One Frog Octive Up

I was walking home this evening from a friend’s place when I heard the sound of a thousand croaking frogs singing away in the night. This means another sign of spring, and the warming of the forest near by my home. They were loud.

I’m not sure if they are mating, or it’s just “a time of year” thing for them, but they were all going at it, it seemed croaking away, all in unison. And they did this singing last fall before the freezing took hold too. So they must be telling their buddies, “hey I’m over here, don’t for get me!”

Be well frogs! But please don’t keep me up at nights.

ADDED: May 4, 2001. The frog does not look “creepy” OK, R.B.. I like it, and it’s my BLOG, so I posted it. I wish you would post you opinions here, I let most of them go through my SPAM filters.

Promising the World with Wooden Nickles

Since my graduation, I have been on the quest for the ultimate dream job, the job to end all jobs, that pivotal career job that will be my final place of employment. Cue (scratching the needle over vinyl record sound). With the seasonal economy, high food and fuel prices, an election, and oh heck I will throw in the Royal Wedding too, the market economy has not being doing so well. Naturally, the best employer in Canada, the government, is not hiring as much at this time. So, I wait for that moment when my dream job floats across the frontiers of cyberspace, calling out to me “job opportunity.”

In the meantime, it is remedial, labour type jobs. The sad truth is, with my education and experience, I am doing a lot better than most, so therefore, I consider myself not doing as well; then there are a lot of hurting people in this country. I now have first hand proof.

I was talking to a group of young adults in Langley City on Tuesday. Each one of them are in their mid twenties. All live at home with their parents and guardians. None have full-time work, or a job, and they all claim to be earning little bits of income from doing various jobs, and favours that come by every so often. They scrounge bottles, collect scrap metal, and do the odd acts of labour for profit that they can find. They are very good at the “Con” game.

In a way I feel bad for the world. Everything that could not happen to the market economy has happened. Greed is flourishing well, and I blame that squarely on most of the troubles we see today with large over extended corporations, and people who spent beyond their means. For the young adults that I met with back then, they dreamed of having credit cards, driving around in expensive cars, and having a magazine model as girlfriend. Reality is a far off distant land for these guys. But, they are also trapped in the land of promises.

They too want that dream job, that career where they are boss, and they bring home the mountains of money, and never have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from. They even play the lottery regularly, spending what little money they have, after buying cigarettes and beer, on these bets. All for that single dream chance—that dream.

Here we have a case of the Cons, being Conned in the great cycle of disparity. There is tragedy and humour all wrapped into one emotion for these guys. I sit, and all I can do is listen.

One of the best dialogues that has stuck in my mind over the years came from a short story called “Daemons in Middle Town America” by R. R. Brendon (spelling?), circa, 1950s, which was mandatory reading in one of my English courses. The story is told from the first person point of view of a young boy who encountered a preacher selling trinkets that would ward off evil beings. The boy was on his way into town to buy a hammer for his father who needed it to finish fixing the family wagon. The preacher noticed that the boy had money was trying to “con” the boy out of it.

The fat man in the white suite stood up said, “Behold, I give you the Sun.”

“But the Sun is not yours to give.” I answered.

“Only the pure in heart can see the Sun for what it means…” the fat man snapped back.

“The Sun shines equally everywhere on the Earth,” I replied back.

“You do not believe! You dare question that what is right, as the nose plainly on your face!” yelled back the fat man, pointing upwards at the Sun. “Then you will forever live in darkness….” as the fat man looked down and shook his head.

“Um, Nope! The Sun looks as bright as it did this morning. And I know this, dad said it is going to be Sunny all this week. Are you sure you are not getting confused with night time?” I then mounted my bike and continued onward into town.

I am sure these young men will grow up to be great and wonderful people. Perhaps one or two of them will survive this economic depression and leap forward and make their mark on the world. The sadness is in the talent that is being wasted as each of them claws their way through each day to get by.

What Ever Happen to the Albion Ferries?

Do you ever wonder what happened to the Albion Ferries, the ones that took passengers from Fort Langley, BC (the South side) and connected them to the Maple ridge side, across the Fraser River? Every time I walk down to the old terminal site, I see them, and then shake my head. Why? Because I see the cost, as they sit there and rust away.

The ferries are up for sale, but no one wants to buy them becuase they are rather expensive. And no wonder, with the economic downturn and recession, whose got money to spend on ferries?

The Albion Ferry was shut down after the Golden Ears bridge was build just a few kilometres down stream about two years ago now. There was no point in keeping the ferry service going with the new crossing completed. However, it should be noted that the Ferry was free to cross for anyone, while the new bridge is a toll bridge, and is a rather expensive one at that. It seems many are making the long trip around through the none-toll Port Mann bridge instead, judging by the low usage of the new bridge, according to the Langley Times News paper. As it goes, there is politics, and then there is consumer demand, as ultimately it is the people who vote with their feet-the demand is there, but the costs are still too high for the masses to make that transition, according to the Langley Times News Paper.

So, the land that once docked the Ferries now sits abandoned.

Now, from someone who lives in Fort Langley, the shutting down of the Ferry was a blessing, albeit not for the businesses who demanded the flow of traffic for their patronage. I now love that I can cross Glover Road without having to deal with speeding traffic surges every fifteen minutes! My friends who run the local coffee shop swear that they have lost business ever since. Of course they cannot tell me for sure if it is just the economic downturn causing all of this instead, but they are, after all business people – they think only in terms of profit margins, not reasoning.

So, if you know of anyone who wants to buy some Ferries, they are parked (docked) on the Maple Ridge side of the Fraser River. I have no idea how much they are asking for them, but I am sure you could swing them a deal. I do know that the asking price is far more than they are worth for the scrap metal.

Construction

For the last three days the ground had been shaking in irregular intervals, marking the onset of construction across the tracks from where I live. Like the play, “Death of a Salesmen,” gentrification has crept into my neighbourhood, slowly choking the view, sounds and peace from obscurity. As my windows rattle and the noise of the machinery sends shock-waves across the yards, the birds and squirrels are absent now.

My view of the Fraser River will be gone soon as our once prime real-estate now gives way to those who have paid a hundred times more than us to have it in their front windows. The sound the train which travels down the twin tracks almost once every hour will be much more louder as the sound now will have a multistory building to bounce off of with. I will have people gazing down at me for the first time, as opposed to me gazing down at those who walk the shores of the river.

Our era of quietness and privacy will be broken for the first time as the North side of the tracks will become the new new.

Oddly enough, the very reason why so many wish to move here, is the very thing that is leaving us at exactly same the rate. Numbers have a way of doing that. You take one, then you loose one. Very simple mathematics. It is the simplicity of the universe. There is no mystery or supernatural force, just plane and simple mathematics.

It has been three days since the vibrations of construction started on the North side of the tracks. It does not bother me, as it is all done during daylight hours, but it is a warning, a reminder that soon we too will have to uproot ourselves because the land must give way for development.

In the play, “Death of a Salesmen,” gentrification was only one piece of the message presented in that fictional story. Growing old, and loosing your usefulness as the twilight of your life approaches is perhaps the main thesis of that classic masterpiece. The home you build, out in the suburbs, then becomes the new mecca of development, but your time has run its course, and fighting it is no longer an option as the value of the home is only as good as the development that needs its space.

I have made this connection between the play, and the little town of Fort Langley before. The old must give way for the new. And like the laws of mathematics, the new will eventually out number the old, whether through attrition, multiplication or migration, the change is inevitable. The hardest part for the old is to accept the new and understand that it was once the new, as the old before it had to give way to make room for them.

The play has taught me to embrace the change rather than fighting it. I have learned never to attach myself to the land, as the land will always look after itself. Instead, I must look after myself. By the power of mathematics, so to will it play directly into my being. As the buildings become erect, and the people move into them, causation will demand that the value of the space I currently occupy must increase as well. So, then I must accept two dilemmas: First, stay and live with the new new which entails more cost for the privilege of living in my home in lieu of higher taxes and public utilities. Or, second, relocate to somewhere to the equivalent of what I have today, interfering with the same mathematical equations  elsewhere. There is no irony on this ironing board!

These are my thoughts currently rattling around inside my head. Pay them no mind.

The White House

Every once in a while you just got to poke fun where fun needs to be poked, and jump on those little useless things that pop up from time to time in life that are completely funny. This evening while I was walking back from the gas station in town to grab a cell-phone top-up card, I saw this sign of a merchant who runs a business here in the little white house, called, wait for it, the “Little White House.”

I have a lot of twitter friends who are Americans, and once in a while we have conversations about the differences between our two countries. We text a lot about spelling, weather, and the economy. And once in while, we get into the dark differences, such as laws, politics and opinions. All good, and very productive, as I learn so much from my friends in the South. So as I passed the Little White House along Glover Road going back home, I decided to snap a few photos of the sign just to post it on Twitter and say that we have a White House too. Though ours is not as popular and big, it is still the White House.

I actually got a Tweet from the business, the “Little White House,” here in Fort Langley, BC, and they are now following me on Twitter. But for my American friends, they thought it was quite funny and commented me back saying that it is good to have a White House up North too.

Alone to be Alone is to be with Yourself is Cool

I have to give credit to my Twitter friend, JENNIQUA, who is a former Kwantlen Polytechnic University student, that tweeted this You Tube video called ‘How To Be Alone.” For those of you who do not like poetry, or are not into the spoken and visual arts, perhaps this will enlighten you, as it did for me.

I think concept of being alone is a scary one for most people that I know of, myself included. And as the words from this video so eloquently are put, sometimes that is exactly what we are looking for in spite of our feelings and needs of wanting to not be alone. I know there are times when I so desperately want to be alone, being with someone seems to be what I really wanted anyway. So, perhaps the search for companionship is in turn not the answer, but what we are really asking for is to be alone.

As the poem states, there are different degrees of being alone. I like the park-bench idea of being alone, yet you are among people, strangers, randomly sitting beside you, and you have let go of any control of who sits there. That, I think, is cool, yet so socially unacceptable, but deep down that is what we want. Then there is not admitting that you are alone, embracing it, living with it, because that is were there is peace in the world. Those few moments where we are alone would then seem to be the time that we are most alive.

Enjoy the video! Thanks JEN!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs[/youtube]

ADDED April 13 2011: If you want to read the poem instead of watching the video, or would like to have the words, then here is the link to Tanya Davies’ website. Tanya Davis, How to be Alone.  And her website: www.tanyadavis.ca

The Underground Economy

I have been trying to help an old friend from moving back into the realm of criminal activity, and convincing him to keep his life on the straight and narrow. My efforts have been doubly difficult as the economy is making the search for legitimate employment more difficult for him. As our self melodious Prime Minister touts, Canada is in good economic terms compared to the rest of the world, but that is coming from a politician that wants to get re-elected. OK, if that is the case, then we are in big trouble as the Canadian economy is hurting, to use the lack of a better word. That is not going to help my friend who is on the verge of moving out onto the street.

My friend has done time in prison before. He was convicted of possession of illegal narcotics, and served less than six months, then three years on parole, where he was finally let free, back into society, basically to fend for himself. He has managed to keep himself in good shape, and has been working, earning a legitimate wage for over the last three years. His good fortune turned when he was laid off and now has been unemployed for a couple of months. He is now keeping himself going by selling what he can of his own personal belongings for cash, and feeding himself by going to the local food bank in Langley City, when he can. He will be homeless after this month, as all of his savings are almost gone.

I have taken some time study the underground economy in Canada. Partly because I did a lot of research way back when I was a second year Criminology student, writing a paper on this topic. I learned then that the public associates the underground economy with drug dealers and organized criminal gangs, while revenue Canada view it as any money where taxes have not been paid on it through profits and income. I see it as a hybrid of the two, mostly pertaining it to both organized and White Collar crime. As I gathered more statistical evidence, I found that the numbers of dollars circumvented from the tax man seem to be neck in neck with White Collar criminals as compared with the drug trade; although finding the true measure of the dollar amount will always remain a mystery as any research on criminal activity will be classified as being involved in the criminal activity itself.

For my friend, the ease, and the lure, of moving back into the illegal world of commerce has never looked so good right now for him. Based on my research, the underground economy is very much alive and well in British Columbia. Sadly, some predictions say that there could be a spike in people migrating towards the underground economy, as never seen before. As money and services start to contract, companies start cutting corners to remain competitive, or current market wages could be undermined by the cheaper available labour, citing some examples of what is happening. Under the table labour is becoming the next bastion of life for many people who are on the brink of becoming homeless in the Vancouver area. My friend is struggling with these temptations. He is down to the choice of feeding himself, or going hungry.

In his mind, if the means are available, then how be it a broken social system dare tell him what he can and cannot do to survive.  Even he knows that the resources for law enforcement are stretched so thin through under funding by all three levels of government that resources for White Collar crime is almost nonexistent, and adds to the legitimacy of doing such crimes here in Canada.

I continue to appeal to my friend, asking that he keeps on trying, searching for the legitimate job. However, I too can see the strain of his temptation to dive back into the criminal world. He told me that as of last week the crime world is the only world that is hiring! That shocked me when he said that. I guess it is true, in a sad and truthful tone.

My hope is that he can find some work soon. Like so many, our economy is collapsing, and the bottom economic strata are always the first levels to fall in times of economic hardship. His criminal record, by the way, does not seem to deter him, as he told that most of his former employers never asked. So, as he said, it is the availability of work that is at play here. The last thing I want to see is him moving into a cardboard box sleeping out in the elements somewhere in Langley City as a vagrant. So I am really hoping that he finds something soon!

Let Me Pass Toll Bunny!

While I was doing my evening walk/jog along the Fort to Fort trail from Fort Langley, I came across a little pumpernickel sized bunny who would not move from off of the trail as I approached him. He stood his ground, and would look up at me only for a bit, then proceeded munching on the grass until I moved in closer. He even let me get within 2 metres of him before he would flick his ears back and prepared for a run into the bushes.

I was thinking to myself that this could be one of those “Toll Bunnies” like from Monty Python, when the travellers who could not answer the question correctly would be attacked by the little fury bunny and would come to their death. I also thought that the rabbit could be an escapee who was a former domesticated animal from the one of the farms near by?

Finally after taking several photographs of him, I started walking passed him. At first the little bunny just kept eating the grass, nibbling away, until it made a mad dash for the bushes when I was less than a metre from him.

Pouring Honey on My Toes

This weekend has been quiet. Only one visitor, a friend from in town who needed some help with his laptop. But, other then that, it has been mostly getting some spring chores done and preparing for the regular week to come.

Last night I had a really good sleep. This is where the honey on my toes part comes in. It was so good that I slept way passed my normal get-up time. But the dream that I remember was incredible. So, just a warning before I go into the details, there is no erotic parts to the story. Sorry ladies. When I did awake from my eight hours slumber, I was so shocked, yet so invigorated, that I felt like a zombie walking walking around the house before I snapped back into normal time and space.

The Dream

Remembering dreams is tricky for me because they seem like they went on forever, but I quickly forget them, and I can only recall the last bits and pieces of them. Even as I type this out, I am starting to forget some of the parts and what order they came in, so without further ado, the dream sequence.

Oh yes, before I forget, I just remembered what caused this dream. I was watching the Japanese Teen-flick, Battle Royal, 2000. For those who have not seen it, it was a huge teen flick for many of my friends who I studied with in University, so naturally I watched it with them. It was a rite of passage for many of these students at the time. Still is, as far as I know? Now I am showing my age here.

OK, the dream started like this. I am buried in branches inside a shallow pit that was dug to hide in. Beside me were about five other students who were all trying to keep as quiet as we could as the campus police marched around us with their flashlights and taser-sticks. I remembered being scared beyond belief. In the far distance were other students who were being forced into metal shipping containers, and their screams only stopped when the sounds of electric shocks started. We were on the edge of a forest and a gravel compound. The open area was littered with shoes, jackets, books and student’s book-bags. There were search lights scanning the forest, and every once in a while we would have to duck as a beam of light would point right at us. In my hands was a laptop bag. I noticed others had weapons and other survival devices on them, and one person in particular had a band-aid wrapped around his head, and he carried what looked like to be a large radio device.

In a flash, we are all running. I now remember that we were trying to head for the forest. As soon as I leaped out from the branches, I could hear arrows shooting past my ears. I ran as hard as I could, through the trees and over the small bushes, and around me I could hear the moaning and breathing from the students as they ran. Then another volley of arrows. I seen a large boulder, so I dived over top of it, and arrows shattered into the trees in front of me. As I hit the ground, I heard the screams from one of the girls. She was hit with an arrow. One of the guys tried to reach for her, to pull her behind the boulder where we were, but he got shot in the arm with an arrow, and he retreated back. Then the sounds of machine gun fire boomed in my ears and flashes of light lit up the trees around as another student in our group stood up and she started firing in the direction from where the arrows came from. Then it was silent.

We started moving again, fearful that the advancing campus police were moving in. I could see ahead of us a clearing. There were some dimly lit widows, and in the twilight I could see the silhouettes of people moving on top of the roof of the structure. They were yelling at us, waving like mad, coaxing us to move towards them as fast as we could. My body ached. My fingers were cut and scraped and I could feel a sharp pain in my right leg. Then two of the group members started running towards the building ahead of me, and I reluctantly followed gasping for air as the bag I was carrying flapped up against my back. Then my heart stopped as the swooshing sound of an arrow shooting passed my ear hit the trunk of the tree in front of me. I felt its feathers touch my ear, and I instantly fell to the ground. I crawled towards a log on the ground and hid behind it, then started crawling again towards the building never letting my belly leave the Earth.

After a few negotiations around rocks and logs, I made it to a hedgerow that followed a cobblestone road. Once I got through the bushes onto the road I could clearly see the doorway of the building and hear the voices from inside. I felt the warmth from the students in our group as they huddled beside me as one by one they caught up. We were smiling. The building seemed to be our safe house. In a split second leap I was across the road and darted for the doorway.

The door was open. All I had to do was push it, and it creaked open. Then I felt the warm air and the smell of food swoop down around me. The others caught up, and one by one we crouched down and entered through the doorway. The building was an old warehouse. There were sections of the roof that had been damaged from neglect and weapons fire. There were a couple of hanging light bulbs glowing in the distant, illuminating just enough to see the space inside. Junk cluttered the space leaving pathways of open floor to walk through like a maze. Midway inside were some stairs leading up to a cube shaped enclosure that joined another section of the main building along the ceiling. We headed for that, still crouched down at the ready for any sign of danger. Then we slowly climbed the stairway, one by one, until we reached the platform at the top level. The door was closed, so one of the girls knocked three times. The light shining along the bottom door jam turned out. Then slowly the door opened, and a whisper said, “Whose there”?

“We are.” said one of the girls from our group.

“OK, come on in, but careful.” the voice inside said.

We entered the room. Once through the door I was overwhelmed with the smell of food. It was pizza. The lights turned on, there in front of me were several platters of homemade pizza. The smell was incredible. It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust when I realized that there were other people in the room too. We were standing inside a kitchen, and the students that were occupying it were making pizza. This was their base of operation. Then the lights went blurry, and everything went black.

I came too laying on a bed with bandages wrapped around my hand and leg. I had passed out. The sharp pain in my leg was an arrow that had hit it and the tip had stuck inside. At the foot of the bed was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She had to have been a student too. She was wrapping more cloth over top of my wounds. I tried to say something, but I could not speak. She smiled, and grabbed some honey that was in a cup from the small table.

“This will help keep the infection away,” she said.

Then I could feel the honey drip over my leg. She would pour a bit, then rubbed it onto the cloth, and pour some more, repeating this. She kept on applying the honey for a while until I could feel the honey drip onto my toes. Then I woke up.