Grand Bend, Mind Bend, Grand Day

According to Google maps, it’s 73 kilometres to Grand Bend from my place, so I drove twice that this morning on my weekly tour of southern Lake Huron environs. For most of the way, I listened to CBC Radio One, and am better educated on:

– the reaction of Canadians, especially Quebec Muslims interviewed for the radio, about the murders of six men in the Quebec mosque by another pale-skinned non-Muslim angry young man; the need for Quebec to acknowledge its changing demography; and the continuing hope we have as a people that we will be better than this – that we must be better than this one small evil man’s stupidity and hatred – always.

– interpretations of George Orwell’s “1984” in light of the first days of Donald *rump’s lunatic, lying kleptocracy (my description, not theirs); the optimistic outcomes that can be taken from the novel; and the perspectives of two very erudite and articulate literature experts on the value and re-evaluation of Orwell the man and the recent, sudden renewed interest in his dark vision of a hyper-controlled and repressed society. Very cogent expressions about the divisions in the American populace, where non-urban areas have suffered more from globalization, and the observation that social media has helped isolate people from other groups and individuals, so that exposure to varying ideas in daily life among people you know has decreased tremendously. Points of view are now stretched to ends of the spectrum, leading to less respect for conversation and understanding. Comments on the vilification of Hillary Clinton, who served her government well, and the pernicious use of language used during *rump’s campaign to dismiss her value as a good public servant, a leader, and a woman.

– corporate America’s responses to the new government in Washington, in view of what ideological and social mores and changes corporations can or should be expected to fulfil – if any – and a comparison of those with the functions and roles of good government; and Canadian corporations’ cautious slowness in reacting to Washington since January 20, as evinced by a lack of Canadian corporate representation on the radio panel.

Finally, the “Bend” of my drive to Grand Bend: CBC Radio gave a short synopsis of David Frum’s recent writing in The Atlantic Magazine, after which I must confess I agree with him. There’s a shivering timber moment! He described the current administration in Washington as being desirous only of personal financial gain. And now I must go read what this arch-conservative, once the beloved of the Republican Party, bemoans about the Orange One and His Bunch of Ill-educated Pirates. It may hurt me, and I’m a little scared, but I was impressed and glad he’d written what he did, and so shall find out more.


Grand Bend, like all towns propped up by summer populations, has a distinct beauty in the quiet of winter.


The water looks particularly cold on a very cold, windy day, but the colours of the place are magnificent.


And I’m not the only one to take a look out over the lake from the warmth of my car.

The car is great, the winter tires are great, the rock stations were playing good driving, sing-along tunes during the news segments, so I didn’t have to listen to what horrible things are spewing from D.C. thus far today, and the CBC was great, too.

I spent too much money at the Super Store, but what a sale they had. What a place. I’ve got a barbecued chicken, I’ve got a fresh, half of a steelhead salmon for less than $10, and I bought a roast beef (small)(for under $13!). Chicken for sandwiches and spaghetti with alfredo sauce. Salmon to cut up and freeze. Beef for Sunday, for which I must bake bread!!

And two very nice bed pillows. Because the Real Canadian Superstore was selling one for $12, two for one dollar more.

If you knew what giggly joy I get just throwing stuff in the car, you’d want to distill it and keep it all for yourself. It’s so much fun! So common, so run of the mill, and so wonderful.

Four months in to my new life in a new place. Hurray!

Call Your Mother

I got my car back yesterday, after it had been in for repairs. I had – in the collision shop’s world – a very minor fender-dinger/scrape in December. My fault. My car, my heart, and my psyche are now all whole. I beat myself up about it too much, but I am better now. I live in a car town. I’ve got my wheels back. I rode the bus a bit during the nine days, but you can’t take your dog on the buses here. And I didn’t sign up for the rental car that was offered because of the dog. I’ll let my own special dog blanket and back seat get muddy, but not a rental car’s. So as of yesterday, we’re both very, very happy again.

Espresso’s out at the dog daycare farm today. He pulled me to their front door when I let him out of the back seat. Joy. And I tootled off to Canadian Tire, which opens at 8:30 a.m. And Dollarama, 9:00. And then Walmart, for more crochet yarn!! (I made every piece of thread in the apartment into a throw, a small pet blanket for the Humane Society, or the beginnings of a lovely lacy tablecloth, all in nine days.) On every road: radio. And me singing badly with the HITS from the 70s, 80s, and early 1990s that are popular here, and in Windsor, and Detroit. Between those rock stations and my propensity to shop at dawn, my status as a retired person are becoming fixed in granite, soon to be basalt. (Geologically backwards – thank you, PBS NOVA! – but utterly true.)

Which brings me to time. 

I opened the door to my apartment and had an overwhelming urge to telephone my mom. I mean overwhelming, heart-twisting, stand still and think what you’re thinking overwhelming. Look at your cellphone and almost press the button for Contacts overwhelming.

I can’t phone her. There’s no one there. There’s nothing there. She’s been dead since April, 1993.
I suppose I wanted to tell her that I got through another of life’s trials, and I am better than okay, and I’m still very happy I sold my little house, quit my job, packed up and moved here. I love my car. I moved to the right apartment. The cat and dog are very well. I’m so free, and I feel like a happy kid. Happy wasn’t a thing kids were in my family, but I chased it down, I took it back, I live easy, for me. Who would have believed I could do all that, that I would do all that?

I wanted to tell someone who loved me that, in this chapter, things worked out. That my accomplishments, while small, were significant. That I am glad I’m me.

If she’s the right person in your life, call your mother. In all the daily tumult and stress, with all the upheaval and strange politics, with the dreary January weather, call the one whose approval means the most. Ring your bell, let the true note sound.

PETROLIA!

I dropped the dog off for the day at The Fox & Hound farm this morning with a vision of laundry sitting heavily on me, like a big old stinky hat. It was sunny, in that the sun was actually visible as the horizon spun east to meet it. The temperature mild (only minus 5 celcius). The roads clear. The fm radio stations were playing old soft, heart-warming romantic tunes mixed with old metal sing-alongs. So I threw the idea of laundry off and headed east, to find Petrolia.

There aren’t any words, really, to express the joy I feel while travelling at high speed, behind the wheel of my own car, singing along to the radio. It doesn’t matter where I go; I am certain I’ll find my way home – just not YET! I’m happy to slow for towns, school zones, and kids crossing streets to get to school, but it’s the going that is so exciting. It’s the psychological wonder of the automobile, over 100 years old, but new in me. It’s the reason conservative Saudi clerics don’t want women to drive. It’s flying on land. It is a lot of responsibility. And it is just plain fun.

Last time I ventured out in this direction, I was one major road too far west. This morning, I am happy to report, I found the very small town of Wyoming, and the small town of Petrolia. Most of the land there – and here – is low-lying swamp. What a job earlier farmers must’ve had scratching a living out of that. I can hear mosquitoes now, and it’s January. And I drove through before nine this morning.

But then, of course, after farms started scratching, came oil. The train passes through the southern end of Wyoming, Ontario at a level crossing. Hundreds and hundreds of cars clink-ca-chunked by, full of oil, cars, car parts, stuff, and things. The wealth of the land, heading off to new car dealers and manufacturers and gas distributors further east. From Sarnia? Windsor? From Detroit? And probably points beyond.

A tiny fraction of an iota of the wealth of this land on one train.

And then, follow the sign: DOWNTOWN PETROLIA (turn right).

You know you’re there because you can smell it. Sarnia’s had that odour once since I moved here in October. It was a very thick miasma this morning. Overlooking that, and just out of range of the smell:


This astounding Victorian construction. The photo is not mine. I Googled it.

I imagine an oil family built it. I didn’t want Google to tell me, but I did learn that it may be being renovated. It’s an eye-popping beauty. It’s a high perch up off and away from a valley of gack. It’s an obvious reminder of who was who and who was not.

I made my way through Corunna and up the river. Filled the gas tank, got the car washed. Bought some groceries, and stopped at the store pharmacy to get a flu shot. A free injection to help prevent me from getting influenza. At the grocery store pharmacy.

Last night, I watched a documentary on Netflix about Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. She was ill with pancreatic cancer during the filming, and trying to hold her life and the band together. Without gigs, the band earned no money. Her treatment is guessed at about “a hundred thousand dollars” by someone in the film. It was finished before Miss Jones died, late this last fall, 2016.

If she’d been Canadian, she’d have had free health care. I wonder if she would’ve sought treatment sooner, and I wonder if she’d have lived longer.

I watched a long trainload of wealth pass by me this morning, Canadian and American goods, all the same, and I cannot for the life of me understand American attitudes toward universally available medical treatment. Resisting care for all. How lucky to be on this side of the St. Clair River.

Four loads of laundry is why I got done before lunch.

Time to go get one tired dog.

Wind Waves Winter

When this building was erected, in the late 70s, it must’ve been utterly snazz. Money was spent on quality features. Some 40 years on, the double-paned windows hang fast, with just a low tremble and a small rattle with every gust of brutally cold air that would shake us up and off our foundation if it could. 40 years of merciless gusts from the river and lake. Congratulations, aluminum frame makers and installers. You did a great job, and I thank you.

The river was a miniature Japanese ink drawing of ocean storms this morning. Deep green-blue undulating triangles punched up to shimmy and writhe, some transformed into dragon paws, flipping white crests off fingers of instantly frozen, icy drops.

The dog had to take me on the full walk for the satisfaction and health of his alimentary canal. My overall health and fitness benefit from this couple of kilometres of perambulation, also, but a face held in a grimace of squinting against a brutal breeze by a full waterfall of instantly frozen tears cannot be a welcome addition to anybody’s Beauty Plan. I would have preferred the quick release, one round block plan this morning, but Espresso’s guts don’t care about my wishes.

How cold was the windchill? I wore my new 5X men’s Walmart jacket with hood, and my triple-warm homemade hat, and I STRODE MIGHTILY FAST, and I didn’t break a sweat. Ooh. That’s cold.

I’ve been watching the bridge a little bit since breakfast, and I am certain I’d be afraid to drive a big rig today. Especially over the bridge. Unless it was laden with lead ingots or something. 

This an interesting town, weather-wise. No snow to speak of, and we dodged freezing rain. You don’t notice fallen tree branches littering lawns, because anything not hanging on for dear life, for the long haul, got ripped away ages ago.

The snow might be coming south now. The horizon on the Michigan side washes out in a cloud, and soon, perhaps, we will be enveloped. Or not.

A sturdy little land ship. Ever on.

SHOOT! A Dog in Snow.

There is a scene – an opening scene, as I recall – in a book called “Blue Ridge,” by one of my favourite writers, T.R. Pearson, in which a man, frustrated beyond patience by a dog of peculiar habits, must aim a gun at it in order to get it to just pee. The dog will not relieve itself unless a handgun is pointed at it. Every day. Every time.

How anyone could not keep reading after that is a mystery to me. (Go get yourself a T.R. Pearson novel now. I recommend that you start wirh “A Short History of a Small Place” and move on from there.)

So it snowed and is snowing quite a lot in town, and, like everywhere I’ve ever lived, the attitude towards pedestrian traffic, egress, congress, and any kind of mobility outside one’s own domicile without an automobile is, basically, “F*ck you!”. I have a car, but I must walk the dog. Four times a day, for the good of both of us. Yesterday afternoon, and last night, after “snow removal” by the city and property owners, Espresso and I walked around the block, me sliding in the churned depths of what’s left after the “sidewalk””plough” has “cleared” the “walks,” and he eventually trotting along in the over-salted paths that opened up to us near the municipal parking lot.

Note that I have a pair of nearly military-grade, men’s, Timberland(TM) winter boots. Heavy, orthotic, toasty, comfortable, and despite the stupid laces, the best damned boots I’ve ever had. They are a workout without leg or knee or hip strain. Ugly, pants tucked into socks ugly, and excellent.

Here’s Espresso, circa -25C polar snap 2014 in Toronto, with a coat:

Espresso has pads, and fluff between the pads, and nails. He doesn’t cry when the road/rock salt burns his feet. When he limps, I’ve got to get him onto a salt-free patch, and, preferably, home.

It was a quick walk. He peed. He just would not “go”. So this morning, of course, out we go again.

Great pee. No “go”.

It was minus 7 degrees Celsius, and windy. (Twenty degrees for you Americans.)

So around and hither and yon we walk, but not on our usual route, because I don’t want to go down to the river, where the wind is always biting. And we walk. And walk. And he stops. And T.R. Pearson pops into my head, and down to the river we go.

I led him out off the path onto the expanse of deep, untrodden white and begged him to hurry up, to get busy, to go. And my boy, my belatedly clever boy, took the hint and dragged me around and over and beside and to a thigh-deep drift and finally!

We could come home. On the roads. Because, overnight, the road ploughs piled up what the sidewalk ploughs had pushed onto the roads, and there isn’t a dignified or pretty way to slog over curb mounds as high as my hips, just to jump over them again on the other side.

No gun. Never a gun.  Just a yen to read one of my favourie writers again, and a fantasy of inventing a sidewalk plough that does what it’s name implies.

Happy reading!

SANTA CLAUS PARADE!! Small Town Style.

I didn’t remember to take my phone, with its camera – and I’m glad.

I’m also glad I live in a place where advertisements, banners, newspaper notices, and PARADE banners bearing the words “Kinsmen Santa Claus Parade” carry no evil or untoward connotations of any kind – unless you are a jealous supporter of the Rotary Club, and they were in the parade, too.

I have never seen so many huge, beautiful, shiny & chromed-up industrial trucks, tow trucks, crane trucks, vintage fire trucks, emergency response trucks, beach patrol jeepy things, lawn care company trucks, petroleum industry pickup trucks, and whatever a “Badger ™ Daylighter” is. (Underground excavation with lighting, is my guess from the massive vehicle’s impressive attachments.) Some of the guys driving and pulling the flatbed floats had their wide-eyed, happy toddlers on their knees. Some of the guys made sure the trucks made a lot of noise. It was suitably festive and awe-inspiring, especially if – like me – you enjoy feeling five years old. And I did. Thanks to LEDs, twinkling lights were festooned everywhere. The crowd was devoted and big, but small town big, with room enough to see all.

The parade was to start at Exmouth at six p.m., and was to make its way down Christina Street to Wellington. That might be about two kilometres. I live in the middle. At six, I could see the police lights approaching, so I went downstairs in my new, long puffy coat, and sat in its toasty warmth on a low concrete wall for over an hour at one of the best Santa Claus parades I’ve ever seen.

It started with the police playing with their flashing lights and sirens and waving like lunatics. Next, a car dealership transported the local Noteworthies: village, town, municipality, province and federal representatives, who were riding in many examples of fun, glossy automobiles. Some of the Worthies walked between the dealership’s fine offerings. Symbolic and silly, because the kids had eyes only for noise, sparkle, and THE MAN, THAT MAN, THAT NORTH POLE MAN.

Everybody in the parade, which must have been the half of the population of Southwestern Ontario and some of our Michigan neighbours not sitting or standing along the street watching – waved, and waved, and sang, and shouted greetings, or handed out candy. Except one little girl on the softball organization’s trailer, who was UTTERLY FLAKED OUT. She’ll go down as The Kid Who Slept Through The 2016 Parade, Despite the Noise and Enthusiastic Hubbub.

My favourite participants included ten real tricked-out cowgirls on tricked-out western-style horses. Two of the women stood on their saddles for the duration. Astoundingly impressive. If you look them up on Google, they’re not the porn ones. They’re canadiancowgirls.com. Then there were THE WESTERN OUTLAWS!!! Whose banner hinted at mayhem -nay! Danger! – until we all saw “EXTREME LAWN MOWER RACERS”, with some of their members speeding and scooting around trucks and paraders and marchers in expectedly EXTREME daredevil fashion. Not a few guys got some ideas there.

One of the churches persuaded a large number of teenagers to sit morosely and motionless in fake beards and bedsheets on a flatbed helpfully named JESUS IS BORN. PERIOD. I believe they were Lutheran, and they do not go in for exclamation points. We have all been invited to services on Sunday, too, which was nice. The best part about that flatbed, though, was the two sheep in a crate under a spotlight: one chewing thoughtfully, the other bearing a haughty look of absolute disgust.

But it was a concrete cutting business, which shall go unnamed, that wins my prize for Minimalist and Slightly Begrudging Effort. I can hear one end of the telephone conversation:

“Angelo! They want money for the parade again!”

‘We still got those lights?’

“They only go over the top of the front windshield on the cube van!”

‘Put the lights on the truck and tell your brother he’s driving again this year.’

“He won’t wave at anybody, Angelo.”

‘So he doesn’t wave.’

They do driveways, pools, and assorted concrete cutting. And in a small town, you just put your truck in the parade. TA DA! Christmas.

There was a scaled down old-fashioned train with matching WHOOO-WHOOOO! that may have been a recording.

There were some excellent drummers, and a couple of radio stations, and some impressively in-tune and on-beat high school marching bands. A Christian school collected for The Good Shepherd food bank.

The company that owns and manages my apartment building and others in town had a flatbed themed “Finding Nemo/Dory”. Fish costumed persons shook hands with tots along the route.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten somebody. It was an hour of fun, with no break in the moving presentation.

In the elevator, I asked a teenager if he’d seen Santa.

“My friends thought it was stupid, but, yeah.”

You got a candy cane out of it, too, I said.

“I like being a kid,” he said.

Me, too.

Migration Report, Canada Goose Great Lakes Chapter 4456321a, Nov. 2016


Sarnia Empty: Congratulations, Everyone!

Dear Fellow Geese,

HONK!

HONK! HONK HONK HONK HONK!

HONK. HonkHonkHonk, HONK, Honk. 

Except Bob.

Enjoy the trip. See you next year!

Thor. His Day. Musing on eternal beauty.

Saw a few crows having discussions with a big red tailed hawk about what might have been disagreements about advantageous positions in a particularly large bare tree on the edge of the Blackwell Pond up by the leash-free dog field today. The tallest one, almost smack dab in the middle of this photograph. 

The winds were coming in from the south in a strong, almost unfriendly breeze, punctuated by punchy gusts that were throwing surprised geese into ungainly manoeuvres as they tried to swerve and swirl in for pond-top landings.

Two tiny, flitting birds of a sort I do not know gave up heading across the dog field, and stuck with the trees at the pond edge. I hope they’re headed south and get there soon. They were so tiny and so beautiful: soft brown-gray and gray-yellow is all I could see, and all I could think of is “Some people look for alien life, but who knows all of what is here?!” They twitted and chirped to each other. They stuck together. They were in it for the long haul.

No people but me. No other dogs. Sky, pond, geese, for the most part. Wind pushing me up against the fence, elbows on the top wire. Listening to the world spin, spin.
Hours later, in the early supper time dark, here I am: dog fed, cat nestled against me, twinkling lights along both sides of the river, mild air.
I’ve got the Roku player, so Netflix and YouTube. I’ve got my free from the mail room community papers, and all the ads. For intelligence and infiltration, so to speak, and wrapping coffee grounds all week. 
I’ve got that sky, and that air, and that pond scene, and am amazed and overjoyed that all those years of working and the fortunate circumstances that overtook me brought me here, and now.
Think about those little birds. Wish them home, sweet, home.

BUNNY RABBITS!!!! (Maintaining mental acuity in retirement.)


Six-oh-four a.m. is a little early for most, and late for some, but it is the time I rolled out of bed this morning to a tail-wagging, front-leg-hopping, let’s-go-walking dog.

He’s happier every day about our new accommodations, and I am proud of him for making the effort to cope.

The elevator was all ours. Joy all around.

The eastern sky, dark, showed a blanket of cloud disappearing southward, and feathery wisps high in the southwest revealed the bright, waning, “supermoon”. It’s always a little damp around here, but it was the start of a promisingly pleasant day.

Down to the river walk we went. Me, trying to keep Espresso walking fast enough that I could say I’d exercised, and he, trying to sniff out the notes and scents of previous perambulators, the better to construct the complex totality of all the life and activity in this small patch of our teeming earth.

Too early today for geese, terns, gulls of any kind. Just grumpy ducks, unhappy to have to swim away from the path wall, in case of jumping, fowl-retrieving, water dog. Which Espresso is definitely not.

And then, after we crossed the railway tracks to come home, just past an art installation I call “Tetanus and her little sister, Lockjaw,” A BUNNY RABBIT! I stage-whispered it aloud, “Bunny rabbit!” as if Espresso was mentally dim, or hadn’t smelled it or seen it perhaps five minutes previously.

Please understand that Espresso has never, prior to seeing a rabbit in the same spot two weeks ago, evinced any interest whatsoever in chasing anything. But he wants to chase this little rabbit. Very, very much. He’s also good enough to sit and watch a small rabbit watching us. For a while. With just a quiver now and then, in anticipation of a run that never happens. Until a second set of ears pops up, giving the word, I guess, and suddenly two cotton-ball bottoms bounce and ping off into the shrubbery, whereupon Espresso forgets the leash for a second and gets himself yanked slightly.

Life is full of small disappointments. But then we get home and have breakfast!

The Eastern Cottontail rabbit is pictured here, thanks to Google Images. It really has a cotton-ball-like tail, and in the dark, the tail is a funny thing to watch, hopping away. A hopping beacon, in fact, for eyes attached to carnivorous teeth desiring meat. An odd evolutionary adornment, but not as disastrous as one might think. Because there they were.

Think about this: bunny rabbits. The two words sit together, comically I think, for an adult utterance. I worry that this sounds too close to “yummy,” a word used incessantly by some of my former workmates and beginner-level adult English language learners. A word I detested and continue to detest beyond any kind of rational explanation, and for which I find more accurate and precise synonyms: tasty, flavourful, sweet, spicy, hot, aromatic, tangy, cool, refreshing, gloriously delicious.

Which I hope those two Eastern Cottontails will never be. Long may they live and prosper. Ditto luscious and evocative synonyms. For the interior eye, and the well-oiled, happy humming of the active, engaged, intelligent, aging brain.