Thanksgiving is over and so are the traditional turkey dinners. We had ours at an old-time pub on Vancouver Island for $ 20 with all the trimmings, including pumpkin pie. Of course, vegetarians and vegans shun this kind of food but I’m reading that there is hope for them to partake in this time-honoured tradition, not too far in the future.
It being Thursday evening I was looking forward to meeting my friend Camp for a couple of brews in our pub, located on the waterfront on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. Business at the bookstore is slow in these months leading up to the festive season and Camp was already nursing his first pint when I joined him.
‘You’re a regular carnivore, aren’t you Camp, a purveyor of fine meats, cold cuts, fowl and fish?’ I said.
Looking across Howe Sound, which has now been designated a UNESCO biosphere, I can see the first snow caps on the coastal mountains. Time for the snowbirds to migrate to warmer climes, except we’re not flying south but instead are hunkering down before a fire, dreaming of sunny isles and swimming at the local pool instead of the Caribbean waters.
‘Good news Camp. Several European countries have declared the pandemic over and are returning to ‘normal’. Denmark, Sweden and Norway have removed all protocols and the Netherlands, Ireland and Portugal have also announced that they’re lifting all the restrictions like distancing, and limiting crowds. They do however require vaccine proof when attending large gatherings like concerts or sports events.’
We’ve had a week of solid rain now and the summer seems long gone. I’ve walked to the village with an umbrella instead of sunglasses and boots instead of sandals. Camp was already enjoying his beer, staring out at the hard rain coming down, drumming on the glass roof.
As the anti-vaxxers become more militant and ostracize themselves ever more from the mainstream of society, making life for the rest of us difficult with restrictions and overwhelmed health system, what should we – or the powers that be – do Camp?’
For once my friend didn’t have a ready answer and thoughtfully sipped his beer. We both listened to the seagulls squawking. ‘For one thing we cannot pander to them and keep trying to convince them with arguments and statistics. We should let them know that we, the vaccinated, are protecting them by not letting them into gatherings and restaurants, since we could still be carrying the virus and infect them and since they are not protected, they are much more likely to end up sick, in hospital or the incinerator.’
‘To get vaccinated is a moral imperative.’
‘We had an election in Canada on Monday. Did anything change?
‘Nope,’ Camp said, ‘the same proportion of seats, the same liberal minority government, the same lackluster response from the voters. A $ 650 million cabinet shuffle as somebody said. Nobody got what they wanted: Definitely not Trudeau who wanted a majority, not the conservatives whose leader is at best a lacklustre opportunist with no plan and not the greens who lost seats and votes.’
We sipped our cold bears and reclined in the comfy new chairs in our usual corner.
‘You know what puzzles me Camp, is that we don’t treat those who are diagnosed with covid and prevent them from ending up in hospital or dead. Why is there no therapy or medication for those suffering from the virus? All they tell us is: go home and wait it out for two weeks. Nothing is offered to ease the suffering or treat the symptoms.’
‘You’ve been watching old U-tube videos promoting cures with hydroxychloroquine and favipiramir and claims of natural herd immunity as the way through this pandemic?
‘Well yes, I guess you’re right. The latest craze is this horse de-wormer. Desperate solutions for the misguided and ignorant.’
‘Your island in the Caribbean is turning into a tragic experiment, sort of the Swedish version of fighting the virus with natural herd immunity at the end of the tunnel. Grenada is now the country with the highest numbers of transmission per capita in the world,’ Camp said when I joined him at our usual table overlooking the harbour.
‘Yes, according to Dr. Charles, the chief medical officer, it’s a national disaster. He said that it took about three weeks for this virus to infect one third of the population and he fears that half the island’s people could be infected with the extremely contagious Delta variant within two weeks, meaning it will hit every susceptible and unvaccinated individual. Only about 20 percent of Grenadians have taken the vaccine. Dr. Charles said that it will hit a peak and then hopefully decline but at what cost?’
‘Maybe I should get a job at the non-government liquor store,’ I said to Camp who was comfortably reclining, checking his ever-present stupid phone for signs of life and beyond.
‘What gives you that idea?’
‘They offer $ 21 an hour with benefits. Training on the job. Indoors, discounts on the products, meet interesting people all day long, learn about wine and spirits, get out of the house.’
‘You could volunteer at the book store. Same thing just without the pay check and samples, since I can’t afford to pay anybody these days.’
‘Facebook and Google ‘experts’ are taking over and they all seem to know so much in such a short time, without schooling, without research and professors guiding and grilling them, without academic credentials; many without proper grammar and definitely without analytical processing faculties. But they have expert witnesses to quote and rely on. No empirical, peer reviewed evidence but You-Tube clips and theories by self-confident former scientists and doctors, by quacks and self-serving snake-oil pushers. Instead, we should be listening to the public health people, to the ER-doctors and to the nurses who have dedicated their professional lives to caring for the sick and dying.’
‘As usual you’re preaching to the choir,’ Camp said, taking a long swallow.
It rained all day which was a welcome reprieve from the unrelenting dry weather here on the Pacific North West. It actually felt good and everything perked up: The plants, the trees and even the people. That was about the only good news last week. We’re back to mask mandates, and the icu’s are filling up with the unvaccinated.
‘I don’t have any compassion for these idiots but my heart goes out to the health care workers who have to deal with them,’ I said to Camp, who held up both his hands and asked me to sit down and take a sip of this fine beer.
‘What do you make of the chaotic mess in Afghanistan?’ I asked Camp who was busy reading off his new smart phone.
‘It’s a humanitarian disaster of an epic scale and the world’s leaders spout grandiose sentiments and wag fingers but nobody is doing much of anything to help. This is surely Biden’s largest miscalculation. Mind you he supported both Bush’s wars in Iraq. Instead of listening to the experts as he did with regards to the pandemic, he let political optics guide his ill-fated decision. Throwing millions of women and children under the bus. For what? Twenty years of occupation and military deployment, trillions of dollars spent, 3500 US and allied soldiers killed, 3800 civilian US contractors killed, 66’000 Afghan military and police and over 47’000 Afghan civilians dead, against 51’000 Taliban. And now this chaotic withdrawal and collapse of the Afghan regime. How many people died in the twin towers on 9/11?’
‘Covid is over’, this young cashier said to me cheerfully while still wearing a mask. She took me by surprise and I repeated her sentiment back to her thinking I might have misunderstood her. It happens to me all the time when speaking to people wearing masks. I feel like a half-mute and often ask them to repeat themselves. ‘Yes, thankfully it’s over,’ the young woman said. Isn’ it?’
The weather is hot and sunny, dry and there is no rain in the foreseeable future. Water restrictions are once again coming to your house, despite ongoing construction of homes, subdivisions and multiple family housing, all on the same water supply. When I pointed this out to Camp, who was late, he shook his head. ‘Water shortage in the rain forest is like running out of sand in the desert. It’s an infra structure problem, not a water problem. The local breweries still seem to be able to make beer and they use a lot of water.’
We both appreciated our beers, which are over 90 percent water, as Cam wisely pointed out.
‘Dr. Fauci recently called the resurgence of Covid cases in the US ‘A Pandemic of the Unvaccinated’ since over 99.5 percent of all infections, hospitalizations and fatalities are not vaccinated. Over 100 million Americans are still not immunized.
‘The British are lifting their covid restrictions on Monday – euphemistically called ‘Freedom Day’ despite 40’000 daily infections,’ I pointed out to Camp who walked into the pub without his mask, the first time in a year and a half. ‘And Spain has close to 50’000 while Canada is below 1000.’
“France is ordering full vaccination compliance amongst its health care workers or else they’re fired with no pay and the French also issued a vaccination passport which is now required by most businesses, airlines and universities,’ Camp said.
‘I remember being inoculated with the small pox vaccine. I was at school and we all had to line up and white clad nurse went from on to the other and jabbed their upper arms. I still have a divot there and I remember it hurt. Did we have a choice? Nobody asked. The same with polio and the multiple childhood illnesses we were vaccinated against. I think the Polio came disguised as a sugar cube.’
When Camp walked in and sat down at our usual corner, he caught me thumbing my iPhone. Just like a teenager. ‘Did you know that there are 5 billion smartphones in the world and more than half of them subscribe to Facebook, 2.8 billion users. And growing,’ he said.
‘No wonder there is such a bewildering number of interests vying for our business, attention and shopping habits,’ I said, putting my phone away. ‘This means that everybody from a toddler on up has a smart device and half of them are on social media. Everybody has a soapbox and is a film star. Does this make for a better world or is it the curse of our modern society, akin to the opium addiction of the 19th century?’
‘How did you survive that heat wave?’ I asked Camp, after I removed my mask and sat down at our seaside pub.
‘I wore shorts for the first time to work and kept doors and windows wide open but then I closed early. And I drank too many beers after I got home.’
‘Monday was the worst. My phone registered 41 Degrees C. Higher than Phoenix, Arizona. Clare’s garden went into shock and so did we. Lucky us we were able to escape to the water all afternoon.’
Finally, it’s summer here and restrictions are being lifted, cases are down and vaccinations are up. There seems to be a path back to some kind of normalcy, which is evident by the crowded pubs, parks and beaches. Watching the Euro 2020, a year late, with the stadiums half full, gives me hope that we’ll get back to the future. We all want to come out of our confinements and hibernation and toss that mask in the bin.
‘Camp was reclining in his chair by the window, pawing his smart phone and already nursing a pint. ‘What are you looking at?’ I asked.
‘An interesting article on the green investment boom and the bottlenecks that threaten to hold it back. Already, supply-side strains are growing. The price of minerals used in electric cars and power grids – cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, zinc, graphite and rare earth minerals – has soared in the past year and timber mafias are roaming Ecuadorean forests to find balsa wood used in wind-turbine blades.’
‘We’ve been out on the water with friends, meandered all around Gambier Island and watched the seals and birds on the Christie Islets and the Pam rocks and had a picnic at Halcett Marine Park. We do live in paradise Camp. An old Canadian warship 334, HMCS Regina, did a tight turn right in front of us. Maybe they heard there were pot smokers and three immigrants on our boat.’
‘Lucky you, I had to work but I do have that million-dollar view out the back of the bookstore. Much like here at the pub. The only downside is wearing a mask all day long. Gives me a headache by the end of the day.’
‘Talking about million dollars. What do you make of Alberta’s million-dollar lottery to entice people to get vaccinated?’
‘Did you know Camp that anti-vaxxing and disinformation is a growing, lucrative business and turns over millions of dollars?’
‘How do they make money?’ Camp asked.
‘The vaccination opponents earn money in various ways: they have advertising revenue from YouTube videos, they sell vitamin supplements on their websites or sell themselves as event speakers. Over 30 million Facebook users follow pages with false vaccination information, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) estimates. They also insert anti-vaccination messages into make-up or vitamin ads, thereby avoiding the algorithms that are set up by social media to trap misinformation.’
It’s June and the days are long and the best part is that we can spend them outside, in the garden, on the deck, on patios, on the water and in the parks and on the beaches. I could do this all year long. I joined Camp who was already seated in our usual corner. I was upset and wanted to discuss the rise of pseudo-religious far right conspiracies that seem to proliferate, especially during this pandemic.
‘Camp, we’ve been down this road many times but it’s really unsettling how many people still believe in the easter bunny, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy,’ I said.
‘Not to mention angels, horned devils and immaculate conception,’ Camp retorted.
‘I’m not talking about established cults,’ I said. ‘Religion is for the believers, as are cults. Let me read you the quote by CNN following results of a poll done last week.
Winners and Losers
I sat down at our usual spot since restaurants and pubs are open once again to serve indoors. Without much ado I handed Camp my arbitrary list of winners and losers during the reign of Covid-19. He glanced at it and took a long swig from his pint. ‘I don’t see personal freedom, mobility, social interaction, hugs and kisses on your losers list,’ he said.
‘Well, you just added them,’ I said. ‘And I invite anyone to amend or add to the list. I’m sure there are more on both sides of the ledger.’
‘And what’s going to happen to the vaccine providers like Moderna and AstraZeneca after we all had our 2nd shots? Are they going to close shop and go home?’ Camp asked. I knew it was a rhetorical question and he provided the answer: ‘They will recommend 3rd and 4th booster shots and then another one every year or so. Keep the ball rolling. But go and get the vaccine. It’s free, it’s safe and it’s not just for you but the people around you.’
‘And the world keeps turning. Cheers!’
When I walked over to our pub which is still only allowed to serve outside, I couldn’t get the radio interview I just listened too out of my mind. It was about the low number of bankruptcies compared to last year or the year before. ‘It’s a false picture’, the bankruptcy commissioner said. ‘It costs money to file for bankruptcy but thousands of small businesses just closed their doors and walked away: Restaurants, esthetics, fitness, yoga and dance studios, music and entertainment venues, catering and service businesses associated with sports and concerts, small retail stores, hair salons and many more.’
‘I’m just glad the bookstore is not one of them, actually we are doing as well or better than in a normal, non-pandemic year,’ my friend Campbell said.
‘We drank our beers and looked out at the Gibsons’ Harbour and the pristine west coast wilderness right at our doorstep. I wanted to know what Camp thought about the recent escalation of an old war in the southern Levant, that’s been going on since 1948: Palestine vs. Israel. I knew Camp would have an opinion.