Friday, July 31, 2009

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose y San Miquel de Aguayo is one of the chain of missions established by the Franciscan monks along the San Antonio River. Mission San Antonio de Valerio, commonly called the Alamo, was the first and founded in 1718. San Jose was founded in 1720 by Fray Antonnio Margil de Jesus and came to be known as the "Queen of Missions". The legendary Rose Window was reknown for the high craftsmanship of the artisans. The Coahuiltecans were the American Indians who lived in the mission. The Franciscans were an order of friars wo took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, vowing to protect the Indians.

I asked the Hyatt concierge about getting there. The taxi was less than $20. Trolleys don't run that far. I enjoyed the ride through the city and was delighted by the conversation with the Moroccan cabbie. He'd been to the Missions and praised the work of the National Park Service. "We have a lot of history in my country but they don't care for it like they do here. I went on the tour and learned so much." I was delighted by the information given by the Parks Officers and enjoyed walking about immensely myself. St. Francis is a favourite saint, known best for the St. Francis Prayer.

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace,
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life.

Love Affair With a Hospital

Gene shared this morning how he'd fallen in love with Staten Island Hospital. It's where births and deaths of family occurred and where he interned and later served as a doctor. Retired, he spoke of the grief he experienced when he last visited and found this place that had meant so much to him, where he'd spent so much of his life, where he'd done his first autopsy, where his children were born, was now chained and locked close. The bay where ambulances had stood was empty. He shared his thoughts and feelings about this all with respect and sadness.
It set the tone for the meeting as one doctor after another shared of the first doctors and first hospitals in their lives. There was dedication, sacrifice, love and misery with just a touch of awe all wrapped up in these vignettes from older doctors, surgeons, internists, pediatricians, gynecologists, psychiatrists. Some were revered in the country. All spoke of the importance of home.
I felt deeply touched to be present. I remembered my own doctor coming to the house when I was so sick with pneumonia. My mother was beside herself and my father was at a loss. I had a fever and was coughing and cold lying in my parents bed with both of them hovering about. I just felt so very tired. Then the doctor arrived with his black bag and no nonsense manner. The stethescope was cold. My flannel pyjamas were wet. I lay back in bed. My parents and the doctor spoke sometime in the hall way and then he was gone. My parents were better then. He' d helped them so much. He gave me some medicine that let me go to sleep and not worry about them any more.
I don't much think about the hospitals I trained in or worked in. The University of Manitoba Medical School is always fresh in my mind. Yet the hospitals are usually memories of functional corridors and industrial underground connectors. Nothing was much more than utilitarian until I worked in Brandon Mental Hospital. Now that was a hospital. An solid old building with bricks and beautiful grounds.
That comes first to mind when I think of hospital. With nothing much to do for the months I was there, living on the grounds, on call with few demands. I explored every part of the historic buildings, finding back wards, old charts and seeing all the patients. It was all very peculiar. The place wass unique and extraordinary. The patients were all history and character as well with kindly white haired staff who'd worked since teen years. In a way I felt similiarly about Riverview Hospital .
These old asylums carried some of the building genius of the Lake Louise and Banff Hotels. They were edifices meant to last. Works of art. Not the pre fab sterile places of modern days. These old places were where staff and patients lived. Tacked up at nursing stations were often pictures of children or a young child's latest crayon art. I took my dog to work with me.
And yes all the hospitals I worked in hold meaning but these are first to mind. I love the great institutions and the people who worked there alongside me.
Listening to the men and women share I was proud to be a doctor, thankful for the training, reminded of the idealism of medicine. Inspired.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

God is love

I trust God, the Ultimate Authority
Know God as loving, forgiving and this life a passing thing
Timelessness makes all wounds heal
Yet in the world the secular authorities frighten me
How can I reconcile these two positions with love.
Only by letting go of fear and accepting.
God is love.

San Antonnio

San Antonnio is a beautiful city. There’s not just the Alamo. It’s a major convention centre with all the 5 star hotels. This Hyatt with a river cascade running through the lobby is a delight. The room is charming and lunch in the restaurant was superb. Everyone is southern hospitality personified too. The other major feature is the River Walk. Very European. A touch of Amsterdam really. But very Tex Mex. There’s white table cloth steak houses as well as seafood restaurants with fresh fish flown in from the Gulf. I even had raw oysters from Louisiana. A mariachi band played when a group of us decided on traditional Mexican food along the River walk. The shops have unique fashions combining European Spanish with Cowboy and Mexican. The Stetson shop is around the corner from Harley Davidson. As a tourist I’ve loved the museums and history. Places like the Buckhorn with all its Texas Ranger history. Then there’s the Mercado with great Mexican buys. The night of the dead sculptures, finest silver and tooled leather work. I’m really enjoying this city wishing only that I had more time to appreciate it.

Attitude of Gratitude

7 am at the Hyatt in San Antonnio I made it to the early morning AA meeting that Hal Marley chaired here at IDAA until his death. He gave me an 'Attitude of Gratitude' pin some years back inviting me to come to Washington DC for a meeting. His beautiful wife loved to dance and we talked of dance, and love of life. Today Cheryl reminded us that Hal also said we must accept life 'happily'. That's truly a higher experience than the grim approach I too often bring to my own life experience stoically biting the bullet so to speak when Hal and his wife would have us all seeking the up beat. That's the only way to truly live in the sacred now too. So much laughter follows.

The Science of Fear

Daniel Gardner's 2009 How the Culture of Fear Manipulates Your Brain is a work of genius.

Quoting de Montaigne, who wrote, "the thing I fear most is fear" he goes on to show that the relative safety of air travel despite the 9/11 crisis resulted in 1,595 unnecessary deaths which were statistically the consequence of the reaction to the crash shots of 9/11. He goes on to show how various special interest groups can use this lack of rational thought that pervades human endeavour. Fewer than 20 terrorist attacks killed more than 100 people and 9/11 killed less than 1/5 the number of Americans murdered each year. In consequence obesity may kill 100,000 each year and yet 'we're spending gargantuan sums of money to deal with the risk of terrorism – a risk that, by any measure, is no more than a scuttling beetle next to the elephant ofdisease." Why have we become a "culture of fear." For one, the 'more fear, the better the sales."

Given that man as we know him is only a 12,000 year old creature, he says if the amount of time we spent on earth were divided as a book, the first 200 years would be as hunter gatherer, a page would be the agricultural era and a paragraph would describe modern man of the last 200 years. The consequence is that our processing of risk and threat is done by two systems of thoughts, system one, the unconscious or 'gut' and System two, 'rational thought'. Feelings or gut dominates. The image he uses to sum up the present day accumulation of research on this matter is that 'each of us is in a car racing along a freeway and inside each car is a caveman who wants to drive and a bright but lazy teenager who knows he shoul keep a hand on the wheel but, well, that's kind of a hassle and he'd rather listen to his iPod and stare out the window." He points out that numerous studies show that weather affects gains and losses in stock market because people are positive on sunny days, yet it's ludicrous that sunshine should have any bearing on financial calculations of Wall Street though it clearly does.

Quoting from Kahneman and Tversky's research on 'how people form judgements when they're uncertain, Gardner discusses the how the Gut does this using 1) Anchoring Rule 2) the Rule of Typical Things and 3) the Example Rule. Each of these over ride rational thought on a regular basis.

In the Example rule, "the more easily people are able to think of examples of something the more common they judge that thing to be." For hunter gatherers this latter rule might make good sense because the 'brain culls low priority memories. If time passes and a memory isn't used, it is likely to fade. It is particularly good for learning from the very worst sort of experience. However, 'any emotional content makes a memory stickier." Novelty, and concentration and repetition help solidify memories however memory is an organic process and 'memories routinely fade, vanish or transform - sometimes dramatically." "The mind can even fabricate memories.' In one experiment volunteers were asked to imagine a scenario such as being lost in a mall and the days later were asked about experiences and 20 to 40% believed the imagined scenarios were true.

And that's just the beginning of this extraordinary book that details how profoundly this 'caveman' can be manipulated while the teen ager rational consciousness is distracted. An must read for everyone who feels that something is terribly wrong with the affairs of state. As Freud said, 'maybe the paranoids are right".

Psychologists have show that "confirmation bias' is how we 'screen' the environment for proof of what we already believe. Further, people are vulnerable to 'group polarization' which means when people share beliefs and get together in groups, they become more convinced their beliefs are right and they become more extreme in their views.

Because, as Robert Fogel, the nobel laureate of University of Chicago has demonstrated in his book, Escape from Hunger and Premature Death, 1700-2100, it is our profound good fortune to be alive today and there is promise of more to come. "those blessed to live in Western countries are the most prosperous humans in the history of the species, and we feel a little guilty even mentioning it because we know so many others don't share our good fortune. Not so well known, however is that there have been major improvements in the developing world too. In the last two decades those suffering malnourishment in the developing world 'though unconscionably high' fell from 28 to 17 percent.

"We're not just living longer. We're living betters. Fewer people develop chronic illnesses like heart disease, lung disease, and arthritis than those 25 years ago. We're even smarter with IQ's improving steadily for years.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Alamo

13 fateful days in 1836

Today I walked through the Alamo. This is where 200 Texans faced General Santa Anna's thousands. All the militia of the Alamo died. None were truly professional soldiers. Farmers, lawyers, doctors, a congressman, tradesmen, they were all volunteers. The women and children the men had protected survived in the chapel and were freed by Santa Anna to tell the story of the Alamo. That is why we know the final tale.

It is the most heroic story of my childhood. Davey Crockett was my greatest hero. Then Jim Bowie and Colonel William Travis. I suppose I read the book in my youth legend series. I know we watched the movies as a family. Hollywood and John Wayne. I know I wore a coon skin cap like Davey Crockett. Later I prized dearly the Bowie knife I'd get as a youth.

Today I cried seeing Davey Crocket's rifle, standing in the chapel where the women survived. They were all so young. The average age, maybe 28. So much pain and suffering remain in the floors and walls despite the millions of tourists that visit every year.

They had not wanted to die. They sent out couriers for help. These letters of William Travis remain on display. In the end Sam Houston would defeat Santa Anna near Houston Texas his men charging to victory on the cry "Remember the Alamo".

The Alamo is the ultimate story of Sacrifice and Freedom, as the two must go hand in hand.

And over the years in my personal life where I have stood for some principle that has cost me so much I have at times seen the day of victory and remembered the Alamo. Because the Alamo says that sacrifice is not wasted and victory and freedom will come in the end. Tyranny is always temporary. The Alamo sums up the night before the dawn in all endeavors both great and small.

That spirit is alive and well here. Everywhere I turned I heard subdued voices talking of character. heroism, goodness and right. Only 32 volunteers came to the rescue of the men at the Alamo. None left before the fateful day. Santa Anna had raised the red flag of no quarter, all would die. If some left there would be fewer who stayed. So together they faced the unbeatable foe. And their sacrifice gave Houston his victory and Texas it's freedom.

I am so thankful to have been here. "Remember the Alamo".

Denver United Concourse

I’m here in United Concourse at Gate B90. The Red Lion was a fine hotel. I can’t remember the last time I washed socks and underwear and shirt armpits in a hotel sink. Something I did a lot when I was younger. Getting old I’m missing out on these experiences. This morning the socks and underwear were still damp when I put them on. I’d not had a wake up call early enough to include hair dryer back up contingency. I just squished to the check out.
I let a beautiful young blond with a 1 ½ year old boy on her hip go ahead. No husband this time so I don’t think it counts as pure chivalry. The kid is precious. Happy, smiling, looking the world all over from his perfect perch. Every now and then he turns into his mother’s breasts buries his face and comes up giggling. Typically the woman isn’t as enthralled with this age old favourite male game. They sit beside me on the airport shuttle. Mother turns him around and he cries. She gives him keys. Settles him right down. They’re vehicle keys. He’s fingering and mouthing them with pure enchantment. Probably fantasizing his future vehicle. In his case, it could have anti gravity lift off and rocket drive. Without any change in millennium boobs hold their fascination while vehicles go from horse drawn cart to Space Shuttle and still don’t have enough power or speed.
At the airport, I go through security again. There are hardly any old people. I’ve watched hundreds go by and there just aren’t the grey hairs that once flew. Mostly middle aged. I notice I’m in the older crowd which surprises me given my immaturity. Maybe it’s just United. Have to be physically fit for the endurance trials. Takes the patience of Job. I was glad I upgraded to Economy plus. For the extra $30 I got a seat with leg room. Behind me in Economy, ship’s crew checked to be sure the passengers assumed the correct Sarcophagus knee to chest position for Economy flight. When I passed the first class section I saw the half dozen there had their body guards, mistresses, catamites, royal retinues, camels and treasure goods surrounding them. The attendants worked great fans and fed them grapes when they weren’t trading on cell phones for mid sized countries, opium and white girls.
The woman across from me looks sporty and competent. She’s dressed in the black shirt and tan pants that seem the hoit couture of southwest travel fashion. There’s a new born baby cutely attired in pink with pink bows in her curly hair. She’s lying on her front a pink blanket with a matching soother. She seems to like all the feet and lower leg action in the concourse. Two boys about 4 and 6 are well dressed and well behaved. They sit across from this young woman and interact like little princes. After watching them all be chipper I think I need another coffee.
A grossly obese man in black trousers, white shirt and orthopedic shoes, just puffed by. He must have been close to 500 lbs. In Supersize American with this recession and airlines charging extra for everything maybe they should consider selling their tickets by weight. No more smokers or drunks around her but the gluttons outnumber the lean and healthy considerably. An obese woman just sat own across from me with the brightest coloured scarf and jewelry, green shirt, pink shoes and those funny female televangelist glasses. She’s immediately weighed into a massive burger which came with the 5 gallon pop drink that still looks tiny beside her massive tree stump legs.
A guy about my age with the same sort of gut I’ve got doesn’t know that light coloured flowered shirts are a fashion faux pas for men like us. I’ve got the dark shirt and slacks. The guy following him has cross the line. His belt has been lost for weeks under the folo of his belly. My belt at least is still resting on top of the ponch.
More women with children. They look so relaxed and competent. How can they travel like that. The kids are little time bombs of bowel or bladder problems, emotional nightmares ready to go off at a moments notice. Yet they’re somehow doing really well. Some sort of award should be given to these kids and families. The screamers and wailers can be shot by firing squads in the airport back tarmac but all these kids and their mothers deserve medals.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Gentle Jew

The Gentle Jew
I’m on the Denver Red Lion Shuttle sitting after a long wait standing with my bag. A handsome well dressed young man sits down beside me. A woman with a baby in her arms and a young child at her side followed by her frazzled husband with more kids gets on.
“There’s no standing room.” The driver says. The woman and husband and tired children turn to get off.
This guy jumps up. “Take my seat,” he says.
“Take mine too,” I say. As this little family fall with thanks into our vacated seats.
Outside the shuttle with another one an hour wait away I say, “I’m very impressed. You showed me that chivalry, kindness and generosity are alive and well in America.”
“You did the same,” he says humbly.
“But I was following your lead.” I say, not certain I’d have got up on my own anymore. “ Want to share a taxi.”
We catch a taxi.
“Where are you from?” I ask, catching a hint of accent.
“I’m Israeli. But I’m living in Palo Alto.”
“I lo ved Israel,” I say.
“You’ve been.”
“Nearly ten years ago. It was easier to take the side of the jews in the conflict then though.”
“I think it’s irreconcilable. That’s why I’m here. I want to have some of my life in peace. But what would you do. Every day they throw bombs. Every day rockets are launched. It would be like Mexico bombing California every day. There’s got to be retaliation. I can’t speak to the scale of the retaliation. I’m left myself. But there’s got to be retaliation.”
“I feel badly. I found myself in Canada swaying towards the Palestinians. I had medical friends who were texting and sending pictures from the hospitals they were working in when the Israelis invaded. There was no way out for the refugees or them. It was very bad.”
“it’s always bad for somebody over there. It’s always been that way and I fear it always will be that way. That’s why I’m here.”
“It’s Canadians fighting in Afghanistans. Our soldiers have been getting killed by the Americans or by their own friendly fire or by the government not putting armour on the underside of the cars. The deaths are swaying Canadians to ask what are we doing over there and what’s America doing fighting in Iraq. Those sentiments spread to the Israeli Palestine conflict. Why all the killing. ”
“So many people want peace over there too. So many Israelis. I can’t be unbiased. My friends get bombed every day. If feel badly I’m over here and I had to leave.”
“I feel badly I get swayed by the media in Canada. I think I can know things when I really don’t know anything. If somebody bombed me I’d retaliate too. I can never judge them yet I do. I’ve worked with the military in Canada and I’d never say to a soldier on the ground in a fight what is the right amount of retaliation. I know myself if someone hurt my family I’d retaliate as much as I could. “
“An eye for an eye was the first law of mercy.” He says.
“You’re right about that.”
When the taxi arrived I offered to pay, then I offered to pay half, but again generous and kin, he’d have none of it. “Let me pay. It’s a business expense. United cancelled my flight so I have to stay over till tomorrow.”
“It was good talking to you,” he says looking me in the eyes. His eyes are clear and true. We shake hands. His handshake is firm. I’m thankful that God has put this gentle man in my way. He is like the Jews I met in Safed and the Jews I have as friends, the Jews I had as teachers.
He is a gentle jew. We hear too little of him.


United Breaks Wind
The crew of the United flight, Vancouver-Denver, was professional and courteous. Great take off and landing. I watched the animation movie, Monsters versus Aliens, mind you, so it isn’t like I expect a lot.
“Those going on to San Antonnio, go to Gate 39”. So I ran across Colorado state to Gate 39, hearing “Go Forrest Go” the whole way. At Gate 39 the signs all said San Antonnio. It said my flight 356 was boarding at 6:39 and departing at 7:09. I had ten minutes for a washroom stop and to grab a sandwich and perrier. Ten minutes to 7 there’s no staff there but other passengers say ‘maybe it’s late’. I run another marathon on my bum knee to where the departure sign says that United is flying to San Antonnio from Gate 25. There’s no notice at Gate 39 which says it’s the a phony gate. Maybe it's an new security measure to confuse terrorists. Sprinting I arrive at Gate 25 at two minutes to 7. “It’s United Policy to stop boarding 10 minutes before departure.”
The doors are closed.
“It’s 12 minutes,” I say looking at my watch, which I’ve just set to Denver time.

“But the doors are closed.” I can see that but they could be opened. There's 10 minutes and the plane is there."

“You’ll have to go to customer service. It’s by Gate 39.” The United Employee tells me. “But I don’t think there are any more flights to San Antonnio.”
“But you have my bags. I thought Homeland Security says you’re not supposed to fly bags without the passenger.”
“Oh that’s probably not a problem.”
So I trek with the Shirpa’s back to CUSTOMER DISSERVICE. The United Dissatisfaction line stretches forever. I somehow that night reach , Karen Verdone. She’s really a sweetie which could have worked against her because I was feeling fairly cannabalistic. She does book me a morning flight, gives me a half price hotel voucher for Aurora , a $50 taxi ride the next state over. Karen says I can speak to the manager if I need anything else. There's a million angry United customers behind me about to stampede.

“Why aren’t you paying for my hotel room. United personnel told me to go to the gate. The sign at the gate told me I was at the right gate. It said on the tv screen at the gate that my flight number was leaving at 7.09. No one made an announcement the gate had changed. You’ve taken my bags without me and you closed the B 25 gate at 12 minutes rather than 10 minutes. You've just mae me do an Olympic work out.”

“We’re not paying your hotel room. You missed your plane. It's your own fault for not checking the departure sign.“ said Carlos.

“That’s ridiculous. You made the mistake.”

“If there were a hundred other passengers, it might be our mistake.”

“There were other passengers and they’re likely behind me in that line that stretches from here to eternity.”

“The plane to San Antonnio left full,”

“It couldn’t have left full. I’m here. (He's making this up as he goes. It's there in the eyes.)

“Don’t you realize this is going to cost United a whole lot more money than the $50 for a hotel room. I’ve closed a clinic today, so I could be in San Antonnio. I’ve now had to cancel my room at the Hyatt. I’m going to arrive at my conference late so I’m being very accommodating. Don't you think you should accept responsibility for directing me to the wrong gate, not changing the electronic signs when the gate ‘s change, not changing the television screen, not making announcements and taking my luggage without me. I feel sorry for you Carlos. This attitude is what costs United money."

“I don’t like you making veiled threats”.

“I didn’t make any threat. I just said that you're going to cost United money. "

He’s gone all testosterone and United corporate, and taken that favourite Corporate America course, "Deny, deny, deny, lie, lie, lie". A big bodied black haired guy with that "I impress the boss" look. I’m irritated now because he’s essentially called me a liar. And he’s used the word ‘threat’ in an airport. Airport personnel get people tazered to death for less. So I recognize whose threatening who.

I walk away figuring God has other plans for me. I’ve been nice, smiling, professional, concerned. I did say I was a doctor and journalist. I offered to show him the picture of the Gate 39 in support but he had to pull the ‘threat’ card, raising his voice, showing me again that Americans prides brawn over brains. I begin to understand why civilized people want to avoid America. But then I think, I'm on my way to see some of the finest people I know in the world at this medical conference. And they're American.

And how could I explain to him a concept like ‘principle’ or how old people and mothers with children couldn’t have done the sprints I did. He wouldn’t understand my knee aching. He probably gets a ‘star’ for every passenger he brushes off.

As I turn and walk away, a woman in the line tells me, “United is awful."

At least I’m not standing in that line. I saw an older woman whose ankles looked like she had elephantiasis but that’s just the new air travel look.

Mostly I’m glad I didn’t bring my guitar because after meeting Carlos I am convinced that United Breaks Guitars. United Breaks Wind, that’s for sure.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill C 15 Mandatory Jail for Drug Trafficking and Growing

Cannibis Culture magazine says, 'Stop Bill C 15'. The Senate is presently holding up Bill C 15. Almost 40 years ago I had high school friends who went to jail for possession of marijuania. It changed their lives drastically for the negative. There but for the grace of God go I. Thanks to the increasing enlightenment regarding the real source of the problem end users have been increasingly diverted to treatment rather than jailed. The results are excellent. Addiction is a treatable disease that should not be treated by jail.

A decade ago I brought in pictures of BC grow operations where I used to recreation. These grow ops were acres of public land. |I was frustrated that I couldn't go into the wilderness without having to face that after working all week with the ravages of addiction and paying the most ungodly taxes supporting the criminals of British Columbia in low and high places. The police told me that they could do nothing, literally nothing. In fact, they told me I might get in more trouble for taking the pictures. Nothing was done. Big business Marijuania was like all big business. Connected.

The growers and dealers who profitted from the disease of addiction get away as clean as the Tobacco Companies do today. In fact the tobacco companies pay for the government salaries putting government in a decided conflict of interest. Luxury taxes were never supposed to go to general revenue but solely to health care and education denying that very conflict of interest.

I agree that mandatory jail sentences should be required for those tobacco company CEO's who promote the sale of tobacco to minors, develop slick marketting campaigns for teen agers and profit from such advertising and promotion. The same holds true for the pot growers. It even holds more true for meth labs which are what Vancouver is more famous for. Cocaine and heroin traffickers and dealers are no different really.

The end user addict is not the problem. They have a disease that requires treatment. It's the money men who profit from that disease that are. Finally, there is a real effort to make those most responsible for the problem accountable. And where is our government senate. Delaying.

While we are at mandatory jail sentences for traffickers and growers, could we have mandatory urine drug testing for senators as well. The documentary Cocaine Cowboys showed just how much government was being paid by the drug cartels in Florida. What's the going rate for a Canadian senator these days in comparison? Are anyone but the criminals asking this question?


Thank you for the morning. Thank you for the sunshine. Thank you for the breath I breathe. Thank you for feeling. Thank you for this body that moves, for the senses that help me experience the outer world, for taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Thank you for my cat. Thank you that we have a refridgerator and cupboards with food. Thank you for indoor plumbing, clean running water and hot and cold showers. Thank you for this coffee. Thank you for the ability and means to communicate, for speech, writing, computers, radios and phones. Thank you for the stories and books. Thank you for the colours. Always thank you for the colours. Thank you for my motorcycle. Thank you for all the means of transportation. Thank you for those who have passed and those who are still here. Thank you for television and movies. Thank you for sports. Thank you for my parents and family. Thank you for my friends. Thank you for my work. Thank you for education. Thank you for spirituality. Thank you for religion and government, community and family. Thank you for my enemies. May I learn to love them if only for how much they make my friends seem so special. Thank you for the planet. Thank you for the sun. Thank you for sunshine. And clean air. Thank you for the breath I take.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some Animals Are More Equal!

5 Rabbis are arrested for money laundering in the millions and the report is called, "Anti - Semitism".
If I steal I go to jail. No one calls it 'anti - Christian', 'anti - goy' or 'anti - gentile." We've had our share of televangelists caught. Fundamentalist rabbi's have been caught feeding whacko propaganda against the Palestinians. There are whacko priests, whacko imans, whacko rabbis, and definitely whacko televangelists. But if they're caught breaking the law, the term is 'criminal', not 'anti semitic.
A black man verbally abuses a white cop calling him racist. It's very much an upper class incident by a very priviledged and well heeled black man. My suspicion is immediately that he is trying to sell his books or gain some solidarity, fellow black man claiming abuse, when indeed it would appear he was the abusive one. If I abuse a police officer, it's not called "racist". It's called, "against the law". Yet President Obama is saying the police are 'stupid'. Maybe they are. But people would call me stupid if I abused the police.
It always seems that people who claim to want 'equality' want to be 'more equal'. Today everyone is special.
The next time I'm money laundering or caught abusing policemen I plan to say, stop that right now. You're being 'anti Christian' and 'anti white trash', you 'anti-crackerjack', 'anti-honky' you.
While you're at it could you stop the covert racism called 'blond' jokes. Freud said alot of humor is 'veiled' hostility". Can't think of anything more hostile than blond jokes. Some people stalk you with their hypersensitivity and then say you're insensitive. As if 'intolerance' was a virtue. These people aren't victims, they're just very aggressive people using the political and legal system to their advantage for their personal gain.
Now where can I get in for these millions of money laundering and police bashing, now that I've got a ready answer for the media. Anti Christian, Anti White Trash Abuse! Anti-Crackjack. Anti Honky. Ban Blond Jokes!

Duffy Lake Motorcycle Camp Out

I am in my little blue motorcycle tent on the shore of Lake Duffy with my little ACER laptop. I left the motorcycle hidden off the road. Not an easy chore with a heavy Harley. I drove it behind some pilings and locked a chain through them ,then cut some shrub to conceal the reflective parts.

The flies have been terrible though. Thanks to Watson’s DEET Lotion, I’ve survived them but would have liked to have remembered more green bug coils. The Indians used to smear mud all over themselves from spring to fall. That and cedar bark clothes make Luddites unattractive. I need a space age light weight bug proof motorcycle gazebo.

I followed a couple of motorcyclists on the road hauling trailers and thought after the Electro glyde that would be the way to go. Alternatively I could stay home or in 5 star hotels. When does camping cease to be camping.

This is the glorious outdoors. And I love it. Unbelievable. Fishing, I didn’t catch any, but enjoyed watching the fish chase my hook. Serious fishermen have been spoiling the fish with worms. Either that or they’ve pigged out on flies. Power to the fishies!

The mountains, the green lake, the blue sky , the sun setting behind the mountains, the sound of waves

Here I am alone on the side of a lake after a day of motorcycling. It was a heck of a climb down from the road though. I’m not looking forward to hauling the gear back up. Glad my saddle bags came off. And I’ve drunk a lot of the drinks I picked up at the Mount Currie Indian Reserve Store. Now it’s time to read till it’s dark. I cooked a can of chucky chicken noodle soup and have the camp stove and expresso machine ready for morning. This is just great.

When I left home I really wanted to swim in fresh water. Well, it’s really cold. So I had what would better be called a dunk. Dive in. Rapid about turn. Swim back to shore. Towel off. Into sleeping bag. I’ve stopped shivering enough to write this.

Night: I forgot the bear banger. I have to get up and pee because of all the drinks. I only brought my leatherman. What’s that going to do to a grizzly or a cougar. What was I thinking when I left the Ken Onion knife. I always carry that at least. I feel better when I’ve got a rifle. Or a dog. Dog would have loved this. I’ll take my camera when I go out to pee. If there’s anything there I’ll flash them and run.

Pre dawn: I dreamed of bashing a bear with a rock and it turned out to be somebody’s pet. All manner of beaurocratic trouble. A Monty Python nightmare. |”Why did you bash this lady’s pet? The police are asking me. “It’s a bear, it startled me in the night.” “You didn’t have to kill it, did you? You have heard of necessary force.” I’m exasperated in the dream.

Dawn: It’s just light and I wake to hear Eagles shrieking overhead. They have such a distinctive call.

Morning: When I am fully awake I look out on a beautiful calm lake, the sun just peeking over the mountains. God gave us bladders to get us out of bed. I have a cold Starbuck’s cappuccino I’ve kept with the other drinks and yogurts in the stream. After that I get a hot coffee going with the amazing Mountain Coop MSR mountain stove and the stove top expresso machine I love. While drinking coffee, I cast a few times then think better of it. I’d have to clean the fish.

I’d rather climb into the tent and read. I take off the fly and read till the sun is overhead then get up and pack up the camp. The files are back. After packing the tent and running the first bag puffing up the hill the the road I come down for between hauling camp swim. I do the dive and spin bit twice. I’d shampooed my hair and needed the extra torture to get the suds off. I towel off in the sun killing the slow moving flies with gusto.

Then it’s motorcycle clothes and hauling the saddlebags topside. I get the bike out from it’s hiding place, pulling away the cut shrubs. Load up.

It’s noon when I leave. Hot ride. Pass through the Mount Currie Reserve and Rodeo. First stop Pemberton. Fill up. Thought of stopping at Whistler for lunch but I’m enjoying the ride. After Whistler I tag onto six bikers from Oregon. I think they think the KM signs are in Miles. It’s a wild ride trying to keep up with them. Eventually they pull off and I’m back at sight seeing speed but that ate up a lot of miles. In Squamish I stop at the biker’s Starbucks, have a double expresso and a bathroom break. I fill up with 91 premium at the Shell. The Chieftain is so impressive. Then it’s a winding trip home with a Ducati following me. Have to pay attention at the new Horseshoe Bay road development. Then its Taylor Way. Crossing the Lion’s Gate Bridge is always a top of the world experience. Specatular views of Coal Harbour and English Bay. Then it’s Denman, Beach Avenue and soon home. 330 pm.

I unload and carry everything up in one load. Scatch cat’s belly. Put out some tuna for her. Then it’s into the shower. From Squamish on it was a really hot ride. Thank God for modern luxuries. After camping everything I take for granted seems so much better. Love this refridgerator cold Santa Cruz Ginger Ale.

Duffy Lake Road

Thanks for the Asphalt. It's recorded in books as one of the great winding much loved motorcycle roads of British Columbia. The trouble, though was, last year, the pot holes and cracks and missing pavement made it hard to appreciate any of the scenery. You had to keep your head down to stay alive. This year there's new asphalt. It was motorcycle heaven for the hundreds of us this weekend who did the scenic winding drive between Pemberton and Lillouett. I stopped at Duffy Lake, but that's a different story. The asphalt was truly appreciated. Watch out for the gravel still.

Thank You Premier Gord Campbell

The Sea to Sky Highway is spectacular. I just drove Vancouver to Whistler in 1 1/2 hours on the Harley fully loaded. The highway views were incredible. The paving is like an Indie course. Top notch road engineering. It always was a beautiful highway but now with all the passing lanes it flows like it never did before. It's a dream highway and it's not even finished yet. But what a remarkable legacy. Squamish seems no further away than Surrey and the once dangerous drive to Whistler is now as easy, but far more enjoyable, than the ride to Chilliwack. Winding rolling roads which make the California Oregon coastal highway seem a second sister. This is the most fabulous highway on the whole of the North American coast. Thank you BC Government for a job well done. Regardless of 2010, this is a highway we can all be proud of.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I have known such depths of despair

From persecution and the further persecution

That says this is not persecution

We are not your enemy

We are your friend.

Then put down your gun, for God’s sake!

We are doing this for your good.

It is necessary,

It’s what is needed.

Trust us.

We know what is better.

We’re trying to cause the least pain.

You can’t have it your way.

Our way is best way.

It’ s always been.

You can’t change things.

If you would just understand,

You can have the good life too.

Don’t think about the others,

Others aren’t important

Just us.

Trust us.

We are not the enemy

We are your friends.

Then put down the gun, for God’s sake!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Ballet BC's Swan is now very much a Phoenix Rising. Emily Molnar, of the Frankfurt Ballet, National Ballet and New York City Choreographic Institute is the new artistic director. Last year's financial problems have been addressed and the new season is shaping up to be a dance extravaganza. It opens with a September 30, 2009 Playhouse Theatre Gala and World Premiere by Emily Molnar with principal guest artists from the National Ballet of Canada.
A unique Canadian contemporary ballet company of classical dancers, Ballet BC is long overdue for the support their hard work and talent deserves!
The all too dopey city of Vancouver woke up last year when it almost lost a cultural icon. Proud of one of the highest achievements of this city of art, the finest citizens rallied to ensure Vancouver was known for more than the gangland slayings of Surrey.
"We realized that we'd made mistakes in customer service and communications, " board members admitted. Subscribers overwelmingly backed the dancers and the choreographers lamenting the failure of the business minds to match the genius of their artists.
The Board with old and new members rallied under duress. Now they are surprising everyone with fresh ideas, discussion groups, membership polls and true enthusiasm. They're a regular Rocky in Tights. And that's the music that heralds this seasons' Ballet BC with Emily Molnar, the new artistic director.

CAA - Writing Circle

CAA – Writers Circle Summer Social Event

When I arrived the writers were mellow with margaritas at the Dockside Café on Granville Island. It was the kind of summer day Ernest Hemingway might describe before his character caught a fish or a bullet. Idyllic in a pre 2010 Olympics Vancouver way.

“Will there be life after the Olympics,” asked Judith, our American Idol dodger.

“You’re looking at what is mostly post Expo,” responded Perry pointing to all the development of Granville Island, the delightful squares, robust shops, and richly decored restaurants.

While we’d really gathered to talk about Margaret behind her back the theme that developed seemed to be education. Cathy astounded us by sharing childhood experiences of one room school houses. Her school year had to end early so the kids could join in planting and started late after harvest. Cathy, a sophisticated urban poet, doesn’t easily bring to mind the share croppers of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden or Margaret Lawrence’s farming characters. Too much Chanel and the Devil Wears Prada about her.

Meanwhile Judith who taught school and university, mostly special needs, described the ‘hovering’ parents of a gifted child with finger wiggling hands waving about her head, an unforgettable image that had us all laughing. “I told these parents that their grade 6 daughter was functioning at a Gr.12 level in most subjects but she was only at the Gr. 7 level in mathematics. I reassured her that whereas the other subjects were mostly acquired, math was more innate and unless a person had a specific gift in that regard it usually did develop more slowly than the other skills in gifted children. The next day, the parents phoned to re assure me that they now had found a math tutor for their daughter.”

Perry, a genius with words, confessed to getting a “C” in school the year she remembered having the most fun. Judith describing utter exasperation with a student whose reply “I don’t know,” followed her own outburst, “Whatever possessed you to do that!” Laura, an expert on children, and great fan of writer Susan Juby, asked, “ Was she a teen ager?”

“Gr. 7,” replied Judith.

“That explains it. They really don’t know why things happen at that age.”

Perry who creates alternative universe’s in her writing laughed, saying, “that’s true, when you’re a teen ager things just happen. You don’t connect your own part in cause and effect.”

I shared how the government had built windowless schools in Winnipeg to save on heating only to have increasing children go psychotic and need to be transferred to the many windowed pediatric hospital. Labelling discussion followed with Judith sharing the various ‘buzz word’ terms that she’d watched administration go through in her years of teaching and administration.

“Mental retardation. Learning disability. And today’s it’s Aspbergers . If you took all the kids with the different labels and put them together I’d guarantee they’ d all look just about the same. We just wanted services to match the needs of the kids and the administration was forever thwarting teacher and parents best efforts.”

“It’s politically in correct to use the term “mental retardation” in some circles.” I said.

“That was the position of most the parents organizations but in the States when I taught to get the kids grants you had to fill out the government’s form as ‘mental retardation’. We used to say that mental retardation had been resolved everywhere but in the government.’

Entres and salads followed. Beautiful people sat down and left from tables around us. Conversation flowed from education to government to personal tales of frustration and sorrow and moments of elevation outside the mundane.

We were surprisingly well behaved for a group of writer’s. One would have thought from our impeccable table manner that we wrote only non fiction. No one but ourselves knew we also wrote pot boilers in exotic climes, police chases, alien abduction and running gunfights in the streets. Admittedly I’d stood on many tables in my youth reciting poetry in the midst of bar room brawls. It just didn’t seem to be the thing to do at the laid back west coast Dockside Café. I suspected though that were I to hobble up onto the table to belt out poetry I would have been surrounded with stiff competition. I imagine Judith would use her American knee to rise to any such challenge.

Cathy quietly admitted she was writing a travel piece. Judith’s characters remained on the run from the Egyptian police in WWII. I’d just had another medical story accepted by the Medical Post while Perry had made another body holy in her latest detective novel. Laura, a fabulous closet writer, confessed shyly to writing a bit of romance .

“I just love to read all of your writing, “ she said as we each paid our bill and thanked Perry for organizing this break from the solitude of writing. We all couldn’t wait to tell Margaret what a good time she’d missed . The sun was prematurely setting over English Bay. Where had the time gone!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Women have been transvestites as long as I can remember. Though politically incorrect to say, society has granted women a great number of freedoms that men have not been allowed. The philosopher, Ivan Illich , in his 1982 book Gender pointed out that the domains of influence that existed throughout medieval times remain in the romance language with feminine and masculine nowns reflecting who commanded which domains. Hence 'la maison" and "le pistolet". It was considered "equally" ridiculous for women to wear pants as for men to wear skirts.
As a boy, I first played potted plants on stage, graduated to a corpse and eventually played a lead female role before getting my first bonafide RCMP male officer role on the Manitoba Theatre Centre stage. The female role, despite gown and bra was an improvement over the corpse.
In the theatre we were all transvestites. When I started what was likely Winnipeg's first improvisational theatre group out of the Manitoba Theatre School back in 1969-70 we were all playing everyone and everything depending on the story. Children's stories with dragons and trolls were our favourites.
After touring Scotland to meet my relatives, I joined Scottish societies and acquired a Scottish girlfriend, a kilt and the full regalia, mostly for the many Robbie Burns dinners and dances I'd continue to enjoy over the next decades. My progress on bag pipes however is still at the chanter stage though I did call in a buck with it once during bow hunting season.
Dressed in my clan tartan, on my way home from the Scottish Cultural Centre I stopped at my west end grocer and was asked by the oriental owner I chat with there, "why you dress like a girl." A transexual colleague has written a paper called "Gender Police" depicting those individuals whose heads spin like Carrie and begin shreiking like one of the Invasion of the Body Snatcher aliens whenever anyone steps out of the proscribed normals. Halloween, my clan day, is a nightmare for these folks on Davie Street especially when those returning from the cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show show up.
The 1961 "Black Like Me" non fiction book by white John Howard Griffin told of his colouring his skin and changing to a black man to experience first hand the segregated life of America. Today transvestites and transexuals have written extensively about their 'insider' experience of gender expanding our insights as once Griffin opened our eyes to segregated race in America. Deidre McCloskey, formerly "Donald", still a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English and Communications at University of Illinois in Chicago provided the most sensitive insightful portrayal of her own transformation in her book , Crossing, A Memoir. Hermaphrodites, and the Medical Invention of Sex by AliceDreger dispells any illusions that the biological world is strictly binary. Gender is more a cultural construct when one steps out of the purely reproductive consideration. Not ironically, the May 2009 Scientific American magazine details the evidence for sex as pleasure function long predating the knowledge that sex was also a reproductive function. However much of the history of gender division can be explained by maternity over gender as documented in the Jared Diamond's, Guns, Germs and Steel history of the importance of children and the army and labour producing maternal factories to early societies.
Meanwhile with gay liberation and decriminalization that community long a centre of Drag Queen entertainment is increasingly more masculine as depicted in the movie Brokeback Mountain. Indeed historically gay males have been greatest in those masculine endeavours where women were least present. The bisexual swing vote tends to shift depending on availability of females. In "How the Irish Saved Civilization." Thomas Cahill describes the heterosexual Irish becoming homosexual on cattle raids only to become heterosexual again when they returned to their wives. While Hollywood portrayed John Wayne and the wild west cowboy as white heterosexual a more truthful history would show a lot of Blacks and a lot of gay men cattle wrestling and mining.
Most transvestites today are heterosexual. Leslie Feinberg, in her 1992 book Transgender Liberation depicted the history of the Irish "Mollies' and other civil disobedience groups who preceeded the famous M*A*S*H television transvestite , Klinger. After that Dustin Hoffman, Mel Gibson, Swartzenager, literally all the masculine men of film played transveste parts.
The Lazy Crossdresser by Charles Anders makes light of the desire to 'pass' that many transvestites and naturally transexuals have.
Working with the LBGT community I have seen many young transexuals anxious about this "passing" whereas more commonly the older heterosexual transvestite community increasingly doesn't particularly care, differing greatly in this regard. They do not experience a central error of nature. Increasingly their motives are diverse and varied and no more sexual than the transvestite females who surround them. UtiliKilts Seattle are profound business sensation and success. Indeed most cultures in the world have some form of skirt (Greeks) or robe (Africa/Asia) for male attire and biologically sperm maturation is best if men wear the loosest fitting lower garment.
Uni sex and the new metro fashion of young men further challenged the traditional stereotypes. The Beattles famous 'hair cut' is today matched by earrings, waxing, colognes, manicures, and pedicures, house husbands and men more interested in fathering their children than going on the road for the company store. The outward manifestation of this profound inner masculine revolution is seen in the new transvestism.
Trusting my female friends who said that after 40 and 50 older women become invisible, "I'd die for a cat call from a construction worker" one very attractive one told me, I found indeed that this was the truth when I went out one afternoon in broad daylight au femme at Pike Market Square, Seattle.
It is youth not gender that spends so much time looking at each other. At my age no one particularly cares what I'm wearing so long as it's respectable. My older famous actor sailor friend said, "They're really more concerned that we wear our Depends." If the clothes do make the man then I can honestly say that I was well made up and everyone treated me extremely well from officialdom to shop clerks to passing strangers.
My former Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancer friend tells a lovely story: "When I turned 60 I had a marvellous realization. I woke up one morning and found I didn't have cream for my coffee. There was a 7-11 across the street so I ran over. When I looked down for money in my purse I saw I was only wearing a slip and had forgotten to put on my skirt. I paid for the cream and really didn't care for the first time in my life. I could focus on what was really important, getting the cream for my morning coffee. And no one else in the line cared either which made me wonder how much wasted worrying I'd done all my life about my appearance in general. It wasn't as if I was exposing myself. Right then and there I thought this was one of the greatest gifts of maturity. I found a kind of peace that day." It was probably after that young women began wearing their underwear on the outside as my friend has always been a trendsetter.
Transvestism is one of those terms that came out of an earlier era. |It probably should be removed from the clinical textbooks or else all western women and an increasing proportion of western men will fall afoul of the diagnosis.
As theologians teach , Personhood should transcend gender, race and all those divisions that keep one human from knowing another as brother or sister. We may like Michal, Saul's daughter object to even King David 'exposing himself' but what matter really is it to others how one clothes oneself. Allan Fotheringham might well comment that at least they're not dressing as golfers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Giri Afloat

The Giri, with new navy blue hull, is once again afloat with mast repaired and interior restored. "The repairs will outlast the boat." said Tom. "I won't have you cursing me in the middle of an ocean, blaming me for your sinking!" The repairs are probably worth more than the boat too but it's once again a world class off shore cruiser that can go anywhere in the world. It's limitation is again the skipper who sails her. I'm thankful to Tom, Dave, Barry, Andrea, Graham,Luke, Bob, Tim, Eric, Randy, Laura, and everyone else who helped work on the boat or provided moral support. My terrific bank manager, Lloyd, from Scotia Bank will be once again pleased that my asset is more than a holy hole in the water. Structually sound and physically restored it will still take some days of restoration and outfitting to make it ready for sailing. A week afloat though and the bilge is still dry. The new mast head light is a fair beacon. And Tom and Dave assure me that despite a war reminisicent of Ghost Busters they've exorcised the head of any leaks, old hose, cracked fixtures, or ancient holding tanks that could cause old smells to arise. Fresh smells will now be unimpeded by lingering scents of old glory. I can't wait to take my place upon the throne.
Louis returned from an unforgettable three week cruise of thenorther Georgia Strait islands with Linda and told me summer on the water is still as beautiful as ever. For now I'm just thankful the boatyard blues are over. The pain was excruciating. A bit of a rebirth experience. I looked at the Giri yesterday and it was almost like having an old dog go into the vet for surgery and come home wagging like a fresh young puppy. She's looked at me expectantly, eyes shining, ready to fetch an ocean.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"I'll kill you."

My life was threatened again today. Just another person saying they'd kill me. I did the right thing. It wasn't what they wanted. They tried to bully me as they'd bullied others. I still did the right thing. It was the loving thing too. It reminded me again of the many times that men and women have threatened to kill me.

"You can't have her," I told him. I was 16 and she was crying on a dock in Kenora. He was drunk and big and older, way older, a man, maybe 25. "I'll kill you and then fuck her."
"I guess so, " I said, holding my camp bowie knife looking at this big bearded hulk in front of me.
I didn't know the girl. She was my age, though. We'd just been talking when this brute staggered out of the boats and made a grab for her. We'd backed together to end of the dock. I'd stood my ground terrified. She'd collapsed at the end of dock, huddled, crying. I stood there as he swayed back and forth with his knife. I figured I was dead. The girl certainly had no faith in me. I was a camp cookie at the YMCA camp on leave. I don't know who he was but he talked low and dirty and threatened and said over and over he was going to kill me and fuck her, gut me and fuck her, gut me and gut her and fuck her. And I just said, "I guess so." Holding my knife watching him. I didn't watch the knife. He was a few feet back.
"Fuck it." he said and turned and walked away. It was a dark and lonely night.

"We're going to kill you," the gang told me and my two friends. My friend hung out with the Rugger gang. We'd met doing martial arts. "Fuck you." Knives out we stood in the northern town. There were a dozen or more of them. Chains, tire irons, knives. I felt safe with my friend. He did the talking. I figured maybe I'd get one. I was sure my friend would get more. The other guy peed himself. We found that out later. But he stood his ground. We'd been walking home from the dance when the gang came on us.

That sort of thing happened alot n your teens and twenties. We didn't turn our backs. We didn't back down. We stood our ground. Sometimes we ran if we thought we could get away. But sometimes we were cornered. If you stood your ground you stood a chance. Bullies look for weaklings. Gangs are a couple of bullies and a lot of wanna bes. The wanna bes were more dangerous in the end. Rats. Gnawing after the kill. They wanted the fight. The bullies only wanted a win. You stood your ground. Sometimes a chain went by your head. Sometimes a person threw a knife. Later guns came out. It was just the way these things went down. I've got a brass knuckle scar under and eye, a knife scar on a rib. I was defending somebody at the time. Defence. Same as in hockey. Some one threw a punch, you ducked back, blocked a kick, threw a kick. Big guys were always saying, "I"m going to kill you."

We weren't easy pickings. But the bullies always threatened to kill you.

I remember as a boy being afraid alot. I was 20 and the guard had a police baton. I stopped him from stealing money in the park from some little guys. "Hey, you can't do that." I said. He was using his job to extort money. I didn't know about extortion much then. I rarely thought of the big picture. I got involved in things I didn't need to. He smiled and said, that's okay to the campers. Later that week he accosted me coming home. Pulled up beside me in his truck and forced me off the rode on my bike. Jumped out of the truck and stood over me, slamming that hard baton into his hand saying, "I"m going to kill you." I was standing up waiting for the blow. He was a real Deliverance kind of case and it didn't look good for me. Not good at all. But I looked him in the eye and braced for the blow and it didn't come. He jumped back in the truck. I'd been warned.

I've been 'warned' by guns, tire irons, and baseball bats. Don't mess with criminals and their money. I'd be 'warned' a lot worse when I got older and the money got a whole lot more. Alot of people talk big and alot of people claim to have changed the world but the people who like the world just the way it is don't thank you politely. Alot of people lie too.

When I stopped him from raping her and she was pulling pulling her bra down , covering herself with her ripped shirt, straightening her skirt, he pushed me towards the tracks with his buddy. I'd not seen the other guys with him. I thought it was just him and her. But they hunt in packs. In Hollywood the one guy beats up the gang. In real life the odds favour the pack. "We're going to kill you, now. You interfere with our bit of fun and see what happens to you, eh. What's the matter. Are you gay. Don't like to see a piece get what she's wanting. "

It was London. A tube station. Rush hour. Hundreds packed wall to wall. The busiest station. Only one guard phoning for help. The rapes occurred. Nobody's business. It was a regular thing. A bit of action.

I'll never forget the feeling of my heels over the track and seeing the driver of the braking train, eyes wide and this punk poking me in the chest. No one interfered. Everyone's face was horror. I thought I was dead. Then as quickly as they came they dispersed. It was a long time before my heart stopped. The girl thanked me. Everyone else looked away. The guard looked down. I caught the next train.

The xrays showed every long bone with fractures. The child was three.
"I'll kill you if you say anything about this." the man and women say to me when I ask them about all the old fractures.

The child is bleeding everywhere. She's burned him and torn her face with her nails. I've gone in to see her with the community nurse. The police have been informed. "We have to take you to the hospital," I say. "I'll kill you," she says.

"I have to report you for having sex with your children."
"I'll kill you if you do."

"You can't beat your wife in this country. "
"I'll kill you."

"Your problem isn't 'nerves', it's alcoholism."
"I'll kill you if you say that."

"I' m an addict. If you don't get me the drugs I need, I"ll kill you."

"I can kill myself if I want to. It's my right. I'll kill you too if you stand in my way."

"You can't committ me for killing myself. God tells me to kill myself. I have to kill my children too. You can't stop me. I'll kill you."

There's a dozens more times someone said they'd kill me. Probably not more. Drunks and addicts say a lot of things. A lot happens in emergencies and jails. It's what's said in rooms with no escape that's really frightening. It's worst when the bad guy has a suit or uniform. Even worse when you don't understand the language, Except the word 'morte' and the guy has a gun and you don't know why this place is so important but you back away slowly.

I remember when I was Mr. Popularity in school and I thought I should please everyone. I wanted to be on the student council so I could get more dances. Everyone liked me when I got more dances. But I found that being liked by everyone meant I couldn't be liked by the people who were important to me. They told me I was changing. I valued their opinion. I don't know how politicians do it. I know they're afraid. The good ones. There's always someone telling somebody who does the right thing they're going to kill them.

I must be getting old though. I don't like hearing it anymore. I'm tired of it. Especially since there's no back up any more. But maybe there never was any. Just people looking down, looking away, lying or making promises.

Gratitude Morning

My first thought on waking this morning was how rested I felt. I love when my body hits the bed at night and I sink into forgetfulness and dream. There were no nightmares last night. There was no sleep shattering pain. There were no calls of crisis. No emergencies. I never once woke running to face blood, tragedy or terror. No alarms went off. No phones rang. The wind did not blow the windows in. There was no smoke. I did not have a partner whose resentment and anger seared the very air sucking all life from the atmosphere around. I did not need to have a gun or knife beneath my pillow because a violent psychotic bully neighbour had been shooting his mouth and gun off with equal hostility. I did not have a storm throw my life around causing me to feel infinitely small, alone and afraid. I did not have to stay awake for days and nights on end with crying meningitic sleepless babies. I did not worry all night I'd made a mistake and someone might die. I did not think I said the wrong thing knowing too well the wrong thing could slip out of a mouth and cause such damage. I did not have my room flooded and wake floating. The roof did not cave is so that I woke in wet and rain. The heating did not go off. I did not wake freezing in snow. I did not wake in my own vomit. I did not wake to angry shouts. I did not wake to the terror or the previous day continuing in the morning of the next.
No. I woke gently. Feeling so gloriously rested. Maybe it was good to be with friends last night. Maybe it was just a gift for weeks of hard work and strife. Mostly I don't take notice of the important things and may have missed this any number of times. I take so much for granted.
But I noticed this today though. God this feels good I thought as I rolled over and looked at the clock and fell back to sleep for another hour of bliss. Languishing in bed.
How grateful I am for such simple pleasures. No rich or powerful or self important man or woman can know a better sleep than such a sleep. I 've known my share I'm sure.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Recently my Royal Winnipeg Ballet friend told me she was learning to dance the dervish. It was part of the Sufi tradition she was studying. I immediately thought of Cat Stevens ( now Yusuf Islam and his mystical "Moon Shadow" song. I'd first encountered Sufism reading turn of the century accounts of British Army surgeons studying the feats of Fakirs decades ago. Sufism was the spiritual essence of Islam. The great political religion of Christianity encircles Christian mysticism like the Moslem religion encircles Sufism. Evelyn Underhill wrote well of mysticism but I like Aldous Huxley's Perenial Philosophy best. A sufi poem I read once was similiar to Song of Songs of the Old Testament and the Carmelite tradition of likening the relationship of God and Disciple as Lover and Loved. I think sometimes of the playful child's game of "hide and seek" as so often that seems to be my own experience of my beloved God. Paramahansa Yogananda the Indian mystic said something to the effect that the leaders of each religion would likely find more in common than their apathetic followers. I think that the essence of religions collectively is the mystical or spiritual path. God is one. God is all. It is only at the outer edges of the spiritual, the material , where light is most frozen, hearts most hard. I believe we are spiritual beings having a material experience. I was sad when I heard Saddam Hussein was killed. I don't believe in Capital Punishment by the State. There is always so much that I don't know but I do know that States make terrible mistakes. Every life is precious. When I become too busy with the world, I feel like a whirling dervish looks. Jesus said of Martha and Mary that Mary chose the better part. Only when I meditate and seek to be with a loving God who cares for each and all, then and only then do I feel at Home. Love.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

Safed and Jewish Mysticism

Safed and Jewish Mysticism

By William Hay (11/11/2000)

“Did you know that in ancient times there was a spiritual war between Jerusalem and Safed for the center of religion. I love to come here for Sabat. It’s the air and the mountains and the town. Something about it that’s so inner.” He told me.

We were eating gilfilte fish at Sabat lunch in Ron Hotel on the mountainside. He was Yeshiva from the United States in Israel to study 2 years of Hebrew College after high school.

“We’re studying the discussions of the Rabbi’s of old for fourteen hours a day to find our spiritual center because once we find that the rest will follow.” He was wearing a Yamulka and had that clear eyed clear spirit. He struggled with his words because of a mild speech impediment which made what he said even a little more important because of the effort he put into being concise and clear.

I had been driving from Tiberias to Haifa and stopped because the guide book said it was a center for spiritual mysticism. At first I’d become lost in the hills and at the first hotel I’d been told to go to Rosh Pinna since they were closed and Sabat had begun. I’d made a wrong turn heading north to the Golan Heights and having to double back so was concerned that no one would take me in once Sabat had begun.

And here I was being turned away. My own will naturally takes over. Who do they think they are. I thought. So what if I’m nobody in their country on their time asking them for their hospitality, to me I am always somebody which of course is the one problem I take to the Lord. Without God what would I be and yet how quick I am to forget. I can’t know if I’ll be here next minute. I don’t know where the energy that gives me vitality comes from yet here I am thinking I’m somebody. In the greater scheme of things maybe but at that moment it was just a full hotel and nothing personal or cosmic.

I headed for Akko, the port of the crusaders feeling just slightly in the jousting mood and ready to donn armour and go after infidels. A few miles on I realized I wasn’t even in Safed but followed a sign that took me to a road that took me to Ron Hotel. The Lonely Planet guidebook had listed this for it’s hospitality.

The last colours of sunset gone I got out of the car and went to the front desk where the manager immediately welcomed me and told me that I could join their dinner right now. In the background men were singing. I didn’t want to impose, I said, yet really, I’d truly wanted to be a part of the community of believers. I wanted this and the Lord had given me this that I might better appreciate the people of this land and their concerns at this time of unrest.

I changed shirts, only momentarily regretted not having brought a jacket, and donned a tie, (which I’d brought for just such an occasion because it didn’t take any room to pack and did give the suggestion of concern for formality). I donned the all round hat I’d bought in Old Jerusalem. Not a yamulka but a head covering. I joined them for dinner.

The men were walking around the dining room in a congo dance with great joy on their faces and rousing songs from their throats. They wanted me to join in. I couldn’t bring myself to. Instead I sat and ate the food and enjoyed the comradeship and listened as the rabbi later said prayers and read from their holy books. There was a deep sense of reverence and a feeling of togetherness and belonging that I envied. I also knew I was welcome.

Next day after a marvelous sleep of important and numinous but private dreams I woke refreshed and stayed in my room reading in English, The Essential Talmud. The Talmud is the oral tradition of the Jewish people which complements the Torah which is known to Christians such as myself for it is the same as the first 5 books of the Bible. In the Essential Talmud I learned of its history, the persecution of the Jews by the Moslems first and then the Christians. The burning of the books and the difficulties that the diaspora or separation of the people into many lands and many languages had on the various debates of religion and culture which go into the making of the laws and rules of the people.

I learned with humor how the book had been censored by a priest who took out anything that might be construed as varying from Christianity and in addition as a celibate monk, just happened to change the famous Jewish line, “a man without a woman is not a man” to “a Jew without a woman is not a man.” The sun was shining in the room and a fresh breeze came off the mountains as I wondered about coffee and couldn’t understand the significance of red heifers.

Sure enough there was coffee and cake waiting in the lobby and I was invited to join the mid day meal at 11 am. I sat down and immediately the young yeshiva (student) men joined me. They spoke English and told me they were from a half dozen states in the US.

“What did you think of the hanging of the soldiers. They say they sought protection from the Palestine police but were hung and gutted and set on fire. Is that not barbarism. I phoned my father and he told me that the news at home was all about a homeless Palestine child but not about this. I don’t understand how the media can be so biased against Israel at this time.” He was clearly concerned and not unreasonably a little afraid. It’s hard to consider the hanging and dismemberment of the dead in the 20th century for an American boy raised on football and MacDonald’s.

I told them how I’d been at the Jericho blockade and seen how anxious the young Israeli men were having been stoned so often and the Palestinians were calling the shots choosing the time of attacks and there were children being brought into the conflict.

“They can’t fire back. They’re in trouble if they even load their weapons. Here they’re being brutalized and they can’t respond because to do so would put them in jail or more trouble with their commanders. The politicians meanwhile eat well and drink wine in fine hotels while my son doesn’t know when he’ll get home again.”

A mother told me this. She was angry.

In Nazareth the arabs held a rally with the poor loud speaker which one imagines has been around since WWII. That tinny raspy sound that aggravates the ear and the speaker was yelling into it and the volume made the words of war and anger heard all over Nazareth. I sought peace in the Sister Claire garden miles from the rally but couldn’t find it and decided it was best to leave Nazareth because the cry to arms was so loud.

I told the young man this. I felt sorry for the conflict. I didn’t know the history. There is always history. There is poverty and there is anger.

“They’re refugees. Their own Arab countries won’t treat them well. They’ve been kicked out of everywhere and now they’re here and the Israelis and doing their best but imagine if in the US the Indians said we’ll take California, New Mexico, Florida, New York and maybe more once we’ve got that. How would you think the American Congress would respond.” He certainly had a point.

As did the woman who said to me over lunch in the hostel, “We have no other place which is ours. This is the only Jewish land. The arabs have many countries. We try to live with them but they want us under them or out.”

Always where the world is in chaos or war does mysticism and the need to seek God become greatest. It’s in strife that people question the verity of the external world and seek the important things of life. In Canada and the United States we’re caught up in Gigabytes and new cars with telecommunications and organic foods. The struggle is whether or not the state should pay for sex changes back and forth or just one way and whether a tree should be saved over a spotted owl.

At lunch in Jerusalem I told an Israeli that while it may seem insane to him the war and unrest here, to me it’s almost a relief to hear people fighting about religion since where I come from people couldn’t care less about religion but might spraypaint you if you wear a mink stole or the girls might kill your daughter because girl gangs are in and heroin is sold openly on the streets while the government wants to legalize marijuania because there’s just too much money in the sale of it.

“Thank you, “ he said. “I think I’d rather be in Jerusalem. There’s something meaningful to what is going on here. I can’t say what Canadians fight about sounds like it’s worth much.”

At least we don’t kill each other over soccer, like the English, I thought but didn’t say it.

In the afternoon at Safed I walked the Metzuda, the fortress where the Israelis won against the Arabs despite 10 to one odds in the town. Down below in the city there were buildings with the marks of shelling and gun shots.

I stopped a man in traditional Jewish costume, what the young men at Ron’s called “Sabbath Gear”. “Is it okay to take pictures on Sabbath?” I asked.

“Sabbath is a time of rest. It’s a time when you don’t do anything that is unnecessary. You don’t go for a walk unless it is needful.” He answered.

I figured pictures were out then. I walked back up to the Ron Hotel. The sun was going down in the west. Soon Sabbath would be over and I’d be able to return to my business. There’s something to be said for the spirituality of Sabbath. As a result of thinking about resting I found myself changing my attitude to what is work and appreciating rest and leisure and work in a whole new way.

As the sun dropped behind the buildings I picked up my bags from the room and headed out the front door of the hotel. In the background I could hear the men singing as the evening meal had begun. I’d been invited to join them but felt they might appreciate the deeper meaning of the completion of their Sabbath celebration if they did not have to translate the Hebrew to English for me. While English is a language of commerce and communication there is a sense that Hebrew though it is the tongue of Israel is one of the Holy languages of the world. Maybe one day I’ll learn it.

“Is this your first time to Israel?” I am asked and like to answer “Yes, I like that question because it implies there will be more times. I want to come back to Israel. To me it is a holy land and quite frankly the unrest has served me by ensuring that there were no line ups at the shrines. From a spiritual point of view the best time to come to Israel is when there is unrest. There’s something ironic that the religious show so little faith at these times. If anything it is in times of unrest that Israel needs our prayers. It’s at times like this that prayer groups need to be in Jerusalem praying for peace. Clearly the Arabs and Israelis need all the help they can get in this matter.