Gibsons was in the clutches of an Arctic deep freeze this past week that convinces even the hardiest local climate deniers that yes: It does snow in Vancouver and yes, winter tires are a good idea and no, Vancouver and the lower mainland are not prepared for accumulative snow falls and have inadequate or no snow removing equipment. Despite the brazing weather I’ve made my way faithfully to my Thursday meet-up with my friend Camp at our pub which was empty except for our stalwart waitress. ‘I don’t get paid if I don’t show up,’ she said with a shrug. Camp eventually walked in looking like ‘The man that came in from the cold’. Before I could even ask about the store he said wryly: ‘Been closed all week due to climate emergency,’ while extracting himself from his soaked overcoat. ‘What’s on your mind besides the weather this week,’ he asked.
The first thing that struck me about Lisbon is the immense width of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River), more like a lake, and how all the downtown buildings are attached to each other like four storied walls with windows. They are all built in a perfect grid, starting at the large Praca do Comercio, the main square at the vast river’s edge. There is no church or cathedral anywhere near the square but a heroic monument in the centre of the Marquis de Pombal, who rebuilt this city after the devastating earth quake of 1755. Pombal, a secular pragmatist, ousted the Jesuits but when Maria I came to the throne, she banned him from Lisbon’s soil, being heavily influenced by the Jesuits herself. Since the word terra means both ‘ground’ and ‘earth’, the story goes that the clever marquis packed a crate of soil from outside the city and put it down to step into it when he came back to Lisbon. (Voltaire Voltaire wrote Candide soon after the Lisbon earthquake and held up, as exhibit #1, the senseless death toll of the innocents in that catastrophe as conclusive proof of the absence of any Divine power, and certainly not any benevolent one.)
‘How was your trip to Mexico,’ Camp asked. We were both sitting once again at our usual table at our pub by the sea side, looking out at the choppy water, and the grey skies, nursing our pint.
‘We love Patzcuaro, the small Mexican town amongst the volcanoes, and I could spend a lot more time there, but Clare still has a good job in the real world. The weather was perfect, kind of like June around here. How about your trip to Portugal?’ I asked.
December in the rainforest in the Pacific Northwest consists of liquid sunshine, monochromatic grey skies and gun metal coloured water. People wear clothes from the same palette – shades of grey and black – and my mental state around this time of year reflects the weather and the clothes. Having a couple of beers with my friend, and sometimes mentor, Camp, is one of the week’s highlights, even though we mostly dredge through the most recent slew of bad news, politics and pet peeves. No different this time. It’s raining, the choppy grey water is mirroring the low hanging clouds and dusk is only a slight change from the rest of the day. I was early at our usual table, and to while away the wait I swiped through some news clips on my silly phone. Camp showed up soon thereafter, shook the water from his coat and hat and sat down with a contended sigh.
‘Are you aware that the 2020 Climate Change Performance Index was released a couple of days ago, rating 57 countries.’ Camp said as he struggled out of his coat and placed his hat on the empty chair next to us. At that exact moment, like choreography, Vicky arrived with two lovely pints.
‘How safe is safe,’ I asked Camp just as Rosy, our Irish server, put two pints in front of us. ‘I’m referring to a travel advisory I came across which lists all the places to avoid, like parts of Mexico, Central America, Venezuela.’
Finally, we can see some sugar coating on the mountains and the skiers are waxing their boards,’ I said.
‘More like you are waxing nostalgically,’ Camp said.
‘Well, the snow just reminds me of when I was a kid, my dad would melt this stick of red wax and apply to my wooden boards and let it dry overnight. I would get up in the middle of the night and put my finger on it, making sure it’s drying and ready for the morning.’
‘I guess you could ski before you walked,’ my friend Campbell, Camp as he is known around town, said, taking a sip from his beer.
‘Did you know that last month the UN General Assembly voted to allow the Palestinians to procedurally act like a member state during meetings next year when they will chair the group of 77 developing nations. The United States, Israel and Australia voted against the move, Canada and 14 other countries abstained and 29 didn’t vote.’
‘It’s such a beautiful day today and I hear it’s your birthday,’ Camp, my friend and stalwart drinking buddy, said, hosting his pint in a toast. ‘That makes you a borderline scorpion. Shouldn’t you be at home with your wife, instead of whiling away the time at the pub.’
‘Clare has a garden club meeting – in November – and she’ll meet us here before we’ll go out for dinner,’ I said. ‘In fact, you and Muriel are invited to join us.’
‘Where do you plan to go?’
As soon as Campbell, Camp to us patrons, took off his hat and coat and seated himself in front of a fresh pint, I jumped in with my peeve of the week.
‘I have to revisit the Don Cherry fiasco from last weekend if you don’t mind,’ I said. ‘Was firing him for what he said really the correct thing to do? No chance to apologize, no discussion, just show him the door?’
November is the time when the parties and gatherings of friends and neighbours start. It’s cold and dark and there is nothing more fun than and wine and dine around a fire in the hearth. Halloween and the day of the dead are both gone and we’ve had Muriel, Camp and her daughter Sophie over for some Swiss Fondue, always a seasonal favorite, even for vegetarians. We tried to steer the conversations away from all the trouble in the world but it’s hard to ignore the devastating fires in California and the vast worldwide demonstrations for a livable future environment. Over and over we just emphasised how lucky we are to live in the temperate Pacific Northwest, at the edge of the rainforest. Camp and I saved some tales of woe and misery for our weekly Thirsty Thursday at the pub. The one that is really bothering me is the horrific opioid addiction and resulting death toll due to overdoses in the US and Canada.
‘We live in a very complicated world these days,’ I said. ‘Clare and I watched a Netflix documentary the other night: ‘The Great Hack’, about Cambridge Analytica and their manipulation of personal data to influence the last US election and Brexit amongst others. It turns out that Facebook, whose aim was to bring people together through connectivity is actually driving people apart. The conclusion was that fair elections or referendums are an anachronism and a thing of the past.’
It’s sunny once again and the endless days of rain long forgotten. ‘The elections are over, and we have a minority government, just as I predicted,’ I said to Camp who was busy on his phone.
‘Just adding up some numbers,’ he said apologizing. ‘Christmas is coming and Kelly, my new help, seems to manage me along with the store. She wants the November and December sales stats for the last five years. She thinks it will help to build a strategy for the upcoming season.’
‘Old people think of the past, the young ones look to the future,’ Camp said when I took my seat at the pub for our weekly beer and chat. He seemed unusually pensive this evening.
‘I guess you’re right but mind you, grandparents think of the future.’
‘They worry about it but their thoughts more often then not wander into the past, their personal history mostly. ‘
It’s fall here, which means rain, pumpkins and indoor activities. Not my favourite time of year. I just don’t like putting on all these layers of clothes and Clare always has ‘nothing to wear’ when it gets cold and miserable outside. The last couple of days were crystal clear and crisp and apparently October 10th was the coldest in BC in a 123 years. Yikes.
‘How was your trip east?’ Muriel asked as I sat down at our usual corner table overlooking the calm waters between Gibsons harbour and Keats Island. ‘I made Camp close the store early so we could have a drink together. I hope you don’t mind me joining your weekly cabinet meeting.’
‘You know what the most watched picture was last week, indeed maybe the whole past year,’ Camp asked as he sat down. No comment about the weather, book sales or married life with Muriel.
‘Probably the one about Greta Thunberg sailing past the Statue of Liberty or the one about the fires at the Saudi oil refinery or maybe Trumps map of Hurricane Dorian in Alabama.’
September looked like November for the past few days and the swimming days are gone with the summer it seems. Camp met me out front the pub and we both walked in together. As soon as we sat down and even before our beers arrived Camp needed to vent about the attacks on the Saudi oil refineries and Brexit with Boris.
‘So did you watch any news,’ Camp asked before I even sat down at our usual corner table by the Salish Sea.
‘You can be proud of me. I refrained from reading the daily news from my phone on my bedside table as soon as I opened my eyes, which had become my routine as of late. Instead I just lay there for a couple of minutes, contemplating the day ahead.’
‘I have to confess,’ Camp said, ‘I have been following the Brexit improv theatre but only with cursory, sideway glances,’ Camp confessed.
‘I see you hired a part time assistant at the store,’ I said to Camp as I sat down for our weekly relax and debrief over a couple of brews.
‘Muriel insisted that I take on some help to organize the store.’
‘Probably a good idea, now that the summer rush is over. How did you find the person and what’s her name?’
‘I know you don’t have a TV but have you seen any movies lately?’ I asked my friend and cohort Camp, after I sat down.
‘As a matter of fact Muriel and I went to see Yesterday. I only went because I knew the music would be fantastic. Imagine a world without the Beatles.’