Monday Morning Musings

Posted on April 12, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

 

Old hippies never die. They just lose their hair.

 

I’m in the home stretch.

By the time some of you read this, I hope to be winging my way back north to complete the school year. Because school starts in early August in the north, it also finishes early, in late May. It is all still a blur and before I know it, I will be back in my apartment in Antigonish hunkering down for my fourth quarantine. Unless something changes at the last minute, my time in the north will come to a close.

My regular readers know that, deep down, I’m an old softy who spends way too much time reveling in the good old days. Nostalgia could well be my middle name.

My first trip To Victoria was in the spring of 1972 (49 years ago -yikes!) after completing my junior year at St.F.X. I decided to come out for the summer to hang out with one of my brothers who was living there at the time. With absolute clarity, I remember stepping off the ferry from Vancouver and being picked up by my brother for the 35 -minute drive into the city. Cresting a hill at Royal Oak, I saw the majestic snow capped Olympic mountains for the first time on a sun dappled day. The love affair was instantaneous. I got a job driving forklift at a furniture warehouse and met some great people who became lifelong friends.

Over the ensuing decades, I made many trips back to Victoria. To this day, it remains a magical place to me and is truly one of the most beautiful cities that I have seen in my travels.

My most recent trip was very special. Despite some misgivings about travelling during Covid (and suffering the wrath of some readers who gave me a serious dressing down for my reckless behaviour), I came to Victoria to rest but mostly to remember.

Prior to this trip, I came to Victoria in December of 2018 to spend Christmas with my late brother Tom. I stayed for the better part of two months. During that time, we walked hundreds and hundreds of kilometers along with Tom’s trusty sidekick, Oslo. Tom knew and loved every square inch of the city, especially the trails.

He had an army of friends, many who became my friends.

I decided on this trip to try and walk as many of the trails that the three of us had walked before. Sadly, Oslo, Tom and Catherine’s beloved Golden, died just a few months before Tom. For the past 8 days, I have walked and walked and walked some more. I also took the time to meet with as many of Tom’s friends and family who were able and willing to meet with me. I also had the pleasure of meeting some new friends , who , for reasons that leave me puzzled (!) have become Week45 readers. Thanks to IC and MG for the warm welcome.

The weather was perfect all week so arranging socially distanced back yard get togethers was easy.

Pete accompanied me on most of my walks and visits. We quaffed a few Stella’s together and shared many fine meals.

My Air B&B was conveniently located in James Bay, a stone’s throw from the Inner Harbour, the legislature and the downtown core. Just around the corner from my rental was a restaurant on Belleville Street called “Belleville’s Premium Quality Watering Hole and Diner”. Because my accommodations did not include cooking facilities, I was forced to eat all of my meals at restaurants. A few days prior to my arrival in B.C. the province shut down indoor dining. Luckily, Belleville’s has a very large patio with well spaced tables and propane heaters at virtually every table. It’s spring here and although everything is in bloom, the temperatures are cool… not quite as cold as Kangiqsujuaq, mind you! The first meal I had was excellent and from that point on, I decided to consume all my meals here knowing their strict protocols were being followed carefully. The music playing in the background was mostly 60s and 70s with a bit of Green Day thrown in for good measure. At the far end of the patio was a huge mural with scenes from the hippie era. While dining there a few days ago, they were adding a few more panels to the mural. Two local artists (“Long haired, freaky people” Do you know the tune?) were supervising the installation of their work. I got quite caught up in the vibe and in short order had the owner of the restaurant, the artists and the carpenters laughing heartily looking at my grad photo … the one with my huge afro.

Will the “summer of love” ever die? Not likely as long as the Boomers are around.

Groovy. Far out, man.

“Will ye no come back again”? I certainly hope so.

Have a great week.

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on April 5, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

The crown jewel of Victoria. Hint. It’s not me!

 

“Lord, I was born a ramblin’man,

Tryin to make a livin’ and doin the best I can,

And when it’s time for leavin’ I hope you’ll understand,

That I was born a ramblin’ man.

Ramblin’ Man – Allman Brothers

I wasn’t going to mention this for fear of losing the few remaining friends that I have left. This will unquestionably raise a few eyebrows and elicit some sneers of derision. But one of the joys of being a senior is that, with advanced age, you start to care less of what people think about you. The only person that really worries me is the undertaker.

It is Spring Break at our school. I have been in the north for eight months without a break. Remember, the only way in and out of my village is by plane. I could not go home for Christmas because it would have been sheer folly to spend my entire Christmas holidays in quarantine only to return to the north and do two more weeks of the same. While I thoroughly enjoyed “Christmas in Kangiqsujuaq”, I have been feeling the need to get away.

I decided to travel out west to visit my son, Peter.

“You did what, you silly ass? Aren’t you aware that there is a third wave of the pandemic going on in Canada and around the world? Haven’t you heard every health official tell people to stay home and avoid all but essential travel? With every passing day, more provinces are going back into some form of lockdown.”

Ok. My internet has been working well lately. I know about all these things and the Raptors long losing streak. Get out the violins. I don’t know if mental fatigue  rates as essential travel but that’s what I’m going with. I have consulted a few doctors and nurses that I respect. I wasn’t looking for their blessing, but I did want to know if I was being careless and selfish. I had the Moderna vaccine four weeks ago and according to the most recent data, it appears the efficacy rate is north of 90%. What I have learned from these doctors and nurses (and reading respected medical journals) is that my chances of contracting Covid are slim and my chances of passing along Covid to someone else are also small.

A few days ago, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States issued an updated travel statement. Here is the nub of the advisory: “Domestic travel is low risk for fully vaccinated people.” I can see you shaking your head. “Len, that is the United States and you are not fully vaccinated.” Once again, deferring to medical experts, the second dose only increases the efficacy rate by a couple of percentage points. The CDC goes on to say that “certain types of travel are absolutely going to be more essential. And that’s not just for work: we sometimes need to travel for our mental health to spend time with people we haven’t seen in a year.”

Honestly, as I sit here in the airport in Montreal typing this, I think that there is a better chance of dying from loneliness than Covid. My entire check in took under 5 minutes including security. I was the only person in line at security. Didn’t need my Nexus card!

Airports are surreal places these days. One is struck by the quietness. People are keeping their distance, of course and wearing masks. Couple this with the fact that every person is on some kind of electronic device and the atmosphere is less cheerful than a wake.

I have been following rigid Covid protocols for a year like all of you law abiding citizens, maybe doubly so because I am teaching where mask wearing is as common as chalk dust. Travelling from the north was the safest part of the trip as there are no cases of Covid and the entire Nunavik region is a green zone.

Traveling from Montreal to the west coast, I decided to add an extra layer of protection by wearing an N95 mask. I pity the health professionals who have to wear these every day. They are quite rigid and not terribly comfortable.

The flights were barely a third full and everyone was wearing masks. Ditto for hotels. As much as I would like to stay with Pete in his yurt, I chose to rent an Air B&B in downtown Victoria. Pete and I plan to hike every day. I don’t plan to go and visit any of my old friends in Victoria in their homes. We will safely distance in their back yards or go for walks. I have brought along an old CCM (Victoriaville, Hespler – I’m dating myself) hockey stick which we will use for our walks. Someone will hold the blade and the other the butt end of the stick. I’m joking of course, but you get the picture. I am going to be exceedingly cautious.

I hope everyone had a relaxing Easter weekend.

Have a great week.

P.S. OMG. I’m getting old. On my flight to Vancouver, the flight crew dimmed the lights and transformed all of the windows using tinted glass. It felt like you were flying at night. I thought that this was particularly weird. Oh yes, on the 5- hour flight, we generously received a bag of pretzels that wouldn’t fill the stomach of a mature vole and an equally midget sized bottle of water. Our “gift bag” also included a mask, hand sanitizer and wipes. How charming.

In the old days, the button to activate the overhead light was on the arm of your seat. Wanting to read, I fumbled around trying to find the gd light. A flight attendant came by and showed me the light button on the screen in front of me. Later, I wanted to watch a movie (Dead Poet’s Society with Robin Williams). I plugged in my ear buds. The movie began but there was no sound. Once again, I found myself flailing around trying to figure out the sound system. Have you ever tried lip reading Robin Williams? As I scarfed down my wonderful meal of 6 pretzels, I realized that I would once again have to reach out to the overburdened staff. Honestly, the flight crew have nothing to do on these long-haul trips other than maybe changing toilet paper rolls in the bathrooms.

A flight attendant was walking down the aisle. Just before she arrived at my seat, I discovered that ear buds work particularly well when they are placed in your ears. I had skillfully placed one end into the screen console but had forgotten to put the buds in my ear. Thank god I figured this out before she got to my seat. Being ejected from the aircraft over Lethbridge would have been insulting and embarrassing.

The movie was excellent. When I arrived in Vancouver, I was understandably peckish. As I was standing in the lineup at Tim Horton’s, I felt an itch in my right ear. When I went to scratch it, I realized that the end of one of my buds had remained in my ear.

Do you ever think that you’re “losing it”?!

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 29, 2021 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

Looking forward to chowder at the Dockside Cafe in Arisaig

 

The only thing constant is change.

If we needed any evidence of this truism, we certainly received it in the last year. Many people’s predictable lives were thrown into chaos with the arrival of Covid-19. While the rollout of the vaccine brings us closer to returning to some semblance of normalcy, it will be sometime yet before we can carry on daily routines without giving a second thought to the virus.

I am hurtling towards the finish line of my school year and possibly my time in the north. While I would not trade this experience for anything, I have concluded that classroom teaching for another year at the age of 70 is probably not a good option. There are many people who think teaching is a piece of cake.  There are some similarities to teaching 45 years ago, but the job description these days is much broader and more demanding in 2021. Most teachers I know are not looking for sympathy because it is a wonderful profession with good wages and benefits. Anyone who thinks teaching is easy, take a day off from your current employment and come and take charge of a classroom. Covid-19 has made the job much more demanding. Try telling a group of young children to put their masks on 100 times a day. It really does take a toll. It’s mentally and physically taxing.

I’ll put away the crying towel for a while.

There is still a chance that I might find different employment in the school, but the Leafs might win the Stanley Cup too. I’m not going to hold my breath on either one of these! I expect to be “unfriended” by all my readers who cheer for the Leafs… all two of them. The Leafs have a good team but it is hard to know how good any of the Canadian teams are this year because of the way the divisions have been set up.

I am looking at other options if I leave the north. Of course, going back to Nova Scotia and putting my feet up is not the worst of these. A summer of hiking, long walks, swimming at the beach, and eating lobsters has a very high appeal right now. However, once the batteries have been recharged, I know that I will be searching for something to do.

I have read a few articles lately about elderly people who are still going strong in their 90s. First of all, it appears that most of them have old bodies inhabited by young, vibrant minds. My mom always said that she never felt old. It certainly seems to be a state of mind. Every single one of these people interviewed said the same thing. Having a sense of purpose every day is the key to living a long and happy life.

I can’t remember if I have already mentioned this in this space, but I do have one other interesting “iron in the fire”. Mercy Ships is an organization that provides humanitarian aid on the west coast of Africa. They have two large medical ships that ply the coastline providing medical care, including surgery to the less fortunate. The ship is staffed almost entirely with volunteers from all over the world. A friend of mine brought this to my attention several months ago so, on a lark, I applied for the position of Ship’s Writer. The job would entail interviewing members of the crew who would come from very diverse backgrounds. As well, patients and their families would tell their stories too. The Ship’s Writer would chronicle the daily life aboard the ship and prepare social media posts, newsletters and other communiques.

The organization seems to be somewhat interested in this lad from small town Canada. My application is moving along and I have been approved pending a final review of my application, medical reports, qualifications etc.( God forbid that they ask any of my friends for a reference! ) Should this happen, I will then be put on the crew list. This does not mean that when the ships resume operations (literally and figuratively!) after Covid, that I will necessarily be offered the position, but at least I have a ticket. You can’t win the lottery without a ticket.

Last thing. I would hardly consider myself a voracious reader. I seem to go in fits and starts. Now that the days are longer, I’m getting out more in the evening for walks. I wonder if I will ever find the time to read the four non-fiction books that I now have on the go. I suspect that I am not the only one who suffers this affliction of too many books and too little time.

Have a great week.

 

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