The Azores

            After a five-hour flight from Toronto we landed on the single air strip in São Miguel, at 750sqkm the largest of the cluster of nine volcanic islands that make up the Azores, a bucolic archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic, between Europe and North America, first colonised by Portugal in the 15th century. 

            The last localized active eruption was about 500 years ago but most of these islands were formed some 40’000 years ago, long before any seafarers or tourists had to worry about what’s under foot. Hot bubbling springs and steam vents are active today in several places all over this island and the distinct crater walls, wooded and green today, are tame but spectacular evidence of former geophysical violence. The porous volcanic rock and rich black soil provide the island with building materials and vegetation and the regular rainfalls supply plenty of water and keep the island green year-round. 

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War of Words II

Now that some kind of war on the eastern front seems imminent – according to all the major news outlets half of Russia’s army is parked on Ukraine’s borders – I knew that my friend Camp had some views on this situation. It’s all so unreal, sitting here at our seaside pub in peaceful Gibsons; an oasis of tranquility in a sea of madness it seems. So far away from the Ukraine, Ottawa and Washington and yet so close whenever I turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper. Like it or not, we are part of it all, little tribal ants in a big, complicated colony, revolving around a sun, on the edge of a minor galaxy.

            ‘It’s pretty clear to me,’ Camp said. ‘This is exactly where Putin wants to be.’

            ‘How do you see that?’ I asked.

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Anarchy with Trucks

            As countries and provinces are scuttling pandemic protocols and restrictions, we here in Canada have the biggest insurrection of any country. A few hundred angry, right wing, mostly white men with big trucks are occupying the streets, neighborhoods and border crossings with their big rigs. They are flying flags other than the maple leaf, proclaiming some kind of ‘freedom’ and demanding the reversal of all vaccine mandates and pandemic health orders as well as the resignation of the prime minister and the dissolvement of parliament. This has been going on for two weeks now and neither the RCMP nor the government has done anything to stop or end this anarchy. I think that’s it in a nutshell. I wanted to know what Camp made of this whole situation and if he had any solutions in mind. I wasn’t disappointed.

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     Camp was contentedly sipping his beer when I came in. I hoofed it to the pub along the waterfront since the days are getting longer and I can actually see where I’m walking. That’s a good sign. On the news front the ongoing and growing divide between the so called ‘freedom fighters’ and all the other people is at best perplexing and at worst disturbing and is not a good sign for society as a whole. I also read those recent CBC interviews with the Ontario ICU nurses and doctors in which all tell the same story. I pointed this out to Camp for the umpteenth time.

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Fringe Anarchy

                   ‘It seems these days we are paying more attention to fringe and extreme groups than to the broader consensus that a direct democracy requires,’ Camp said, putting down the newspaper that he was reading.

            ‘You’re referring to the trucker’s protest convoy bearing down on Ottawa?’ I said. ‘They call it the Freedom Convoy. What a crock. Even the Canadian Trucking Alliance strongly disapproves of the demonstration.’

            ‘Yes, they had months to get the jab which is completely harmless and saves lives and hospital beds. They think of themselves as road warriors and freedom fighters when in fact they are drivers and movers of goods. Also, only about 15 percent of them are not vaccinated while the vast majority have complied with the public health mandates and are keeping the goods moving and our grocery store shelves stocked. It is those we should thank and support and ignore the others who think only of themselves, confusing personal freedom with selfishness.’ 

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Light or Darkness

After I sat down across from Camp who was pawing his silly gadget we commented on the weather, the sorry state of the US body politic, the Russian aggression on the Ukrainian border and the ongoing crisis of the Covid pandemic. So many people dying prematurely and unnecessary and so much trouble in the world.

‘Are you afraid of death?’ I asked Camp, off the cuff, like asking him about what he had for dinner.

He gave me a funny look, took a sip and then said: ‘I’m not afraid of death, just of dying. Suffering and loss of physical functions and memory are what I’m scared about. Death itself, the grim reaper, could be a welcome sight, almost a relief I think.’

‘What about after death? Aren’t you afraid of what comes after?’

‘Like what? Heaven or hell? 

‘Or eternal darkness,’ I said. ‘Lights out, show over.’

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Wise Men

            ‘Is this the pandemic that never ends?’ I asked Camp after we both huddled around our beers at our usual table. I was feeling kind of gloomy about the relentless harsh and wet weather, the daily covid statistics and the fact that being boosted doesn’t provide any privileges or special status. And the conservative US Supreme Court has struck down Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement mandates for big business but we’re all forced into mandates by the irresponsible behaviour of a radical, self-serving minority.

            ‘If you would have told me two years ago that we’re at this stage in the pandemic I would have thought you were the worst pessimist ever but here we are.’

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Happy 2022

            When the sun shines and the skies are blue there is no place more scenic and awe inspiring then the dotted, pale blue waters of the Salish sea, rimmed by the snow peaked coastal mountains. As the days are getting longer by the minute, walking along the shore to our watering hole always lifts my spirits, rain, snow or shine. We’ve had some extreme winter weather lately, with snow falls not seen since 2008. The white stuff turned the Sunshine Coast into winter wonderland with kids tobogganing up and down residential neighbourhoods, being the only traffic on these streets. We were all getting our exercise shovelling the white stuff, clearing our driveways and meeting our neighbours who we never really talk to since everybody is always coming and going. Playing in the white stuff wasn’t just for kids. Clare and I managed to go snow shoeing on Dakota Ridge which is every bit as alpine and snowbound as the well-known resorts and ski hills on the mainland. 

            ‘Well, I’m glad you’re able to appreciate the snow which basically slows down traffic at the book store to a wintry freeze frame. Time to go over some depressing Christmas bills and back orders. We’re not equipped for winter or prolonged arctic freezes. We can deal with the rain but when it turns white, it’s a whole other world out there.’

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The Year Past

Camp is taking some time off from the bookstore and our pub has closed the doors until the New Year. We’re in the midst of the coldest week anybody can remember around here. Snow up to mid-calf and double digit minus temps ever since Christmas. Inside weather, that’s what it is. Instead of New Year’s Eve in an exotic locale, we’re staying home, make a camp fire in the snow, play some card games and maybe watch a silly movie. Here is my recap of the tumultuous year 2021.

            While Omicron is lurking around every corner, we will have to pretend that life goes on and drink our beers with joy and be merry despite feeling demoralized and even defeated by the poxy virus. On top of that we’re all fed up with the depressing politics like from the emerging dictatorship in Moscow to the evolving fascist state in Washington, from the stone age Taliban to the collapse of Lebanon. Maybe Chile offers a glimpse of hope. They have elected Gabriel Boric, a 35 year old millennial socialist but we’ve seen this movie before. Wasn’t Mugabe a socialist and Ortega? 

            Not a day goes by without a constant barrage of instant newsfeeds, alerts and announcements about the pandemic, making us all into amateur scientists or worse, conspirators. We have the vaccinated majority and those refusing to listen to their teachers, parents, scientists and even politicians. I don’t get it. I’m a sceptic myself but getting the vaccine was an easy choice. If I have a headache, I take a pill. Do I know what’s in it, who makes money from it or if they have long term effects? The new covid-variant is so contagious that just being anywhere near it can lead to an infection. To take the vaccine is as easy as drinking a cup of coffee, even if you don’t like coffee. Just take it. For yourself and the good of the community.

            This pandemic killed and is killing a lot of old people in the past year – our elders really – but we don’t honour our old folks as elders who have a lot of experience and wisdom to share and impart. Here is an interesting sidebar to this problem: ‘Granny dumping is an international Emergency Room event where one’s inconvenient elder arrives in the ER with a packed suitcase for a brief stay over the holiday season,’ Dr. Alan Drummond from Perth, Ontario, said and then goes on: ‘We don’t seem to have an elder-care strategy. This problem is just a sad comment on where we’re at as a society and how little we value our elders.’

            During this pandemic it has become blatantly and embarrassingly obvious that getting old is not a dignified affair in most cases, being sequestered into warehouses and silos, euphemistically called old-folks or care homes. The expensive care we give consists of food, shelter and meds. Not so much companionship, involvement or respect.

            How do we, as a society, change our attitude towards our old fellow humans? Not as long as we’re too busy chasing money, careers, the best schools for the kids, holidays in exotic places and bigger and better homes. Old-folks-homes should be built on top of kindergartens and care givers should be paid twice what they are right now.  

            Lucky are those who still have their minds and are able to do their own ablutions and make some choices. Lucky those as well who are part of an extended family or household, have young people around and are included in everyday life and lucky those who have no clue what goes on around them. 

            How about the changing environment, the largest looming catastrophe that we want to wish away and delete from our minds and lives? We’ve seen the symptoms of it in our erratic weather last year. Let’s face it, we cannot engineer our way out of the mess we created. Not when 8 billion people want what we have here in the west: electric cars, flat screen TV’s, gadgets and gizmos and homes with two car garages. We can’t even deliver clean drinking water to everybody, never mind shelter, food and health.

            Sequestering carbon into the ground or seeding the atmosphere with reflecting particles isn’t going to fix the melting arctic, the die-off of hundreds of species and the rising temperatures or the resulting wars, famines and desperate migrations of millions. Not as long as we consider the environment as something apart from us; over there in those other places; not in my perfect little back yard. We are part of the environment. We are in it. It is in us. We need to embrace it, live in it, feel it, heal it. With our minds, our bodies and our actions. Every day, everywhere.        

            I have to admit that I’m just a modern-day fossil burner, polluter, and litterer (I have my refuse taken away) and waster of energy. I try and do the right and responsible thing, but only within my comfort zone, not wanting to give up anything important like my 4×4 truck, my beer or my holidays in the sun. Let’s face it, I’m going to be ok – I’ve already had a good, long life – but I’m worried about the kids and their future but then again, parents during the medieval dark ages probably said the same about their kid’s future. Little did they know that a thousand years on those kids would have little gadgets in their pockets with all the knowledge of the world accessible to them at the touch of a button via an Avatar voice, move around in climate-controlled capsules and fly across oceans and continent in a matter of hours in big silvery metal birds.

            It’s been an interesting year starting with an insurrection and a new President in the US and finishing with an aggressive mutation of the same Covid-19 virus. We had a year of freaky weather around here: heat domes with temps up to 40 degrees. It cooked millions of shellfish exposed at low tides. Then came the atmospheric rivers, flooding much of the farmland in the Fraser valley. Bridges and roads were swept away, livestock drowned, houses flooded and lives ruined. All the physical damage can be repaired and replaced but the human cost is not so easily fixed. 

            We live in the best of times but it’s a tenuous existence and we’ll do well to cherish what we have, take care of each other and work towards a better future, for all it’s worth. Nothing else will do and doing the ostrich thing is not an option. 

            It’s good to dream and have uplifting fantasies. It makes reality easier to live with. There is a German proverb: Hope dies last. Let’s hope for a better year and a new beginning, the end of the pandemic, a democratic sweep of Congress, better weather, no new wars and health and happiness all around. 

            Next week I look forward to catching up with Camp, who I’m sure will have something to say about the past, the present and the future.

            Auld Lang Syne, out with the old, in with the New. 


            Since Camp is keeping the bookstore open late for the Christmas season we decided to miss a couple of Thirsty Thursdays and instead meet for Christmas dinner with our partners, Clare and Muriel at their house. We’re all triple vaccinated and Omicron aware. I’m taking this opportunity to post a personal opinion on this snowy morning, which Camp would surely support.

            What binds us together as a people is communication and since Descartes pointed it out, we have known that reason is the basis of communication. Without reason, we veer off into insults, unfounded claims and exclusion. This is exactly what is happening today – and it is very dangerous. Because without dialogue, ideologies cannot be overcome. Every trend passes at some point. But what is happening now is frightening and is more than a trend, it’s the division of reason, common sense and science against nonsense, rhetoric and dogmas. 

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        It’s hard to start any conversation without the latest new buzz-word, another Greek letter, Omicron. Two weeks ago, we had never heard of this latest mutation or variant of the dreaded Covid virus and today it’s Back to the Future and Groundhog Day all rolled into one. Luckily, we can still meet at the pub and my partner in beer is already comfortably ensconced in one of the new comfy patio chairs in our lair by the sea.

            ‘Don’t even ask me about the latest travel advisory by the feds,’ Camp said, holding up a hand to stop me. 

            ‘You’re a good mind reader,’ I said, ‘but I would like to hear your opinion on it.’

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Moral Dilemma

            ‘The unvaccinated have a great moral dilemma,’ I said to Camp, as our first pints arrived and we were comfortably seated in our favorite chairs.

            ‘We cannot disregard the simple fact that the unvaccinated are now drawing heavily on the good will of their fellow human beings. At the same time, they themselves do not show the solidarity to get vaccinated and thus avoid hospitalization. In many intensive care units, 90 percent of Covid patients are unvaccinated. They consume enormous resources there. Not just beds, medicines or machines – the real problem is their ‘consumption’ of human attention and care.

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            ‘Last week I found myself in a monster shopping mall and I literally panicked. ‘Get me out of here,’ is all I could hear in my head and I furtively looked for exit signs like a trapped rabbit. I even forgot why we were in this consumer hell – or is it heaven? – We were looking for some new sheets, I think. Clare had to take me by the arm and steer me out of this climate-controlled environment and into the pouring rain like a wayward dog. I felt so relieved. ‘There is a restaurant over there. Wait for me there,’ she said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ Two pints or an hour later she showed up with a couple of glitzy bags. ‘Look what I found,’ she gushed, ‘a sweater, a rain jacket and matching shoes. All on sale.’ ‘What about the sheets?’ I asked. ‘Oh, I forgot but those we can get in Gibsons.’ Which left the question why we were here in this shopper’s paradise-hell in the first place.’

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Common Sense and Logic

            As biblical rains – euphemistically called atmospheric rivers – pound the Northwest and flood plains, roads and sweep away livestock, houses and infrastructure, we’re enjoying a pint at our harbourfront pub, nice and cozy, looking at a curtain of water where islands and mountains are supposed to be. This also marks the week when BC is rolling out vaccinations for children 5-11 years old. 

            ‘If the parents are not vaccinated, then the kids will not be either,’ Camp said when I mentioned that. 

            ‘That’s a rather generalized opinion,’ I said, ‘but you’re right: you cannot convince people with reason and logic, statistics and common sense when their minds are made up that the earth is flat and we are the center of the universe.’

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20   – I don’t remember. Must have been plastered or stoned, most likely both

30   – I was married with two kids, a hobby farm and a mortgage

40   – I had a new life with a new partner and a new future

50   – it was a blowout party with all my friends, forever young

60   – felt like 40 with the wisdom of maturity

65   – is the best age: pension, free ferry rides, no more working for the man

70   – is the new 50, still in the go-go years but getting a bit long in the tooth

80   – don’t let the old man in, busy chopping wood

90   – that’s when I should drink all the wine from the cellar 

100 – maybe take up ice climbing and scuba diving


            Unprecedented torrential rains – an atmospheric river – have caused major flooding and landslides in British Columbia, cutting the interior off and closed highways for days. This meant no trains leaving the harbour, no trucks and no cars coming through with supplies, causing shelves in grocery stores to empty. Panic buying didn’t help either. I looked at our pantry and figured we’d be alright for about a week before I would have to get creative and invent some new pasta and rice dishes. At least my neighbour’s chickens are laying unperturbed by climate change. ‘It’s a mess,’ Camp said after we made ourselves comfortable in our usual corner at the seaside pub. Luckily, I’m not involved in shopping or cooking, since Muriel takes care of all that.’

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The Stupid

     It was Remembrance Day yesterday which used to be Armistice Day and is Veterans Day in the US. We honour those who fought and died in service of their country, defending freedom and oppression; in wars that cost millions of unnecessary lives. 

            ‘The stupidest thing humans do is go to war against each other. As a species we have the capacity to self-destruct, despite our knowledge and technology, despite knowing better. It’s just plain stupid,’ I said to Camp

            ‘Bukowsky said: The problem is that intelligent people are full of doubt, while stupid people are full of certainty and Einstein said that there is only one thing more infinite than the universe: human stupidity. You know that you are dealing with stupid people because they always blame somebody else and are never responsible when something goes wrong,’ Camp said, leaning back in his chair, taking a sip from the mug in his hand. 

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C C C C C – Climate – Covid – Commitments – Cash – Controls

‘Quebec and Ontario have opted out of vaccination mandates for their healthcare workers. I think this is an unfortunate political decision.’ I said as a provocative opener at our weekly get together at the pub.

            ‘A vocal minority is holding the majority to ransom and the politicians did their usual knee jerk and back bending,’ Camp said, nodding his unruly head of white curls.

            ‘We used to listen to doctors and scientists but these days more people, including politicians, base their decisions on social media than on scientifically based reasoning.’

            ‘They’re prioritizing the so called ‘freedom’ of the unvaccinated over the health and safety of the patients. Would you let your loved one or yourself be treated by an unvaccinated nurse or care aid? You can’t get into a restaurant or a movie theatre without proof of vaccination but you can work in a hospital. Does that make sense?’

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Preaching to the Choir



I’ve been trying to avoid talking about the pandemic but I have to bring it up once again.’Tell me Camp, how come that the persistent hospital statistics pointing out that 90% of covid ICU patients are not vaccinated, cannot convince these deniers to get the shot? Right now, we have 400 people in hospital, half of them in intensive care and most of them unvaccinated. It pisses me off that these idiots dictate restrictive protocols, delay necessary surgeries and use thousands of dollars worth of health care resources that we, the vaccinated, are paying for.’

‘Once again, my friend, you’re preaching to the choir. I’m not sure why governments just don’t make the vaccine mandatory. Some bullshit about freedom of choice when the choice really becomes: do I endanger my family, friends and co-workers or not and am I better off being laid off from my job and not being able to attend any events, weddings, funerals nor go to any restaurants, cinemas and gyms, nor travel or fly anywhere?’

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            As soon as I sat down at our usual table, Camp, my long-time companion on these Thirsty Thursdays, had the topic all ready to dish out. Vicky lost no time to serve us a cold one and after we wet our whistles Camp was off: ‘On Halloween, Italy and the UK will jointly host world leaders in Glasgow for the 26th COP-Conference on Climate Change to talk about a course towards net global carbon emissions to reach zero by 2050. As the world’s leaders prepare to commit (or not) to this 30-year plan, an energy scare seems to be unfolding.’ Camp paused for effect.

            ‘Carry on,’ I said. ‘You have my attention.’

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