Go Green Go

            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.’

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The Future is Here

‘Kids are back in school but I hear that only 30-60 percent of pupils show up,’ I said after we settled into our spot on the veranda, right over the water by the harbour.

‘Does this feel like before the covid?’ I asked Camp, looking around at the generous spacing of the tables and the potted plants between them for separation and distancing.

‘Not really,’ Camp said. ‘It’s strange to be served by Vicky in a face mask like we’re in a hospital setting. Also, I miss smoking my pipe. It goes well with beer.’

‘And teachers got what they’ve been asking for years, thanks to the virus: vastly reduced class sizes and an additional boost in virtual learning capacity. Many kids had to learn from home and use virtual platforms. Not sure how successful that was but those tools won’t go away,’ Camp said.

‘They’ll be part of the learning arsenal,’ I said. ‘And it made kids read, even though it’s on a screen. It’s the future and it has arrived.’

‘Last week we talked about civilisation and I forgot to mention that our cultures wouldn’t exist without beer. I read an essay about how nomadic peoples in the Neolithic met annually for beer festivals. Because this required large quantities of beer, production had to be placed in the hands of specialists – probably shamans and priests at the time. They intensified cultivation and expanded the planting areas. In short, early forms of agriculture were created because of beer. In addition, calendars were needed to make the way to the festivities in time. And some revelers just stayed on, thus creating the first permanent settlements.’

‘Beer, the harbinger of permanence and stability? A bit of a stretch, no?’ I said.

‘It’s a good theory,’ Camp said, raising his glass.

‘What do you make of all these demonstrations and protests for equality and against racism in light of George Floyd’s murder by those nasty cops’ I asked Camp.

‘I’m afraid it won’t change much of anything. It’s like a pressure relief valve, some steam is let off and that’s about it. Black Americans will remain second class citizens as long as they are seen as inferior to whites. Descendants of former slaves and colonized peoples do not become equals with their masters and exploiters even after they are freed. They remain the poor, the underprivileged and the exploited.  And its white old men who control the flow of money and you know the golden rule: Those who have the gold rule,’ Camp said, finishing his pint.

‘Sad but true,’ I agreed, ‘but are we condemned to repeat the past over and over like in the movie Groundhog Day?’

‘If you’re a black person then you have to concede that not much has changed since 1967 and James Baldwin’s and Malcolm X’s speeches could have been written today. As far as they are concerned, we now live in their future.’

‘Black lives matter, but do they matter as much as white lives?’ I said.

‘Maybe in the sports arena or the music hall and the military, but not so much in the corridors of power or the halls of justice and not on Wallstreet or Mainstreet.’

‘But a vast number of young white people are demonstrating and protesting against systemic racism. Maybe a change is coming. Maybe this new generation will be colorblind and fair,’ I said. ‘Let’s hope the result is not a drastic increase in Covid infections.’

‘There is only one chance of making a difference and that’s at the ballot box this coming November. If all those Generation Z protesters vote, then maybe there will be a sea-change,’ Camp said. ‘And an uptick in virus transmissions is guaranteed with these mass gatherings. We already know that.’

‘Ready for another one,’ Vicky said, from behind her mask, exchanging the empties for two full ones.

‘Always ready for another one,’ Camp said. ‘How is life behind that mask?’

‘Lonely,’ Vicky said, ‘it’s isolating and distancing. And what am I supposed to do with all my lip sticks and teeth whiteners?’


The ‘Base’ and the origin of Beer

Looks like we have a spell of Indian Summer after two weeks of November like weather. Our new rain barrels are overflowing and gone are the drought worries, relegated to next year.  I could see Campbell, Camp for all who knew him, was already in his customary seat, facing the water and Keats Island in the near distance. Must have been a slow day at Coast Books, his ‘non-profit’ bookstore. Vicky, our clairvoyant waitress, who had been elevated to bar tender, already had two pints of lager at the ready and Rosie brought them to the table.

“You look like you got something on your mind,” Camp said after we both toasted the sunny weather. He was right. I wondered what his take would be to my query. “We’re always hearing about ‘the base’, as in ‘Trump appealing once again to his base with his latest tweet’, blah, blah, blah or ‘Doug Ford counting on his ‘base’ to push through his conservative agenda. Who is that ‘base’? that’s what I want to know,” I said.

Camp leaned back in his chair, took a sip and commenced his soliloquy: “The base is that core group that supports their man or woman through thick and thin; in Trump’s case even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. It makes up about a quarter of the people who actually voted for him. They are not swayed by any of his lies, false claims or insults and oppose all and everything that does not agree with them. Also they are predominantly white and male.  I personally think they are ‘a basket of deplorables’ to quote Hillary in one of her more unfortunate assertions.”

“Well yes, the so called ‘base’ is made up of mostly rural folks, without higher education, most likely religious and predominantly male, older and white. Not the kind of people that frequent book stores either,” Camp said dryly, emptying his first pint of the evening.

“And driven by cheap, unsubstantiated misinformation, masquerading as news,” I added.

“The key word there is cheap, because fake news are easily made up, therefore cheap, while reliable news are researched, back checked and well written, therefore more expensive to produce. I don’t understand why people buy expensive clothes, cars and accessories, demand quality in food and services but then gobble up cheap, fake news like candy.  Quality is more expensive then trash, the same goes for news.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I said, “but ‘the base’ isn’t going to change its allegiance by being dazzled and showered with facts.”

“No they aren’t,” Camp agreed, “you need to convince them with a better story; a narrative they can understand and identify with. You have to show them that the environment, nuclear war and migration are global problems that cannot be solved by retreating into nationalistic fortresses and prayer and you have to make them understand through education and examples that empathy, compassion, understanding and altruism are human traits more beneficial to the community then hate, revenge and blame. It will take years and is a never ending job”

Camp was punctuating his arguments with palm down slaps of the table, making the empty glasses jump. He was on a roll, preaching to the choir.

“You boys solving the world’s problems once again? Ready for another one,” Rosie asked and quickly added: “sorry that was a dumb question like: is the pope Catholic?”

“Do you know who invented beer Rosie?” Camp asked.

“The Irish?” she answered with a wink in my direction.

“Not exactly,” Camp said with a chuckle, “it was the Sumerians about 7000 years ago in Mesopotamia in what today is Iraq. A 6000 year old tablet shows people drinking beer with reed straws from a communal bowl and a 3900 year old poem contains the oldest beer recipe.”

“How do you know all this stuff?” Rosie asked, shaking her head.

“Well, last Sunday I attended a play reading at the Heritage Playhouse, written by a friend of mine, called: Relax Gilgamesh, a modern interpretation of the ancient poem. Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king abdicated his throne in order to become a god and was helped by Siduri, the goddess of wisdom and beer. Very funny and enlightening,” Camp said.

“Drinking beer with straws from a bowl ought to do the trick,” she said. “Relax indeed.”

“Here is to the Sumerians, who if not invented the wheel were at least the first to record it, like the chariot, writing, the plough, the sailboat, the division of time into sixty units, math, maps, astrology and to top it all off: beer,” Camp said.

“That is surely the empirical evidence that civilisation could not exist without beer,” I said.

“And you two are the living proof of that theory,” Rosie said, plunking down two ice cold fresh draughts.






Pod Casts and Beer Philosophy

We’ve had a lot of rain in the last week but nothing like in Wilmington or Manila. For once that rain got us out of the dog house again as far as water restrictions go but we, that is the local politicians, need to deal with it, once and for all. Clare and I installed two 300 L water barrels, which are full now. Water cisterns in the rain forest is a bit oxymoronic but hey, Clare and I feel we did our small part.

Campbell, Camp to us all, just raised his bushy eyebrow when I told him about our water conversation effort. “Good on you,” he said, “maybe you should write a letter to the paper as well. If everybody had a cistern, we wouldn’t need a water distribution system.”

“Are you being a cynic now, living water-worry-free on your most excellent Gibsons aquifer.”

“It was voted the best water in the world in 2005,” Camp dryly remarked, “and we never had any restrictions.”

“Lucky you,” I said, taking a draught from my pint.

“By the way our neighbours turned me on to a couple of pod casts and I thoroughly enjoy them. One is called ‘Desert Island’, it’s British, BBC, and features interviews with well known persons. If you now somebody famous, they’ve done it. The premise is they have to pick 8 pieces of music, one book and one luxury to take on a desert island. I’ve listened to Keith Richards segment. He’s 75 years old now and still having a lot of fun. Actually a lot smarter than you might think.”

“Must be nice to be retired and listen to other people go on about themselves. What’s so different from reading the tabloids or watching day time soap operas,” Camp said.

“Come on Camp, you can’t be serious, it’s not only educational, it’s highly entertaining. What pieces of music or songs would you take on a desert island? Let’s have it then,” I said.

“Ok, how about something from Vivaldi’s four seasons. Let’s pick Summer.  Puccini’s ‘Nessun Dorma’ by Andrea Boccelli has always impressed me as quintessential Italian passion. Maybe an early Leonard Cohen song-poem like ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, and how about ‘Desolation Road’ by Dylan; definitely something by Nina Simone like ‘Wild is the Wind’. How many we got so far.”

“Five.” I said.

“Ok, ‘La Promesa’ by Lila Downs, floors me every time I listen to this simple but powerful song. Redemption Song by Bob Marley would be a must. That makes seven. One more: How about ‘Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding. I can always listen to that song.”

“Alright, what about a book?”

“I’d take the brothers Grimm’s collection of fairy-tales. Archetypical to all stories and infinitely entertaining.”

“You can take a luxury item. What’s it gonna be?”

“Luxury, I’m not much of a luxury guy. Maybe sunglasses because it would be bright on a desert island.”

“Well Camp you get the gist now. You should give this pod-cast a listen. The other pod-cast is called: ‘The Daily’, current affairs interviews by the New York Times. I just listened to Bob Woodward talking about his new book ‘Fear’ dealing with the Trump administration. Very interesting and revealing. Add to that my daily Swiss newspaper and the odd soccer game and the days are always packed.”

“If we all could just have modest desires like you we’d live in a much kinder and simpler world,” Camp said with a sprinkle of sarcasm.

“Who needs more?” I asked, “a game, a beer, a chat, some news and a good story, the love of a good woman, health and some spare change.”

“You sound like you’re selling something,” Rosie quipped on her way with two refills.

“I’m not selling, I’m giving it away,” I said.

“Who is lining up?” Rosie said, “to make your well rounded beer philosophy a bit more alluring, you need some spice in there. A bit of mystery, some laughs, a measure of suspense. Life is not a happy gold fish bowl but an adventure and a caravan ride of dreams, goals and desires.”

“Hear, hear,” Camp said, “our wise friend Rosie here has the full measure of life. What would you take onto a desert island?”

“A hat, some sunscreen, a kayak and a fishing rod.”

“What about music?” Camp laughed.

“I have a head full of Irish shanties. That should do me for a while.”



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.”

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.”

Beer Commercial

The following is from a beer commercial I saw in New Zealand:

Work like you don’t need the money.

Love like you’ve never been hurt.

Dance like nobody’s watching.

Sing like nobody’s listening.

Live like it’s Heaven on Earth

Make every moment count

and help somebody

help themselves