Isolation Survivors

‘Did you hear about the police patrolling the sleepy city of Sherbrooke observing a woman ‘walking her boyfriend attached to a leash, as he padded along the sidewalk on all fours?’ Camp asked after he sat down.

            ‘You’re kidding right?’

            ‘Nope, read it in the news. When the cops asked why she was breaking the curfew she replied that she was merely waking her dog. She still had to pay a hefty fine. Apparently, they’re not alone, people have been busted walking stuffed dogs or pet tortoises. People will do the craziest things to survive isolation and lockdown.’

            ‘Like zoom yoga or zoom concerts and plays?’

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The Future in Bright

We decided to go back to our pub by the sea in order to support them and our servers. We sat at our usual table, surrounded by plexiglass partitions on wheels, even though there were only a couple of other guests, in the opposite corner. Vicky was happy to see us and when I asked her how her holiday was, she said: ‘What holiday? Oh, you mean the time off over Christmas and New Year. Like in: no work, no pay. Thankfully, I got the BC recovery bonus and we’re still open to the public. I missed you two.’

            Once settled in, we decided to leave a big tip, a belated holiday bonus.

            There has been a lot of outfall from the hooligan assault on the capitol last week. Arrests, firings of top officials, resignations at the White House, impeachment proceedings, bans on Twitter and Facebook for the chief hooligan and condemnations from around the world.

            ‘A journalist asked the big question during the assault on the capitol last week: Is this the end of an area or is it the beginning of a new movement?’ Camp said. 

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Same old Game, New Rules

The world still revolves around the sun, weather happens outside and reactionary politicians make up new rules to catch up to the ever-evolving new reality. It’s the same old world but boy, did the rules ever change. From travel to office work, sports and performing arts; from school and university to family gatherings. It’s all different now. Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt or sick. Is that really a workable policy?

             ‘Will the vaccine be the magic potion, the panacea that people are hoping for,’ I asked Camp, who came over with a six pack of Coast Lager from Persephone, our local farm brewery.

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Forward into 2021

Camp and Muriel came over to help us ring in the new year. For dinner I served up a Swiss Fondue, simple, tasty and very satisfying – Gruyere, Emmenthaler, Appenzeller, white wine, Kirsch, bread. I lit a fire and we all gathered around a pot of melting cheese and wine. We managed to stay up until midnight thanks to Clare’s and Muriel’s careful planning of the evening and mandatory afternoon naps.

             ‘Be positive,’ someone said to me the other day,’ I said, twirling my piece of bread in the bubbly cheese, ‘but being the cynic I am, I replied: ‘I’d rather be negative these days.’ 

            ‘Being positive has an altogether new meaning,’ Camp said. ‘The other truism that I hear bandied about is: ‘It will get worse before it gets better.’ Would I rather have the reverse? It’s a challenging time we’re going through.’

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Covid Christmas – Cannabis New Year

            ‘What do you think this Covid-Christmas will be like?’ I asked Camp after we took our seats in front of the exterior propane fireplace on our deck. Camp had brought over a sixpack of ‘Blonde Logger’ from Tapworks, another of our local craft breweries we want to support.

            ‘With strict measures in place with regards to travel and getting together this Christmas looks like it will be cancelled and New Year’s Eve will be a virtual party. Auld lang syne in front of the TV maybe. Smaller turkeys, overloaded zoom and skype sites, and presents delivered by Amazon instead of Santa.’

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Virtual Soapbox

            As more strict restrictions take hold in BC, Camp and I decided to meet at either of our humble abodes on the lovely Sunshine Coast, in BC. It was my turn to host and since we’re a pod or a bubble, we don’t have to wear masks in each other’s company. I arrived with a sixpack of Golden Goddess from our local farm craft brewery, Persephone. We decided that each week we’d feature another one of our locally brewed beers for our Thirsty Thursdays, to help the local economy. Clare and I recently also bought a propane firepit which we could sit around on our deck and keep warm, unless it rains of course.

            Camp loved the idea of sitting outside in December. ‘This is the way of the future my friend,’ he said. I bet you, there is a fortune to be made in outdoor heaters and home knit blankets.’

            ‘Maybe I should take up knitting,’ I said. I wanted to talk about a topic that has been bothering me for a while. ‘Camp, why do you think the media – and I mean everybody from CNN to the local radio station – is giving crack pots like Trump the stage and the megaphone so they can blast their lies and nonsense out to the world?’

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The Show must go on

            We met at Camp’s place, outside on the bench under the deck, out of the rain. Muriel brought out a couple of beers and handed them to Camp, staying well away from me even though we’re technically in the same bubble. Made me feel like a pariah but I get it. The fear, rational or not, is in all of us. We make circles around each other and step out of the way of oncoming people, even in the middle of the woods. I don’t like it but I try to follow the footprints in the right direction at the grocery store and the mall and I’ve already been maligned for walking the wrong way. ‘Thanks Muriel, I said, how are you?’

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Too Much Pain

            ‘The latest sweeping restriction orders from our Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, mean that we cannot (shouldn’t) travel unless it’s essential and mask wearing in public places, retail stores and work environments is now mandatory, no matter where in the province. In other words, businesses in Merritt, Smithers or Kaslo have the same restrictions and protocols as in South Surrey, East Vancouver or Burnaby. This doesn’t seem right.,’ I said, as I sat down in the eerily empty pub which we are still trying to support but we can only drink so many beers.

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Parallel Universes

            ‘There seems to be two narratives, two diametrically opposed points of view and two information sources: The established television media like the BBC, CNN, MSNBC and the CBC and CTV here in Canada vs: FOX News and a whole slew of social media news outlets and new cable networks like News Max and One America News,’ I said as soon as we were comfortably ensconced in our chairs. Very few customers these days and I’m surprised how the pubs can keep going in this time of Covid restrictions and pandemic fears.

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Ignore the Noise

            It’s been ten days since the election and it’s not over yet. When I pointed this out to Camp over our weekly pint, he slapped his hand on the table, almost spilling our beers.

            ‘Biden won. Trump lost. Simple right? Apparently not so much. Unsubstantiated claims of a stolen and fraudulent election are flooding the internet and right-wing media like Fox News and the republican law makers are in hiding and fanning the flames of insurrection. Anywhere else this would be called a coup d’état in progress.’

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The Choice

Here we are, still in the midst of election mania and the chaos continues. Trump will not accept defeat because in his world that doesn’t exist and Biden cannot take over where there is no acknowledged concession. The people have voted and nothing changes. The Republican Party is lockstep behind their zombie leader and we know that it’s very hard to kill the undead. 

            I walked to our watering hole along the shore that hasn’t changed in millennia, looking out at the misty islands and the North Shore Mountains. It’s a reassuring vista, a solid and perennial certainty, comforting in its stability and longevity. We are lucky to live where we do and are privileged to be lucky.

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Rage and Reason

Both Muriel and Clare declined to join us for our weekly beer and chat and that’s ok with Camp and myself. ‘You two need time to vent and pontificate, to scratch your itches and get it off your chest,’ Clare said. ‘As long as you get it out of your system and don’t rage and mope around the house all week long. ‘I think your beer-and-bitch sessions are therapeutic,’ is how Muriel put it according to Camp. We both tend to agree with our wives and life coaches. Without them we’d be lost.

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Fear Not

            Fall is here with all its colours, the rains, the pumpkins and shorter days. Usually this is the time to book flights to warmer destinations for the winter. Instead I’m looking at discounts for ski passes and winter tires for the car. 

            A segment in the CBC evening news caught my eye the other day. It raised the question if we are focusing on the wrong kind of testing here in Canada. I wanted to know what Camp, my reliable drinking companion, thinks about that.

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Phone Drama

            I wanted to tell Camp about my recent experience with my cell phone provider. I’ve been a subscriber to Telus for the past 25 years and I’m not the kind of person who switches banks and utilities at a whim. I’m too lazy and a bit cynical, thinking that they’re all the same but claim to be different then all the others. 

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Year One

            Muriel and Camp were already at our usual table when Clare and I walked in. This felt like a proper social gathering, instead of the usual lament or as Vicky once pointed out in unflattering terms: a man-bitch session.’

            Instead of the usual grumpy peeve of the week we exchanged pleasantries and talked about the weather and Muriel briefly complained about the ongoing tiresome but seemingly necessary protocols on the ferry, the grocery stores and public spaces.

            ‘No bitching or complaining at this table,’ I said, scoring a point for Camp and I, ‘we only talk about positive and humorous issues, isn’t that right Camp?’

            ‘I think I’ll start a new calendar,’ Camp said, looking over at Muriel who along with Clare agreed to join us for this one time, for our usual Thirsty Thursday.

            ‘I’ve already heard it,’ Muriel said, taking a sip from her white wine spritzer.’

            ‘What calendar?’ Clare asked.

            ‘Well we have the Muslim Calendar, the Mayan Calendar, the Gregorian Calendar which is the one we use and now I propose the Covid calendar which starts at year 1. BC would be Before Covid, AC After Covid and so on. What do you guys think about that?’

            ‘I think I need a stronger drink,’ Clare said.

            ‘The First Nations could also have their own calendar, BC, AC just like us but based on Before Contact or After Contact,’ Muriel said, ‘and cheers, this is fun.’

            ‘Since we’re a bubble, we don’t have to distance or wear masks, except Camp, who has contact with the public in the store,’ I said.

            ‘I don’t wear a mask, since I’m always behind the counter, at least six feet away from any customer. Most of them wear a mask but I don’t have an official policy and I keep the doors and windows open. Not quite sure yet how this is going to work in the coming months. Winter is coming and so is Christmas in year 1. Even Santa will have to wear a mask and no bouncing kiddies on his lap.’

            ‘Ok, you two,’ Muriel said, taking a sip of wine. ‘Get it out before you burst. You must have some thoughts on the latest episode of ‘The White House’. 

            Both Camp and I answered in stereo. ‘Worst show ever.’

            ‘A culture of ignorance,’ I said.

            ‘Hubris, egos and maniacs,’ Camp added.

            ‘No brains, no class, no respect,’ I said emphatically, emptying my first pint.

            ‘I’m glad we got that out of the way,’ Clare said, winking at Muriel.

            ‘Did you guys see any wild life on your road trip,’ Muriel asked, steering the conversation away from swampy and treacherous territory.

            ‘We saw a marmot, a few mountain goats crossing the highway, lots of birds but no bears, moose or caribou.’

            ‘You do know the difference between black bear and grizzly bear scat?’ Camp asked. He didn’t wait for an answer. ‘Black bear scat looks more like some hippy berry or apple crumble and grizzly scat is the one with the bells and whistles in it.’

            We all looked at Camp and it was Clare who got it first. ‘Funny,’ she laughed.


            ‘How was the trip,’ Camp asked me after I sat down.’

            ‘I loved being on the road and it made me forget about the madness all around us,’ I said, ‘and we live in a beautiful, diverse part of the world. Just like our license plates say.’

            ‘Welcome back to reality,’ Camp said. ‘Let me tell you about an article in the New York Times which quoted Charles McKay who wrote ‘Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’ in 1841. A rollicking chronicle of how humans go bonkers in crowds, who with wild-eyed passion go crazy for prophecy, fortune telling, magnets or alchemy. Surely the 13M viewers who watched a Trump endorsed video of a doctor who claimed demon sperm and alien DNA as the cause of covid-19 fit right into one of McKay’s ‘Popular Delusions.’

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Rules and Conduct

            ‘Did you see the new CDC map that tells us where all the covid-19 cases were in the province?’ I asked Camp after Rosie brought around a couple of pints.

            ‘Yes, I did. From January until end of July. Doesn’t tell us anything really. It’s better than nothing but I would have liked to see when those cases occurred. It doesn’t mean anything to know that we had 7 cases in 7 months. Were they in April or July?’

            ‘Why don’t they include that info?’

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The Great Divide

        As we’re nearing the end of summer – already – our daily lives are still ruled by the covid-19 pandemic. Although we know more about it, have better tools for control, testing and tracing, are closer to a vaccine and a treatment than five months ago, we are a long way from eradication or even controlling the virus. Everything has changed: Social behavior, schools, work environments, sports, entertainment, travel, restaurants and we are impacted in every facet of life and across the globe. We wear masks, avoid physical contact like hugs and kisses and make circles around each other. Such were my thoughts as I walked along the shore to our weekly chat over a couple of brews. Not much has changed there. Camp was already seated in our usual corner and lost no time to launch into a tirade featuring our wily and unpredictable neighbour to the south.

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Hot and Cold

            This has been the hottest week all summer here on the coast with everybody flocking to the lakes and the sea shore. Except for today. It’s raining non-stop. Water is a good thing for everything living and growing. In the last week alone, we have over 100 forest fires ravaging the province, foremost the 5000 acre Christie Mountain fire in the Okanagan’s Similkameen district near Penticton. It grew over 2500 acres in just one afternoon.

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