Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reckless Cycles - Granville Island -cycling Vancouver Seawall

The guys at Reckless are incredible. First they found the perfect basket for Gilbert. Then they tuned up my Navigator bicycle, finding a dangerous fault I'd not noticed. They fixed that. The bike might have ceased otherwise. Who needs that when I'm carrying Gilbert. They found a heavy duty rack and installed that for Gilbert, even put in some cardboard for comfort till I get some carpet. Really caring smart guys. Lars was the name of the one doing the work but a really good looking younger guy did the climbing on the ladders to find just the right racks and baskets.
I was dressed in sports jacket and tie having come from church with the intent of just picking the bike up. But seeing the work they did, I decided I wanted to take a ride with Gilbert on the seawall.
West Marine across the street had the perfect boat shorts I live in on the sailboat. I got a pair. My otherones have crossed an ocean and are ripped and faded to perfect. Time to start breaking in a new pair. They had this great blue shirt too and a light weight typhoon jacket, perfect as a wind breaker. Up the street there was a doggie store on 4th which had a light weight red harness for Gilbert.
Back at Restless I bought a cool black helmut. It's something you'd see in Sons of Anarchy. Come to think of it, other than the fact I'd blown my knee so couldn't ride for awhile, the other reason was vanity. I never liked the space age pointy helmut I had. This new one is stylin.
Geared up, I strapped Gilbert in his new box and we were off! Fantastic. First thing I noticed is that it didn't accelerate with a twist of the handle. Too much time on motorcycles. Just a little adjustment time and I was hoofing it around the seawall. My good knee felt it on the uphill so I played a bit with the gears. Amazing how much easier it is to ride uphill in the right gear.
Gilbert meanwhile was just fine. He's used to being carried about on vehicles. An old pro. What he liked best was the leash free area for dogs by the duck pond. Letting him out of the box he shot across the field and visitted all dozen of the dogs spread around the place. He's a little rude with his greetings but the other dog owners didn't take notice. He was everywhere. Lightening fast. Playing with big dogs and little dogs and finally coming back when I called.
More bicycling along the sea wall. I got to go by Leg In Boot Square where I'd had my psychotherapy office. Nostalgia lane. There was the place we'd first moored the Giri too at Stamps Landing. That was 6 months of really fine living and loving times. I rememberered the geese coming down from balconies on elevators with their little goslings in tow for their first swim. That's a special event and I expect the geese are still nesting in balconies and still the folks here are doing the annual spring ceremony of helping the geese families who have coopered humans in their reproductive cycles.
Another fenced leash free park appeared beyond Monks Restaurant, a place I'd had a lot of fine meals at when I'd had the boat in False Creek. Gilbert loved playing with a Great Dane here. I just sat and watched. What a great sunny spring Vancouver day.
We bicycled back along the sea wall leaving Granville Island. Everyone was out, some cycling, most walking, some rollerblading. Sun gets people outdoors here, that's for sure. The cherry blossoms, daffodils and tulips were a real eye treat. Not to mention all the beautiful people on the seawall.
I stopped at Reckless and thanked them profusely. Hoorah for Reckless Cycles. They're the best. What a great ride.
Now I'm on Commercial having a italian sausage sandwich and americano sitting in the sun outside Caffe Roma Sports Bar. The folks here know how to make a sandwich. There's a gym around the side. I imagine this is the sort of place Sylvestor Stallone would frequent. Old Italy. Gilbert is tied to the rail and greeting all the small dogs that go by.
The bicycle is locked in the back of the truck. Thanks to Reckless I'm going to get some exercise touring Gilbert about. Not quite the harley but they don't let the harley on the seawall and the seawall is a very special part of Vancouver. Incredible!

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Christ is Risen!

Easter service at St. James Anglican Church was moving. The choir was inspiring. Mother Jessica's sermon was simple and elegant. His tomb was empty. Mary thought his body taken. Angels spoke to her. Then she recognised Jesus. Rabouni (teacher) she said. The church was decorated in white lilies. Beautiful women dressed in white suits. The men were casual as were some women. I wore a tie and jacket. Gilbert had his very best leash. We participated in communion.
Rev. Mark Greenaway Robbins served the bread. The organ and horns were triumphant. After service we had coffee and cake in the downstairs room. The church family. It was a joy to see Alice, our favourite greeter. Phil and Elizabeth were there from Saudi. Gilbert was ectactic to see his long lost friends again.
All week the Bishop had precided over the services I attended this year in Easter Week.
We are outside now. The sun is brighter. The sky is bluer. A new year in the Christian calendar has begun. Spring is here and the blossoms are beautiful. Christ is risen! Hallelujah!

Christ has risen! Hallelujah!

Jesus the man died on the cross.  He was buried in a tomb.But his body disappeared.  Jesus was there instead.  "Doubting Thomas" had to first see the stigmata on his hands and feet to believe.  Mary believed.  Many disciples saw him again before he 'ascended' into heaven.  The 'cosmic christ' is the Godliness of creation with the permeation of matter with sacred.  Jesus conquered death. He showed that this world is but a temporary illusion.  Reality is spiritual not material.  Matter is merely slow energy and all is light. Today Jesus is not just the cosmic christ but also the personal god of olden days risen and here.  Praying and meditating work. Life is better when we do. Congregating to give praise and thanksgiving we are also healthier and better.  I'm up early enough so if I get Gilbert moving we'll get to church in time to have a seat.  Christians are everywhere and usually on Easter they stop lurking but actually show themselves.  When today's service is over we laugh.  It's a time of joy. Christ has Risen. Jesus is Lord. Hallelujah!

Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Public Health

Abstinence first and foremost is a therapy for the individual. It's the 'cure' for addiction. Harm reduction originally was a public health strategy for the benefit of the community. Example - needle exchange - reduces risk of disease transmission. Methadone maintenance - reduces crime and disease spread. The impetus for abstinence was 'healing the individual' and in AA and other such self help group the altruism of 'one drunk helping another'. AA demonstrated that abstinence was a cure whereas prior to the success of these programs alcoholism and addiction were considered untreatable. Today sometime biting the hand that feeds, the harm reduction programs standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, are serving more financially rewarding ends that the marginalized human addict often described as a parasite. Harm reduction policies have been promoted as 'saving money from having members jails', reducing health care costs to the community etc. 
I'm all for harm reduction. All physicians are in the harm reduction and 'cure' business. We've individually had no stake in either per se. It's common for us to advise re 'preventative measures', recommending lifestyle changes, going to AA, exercise, diet, less stress, seeing therapists, and then going on to treat the liver disease, heart disease and mental illness that come with the very common 'noncompliance' and 'non adherence to medical regimen'. There is the same problem in the treatment of all chronic illness, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension etc, life style changes are hard and people continue to see the doctor for 'harm reduction' therapy. But no doctor would argue that exercise isn't good for diabetes. 
This is where the problem arises - harm reduction evangelists - usually with some monetary gain in their agenda - criticize the proven abstinence therapies and argue against abstinence Abstinence is 'cure' and the first stage to highly successful recovery which is a state of being 'happy, joyous and free'. The World Health Organization clearly states that harm reduction is valid only as means to abstinence. It's not an 'alternative'. It's not superior. The 'treatment of choice' for addiction is abstinence, no different than the 'gold standard treatment of choice' for acute appendicitis is appendectomy. There are other treatments for appendicitis but they have greater mortality and morbidity. 
The funding for harm reduction over abstinence based treatments reflects a shift away from the care of the individual and a trend to 'blaming the victim' and ultimately justifying marginalization and herding of addicts into a second class citizen role with only 'palliative care' offered (palliative care being another 'harm reduction' strategy offered when there is no cure available). Today though there is a cure for addiction and the rich are still offered this while the poor are increasingly given 'cake' or 'harm reduction' only. In the end ironically, the lucky ones find AA or NA or become involved in some other spiritually based program of abstinence. The longest studies of sobriety and long term success, such as done by Gallanter, show people who are doing well are abstinent, involved in a spiritually based supportive community and recognise that whatever the substance of addiction is was not safe for them personally. 
Personally I get paid more for 'harm reduction' work than abstinence based work mostly because the patients who are in the 'harm reduction' phase of treatment remain sicker longer, need more visits, and are more likely to need more medical and psychiatric services. When I convinced my hypertensives to meditate and get off their anti hypertensive medications I lost them as patients. Cure is rarely as well supported in the industry as 'harm reduction' therapies. I saw this with Herbert Benson's work and Kohlberg's work about heal. 
This doesn't concern me. I don't think there is some huge conspiracy of sickness.  People in recovery come back to see me for brief psychotherapy and short term bouts of medication management.  Indeed they've returned to being in the same category as people who seek help for situational crisis but don't require ongoing support.  The 12 step programs and other spiritual programs of recovery provide that ongoing support and the therapist is then used specifically for advances rather than to just keep the person's head above water so to speak.  Harm reduction therapies all contribute to bringing a person to the point of seeking abstinence if this is at all possible.  Both are vital and the problem only arises when a person is solely invested in one or the other and sees the world with the cognative distortion of either/or black and white thinking. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Errands

I really wanted to get away to the country. It was an option. Waking I thought, should I take off with the dog and motorbike camping. Or maybe a trip to Seattle for the heck of it. Instead I had coffee and got on with the plan. Errands. The beginning of spring is a time for 'spring cleaning' and 'maintenance' .
The Mazda Miata sportscar is in the shop. It's had it's spring tune up and now is waiting for a new trunk part. The sensor was broken by a downtown eastside attempted vandalism. "Thou shalt not steal" seems to have gone with the secular age. "Steal as much as you can, but don't get caught." Have a good lawyer and the jails are full. Has crime ever been so profitable as it is today. Even in Cyprus the government steals from the citizens bank accounts. I don't think getting rid of God has improved things. I just spoke with an immigrant who claimed 'Canadian parents don't teach their children the 'rules' any more. Thou shalt not steal. In other countries they still cut off hands. He owns a store and loses hundreds of dollars a week to theft.
Alice at church told me a man stole her cat. She's told me several times how the neighbour saw this man come into her little yard and steal the brother of her remaining cat.
Oops, I was derailed. I am thankful for all I have that isn't stolen. In the Old Testament the builders of the temple had to be guarded because the pagans would steal their tools. I'm reading about the English explorers to North America and how theft was rampant among the aboriginals. It was only unacceptable to not steal from your family or your immediate tribe. Everything else was at risk. In some places in Africa if you can't wear your possessions they're good as gone. The whole idea of property is tied to 'thou shalt not steal'. Why should a strong man or smart woman work for more than their immediate needs if others will simply take the benefits of the other's labour.
Still derailed - I am thankful for all the people in the world that have had good parenting and developed into fine citizens and learned respect for others and the basic rules of retribution and karma. The golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" is fairly universal except among the people who don't know not to shit where they eat. Thieves by nature, aren't capable of caring for others being developmentally delayed.
Still derailed - i was talking about errands.
I am having a great day. I want to focus on the positives and all the wonderful working happening people that make this country great and give us such joy.
The first good folk were the fuel people up the street who supply diesel. I'd filled up jerry cans for my diesel heater so with Gilbert running around I hauled diesel. I love to think of all the incredible people that have given us fuel getting it from the ground somewhere and bringing it to my neighbourhood. All the houses and buildings of Canada are dependent on fossil fuels for their warmth and survival. The miners and refiners and workers in this industry have literally given us all hundreds of years of heat and transportation and countless other aspects of our present life we literally take for granted. Because I haul my own fuel and have depended on wood burning stoves by contrast I'm much more appreciative of civilization and the advances. I'm always reminded of the old Indian fellow asked what it was like before he got a Hudson Bay blanket, "Cold" he replied. Only a hundred years ago the principal clothing of my neighbourhood was skins and cedar bark with people smearing their bodies with mud to protect themselves from bugs and mosquitoes. I don't particularly like insect repellent but living off the land in the north without bug spray I've had a few days of 'glorious old days' and frankly prefer the present. I love civilization and especially indoor plumbing. That's why it was so exciting to see Knossus, 3000 years BC with the first indoor toilet, only for the Queen and King. Today everyone has what only the aristocracy could afford only 50 years ago.
Another of those really good folks are those who maintain my storage locker. I don't have the 'basement' or 'attic' that my parents had when I was growing up but thank to innovations of the modern and post modern age we have storage lockers. My first errand was to drop off my pressure washer having pressure washed my sailboat, and pick up my navigator bicycle and suba tanks. I drove in the Ford F350 truck over to the Mazda where they're still waiting for the part. Great folk at Morrey's. Amazing all the engineering and creativity that go into making all these incredible vehicles. Everyone has a car here pretty well and those that don't can take public transit, buses, skytrains or rent cars , trucks, motorcycles ,or use the amazing Go Car communal smart car system. Amazing! I love looking at all the advances in design and capability in the new vehicles. I love the electronic sensors that tell you by sound that you're close to other vehicles. I love the Serius Radio in my Miata with the Message, uplifting Christian music channel. What I was there for was to pick up the basket I bought for Gilbert to ride on the back of my bicycle.
With the bicycle and basket now, and the scuba tanks and laundry I headed back across the Iron Worker Memorial Bridge to Vancouver down town.
One of those incredibly civilized and sophisticated folk is the lovely Chinese lady, her husband and their male assistant at the Laundry Boutique. I don't have a washer or dryer but can drop off my laundry every week or two and trust these wonderful people to return it to me clean and folded. They've been caring for me for years now and they aren't theives. They're really truly wonderful people who are so abundantly trustworthy that their business has grown and expanded since first I came. She does repairs and her husband is an accountant whose ethics and morality are likely the reason for his success in business too. Marvellous folk. I'm always delighted to see their smile and trust them with my laundry.
At Granville Island, or rather one block up across from West Marine is the best little bicycle store. They sold me Gilbert's basket and said if I brought the bike back they'd ensure I had a carrier that would take his weight. So I left my bike with them and they're doing the spring maintenance as well as putting on a carrier.
At West Marine I got sandals. I'm wearing them now. All around the city I saw gorgeous nylon free female legs almost singing the sunshine freedom. Men were out in tshirts arms bare and every now and then someone was wearing short shorts. Just great. Now I have bare feet in sandals. Life is so good!
At Rwanda's Reef I pulled the truck to the side and unloaded the Scuba Tanks. They're going to do the inspection and service on them so that next month I can be a hundred feet under the ocean without fear of faulty tanks. Maintenance is everything in the world of adventure and risk activities I live in. I've a rifle in Reliable Guns being cleaned and serviced too. I've done most of these activities myself at some time in the past but frankly I don't do them routinely and prefer the professionals who do these tasks to do them. I serviced my own bicycle all through childhood thanks to Dad and my older brother Ron's supervision. I've taken down guns, done my own hand loading, taken apart cars and serviced motorcycles. I've not done the valves on scuba gear but I've done most everything on my sailboat at one time but again I prefer to have a professional do the work today. I m planning on doing some boat work, varnishing and painting. It's enjoyable to do that in the sun but I don't like starting some task when I've work or weather to contend with. When I was sailing only I did all kinds of boat work, engine maintenance, even some of the electronics but if I didn't get something done in a day I'd have the next day to do it. I could leave something in parts for days while I worked on other things but today I'm scheduled too tightly for that.
This is a joy. Sitting outside at Blenz having a coffee and a sandwich. Gilbert's loving visitting with passing by dogs. We drove through sunny downtown Vancouver and stopped at the Hyatt. I left Gilbert in the truck while I went into the round up for a bit, meeting friends, visitting. Good times.
Now I'm back to the boat. I've got the marine varnish I needed and some sandpaper from Martin's so I may do some sanding before going out tonight. Tomorrow I'm looking forward to Easter Sunday Service at St. James Anglican. AJ is having her child baptised and Phil and Elizabeth will be there for that. Good times. Praise The Lord. Tomorrow we all laugh and sing "Jesus is Risen". And a new Christian year will begin!!!!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

42nd North Shore Round Up

I love these.  Every one cleans up so nicely.  The Hyatt Regency is a great hotel. They have terrific underground motorcycle parking and great coffee. I love seeing all my friends from all over. It's a marvellous time and just gets better every year.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I imagine heaven as a place of light.  I'm flying and others are too. There's instant communication and no deception. Our thoughts and feelings are all true and suffused with the realization of love and interconnectedness  My family and friends are there, the animals I've love. I've walking with God in Eden naming and talking with Jesus and Martha and Mary.  Mohammed is there and Isaiah, Krishna and Socrates.  I may meet them or at least wave at them standing nearby.  I lived C.S. Lewis description of heaven, closer and closer neighbourhoods to God.  I liked best Mark Twain's description of heaven in Captain Stormfield's Visit to heaven. I imagine having a pig farm or helping out Noah with the animals or maybe gardening with Adam.  I don't imagine sexual parts in heaven or plumbing just orgasmic potential with all the Eve like women of my past, present and future. I expect there will be homosexuality in heaven too.  It just won't have that cheesy bar quality to it because there will be no drunkeness or drug addiction. There won't be theft or crime or murder and everyone will come together.  I imagine a whole lot of joy and agape and rest.  Floating sensations and beautiful vistas.  And learning.  I think the libraries of heaven will be unbelievable and wonderful games of flying tag and three dimensional chess.  I don't imagine getting bored or tired or having pain but laughing a whole lot.  I long to see my parents and talk about this time. Maybe it will be a bardot event and another cast will plan another lifetime play with last life loser being the winner.  I might be my father or sister or older brother.  Maybe i'll know my immortality this time round , discussing thought with Buddha and listening to Solomon tell me how best to think before I enter lethe.  Maybe they'll be dancing but with wings.  I imagine the smells will be like the tropical flowers of Saipan and Hawai. i'd like to be able to skip through time and visit the Restaurant at the End of the Universe from Adams, Hitch hiker's guide to the galaxy or go back and see Jesus and Peter walking on the sea of Gallilee.  There will be Chinese people, Indians, aboriginals, English, French, blacks, whites and people from Louisiana and even politicians, at least the ones who said their prayers, and Australians for sure.  There will be people from all over the world vaguely looking like they did before the died and went to heaven. Eventually everyone goes there.  Even those who go to hell don't go for 'eternity' just a long time and purgatory is a state of mind.  Everyone gets to heaven eventually.  It's a pilgrim's progress with a lot of detours and we can pray for others we know in the game of life below.  It's a distraction in heaven, checking out the earth scenario but mostly we're moving forward through time and space and dimension, growing with wonder and joy.  I imagine heaven a fine place in deed and the most direct way there being following the spiritual laws which are pretty much laid out by Jesus and others who say much the same as he did. It's love really.  Fear is backwards.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cafe Italiano, Cafe Rustico, Main Street, Vancouver

My friends, Elizabeth and Phil, surprised me at the end of clinic today having just returned from Saudi Arabia where they are working in one of the country's fine medical schools. They were here on vacation for Easter Week, and like me planning on attending the Office of Tenebrae service that night at St. James Anglican Church. Gilbert, my cockapoo, was with me so we had to find a restaurant with outdoor seating, which given the balmy weather was in itself attractive.
How fortunate we were to come across Cafe Italiano, Cafe Rustico on the East side of Main Street between 12th and 16th. The manager/owner was a thorough delight, convivial and entertaining in the finest of European way. I saw there was pasta with a real variety, that night's specials being lasagna or canelloni. Phil and I opted for the lasagna while Elizabeth had the canelloni. The meal was superb. Having just been in Italy a year before I felt I was teleported back to the fine fair there. We had robust Caesar salads and exquisite afterdinner tea and cafe au lait's. We also had scrumptuous chocolate cookies. Gilbert had three meatballs he simply devoured and looked up wanting more.
What a feast.
What a marvellous place to bring friends and have good times. Italians do know how to eat well.
Caffe' Italiano, Cafe Rustico is such a fine place, I would recommend it to anyone and look forward to many more meals there myself.

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Office of Tenebrae, St. James Anglican Church

Easter Week and the Office of Tenebrae. Through the service of shadows the 15 candles were individually extinguished as the choir chanted psalms and the clergy and congregations recited readings. It was wonderful to sit with Elizabeth and Phil returned for Easter Week vacation from working at the medical school in Saudi Arabia. Gilbert insisted on sitting between them for the whole service, ecstatic to have his friends returned. A solemn service it was moving in it's simplicity.

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Elizabeth and Phil

It was a thorough delight to be greeted at the end of clinic by Dr. Feely. Elizabeth and Phil had just arrived back for Easter from Saudi Arabia where she is working in medical education and Phil is doing statistical analysis. Gilbert was ecstatic to see his friend Elizabeth whose been gone months but years in dog life. He barked and squealed and ran circles round and round her.

We had a little time over a delicious Italian dinnner at Cafe Rustico on Main. The lasagna was superb. The service impecable. We sat outside so Gilbert could be beside us on the street. He devoured the meatballs made especially for him. He wouldn't leave the sides of Elizabeth and Phil. They together regaled me with tales of expat hiking through desert wadis, learning arabic language, medical students and Saudi culture. Thanks to Phil's little camera memory I was able to see pictures of the ultra modern city and the rustic desert. They both looked terrific and were a thoroughly delight to see,

Friends. After dinner we went on to St. James Anglican Church for the Office of Tenebrae service.

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Gratitude Wednesday

Thank you Lord for this sunny day.  Protect me from all enemies.  Thank you for the air we breathe and the water we drink.  Protect me from all curses.  Protect me from stupidity.  Protect me from resentments of the past. Thank you for the moon and stars that have been in the sky protecting the night. Thank you for the sea breeze. Thank you for family and friends. Protect them all from evill  Watch over your loved ones as we watch over ours helping us to care as you do.  Give us strength and health to resist all disease and negativity.  Help me to be joyful and give me peace.  Help us to be your servant. Guide us.  Protect us from immature and angry and fearful ones.  Save us from temptations and vices.  Thank you for the work and service you offer. Thank you for this easter week.  Thank you for your love of this world and all who are in it. Thank you for your loving example.  Thank you for teaching us that animals revenge but only humans can love their enemy.  Help me to love my enemies but protect me from them. Help me too to learn to detach with love.  Help me to walk in right ways .  Help me to avoid all places and people and things that are harmful.  Thank you for food and visions and sound and hearing. Thank you for our animal friends.  Be close to those who I am close too.  Thank you for easter and all that it means. Help me to grow in understanding and wisdom.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deep Cove Night Motorcycle Ride

Deep Cove is a sweet little town in North Vancouver. I motored up there in the SV Giri under the Second Narrows Bridge, and having the railway bridge raised to allow my mast to clear. I've gone up by boat a few times over the years especially loving that first adventure with the beautiful young woman I was married to then. I can't remember if we anchored that first time or moored. I do remember the great meal ashore. Deep Cove is known for it's fine food, the perfect little getaway.
This time Gilbert and I simply rode over on the Honda CRF 250 motorcycle, a splendid little drive along the shore line. In Deep Cove there's a park. We dismounted there and Gilbert had a marvellous dog time with fresh virgin territory rich in scent and unmarked by himself.
On the way back we turned up Mount Seymour parkway only going as far as the sign that said winter tired were needed until April 30. With Gilbert riding on the back of the bike I didn't want any slippery spills. We passed Parkgate Mall and another mall down along Dollarton. Great little local delights with specialty foods and shops. North Vancouver reminds me of when I lived in Marin County, San Francisco. Each little town and local that made up the area was distinctive. Deep Cove certainly has that flavour along with the area around it.
Great little night ride.

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Palm Sunday, 2013

Palm Sunday, Easter Week, St. James Anglican Church. Gilbert and I arrived late because of a flat tire being fixed right now at Speedy Brake and Muffler. Having worked so long with schizophrenics, poets and holy men I can't help but note that lack of air in my tire should indicate need to be at communion with the Holy Spirit.
It was good to be there when we arrived. Gilbert and I so enjoy seeing Alice and others we've come to know in the church.
The choir began a plainsong rendition of the Crucifixion, speaking of Herod and Pontius Pilate, the false accusations, the travesty of justice, and finally the death.

I thought that Barrabas set free by acclamation must have suffered the worse 'survivor's guilt' in history.

The church was almost full for Palm Sunday. Gilbert was fussing some. I loved the ritual though. The words washing over me. I stood and sat and kneeled and even genuflected at one point in the service. Communion was inspiring as always. Then it was over for this week and service to the world begun. I had coffee below where Gilbert was glad to see his canine friends Bear and Dido.
David explain that Dido was named after the Queen of Carthage from Henry Purcell's opera, Dido and Aeneas.
Now we have Easter week ahead with Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper, followed by Good Friday then Easter Sunday. There are vigils and suppers and various activities at the church this week. Indeed all Christian and Catholic Churches are as busy this week as they are at Christmas.
Some Christians in fact are called C&E Christians because it's their practice to attend church only on these highest of occasions. No one judges them as all are welcome whenever in church but it sure means that the church swells at these times of the year, with often standing room only. It's a good time to arrive early as I'd planned were it not for a flat, resulting in my arriving late as seems my pattern despite best intentions.
Hallelujah! Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

Methadone Maintenance Therapy and Benzodiazepines

Methadone Maintenance Therapy is the the harm reduction treatment for opiate dependence. It can be used for IV Heroin users or opiate pill takers or those who smoke opiates.  These are commonly purchased on the street.  Oxycontin, so called hillbilly heroin, was a commonly diverted opioid prescription that was withdrawn and replaced by oxy-neo, a form of the the same medication which comes in a delivery system which resists crushing for illegal injection.
Benzodiazepines are a large class of pharmaceutical preparations with many benefits and even life saving potentials.  They are used for the treatment of seizures, sedation, panic attacks and insomnia, just to name a few of their more common uses.  The most known of these is Diazepam, known by it's most common trade name, Valium.  Other common benzodiazepines go by the following names, ativan, lorazepam, clonazepam, rivotril, temazepam, etc.  These were all meant for short term usage, in the range of weeks to at most a few months.  Because of their high effectiveness and benefits they tend to be continued increasingly for psychological rather than the physiological benefits.  They have abuse potential and its common over months to a year of use for people to become dependent on them and chemical dependence can lead to addiction.
Further, it's been recently found that benzodiazepines interfere in the healing of the brain from acute trauma.  They are used most carefully in patients with head injuries and studies suggest that those who had strokes who were on benzodiazepines of any kind were least likely to recover completely from strokes. So here is a potential scenario where a person has a cerebral vascular accident loses the capacity to talk and walk, only to completely heal so that a year later they are back to normal. In contrast a person using benzodiazepines might experience the same brain condition only never get out of bed again, needing life long nursing care, bedridden for life.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC has been carefully following the research on benzodiazepines and noted that those who died on methadone maintenance therapy were commonly taking benzodiazepines. One of the most significantly negative side effects of benzodiazepines, like valium, lorazepam and rivotril is that they depress the respiratory rate, making breathing shallower and slower.  When patients take Methadone they can also lose their alertness if the dosage is not yet correctly established.  Combined a person stops breathing and doesn't know it and doesn't wake up.
The College has been warning about the dangerous combination of Methadone Maintenance Therapy with the use of Benzodiazepines but this last week issued a position paper suggesting they were indeed contraindicated.
This is extremely helpful for clinicians in the front lines and shows that those at the College of Physicians and Surgeons are understanding of the basic plight of the practitioner.  I've had my life threatened many times for refusing benzodiazepines.  mOne of my patients who was on a benzodiazepine 'taper', slowly coming off an extremely high dose of benzos told dozens of people he was going to 'shoot Dr. Hay'.  He occasionally brought a gun to the office and showed me what I was facing.  He was actually a fine fellow just having a little difficulty coming off benzos.  More commonly a woman would threaten the doctor with sexual harassment as is common in our community where people marginalized almost dehumanized  will use whatever tools or weapons they have to get what they deem they need to reduce their obvious suffering.  This is unfortunate because these poor souls then get utilized by the downright evil machinations of others who will seek to profit from championing any cause.
So it's really appreciated when the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC is indeed proactive rather than a 'monday morning quarterback', as commonly seen in beaurocracies which so easily move towards Mandarism unless checked early.
I have patients who are on 6 mg of clonazepam, the normal dose being only 2 mg a day and 4 mg being excessive. They argue threaten, throw tantrums, shout, scream, disrupt the clinic when I reduce them by .125.  It's like asking an alcoholic drinking 60 beer a day to go down to 59 or asking a 4 pack a day smoker to forego 3 cigarettes.  These people are already struggling with addiction, including, heroin, crack, nicotine or cigarettes, alcohol and we in the methadone maintenance services are not the ones who have made a fortune off the patients selling them all this stuff and being the 'good bartender', 'good drug pusher' or  'good doctor' who gives them candy.  Addiction Medicine doctors are the most maligned doctors on 'rate your doctor' services the world over.
So thankfully this week I can now point to a piece of paper and say 'this is the law', see, 'don't kill the messenger', we have to get you off this stuff slowly or I'll have to not prescribe it for you at all.  I've had a dozen complaints to the college directly and indirectly by patients who I've refused.  Thankfully the College has people who have worked in the front lines and know beyond a certainty that there is no 'nice' way to say 'no' because 'no' is 'no' and to severely disturbed addicted psychotic patients 'no' means 'yes'.
What they do understand is, "I will lose my job if I prescribe you more ativan" or "It's against the law for me to prescribe you rivotril".  "You told me you can buy a 10 mg valium on the street for $10, well if you want me to supply you valium at that rate, I can't. Somebody is doing bulk and I'd have to charge you $100 or $1000 a pill to justify the personal risk I'd be taking and I don't think you can afford that.  I think what you want is a dirty pharmacist or a doctor who has already lost his license. "  We can have reasonable discussions like that but saying that 'benzodiazepines are unhealthy' to a person who is walking dead already, having overdosed many times on drugs and willing to do anything to stop the pain, simply doesn't 'cut it'.  Frankly there are  too many 'silly' people out there who don't know anything about addiction or addicts or the real world outside their ivory towers and well protected neighbourhoods.  Their smug judgementalness is only comparable in stupidity to their indifference to the human condition.  We're all in this together.  It's time we really did make a difference rather than just spouting platitudes and pointing fingers.
Several of us addiction medicine doctors got the College report and almost danced together.  Only last week we'd weaned a methadone patient off clonazepam and they'd gone to a leading local psychiatrist who'd given them 6 mg clonazepam on the first visit.  Thanks to the College our colleagues who avoid working with addiction , and certainly don't have methadone patients, will be aware of the potential life threatening combination and think twice before cavalierly prescribing addictive and dangerous medications to patients with alcoholism and addiction. Hopefully too people will do more thorough histories. In BC there's the pharmanet too which allows doctors to learn what patients are on, because in fairness to doctors, psychiatrists especially,  addicts and alcoholics are 'cunning, baffling and powerful'. When they want drugs from a doctor they're not likely to be upfront with him about their history of abuse and addiction.
I don't want patients to die on my watch. I work with methadone patients because it's an area of greatest need  Addicts are society's 'bitch', to coin a jail term. I like to see patients crawl back from the grave and walk into the light. It's an exhilarating area of work.  I talked to an oncologist and we shared our joy in the thrill of winning against all odds and curing the incurable.  It's a whole lot more fulfilling than treating the common cold or saying 'there, there' to a person having exam anxiety.  All of this is important and in my earlier years I did all of that but today my greatest joy is seeing patients get on in recovery.  I've seen patients get on methadone and eventually have carries, so they can be trusted with their methadone like any patient with a chronic illness.  Some stay on methadone but get their lives back, go to recovery meetings, attend doctors appointment, take care of their health, return to work, and reestablish relationships with their families.  Some get stable on methadone and after a year or so taper off and go on to be wholly abstinent from mood altering drugs in NA and AA 12 step programs, some joining churches or temples or synagoges, and reconnecting with community.  Many do volunteer work.

It's really rewarding too to know that the Minister of Health and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC are there understanding and helping front line clinicians do their job.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Whitecliff Marine Park

I did some of my scuba diving training here at Whitecliff Marine Park. I remember most the night dive, being startled by the friendly alien seal while looking at the wonder of the phosphorescent shrimp on the sea floor. It was here too that I had to mark and swim a search grid during the day.
I've had a hankering to dive here again. I've had my BCG serviced and heard I can pick it up tomorrow. I'll do a swimming pool dive to check out my dry suit, weights, buoyancy and the serviced Octopus BCG. After that I'm hoping to get out for a dive at Whitecliff.
It's a beautiful spot. Gilbert and I drove up on the Honda CRF 250 motorcycle. I've only put 332 km on it since I bought it. He enjoyed the walk through the park to the beach but was a little miffed that no dogs were allowed down there. Otherwise it was a fine destination for a sunny March Saturday in West Vancouver.

West Vancouver Horseshoe Bay Motorcycle Ride

The Marine Drive ride from West Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay is an all time favourite. Cyclists do it. Scooters do it. And I've done it in every bike I've owned. It's really sweet on the big Harley. Curving 60 km well pavved road with great views of the ocean. And the finest property in the lower mainland. This year there's more for sale signs than I've ever seen. If I had an extra million or ten I'd consider one of these spectacular properties.

But what do the rich know that I don't know. They seem en mass to be getting out of real estate. On the other hand it may just be old money with the typical kids that can't or won't compete with their parents. Rags to riches in three generations, riches to rags in one. I don't know. It's all above my pay grade. I just admire the amazing work that has gone into creating these magnificent estates with great waterfronts or waterfront views.

Horseshoe Bay itself has the feel of a little island town. I could be on Salt Spring with the ferries coming and going, the marina and tourists everywhere. Seaside sanctuary at it's finest.

I'd thought to have fish and chips, because this is the pace for that but there was Starbucks and Gilbert can sit outside with me here. I'll pick up some fish at the market in West Vancouver and fry up my own.

Gilbert rode up on the back of the bike and only howled when an ambulancee went by. He yodled with the siren causing everyone at a nearby bus stop to smile. He's a great little biker dog. Great March day on the coast. And I love this Honda CRF 250L. It's a really sweet motorcycle.

Spring Cleaning Saturday March

It's a beautiful sunny Saturday. This morning I took a load over to the storage locker where Hannah is completing the cleaning and organization with 2 strong men. She's quite a leader and the locker suddenly has twice the room available so I'll have a place to store the boat trailer.  I brought the pressure washer back to the boat with me. I took the tarps off the  boat, one I'd cut holes in for drainage going to the garbage while the others was folded away under the dinghy.  I pressure washed the boat IN SHORTS, and galoshes.  Gilbert watched until two dogs came to visit my neighbour then the three of them raced back and forth up and down the dock after sniffing and piddling everywhere.  The soot hasn't gone but all the green organics was removed.  I expect the boat is going to need a top coat of paint soon. That would really make it very pristine and yachty indeed.  Right now despite the pressure wash it has maintained its slightly scow like appearance.  It's really a working boat and not an effete racer by any means.  I'm disappointed that while I cleaned below decks a month or two or three ago, Gilbert's lack of house keeping has caused it to look surprisingly untidy.  I found the table top once this winter but now I've lost it again.  One bit of work gets done and another takes precedence.
Now I suppose I just have to go out motorcycling because it's that kind of day.  I've done some boat work.   Now to get on leathers and make a move before this couch calls me a little more.

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Monday, March 18, 2013


There are many "purposes" for blogging. Some blogs are veritable works of art while others are ad hock family journals.
My blog began as a result of a Canadian Author's Association meeting where the president of the BC Federation of Writers recommended blogging as a means to literally show one's 'productivity'. Publishers are apparently interested in 'productive' artists.
The Artist's Way by Cameron described 'creativity' as a process. She encouraged artists to write daily 'morning pages' as a means to overcome the 'censor' and stimulate the flow of creativity long stymied by all the negativity that individuals encounter in the school and work place.
Drama of a Gifted Child, by Miller, another classic in the creative process described a similiar need for freedom of expression.
Vaillant, the brilliant psychiatrist from Harvard wrote a book on Creativity which I did a review on for a Canadian medical journal years back.
I started my blog then as a kind of 'writer journal'. I rarely 'edit' or 'rework' my blog but have it as the original 'download' of material from which I thought one day I might be able to find something of value. It's the 'first draft'.
I had another blogger tell me that I really ought to have '5 or 6' blogs because of the different themes that run through mine.
I thought this a great suggestion and definitely true but that would defeat my original purpose, which simply was to encourage writing. I have note books full of unfinished novels and boxes of published stories. I found I really enjoyed the 'creative writing' but because I had so much 'editting' and 'careful detailed scientific writing and research' as my 'work' I didn't simply write for the joy of writing as much. Further, while I loved the publishers and editors I've had I found the process of sending things off a barrier of sorts. With blogging I could just write and press the publish button. Sometimes I read what I wrote over for punctuation mainly but mostly not.
The themes are there though, the main things I write on.
So my blog could well be divided into the following:
1) Travels with Gilbert - I always loved Steinbecks 'Travels With Charlie' and while I don't believe I'll ever be the writer Steinbeck was I do believe Gilbert is a much more exceptional and noteworthy dog than Charlie, though I suspect Steinbeck might disagree.
2) Notes on Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, Psychopharmacology from a front lines practitioner of the science and art over 30 years
3) It's hard to separate this from the previous one but Notes on Medicine - being a physician and healer over 30 years.
4) Spirituality - this is what really turns my crank - love of God, desire to be closer to God, theology, Christianity, ecumenicalism, world religions, heaven, all of this is so very important to me and what I like most to write about
5) Addiction and Recovery - I'm an addiction psychiatrist and a recovered alcoholic so it's a joy to write about this in a scientific and objective way, making it part of the earlier two headings but also in a personal way, as part of my spiritual journey and travels with Gilbert.
6) Adventure and the Wilderness - I've been out behind the lines in physical, spiritual and psychiatric territories and being a 'front line' worker , always working where the 'greatest need' is, and being a wilderness doctor , often beyond where doctors like to go, is a theme that runs through my blog and blogging.
7) Sexuality - I taught sexuality and sexuality is a large part of life, subjectively, and medical and psychiatric practice, objectively

Finally I was the high school photographer. My father was an avid photographer and my brother is now a professional photographer. My nephew, Graeme, not only does still photography but has branched out into making movies which is so reminiscent of my father who graduated to a movie camera and would 'splice' little 2 minutes segments of film together to make a movie we'd watch as a family in the living room .
So I usually have a camera along and now my iPhone so enjoy sharing pictures with my blog and love getting feedback from friends and family on my blog.
It reminds me of when I published orthodox scientific papers in prestigious journals. No one got back to me. I was 'cited' occasionally but much preferred publishing stories and writing in the Medical Post because so many of my colleagues read that national weekly medical magazine.
Blogging for me keeps me in touch. I write book reviews, poetry, movie reviews and just about anything that catches my attention. Frankly blogging has been the most fun I've had writing since I began writing poetry as a teenager and performed in local Winnipeg Coffeehouses age 16 to 20, around the time Carrie and I put out the Vincent Massey High School, poetry journal, Poison. Later I'd love editting the Meditoban and talking with friends about the writing we'd share in that.
Then there came a time when I was always writing but the boxes just went into storage. Many might say 'as they should'. Indeed there are those who favour censorship and 'refinement'. I do admire my friends who rewrite dozens of times before they share. I've certainly done this but while we all know that's the 'work' of writing, I think of that indeed as the 'work of writing', whereas my blog has been for me the 'play" of writing.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

John's 70th Birthday Party Surprise

John's sons have been planning John's 70th birthday party for months. I got the invitation and was truly mum on the subject, all of us vowing secrecy. L'Notte Restaurant on Dunbar and 16th was the location for the festivities. I was amazed to arrive, finding the restaurant full and thinking there must be some other room. No, these were all John's friends arrived early and looking just like normal people at a restaurant.
Luke and Jesse arrived with balloons and the restaurant instantly took on new meaning. It was then that this 'flash mob' appeared no longer separate and apart. Everyone was chatting with everyone in expectation.
Luke announced that John was a bout to arrive. The restaurant hushed. The pianist and singer stopped. Management stood poised.
And there was John, shocked and astonished, definitely at a loss for words as he entered the restaurant which broke lose in a very loud "Happy birthday, John!" All the music that night was enhanced by John's friend, a symphony violinist turned fiddler for the occasion. Never has a better 'For he's a jolly good fellow!" been played on strings.
Then a very fine dinner was served and we all began to meet each other by asking the critical question, "How do you know, John?"
I sat next to a woman who new John through is wife Pru, she'd met, 15 years  before, as I knew Pru through John, who I'd met 15 years before. But next to me sat a UBC lab partner of John's from his undergraduate days. Across from me sat a psychiatrist who'd known John from when he'd started the psychoanalytic psychotherapy group at UBC bringing up an analyst from Seattle for teaching and consultation. I looked across the room and saw several psychiatrists I knew who were our colleagues and then there were the family friends and friends of John's from his neighbourhood and many I simply didn't know.
"How did you know who to invite?" I asked Luke and Jesse later. "We stole his rollodex and got help from Mom".
 It was a truly wonderful birthday party. Such laughter and good will. John was radiant.
I could hardly hear, the conversations so loud. I felt a bit like an old man at a rock concert. There was that much laughter and chatter and in the background the pianist played the occasional Irish tune in honor of St. Patrick's day. John's more a St. Francis man.  He was moved with the revolutionary choice of a Pope from the Americas. John's compassion is so intrinsic to his being.
All these people going back 50 years showed up to love him. All that was missing was a son who couldn't get gacsk from China, his sister in Australia and all those other aussie friends of childhood he goes off to visit whenever he can face the long flight down under.
Happy Birthday, John!

Sunny Spring Sunday, Vancouver March

If any of these pictures prevent some poor soul in Eastern Canada from committing suicide, I will have felt I have been of service today. Don't give up, spring is coming. We here in Vancouver are an early warning system for global warming for Canada. It is happening and if you just hold on it will come to you. Don't give up. The flowers are even more beautiful this year!

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday - North Vancouver

Friday. North Vancouver. Another Starbuck's. Americano and Banana loaf. End of week. The dog is watching feet and legs. Somewhere between them might be a bitch in heat. Or a ball. Or a young male dog longing to play. His priorities are set.
I'm in limbo. Between the certainties of work and uncertainties of recreation. It's raining.
"He's not fixed." She says. Gilbert is excited by a little white terrier. Owner letting Gilbert and this little dog sniff, and smile and cavort.
"No," I answer meaning, yes, he's not fixed. The other dog owner is no more grammatically delicate than I am.
"She loves little boys. Even if she's fixed."
The dogs are bouncing about each other, tangling leashes. I sometimes wonder if there's a subtext to dog owner communication. So much could be implied. Someone good at repartee and more than Friday half witted as I am would have a time. As dog owners we joke. There's often innuendos. Tonight, I'm tired. Gilbert is enthralled. Then they move on. Gilbert turns to wait for the next 'event".
Today I talked to Eric about a Raymarine autopilot. Jim is over at the boat right now taking out the Wagner pump for maintenance. Only the electronics need upgrading. Not surprising considering the original one burnt out and I'd replaced that with a rebuild. I'm looking forward to not steering. I like steering my motorcycle but think the joy of a sailboat is having hands free for coffee.
There was a break in the clouds. I was driving in the Miata listening to the news of North Korea's escallating nuclear sabre rattling. The US is adding fourteen more Interceptors in Alaska to counter the threat of long range missiles.
I remember the Cold War, the Kennedy Missile crisis, and years of living as if the world might end tomorrow.
Now the children are terrorized by the eco-doomsayers. "When will they ever learn?"
In my spiritual world the world ends every night and so far my faith has woken me each morning. I'm not so sure I wouldn't like to be 'extracted' by the Rapture or Anal Probing Blue Alien Saucer Women. "Beam me up, Scotty, there's no intelligent life here."
I've thought that at times only to think that perhaps the powers that be are indeed clever as foxes. Somewhere a North Korean Arms dealer in league with a Western world arms dealer manipulate the media to sell more products, never really wanting to see the weapons used or not really caring just so long as they get their commission.
I'm jaded that way.
But only on Friday's. By Monday I'll be ready to believe the propaganda the news networks dish out.

"Oh, dear, what should we do?" the ever prepared Girl Guide said to her Boy Scout.
"We just converted the old bomb shelter to a marijuana grow op. What if we need it, now?"
"Don't worry Girl Guide," said the swarthy Boy Scout, "Nothing is real."

I love the light on this street corner glistening with rain and on coming dusk.

A large black poodle pranced by. Gilbert was transfixed. A dog in a passing car window barked at both of them.

I don't know what to do. I've a few errands tomorrow. An important visit with friends. Church on the weekend but I wonder if I shouldn't be motorcycling or driving out to get the RV and moving ashore for a bit. I hate being about when there's major boat work. Easier to leave and come back when it's all done. I'd like to go for different walks with Gilbert and enjoy the change. Ashore I have a Costco nearby with great salads. I'll sleep on that. Decisions. Decisions. In the morning I'm having the windshield installed. Depending on how long that takes I'll see what transpires.

I can already feel the time returning. It was all gone when I sat down, used up by countless demands of the week of work. Now it's coming back. I feel it returning. Gilbert likes sitting outside staring down the street, all eyes and ears, nose twitching.

It's wonderful to sit out side in March in Vancouver typing bared fingered on the street outside Starbuck's Cafe. Life is good. Thank you God! Thank you Jesus! Hallelujah. It's Friday. TGIF.

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Thank you, Lord,  for the pain
As it reminds me I am alive.
Thank you, for the suffering,
As it points the way,
Or the opposite way.

Somewhere there is a compass,
And I would ask that you fix mine,
Sweet Jesus.

There is loneliness, alienation, self pity, and fear
In this realm of selfishness and concern
Where gravity is all,
And the lightness of being is within:
Cliche reminders of another
Inner world of peace,
Outside there is but war
Difference, discord and disease.

I am seeking you, Holy Spirit
In all my heart and soul.
I'm longing for you.
Let me know you.
Open the doors wide,
That I may come in,
I would be with you, my Lord,
God of all Creation and un creation,
Friend, and lover, known and unknown.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Writing Biographical Stories

I was asked last night what I was writing.  I answered, not much.  I'd just sent a short story off to a magazine.  My blog has over a hundred thousand hits.  I'm always writing poetry.  But then I remembered.
Everyday I listen and I "dictaphone type" the 'stories' of my patients.  They tell me the complaints of the day.  They tell me what they are doing.  It's a regular archaeological psychiatric dig. It's not what I want to write per se.  For 12 hours I'm listening to schizophrenics, bipolars, personality disorders drug addicts, alcoholics, psychopaths, sociopaths, neurotics and psychotics and otherwise normal successful people.  Most of the day I'm typing what they're telling me. I'm recording their biographies.
When I see a new patient I ask them to tell me what's bothering them. Then I ask if they've seen other psychiatrists, physicians, surgeons, addictionologists, lawyers, probation officers, been in hospital, treatment centres or jails.  They tell me about their experiences.  The ones who've been to jail or treatment centre usually list a number of people and places they found utterly despicable.  They often have many doctors and judges who they say were prejudiced, corrupt, incompetent or useless.  I hear true and untrue conspiracy stories and often what I hear later appears in the newspaper.
A day doesn't go by that I don't hear a complaint about a colleague or some other person in authority.  There's a stigma to illness and especially psychiatric illness and most importantly brain injury either mechanical from assault or chemical from self induced.
I then ask about family and hear about the wonderful parents and siblings and the evil twin sisters and the mothers who had sex with the sons and the fathers who brought their buddies home to have sex with their daughters. I hear about the dirty secrets of the homes of the rich and famous.  I record all the 'stories' of the patients lives , typing down verbatim what they thought about their brothers and sisters.  I learn what became of them and what became of the person I'm seeing. I hear about their children.  Many people I see haven't seen their children in decades.  Others live together still as old people.
I then record, typing verbatim, the stories of their lives, where they were born, the pros and cons of childhood, the schools and jobs and sexual lives. I record what they like and what sports and activities they participate in and the awards they achieved. I've seen so many olympic stars and film stars and heroes and leaders of governments, mafia, Hell's Angels, and veterans.  Mostly though I see normal people often leading lives of quiet desperation.
There's a gap between the promises of media, politicians, schools, jobs, temples, and churches and what they are feeling.  They are anxious, depressed, self pitying, disillusioned, defeated, but more and more just angry, really angry, very angry. They've been lied to all their lives and they don't like it any more.  At the end of their rope they're seeing me, sometimes because a judge told them too, occasionally because a friend suggested it, maybe because they saw an ad in the newspaper. They've usually had to find a doctor they don't know to get a referral to see me and wait anywhere from half a year to two years even to see me.
They all have broken hearts, broken lives or broken minds.  I'm a stranger and they're a stranger.  Sometimes they try to kill me that first meeting.  It's happened many times.  Sometimes they tell me that they plan to kill themselves but waited till that first meeting.  That first meeting is at least weekly a terrifying place for me and certainly for them.
They don't even have privacy anymore.  Insurance companies and government and courts all demand that whatever they say to the psychiatrist can be used against them.  They often want me to lie for them.  Complete strangers, often without power or money. They want me to say they don't do heroin, they didn't have sex with a child, or that they're not hearing voices telling them to kill their boss.
I write their stories for them.  I'm a 'spin doctor'.  I put the most positive spin on a person's story I possibly can.  I often say they didn't mean to do something they did, like kill their best friend, when I don't really believe it.  But I'm their scribe.  When I'm working for the courts or am working for an insurance company I'm 'their scribe'.  Only occasionally I'm the company doctor.  There's way more money working for the 'man' but I'm just used to doing my job.  It's a Canadian thing. I couldn't explain to people.  I was promised what I try to give in my day to day work but don't find much anymore when I go looking.  When I'm the company doctor though I put a light on the patient's story like the lights they have in an interrogation rooms. But in my humble office I'm just an old doctor, curious, mostly, caring. I  shine the light of love, Agape Love, into the dark recesses.
I always believe there was a child who wanted to love and be loved and they set out in life and now are here in my office, not where they wanted to go, for sure.  But together I hope to  find out by careful history taking and ultimately active listening, where they really wanted to go and how they got off course.  Mostly angry some people want me to listen to the whole of their lives for the years that it took them to get off course, detail, by detail, reliving every wrong turn, and excoriating every ex husband, wife or lover, angry if I don't 'listen' to their misery and mad as hell if I interrupt them because they need to be 'heard'.  I have to ask so many times then where they wanted to go now and is it the same place they wanted to go a half century ago when someone first did them wrong and the world turned on them and they've always been the victim.  If at all possible I can tell them how to get back to where they were going or onto where they want to go.  But that's where therapy begins.  Mostly I'm just recording their biography, that crucial first draft.  It's sometimes taken years to get to this stage and few are even willing to consider a re write and rarely do they want an editor.  Many want a publisher and almost everyone wants to be paid for their mistakes.  Mostly they blame someone else for their mistakes and more and more they blame me for recording their lives as they have told them.  So many more are thankful though. I live for those days.
I write their stories.  I take dictation from all these people and worry about my fingers.  Some days I'm like the honky tonk piano player in the east side bar remembering studying the classics and wanting to play mozart at the Royal Albert Hall.  I remember my sewing grandmother's fingers and my journalist mother's fingers.  They were curled with pain and use.  I've written tens of thousands of stories.
There are no Pulitizer Prizes for these stories.  The stories get the patients thousands, hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars of pensions, and services and medications.  Untold the stories were just a burden to the patients, sometimes festering.
Lots of times the stories I've written for the patients have put dozens of people in jails.  Often I'm a 'translator' and the way the patient tells me the story they were the bad one and then I tell them they were 'raped', 'bullied', 'sick' and somehow their story changes.  I've taken their stories and found dozens of brain tumours and hundreds of metabolic and infectious diseases.  I've not introduced these story tellers to publishers or agents but I've sent them on to people who've taken their stories and turned them into gold.
Rarely I've let their story get them a vacation in a government run facility where the waitresses wear white and they are protected from mainly themselves though sometimes I've put a man who had a hit taken out on him into a psychiatric hospital to protect him so the police had time to do their job.
Many times I've encouraged patients to write their stories and they've published the very same stories in the New Yorker magazine, Reader's Digest, literary magazines and poetry anthologies.  I've edited dozens of my patients' trauma stories that later went onto be published in mainstream journals like the ones I've mentioned.
I get paid for an hour of my time. I work in front of patients, under their critical eyes, sometimes haunted and usually angry and needy eyes, 12 hours a day.  At night I've spent hours and weekends reading about them, sometimes learning about the wars they came from, their religions, their cultures, or even their politics.  I've read the books they were reading and when I worked with adolescents and children I read the story books and comic books.  I don't see children and adolescents anymore.  I was once an assistant professor of psychiatry and head of marriage and family therapy.  I spent years studying and reading and living that world but today I don't do that anymore.  I say 'no' because my life and work depend on my refusing to help keep families together. I once saw a hundred families consecutively on the verge of divorce and turned them back from divorce. I delivered a hundred babies but the state thrives on divorce today. There's a fortune to be made and lost in the destruction of families. Abortion is a growth industry. And now they're promoting euthanasia. I'm an anachronism in that world.  Community has been replaced by corporation.
I'm glad I don't have to write political history.  I wouldn't want to be the scribes in the places of power. I'm happy to write the stories of the powerful when they are ready to come into a psychiatrists office.  Many of my patients were on the front pages of magazines and newspapers and their stories were written by famous journalists and writers. They bring me in clippings.  Sometimes they were models and famous people when they were younger and they have pictures.  I have a picture of my friends and I in a science class in grade 6 with our favourite school teacher who killed himself. It's on a bookshelf with books I read over and over and over again hoping somehow to understand and comprehend what the writers had learned in their time about the people I'm seeing in my time.  Many books I've read were chemistry and neurology and endocrinology, genetics and immunology as well.  Some are just great fiction.
The stories are always unique but they're usually just the human drama. There's tragedy and comedy.  Much of what I have to do is show the patients the story they're telling me and that's often enough to make them laugh, not at themselves but with themselves.  It's harder to turn hatred into sadness. The fear is always there.  It's the same old fear.  But sometimes there's love.  I like a love story and encourage romance but everyone calls that sex these days and to the government sex is dirtier than it's ever been.
We're in an age of censorship and mostly my patients stories were never supposed to be heard.  I like that I've recorded them. I like the truth. There's a kind of truth in the fiction/non fiction of biography.  There's even truth in psychosis.  Sometimes the fool is the only one the Kings and Queens of the land won't kill outright.
I'm thankful that I've been able to tell these stories, the tens of thousands of individual tales.  I'm thankful to have heard them.  It's been a privilege and an honour.  I prefer the poetry and song though and I've always wanted to write a novel.  Maybe one day.  I pray my fingers remain strong enough.
For now I've being of service and I'm thankful for that.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Canadian Author's Association - West Coast - March 13 2013

What a joy to be among genius!
Margot Bates ( , opened the night by introducing the Stand and Deliver reader, Joyce Goodwin.  Joyce read an excerpt from an Irish short story previously published in Anthology.  A  coming of age tale of an Irish boy in the 'troubles', the  pranks in Catholic school  back dropped by a callously grenade slaughtered horse outside in the road. Joyce's characterization and wit well deserved the applause she received at the end of a very fine reading.
Dennis Bolan (  introduced himself and his  fellow panel members,  Eileen Cook (, Ian Weir ( and Margaret Hume (Margaret A.Hume - Author, Biographer, Editor :: Hosted by CAA Vancouver Branc What amazing creative and talented folk they all were.  Yet they looked and sounded simply human.
Each of these gloriously published writers spoke humbly of their extraordinary achievements.  Each and everyone is the envy of their literary communities.  The breadths of their works ranged from poetry, fiction, non fiction, play writing, movie scripts and television, biography and memoir. For 2 hours they each and together enthralled us with personal anecdotes and writer's perspectives on career highlights and lateral shifts.  What remarkable story tellers they were.  The question and answer period was equally telling with audience members, mostly writers, asking questions of their own struggles to find a voice and to be heard.  Talk of character and copywrite mixed with insights into plot and characterization.  To quote a cliche I don't know where the time went.  Yet everyone was applauding. Laughter and handshakes as people were standing pulling on coats, lingering and mingling before leaving for the door.
I remembered we entered that special room.  Some magic spell  was cast.  P.S. Don't Tell Your Mother. Daniel O'Thunder , Arctic Air. Stupid Crimes, Kaspoti. The Wake Trilogy. The Almost Truth.  Just Mary.
I'm so thankful to have been there.  I feel touched by something more than human, that which is truly human.
Today smoke rose above the Vatican.  Light had flooded the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo's God touched Adam,  St. Francis, the first pope of the Americas.  There was a spark in this room tonight.  A special glow.  I felt it.  The holy ghost on a donkey or a pony?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Harrison Hot Spring March Motorcycle Trip

I've been going to Harrison Hotsprings for a quarter century, and the last few years I've been motorcycling there.  I usually stay in the Bungalows, the Ramada or the Harrison Hotsprings and Spa.  I like the Ramada for it's love of Gilbert, Rockamoles Restaurant, safe underground motorcycle parking and walk across the street to the public pool.
I bought an new Honda CRF250L motorcycle for on road off road, for hunting and just getting about. Honda Marine outfitted a rack for Gilbert's dog carrier bag to sit on.  We didn't get away till 4 pm on Saturday but caught the last of the sun and warmth. It was great to be in the country riding along the river, smelling all the country smells. It got cold and dark after Mission but the bike performed marvellously. I was worried about Gilbert being cold. I sure was. But in his coat and box protected from the wind by me he was just fine. We had one stop on the way at St. John the Divine, the 150 year old Anglican church near Maple Ridge.  The other one was at the Hemlock Valley road where Gilbert and I peed in the woods. I took some pictures there too. The Honda CRF250L handled extremely well on the highway, even doing well when the road was beginning to ice in the dark.  The lights were perfect.
We arrived at the Ramada (nee Executive) Hotel and there was room.  Let out of his box Gilbert ran right into the hotel recognizing it from previous visits.  I checked in and took him up to the room before going down to drive my motorcycle into the locked underground parking.  Next I walked Gilbert some before going down to Rockamoles to order steak and prawns and mashed potatoes with apple pie with ice cream.  I ordered Gilbert a burger.  When it arrived it was delicious.  I watched I, Robot with Will Smith.  It may have been a sequel. I really enjoyed it and know I saw the original but couldn't remember this one.
In the morning Gilbert really sprung forward and woke us at 6:30 am which was indeed 7:30 am.  We walked about the lagoon before going to the local favourite Chuck and Kitty's for their breakfast sandwich.  I took some pictures of some of the many favourite places and stores in Harrison's. Gilbert had a couple of sausages he inhaled.  Back in the room I blogged about the same story as this eating my sandwich and drinking the great coffee.  Done that I left Gilbert and walked across to the public pool where I spent an hour meditating and praying while soaking in the healing springs.  I love it.
I packed up back in the hotel, checked out and was glad to get to the motorcycle.  Loading it up I drove out of town along the winding East Side of Harrison Lake past the Sasquatch Campground  onto the gravel dirt logging road.  The bike handled superbly. That' s where I took more pictures of Gilbert and the bike by a waterfall.  Then we circled back to drive onto Hick's Lake.
The drive back to Harrison's and onto Chilliwack was chilly.  In Chilliwack I stopped to use the Scotia bank letting Gilbert stretch his legs.  Then we headed onto the freeway where I was doing 115 km  just fine and could have made 120 or more if I'd had full open throttle. Because it's a brand new bike I've not been pushing it. Also with Gilbert in the back with me I drive like I have a child along.  That's good for both of us.
At Abbotsford I filled up again. I'd filled up in Agazziz on the way up.  I'm getting good gas mileage considering a tank costs about $6.50 for 91 premium gas and I only filled up twice doing 300 km.  I had coffee inside at Mugs Coffeeshop, having some mushroom soup as well. I was cold but Gilbert was just fine, happy to have a couple of the dog treats I put outside for him.
It began to rain cats and dogs around Langley.  That took the chill off.  I detoured to Golden Ears Bridge to get back to number 7 highway and off the freeway.  I'd come up the other side of the river on the 7 and Barnet Hwy then come back on the freeway on the other side of the Fraser River. I crossed it at Agazziz.  Now I was back on the route I'd started on.  The rain let up in Port Coquitlam.  Gilbert didn't seem bothered at all.
I was glad to get to Hastings and cruise on home putting the bike in the back of the truck till I take it out next.  It's a great bike and what a great weekend we had. I love Harrisons. I love Gilbert.  And I  love the new Honda CRF 250L.  I put a fire on. I'm aching but I'm going to sleep well tonight.
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