February 16, 2010

herculean efforts

Posted in shit happening tagged , , at 5:06 am by ben

I have always been somewhat anti-Olympics.  For as long as I can remember (and at my age it’s a miracle that I can recall anything) there has been arbitrary and unfair judging, the professional vs amateur debate, bribery allegations, corruption and scandals within the IOC and numerous inconsistencies in the games themselves.  The IOC is not accountable for it’s actions and without accountability there is no justice.  If there is no fair play in the biggest competition in the world how can we expect kids to behave on the playgrounds?

My biggest beef with the Olympics is the amount of money spent on the event.  In our current financial situation we should be reserving our resources for healthcare, infrastructure (beyond the lower mainland) education and the betterment of or country in general.  The dough that’s been divvied for these games could have done some really positive things for this country.  Some would argue that hosting the Olympics are positive and that they offer us the opportunity to showcase Canada and to let the world know who we are and what we’re about.  That all sounds lovely and kumbaya and shit but I am pretty certain that the entire planet is already well aware that Canada is peaceful, gentle and polite and the only thing harsh about us is our winters… although this year ironically is quite the exception to that rule.

As of the beginning of February, the total cost of the Games, including all the improvements for the region is estimated to be about $6 billion.  About 580 million was allocated from the taxpayer budget (in a country of 33 million people) and I am not convinced that we’ll see a return but I know we’ll feel the deficit.  Projected revenues to the city and province are expected to be in the range of $10 billion.  Whether or not that comes to fruition remains to be seen.  It’s a big risk.

Was all of this spending necessary?  I think not.  The Torch relay, for example, that was intended to get the country fired up (pun intended) about the event began in Victoria and spent five days on Vancouver Island before flying to the Yukon, crossed the northern region of the country to the Atlantic coast, then proceeded west through the provinces to arrive in Vancouver for the opening ceremony.  The relay lasted 106 days and covered 45,000 km, it passed through 1,000 communities and grand celebrations were held in 200 towns and cities.  The cost of the entire trip was $30 million, with two thirds of this funded by the federal government.

The torch traveled to within 50 km of every town in the country.  Sounds nice, yes?  Necessary?  Not so much.  I will admit that when it arrived in my village we attended the event as did the majority of our populace.  It was undoubtedly the greatest turnout this town has seen for anything.  It was exciting and full of fanfare and entertainment and I couldn’t help but get sucked into the mob induced enthusiasm.  That said and upon closer scrutiny it was really little more than a smokescreen so we wouldn’t notice the real spending and an advertising opportunity for the corporate sponsors.  Maybe I am just a negative Nelly, maybe the relay did bring the country together.  If my cynicism is unjustified it wouldn’t be the first time but I couldn’t help but feel we’d been sold some colas and some banking and snowed (pun intended again) on this whole Olympic deal.

Further on the financial note I also think that some countries have taken to buying and building Olympic athletes and the purity of the sports are marred by the fact that those who can afford it get better training/coaches/facilities etc. than the countries who simply don’t have the funds.  I find it ironic that what began as a pure competition where buff, naked, young, naked men ran naked and tossed things has now become a penis measuring contest and everybody wears clothes.  And it’s all done in the name of bragging rights because a gold medal and a buck (or four at Starbucks) will buy you a cup of coffee… and for the athlete a longshot at the front of a Wheaties box.

All of my issues aside I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night.  At first I did so with the intent to mock and belittle the extravaganza but I became so engrossed and impressed that the urge to scoff left me completely.  Well, almost completely, I did think what they did to our anthem was ridiculous, I can’t stand Nelly Furtaco and I don’t think she belonged on that stage and the whole Foxy Cleopatra opera chick singing the Olympic hymn was just odd.

I have watched other Olympic ceremonies and maybe I am biased but I think this was by far the most impressive and way beyond spectacular.  Certainly it would be tough to beat the show in Beijing but at 10% of the cost I still count us as the win.  I was awed by the pageantry, impressed with the use of technology (both simple and complex) and goosebumps rose on my flesh as the whales appeared to cross the floor of the stadium.  I rolled my eyes when the poet was introduced and then had to wipe tears from them as he spoke.  Shane Koyczan captured Canada in words as eloquently as anyone could, he took our national pride to a whole new level.  So brilliant.  If you haven’t hear/seen it I highly suggest you check it out on YouTube or read the transcript.  Koyczan really does define Canada as much as one can define a country that is so diverse.

I was blown away that we had the talent and the capability to pull off something of this magnitude.  Of course there was the glitch when the forth pillar of the indoor torch stubbornly refused to rise.  Shit happens.  They made it work.  That is also the Canadian way, we deal and move on, no point crying over faulty mechanics and the inability to get it up.

Something happened after the ceremony, something I didn’t expect at all.  I got a dose of Olympic fever and now I can’t get enough of the games.  I’ve watched all of the coverage from NBC as well as the Canadian reports and I actually find myself cheering aloud… they’re 500 miles away but they hear me.  I am watching sports that I couldn’t give two shits about a week ago and I am doubly excited to see the ones I had some interest in already.  The figure skating is always worth watching no matter who wins the medals.  The other is curling, I love curling.  I know to the untrained eye it’s about as exciting as watching people throw rocks on ice but the game is far more intricate and skillful than it appears… and it helps that I am in love with the third from the Canadian team.  John Morris is my boyfriend, he just doesn’t know it yet.

I fully expect to see the Kevin Martin team take the gold.  I also guarantee that I won’t miss a single game.  If ever there was a time that we should revert to the purity of the original games that had the men competing naked, this would be it.  Then again there is that cold weather shrinkage factor to consider.  I guess the tight black pants will suffice after all.

If there is anything I would like non-Canadians to take away from watching my country, my province, I would hope they see that we truly are kind and generous hosts, that we rejoice in the effort not just the win and that there are far worse ways to be defined than as polite.

I also hope the world finally realizes we don’t live in igloos.


August 14, 2008

baggage compartments

Posted in tales from the lakeside tagged , , at 4:55 am by ben

You ever have the kind of day that just makes you grateful to be alive?  Everything is beautiful, you feel good, no aches or pains and the weather seems to be cooperating and food even tastes better?  Friday was that kind of day for us and we haven’t had one like that in a long time…way too long.  

We woke to blue skies and warm sun shining in the windows of the Bluebird waking us from an unusually peaceful slumber  There haven’t been many days this summer (and I use the term ‘summer’ loosely) when it’s been warm enough first thing in the morning to put shorts on but I did that day.  My coffee was the perfect brew, I like my java like I like my men, strong, creamy, sweet and thick with the ability to get me moving…on several levels but we won’t get into my bathroom habits tonight.  

While Heiny did some piddling around on the cabin I read a magazine and did crossword puzzles, helping him intermittently as he needed my assistance.  He likes it when I can anticipate his needs and like a great OR nurse I have the tools and vital fluids (beer in his case) ready before he asks for them.  Once we get to the interior there will be more for me to do but for now I am little more than his gopher/holder/cook/bottle opener.  We make a good team.   

Later while he split some firewood I chopped some kindling…seriously I work harder there than I do at home….or at work.  It does not do my body any favors to be hacking up cedar (or anything else for that matter) but I wanted to impress my man with my axe wielding prowess like he was impressing me with his.  It was getting very hot out as we watched each other work up a sweat.  Ha!  Not likely.

After lunch we decided to go for a dip.  We didn’t even wait half an hour, we’re rebels that way.  Since we were the only ones out there my husband simply stripped off all of his duds and proudly hung his gear in the wind as we walked down to the dock.  I know there is a great feeling of liberty that comes with nudity but for me there is also the fear of someone seeing my wobbly bits or worse with a camera and the internet.  I practice my nekkidness more carefully.  I remove my bathing suit when I am in the water so that I may enjoy the freedom of swimming unrestrained and unfettered.  Skinny (fluffy?!) dipping is absolutely on my list of top ten most enjoyable nudist activities although it really isn’t skinny dipping if you’re not nude so it can’t really be a clothing optional activity.  But I digress.  We swam until my husband wigged out at the size of the fish beneath us, I think he feared they’d mistake his winkie for a grub.  Fortunately he is not the kind of kinky fucker who’d be thrilled to get a mouth wrapped around his worm…any mouth.  Gross.  

Since I don’t really have any dangly bits I wasn’t too concerned with all of the squawfish around the dock so I took the opportunity to laze in the water and soak in as much vitamin D as I could, careful not to burn anything that is not used to solar exposure.  Once I was sufficiently chilled and refreshed (it is glacial water) I had my husband hold the towel for me so that even if someone was peeking from behind a shrubbery somewhere (paparazzi maybe??!!) that they’d not be given an opportunity to see anything naughty or wobbly.  Heiny however only used the towel to dry his face and he hung his boys in the breeze and strutted back up to camp.  I have to say that the best part of his nudity is the little white bum that is so prominent when the rest of him is so tanned.  I really dig his heiny.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards and simply enjoying the peace and our time alone together in our happy place.  There was a christening of the cabin but details are not forthcoming…I’ve already freaked people out about the picnic table, I don’t want them to be afraid of the cabin too.  

It was one of those days that are rare but you know that it will stay with you as a very pleasant memory for a very long time.  I am thankful we had that because it appears there are some dark days ahead.  There have been more cutbacks where my husband works and he is now being bumped to the shittiest job in the mill and he’ll be doing it for less money.  It’s the position where they put the strapping young bucks because they have all of the braun and energy and not much brain or pain of age to know that what they are doing is grunt shit work.  He is getting old and he will seriously suffer at and hate such back breaking work.  He has an option to take a voluntary layoff which means they will continue his benefits for six months but he will be without a job.  This would be fine if he had somewhere else to go but at the moment there is nothing.  Again we don’t really want to leave here, especially now that we (almost) have our cabin built, not that we can make that a priority when our priority when our choices are so limited.  The other shitty thing about moving is that with about 150 employees now out of work the housing market is suddenly flooded and there is no way in the current climate that we’d get anywhere near what our home is worth…if we could sell it at all.  

I’ve been working hard to reduce my stress and worry levels this summer, my new mantra (thank you Jeremy) is “let it go” and I have been pretty successful at doing so.  I am learning to not get worked up about things that are out of my control and I have been feeling lighter without the weight of the planet on my back.  Now however the strain has returned along with a headache, anxiety and fear.  I know we’ll be ok, we always are, I’m just ready for the road to ok to stop being so fucking bumpy.

Speaking of bumps in the road and on a lighter note…in my previous post I casually mentioned the ground squirrels that entertain me at the lake.  Well it seems that one (Stubby, the short tailed one) decided he needed a road trip.  It’s a forty minute drive from the cabin to the house and when we came home on Sunday he hitched a ride.  The second the truck stopped we saw our little stowaway bolt from under the vehicle and right toward the shed where he quickly found a pile of lumber to hide beneath.    The poor little bugger looked scared shitless.  I looked at my husband and said, “He followed us home, can we keep him?”

There are so many cats, coyotes, hawks and eagles in this area that the poor little thing won’t have a popcicle’s chance in Hades of surviving here.  We aren’t very far from the lake but the conditions on the island are obviously more conducive to the critters survival as we always see them there and we never have any here…unless they happen to hijack a pickup to go on an adventure.  I have decided I will go all Marlon Perkins and trap the ground squirrel and return him to his natural habitat tomorrow when we go back out for the weekend.  

I know how to catch a squirrel

Climb up a tree and act like a nut.

But how do you catch a ground squirrel?

Climb into a bucket and show him your nuts?

I think I’ll try the peanut butter in a five gallon pail trick (like the homemade mousetrap without the water) and slap a lid on him.  Don’t worry I will put some holes in the lid and food in the bucket (I have been feeding him fruit and veggies all week so he hasn’t had to go foraging…into my garden!).  My mom thought it might be a little uncomfortable for him in such a small space (she has claustrophobia issues) but I imagine his ride here under a hot dusty truck, dodging moving parts was no picnic in the park either.  The bucket will be like first class compared to his last voyage.

I can’t help but wonder however if the chipper is some kind of sign.  Like maybe it’s the universe telling us to be brave, take some chances, make a move and make the best of it even if it’s scary or perhaps not the optimal situation.  Then again it could be a sign that if we leave the safety and security of the life we know we could be lunch.  I wish the universe would be more clear.