Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dad - 4

When we were kids Dad always took us as a family on long road trips.  We'd camp along the way.  My brother Ron and I would sit in the back of the car with Mom up front beside Dad.  Ron and I would fight. It usually began I guess with me, the younger one, getting bored and poking him or he'd poke me and I'd escallate to punching and kicking. I remember being 5 or 6 years old then and Ron 9 or 10.  We'd be whacking at each other, my older brother shouting at  me to stop while he continued to punch,  Mom shouting stop  to both of us while  trying to get her arm between us from her position in the front of the car.  This would repeat every half hour or hour or so.  I'd probably whine "are we there yet" or some such cliche between the  back seat battles began again.
Western Manitoba and Saskatchewan's with their  endless flat  prairie fields would be pass by unperturbed. It would be summer time, July or August, with blue skies forever. Fluffly white clouds would look down from forever skies too.   We'd be lucky to see another car or truck for hours.  Gas stations were not as frequent as they are today. There was alot more space.
After an hour or so of us kids and shreiking  and Mom's UN peace keeping efforts Dad would sing.  Dad never sang.    He hardly even pretended to sing in church.. I think too this was the only song he knew all the words too. By the end of a road trip I'd learned all the words.   Dad was pretty straight up but in retrospect I think this could have satire.  Mom and he had a whole other level of communication us kids were never party too.  When he'd start singing this, us kids would get really quiet and as often as not Mom would laugh or start singing along.

"Home, Home on the Range
Where the Deer and the Antelope roam
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day......."

At the truck stops, we'd have lunch or dinner.  Ron never failed to have a burger and I never failed to have Fish and Chips. It was one of those family things.  All the guys would have truck stop pie. Dad loved his pie, especially, blue berry.  Then we'd all get back in the car and as likely as not I'd sleep for hours till it was time to find a camp ground and settle down for the night.

Dad - 3

I know Mom loved Dad. She loved him with all her heart.  They had arguments.  Sometimes they'd yell at each other. It wasn't very often.  Rarely indeed when you think of all the time they were in each others company.  I know too because I was at the center of many of their arguments. There'd be a frost in the house sometimes for a day but never more than a week that I can remember.  Possibly that was what church was for. Maybe then Mom and Dad would forgive each other. A new week would begin just as each day would begin anew.
I loved my Dad not like my older brother loved him. Ron loved Dad with his whole heart like Mom did.  With me Dad kind of grew on me.  I warmed up to him slowly.  He was the biggest and most important man in all my life but I didn't really like him near the end of my teens. We had a fight to end all fights and I walked out on him. Then he let me come home only because my mother and brother asked him.  And I went away again.  Forgetting him and regretting him only to one day need him again.  I phoned him then and he was there, as always.  That was the thing about my Dad, I always knew he would be there, that I could call on him and he'd come or welcome me. I was the prodigal son and he was the father.  It took me years to love my Dad like my Mom and brother did.  He grew on me that way.

I'd have serious inklings of what he meant to me by the way I behaved.  I heard his voice in mine at times. I had some of his gestures too. I even saw his face in mine. Mostly I lived by his principles. He taught me by example. I became in many ways the man he was, not as good by far, and not as successful in all the ways he was but in my own way something special.  I knew I was special to my Dad.  We had a love hate thing for a while there so very like the love hate he had for his own father and his brother.  He'd say I'd broken his trust when I was young but then when I was older he'd forgive me.
It was hard for him to forgive and it's the hardest thing for me too.  I didn't forgive him for years when I was young and then somehow one day I just let it go.  I realized then that I'd grown up. I remember too how he had talked harshly about his father when we were young. That was despite the good times they shared.  But then when his dad and my dad were older there was that dinner we all shared at the top of the hotel restaurant.  Grandad and dad were so close and loving that I could see a tear in my mothers eye as she watched them too.

My brother Ron visitted Dad's brothers and took pictures of them. There's a photograph of all the northern men, cowboys, loggers, businessmen, standing together.  It's something I cherish.  Family is important.  Yet when I was a teen ager I thought  I was all I needed.

Loving Dad has been a lifelong affair. It was the same with him and his Dad.  Mom loved unconditional from the start but I made the old man proove his love. I wasn't the kind of lover my family was.  They were generous with love whereas I only loved so much. Dad did the dance with me.  All the way.  Me saying that I love you, I don't.  I'd phone and he'd answer. I 'd visit and he'd be there. I thought alot it was on account of Mom but then one day he drove across Canada to be with me.  And then I got another inkling that I loved him.  Not only was he there when I went looking for him, he came and found me when he wanted to be with me. I realized when we were older he probably  wanted to be with me more but I was sometimes just too hard to be with.  My brother was more gracious that way though Mom told me they'd argued too.  Dad was the kind of man who you could argue with, slam the door on and come back to, and he'd be there, ready to take up where we left off, ready to see you through whatever.  My dad was reliable.

He also had a sense of humor. Boy did he have a sense of humor!  I can still see him tickling Mom in the morning, playing with the dog and laughing with us kids.
We were the only kids in Fort Garry who had a turkey in our garage too.

It was fall when Dad brought the big Tom home.  Years later I'd raise turkeys so it doesn't come as a surprise to me to figure where that idea came from.
"What are we going to do with a turkey?" my mother asked.  She had a way of inflecting her voice so a question could be an accusation or a challenge.  Mom put volumes into the tone of her voice but Dad was a fast reader.
"I know how you like turkey for Thanksgiving." he said. And Thanksgiving was a favourite time for Mom. One of the celebrations.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, these were the family times of the calendar. She never forgot birthdays or anniversaries but the Biblical times of the year had a special significance.  We always had a big turkey, mashed potatoes, yams and corn or pees.  Dad loved the mashed potatoes with gravy. As kids we loved the turkey.
But this was a real live big bird, a squawking big bird in the middle of suburbia.
"Thanksgiving's not for months."
"I know, I'm going to feed him and fatten him up."
"In the garage."
"Well I'm not cleaning up after him."
"The boys will do that. They can keep him. It will be good for them. Like 4H. "  That's the first we heard about this.
Mom figured the turkey would last a week but Dad was adament he was going to raise the bird till Thanksgiving. Ron and I fed the bird. Mom never went to garage after that.  She'd hardly gone to that garage before and certainly didn't go when there was a great big turkey in there.
Turkey's poop alot.  A lot.  A real lot. Soon the garage was covered with white poop. Turkeys shed too , feathers every where. They chuck their seeds about as well and squawk more than they gobble.  They do gobble but it's the louder salutations that make them indiscrete.
The squawking and shreiking bothered Dad some.  The law said you couldn't keep fowl or livestock in city limits. Mom would tell Dad that the authorities would catch on to his keeping a big bird in the garage especially if it kept squawking. There was simply no way to convince the bird that 'calling for help' was likely to back fire as the more noise the bird made the more Dad was faced with slaughtering it sooner.
Every day and every week the turkey was near and nearer to death's door. Now all this was going on in a quaint little suburb of Winnipeg with all the genteel sensibility city folk have about being somehow superior to their antecedents. When later I'd work as a country doctor I'd realize the utter hypocricy of the city and know what difficulties Dad laboured with often. The turkey and his desire that his family should live healthy in reality was a time of great exasperation for him but he muddled on against rising odds.
I grew to like the turkey and considered him a rather tragic figure.   Ron and I even began to talk to Dad about killing him.
"I didn't get him so we could have a pet," Dad said.  But that didn't change the matter that we boys weren't looking forward to eating this bird that was fast becoming part of the family. As children we were encountering the limits of 'emotional reasoning' and how veritably this can cause a collective psychosis called the 'city'. Eating only truly okay if it was done in a dissociative trance, as a 'mechanical robotic' activity.  Dad was encouraging us to have a 'relationship with what we ate'.  Mom with her gardening had cured us of 'attitude' when it came to lettuce or carrots but Dad was doing his best to raise our consciousness regarding life in general.   Later I'd meet kids who couldn't eat carrots out of the ground even because they didn't come in a package.  I remember these city kids I took camping looking at me aghast when I ate raspberries off the vine.  I can't imagine what they would have thought of the big Tom that Dad kept in the garage, fattening up for Thanksgiving.
I 'd bring my friends  over after school.  Not many, because Dad didn't want anyone talking about the turkey. That made it the 'big secret".  But I had to tell Kirk and Kirk and then Garth and they had to see the turkey. And Scott had to too and maybe Keith. Frankly I don't remember how many other kids saw the Turkey.  I guess maybe a dozen kids were in on the "secret" just because of me. Ron showed the turkey to some of his friends too.  For all I know Mom even got in on showing the turkey. I know Dad showed the turkey to a couple of men.  The bird's squawking tended to make the neighbours curious.  Surprisingly, but reflective of the "community" of those days, no one called the 'authorities'.  People were respectful and neighbourly but the bigger the turkey, the louder it's squawks and the longer it was held captive in that garage the more eyebrows were raised.  Dad and Mom were talking more and more about the turkey the closer Thanksgiving came.
The garage was dark. When the door was opened the turkey sometimes tried to flee past to the outdoors and light.  It's not surprising without other turkeys about all it had to think about was plotting it's escape.   This caused me to have a turkey bash me in the chest more than once. The turkey was about three quarters of my size and the claws were fierce.  I almost lost the turkey outside one of the times I showed it to Kirk.  I took both of us kids all we had to keep the turkey from getting out in the yard.
In the garage it mostly just perched on the boat looking at us but sometimes it would get up in the rafters.  It was not a happy turkey by any means.  Since then having raised turkeys I can say they're not a particularly happy lot in general as birds go, dumber than most in fact, but this turkey as my memory goes was a particularly unhappy turkey.
I don't know how Dad killed it.  Maybe Ron was there.  I think it happened in the garage because there was an awful mess to clean up.  I can't remember if I was part of the plucking too. I did the plucking on the ducks we shot but this was different. I was attached to the turkey.  Dad was upset with me for all my sentimentality too.
Mom wasn't happy cooking that bird either. Thanksgiving that year was a very solemn affair.   Here was this big bird and all of us hungry but only Dad happy with eating his bird. He'd grown up on a farm and eating the family and neighbours was just what farming was all about.  City kids were aliens raised on cellophane and secrets they did to things in supermarkets and restaurants.  So my brother Ron and I just picked at the bird. Mom was fine with the bird, always having a healthy appetite and appreciating healthy food but unhappy now with us and blaming Dad for messing with her Thanksgiving.
Somehow we ate the turkey eventually. The cranberry sauce helped. Dad insisted. Mom was grim too.  The potatoes and gravy never tasted better. I was glad though I didn't throw up.
The next day when the turkey had been sanctified by refrigeration we had it in sandwiches.  Then it tasted so good. Mom was happy we were happy. Dad was redeemed.
"So you like the turkey, eh?" he said, more than once. We agreed at last.  Later I'd remember that was the best turkey I've ever tasted in my life. And today I can still savour the memory.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Psychosis is the state of being out of touch with reality.  Reality is an aggreement a society shares about the world we live in physically and socially.  For example, gravity is a concept of reality.  It is not uncommon for psychotic individuals to believe that the laws of gravity and other 'scientific realities' do not apply to them.  Hence a person may believe they can fly and jump off a building to their death.  This is an extreme form of psychosis.
At lesser levels of psychosis a person may believe that they are above the laws of society.  Such an individual may say the 'police can not arrest me' for any number of legal infringements such as having sex with children or assaulting women or threatening prime ministers.  These individuals truly believe they are 'immune' to such legislation and act with persistent astonishment throughout the police arrest and even during trials, often only coming to a real sense of reality when they are locked up for sometime in prison.  This individual may however may appear 'normal' in all other aspects of their life, whereas a more severe psychotic individual would have a lesser grasp on aspects of day to day living and be noted as odd often even by strangers.
When I was a member of the organization "Psychiatrists Against Political Abuse of Psychiatry" our principal concern at the time was totalitaran regimes like Russia then and China now which would accuse anyone who disagreed politically with being psychotic. Then they would lock  these indivduals, often world reknown scientists, up in asylums denying them all manner of human rights by claiming they were 'sick' and 'mentally ill'. While these kind of abuses occurred regularly internationally with psychiatrists voluntarily or sometimes involuntarily being part of the abuses I only witnessed such abuse extremely rarely in Canada.
When I was a member of the "Canadian Civil Rights Association" I was more often concerned about abuses against mentally ill patients.  Being psychotic can put an individual at extreme risk for abuse and exploitation by individuals and institutions  In these cases the rights of individuals who were ill were more likely being removed whereas it was rare for individuals to be called psychotic and treated as such by courts or state. The reason for the latter is the independence of psychiatrists generally in Canada and the legal system which requires psychiatrists often two, one for the state and one for the plaintiff when there is such a problem, to independently exam the individual.  Judges in Canada, generally being a rather reasonable and independent sort, usually make very good decisions in this regard based on the sometimes opposing presentations. Having declared probably a hundred or more individuals psychotic over the years I am pleased to say that none of my colleagues or the community at large disagreed with my diagnosis.  Individuals who felt they were superman, Jesus Christ, or had the right to having sex with their neighbours animals did take offense to my diagnosis but rarely did even family, friends or spouses. Indeed more often than not and especially in extreme cases the diagnosis of 'psychosis' is 'merciful' and helps protect an individual from themselves or others.  That said I do appreciated the patient advocacy groups such as the Canadian Mental Health Association which works as a watchdog over this process.
Psychosis can be brief or extended in time.  Brief Psychotic Episode is commonly in the range of hours or days.  Schizophreniform psychosis requires months for a diagnosis.  A typical manic psychosis untreated wiill last months.  Historically the diagnosis of schizophrenia required a year or four seasons of psychosis.  Typically these days in paranoid schizophrenia an individual will believe that their neighbours are spying on them, that car horns are being honked specifically and personally to bother them, that others can read their minds or that they can read the minds of others, that they have a special message from God or aliens to do something that in general that is not supported even by their mosque, temple or church or by the community they want to act out in.
One of the earliest and most unnerving features of psychosis interpersonally is when the other person accuses you of what they are in fact doing. Just last week I said in nearly a whisper to a manic psychotic patient, "please lower your voice, you're shouting' and their response countless decibels of volume above mine was ""I'm not shouting, you're shouting'.
This type of 'psychosis' is common when a person is emotionally challenged and their emotional range is peaked, either in anger or fear . so that they lose touch with where they leave off  and another begins.  At the extreme a schizophrenic patient whose room I entered was in utter terror and asked me to leave as I was 'stepping on his brain'.  Each of us carries a sense of self that is 'limitted' but a psychotic person might experience their sense of 'self' as 'expanded' and filling the room or encompassing others around them. This has been speculated as a regression to the infantile sense where a child doesn't separate their mother from themselves. In such a situation, and this is just one hypothesis for the well recogised phenomena of 'loss of boundaries,'  the individual who  "merges' so to speak can't separate their actions from those of others.  Hence the inability of the individual to recognise they were shouting, not I.
Locus of control refers to this the early aspects of psychosis in which the person feels that they are a 'victim' and deny that they are 'victimizing'.  They will say that they were 'made to do something' , they were 'forced to do something" as if they have no 'agency' in actions.  Later the same patient said "You're making me shout'" when we agreed they were shouting as I persisted in whispering. This locus of control and agency issue is readily apparent to trained observers and one can watch a person claim they have  no 'control' over any number of actions that community would say a person has control of. Hence the psychotic gunman would say he was not the agent of the killing of the children but rather that 'decadent west' made me kill them.
This is psychosis. It's important to note to that psychosis is common in drug abuse. It's extremely common in hallucinogens, routinely seen with cannibis consumption and extremely common with cocaine. The psychosis seen with these brain altering substances can persists months sometimes a year after a person has stopped using the brain altering substance.  It is more common to see the psychosis in such instances which is really close to the surface by watching the person when they are mildly frustrated, when they are unable to get something they feel 'entitled too'.
Just last month in my drug addiction practice I witnessed two relatively normal patients become acutely psychotic when I refused to write letters saying they were healthy and well and that I would approve of them and speak up for them having special priviledges that might put them in a position of risk to others.  In an instant they became threatening and verbally abusive and said that I was a 'devil', 'ruining their life' 'the cause of all the ill in the world' etc. It was certainly over the top, giveing me for more power, than I had and what I was suggesting was that we review their case in a week before I gave them a letter on their behalf. Given their psychotic reaction I was clearly 'right' in feeling they were not nearly as 'stable' as they insisted.  Indeed one person said they would 'hunt me down".  I think that individual wanted a bus pass so the reaction by all means seemed a tad extreme for what most people would consider 'normal' or based in 'reality'.  Not having a bus pass for a week is not reason to call a doctor the 'spawn of satan' yet that's perfectly reasonable in the reality of the psychotic individual where there is little measure outside the emotion and why this particular individual's psychosis would be further explained as 'emotioal reasoning'.  When this person is not 'frustrated' they are relatively reasonable but when they are in 'withdrawal' from cocaine everything in their world needs to have happened yesterday to be fast enough for them.
Much more can be said about psychosis. It's a 'state' that has many causes and can occur in many situations. It is seen in depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, thought disorders, personality disorders and post traumatic stress disorders.  There are treatments. The acute and more serious forms respond well to medications but psychological approaches can work in combination with social approaches over a much longer time frame.  Some chronic psychosis do not respond well to treatment but increasingly specialized units are being developed to deal with  these conditions where people are usually as a result of their psychosis a physical risk to themselves or others.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dad - 2

Mom had the most beautiful auburn hair that cascaded to her shoulders.  She is standing beside dad in the photo taken on their wedding day.  It's a black and white picture with the Dad and his best man in their air force blues, and Mom and her bridesmaid in suits. I'm sure there's a picture somewhere of her in a wedding dress but it's that one of the young women and young men smiling in black and white that comes to mind..  The blue of Dad's uniform and the red of Mom's hair is  not captured in the black and white picture that despite that was so colourful with promise of future.
Mom and Dad met at a serviceman's dance in Toronto.  Mom was Baptist, with two sisters, Sarah and Hannah.  She was closest to Sarah aka  Sally. Aunt Sally would be very much an integral part of our family's life as the years rolled on.  Sarah was working as the executive assistant to the Canadian Ambassador in Washington DC while Mom was a secretary in Toronto.
There's a joke that goes, "Why don't Baptists make love standing up?  Because they're afraid it might lead to dancing."  Despite or because of the taboo,  Mom and Dad fell in love on the dance floor and never stopped dancing or going to church.  Even in their 80's they would cut a fine figure on the dance floor, waltzing and fox trotting to the big band and country music of their era.
My Aunt Sally told me later that Dad and Mom were head over heals in love from the moment they met.  Dad was a fine country gentleman and Mom,  a true city lady.  When they married, they moved in with Mom's parents, to save money for a house.
Years later Dad would tell me, "Those were tough times, son.  All the men were mustering out of the forces and there just weren't enough jobs.  The men who hadn't gone into the service had the plum jobs and those of us who came out after the war had to take whatever we could find. Alot of good men were out of work and not too happy with the government either."
Dad did whatever he could for work until he got his position with Morris Crane Company. Somewhere along the line he'd got his  millwright papers,  along with some other 'tickets', always studying, and always excelling.   He'd complete his Engineering Diploma he'd started in the Air Force at night school in the early fifties.   My brother Ron, 4 years older than me came along not that long after the marriage.  I believe he was born when they were still living with mom's folks.  By the time they had me they had their own house,  though they kept a boarder upstairs to help pay for it.  Hannah married a dentist and had my cousin Ruth Anne.   Aunt Sally married a painter but never had children. The painter turned out to be a drunk and Aunt Sally separating to the horror of the church and community.  With the church and their friends, the girls had, their parents and the children, Dad had steady work  and fishing buddieshe liked.  Those early years were golden years to them both.
Dad spoke with pride of his work with the big cranes in those years.  Once when we were at Niagara Falls when he was in his 70's he'd tell me, "Morris Crane was hired to put a structure up over the falls one year.  I was asked if it could be done. I said it could even though I didn't know how at the time. That was quite a job, working over those falls with the big crane."   That's how we'd learn of things he'd done.  A nugget of his life would just drop like that when he was older.
When Mom died  and Dad was in his late 80's he shared with my brother and I that he'd been hang gliding with his cousin a few years before.  "Why didn't you ever tell us," we asked.  "I was afraid you tell your mother," he said and went on to tell about his motorcycle adventures in his late 70's and early 80's with the same cousin. Both the wives had thought the men were just getting together for coffee.
Mom and Dad were mostly modest people. They didn't think that anything they were doing was important or out of the ordinary. Big things were being done all over the country but the men who'd served for many years in the war were all just glad to be working together building a future.  Dad never saw his part as anything special.  Soon Mom would give up work and look after her babies.  That was all she'd wanted to do in those early years.  Canada was a country then where family really was important. Dad was proud when he said, "I made sure your mother didn't have to work unless she wanted to."  Mom never worked full time again but in later years worked part time as a journalist, glad she didn't have to leave her home to do her work.
As long back as I can remember Dad loved to fish.  In Ontario my earliest memories are Dad teaching me to catch sun fish off the dock.  The first dog  I remember was Sunny, an English Springer who'd be at Dad's side for all of my childhood.
I always thought my brother was my father's favourite because he was first and he was more useful. He was  able to keep up with Dad better and do things better. I remember clinging more to my Mom's skirts in those earliest years.  But then the memories shift to Mom staying in the house, tent or trailer and my brother, me and the dog ranging after dad on adventures and expeditions.  Fishing wasn't just casting a line off a shore. It was boats and motors and even with them it might involve further hikes and expeditions to higher more secluded lakes after motoring up rivers or crossing lakes.  In those summer fishing and hiking days with his sons,  Dad would have shorts and a white under shirt.  Maybe because of my height or the fact that it's no longer the fashion, I remember he wore garters that held up his socks.  When we got back home to Mom he'd always have something, a fish or two, wild berries, bull rushes or something. As kids we'd have our pocketsful of shells and shiny pebbles to show her too.  Sometimes we all brought flowers.  Mom and Dad would  hug and kiss.  Always Mom would l say something about 'as long as the boys are safe." Which made all the bear stories of those camping years even more poignant considering Dad's promises that everything would be okay. Then some big black bear with cubs would wander by and Dad would try as much to save face as to protect his family.
The family album shows pictures of a really happy family then. It's all I remember too. Those camping summers were the best starting as early as I can remember and going all the way into the early teen years.
When we were still in Toronto Dad moved from Morris Crane to Mathew Conveyor Company.  He said later it was because there was more room for advancement, higher pay, more opportunity.
Mathew Conveyors gave Dad work out west.  Winnipeg.  Dad had come from Manitoba and now when I was 5 years old we'd be moving back there as a family.  For Mom, being an  Eastern Canadian big city girl of Toronto, the news of going to hick town Winnipeg, leaving her mother and sisters, would be the same as being posted to the moon.  It would take her years to adapt to the change.  To here she'd left civilization.  In those days, Toronto was called, Toronto the good and Winnipeg, a western fronteir town was anything but good.  The fact remains that Winnipeg was and is the centre of Canada, a hub for communication and transportation, no longer just for the prairie "breadbasket of the world" but increasingly a cosmopolitan world of it's own.
We moved to Fort Rouge.  Mom joined Trinity Baptist Church like this was a life ring thrown to her by God.  Trinity Baptist Church for years to come would protect her from heathens, Indians,  westerners, Anglicans and Catholics. To my family Jews were fine, blacks were fine,  it was the papists who were most suspect.  I'm glad to say it didn't take many years before Mom's views mellowed with age. In their middle years Mom and Dad had friends of every walk of life, a judge for a friend and a collection of Asians whose food they both grew to love.  
In Fort Rouge, we had the whole second floor of a great old house which Mom hardly left those first months except to go to church down the street. Ron and I were enrolled in school on Osborne street, The school is no longer there but Osborne Village has become the funky centre of the city.  I remember school well because there was a huge shute we'd practice sliding down for fire drills. All us kids thought that was so cool we hoped for a fire just to be able to take that huge slide for real.
Mathew Conveyor Company had the contract for putting in all the conveyor belts that would move the mail about Winnipeg's new post office. I guess the job lasted a couple of years at least.  Later Dad would install the conveyor system for the new International Airport as well, Mathew Conveyors moving all the luggage to and from the jets.  I learned Dad was in charge of 150 men at a time in those days.  At home we'd hear how stupid the designers and architects were back east.  Dad was forever spreading out blue prints and cursing because machines were too big for the spaces alotted for them despite what the blue prints said.  He'd have to knock out walls or get new steel parts manufacturered locally to make up for the smozzle of the fanciful plans.  When he'd curse,  Mom would alwyas say, "Not in front of the kids."  This was when 'Darn' was the worst curse I heard Dad saying.  Ron and I were always hanging around Dad when ever we could, pretty much like a couple of puppies, getting in the way, or just watching in awe.  Dad was where the action was and we were always hoping to join in. As kids we really did appreciate what a great father we had, other kids not having Dad's that took them camping, fishing, or having homes where their parents were really there for them.
Years later as a teen ager, I'd get my millwright helpers papers so I could work one summer with Dad.  I'd work then with some of the men who'd worked on different projects with him over the previous decade.  It was something special for me, a teen ager, who was having his own troubles with his strict air force father, to learn, "Your Dad's the best man I've ever worked for."  "No boss like your Dad, kid".  "Alot of other guys in his position wear a suit and don't get their hands dirty but whenever there's something difficult needing being done, your Dad's right there first in his coveralls."  "Just don't swear around your old man. He doesn't go for that. Your Dad's a genius with machines.'
I was a thoroughly self centred little know-it- all teen ager so it was something else to work along side my father with dozens of men who looked up to and admired him.  I remember my brother telling me years later.  "The only time I remember Dad in suits was with mom at church.   I found out later that all the men with his seniority never wore coveralls whereas Dad pretty well lived in them."
One summer when he was doing a job in Saskatoon and I was 12, Mom sent me out to join him for a week or two.  That's when I saw a whole other side of him. The men he worked with would go riding after work so Dad took me along. Here he was with a bunch of cowboys and even some cowgirls all in their western element. We'd gallop all over that summer racing each other on horses. It's hard to imagine how I didn't know this but Dad could be a real wild cowboy with the best of them.  Here I was watching Bonanza and reading novels about cowboys and somehow I'd forgotten that here was Dad raised on horses and thoroughly at home in the saddle, all of us together forming a regular possee as we rode across the Saskatchewan farmlands.
We were only a couple of years in Winnipeg before it became pretty clear we were going to stay. Mathew's had put Dad in charge of their Western installations so over the next years he'd be doing major construction projects in Winnipeg, all over Manitoba, Saskatchewan and then as far west as Calgary.  Mom didn't like that he'd be away for weeks at a time then but when we moved to Fort Garry she settled into finally being a transplanted Eastern girl living in the wild west.  She loved her home and garden there with all her community club and school friends.  Reporting for the Fort Garry Lance newspaper she was into every aspect of the community, always up on anything that was happening till she was thoroughly and irrevocably immersed in Fort Garry affairs.  Once we were in school there I don't think she thought twice about Toronto. The first year or two there'd been doubt and indecision for her but then Winnipeg became her home. Dad loved his work and home there too.
I remember the day Dad bought 793 North Drive, Fort Garry. It was a red brick bungalo which had been owned by an elderly women with a couple of little British bulldogs.    It was a city block from Viscount Alexander Elementary and Junior High School, and maybe 4 blocks from Vincent Massey High school.  There was a community centre with outdoor hockey rink between us and the high school and the Red River, golf course and badminton club a block in the other direction.  A couple of blocks away was Pembina Highway, the main artery of the south side of the Winnipeg then, leading right out to the University where my brother would get his undergraduate degree. Dad was really proud of Ron getting that University Degree but he was happiest of all when Dad's son Graeme got his Engineering Degree decades later.
It was because the schools were the best closest to the university that Dad and Mom picked Fort Gary.   Dad put alot of emphasis on education.  My brother and I would end up doing a whole lot of university so I'd tell people I was a slow learning and had to have a whole lot of remedial education at University. Still, all I can remember Dad and Mom expecting of us was that we'd finish high school.  "I moved here so you boys would have the opportunity to go to good schools and I expect you to complete high school if you don't do anything else." Report cards and passing grades were really important in our family.  Ron usually got A's so he was a hard act to follow.  I don't know if my brother who was always the better student remember that message as strongly as I do but it was one of those things that probably helped me alot to get high school behind me despite being expelled and having to make up a course before I could go onto college. .
The big garden the house had was all for Mom.  Dad and Mom talked alot about growing things and us kids were incorporated into her plans each year for different crops but the garden was Mom's. There were three great spruce trees and a big back yard that Dad would build a massive two car garage on. He'd have a place for his truck and car.  As long as I could remember we always had an old pickup and a new car.  The car was mostly for taking Mom to church while the truck was for everything else.
The only thing the neighbourhood didn't have was a 'good' church .  Until I finished high school, Dad would drive Mom to the Trinity Baptist Church in Fort Rouge because Mom was Baptist No other Christian denomination would do. There was an Anglican, Catholic and Fort Garry United Church all a block from our house but Mom wouldn't have anything to do with them.    When as a young adult I returned to church at Fort Garry United where I taught Sunday School, Mom finally figured the United Church might have something if it could have influence on her heathen son.  Both Dad and Mom became members of Fort Garry United Church after that and for years enjoyed membership in that congregation.
Dad always went to church with Mom when we were young. The minister at Trinity Baptist was the haranguing sort, running on all about hell and damnation.  More often than not Dad would be nodding off. I remember squirming alot as a little boy. The best memories were when Aunt Sally joined us and the two sisters would  literally sing their lungs out.  Spring hats and gloves were a thing back then . But Sunday School was better as a kid..  Trinity Baptist had big suppers in the basement and fun picnics. Dad was really fond of the suppers and a whole lot of fun at a picnic.  He'd always participate and Mom who was shy could often been seen being tugged along by him to join in some game the minister and his wife proposed for the adults and children to play.  Murray Wade became Dad's good friend there.  Murray took  on the job of being in charge of the cubs and  boy scouts 'only if John's going to be there to help me with the outdoor stuff". Everyone knew Dad, with his northern origins, hunting and fishing, and time in the service was the 'outdoors man', who could be trusted.  So I've got memories of Boy Scout Snow Train and Boy Scout Camp with my Dad and Murray Wade, my brother and a whole lot of other boys whose fathers were mostly not involved as much in their lives as a few of the fathers, including Dad, were involved in ours.
Dad wasn't that much for sport except hockey.  He used to mock us kids for needing pads declaring "all we had when I was growing up was rolled up newspaper to protect our knees and shins." The best skating was the winter the Red River froze and we all skated forever. When I heard Sarah McLaughlin singing, Joni Mitchell's song, I wish I had a river, so I could skate away" I figured she must have been on the Red River when it froze solid and the wind blew the snow away for miles.  Dad took us toboganning on the banks of the river and even made me a wood bobsled that almost got my brother and I killed it went so fast.
Hockey Night in Canada on TV was as important to our house as anything I can remember.  We'd dress up in our hockey sweaters and the whole family would cheer for our respective teams. Mom would make pop corn. I remember Ed Sullivan too, as a favourite show of Dad's.
Dad  always watched the news on tv.  He  read the Winnipeg Free Press religiously, while Mom and Dad listened to CJOB every morning. They especially enjoyed "Beefs and Bouguets' when people would phone in and share what they liked or didn't like about Winnipeg  that day.
I remember Dad saying that "church people are good people but alot of them don't know how to do anything.  I had to fix the roof at Trinity Baptist and alot of the time they're good for a lot of talk but not for much else." In later years when I joined the Anglican church Mom and Dad did too simply because a local priest took an interest in them as old people, coming around to where they were staying and saving them the effort of getting out.
Church was important to Mom when we were young but became more important to Dad when he got older.  Gord Laidlaw and he would wax poetic in the back lane about all things philosophical and religious. The Anglican church manse was the house next door and Dad befriended the minister though Mom being "staunch" Baptist then shied from too close contact with his wife.
When we were older Dad told me he'd made friends with a catholic priest in the country too and they had lots of conversations together. Those were the years when Dad and I began duck hunting together. Lots of time driving around together in the truck with me a young man asking my father about all things.  Given how estranged we'd been when I was a teen ager I'd never have believed those fall conversations could have occurred. As many a young man has said, "My father grew up a whole lot when I got into my twenties.
When Dad was younger and anyone asked him about church or religion, he 'd always say, "I belong to the round church. That's so the devil can't catch me in the corners."
When we were young Dad joined the Fort Garry Game and Fish Association. That's where my brother and I got our first marksmanship awards with 22 long rifles. We also ate a whole lot of wild game there. Dad was also fond of the Fowl suppers the communities around Winnipeg would put on to celebrate harvest season in the falls. We'd climb in the car on a Saturday evening end up in some community hall or church out of town where there'd be wall to wall food prepared by the farmer's wives from their own farms. As boys we'd eat turkey and pumpkin pie till we could hardly walk while Mom and Dad enjoyed talking with all the folk about matters of farming and industry.
Hunting trips were Dad were a fine time for us boys and later I'd share more times hunting with Dad when I took up hunting again as a young man. I remember my friend Kirk sharing with friends years later how he'd go over to our house and a deer would be hanging from the rafters in the basement.  The year Dad shot a moose I remember eating so much moose meat I was trying to trade it for a peanut butter sandwich one lunch hour at school, something I'd never do today.  Dad shot that moose in winter, quartered it in the freezing cold and hauled it out for miles on a toboggan.  That and many hunting stories were told around our home.  Ron eventually went big game hunting with Dad but Mom only let me join my father and brother for the prairie chicken and duck hunting because she was fearful about her little boy getting shot during deer hunting season.  
Mom had her garden where she grew vegetables and gladiolas that won awards in the local horticultural show.  Ron really picked up her green thumb. I eventually got into raises cactus with some success. Dad built his garage and most of my childhood I remember handing sprockets and wrenches to my brother who either used them or handed them on to Dad who would be lying on his back  either under the truck or under the car.  It was never any surprise to me that when I finally got into Surgery all the surgeons sought me as an assistant. I'd been so well trained by my other brother and father from the age of 5 to 10 that I was a natch as a surgical assistant.
Dad fixed everything. If he couldn't fix a thing he'd build himself a new one. Where I'd in later years would read novels Dad's book shelves were full of 'how to" books.   And  long as I can remember every man in our neighbourhood all along the back lanes where the men congregated would come round to ask Dad for advice on their various home work projects. Our throw away generation hadn't come into being as yet.  Everyone was still making do and most spring, summer and fall weekends most of  the men would be working on their houses or or building something in their yards.  Dad put a space heater in the garage so he could work in there when it was downright cold. This was Winnipeg where a space heater didn't do much for getting rid of the chill but that didn't stop Dad from fixing changing the oil in his truck in the middle of winter if he had a mind to do that.
One summer he'd make a 16 foot boat from plywood and hard wood.  It sure was a sturdy thing.  "I didn't know it would be so heavy," he said when it was finished and my brother and I were helping him get it on a trailer for the first time.  When Dad made something it wad indestructible.  "Made to last" was a favourite saying in those days. Cementing the deck, the stairs and walk ways was another of Dad's bigger projects.
There were always projects going on around the house. He built an extra room in the front basement.  That was a heck of a big job especially trying to get around all the regulations that were coming in to employ people who couldn't do anything themselves but criticize other people's endeavours.  Dad couldn't put a door on the room he built or they'd raise his taxes so there was this room that passed as a 'bomb shelter' , served more for storage of mom's preserves than anything else, but had a curtain on because a door would have increased the tax. He couldn't put a window in it either or that would have affected some other regulation.  When such issues came up it was usually associated with my mom saying something like "Don't curse around your children".  Cursing for Dad was always something tame like "Dogoneit, Jean or 'heck' but that was always enough to bring on my mother's approbation.
Grandmother came to live with us in her old age. She had a bed in the sun room of the house. It was called the 'sun room' because there were windows all around the front and the sun shone in brightest there especially in winter months.  That's where Mom always had her typewriter and  Christmas cactus too.  When I got fish tanks for my siamese fighting fish thats' where they went too.     But first grand ma lived and died there, Dad taking care of her after her husband died in Toronto. She came out to live out her last years gnarled with arthritis cared for by Mom and Dad with her grandson's around to fetch things.  She died in the sun room passingly peacefully with her family around.  I was more curious than anything else with the old people. Mom's mom and Dad's dad were the oldest people I knew when we were little.
Dad's dad would come down most years late fall after the summer's ranch and farm harvest was done.  I remember he always drove one of those huge boats of a car which old men favoured. Alot of steel and guaranteed to survive any crash though the same couldn't be said for anything he would hit.  Usually one or two of Dad's brothers would come along with grandad and the whole lot would be put up in the house.  Sometimes cousins came as well.  These were serious family events with lots of food and adults talking and kids hanging back listening.  Grand dad would be there to see Dad.  He was glad to see his grandsons but mostly he wanted to talk to Dad.  They'd talk about cattle,  lumber prices and that sort of thing. Prime Minister John Diefenbaker figured into a lot of the conversations the men would have back then.  Diefenbacker being a western man, there was hope on the prairies that politically the country might get beyond Montreal and Toronto where all the money and politics in Canada seemed to get caught. Not much love for Quebec out west though Dad loved to join in the winter festivities of St. Boniface.
When my dad's favourite uncle arrived and played guitar singing like Johnny Cash those were good times too.   When Aunt Sally came it was mostly to see us boys and those were fun times indeed.  We didn't have family around in the city but several times a year someone would be visitting and staying over , the couch in the living room a roll away that converted to a bed.  After Grandma died her bed in the sun room would be another place for more to stay. And sometimes there would be sleeping bags on the floor. All the space of the house would be used up for sleeping room. Then card tables and folding chairs would be brought out to make up extra tables for meals.
Dad had made Mom a glass faced cabinet painted white that ran either side of the mantel piece over the electric fire place in the living room.  Mom had her fine china in that and maybe 2 or three times a year it would come out. Mostly when Aunt Sally or someone else in the family visitted.  On the mantel piece there was the wooden chiming clock which might get round up when guests came over.  A picture of Mom and dad when they were married, Dad in uniform, mom with that great head of hair and serenely happy face The  frame was one that dad had made. It was a little house shaped frame that hung between two 50 caliber shells he'd taken from a Spitfire that had crashed.
The heavy walnut gun cabinet that stood in the sun room was another cabinet Dad had built himself, with slots for several rifles to stand, a  glass door  and a drawer at the bottom to hold ammunition.  When the Kennedy Missile Crisis was on and we all figured the Russians were going to invade I'd have nightmares of soldiers on the lawn. That gun case comforted  me then because I always figured Dad with his 30 30 lever action and my older brother Ron with the bolt action 22 would be able to protect our home, my mom, the dog and me from the Russians if they ever invaded.
Those years of nuclear threat and fire drills in the schools with all us kids on our hands and knees ready to 'kiss our asses' good bye were terrible years.  But they were years of UFO's too. I remember a night all the men were on the back lane with binoculars looking at this cigar shaped light in the air that gave off spinning flying saucers that came down in the atmosphere and then returned to the mother ship all in the space of an hour.  Gord Laidlaw, Kirk's father, the University Alumni Chemist was there, with my Dad and Ed Yuzak, both Air Force, and then us kids. They were all convinced it was aliens because no one had seen anything like that.  "The Military doesn't have anything that moves like that." Ed said.  The saucers kind of flitted and when they rejoined the cigar shaped light that thing disappeared in a streak. "Nothing we know can go that fast." said Gord.
The next day similiar sightings had been made all over Winnipeg but the government was saying it was a freak weather phenomena. Being in the Air Force Dad took a keen interest in NASA. We all watched when there were rocket launches. No one was happy that the Russians had got into space first but we were sure glad when the US caught up.
When I was still a boy and Ron was not yet a teen Dad took Aunt Sally Mom and the two of us driving across the country.  He'd get two weeks vacation and it wasn't anything for him to drive to Vancouver or Toronto. We had a Morris Mini in the early years and later he'd have the American Motors Cars. He stayed with them because he had the tools for fixing them. He cursed when my brother brought home a European car to get help fixing it because it needed its own set of  metric tools.
It was Rambler with the fold down seat  that became a bed, that I remember most, followed by the Ambassador he was proudest of.  After he had the Ambassador car he bought Mom a mink coat and the two of them would drive about in that car like they'd finally arrived.  Ron and I were on our way out of the home by then, the child rearing part of Dad's life coming to a close. Not that it ever really ended  I certainly never stopped coming back and badgering the two of them for more parenting asking all manner of questions and getting my full share of answers to a host of adult questions.
Ron and Dad would do a lot over the years together just like Ron would do with his sons when they grew up.  I'd not say we were 'pals' when we were older but Dad and I certainly became friends.  He was of an era when men didn't open up much. So I think Mom was the only one who really got to know him really well.  She and his Canadian Veteran friends were the ones he was closest to. As we matured he began to realize with quite a struggle that we had become men and a whole new relationship developed among us.  For me it was with hunting and fishing, boating and travelling whereas with Ron it was around his family and houses.
When we were young Dad took us fishing and camping and that what we did as a family most every weekend. There was the centre poled pointy topped four man brown canvas tent when we were small. Two adults, 2 kids and a dog fit in that. Then there was the blue rectangular tent we grew into followed by the real cadillac of tents that mom liked, one with a mosquito net front room where she could put her folding picnic table. I remember her happy as a clam in that tent reading magazines in a folding camp chair safe from the mosquitoes while Dad and us boys took off in the motor boat to catch pickeral and pike or just explore the environs of Blue Lake or one of the other great outdoor spots of Manitoba.
When we asked Dad about having a cottage he'd say, "why have a cottage, you have a house, with a tent you can go anywhere."  And we did.
There was a short time that they had a tent trailer but then when we moved out of the house  they graduated into their first RV. Mom was really in heaven then and Dad could go anywhere. They joined Good Sam Club.  The RV was a Queen and they began touring all overCanada and  the northern and southern states spending summers travelling from campground to campground. In the winter every couple of years Dad would take mom on a cruise somewhere around the world.
"Your mother would love her cruises," he'd tell us in later years. "I'd just say, Jean, don't you think it's time for another cruise and she'd have all the brochures and atlases out and be planning weeks and months in advance."
Mom and Dad were never 'rich' and we always lived 'frugal'.  I had my brother's hand me down clothes and we lived by the sayings 'waste not want not' and 'save the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."  But they invested shrewdly and Dad bought an Apartment Building he did all the maintenance on. After he retired from Mathew Conveyors he continued to work with his own building supply company that allowed him to travel to small towns all over Manitoba enjoying the socializing with country folk as much as anything else, working right up to his eighties when he wasn't off galavanting with mom or fishing from the canoe he got in later years with a 2 hp motor.
When I once as a teen ager, not my better years in retrospect, I compared our old Rambler with a neighbours flash new car, he said, "Bill, everything we have I own. Most of the neighbours here don't own anything. The bank owns it. I don't believe in buying things on credit unless I have to. So we're not going to get a new car just because you want one that's flashy."
There in lay a lot of the difference between my parents and me as a teen ager.  Mom would say,"We don't have to keep up with the Jones"  We never knew any Jones but as a teen ager I was mostly concerned with my image.  I got a job at a restaurant starting work as a bus boy at the Pancake House mostly so I could get the latest fashion in clothes. I got a portable phonograph too.  Dad liked to play country music. With my own phonograph I could play the Beatles and that 'goddawful Bob Dylan' I liked as a kid.  Dad thought Gordon Lightfoot was pretty good music but couldn't stand the rest of the 'junk' I listened too.  Fortunately for me my brother's taste in music, Elvis Presley, wasn't much better to my Dad's ears.  He liked Gene Autry and Johnnie Cash and my mom liked Gospel.  I regret today that my Dad after long days of work would come home to hear my music playing loudly and the fights of the teen years would be on.
When we were growing up the boys all had short hair and a trip to the barber was a regular bonding event that carried on till the Beattles and long hair came along.  Being a military man Dad never did get over my 'girlish' hair or all the girls I went out with.  Mom was equally dismayed by my penchant for girlfriends but as long as I kept up my grades they put up with me. My Aunt Sally was more more direct. She just said to my face one year. "You used to be such a nice boy and now you're impossible ".  I'd left the church where as my brother stayed.  Dad didn't know what to make of me.
To his credit Dad was there when I came home, welcoming me back after the months I'd been away, having 'moved out' in one of our fights. Home again 'as long as I acknolwedged it was his house and his rules."  That last year I lived at home after high school when I got my first regular job, I was home before midnight and there was no loud music to bother anyone else in the house after 12 pm.  For a year I'd thought my dad so unreasonable but when it came to being hungry and not having a place to stay I found his rules more than reasonable.
A few years later I'd begin to be his friend again.  Teen years can be a trial.  I'm ashamed to think of myself smoking in my dad's house with a whiskey drink from my pocket flask, one elbow on his mantel telling mom and dad about life like only the way a pretentious kid can.  My father deserves a medal in retrospect for not killing me then and there.  Mom and Dad didn't smoke and didn't drink and I didn't know everything there was about life when I was 18 years old either. I just thought I did.
Dad's 94 now and if you asked him, he'd probably say he's still learning. He was always that kind of man. Humble. Wise and Good to the core.  What his cowboy friends would call a 'straight shooter'.  He sure did love my Mom , his family, and his work.

Monday, July 23, 2012


My father was born in Minitonas, a small Manitoba farming community in the north of the province, east of Swan Lake but south of Churchill.  He was the first son of my grandfather who had emigrated from Aberdeen, Scotland.  The Hudson Bay Company and Lord Selkirk had opened northwest Canada for Scottish settlement a long time before.
Later Dad would remember the community split between the English, Scots and Ukranians. One of his step brothers would marry an Indian, long before they came to call themselves First Nations.  Dad remembered  them all fighting as boys but joining together as community.
Grandad was a cattleman and Dad's mom, a cattlewoman. We'd never know her.  She died in child birth with her second son, my father's brother.  In a way he never forgave him for that, but then they were closest as the two older brothers, when grandad remarried.  5 more sons were born and one daughter. She died in a gunfire accident my father didn't talk about.  His brothers were playing and his sister died.  No one talked about that, like alot of things in the family.  Tragedies took enough of a toll first time round. No sense repeating them.
I don't know any stories of my father as an infant.  The earliest stories I heard were the pranks they got up to as boys.  Every year there were fairs when the farmers showed off their produce and everyone compared cattle, horses and pigs.  Dad beamed when he told me this years later when I was a kid. The food was the best, lots of chicken, potatoes and most importantly pies and ice cream.  Dad, his brother and a friend got back in the kitchen and found the big barrels they'd had the ice cream in.  The leaned right over to scoup the bottoms for left over when one of them fell right in, getting stuck upside down.  Dad laughed till tears came to his wrinkled eyes, happiest in the memory.
It was a hard life, waking before dawn to milk the cows, cleaning out the barn, feeding chickens, mucking out the pigs.  Dad doesn't speak fondly of those 'chores'.  Grand dad was tyrranical in his early years when men worry about whether they'll be able to make it, keeping young wives and children fed, clearing land, building a farm from scratch.  I don't think my father forgave his father till they were both old men.  Those were hard times and that was before the depression years.  Dad didn't talk about those years and Mom told us kids not to ask him about them.
He did laugh to tell the story of his father shooting a moose. When granddad was going to cut the moose throat it stood up catching his suspenders in it's horns.  Grandad almost died that day with the moose charging off carrying him along until his suspender broke.  He came home in his long johns having lost his pants along the way. Dad laughs to tell the story to his daughter in law years later but one gathers no one laughed when Grandad appeared home from hunting without his pants.
Hunting stories were part of our growing up.  Hunting and dogs and men either working together in the fields or out hunting together.  Another time Dad told of his father shooting a big black bear, the dogs had treed. "He killed it with one shot from the 22, shot it right through the eye".    Alot of Dad's stories came out when we were camping years later as a family.  Our best times to me as a kid were those times, camping, fishing and hunting.  My brother and I didn't like chores much either but then we were living in Winnipeg suburbs and the chores city kids had to do couldn't be compared with those kids had on the farm.
Dad and his brothers liked fishing too.  That was something Dad never grew tired of.  Dad just loved to sit for hours  on a lake with a rod and reel.  He loved the Manitoba outdoors with the blue water, blue skies and evergreens. Hunting with him in the fall when the grain was yellow, he'd say how much he loved that you 'could see for miles' out here.
We'd watch weather come in over the praires.  Way off there'd be lightning and a storm brewing and Dad would tell us kids just how long it would be before the storm would be on us.  sometimes he'd know hours before the rain would come.  We'd think he was a sorcerer then. At night we'd on the grass outdoors just him and my brother, and he'd point to the stars telling us the names of constellations as we watched meteorrites race across the skies. In the woods he'd tell us what we could eat and what we coudn't. He was especially fond of 'rosehips' .  "All the vitamin C, a person needs is right here," he'd say eating the rose hip raw, chewing on it as he walked. Berry picking was his favourite though.  Especially Manitoba and Ontario blueberries, the greatest flavour in the world. He'd pick pots full and have us kids out there with him, though we'd eat as much as we picked.
When I was 4 and my brother Ron was 8 we visitted Granddad's ranch.  Grand dad then was as loving as only grand dad's can be, not the hard man my father had sometimes talked about.  I saw the edge though when I chased his chickens.  I did and he told me to stop but just like a kid I did it again. That's when I saw the old man, terrifying in his rage. "Don't chase those chickens, Billy. I won't tell you again. It makes them tough when your grandmother kills them for dinner."  I almost imagined him killing me.   As a city kid  I'd seen grandma chop off a chicken's head and I was afraid Granddad might do that to me.  That chicken ran around spurting blood till it fell over. My cousin just picked it up then and  began  plucking.
Grand dad squirted me in the face with milk that time we were visitting. I'd gone into the barn where he was milking cows in the morning. He laughed to see me jump back 5 feet when that warm milk hit my face like it was coming out of a garden hose.  Either he or Dad taught me to milk after that and sure enough first chance I got to squirt someone in the face I did, too.
When we visitted Dad and Grand dad and his brothers, they all sat around the farm house table telling stories while us kids, with our cousins wandered around outside, exploring.  I expect that's what Dad and his friends did too.  As kids outdoors the adventure is always to find what's around the corner.  Up there it could be finding birds eggs, seeing a new fawn in spring, or spying a coyote.  Mostly we just walked about in the woods each of us with a stick, the younger kids trailing after the older ones.  It's just the way it was and the way it probably always has been in the country.  We'd wrestle and throw stones,  climb trees and play hide and seek.  That's  what Dad did too.
Years later he'd talk about his friend Billy.  Billy became a rear gunner in WWII over Europe riding in the tail end of a Lancaster bomber.  They were together in that one room school house.  When Dad was an older man the town had a big anniversary celebration. Dad went back and was one of the 4 from the original 7 kids that had been schooled there in Minitonas.
A Lancaster bomber was on display in the Ottawa air museum.  Years later, after Mom died and Dad went to live with my brother in Ottawa, I'd visit him there. Every time I'd ask him where he wanted to go, it was always the air museum. Then he'd sit there on his walker and talk about the war and his friend. "Billy signing up for two tours as a rear gunner. Not many survived two tours." he'd say.  The rear gunner was the most exposed and most likely to die.  Dad was always reverent when he sat there telling us for the umpteenth time about his childhood friend Billy sitting in that cramped space firing those big machine guns.  Dad would tell us like it was the first time he'd told us, a story that for him never grew old.
As long as I remember Dad was happiest around Vets like his duck hunting pilot friend Ed who he always talked to in the backlane.
Growing up the men had a world of their own in that back lane while the women had their living rooms. Ed and Dad and Gord would talk for hours out behind the garage, Gord being included because though he wasn't a vet, he had polio, so couldn't join for good reason. Dad and Ed liked Gord mostly because he'd be doing his own roofing up on crutches and never shirked.  The vets didn't like shirkers and  Dad was always a worker.
Dad himself was in the RCAF, Royal Canadian Air Force.  We grew up with his uniform in our home brought out and worn on special occasions. Dad had been a bomber but he'd only flown in planes on the east and west coast of Canada.  He was an airplane mechanic as well, working on spitfires and the training planes.
Before the war though he and his dad had a big falling out.  It had something to do with chores and all the work that Grandad expected from the boys.  Grandad had expanded to having a logging operation and would eventually get a mill going that my cousin still runs today.  During the 30's Grand dad saved some 30 families in the neighbourhood from starving by giving men work and helping folk that were poor.  He became the reeve of the region after that.
I never learned what church he attended. Most of the Scots were presbyterian.  I did know that Grand dad was against liquor and joined in the church movements to restrict booze in the community.
We never heard what the falling out between Grandad and Dad entailed but expected it was physical. Mom told us not to bother Dad about those memories.  When Dad and Grandad visitted they never talked about the teen age years or the thirties. Dad left home when he was 16 though.  He went to work for neighbours driving logging wagons.  Grand dad had great big Clydesdale horses when I was a kid. He put me up on one out by the barn when I was only 5. I felt like I was on top of a ferriswheel it was so high up.  Big horses with white tufts on their ankles.   The horses people associate with German Beer wagons.
"It was hard driving six of those horses," Dad would say.  The logging roads would be thick with mud and heavily rutted like cordoroy.  Big wheeled wagons piled high with timber, 6 huge horses and a teen age boy.  Kids had to grow up fast back then.
It was the dirty thirties too and to hear the fear and sadness in Dad's voice we all knew there were bad times.  Starving men went from farm to farm looking for work and those who had work did whatever they were told and worked as long as they could. Mostly people were paid with food and shelter those years. But then Dad didn't talk about it much and when he did Mom would ask us kids to stop bothering him.  I remember seeing tears in his eyes remembering that times but never learned what that was for. Just, "they were hard times, Bill. Hard times."
It's not surprising that Dad and a lot of men joined up for the war. Dad said that part of it was the food, boots, uniforms and army beds.  There was patriotic duty but that didn't count as much as paid work.
"Never volunteer," Dad told me about the air force.  His brother was an MP in the maritimes but Dad was good with machines so he got into mechanics and engineering. First it had been tractors and then it was motors. He had a knack. Could listen to a machine and tell what was wrong with it the way a symphony conductor could hear one violin wasn't in perfect tune.  Dad trained as an Engineer in the air force and after eventually getting his Engineering dipolma.  "We fixed alot of those training planes," he told me. "Not so many spitfires."   Canada was a great pilot training place during WWII.  The other part of his duty was flying coastal service as a bomber.  Off Vancouver Island he said, "they told us we bombed a Japanese submarine but I couldn't be sure. It looked as much like a whale to me." And that was the only hostile forces Dad saw. Though he did pull a lot of men out of crashed planes and saw some his friends killed in training.
He told me he learned to drive a jeep when he was in British Columbia. The camp was at the top of a mountain and the captain asked if anyone knew how to drive. Dad said that he had driven a tractor.  "Take that jeep then and drive down the mountain to town to get these supplies. I expect you back tonight." That's how Dad learned to drive a jeep and twisting mountain roads. I expect it also contributed to his telling me the most important thing he'd learned in the air force is 'never volunteer."
Mostly the war was remembered in our family as the time when Dad met Mom in Toronto.  That was the beginning of the great love story. It lasted 55 years. Mom was the love of Dad's life and he was the love of hers. Everyone knew it too.  And that was just the way it was. Her name was Jean but he called her "Jeannie' when they were alone and she wrote love letters to him addressing them to "Johnnie" though we'd never heard my father called anything but "John".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SV Giri at dock - Journal

Yesterday my lip swelled up like I'd had botox injection before a Mick Jagger look alike contest. Cellulitis.  I took antibiotics and antiiflammatories after a couple of days and increasing pain.  Now the tide's turned and I'm not having fluid slide out of the side of my mouth when I drink soda from a can.  If I had silicone breasts or penis enlargement or botox lips I'd expect I'd get used to it. Like those supposedly primitive people who started the trend putting plates in their lips and 'enhanced' their bodies with equally sublime entertainment. I'm just thankful for the antibiotics.  Being Mick Jagger isn't all it's cut out to be.
The boat is gently rocking. The sun has come out. My mood is better. I've finished reading the western novel I picked up. Nothing like Robert B. Parker to uplift one.  I'm drinking a Sanpellegrino blood orange beverage. Laura is in the head cleaning herself. She just cleaned the freezer after my friends working here let meat and whatever else spoil in it.  I have to get a refridgerator guy down here to look at the wiring and also add more junk to the compressor. I've done this a couple of times myself in the past.  Right now I have a report due for  work and 5 hours of a course to complete.  I'm bushed with another sick weekend wondering when I'll have a holiday without being sick.  Commiserated with a patient last week who had used up her vacation time as sick time after her sick time had run out.  Remember when I was in India and found out that people generally got 2 weeks off and if they weren't better someone else got their job.
Thousands more into the boat.  Boat world: "If you think about buying a boat, first stand in a shower tearing up $100 bills and watching them go down the drain. If you like the experience you'll be ready to buy a boat."
I was at the Mosquito Creek Marina yesterday.  We drove the boat back here after it had been on the hard getting the shaft seals replaced along with the bottom zincs with new epoxy and antifouling done.  Boat was back at it's regular cruising speed and handling like a ship not a barge.  I felt comfortable in the Mosquito Creek Marina.  It's a community. Here I'm in an industrial site.  No restrictions on boat work so it's fine for now but I miss the community "out of the city in the city" feel that goes with the recreational marinas.
So much I could be doing on the boat.  Top decks need a new paint job. All the ropes need cleaning. The netting and lines around the boat need repair and cleaning. Even the upholstery in the boat would benefit from some replacement where the cat's claws have done their damage. I do miss Angel at times .
As soon as one thing is fixed a dozen other things that need improvement come to mind. Mostly it's the cosmetics now. The main functional boat improvements have been taken care of these last couple of years.
Gilbert is stretching.  I was up at 4:30 am with a sore mouth and took him for a walk on the dock. He pooped and returned feeling better. I read until noon and napped.  I made toast early and ate this marvellous Sechelt jam on toast I was given.  Later Laura made fried egg sandwiches.  It's good to hear from my brother Ron that Dad is better. I like seeing what the nephews are up to on Facebook  Andrew is up near the arctic and Graham is making movies out east, doing a day of shopping with Allan.
We've talked about going to Canadian tire today.  We'd planned to be out on the water but the heavy rain deterred us. Then tomorrow there's a service for the newcomers who have joined the church. I'm one of those , changing churches last year, because this church welcomed my working dog, Gilbert. I thought I should come up to the altar and accept the welcome.  Having attention placed on me almost caused me to consider joining another church but it's purely voluntary.  It's the least I can do.  I tend to just be thankful there's a place to go that's welcoming.  I've participated in churches alot in the past, held roles and taken office but these days it's all I can do to make as many services as I can and be thankful. I feel it's a daily battle to be a doctor in Canada, it takes all my energy, so it's hard  to get out in public on the weekend.  The anger, entitlement and fear is palpable these days with the growing economic crisis.
Two more people were belligerent and threatening last week.  One didn't pass a urine test and proceded to blame me for their using drugs.  Very hostile threatening, lots of swearing and calling me down. I was exhausted.  It's all you can do to get out of the room to safety.  They know they can hit you and yet if you hit back you're in trouble, even in self defence.  The government living in another galaxy and another time zone protected by denial and pomposity blame you for 'upsetting' patients. At the same time you have to inform them their urine is 'positive' and that there are consequences. That's when they take it personally and figure if they shout and swear and slam doors they will change your reaction. It doesn't but it always reminds me  of the times I've been hit practising medicine outside of the boardroom, the kickings and the punches,  the time I was held hostage, the time my dog was murdered and the days my windows were shot out or the late night phone calls and phone threats.  It's part of the work. If a person's job, or freedom depends on their not being on drugs and they use they tend to 'blame the messenger'.  The trouble is the 'system' especially the 'authorities', those so far removed from reality they can't find their ass, blame you too.  It's the same with the guys I've committed to hospital. They've come out and accuse me of 'ruining their lives' but I've committed them because they were threatening to 'gut' their girlfriend because their God to them to, or that they were going to kill their boss or the  prime minister.  At these times I miss being a family physician and certainly miss the days of being a psychotherapist to the rich and powerful.
I 'm exhausted in moments by the desire to just walk away or go one on one with them. Thankfully this day the other doctors I was working with were having their bad days as well with one telling me "my guy walked out shouting I was a lousy doctor because I had too many patients and couldn't work fast enough so kept him waiting'.  The other guy had had a relapse too and this guy had blamed the doctor. It would be funny it's so predictable.  The psychosis of drug addiction is that it's everyone else's fault.  And there are all those people protected miles from reality who actually believe that if these people had the right drug or the doctor 'listened' to them, they'd suddenly be better.  I watched this show about women who want murderers and rapists for lovers and stalk them when they're in prison.  When you work like I do saniety is rarer but it's the administration that are sickest because they're so ignorant but grandiose and pompous in their utter stupidity.  They actually believe their lies.
Then the fellow who abused my secretary for my running late,said I was 'just shuffling papers ' and 'disrespected him for not being right on time."  20 minutes.  I try to explain to people that half the people I'm seeing today, a few years back would have been in an institution. That day I'd had a guy threatening to kill himself and everyone else and I'd gone a half hour over ensuring myself that as in all the other times he's been like this it's not serious.  Since I sent another guy to St. Paul's Hospital emergency a couple of months back, he'd said he was suicidal and  jumped in front of the bus , they just discharged him an hour later regardless of his risk to himself or everyone on the bus, I've been a bit overwhelmed by these kinds of threats. Nobody cares anymore.
So many patients talk violence either suicide or homicide and it's a harder and harder call to assess risk  especially when the next visit may be three months away. It was a whole different game when I saw people twice weekly or had some spare time I could see a person in again. All my spare space now is taken up with acutely suicidal people who are facing some crisis or other. I'm trying to change medications in the community with people on a dozen pills seeing half as many specialists and know that at the university they'd never do this sort of thing in the community. It's such an ivory tower with the College who condemns all the doctors and is above the law themselves smug in their superiority.  I miss the old guys who knew what it was like in reality. More and more my compatriots are leaving.  Pharmacists are dispensing medicine.  Doctors right out of school with next to no experience, real experience that is, are going into upper echelon beaurocratic positions because they know not to 'rock the boat' and want a 'safe job'. No one has any time for patients. Those who do are either the 'enemy' or the 'target'.  Not surprising so many doctors now either work with a lawyer at their side or a bodyguard.
I loved hearing the American nobel prize winner for literature say, to paraphrase "I remember when everyone was a citizen, then we became just consumers , and now we're only taxpayers, and that's not even said in a positive way."
Of course I could cherry pick and treat the worried well or go where the money, fame and priviledge is.  The new young doctors are opting for all the 30 hour week salaried glory work but this work I'm doing is really more rewarding.  To actually turn around a suicidal patient and see them get off the death road and take the life path is redemptive.  I corresponded with a woman I saw 20 years ago who'd spent a year suicidal till I met with her and spent weeks with her and her family. She's an amazing woman today.  I love getting the alcoholics and addicts out of the slavery and bondage. It's a miracle. It's like watching a Lazarus experience. I'm where I can help but the bad days are bad.  The sex addicts are a different lot too. Increasingly ,there's always the law sitting right there threatening to throw the doctor in jail if he doesn't protect society. I reported a man whose woman said he had sexually abused his child and now I'm being sued for relaying the woman and child's concern. Some animals are more important than others,  in the Animal Farm, we're living today. If I'd done nothing I might have been damned then too. Damned if we do and damned if we don't by the armchair quarterbacks that have turned this country into a prison where they are the guards and the rest of us inmates.. So many critics.  So many who make the rules but don't abide by the rules and aren't themselves accountable to the rules. Makes me think of Gordon Lightfoot's song Don Quixote. I 'm always charging windmills.  It was what doctors once were supposed to do. Now the abortionsists get the Order of Canada and soon the euthansia folk will be getting the country's top awards as 'doctors'. I'll have to pray more for my enemies especially those authorities calling for the Charge of the Light Brigade all over again. I'll have to get down on my knees more like Martin Luther King said, it's a tough day.
I'm looking forward to my upcoming medical conference IDAA.  Always this time of year I'm spiritually bankrupt and then I usually perk up after spending time with the people I know there who really make being a physician seem worth it. I'm so honoured to be among a group of psychiatrists there who I can truly admire as they too care and are themselves struggling with the same concerns I have.   It's gets back to whether I'm a spiritual being living in a material world or just a material being and the one with the most money and toys is the best.  The judge I met this spring was just such a TS Eliott Hollow Man and it's so demoralizing to see such people abusing such powerful positions.  Everyday there's more evidence of the old call of radical fascism or communism masquerading under new names.  

I'm thankful for the sun today. I'm thankful for my boat no longer leaking. I'm thankful for my dog. I'm thankful for my legs and arms and heart and lungs. I'm thankful my lip's size is reducing and the pain is going. I'm thankful it's not raining. I'm thankful I have friends and family who I love dearly. I am thankful for Netflix and the Life tv series I'm enjoying each night now. I'm thankful for the good books I'm finding to read. I'm thankful for the advanced scientific research I'm able to study. I'm thankful for light. I'm thankful for my fingers. I'm thankful for summer clothing. I'm thankful for the ocean. I'm thankful for Vancouver and British Columbia and Canada. I'm thankful for God and Jesus and church and fellowship.  Thank you

Appaloosa - a novel

Robert B. Parker is one hell of a western writer.  He 's landed himself smack middle of the tradition of Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour. I can hear a Johnny Cash ballad as I read his writing. He's that good.  Appaloosa is about lawman Virgil Cole and his side kick Everett.  The story is told mostly from the viewpoint of Everett, ex military Indian fighter who teams up with Marshal Virgil Cole to cover his back with 8 guage shot gun..  There' Bragg the killer renegade rancher rich politician type and some gunslingers and Indians.  And of course there's Allie.  The name kind of reminds one of Ali McGraw and the Sundance Kid.  She's got a thing for the main stallion whether he's good or bad.  A kind of Eva Braun girl.  Like any good western there's a subtext morality play that's lying deep down in this one.  Something about rules of conduct.  I thought of Crosby, Still and Nash's song "If you are on the road, you need a code which you can live by."  Each person has a kind of code and Everett and Virgil even mention the great American philosopher Emerson though mostly the book hearkens back the military genius Clauswitz.  I couldn't put it down. It's was that simple.  Wise and deep and full of intricate action.  But not a word too many or a word too few.  When I finished I wanted to slap a cowboy hat against my jeans and ride into another Robert B. Parker adventure.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Battle Won - a novel

Thomas Russell's, A Battle Won, is  nautical 18th Century Royal Navy adventure, I could hardly put down. It follows the career of Captain Hayden on the ill fated frigate HMS Thesis as she struggles through gales, pestulence, war and betrayal.  All the while the young men who are officers are coming to terms with their fears and the thoughts of love left ashore. Not only are there sea battles there's the land battle against the French in Cosica.  Great dialogue. Wonderful contrast between the old and the young. Terrific history.  I loved every moment.  A truly great gift from the nephews. Thank you.  Ending the novel I was pleased to see that Thomas Russell, has another, "Under Enemy Colours" .  I do look forward to reading this. Hopefully Russell also will soon have a sequel to Battle Won as I so want to know whatever does happen to Captain Hayden, Hawthorne, Wickham and Henrietta as HMS Thesis finally sets sail for Le Havre.

Hunger Games - Movie

Director Gary Ross has done a fine job of this fast moving futuristic thriller, having as well co written the screenplay with Suzanne Collins. .  Jennifer Lawrence's acting is impressive and endearing.  She and robust  Peeta Mellark act as  future players in a fight to the finish competition of many young people designed to leave little  hope for the once rebellious states that threatened the decadent central government.  Donald Sutherland is amazing as the cynical president. I loved Stanley Tucci.  His  baroque hair is as winning as his game show host smile.  A terrific flick I'd certainly recommend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Hunter - movie

What a horrible piece of crap!  I chose this movie because of Willem Dafoe who normally isn't a part of such drivel.  The movie indeed started out with a good storyline and rather interesting characterization.  Then the plot went to hell in a hand basket.  This guy is hunting an endangered animal for it's benefit to science. They want the DNA.  Nothing wrong with that.  And given high powered rifles and such the normal thing would be for a hunter to use a tranquillizer. That's what Canadians do with their endangered species. They shoot them with tranq guns sometimes from helicopters. Then they do all manner of alien things like blood, urine, feces, saliva sampling and nail clipping. The animals wake up and get away from that spot where they woke up as fast as they can then tell tales to their children about being anally probed by aliens.
In this movie some twisted sort of eco freak movie for people who don't know diddly squat about the woods They have the hunter killing the endangered species then cremating it. Since that was a true spoiler of the movie its not spoiler of me to tell you this. I just wish someone had saved me from inaniety that began somewhere in the middle of the movie.  This was followed by all sorts of sickly European  romanticism about  dead animals which thankfully  stopped short of some grotesque sexual ritual.  
Hunters don't waste and killing for no reason is the stuff of city folk.  The endangered species of the planet are predominantly a product of these sensitive but stupid city folk with lots of pathos and no sense.  The  writers are right out of their depth and would do well to write soap operas for suburbanites.  Sadly though, one has a sense that such cupid stupidity is aimed at commercial exploitation not only of Gaia  but tragically others who would watch this movie mistaking its dreadful shallowness for depth.   There was  even the gratutous attack on loggers as if loggers are intrinsically evil.  Surprisingly fisherman and farmers weren't somehow besmudged by this sanctimonious silliness of a movie.  What a waste of time!
Daniel Nettheim is the director. If I had to guess he ran over budget about the time the good guys in this morality play rejected Australian beer and began smoking dope. There was a real hurry to end the thing, like the way one hurries to flush the toilet after something really foul has occurred in a public toilet.
Vincent Sheehan, the producer shows bad judgement and poor taste.
The unforgiveable is the pretentious Julia Leigh,  writer of the Hunter.  She should stick to her ivory tower genre of  fairytale princess porn and stay out of the wilderness where she hasn't a clue.
Willem Dafoe and Sam Neil despite their very best could not save this dinosaur.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - movie

Laura and I loved this movie starring Maggie Smith,  Dev Patel, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie,  Tena Desae and so many more.  Directed by John Madden, the screenplay was written by Ol Parker, from novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach.  Mostly set it India it follows the lives of "elderly and beautiful" who have opted for the dream of a young man who wants India to be the place where the elderly are outsourced, from countries who don't care for the old to India. The first group are English and the understated English humor is replete with depth of character.  The back drop is the exotic busy flamboyant world of modern day India with a whole range of responses and adaptations or lack there of.  A truly remarkable film rich in humanity and charm.  A must see for anyone over 50 or anyone young and in love with a dream.

Vancouver Sea Wall

Laura, Gilbert and I walked Vancouver's Seawall yesterday. Other than the repeated attacks by kamikaze cyclists in the pedestrian lane it was a joy to make it all the way around Stanley Park yet again.  It's over 5 miles and took us an hour or closer to two.  We were strolling. Dodging the lawless, stoned, cell phone talking bike gangs  slowed us down too.
I used to walk it regularly 5 years back when my scotty Stuart was alive and I was living at the foot of Denman at Coal Harbour.
It was great to be there. Stanley Park is magnificent. Some of the old forest timber still stands sentinel. The beaches were packed especially around English Bay at Denman.  Barbecues on the laws around Third Beach. Siwash Rock still there though it really does look like it's going to slide into the sea any time.  We saw the great Totems further along.  
I'm forever sailing under the First Narrows so it was a change to walk under the Lions Gate Bridge and look at the boats passing me.  Both Laura and I thought the mermaid was closer to the bridge and were glad to finally see her further along.  A great grey heron was kind to pose for us too..  The Celtic Cross is always a favourite. Then we were at Discovery and the Royal Vancouver Yacht club.  Laura's feet were sore and my back was but we'd made it.  We did go even  slower walking up the slight rise on Denman.
I'm not ready today for the Grouse Grind the other great Vancouver "walk'. I 'll rest  awhile with my laurels   surviving the seawall especially with the now built in  hoodlum  bicycle obstacle course. It was Gilbert's first all the way around seawall walk and I can tell he wants to do it again today.  I was thinking more along the lines of a jacuzzi work out.  The plan though is to lie on the beach at English Bay people watching and enjoying the novelty of sun in Vancouver.  DSCN0505DSCN0506DSCN0521DSCN0520DSCN0513DSCN0511DSCN0512DSCN0519DSCN0516

Criminal Cyclists of Vancouver

For years I was told that I was paying high cost on motor vehicle licenses and gas for the up keep of the roads.  I don't even know if cyclists here are required to pay for bicycle licenses but they certainly do little but serve themselves these days in a city beleagured with eco entitlement.  Overnight cyclists, representing political 'green society' have taken up the torch the communist gangs in Russia gave up.  Today the motor vehicle owner is the 'bourgeosie' and the cyclist is the "proletariat". We barely survived as a society  the social communism of Canadian feminism with all men being bad and all women being good.  So it's a bit tedious remembering history and seeing the new arrogance of the 'eco terrorists' jack booting all over the rest of us who just happened to drive cars, or ride buses, or  take planes,  trains.  Cyclists ironically consider themselves even superior to walkers and are a scourge on the elderly especially with their disrespect for boundaries.
The Mayor's attempt to 'contain' this scourge in bike lanes is a dismal failure.  Cages are probably the next answer for these new 'wild animals'.  
Downtown Vancouver is now a nightmare with half the roads given over to bike lanes, all the parking lanes gone, no one going downtown to shop as the city becomes a green ghetto. What the Vancouver Canuck Riots couldn't achieve to keep citizens out of the city the bike lanes are doing in spades.   Ironically  3 Vets and Mountain Coop the famous outdoor stores, have large parking lots, and are located well off the bike lanes. Even more ironically the shoe stores are suffering from the bike lanes because no body can drive downtown to buy their shoes anymore.
Meanwhile cyclists using cell phones, (drivers can't), showing no consideration of traffic, seeming oblivious of 'rules of the road' and not many willing to have a street side breathalizer test or urine drug screen, cause all manner of road rage and traffic havoc.  Apparently the Mayor likes to bicycle.  He can afford to.  His bike like mine probabably costs in the range of thousand or more.  The cyclists aren't poor but just a new 'elite' in Vancouver top heavy with priviledge.
I bicycled across Europe in the 70's.  In the 80's I  bicycled to college  when bikes as commuter transport were a rare oddity in Canada.  I loved bicycling on Vancouver's seawall until a few years back, cycling, I hurt my knee.  I used to mountain bike too and mountain biking around Vancouver is magnificent.  Great trails.  It's just that overnight we have all this 'attitutde' and 'lawlessness' among the cyclists.
I just walked the seawall with my dog. Along with Stanley Park our seawall is one of the truly great assets of the city.  Unfortunately hooligan cyclists have destroyed it's wonder. There are two paths, one for walkers, and one for cyclists and roller bladers.  Every 10th cyclists or roller blader was barrelling full speed along the pedestrian lane causing me to literally jump out of the way repeatedly.  I feared for the life of my dog and had no peace along the whole of English Bay. It thinned out a bit on the Coal Harbour side but even there the cyclists didn't feel obligated to obey the simple laws of lanes.  They were lawless and uncivilized bullies. I don't know how many were on drugs. Drugs is the principal past time of Vancouver so it was even more disconcerting to have someone bombing along high speed, talking on a cell phone or chatting to their buddies, only to swerve onto the bike lane at the last moment.
What happened to the cyclists who were once 'my people'.  I've always loved the nude cyclists of Vancouver with their great hilarity, the triatholon folk like my friend who pushes himself to the limit of endurance, or the people with kids who just like to ride as families.  This new breed of entitled cyclist, the fans of the Mayor, who finds every method to fine anyone who drives a car, puts  cyclists above the law. They're this Mayor's new Green Brown Shirt battalion. Even now that my knee is healed I think twice about taking my bicycle out on the Vancouver streets where these 'new cyclists' consider themselves superior to cars and oddly foot traffic.  I shared bike lanes across Europe with motorcycles and scooters but loved that I could walk safely on foot paths there.
If there were traffic police in Stanley Park yesterday giving out fines for 'dangerous driving', "driving well intoxicated', 'driving on the wrong side of the road', 'driving in the walking lane', a million dollars of city revenue could have been made in the couple of hours I tried to survive a walk along the seawall.   Maybe if the Mayor and Luddite courts didn't celebrate lawlessness, criminality and uncivilized behaviour  we'd not have such banality, a city with the potential of being one of the greatest in the world.  It certainly is beautiful if you don't find yourself in the cross hairs of the entitled and those who clearly don't 'fear the law'