of a packed  Toronto intersection, not at all what was once for years one of only three traffic lights in the whole of Parry Sound.

I had one of the better burgers I've eaten in recent years. But that was secondary to time spent with Dad and Heather. They invited us back to their home, which is lovely. But before we went there, we had to hit Bearly Used Books...of course. For any friends who have not read previous entries in praise of this place, if you are in any kind of proximity and you are any kind of reader, this is absolutely a must-see. It's far and away the largest used bookstore I have ever  visited. Last I heard they were at 350K volumes, including more than 15,000 children's books. 

Dad had recently read a Michael Connolly book in one sitting that he urged me to find (and requested any other books in the 'Lincoln Lawyer' series). I found two others. I've just discovered that the book I've been ordered to read (I will get to it soon, Dad, I promise) is actually rhe most recent entry in the series, but if Dad could binge it as a stand-alone, I'm sure I will, too. 

Quick trip over to the Charles Stockey Center to see the statue of Francis Pegahmabow (Ojibwe: Binaaswe, "the wind that blows off").  Born in Shawanaga, not far from my dad's prior hometown of Britt, he became chief of the Wasauksing on Parry Island. But not before he served with supreme distinction in the First World War, becoming the most effective sniper of that war and the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history. 

Just beyond that statue is a lovely seating area where you can watch the waves roll in: 

We met the matriarch of the clan that operates the M.V. Chippewa II on the way to Bearly Used. If this tale is meandering, well, that's Parry Sound for you. As busy as it is in summer, it somehow maintains a laid-back and friendly vibe. I'm learning to drop the 'too' in 'too friendly'. This is something Kathy is really helping me with: the ways of small towns. In cities, if a stranger says something to you other than 'what time is it' or 'where do I find _____', that stranger is looking to mug you in some fashion. Actually, scratch that: everybody can tell what time it is AND where anything is with a device that they carry with them everywhere, so there is no good reason to talk to strangers. Isn't that one of the very first things you learn as a child...stranger danger? 

I'm especially not used to strangers asking me personal questions. "What do you do?" Is there some reason you need this information? Are you going to ask my wage, too? I'm sure my readers are well aware of what I am finally pounding through my head: it's really just a surfeit of a quality too often lacking in cities, a quality called "friendliness". She may go on to spread what she's learned about me all over town, but for once I'm going to choose to believe she wasn't asking about me to gain gossip currency, but only out of a sincere affability. 

The boat set sail at 6:30 for a leisurely tour that only partially matched the northern Island Queen route we took last year. 

Dinner was fabulous. Chicken parmesan, pasta and greens, catered by Bistro on Six, headquartered in....Midland, of all places. For dessert, a to-die-for selection of cheesecake squares, some lemon cookies and Belgian chocolates.  We learned that their previous caterer had bailed on them not a week before and I really must commend their flexibility, as well as their new catering choice. Absolutely scrumptious food. The cruise takes you through Hole In The Wall, which is an entirely different experience on an intimate vessel like the Chippewa; out around Huckleberry Island, and across the Big Sound. Clouds were racing us back to port but we did manage to get at least a kind of sunset shot.

Finally the hour-long drive back to Midland. Had we known this day was going to play out this way, we'd likely have opted to stay in Parry Sound instead, but we got back without incident.

Part II to follow



Wednesday, July 20, 2022


I don't ask very much of my readers...especially when it comes to current events. There are so many fights to be fought, and nobody has the energy or the resources to fight them (by design). That's actually the first point I want to make, and it's a doozy.

I shared something on Facebook the other day that said something along the lines of "those things you think take a lot of courage? really just  take a lot of money." Standing on principle is wonderful if you can afford it. How many OBGYNs in the United States want to go to prison/be sued for providing what, until last month, was routine medical care? It's easy to survey the situation and say they should fight. Doctors have families, too, and they want to keep them safe. It's all too easy for me to imagine houses burnt down and people shot. Still eager to perform that abortion?

India is buying all the gas it can get from Russia. African countries could give a gnat's arse for Ukraine: they've got much bigger issues closer to home, most notably food and where to get it. If you're an African leader, you do what you must to stave off starvation for your populace, and you do it without blinking. The Presidents of Ecuador and Sri Lanka have already discovered for themselves the Old Truth: You can only deprive people of so much before they come for you. You'll see a lot more of that in coming months and years. Eventually it'll be here in Canada. I truly hope I'm dead by then, because if I'm not I'll be killed in short order.

Raise prices high enough and nobody will be able to afford a class war.

What I'm saying is that the issues the world is facing -- the climate change, capitalism out of control, the shift to autocracy and fascism and the removal of rights -- all these things are not only connected, they spawn moral dilemmas. The definition of a dilemma is a problem with no clear solutio ns. Nation-states are faced with more and more of these -- it's all part and parcel of the collapse cascade. 

Perfect example: this inflation. 

We've been told inflation is a product of supply chain constraints brought about by covid and the war, coupled with increased demand from people flush with pandemic cash. High demand, low supply...prices go up, it's pretty simple. This is all true, but it sidesteps the reason people were flush with pandemic cash: enhanced benefits like the CERB, paid for with money printed out of thin air. More and more money chasing less and less wealth: the value of money goes down. It's pretty simple.  This crisis is government-created at every step.

But once the pandemic hit, what other course of action could they have taken? The CERB kept thousands of people from being homeless, and the pandemic measures that necessitated the CERB SAVED LIVES. Quite a large number of them. Canada lost 919 people per million, second lowest to Japan; America murdered  2730 people for every million citizens, and yes I know that's inflammatory but it's hard not to view it any other way from up here. Especially since they got the inflation, too, even with their massive death toll. 

Take your pick: much more death and misery from disease (not to mention a health care system that surely would have collapsed -- it came close as it was) ...  or crippling inflation/crippling rate hikes to control inflation. 

(Of course, we can quibble that rates should never have been allowed to go so low in the first place -- I'm not quibbling, I'm SHOUTING...excuse me, shouting...that they shouldn't have ever gone below 5%. People got addicted to free money and the party's over. That cold truth isn't any consolation for the millions of Canadians who never saw a single benefit of those low rates -- hell, millions of Canadians never saw a penny in pandemic benefits either, and we're all stuck here...)


I have two articles here I'd like you to please read, or at least skim. They concern two very different issues, but I'm going to tease out a similarity. 

First: an interview with a Russian official concerning Russia's casus belli, or justification for war, with Ukraine. Reading it, I ask you to note the obvious inversions: Ukraine wasn't "pointed like a spear" at the heart of Russia but the reverse; NATO was never going to grant admission to Ukraine, but Russia's invasion prompted Sweden and Finland to join; note especially the Russian view of the West as morally corrupt because it's "lacking in Christian values". 

Which is the segue into this article. I must warn you: if you have any humanity in you at all, you will be outraged by just how much Republicans loathe women. Especially the bunch on the Supreme Court, three of whom have rape allegations in their pasts, let's not forget.

Note here how easily and breezily these men  -- all of them men, of course -- dismiss any possible suffering. About two percent of American pregnancies are ectopic, meaning the fetus implants outside the uterus. The treatment for this is immediate abortion: without that treatment, the mother sickens and quite likely dies. And Republicans don't give a SHIT about this. Either they say "well, that's not a real abortion (the famous  Shirley Exception ("surely the leopards won't eat MY face", says the man who has voted for the Leopards Eating People's Faces Party every election) -- or they just flatly don't care. 
In case you're one of the people who believes the U.S. Supreme Court is just leaving a contentious issue for legislative bodies to rule on -- well, it's sickening enough that you think women's ability to control their lives, or even live at all, should be up to the whims of men. But every state that has criminalized abortion is trying to find every way it can to prevent women from travelling OUT of state for an abortion. 

Even if they miscarry. Even if the pregnancy is ectopic. Even when the woman dies. Even if she WANTED the baby.

These are self-proclaimed Christians, the lot of them. And, I mean, how could they not be? All you have to do is read your Word and you'll find out practically in the prologue that women are responsible for all the evil in the world, and that they are "cursed" to bear children. Jesus viewed women as equals, but all trace of Jesus has been removed from American Christianity. The men who run Church and State (but that's redundant) believe that a woman's place is in the home, subservient to her husband, pumping out good Christian kids. 

I believe the U.S. is too capitalist to go back to 1973 and revoke every credit card held by a woman -- but I fully expect some Republican to float that balloon in the next decade. Float it right out of the sewer. As it stands, you'll see pregnant women fitted with tracking devices. You can't enforce the travel bans (already taking shape) without them, after all. 

As awful as all this is, the playing with language is central to both stories, because language shapes thought.  You may recall a number of Republican men who have stated things like "a woman can't get pregnant from rape". This "not an abortion" talk is very similar. It's done to signal unfelt compassion. 

Black is white, up is down, if she's ten years old it can't be rape OR abortion, and NATO is the aggressor in the war with Russia. Does all of this sound familiar? The "Freedom" Convoy was "peaceful" (it had nothing to do with freedom and it sure as hell wasn't peaceful.) Trudeau is a weak soyboy communist fascist dictator, and if you can assemble anything coherent out of those adjectives, I quite frankly don't want to hear it. The Democrats stole 2020 (when in reality, the Republicans tried their damnedest to). DO YOU NOTICE A PATTERN.


So this is where I'm struggling now. I've got my news content roughly in check -- enough news to check my mental boxes of things pro/regressing, not enough to drive me to suicide -- but where I'm having trouble is remembering everything I just wrote.

Nations are under a great deal of stress worldwide, and (sigh), yes, that's going to get a ton worse before it gets better. They're faced with a situation none of them have ever seen in anyone's living memory, and even as it happens the instinct is to deny it: surely our destiny is in the stars, or we'll blow ourselves to smithereens. No, the most likely course of action is the course we're actually on: catabolic collapse. It happens to everyone sooner or latter, and peak prosperity usually averages out to between 200-250 years. 
So we're facing catabolic collapse, all of us -- and that's bad enough. The ecological overshoot is going to speed things up,  condensing centuries of slow measured staircase into something a lot more like a ladder. And the forces of evil at work throughout the West are pouring gasoline on the fire. How to deal with the evil?

I use that word deliberately. Evil is the backwards of live, the Republicans and their Russian bot friends are a death cult, and everything is sdrawkcab-ssa in the world today, 

I see many people saying we mustn't dehumanize the people who long ago dehumanized us. I sincerely struggle with this. As much as I know the  only way to fight a belief is to empower its opposite, it is so so hard not to lash out at constant lies and ridiculous slurs. Jesus turned the other cheek. They killed him anyway. 

People and countries do awful things when they think the only alternatives are much worse. They do even more awful things when they convince themselves of righteous piety. There is a great deal of evil at loose in the world today, and I feel like there's not a damned thing I can do to even mitigate the tiniest particle of it. I want to just write all these people off...and if I do that too thoroughly, they'll come for me one day while my back is turned.


I need a vacation. Luckily, in two shifts I shall have one. 

Saturday, July 02, 2022

Little Road Trip!

We had the opportunity to get out and about today, and took full advantage.

First up, an attraction that's less than a six minute drive from my home, but which I didn't even know existed until a few years ago: The Waterloo Central Railway, which runs from Northfield Station to the St Jacob's Farmer's Market (where we got on) and thence to Elmira. 

Sorry, Dad, I know you want a look at the locomotive, and this thing came at us ass-first. 

It's old Via stock pushed/pulled by a vintage locomotive, moving at a leisurely pace through mostly farmland for an hour and 45 minutes. At one point, the train came to a sudden stop with a distinctly alarming CLUNK and the lights went out. We were frozen in place for a few minutes, and then resumed our travel. The railway employee told us there had been some sort of generator issue. This exact same thing has happened to me the first and last two times I took Via Rail, come to think of it. 

Pictures of and from the train:

Amongst all the local colour narration we learned there was a Mennonite deli in Elmira called .Kitchen Kuttings, and we decided to go there for lunch. Very glad we did. Delectable sandwiches, salads and baked goods, at a more than reasonable price. I got Kathy some of this

...and I have been commanded to buy shares in it. 

From there, we meandered over to Elora's Victoria Park, which encompassed Lover's Leap. We've been to the Gorge before, but I had never seen it from this angle:

Then to Fergus, where Kathy pretty much stumbled on Templin Gardens. We had the place almost entirely to ourselves, which was a relief, honestly. That had most emphatically NOT been the case before this moment. 

We try, both of us, to keep it slow and unhurried, and to be attentive to beauty wherever it shows up. The more you do this...the more places beauty shows up. (It doesn't hurt to be next to beauty at the time, he said, truthfully): 

We took the chance to view the Fergus Cascades:

It really doesn't matter to us what size these things are. We find them almost hypnotic. 

Finally, we wandered over to the West Montrose Kissing Bridge, which we've visited several times before. It's fun how we have several places which, by unspoken consent, we seem to gravitate towards: this is one. 

They're looking to renovate this next year. It's Ontario's only covered bridge, built in 1880, and it's 198 feet long.

We have a much more ambitious (though considerably trimmed) road TREK coming up in a little more than three weeks. Stay tuned. I'm practically vibrating with excitement already.