Beer Rules

We were seated at our usual table on the covered deck, in the corner under the TV, just above the pebble beach overlooking the scenic harbour and a couple of paddle boarders fighting the choppy water. One of them had a dog in front of him.

“Silly sport,” Camp said.

“I don’t think it’s a sport. Poor dog,” I said and then asked Camp: “Did you go to the Jazzfest last weekend?”

“No, I tried to be busy at the store,” he said. “Being the owner of the town’s one and only bookstore has its drawbacks, like having to be open on weekends when the rest of the world is enjoying a festival or a day off.”

“Well, you missed some outstanding music and a perfect setting right by the sea. There was only one problem. I got busted,” I said, ordering us a couple of locally brewed pints from Vicky, the waitress. The Irish Stout has grown on me.

“That should be a good story. Whatever for? Disorderly behaviour?”

“No, drinking in public.”

“At the Jazzfest?”

“Yep, I was enjoying a cold one, sitting on the grassy knoll above the beer garden, apparently outside of the allowed area.”

“You’re kidding,” Camp said, shaking his unruly head of grey curls.

“I wish I was. I was dressed down like a schoolboy in front of quite a few people that know me. Now they will remember me even better. I thought those antiquated liquor laws were a thing of the past. Apparently not. The consumption of beer was only allowed inside a cramped space surrounded by that attractive orange plastic mesh fence like a cattle pen.”

“That is so undignified.”

“You’re telling me. I had a bunch of kids stare at me like I was the town criminal.”

“What did you do?”

“I downed my beer, instead of pouring it out, and left with my head held high before I said something stupid.”

“Wise move,” Camp nodded. “Best to shut up in a situation like that.”

“I was reading my Swiss Newspaper the other day and they just passed a law allowing gas stations and highway overpass restaurants to sell alcohol. Guess what their rational was?”

“Sell more booze for more taxes?”

“Wrong. There are no booze taxes in Switzerland. You can buy a good bottle of Italian table wine for five bucks. No, the government said that it was not their mandate to legislate morality and behaviour. Adults know their limits and responsibilities and they are entitled to buy beer or wine or a bottle of vodka anywhere and anytime they please.”

“Wow, that doesn’t sound like government policy,” Camp said impressed. “Here it’s all about rules and if you don’t follow them you get busted.”

“There you have it. Reminds me of the time when my dad first came to Canada to help us build our house. He got off the plane around noon with a mighty craving for a cold beer. Something we both can understand. Clare worked near Main and Broadway and we were going to pick her up but we had about an hour to spare. I drove down Main wracking my brain for a place to have a brew and there it was, the old Cobalt Inn with flashing neon signs advertising Girls, Girls, Girls. This surely couldn’t refer to the lunch hour. In we went, momentarily blinded by the sudden darkness of the musty interior, smelling of smoke and perfume. We picked a table close to the stage where there was more light and away from the pool table where a couple of bikers were chasing the balls. The stale beer arrived but after the first sip my dad sputtered and almost choked when suddenly the lights started flashing in time with the heavy bass beat of a disco song and the scantily clad noon time dancer started gyrating on the small stage right next to us. My Dad forgot all about the beer and sat there open mouthed, probably wondering if this was hell or heaven. I felt like such a dolt Camp but it was too late to run away. After the show we paid and without a word stepped into the bright, blinding sunlight. We picked Clare up and when she asked my Dad how the flight was he looked at her and said in his awkward English: “The beer was naked.” Clare gave me a quizzical look and I confessed the misadventure. She just shook her head in disbelieve. My Dad stayed a month and left convinced that in Canada you either had to watch strippers or eat a sandwich in order to have a beer. Such were the rules then.”

“They are not much better these days,” Camp said amused by my little vignette, “but at least you don’t have to have a dummy sandwich behind the bar in order to have a beer.”

“Yes, but we still have drinking rules which are only stricter in the Arab countries, not like in Europe or in Latin America where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a beer anywhere, anytime: from the train station to the beach, from the side walk cafés to the rooftop bars.”

“There used to be separate entrances for men and women with escorts only,”

Camp pointed out. “Women could vote but not go to a bar alone.”

I guess, I’m just one of those irresponsible adults who didn’t follow the rules. Clare got a good laugh out of it. So much for drink thy beer with joy, she said.”

Dear Leader

“The world has always been awash with ignorant, belligerent, narcissist leaders and heads of state. Today we have Kim Jong-un, Maduro, Mugabe, Asad, Putin and now our latest Dear Leader: Trump. Did you see how his cabinet appointees fawned over him like he was the second coming.” I ranted, much to Camp’s amusement who had just sat down, seemingly in a bit of a state or maybe it was just his wild hair, sticking out like grey spring ferns. Campbell or Camp as we all call him is the owner of Gibsons’ one and only bookstore – a non profit venture as he refers to it – and he is also one of five elected town counsellors.

“I don’t have a TV. Probably a good thing, ” he said while holding up  two fingers for Vicky the waitress. Two beers at once. This looked serious.

“I forgot, you’re not in the media loop Camp. It’s harder every day to separate fact from fiction. I think we should coin a new word: Faction for the masses,” I continued my tirade.

“You should try to not take all that stuff you see on TV so personal. It could affect your digestion or cause anything from a minor headache to a full blown migraine. Best to avoid stress, especially the kind induced by world news flashes.”

“But Camp, what happens in Washington or Damascus affects us all. Remember the butterfly effect.”

“I think the outcomes are more linear. When they got rid Saddam and Gadhafi they paved the road for the rise of the jihadist, the latest death cult. Totally predictable. And the recent election of Dear Leader in Washington is a direct response from those who feel most left out and marginalized. Elect a crazy guy who promises the impossible. That’s the American way. The rise of the ignorant.”

“It’s a crazy world Camp. “

“Yep, drives me to drink.”

Just on cue Vicky arrived with two full pints, which she set down square in front of Camp. He instantly proceeded to quench his mighty thirst.

“Two pints at once ?” What’s the trouble Camp? Something to do with Muriel? She reversed her vote on the break water expansion or she stood you up for tea?”

Camp gave me a lopsided grin. “If it was only as simple as that. No, I turned 60 last week.”

It was my turn to be surprised. “Congratulations Camp. I didn’t know. I didn’t think you counted the years.”

“I don’t really but the government does. They sent me letter telling me how much CCP I’m entitled too if I collect now. Rather depressing I have to tell you. Since I’ve been self employed most of my life I’ve never paid myself enough wages and usually neglected to send anything to the taxman.”

I didn’t know how to console him. “The taxman can be a mean spirited, unsympathetic bugger.”

Camp gave me wry smile. “Too little to live on and too much to die for.”

“Well look at the bright said. You’re still in business, you’re active in civic politics, you’re healthy and if I trust my senses, you’re newly in love.”

For a moment I thought Camp was going to choke on his mug.. He sputtered and snorted as if poked by a sharp stick.

“In love ! Are you crazy ! I may be old but I’m not a fool.”

I let that one go. To me the signs were clear. Lately he wore nicer clothes. Sometimes he even combed his wild, wiry head of hair and he now shaved at least ever second day and had his nose and ear hairs trimmed recently. A clear case of newfound vigour and it didn’t come from the government.

“Happy belated birthday Camp. I think you’re entitled to a free pint.”

“I know, that’s why I ordered two. Sort of like happy hour.“

“I think I’ll join you. Cheers.”










Ferry Tales

Ferry Tales

The ferry to and from Horseshoe Bay is the pet peeve of us coasters and everybody has a handful of Ferry Tales. It’s like that Leonard Cohen song: ‘Everybody knows’ the ferry is never on time

usually overloaded when it finally shows, everybody knows.

I made it to ‘Grandma’s’ Pub just in time and Campbell, Camp as we all know him, was already seated and armed with a brew.

“I thought you might be late since you had to go into town today.”

“Strangely enough it was on time today but still I had an encounter of the ferry kind. Boy am I thirsty, that beer looks good.”

“The usual,” I said to Vicky, the waitress.

“We were standing in line at the terminal behind a group of obvious seniors. Grey haired, one gal with a walking stick, the other linking arms with her friend, the two old boys a bit confused and not in charge. They all were trying to follow what the pony tailed, gum chewing teller in her bulletproof cubicle wanted from them.

“Senior’s cards please,” she demanded, speaking into the amplified speaker, even though she was just a foot away from them.

The four customers she was addressing – two couples – had together lived well over 300 years, none of them a day under 80 or I’ll eat my ferry ticket.

Thrown into a woolly tither the men groped for wallets in their tweed coats with shaky hands while the two ladies dug deep into purses and one of them, the one with the walking stick, dropped hers on the ground, spilling pill bottles, glasses and stuff. Since none of them could easily bend down I quickly helped out and earned a thankful nod from the poor woman.

Meanwhile the teller chick impatiently drummed her fingers on the counter while checking her cellphone or was it her mirror image.

Finally after much clutching, searching and groping some ID was presented. The leader of the group of four, a bespectacled man with wispy white hair and large liver spotted hands counted only three tickets.

“There are only three tickets.” he pleaded in an agitated, shaky voice pointing out the discrepancy by waving the tickets at the teller.

“I only saw three senior cards,” came the snappy reply.

Well, that sent them all into a tizzy once more.

Who didn’t show their card? They all thought they did and the fumbling, and digging in purses and pockets started all over, this time at twice the frenzy.

Meanwhile the line-up was growing and so was my and Clare’s indignation and impatience. None of us could believe this embarrassing scene.

“Can’t she tell that the four people belong together,” Clare said with a nasty bite to her voice, not at all her usual calm self. I tell you Camp, this teller thought of herself as the omnipotent ferry police and was promoting some unusually high blood pressure in the growing lineup.”

Camp just shook his head, which didn’t do much to improve his Einstein hairdo. “What happened? Did you tell her how it is?”

“No, not me. After one of the ladies couldn’t find her seniors card and forked over the full fair Clare’s mood seriously escalated. “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you see that the four people belong together and not one of them is under seventy?”

“Follow the blue line,” the sourly teller said to the four seniors and then yelled: “next”, staring straight ahead into her computer screen, completely ignoring Clare. For once it was me who had to peel her off the ceiling before she caused a serious incident. This was not the Clare we know but there are two kinds of people that can cause her to snap: Bad, aggressive drivers and people hiding behind uniforms or minor positions of power. ‘I’m just doing my job’, is one of her red alert buttons.”

“Now I know why those tellers are in their bombproof cubicles,” Camp said, and sagely advised me: “That should teach you to stay on the coast and not go into the city.”

“Do we have time for another pint?” I asked. It was a rhetorical question.

“On the other hand,” I said, “the daily delays are not always the ferry’s fault. Last week two Asian women who didn’t speak a work of English lost their car on the ferry which prompted the captain to initiate a terror alert, assuming the abandoned car was packed with explosives. The alert was aborted at the last minute when a deck hand found the two confused women wandering around on the top deck. This incident caused a half hour delay for the rest of the day.”

“Yeah, no wonder the terminals are fenced in with razor wire like a gulag and it’s now a federal offence to disobey the ferry personnel’s orders.”

“It’s supposed to make us feel more secure.”

“As if fences, walls and uniformed guards ever made anybody feel more secure.”

“Security means to be able to drink a few pints in a public house and be left in peace.”



Bad Choices

Grandma’s Pub was packed and noisy on this Thirsty Thursday but luckily Camp was able to get our usual table, which is under the TV on the glassed in porch, overlooking the harbour.

“Hi Camp, you’re looking glum today,” I said as loud as I could without yelling. “What happened ? Did Muriel refuse your intellectual advances?” Muriel Bisset, transplanted all the way from Montreal, is the councilwoman who abstained from the controversial vote about the yacht club expansion and the new break water that Camp champions.

“No, today, a politician who can shake a much bigger stick than Muriel or I, has announced a policy reversal that is seen as a complete abdication of global responsibility,” Camp yelled back.

“Oh yeah, the scuttling of the Paris Climate Agreement, which got cobbled together by the US and the Chinese a couple of years ago.”

“Yes, that one,” Camp nodded.

“I read today that only two countries, Syria and Nicaragua didn’t sign the accord and Nicaragua opposed it because it wasn’t tough enough.”

“You read it, it must be true. All I know is that this US president is now the official Grand Poobah of the flat earth society.”

“I don’t think Trump knows how many jobs are jeopardized by his uninformed, mean spirited decision, playing to a small, radical power base. Many thousands of jobs from alternative power production to electric cars to tree planting could be impacted. All those jobs which try to mitigate human impact on our environment,” Camp said, “but then again I don’t know how much Trump knows about anything. He seems like such an elephant in a porcelain shop.”

“More like a bully in a school yard who hates the teachers and anybody with better academic credits.”

“He likes the cheer leaders.”

“Yeah and he’s the first white billionaire to move into public housing vacated by a black family.”

“That’s pretty funny. A bumpersticker?”

The ambient noise settled down to a constant roar.

“I didn’t know you’re such a tree hugger, Camp,” I said, leaning over the table so he could hear me.

“I’m not,” he said, projecting his voice like an auctioneer, “and I’m the first to acknowledge that climate change is a constant with our planet but 8 billion humans surely have an adverse effect on the global environment. How can they not? If you invite twenty people to a party and fifty show up, there isn’t enough food and drink to go around and you have a much bigger mess to clean up, don’t you? It’s also obvious, that renewable resources have a better longevity than a finite resource. It’s simply common sense.”

“You’re preaching to the choir Camp. Don’t I wish I had a growler of beer in the fridge that always renews itself overnight. Mind you, that would put many a pub out of business and pubs are the nodes where humans intersect and which hold our whole social system together.”

“More important than houses of worship or city halls?” Camp shouted.

“As important as temples and circuses,” I countered.

“Well, I’ll drink to that,” he shouted, hoisting his glass.

“Jokes aside, the daily onslaught of depressing news, mixed in with fake reality shows made me cancel my TV but I still support a few newspapers since I’m in the print business myself,” Camp said, referring to his ‘non-profit’ book store, ‘Coast Books’.

“Well you can be sure, books will be written about this controversial decision today which will in turn benefit you,” I said, trying to find a silver lining.

“Did you know that if planet earth were an onion, the atmosphere would be the outer skin. That’s it.”

“And while we’re playing ‘Trivial Pursuit’ did you know Camp that a beer without hops is called grut or gruit?”

“No, but grut doesn’t sound like anything I would be attracted to.”

“The moral is, don’t fix it if it works and don’t change a good thing into a bad thing to get even.”

“That’s pretty cryptic. You mean, leave the hops in the beer and don’t mess up mother nature.”

“Yeah, something like that. Cheers.”