Sunday, May 30, 2010

Extraordinary Measures

This extraordinary movie starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell was written by Robert Nelson Jacobs. Jacobs has done for Muscular Dystrophy what Beautiful Mind did for Schizophrenia. Writing a captivating moving story about scientific discovery isn't easy without car chases, hot sex and terrorists. This movie directed by Tim Vaughan does just that. In a real life race against time it shows the inner workings of basic research, represented by Dr. Stonehill, played exquisitely by Harrison Ford, as it interfaces with venture capitalism. Brendan Fraser plays both CEO and father with mother Keri Russell of children dying from an incurable disease. The passion of these parents infuses the intellectual coldness of pure research and finance. A touching and inspirational tale full of suspense and in depth acting. A must see right up there with Invictus and Blind Side.

VMC 50th Reunion Dinner and Dance

I am making notes about the Vincent Massey Collegiate 50th Anniversary Reunion Gala Dinner and Dance at 2 30 a.m. At this moment, I feel this was the very best dance event in the world. I can't recall when I had such a spectacular time.

My feet however are just beginning to seize up. I've taken some aspirin hoping to prevent more swelling. In truth I may be in traction in the morning. All the dancing I did with all those wild women is going to cost me big time.

Right now I feel this spiritual whole loved-by-the-world, blood-gone-to parts-of-my-body-long-forgotten, muscles-moved, ligaments-stretched experience. It's good now but morning I suspect I could be taking an ambulance to the plane. I'll need a chiropractor, an acupuncturist and certainly a psychiatrist to answer whatever inspired me to dance all night and talk myself hoarse.

The organizers were prescient in their planning, issuing us all green wrist bracelets to be worn all weekend. The general public naturally thought we were on pass from hospitals, asylums or nursing homes saving the city from having to explain what 13, 000 crazy happy people were doing there.

The best for me was finding my older brother Ron. He'd been in the musical along with Sue Cowtan and hoards of the most talented folk at Vincent Massey. Despite that and carrying 500 pounds of camera he danced to the very end too. We left together. The band was clearing the stage. I'd hugged Jon Cowtan goodbye three times by then.

Colin and Derek Lount were very California Winnipeg and having way too much fun. Jon and Susan Cowtan danced like they really loved each other after all the years and kids and friends like me. Gilda and Lisa Berger really did cut up the rug. At the end of the night it was bare floor thanks to them.

Mary Buhr and her husband never stopped dancing. Mary was doing relatively 60's type dancing interspersed with ectstatic airborne moments. Boris Tyzek just looked like a grown up. Dancing he let loose like Travolta. He was having way too much fun but tried to conceal it wearing his suit to the bitter end. Everyone else was stripping and the young were helping some of the older ones back into their clothes. Alot of caring going on.

Ann Hughes danced like a pro. She had all the right moves. Gail Miller was a regular duracel bunny that never stopped. Darlene Milowski in a sexy long tight gown tried hard at first to be proper until she let loose. The girls were twisting down to the floor and flinging their arms to the sky.

Judy Blair danced like the cheer leader she once was. Disco meshed with rock and roll spiced with salsa and jive. Joan Marten actually made boogie look elegant. Her husband danced like a guy who just knew he was one of the luckiest of men. The Gosselin sisters, Sue and Sandra, were 'dancing queens'.

Brenda Brandt told me while dancing that she was a spiritual advisor. Just heavenly. Don Hurst danced like Travolta only taller. Jim and his wife laughed as much as danced. Dianne Anderson danced and smiled and smiled and danced. Karey Shin (Asselstine) did political art as dance.

I danced with them all. There were these big circle affairs of gorgeous women and handsome men. Then we'd break out in couples and mix it up with small groups and large groups. Near the end of the night everyone degenerated into a congo line.

Our class of 1970's tables were by far the best dancers. Collectively we were the very finest raconteurs as well. Ron tried to argue that the class of 1966 had had it's moments but I wouldn't hear of it. The class of 1970 was simply the most hip, slick and coolthere. Best dressed, most beautiful and very smart women, while the guys despite some padding were truly sparkling representatives of the human race.

Naturally there is some natural selection for these reunion events and those of our year locked up in institutions or working as terrorists overseas probably didn't hear about the event.

If aliens had landed tonight, world leaders would have directed them to us. We could have been ambassadors for the planet. This 1970's perfection seemed to spread to the tables of the other years too. Whenever I wasn't mesmerized by the shining company I was in, I looked up and found generally the same thing was happening to everyone else. Every one was having a blast. The night was an all time sensational success.

Gary Enns was dancing with Brenda MacLeannan who was just one of the many amazing organizers. They made this reunion rock. Paul E. Sveinson was the Reunion chair. Rob Coglan, Brenda MacLennan, Derek Hay, and Val Moore were the Dinner Dance Co chairs.

Rick Martin, the present VMC principal spoke while we all chowed down to a most delicious dinner at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. He didn't strike terror or sound like Solomon as our principal Zotolov had. In fact he seemed like a nice 'young man'.

Meanwhile I felt like I was 17 all over again. I literally wondered if some old LSD residue was leaking back from the 60's . Or maybe I was truly immortal and surrounded by goddesses. I danced like I was resurrected. It's going to be a different thing in the morning. I'm thinking maybe a Cox 2 inhibitor.

Who would have guessed Colin Lount would become an architect. He was a gymnast. Judy was a cheer leader. How could she be a lawyer. Gail amazed me telling me she was with SETA . I tried to follow her government job description all over the world until I figured it was obvious she was a female 007.

Jim was beside me at the table talking about IT. He had kids and they didn't need baby sitters. How did all these people have children older than we all were when we were at Vincent Massey. Gary's kids were having kids of their own. This whole thing was spreading out of control.

The Ron Paley band was great, too. But I'd been to a John Mayer concert and hadn't even danced in the aisle. Gilda had me "almost" dancing on tables again. I'd sworn off dancing on tables a decade ago, was attending a 12 step program for people who dance on tables. Meanwhile Mary was doing the flying nun bit.

What a time.

The best time.

Thanks everyone. Vincent Massey Collegiate is the best.

In the morning I'm going to hate you all though. I already hurt.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

University of Winnipeg

I was expelled from Vincent Massey Collegiate. I'd performed a song about God and drugs and the feelings of adolescence that got Catcher in the Rye on the banned book list. I'd used the word "fuddle-duddle" in my song long before I learned that some words are reserved for Prime Ministers. I didn't know then that political loyalty came down to "agreeing with a leader when they're wrong".

I was naïve. I went off to work in a lumber yard, glad to get out of the classroom, ready to work with my hands. I was called back to school a week later to be told that the backlash on poetry which had been feared, hadn't occurred so I could return to classes. My mother was very instrumental in this decision, education being very important to both my parents. I was rather liking the smell of fresh cut wood and the prospect of having some money for a change. If I'd stayed in lumber I could have made my own cross.

I'd missed my French classes so didn't figure I could pass the exam so didn't show up. Not showing up is really just plain stupid, so I deserved not to pass. Mrs. Borgoyne was the softest sexiest teacher in the school. She'd later chide me, "If you'd just shown up, I could have passed you. Your work was 'tres bien' all year." Today I know she would have. French women have hearts the size of continents and they're always tripping over them.

I went to University of Winnipeg to complete my Gr. 12. It makes me feel like a fraud. I didn't graduate with the rest of my class. Vincent Massey issued me a diploma later. I did a year of economics. Later I'd repeat my Gr. 12 Math, physics and chemistry at University of Winnipeg just to see if I really did have the stuff it would take to be a doctor. Apparently I did.

However, I started University of Winnipeg in the Arts department. It was studying English that I met Dr. Carl Ridd. I'd wanted to be a play wright. I was writing for the Uniter, the university newspaper. My identity then was as a poet. I always carried a note book and jotted down dribbles of snot and genius. I recited beat poetry on the stages of coffeehouses. We wre all intellectuals. I wore oversized navy blue turtle neck sweaters from the Amy Navy store on Portage across from the Bay. It was cool to shop there. I had a black beret I'd bought in Montreal. Leonard Cohen and Lenny Bruce were my heros. Neil Young was singing songs on Pembina.

University of Winnipeg is where Nina came from as well. I took her to a Vincent Massey prom. She was an older woman. A year older. We'd met in the green room at the Manitoba Theatre School. I'd started an improvisation troupe and she and her brother were a couple of the performers. She came out regularly to the gigs I'd arrange.

I'd organized coffeehouses around Winnipeg in church basements and finally the Wise Eye at the YWCA so I knew a lot of people who were interested in that kind of theatre. I don't even know if it had ever been done here before . Creative dramatics and improv were new to me so the way they young think they must be new to everyone.

I remember us all doing improv one time in the Hudson Bay store during their Fashion Show. It's almost a cartoon memory, the shoppers all laughing and applauding while these beautiful girls dressed haute courture waited in the wings.

Nina wore round Lennon glasses. She was very mysterious. She wanted to be a fashion designer. She wore her own unique multi coloured designs. She also wore "White Shoulders" perfume. I'd always think of her later when I heard Gordon Lightfoot's song, " Affair on 8th Avenue": "the perfume that she wore/ was from some little store/ on the downside of town, /but it lingered on /long after she'd gone/ I remember it well."

Those first years at University of Winnipeg were inextricably wrapped in love and romance. Then too there was the sheer excitement of the Arts Department. All the profound ideas of that shook the world and caused revolutions of war and culture. And there was also the new theatre school. I remember Becky teaching.

And later, falling in love, again, in the Science department, this time.

Today I wanted to pray in a church. Augustine United where I stood with yet another angelic woman was closed. So I came to University of Winnipeg. Wesley Chapel was where I was kneeling in prayer and felt a calling to enter medicine. It was a wee small voice event not a Charlton Heston experience. I just left the theatre, dance and Arts Department where I was getting straight A's for the sciences, cadavers, and chemistry.

That church was locked to me too. I began to wonder what that meant.

Walking about the hallowed halls of the University of Winnipeg I found the library. I actually had to ask directions from a student. I told him I used to live there. Like the library at Vincent Massey Collegiate, the University of Winnipeg library became my place of safety and certainty. All the people I'd meet here were safe in some ways though so very much more dangerous in others.

Paul Simon's song, "I am a rock" comes back to haunt me. "I have my books, my poetry to protect me."

I found the study carols, I think, where I literally lived those years of pre med. Benoit with his motorcycle. The guys playing pranks on each other as we studied. Hour after hour after hour.

Education is a just a service that they sell. High school and below are really day care centres in many ways. I was thankful that the teachers at Vincent Massey were as good as they were. They prepared us for a higher education.

At the Vincent Massey High School 50 year Reunion I hear how many have gone on to be professionals, educated, academic, successful. When I graduated it had the highest percentage of students going on to university among the high schools. My parents liked that about it. Dad and Mom actually moved to Fort Garry to ensure their sons had a good education.

University of Winnipeg was something entirely different. The baby sitting had ended. The students were committed. The teachers here were in love with teaching and with their subjects. Later I'd learn from researchers and those world reknowned in their fields that most of them didn't care about teaching. Many didn't have time from their portfolios. Mostly professors were judged not on their teaching but on how much grant money they brought to the unversity.

We'd say then that there were 'no bad students in undergraduate and no bad teachers in post graduate.' By post graduate studies the student is supposed to be their own teacher.

I literally had to pry the secrets out of some of the bastards that were supposed to be my mentors in later years. Getting supervisors to come into hospital at 3 in the morning to help out is sometimes even more of a nightmare than facing the extraordinoma that came through the night into the emergency.

Only the best share freely. In the upper echelons it's all copywright and secrecy. We're literally buying knowledge at the top end. I've begged and crawled on my belly to learn from the best. Then too they were often so far ahead of me I was literally running to catch the crumbs.

I don't think I would have taught at Universities myself or gone on to be a specialist or sub specialist if it weren't for this beginning.

I'm sitting in the University of Winnipeg library. There's a lot more computers but the books and magazines still comfort me. It's the old book smells like the incense in the church that get under the skin.

I just can't understand where it all went. It seems it was just yesterday. I know that's such a cliché.

I kissed her under that lamplight over there. Now I can't remember if it was before, or after, the University got that huge granite rock and planted it by the street. Her face morphs into all three women I loved here, two of whom I married.

I wasn't a very good husband or lover when I think back on it. Learning was always my mistress and I wasn't really there a lot of that time. After a while I 'd look up and the light would be gone. I've stumbled around in the darkness for years.

You learn something new every day, they say, who ever the hell they are. It's just the feelings that get older. And my knees. I'm down on my knees praying more, for what it's worth. I've rarely been more frightened but you'd never know it.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, because I'm the meanest in the valley.

And somewhere, love, whoever you are, I know you're with me.

Vincent Massey Collegiate 50th Reunion

I flew into Winnipeg to take the first winds and waves of nostalgia at the Airport. My father had come to Winnipeg in 1956 to build the airport conveyor system bringing my mother, brother and I along with him. I was 4 at the time. Seeing the machinery reminded me of Dad. Thinking of Dad reminded me of Mom. The last time I was in Winnipeg was for her death. I still see her cheering the kids on the hockey team and remember the words she wrote in the Fort Garry Lance about community events.

It's just beginning to rain and the skies are grey but that doesn't mar the perfection of the city. It's a beautiful city. The skies go on forever and the green of the grass and foliage is a very precious green. The rivers are old and serene. The air is alive with scent peculiar to Winnipeg. The taxi takes me to Pembina. We drive by the old school. I'm almost drowning in memories by the time I get to the Pembina by the Red Best Western hotel.

I walked back to the school meeting Gary Ens coming out. He's just bought a Harley Sportster. We talk bikes. We're standing outside Vincent Massey Collegiate entrance talking about motorcycles and I've been in just this place countless times before talking bicycles, cars, girls and sports. There's something timeless about Gary and this moment.

Seeing the pool behind the police station I tell Gary "We used to climb over the walls at 3 in the morning in the summer and swim there till the police chased us out, "

"Carl Hedlin couldn't figure out how his parents caught him. It just might have had something to do with his putting a ladder up to his bedroom window on the second floor."

Gary and I walked through the library sharing tales of work and family. Seeing the school library again, I remembered the Leonard Cohen and Raymond Souster poetry books I'd found there. Later someone would reminisce fondly about Carey Asselstine and I'd remember the school poetry book we compiled.

Further on I saw the place where the guy hit me with brass knuckles when I was defending the woman teacher. I put him down but he'd opened my cheek and there was a lot of blood when the police arrived. I wonder what happened to him. Just like I've always wondered what happened to David White.

"Remember Hoag and the foot ball teams?" I asked Gary.

"Sure do. Last week I found a caricature I drew of him back then." Gary told me how he'd gone on to do architectural drafting. I told him about our starting the pole vaulting to get Hoag off our case. Those were the days of murder ball and rumbles after school dances.

Gary's three children have grown and he's a grandfather. My registration kit is out on the football field somewhere. The organizers who are amazing have arranged a football game between Vincent Massey and Tec Voc. I remember playing volleyball but mostly now I'm thinking of starting the men's cheer leading squad. Later I hear about OJ's accident. A musical has been going on in the school and we pass the guys and girls in costume. I remember playing a lead in a school play. It was all so new back then. There've been so many stages and television studios since then. Not to mention the operating theatre and court rooms.

A hurricane plane has been arranged for a fly over. It's pretty incredible. I've got tears welling up in my eyes when I hear the choir. They're singing the country's anthem. I remember Dan Donahue singing with the choir in my year. We sang "To dream the impossible dream." The Guess Who played at the school dance. Lenny Berreau played jazz down the street.

The girls I meet all look so young and beautiful. I know we're old. Their eyes haven't changed though. A gorgeous young thing tells me about a hip replacement and I can only think about how hot she's always been. There's Bubbs and Porteus. I text Kirk that I've just seen Lynne Day. Dianne Anderson has had kids and she and her husband have travelled all over the world. They're riding motorcycles now. The brilliant Berger sisters light up the room. They were always so incredibly smart.

Gary and I have been to Johnnies for incomparable burgers. It's the drive through the north end that takes me to another time. I 'm remember the days I spent with the Manitoba Theatre School, dancing with the ballet, wondering how I ever got waylaid into medicine. Some of us are laughing about the expulsions and suspensions. It's great to see Sue Gossen again. It's hard to believe she's a lawyer. It all began in the liberal 60's and yet here we are in a new millennium conservative with age. Sues' adopted a daughter whose now a teen ager. Joan Marten hasn't changed a bit. Her smile is more radiant. She was gangly in Gr. 10 and now she's Vogue and More. Don Hurst is still amazing. I look at him and still admire his goodness and soundness. Yet he's retiring. Has the time passed so fast. In my books he should have been in parliament. He's a born leader.

The mingler has Beatles music playing. I want to flee. Help, I need someone. I don't know how to talk to these people. It's a nightmare holding it together. The music is too loud and I can't hear half of what people are saying. The booze is flowing and we're in the Wildwood Club. It's down the street from my childhood home. We played badminton here. There's wall to wall conversations and memories are filling all the corners all the way up to the ceiling. I need another diet coke.

Meeting Mary Buhr is special. We sat together in elementary and she was always the brightest and best of us. She's become a Dean somewhere. Never was a university more fortunate.

One moment I'm talking to a person my age and next they've morphed back to when I last remember them. I'm an old man discussing scars with Dirks who I remember as the boy my mother always thought so well of. One minute I'm a teen ager and next I'm an old man.

It reminds me of when I'd go home to my parents and suddenly I'd be a kid again. They'd be calling me 'Billy' and I'd be responding like I'd not seen all the death and disease and insaniety I'd seen for decades upon decades.

It was all of that and then some. But mostly it was hugs and smiles. I'm intoxicated on all the human warmth. I heard Sue Cowtan and Boris Tyzek were there. Names of old friends and acquaintenances ran through the group like wild fire. Old friends are celebrities.

I'd not recognize a person looking at their face but then bending to see the name tag in the dim light I'd suddenly realize why they were smiling so intently at me. We'd embrace and I'd feel guilty I didn't recognize them right off. Then we'd talk of marriages, divorces and moves and careers.

At last I was standing apart. I felt all alone. I felt like I did at the first sock hop I organized. I was scared for a split second. Adolescence is all about fitting in. I've been to too many countries and sailed across too much ocean to fit anywhere anymore, travelled too many roads and cart tracks. I think I envy the people who stayed. There's safety in the known. I know this world and yet I don't. It's all nostalgia. Bittersweet yet fragrant.

Kirk Laidlaw, Lenore Clemens and Lynne Miller all text me saying they wish they were here. I wish we were all here too. I know some are already gone. There will be even fewer with passing years. I'm glad I came.

"Principal Zotolov is still around."

"That's great," I say, thinking the man must be immortal.

Gary and I talk about God. We're both attending church. Later I lose him in the crowd. I walk alone across the fields of Viscount Alexander and Vincent Massey schools the way Kirk and I did all those decades back. I'm just thinking. Like I did as a teen ager. Thinking about nothing. Thinking about everything. What is and what could have been.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Ecumenical Movement

Ecumenicalism denotes an "ideal of universality". It is a movement promoting union between religions. It begans as a doctrine of Christianity that promotes cooperation and better understanding among different religions and denominations. It was originally applied to those church creeds and councils which were universally accepted as opposed to local creeds.

I became aware of and interested in this movement when I first became President of the Amalgamated Baptist Youth Groups of Winnipeg in the 1960's. Our Baptist youth organizations came together drawing membership from the most conservative to the most liberal of the Baptist churches locally.

Not surprisingly the World Student Christian Federation (1895) was one of the earliest ecumenical movements following on the Evangelical Alliance of 1846.

I was early a member of the Young Men's Christian Association and this too, while not being specifically religious, was an outgrowth of the trans-denominationalism of the 19th century.

The missionary movement was another prong of the development of the Ecumenical Movement as missionaries as minorities in foreign lands came together themselves drawn by their similiarities rather than differences. The Ecumenical Movement, as known in Christianity today, indeed dates from the International Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh in 1930.

Another prong of the Ecumenical Movement was known as "Life and Work". Here the question was how Christian's faith bore on the general life of society, in politics, industry, education, international relations, etc. This was expressed in the Christian Socialist movements and the American 'social gospel' . Nathan Sodeblom (1866-1931) appointed archbishop by King of Sweden was the inspiration and architect of the Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work held in Stockholm 1925.

Here the division in Christianity between the 'world-renouncing' and 'world-affirming" stood out with those wanting to save souls from the world of evil and prepare them for eternity compared to those who saw the task of the church as including the transformation of the world. The latter were concerned about the church's role in 'social justice'.

In 1924, William Temple presided over the Conference on Politics, Economics and Citizenship (Copec) in which all the churches of England including the Roman Catholics met to address Christian social thinking of the day.

The third prong was known as 'Faith and Order', the initiator being the American episcopalean, Charles Harold Bent (1862-1929), Bishop of the Phillipines and later of west New York. He initiated the World Conference on Faith and Order held at Lausanne in 1927. Here the Roman Catholic Church did not attend but the Orthodox Churches of the East met with the Western churches sharing frankly their differences and the sense of underlying unity.

From these three prongs conferences continued to develop. The Missionary Conference held at Jerusalem in 1928 introduced the terms 'Older' and 'Younger' churches. Indians, Chinese and Africans were now partners.

Alongside the revelation of God to Israel, there was the special revelation in Christ. German Catholic, Otto Karrer, Religions of Mankind (1936) wrote, "It is unreasonable to believe in a special revelation in Christ, if we refuse to believe in a universal revelation of God to the human race, a revelation, that is to say, accessible to the human race, though in diverse degrees to all men."

As the Biblical Old Testament has been shown to preface and elucidate the New Testament so the Younger churches looked at the the local experience of God as it brought them individually to Christ.

In the 70's I'd joined the Fort Gary United Church, the United Church of Canada being the product of 4 groups of Canadian churches putting aside their differences.

Dr. Carl Ridd was my mentor and teacher at the University of Winnipeg which had been a United Church Seminary. Dr. Carl Ridd taught both theology and English, treating the Bible as great and sacred literature. He introduced us to it's study, history and poetry. In off campus coffee shops with groups of truth thirsty students we'd reflect on Kierkegaard and Doystoyevski's interpretation of good and evil. Dr. Ridd literally took the Bible off the shelf and put it into our lives and showed it as being at the very centre of our thought and culture.

In the University of Winnipeg Theology library I found Autobiography of a Yogi, the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. To Yoganada Christ was the Son of God and yet in his Hinduism he saw all of us as children of God. While Vivekanada met Emerson and Whitman at the First Congress of the World Religions in Boston, Yogananda was India's next representative attending the ecumenical World Congress in the 1920's and establishing an ashram or monastery in California.

Life and Work and Faith and Order conferences took place in Britain in 1937 when J.H. Oldham (1874-1969) was a chief organizer. It was increasingly realized that theologians by their training or ecclesiastics by their interests were not qualified to say how politics, or industry or international relations should be conducted. Beneficial changes in society must be brought about by lay people who were experts in these increasingly technical and complicated modern times.

The Oxford Conference therefore turned against 'vague generalizations' and 'abstract resolutions' and instead promoted 'lay institutes' and 'frontier movements' in which Christian laymen together addressed questions of social responsibility in their areas of speciality.

Evangelical academies developed after the war in Germany brought groups of lay people, journalists, technicians, doctors, to attend Academies for advanced courses concerning how their faith affected their jobs. The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey in Switzerland developed.

Professor James Houston, former Chancellor of Regent College, over dinner lamented that that Christian lay scientists and secular leaders were one of the principal concerns of the original founders of Regent College but that increasingly the College was being pressed to meet the needs of the clergy. It was his goal to ensure that Regent would not lose it's evangelism within UBC. The Regent College "Under the Green Roof" lectures are just one of the ways that this process continues today.

The Alpha Course run in Christian churches was started by Reverend Charles Marnham and popularized in the 1990's by Reverend Nicky Gumbel. It's been attended by over 13 million people , Anglicans, Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans , Baptist etc. It essentially explores the basics of Christian faith and is especially open to laity.

The World Council of Churches was inaugurated in Amsterdam in 1948.

Bishop Michael Ingham's book, Mansions of the Spirit: the Gospel in a Multi faith World, Toronto, AnglicanBook Centre, 1997 speaks to the present day ecumenical movement.

Now Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is held each January.

Finally, William Temple called the ecumenical movement the "great new fact of our era.'

It brings to mind the chorus line from a Third Day song, "we all come together."


The Church in an Age of Revolution, Alec R. Vidler,Penquin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, 1971

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Turning Point Recovery Society Gala Fundraiser

3rd Annual Turning Point Recovery Society Gala Fundraiser, and thanks to Malcolm's soft sell strong arm techniques I've been to all three. Not to mention that my partner, Laura smiles most appreciatively and coos her thanks for my inviting her to these outstanding affairs. She simply loves all the dressing up, the beautiful people, the elegant Four Seasons Hotel, me in a suit, the fine dining, silent and live auctions, and the most amazing speakers.

This year Martin Sheen was deeply moving and funny in the most inimitable way. "I was the longest 'acting president' in US history and when West Wing concluded I was the 'former acting president." The sensational speech he gave was auctioned off for a thousand dollars before he got up to speak, saying, "I'm not sure my speech is worth a thousand dollars." At the end to standing ovation and house warming applause there was no doubt it was worth much much more. Martin Sheen has made his living as an actor but his love today is social activism. He spoke eloquently of the poor and oppressed and celebrated the best of what civilization has to offer.

Randene Neill of Global TV was the truly delightful MC. Brenda Plant, Executive Director of Turning Point, brought a human face to the caring work of this non profit society that has served the community for 27 years providing supportive abstinence based residential environments for people recovering from the disease of addiction.

The Minister of Health, Kevin Falcon, spoke to the government's commitment to mental health and addiction, announcing the recent $200 million dollar project for 1000 new supportive affordable housing units for the city.

Forgetting to pick up my suitcase from storage and needing to catch a plane at 7 am tomorrow for Winnipeg, I was rather thankful that my modest bid won the BMW luggage that night. Laura, who won a door prize of wholly unnecessary beauty creams, said, "It's my favourite event of the year. I simply love the Turning Point Gala."

I suggested I'd not taken her to mud wrestling, monster trucks or world wrestling events so she might be making that decision based on limited comparison. She assured me she was not. Seriously.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gilbert, the Harley Hound of Heaven

It's been said that dogs mirror God. That's the free will hypothesis of religion. God let the human go and has been hanging on for dear life since. In this sense all suffering and all praise rests with the human not with God since God is just along for the ride.

Gilbert is God like in this sense. In our first encounter I took him from his mother and lifted him with human hands. The breeder, Deborah Mitchell, d'Tressor Kennels, Whidbey Island, had obviously introduced him to this and he licked my chin as puppies will. Gilbert is such as suck that he even rolls over belly up and exposes his genitals to the very best looking women. My dog.

He was anxious however when I introduced him to Truck. My Ford Ranger 4x4 was his first experience with driving and on the return from Whidbey Island he very quickly informed me that he wanted nothing to do with his his cage and preferred my crotch if we were going to have to go anywhere with Truck. As a smart dog he moved quickly to where he thought the greatest protection would be provided. Manly puppy.

A while back I introduced him to my Harley carrying him like a baby in first an Outward Hound chest carrier and next an over the shoulder Outward Hound sling. He wore Doggles eye protection. Initially a whimper or two was met with special bison treats and this was thought to be a product of the chill from the wind so I bought him a brown fleece called "cloak and dawggie".

I'd bought a T Bags carrier from Trev Deeley Harley Motorcycle even before I got Gilbert. I wasn't sure of the size as indicated by leather studded Harley leash I bought at the same time that Deborah said would probably hold a Bull Mastiff. The trouble with the TBag for Gilbert is that he kept dragging his whole tiny body through the hole that only the head is supposed to come out of.

I had to impatiently wait, plying him with treats and puppy chow in hope he'd soon bulk up to be a harley puppy and ride behind me in his own TBag seat. As cute as it was to have him carried in a baby sling it really did nothing for my mean biker look.

Gilbert having done Truck, and Harley did Canoe and Sailboat in the last couple of weeks and probably out of sheer terror has had a 'growth spurt' so yesterday was ready for the next stage in Harley Puppy traing.

He's becoming rather dubious about my suggestions though. Indeed in our discussion of him enterring the black box T bag he gave me a look that God probably gave his son Jesus when Christ said he was going to go ahead with the Cross. Big mournful eyes. Could you take this cup from me please.

I have two harnesses which go on him and the TBag has hooks that come from either end inside to hook to the harness. This was good because Gilbert was all for squeazing out of the head hole again and I couldn't very well nail his paws to the canvas bag.

Once I gave him those bison treats and lashed him down behind the harley 'sissy' bar with his Doggles on he had a change of attitude and almost looked like a confident older dog gung ho for a 'ride'. I could just hear him saying, "Forgive him for he knows not what he does."

And sure enough he was the perfect pooch riding to work with me through the Vancouver morning rush hour traffic. Not a peep. On the way back from work at night though in the rain he whimpered and was quickly rewarded with bison treats. He obviously needs a leather biker jacket.

I've found several Harley leather jackets for dogs on the internet and when he finally stops growing I'll definitely get him fully geared up. has doggy biker helmuts, not yet DOT approved, but so far I've found no leather chaps for biker cockapoos.
For now however, Gilbert is definitely Francis Thompson's Hound of Heaven coming after me on his Harley.

Whiplash Associated Disorders

"Whiplash" is defined as an acceleration-deceleration mechanism of energy transfer to the neck that results from rear-end or or side impact motor vehicle collisions. It can also derive from diving accidents or other similarly occurring impacts that result in bony or soft tissue injuries. These injuries can in turn lead to a variety of clinical manifestations. The collection of clinical manifestations has been called "Whiplash Associated Disorders" or WAD.

The Quebec Task Force WAD classification according to clinical presentation is as follows:

Grade Clinical Presentation

0 No neck complaints and no physical sign(s)

I Neck pain, stiffness or tenderness and no physical sign(s)

II Neck complaint and musculoskeletal sign(s)

III Neck complaint and neurologic sign (s)

IV Neck complaint and fracture or dislocation

The Gargan and Bannister classification of symptom severity is as follows:

Group Symptons

A Asymptomatic

B Mild Symptons not affecting work or leisure activities

C Intrussive symptons interfering with work or leisure. Frequent use of analgesics, orthosis, or physiotherapy.

D Severe problems: lost job, continual reliance on analgesics, orthosis. Repeated medical consultations.

The epidemiology of Whiplash Associated Disorders varies from country to country. The incidence has been reported as highest, 188/100,000 in the Netherlands to lowest, 39/100,000 in Australia.

Early ideal treatment involves the general rules of assessment for major trauma at the initial site and time of the accident. These involve preservation of life and prevention of further damage to the spine and cord and preservation of spinal function. This has been laid out in the US National Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study. The key is to assume spinal instability until proven otherwise.

In the Emergency Department Acute Traumatic Central Cord Syndrome (ATCCS) must be excluded. This is a complex spinal cord syndrome which presents with incomplete neurological deficits such as the ability to walk but not move hands, and sensory changes such as burning hands or urinary retention. MRI generally shows white matter involvement but no hemorrhage. The prognosis is generally good.

Fractures are ruled out by xrays.However if the xrays are normal but the patients persists in having severe pain special x ray views are indicated. If persisting severe pain without any abnormality being found then a hard collar is applied and an MRI is done within24-48 hours showing flexion/extension views to rule out ligamentous injury.These xrays and imaging are all however open to a variety of pitfalls requiring expert interpretation.

Once major injuries are ruled out the normal approach to WAD (Whiplash Associated Disorder) is reassurance and education, no soft collar, Non steroidal anti inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or naproxens, and early mobilization. Rest and cervical collars can have a detrimental effect on the outcome.

This said nearly 75% of injured patients report immediate symptons such as cervical pain, painful neck movement, painful back, shoulder pain, disturbance of consciousness and dizziness. Examination may show paresthesias, ie unusual sensations, and weakness. Later patients may have visual disturbance, problems with concentration, fatigue, sleep impairment, as well as irritability and anxiety and depression. Interestingly studies show that the anxiety and depression are most directly related to the presence of symptons such as pain and disability. Anxiety and depression do not appear in contrast in those who are early asymptomatic.

While it is important to remember that approximately 10 to 30 % of the general population who have not had an injury report chronic neck symptons, studies show that 15 to 40 % of the WAD patients have chronic neck pain with 10% reporting this as severe. Studies have showed that there can be little alteration of in symptons by three months and stabilizing at 2 years. Authors in prospective study showed little alteration in sympton severity for the majority of patients (64%) between 3 months and 7.5 years . Between 3 months and 2 years the symptons fluctuated significantly and prognosis based on this were unreliable. Therapeutically the greatest benefit for influencing outcome was in those first three months. One interesting study showed that high dose methylprednisone resulted in earliest return to work.

There have been many issues raised relative to the prognosis or eventual outcome of the injury. This has been difficult because there is no clear definition of what is recovery. At best crude measures of symptons or disability have been used along with such matters as 'return to work', 'discontinuation of treatment', or 'conclusion of litigation' .

That said, a systematic review of prospective cohort studies done in Pain 2003 concluded that "strong evidence was found for high initial pain intensity, and strong evidence for no prognostic value for older age, female gender, high acute psychological response, angular deformity of the neck, rear-end collision and compensation". Limitted evidence was found for some physical, psychosocial, neuropsychological, crash related and treatment related factors in terms of prognosis.


Initial assessment of whiplash patients, Dr. R Gunzburg, M. Szpalski, J. Van Goethem,Pain Res Manage Vol 8 No 1 Spring 2003

Fluctuation in recovery following whiplash injury, 7.5 year prospective review, P.J. Tomlinson, M.F. Gargan, G.C. Bannister, Injury, Int. J. Care Injured (2005) 36, 758-761

Sensory hypersensitivity occurs soon after whiplash injury and is associated with poor recovery, Michele Sterling, Gwendolen Jull, Bill Vicenzino, Justin Kenardy, Pain 104 (2003) 5009-517

Prognostic factors of whiplash-associated disorders: a systematic review of prospective cohort studies, Gwendolijne G.M. Scholten-Peeters, Arianne P. Verhagen, Geertruida E. Bekkering, Danielle A.W.M. van der Windt, Les Barnsley, Rob A.B. Oostendorp, Erik J.M. Hendriks, Pain (104 (2003)303-322

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring sailing Strait of Georgia with Gilbert

Yesterday, we left Coal Harbour catching the turn at First Narrows under the Lions Gate Bridge. Westerly wind of 10 knots on the nose, we didn't bother raising sail but motored the 2 hours round to the Deep Bay anchorage beside Snug Cove on Bowen Island.

It was just dark as we anchored. Lots of boats this long weekend and lots of new anchor buoys to confuse things adding to the clutter of crab traps. Three tries and as usual I was very thankful for the electric winch.

That was one of the first additions I made to the GIRI nearly 20 years ago when I first purchased the boat. Another place and another time I'd had to set the anchor in 80 feet with all that chain to haul and winch in a couple of times before I decided on motoring to a wholly different shallow anchorage. I was so exhausted and irritable that on reaching land I ordered this Lofranz Italian 1000 watt wonder machine which has served me so well all these years.

Gilbert spends the night in his little canvas dog house. It keeps him from pooping in the night on the boat. Nothing would lose a Captain's good will faster than stepping in wet poop in the middle of the night while running above to check some unusual sound. It works better for me but Gilbert is beginning to like his little house, actually going to lie in it during the day. I think he knows it saves him from walking the gang plank or being flogged for bowel infractions. He tires around 10 pm and after a whirlwind of puppy activity he crashes.

At 6 am he wakes. For a few moments he yawns and plays with toys then he yelps. This is my cue to donn sweats, release him from his bed, and carry him on deck. Gilbert, the great naval dog, has already learned to poop on deck, up by the anchor. There's more sniffing and turning than ashore in this new environment but eventually he settles into the task. So having peed and pooped I can take him below.

Angel the cat has followed and now wants her wet food. She's picky. It has to be Fancy Feast. Gilbert stares at her while she eats. She looks down on him enjoying her food that much more. I go back to bed. Oddly Gilbert seems to think this is play time.

Given that I couldn't get any more sleep, I weighed anchor and headed to sea. It was a beautiful sunny day with 10 to 15 knot winds from the north west. When I rounded Bowen Island I turned into the wind and raised the sails. The sleepy eyed blond was on deck too.

The Wagner Autopilot doesn't like the main sail to be all the way up but is happy with the self furling foresail being all the way out. I always think that other sailors must wonder at me having a reefed main in ideal weather. I really don't like hand steering. It interferes with having coffee, reading and stroking a cat on the lap.

Laura entertained Gilbert or held the cat the cat when I was forced to steer. We crossed the Strait doing 5.5 knots with 2000 rpm engine for charging the batteries being drawn on by the autopilot.

When we'd been about to leave on Friday, Graham and Umberto having kindly put up the netting Eric had brought us from Pocomarine, this all being necessary for the puppy's first sea voyage, the Yanmar engine failed to start. I checked for shorts then at a loss phoned James Giesbrecht to discuss the universe, electricity and best made plans of mice and men.

"I wouldn't recommend it, and certainly I'd say in court I never did recommend it or would ever do it myself, but rumor has it that sometimes with a lot of sparking and potential explosion of boats a captain has been able to hold a spanner across the solenoid and starter engine. Now if you live and there's anything left of you to complain remember I didn't ever tell you about this."

"It's alright," I said. "Tom did that on our way back from Hawaii when we'd not used the engine for a day or two and it started without Tom being blasted into nanopieces."

There were a lot of sparks. A whole lot of sparks. A veritable closed space Celebration of Fire fireworks display. When I'd stood on deck pressing the starter and Tom was where I was now, he expressed some amaze but being an engineer and lacking poetry had not fully apprised me of the sheer wonder of being next to the Big Bang moment. I was glad it was diesel in the bilge and not gasoline and thankful my shirt didn't catch flame. Yes, Laura was on deck, with Gilbert and Angel. As she pressed the starter I jumped the engine, loving that rumble of first life as the Yanmar became sentient all over again.

Now I was glad the engine had started in the morning and wasn't taking any chances on the batteries not having a lot of juice. I needed to replace or rebuild the starter and solenoid since Jim thinks needing to jump it's means it's old and worn. Since I'm old and worn too maybe I could use with a spanner.

Muddling navigation brought me to Porlier Pass right at the 'turn'. This is thoroughly astonishing to me. When I began sailing I plotted everything out and calculated distances and ETA's. For years I was wholly obsessive about this. Today I get up because the dog wakes me, leave because he won't stop playing, muddle with coffee and sails and aim roughly at the islands across the strait and repeatedly end up where I'm supposed to be on time. I wish I'd known it was this easy so I'd not have been so regimentally obsessive that first decade.

Porlier pass was quiet with no rapids to speak up but the under surface whirlpools pulled at the steering nonetheless. Then it was Trinicomalli Channel. Laura was happy with this. She'd felt sea sick on this crossing. It turned out she was dehydrated and felt right as new when I plied her with Santa Cruz organic gingerale, God's gift to sailors.

Gilbert had upchucked once when a big boat passed fast and close causing us to lurch back and forth. This didn't bother him much at all. He was more upset that we wouldn't let him eat his vomit.

In the protected Trinicomali Channel it was hard staying awake to keep watch on all the other sailboats enjoying this favoured pleasant sailing stretch.

Blue Water Cruising Association was having it's spring rendezvous in Bedwell Harbor on South Pender Island. We'd been planning on joining this being members and enjoying the meeting of boats with the beach fesitivities.

Yet here was Ganges Harbour and Bedwell would be another 2 hours cruising. We opted for Ganges. Maybe we'd continue on. I thought I needed more fuel too. Nearly bashing a big white cruiser, the owner and his gorgeous mate, were generously pleasant as I pushed my floating boat away from them with my fending pole to tie up at the Ganges Marina Fuel Dock. As it turned out I only needed 10 gallons and much to my discontent and surprise the Ganges Marina Fuel Dock no longer allowed us to fill up the water tank which was down as I later found out only 10 gallons as well. Not only that the marina was full up.

Salt Spring Marina attached to the best restaurant Moby's was also full but the delightful folk there were hopeful they'd have a slip the next day. I was content to anchor and then the tiredness set in. I had the dinghy overboard and the motor on but then when everything was ready I had a shower and rather than going ashore lay down to nap.

Laura was happy to read and later made a magnificent steak meal which we ate watching the ridiculous Land of the Lost video starring Will Ferrell.

Gilbert was already asleep at 10 when I crawled into the V berth so Angel the cat could use me as her bed.

This morning Gilbert yelped. I took him on deck. He peed and pooped. Another exciting sailing day began.

I don't have any more time or room to write now but I will tell you later about the blood letting battle with the pirates, the mermaids coming out of the sea, the sea monsters and the alien space ship inhabited with lizards wanting to eat human flesh.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Camp and Canoe

Loon call echoes across the lake. Crackling campfires sound from the fire I've just started. The water has boiled and my coffee is brewing.

"No. No. No Gilbert. Don't bite." The sweet voice tumbles from inside the tent. I've left the flap open so Gilbert the cockapoo puppy has returned to 'play' with Laura. I rescue her and distracted Gilbert returns to digging through to China. At his age I thought the same and see that modern geological fare cannot compete with the world according to child or puppy mind. There are treats through the core of the earth and out the other side. Perhaps the geologists are just big kids and puppies after all.

There are 2 fishermen fly fishing from boats on the water. Some trout are jumping. They jumped yesterday when I paddled over them in my new Clipper McKenzie Kevlar canoe from Western Canoe and Kayak in Abbotsford It's a beauty. I suspect the trout were so in awe of this wonderful new craft in their midst that they gave up eating while I moved among them. Gilbert slept on the floor in his yellow too big puppy lifejacket.

Horses walked back and forth along the beach. The owners bringing them down to drink. They are corralled with the camps on the hill. Each day riders go out reminiscent of another era. A rifle in the scabbard of the guide. A couple of yellow Yamaha offroad motorcycles left from here in the afternoon returning late even. I saw them rocketing along the logging road and over the green hills beyond the lake. Bumblebees in motion.

Yesterday I cooked Laura and myself bacon and eggs on the Coleman stove. It reminded me of my Dad up early mornings camping, cooking for Mom and us kids. Last night we had smokies roasted on the grill over the fire. Everything tastes better camping.

Gilbert has begun earning his keep by cleaning the pots and pans.

After trout fishing in the morning I took the Ford Ranger 4x4 and headed 40 km north to a fine forestry road through this ponderosa territory. After a while driving with Gilbert and myself we stopped and shot some bottles with the Ruger bolt action 30:06. I hit all but one with the first shots. I'm better with a scope than the open sites on the Mossberg 30:30 lever action. Scopes just don't go well on the 30:30 though. More of a rapid fire bush gun anyway.

Gilbert and I hiked the hills with the 30:06 certain that if I saw a big black bear I'd bring it down. Gilbert was running circles about me. I was really just enjoying the hot sun and the beautiful northern countryside.

Now other fishermen are rising in the camp next to ours. Gilbert is chewing on sticks. I'm going to throw another log on the fire and have another cup of coffee. I have to think about going fishing a little more. Right now I'm enjoying the sitting in the morning quiet by the lake.

Up Merritt way, British Columbia

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Daniel Kalla

Dr. Daniel Kalla is a doctors doctor. Third generation in a remarkable medical and surgical family ,he himself has been a highly respected emergency medicine doctor for over a decade at the highly controversial St. Paul's Hospital. St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver's Inner City, serves a multicultural community with a diversity of patients from the celebrated, richest and most educated to the saddest and most severely addicted of street people. Dr. Khalla has seen it all from trauma, to the most frighteningly deadly infections and the severest of mental illness.

In addition to being an inspired physician he's a truly brilliant writer. His first novel, Pandemic, gained him instant literary acclaim as a best seller. Pandemic and his later novel Resistance have both been optioned for movies. They are chalk filled with suspense and intrigue.Rage Therapy , a nail biting read-all-night- by-flashlight book is simply the best of psychological drama. Then there's his fast paced Blood Lies, the perfect medical thriller in the classic Michael Creighton tradition. Cold Plague is a horribly believable twisting futuristic environmental thriller that reads like William Gibson and Dan Brown. Now Daniel Kalla's latest book , Of Flesh and Blood has arrived. It is the only Khalla I have not read. It will be this weekends fare as I've learned already that picking up a Khalla novel can mean I don't sleep until it's finished.

As a physician and psychiatrist I'm thankful to Dr. Khalla for his truly insider portrayal of the real life struggles that both doctors, patients, nurses and the community at large face in what are increasingly desperate medical times. His writing speaks the truth that comes from the trenches and transcends the board rooms. The depth of his messages and breadth of his concern is no doubt coupled to the love of his family. His 2 daughters will inherit this world we now live in and Dr. Khalla's amazing technical skills are doing all that can be done to telling truths we all need to hear before it's too late.

Fortunately Dr. Khalla is not only a doctor and author but now a much sought after speaker. We all suspect that St. Paul's Hospital encouraged Dr. Khalla to make public appearances after an unprecedented rise in emergencies followed every new Khalla book release Today those who wish to meet the author of Of Flesh and Blood no longer have to throw themselves in front of fast moving cars hoping he will be on duty in St. Paul's Emergency . They can hear him speak at the Canadian Author's Association meeting 7 pm May 12,2010 at Howe Street Allied Arts Centre.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Canadian Automobile Association

I've been a member of the Canadian Automobile Association for years. It's truly one of the very best investments I've ever made. The annual rate is less than one of the calls I've needed to make would have cost were I to have had to depend on a tow truck alone.

Tonight I had a flat tire. I've a Ford Ranger Truck. I've changed a lot of tires in my day but never on this truck. So I called the British Columbia CAA and car 17 came tonight to North Vancouver off Marine Drive by the Walmart where I'd pulled over to investigate the awful sound I'd initially thought was shifting luggage in the box. It was the end of a long drive into town from Pemberton. Naturally at night. Naturally the inflatable goop that I sometimes successfully inflate my flats with to get me to a garage simply leaked out on the road.

This incredibly pleasant and competent young man arrived in about 20 minutes and had the tire changed in minutes. First I'd not have known where the jack was. Secondly I'd not have known how to release the spare tire. Each of these were tricks or secrets which I suspect are somewhere in the 'manual'. I don't know where the manual is.

Only last year I called CAA and found out that for God knows what reason Ford has put a switch in the front under the passenger glove compartment box that shuts off the vehicles electronics if the truck hits a bump or this switch is bumped. Not something one wants in a 4x4 in the backwoods without knowing about it. Were it not for CAA this wet horrible Vancouver night in the middle of a move with a couple of friends helping me I'd have been quite literally lost.

Thanks to the CAA. These guys rock! Gilbert the dog, Laura and I got home tonight safely thanks again to the British Columbia CAA.

Happy Mother’s Day

My earliest memory of my mother is her holding me. There was safety and warmth and love. When the world was too much and I was too small I could come to her and be with her and talk to her. My brother was older and he and my father were often fixing cars and building things, big and dangerous things. So I would be with my mother. We'd hang out together.

She taught me to cook and garden and sew. I was a cub scout and she helped me get all those achievement badges. I remember her teaching me to pray too. Kneeling with me beside my bed. Showing me how to hold my hands. Teaching me my first prayer. Telling me Jesus loves me. She took me to church. Dad and my brother came along but church was her special place.

I remember when my aunt her sister came to Winnipeg from Toronto the two sisters would laugh and laugh. She'd poke fun at Dad and he'd blush. My grandmother lived with us when we were small. She was gnarled with arthritis and liked to sit in the sun. We'd take trips to the glassed in tropical garden in the winter when the snow lay all over the prairies in great blankets and the sky was clear and blue for miles. Mom loved to garden and in spring would be with her plants. Dad was fixing his machines and repairing the house but Mom was in the garden any time she could get.

She liked bird feeders too and fed the birds which came from all over to eat the grain. That brought the squirrels and the cats and dad and Ron, my brother, had to devise all manner of protective contraptions so the birds could be fed safely without the cats getting them or the squirrels stealing all the seed.

When I was little she took me to school. It was such a frightening place. I was glad my brother had been there before me and in time I could go alone. I made friends and Mom was friends of the mothers of my friends. I liked the birthday parties she held for me. She was the one who remembered all the occasions. Christmas wouldn't have happened without her.

Dad liked to fish and first we camped in tents with mom cooking breakfast on a campstove by the lake. As we grew the tents got bigger and more elaborate. She especially liked the big one with the screened in front where we could all sit at a table. We boys would be out fishing and swimming and chopping wood and she'd been at the table inside the netting reading or cooking. She'd always have errands for me to do so I learned never to tell her I was bored. From a very young age I learned that being down or bored meant I wasn't doing enough for others so she always had chores for us to do and things that needed cleaning. She'd suggest things too. Like sending me out bicycling to see if there were shrimp in the country ditches. When I told her I didn't know what to do on a Saturday she'd often tell me that my friends Garth and Kirkie probably wanted to play with me so I should go over and see if they didn't know what to do either.

We were all afraid together during the nuclear war crisis. She and dad would drink tea and listen to the radio. Later they'd watch tv. When we were older she gave my brother and me a little dash of tea with lots of milk and sugar. She had a sweet tooth and liked to make pies. Her rhubarb pie was the best.

When I was older she taught me to type. She liked that I told stories and wrote long letters to my aunt. When I wanted to join the YMCA she and dad paid for that. There wasn't a lot of money in our home. There certainly wasn't any waste. I wore some of my brothers hand me down clothes but so did my friend Kirk and we got their baseball gloves too. But we got a lot of our own stuff.

I remember she walked my brother and I at night to the Fort Garry Community Club and stood outside when it was 40 below zero. Often there was only the two hockey teams, the coaches and Boris Tyzek's father and my mother cheering. Boris Tyzek went on to be a Rhodes Scholar. Neither of us ended up as hockey players. I think our parents knew hockey for us kids was about a whole lot more. My brother still plays soccer with his kids and they're all grown men.

Dad took us hunting when we got older. Mom was part of the game and fish clubs where we'd all get together for shared feasts of wild game. She'd wait for me to finish target practicing at the rifle range. Those were good times. Like the church dinner's in the basement and the church picnics. We all especially loved the Harvest feast the small towns put on in the country. We'd drive out as a family and us kids would eat all we could of the fresh potatoes, hams and turkeys. It was a good time. The sunsetting in yellows and oranges outside while we were stuffing ourselves and hardly able to walk after all that wholesome food.

I remember the freezer with one year the moose, another the deer, and always a quarter of beef that Dad brought in from the country. Sometimes Mom and Dad would butcher the game right there on the kitchen table. Usually I'd have to pluck the ducks and when I complained Mom would help me finish.

Grandad had a ranch up north and sometimes he and my father's brothers would come to town. The little red brick house we lived in on North Drive in Fort Garry would suddenly be filled with all these big cowboys. My uncle even played country and western songs on guitar late at night. They all liked Hank Williams. My brother and I would go to bed and stay up late listening to the men talk. My mother was everyone's favourite. When we went up north and joined all the wives and the other children with grand ma and all the cows and horses and dogs and chickens Mom was treated like the lady she was.

The women were funny that way. When my Aunt Sally came from Toronto, in Winnipeg the women would all gush about her clothing and when my mother went to Swan River the same thing would happen with the Swan River women and my mothers Winnipeg clothing. Sometimes one of my nieces or cousins would come to stay with us and Mom would go shopping with them for new clothes and they'd all be so happy.

Personally I wasn't that particularly excited about clothes as a kid and hated getting new pyjamas on my birthday or for Christmas. I much preferred toys. Mom always seemed to know what I wanted and told Santa or the tooth fairy.

When I had the troubles at school with the teachers hitting me Mom went to the school and told them it wasn't right. Mom and Dad were already pretty stiff with discipline freely hitting us kids if we got into any trouble. I think she may have even liked it but didn't think other people should have the pleasure of punishing us kids if they weren't paying for our food and clothing. She'd say this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you but it never seemed like that.

I loved coming home from school and eating lunch with her. I especially loved her grilled cheese sandwiches.

Later in high school Dad and I got into a lot of arguments. He was in the RCAF during the war and didn't like my Beetles hair cut or my Bob Dylan records. He liked Gordon Lightfoot but a lot of the time Mom had to get between us. Ron was a better kid and we were fighting too. Mom got me my guitar and Dad tolerated it because his older cousin played guitar. He just didn't like the music of the day. His favourite song he'd sing to mom when we would go on a road trip to either the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean was "give me a home where the buffalo roam."

Mom loved dad. That was a no brainer. When I complained he wasn't home. She'd say. "Your father is working so that you can go to school and have skates and hockey sticks. Don't you ever criticize your father. He's a good man and I love him."

She loved her sons too. Ron and I knew that more than anything else.

Oh well, I remember Mom . I could go on but the tears make typing kind of sketchy.

Happy mother's day to all you moms.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stinking Thinking and Dry Drunk

There's a peculiar type of thinking that is called 'stinking thinking' in Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs. It's characterized by self pity, resentments and a weird whining sound.
Locally an AA men's group was started especially to address those who develop this malady. It's called the "Whine and Snivel Group". Teddy bears are situated on all the tables and when men share other men will begin to throw teddy bears at them if they notice that typical 'dry drunk' quality.
It's been characterized as having a psychotic lawyer in one's head which will make a case for one's own special misery and make a case against anyone who gets between them and their nursing their self pity.
In AA the characteristic of being a 'legend in one's mind' was recognised as evidence of close mindedness and isolation and not attending enough face to face AA meetings. When one goes to enough meetings, sometimes to break out of the insaneity of 'dry drunkeness' one needs to do meetings daily or more, or whatever it takes to recognise that others have problems too, that one isn't terminally unique and that no one, especially drunks, have a monopoly on suffering. Specifically drunks learn that they are more likely themselves to have been victimizers than victims and that they need to make amends routinely because they are by nature of their disease very angry people who carry resentments to people, institutions and especially to principles.
Further, the strange malady of alcoholics is that they rarely can see or hear themselves but must see and hear another alcoholic's emotional drama before they can identify, empathize and realize that they too are in that state again.
Stinking thinking can arise any time, no matter how long sober we are, and it's often thought of as a 'craving equivalent' because ultimately 'poor me, poor me, poor me" leads to "pour me another drink". This may reflect the organic scarring of chronic alcohol abuse/ and or drug abuse and one day perhaps a fMRI or PET series would allow us to image a person in the midst of this brain fart.
In the meantime I personally sometimes need a teddy bear to hit me in the head before I get off my ass and do something about my situation, like helping another alcoholic, getting a sponsee, doing another set of steps, speaking to a sponsor, getting a sponsor if one doesn't have one, re reading the Big Book , joining a related 12 step program such as Al Anon, Co Dependents Anonymous, or involving oneself in other spiritual and related exercises that help get oneself out of oneself.
There's a terminal uniqueness about the alcoholic that shows up as either 'one downmanship" or "one upmanship' with the idea of emotional sobriety being 'right sizedness" ie insignificantly significant or significantly insignificant. The Teddy Bear works for me.
Alternatively an 'attitude of gratitude' leads to 'emotional sobriety' because God's grace is all. Again the Teddy Bear works for me.

Hiking Pemberton

Laura and I stayed two idyllic nights at the Pemberton Valley Lodge. I had the idea that I'd wake at the break of dawn and head out black bear hunting. The bed was so comfortable that I slept in. Laura took Gilbert out for his constitutional.
When I finally got up it was only to do some heavy exercise about 5 length of the pool, not olympic size, but formidable first thing in the morning. I settled in for an executive work out in the hot tub whirl pool. After that I picked up a couple of Starbuck Lattes from the machine in the lobby and returned to the room.

Laura was basking in the hot sun on the deck. Blue sky and snow capped mountains with lots of evergreens beyond. Gilbert was throwing his toys off the balcony and thereby lost squeeky toy rooster. Squeaky toy squirrel rapidly replaced rooster but somehow it sounded different..

The Pemberton Valley Lodge is luxurious and it was just really hard to leave the room. Somewhere in the early afternoon I actually convinced Laura that we should visit the Spud Valley Sporting Goods store so I could buy some hiking boots.

With Laura and I both in Hi Tec hiking boots from Spud Valley we headed with Gilbert up to the mountains in my Ford Ranger 4x4 ing up an old logging road. I stopped for some target practice with the Norinco 223 and the Mossberg 30:30 until I was happy with my groupings. Gilbert slept between my feet while I enjoyed shooting then checking my shot with the Bushmill spotting scope. He;s only 9 weeks and well on his way to being a fine hunting dog.

After that we left the truck and began hiking up into the hills. It was a pristine day. Breathing the fresh mountain air was extreme. The sights were incredible. Gilbert's love of the outdoors and joy in prancing was infectious. We had a great day.

On the way down we saw a young black bear , maybe 3 years old. I suppose I could have shot it but instead I thought I'd rather wait for a bigger and older bear. It stared at me for a while and ran away up the hill. A ruffed grouse crossed the road shortly after and strutted like he knew that hunting season for grouse only opened in the fall. Coming up to Pemberton last night we'd seen a herd of deer and big black bear.

Now Laura has just cooked us a magnificent meal of prawn and scallops I caught with my wallet at the Fish Bus. The Pemberton Valley Supermarket provided all the rest of the meal. We're about to have Hagen Daz Ice Cream and watch a dvd in our room. Life doesn't get much better. Gilbert who must have run a hundred times more than we did with his little legs and frequent detours simply crashed when we got in the room. There's been squeaky toy silence for some time now.

Spud Valley Sporting Goods, Pemberton

Last year I bought some winter hiking boots at Spud Valley Sporting Goods. I brought them up this weekend as they'd proved the best thing for hunting and hiking in heavy terrain. Laura however bought a pair of Hi Tec Hiking Boots that Sheraton had recommended last week. She'd loved them when Gilbert, I and her were up in the backwoods. So back we went to visit with Brad and Sheraton. I told them how I wanted a lighter weight summer hiking boot and sure enough Sheraton had just what I needed.

"They're light weight, great for summer but waterproof and you could use them all year round. Vibram Soles too."said Sheraton. Brad and Sheraton aren't really salesmen. They just do all the stuff that they sell so know what is really good. That's what they stock. And they're country boys so know we all like a deal so their great stuff is always at a great price.

I put them on and wore them out. They're Hi Tec too. Laura and Gilbert and I spent the day hiking with Gilbert climbing in the back country they turned out to be about the best books for hiking I've found.

Brad's wife was at the store. She's petite and beautiful and certainly not catch and release. She's such a trophy that she's lucky Brad didn't mount her on the wall beside one of the fish he's caught.

Laura was glad to find a country cammo halter top. Gilbert liked meeting the boys again but really wanted to get on with the hiking. With his 4 paw drive traction he can't understand why we're so interested in the best footwear.

Psychosomatic Medicine

The head bone is connected to the toe bone. E=MC2, Energy and matter are related. Physicists describe matter as frozen energy. The spiritual world of unseen forces is connected to the physical world. Not so long ago what we know of today as electricity was the domain of cults and religion. Science is not solely about 'physical' phenomena. We can't see atoms. Spiritual-Soma may one day be the term that supplants 'psycho' in psychosomatic. There is a relationship between vapour, liquid and solid. The universe is in movement. Nothing is fixed. The permanent for lack of better word, has been called God, the impermanent, all else.

Cognitive therapy has demonstrated what hypnosis had already proven that our feelings and behavior are connected to our thoughts. Change the thoughts and the feelings follow. All the great religions and the ancients knew this. It's not rocket science. Just as it's not rocket science that caring for others makes one feel better. L'Arche Movement of Jean Vanier has proven the following but so did Florence Nightingale and Albert Schweitzer.

The difficulty with such change is that people 'resist change'. The adolescent sees the flaws in the world but cannot make their own bed. Same with adults. Jesus said 'take the timber out of your eye before you take the sliver our of your neighbour's eye'. So we feel depressed and anxious and have all manner of negative emotions but the fact is we, not anyone else, hold onto these.

Today surgeons have done variations on the old frowned on lobotomies but the fact remains that neurosurgery can make people happy. The latest in this somatic treatment is the brain pacemakers that work. ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, works too. Yet people usually refuse these therapies and prefer to take medications. Medications are a somatic therapy with equal psychological component. Psychiatric medication is a psychosomatic treatment. The pharmaceutical companies advertise excessively and put as much money into marketing and "hype" as they do into basic science. This marketing direct to the public is coupled with marketing to the prescribers. Medications given and recommended by physicians literally double the success rate of the psychiatric prescriptions.

30% is the golden key to research because it's the 'placebo effect" common denominator. Roughly 30% of illness 'spontaneously remits' so that when a therapy is developed the main question is whether it does better than 'placebo'. In research this is the 'sugar pill' in the blind and double blind studies. The 'halo effect' is the people who get better from illness while in a study taking a 'placebo' (they don't know) but believing they're part of new research and are going to get better.

I hypnotized people and did surgery on them. I hypnotized children and their warts disappeared. I later did hypnotherapy but found that while I could cause an illness to remit under hypnotherapy when I stopped the hypnosis the illness spontaneously returned because the person 'needed' it or wasn't yet 'ready to let go of it.'

Freud was the first to articulate this "resistance to change" and concluded that there were two forces at work, Eros, life wish, and 'thanatos' or death wish. Since studies of 'resistance to change' have come under the heading of "non-compliance' , 'non-adherrence to medical regimen' and most recently 'motivational therapy'.

I was forever changed as a clinician by watching a young man die who had not taken a life saving medication prescribed to him by three doctors and who lied to me about this as his family equally feared telling me the truth about his deteriorating condition. No matter what I did I could not save his life and in the end I was slumped in a hospital hallway crying in impotence and asking God 'why'. Later I talked with an older doctor and an older nurse and we grieved our personal limitations and the limitations of medicine.

I chose psychiatry over immunology while doing research on non compliance to medical regimen. "Why don't people do what is good for them." "Why do people suffer when they don't need to." "Why do people resist change". "Why do people like to complain but don't take action to change."

All these were the questions that psychiatry was addressing before it got dumbed down and the only psychiatrist promoted and rewarded were drug detail men and pseudoneurologists therafter. I've often considered I should have done immunology. Immunology studies the 'host' and 'disease' interface as once psychiatry did.

Addiction Psychiatry, however, was where I ended because it went beyond a 'stronger pill'. The play of personality, psychology, sociology, environment, community and choice as well as spirituality are core to Addiction Psychiatry. The back bone of successful treatment for addiction is the group therapy and community. Medication is adjunctive to this process. Individual psychotherapy and drug counseling is adjunctive to the therapeutic community process. Even the use of methadone replacement therapy is used as an aim to moving a person from their toxic community to a therapeutic community.

Emotions Anonymous is the 12 step organization that encourages the chronically depressed and chronically anxious to see their negative emotions as 'addictions'. This variation on cognitive therapy is not surprisingly hugely successful especially where other treatments have failed.

The old term "mental hygiene" is considered the basis of happiness. I know personally that listening to the news can produce in me depression, disillusionment and cynicism if I don't 'titrate' the dosage. Even an hour a day will produce in me a verbal diarrhea called 'tirades' and 'rants'. Yet if I limit my 'news' intake to small dosages of a reputable source I'm fine. My brain doesn't get 'gas'.

Likewise I see daily in my work that patients are addicted to computer activies, pornography, or television or just plain sloth and negative thinking, or in several cases, lying in bed all day and yet they are immensely angry at me and all others for not 'helping' them and 'blame' me and the 'government' and 'God' for their 'ill health' in the same way as 'alcoholics' blamed everyone for their misery. Yet alcohol is a chemical depressant and taken in a dosage of more than 2 to 3 drinks causes mental and physical illness, mood disorder and heart disease. More and more I have also seen that people who claim that they can't get jobs or haven't money are doing the classic 'yes-but' in that they have so many demands and entitlements and want often to be the big boss without ever working in the basement.

Just recently a friend told me that they wanted the government to pay them more for doing what they were doing but didn't think they should have to be accountable for their actions, ie they didn't want to go to work or demonstrate that what they were doing was beneficial to anyone but themselves. They actually said "people should just trust me." Clearly they wanted money for free but couldn't themselves see the grandiosity in this not uncommon desire. And I told them that when they figured out how to do this let me know as I'd be next in line.

Most days I'm thankful I've trained in psychiatry. It's a hard slog addressing the resistance and confronting the anger. Nothing makes a person hate a physician more than that that physician try to encourage them to do healthy activities. I've had dozens of complaints to the college because I told incredibly powerful angry people that their 'depression' was a product of the 26 ounce a day alcohol habit. There is no 'right' way to tell a person to stop drinking. Most people get ahead by not rocking the boat. Any time you tell a person to stop an addiction in any way you are likely to be loathed. Most physicians, and especially government and administration 'enable' and 'deny' and are indeed part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Thankfully, "motivation therapy' has provided a scale for 'readiness to change' and frankly encourages doctors to let the sickest remain sick given that they will only try to destroy the caregiver if the doctor does anything more than suggest considering change. However, this 'scale' is itself idealistic because working in many populations even 'suggesting' consideration of change can get a physician's head chewed off and complaints to the college and in fact death threats.

I have many 'hypersensitive' patients with tattoos who when I tell them that beating their wives is probably related to their poor sex life, which they think I should fix by telling the old lady to put out more, leads to them literally threatening me with their fists when I suggest the connection between the physical violence and verbal threats and poor sex life. I've become a very ginger and fast moving therapist and often make my best suggestions with a lot of running room.

Not only that I've discussed and trained in length in how to do it and know those who are 'holier than thou' in these regards haven't even stepped into the kitchen. The frontlines make people humble.

Canada's foremost forensic pscyhiatrist a brilliant experienced gentleman of the first order is alive today only because his secretary investigated an unusual noise and found his patient strangling him to death. Beaurocrats have all the answers though and tell everyone how to do their job from the safety and certainty of their desks. Some of them are so burnt out and so out of touch with reality that they're literally dead but no one has told them so for fear they'll poltergeist.

I've admired my colleagues who have ignored the wife battering, alcoholism and sexual abuse of children and all manner of things and said, "take this pill and everything will be better". Naturally I've thought these colleagues either psychotic or clever sociopaths but they've been promoted and now are teaching courses on 'boundaries' saying that psychiatrists shouldn't ask about sex or violence in the home but focus on the medication and limit questions to the side effects of the medication.

I practice psychopharmacology but I did take an oath to 'do no harm'. Ignoring work place bullying, discrimination, child hood abuse, and all manner of things and just giving a pill as if the problem of life is to be solved by a 'magic potion' makes the psychiatrist little better than the street drug pusher who claims that heroin is the answer to life. Psychiatrists are first physicians and just because 'cherry picking' and "putting on blinkers' is highly lucrative and rewarded by colleges and universities, doesn't make it right or even good medicine.

I watch my colleagues in a methadone clinic doing the most basic 'drug therapy' yet always encouraging sobriety, work, asking about relationships and literally doing daily 'unpaid' and much 'maligned' psychotherapy. They're really good and yet they're only paid for the 'prescription' but are 'faulted' if they don't do everything. Doctors today are punished for everything but only rewarded for the least. Psychiatric medications work but they work best if they're prescribed in context wisely and humanly by good physicians. The present pharmaceutical stats only reward the doctors with the most sales and don't really concern themselves with any other measures of well being.

Every time I've exposed the pedophiles , male and female, I've found that there were dozens of professionals who knew but turned a 'blind eye' to the problem. The whole political legal system today hangs on the evil of 'deniability'. Everyone knows of the drunken drivers which judges, who aren't held accountable, have in the past allowed to drive over and over again until they have a child show up on their car grill. Suddenly it's a 'surprise' and a terrible thing and eventually today after countless deaths we have the amazing advance called 'drug court'. I can only assume that there were judges like myself who grew weary of their colleagues and the system that supported lethal drivers.

The history of the tobacco industry with the cooperation of the Ministry of Health and Attorney General's office and all the doctors who at one time said things like 'smoking is good for your health" and 'smoking will make your delivery easier because smokers have smaller babies' should not be quickly forgotten because the same thing goes on today but only in a different arena. Just consider those promoting 'smoking' marijuania while firemen are en mass getting compensation as any smoke is unhealthy. There are no easy answers and I've found the political doctors who are rich and powerful have a habit of saying 'you have to crack a few eggs to make an omelette'.

The fact remains that doing the right thing will be resisted and persecuted because of systemic factors not disimiliar to the very issues at the 'microcosm" of "host and disease". A study of the waste and horror of the 'cold war' and later the 'war on drugs' will enlighten anyone to the insaneity that can rage like hysteria outside the limits of the cranium.

When I specialized in suicide as the most obvious 'resistance' and 'non compliance' issue in psychiatry, I had no 'suicides' on my hospital watch and reduced attempts by two thirds. This would result in medical awards and academic chairs in any other area of medicine. However I achieved this "therapeutic breakthrough" by denying cigarettes to suicidal patients telling them they could only slowly kill themselves if they convinced me they wanted to live in the immediate future. This resulted in suicidal patients desperate for a cigarette devoting their minds to writing reasons to live and telling me all the reasons for living and frankly convincing themselves that living with cigarettes beat dying without cigarettes. Naturally I was told I was cruel and inhumane and soundly abused for stopping these highly suicidal patients from killing themselves.

The highest offices of medicine, the appointees, have declared that only 'politically correct' medicine is allowed and sadly more and more people will die because these people are themselves not accountable. Such ideologues who live furthest from the front lines are usually recognizable by their pompousness.

I found that increasingly 'society' and especially the 'legal' system wasn't interested in 'outcome' but solely "rights' and "appearances" and "technicalities". Increasingly just as obstetricians could make the best money by doing abortions so today the highest paid and most promoted doctors are those now lobbying for euthanasia. The doctors who recommended marijuania when it was illegal were similiarly eulogized while doctors such as myself who encouraged people to stop marijuania as it caused lung disease, poor school performance as well as emotional disorders continue to be vilified.

Today I think the answers to these bigger questions are more often spiritual. I still chop wood and draw water but mostly we know the answers and have the solutions. We don't want to be responsible and we want license more than freedom. The research in psychosomatic medicine is still exciting. However so much of what I learned and was proven 25 years ago I've not been able to practice because it's 'politically incorrect'.

I watched the debate about 'food dispenser' in schools which were little better than 'cigarette dispensers' giving candy, salt and toxins when parents wanted these illness disposing devices banned or improved. There was no shortage of knowledge. Yet it took years for change. If ex President Bush had been involved as a school trustee he would have explained the reason as the forces of the Axis of Evil. I really would have loved to see him organze divisions of good elementary students armed with pea shooters and water guns to storm the lowest of school dispenser potato chip factories. The weapons of mass destruction aren't in Iraq but in the 'fast food' industry. Americans who didn't succomb to McCarthy's communist conspiracies have finally succumbed to obesity. Too late American generals find that they simply can't get the obese Americans to rally to the flag or answer the call of the nation because it takes too much effort to get off the couch.

Yet today I'm as equally delighted to see the salads in MacDonalds and love the new angus burgers. Just when I feel there's no cause for hope I look up and see that everywhere change is occurring and frankly it's amazing. Really. Psychiatry is still exciting. Especially Addiction Psychiatry and Psychomatic Medicine.

The sun is shining today. I'm at the Pemberton Valley Lodge enjoying the utter luxury of a place that sits on the edge of the most amazing wilderness. A lodge with swimming pool and hot tub and Starbuck latte was not to be found north of Whistler. When I came here 25 years ago the only accommodation was a hotel room above a rock and roll band and drunken barroom . I'm an hour and half from Vancouver.

I'm almost an old man (I am but people try to convince me I'm still young – the life expectance of doctors was less than my age when I began in country practice) and my generation didn't think we'd live past 30. Some of us actually thought people over 30 should be killed or at very least locked up to 'save the planet'.

I'm alive today and that is a miracle. It's time to put psychosomatic medicine into effect. So I'm off to exercise, enjoy good food, share good company and have a little recreation that makes work so enjoyable. I feel sorry for people without work because only with work does 'leisure' become 'leisure'. I'm thankful for work if only it makes the weekend so pleasurable. My puppy makes me really appreciate quiet. The person who invented 'squeaky toys' for dogs must have had a death wish.