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The Good Ol’ US of A, B, C and D

June 17, 2011 Leave a comment

As much as we talk about what it “means to be American,” I don’t think anyone really has a clue. The diversity of thought, opinion and values in this country is staggering – just try to tell a Texan he’s like a Californian, or vice-versa for that matter. There are few, if any commonalities shared by a vast majority. President’s get elected by a hair – or by a technicality – and that’s in a two-party system, which misleads us into thinking people are in one of two camps. I feel like a 5-party system would further expose the wild diversity here, and leaders could walk in with a resounding 24% of the vote.

Canada’s the same – identity crises seem to be clinging to the New World – except for one important difference: cold. Cold unites. Cold is the one thing in Canada that everyone shares.

While a national hodgepodge has it’s challenges in a democracy, I don’t think I’d ever opt for uniformity. Diversity is just too damn interesting.

So if we’re going to talk about “All American”, I think it’s just as valid to include Germany and Switzerland as it is Louisiana. Actually, having been to Lousiana, it might be more valid.

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The Good Lord

June 5, 2011 1 comment

As far as I can determine, Lord Stanley of Preston was interested in three things during his time in Canada:

1) Hockey.

“I have for some time been thinking that it would be a good thing if there were a challenge cup which should be held from year to year by the champion hockey team in the Dominion (of Canada). There does not appear to be any such outward sign of a championship at present, and considering the general interest which matches now elicit, and the importance of having the game played fairly and under rules generally recognized, I am willing to give a cup which shall be held from year to year by the winning team.”

Note: “in the Dominion (of Canada).”

2) Trees.

“Lord Stanley threw his arms to the heavens, as though embracing within them the whole of one thousand acres of primeval forest, and dedicated it ‘to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time. I name thee, Stanley Park.”

3) His voice.

“A recording of Lord Stanley in 1888 may be the oldest known recording of a human voice to still exist.”

I have to commend the Good Lord, who found three ways to immortalize himself without doing much of anything. A Queen-appointed Governor General of the People.

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Still Life


My ride home from work is a beautiful, if grueling, 30 miles that meanders through a full representation of Californian landscapes. It begins with the dry farms and symmetrical vineyards of Morgan Hill, moves on to the cool forested valleys beneath Mount Madonna, continues through lush rain forest, entering fog towards its peak – the final resting place of the moist air moving in from the ocean. Descending on the far side of the mountain down narrow twisting roads, its green fields fields front the ocean’s horizon
and well beyond its roads, the sun settles down over the water. Approaching the coast, Eucalyptus trees line its paths, their leaves coating the asphalt beneath. As if posing for my camera, gophers, jays, hawks, deer and snakes motionlessly take their place against this impressive back drop.

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Veritable Vegetables


I finally signed up for a CSA. A Community Support Agriculture vegetable box is truly one of the best features of California. Every week, a box of seasonal, farm-direct, fresh organic groceries gets delivered right to my office. And for all my fellow Canucks, you don’t have fly the coop to Cali – I just discovered the same exists in Toronto and Vancouver! It costs me quite a bit less than buying the same array at Safeway, and I never know what I’m going to get. Every Wednesday is a colorful Christmas miracle (actually, it would nice if they wrapped it in fancy gift paper) – purple carrots, orange cauliflower, black raspberries; oh, and fava beans the size of human fetuses.

While convenience, health and taste are motivators enough, I really dig the adventure. It’s so easy to go back to the same old veg at the grocery store – one less thing to think about. But with the CSA, I just get what I get, figure out what it is, and figure out what to do with it. It opens a whole new world of flavors and recipes. Now, instead of spending my “food time” wandering the aisles, I spend it learning.

Have I sold you yet?

My CSA box for this week

It's like a beet is strangling a carrot

Jolly Green Giant sized!

And we’re back…

May 17, 2011 2 comments

The blog thing was on hiatus for a while there. In fact, I’m not sure it’s back yet. Like a tentative toe in a cold lake, I’m testing things out. I’m going to take a different approach – lead with photography.  I’ve discovered that when we turn on our computers, our attention spans become about the same as a hummingbird’s – we get a sense of things and then we flutter on to the next shiny object. Writing in that environment is tough, and I commend those that are able to keep their blogs current. I felt like I was running on a treadmill, feeding the internet beast; my content was never enough and the expectations were relentless – yes, even from my 27 readers. And yet, the more I wrote, the less people read. You probably didn’t even get to that sentence. Or this one.  So, I’m going to start posting nice shiny pictures. Ones I take. Not for their photographic merit necessarily, but because there’s something interesting about them. Something I find interesting anyway. And I might throw down a few words about why you should find it interesting too. That’s it. Sorry about all the words here.

This is a bee. A bee that met it's demise at the sharp edges of my bladed spokes. The spokes on the wheel on my bike. My bike, that at the time, I was riding in the Wildflower triathlon. The triathlon that's the largest in the U.S. with some 7500 participants. 7500 participants of the 1.2 million in the U.S. that participated in a tri last year, 51% more than three years prior. 1.2 million people with an average income of $126,000. So you see, it's not just another bee caught in another spoke.

Evening Run

February 26, 2011 Leave a comment

His heart pounds against his ribcage, pleading for its release. Lungs refuse the air, but he forces it upon them. Legs whine and stiffen, but comply. Sweat pours down his face, diverging at every crevice and wrinkle, meeting again in a steady drip from his chin. The impending darkness chases him, the shadows of the trees collapse on every side.  The trail feels different now – each dip surprising, each rock menacing.  His focus in the fading light is total. His feet are nimble, but insecure. His eyes darting, nervous. Attentiveness comes instinctively, and so his consciousness lulls. Pressures, duties, problems, dissolve into insignificance. Stress melts, coating and calming what was so recently critical.  Nothing matters but the strike of his foot, the curve of the trail, the glimmer of light.

His body is awakened. His mind can rest.

 

 

Simon Interviews an Otter

January 14, 2011 2 comments

We’re here today with Oli the Otter, one of the last remaining English-speaking otters in the Pacific Ocean. The warming oceans have brought a tidal wave of Spanish speaking sea-life; their influence runs deep,  and otters like Oli have become rarer than pearled oysters. But enough of all that…

ME: So Oli, tell us, how does an otter get a name like Oli?

OLI: I don’t know, I’m an otter, our brains are small. Oli kind of sounds like otter, and I guess that’s about as far as my parents could take it. Sorry, that answer was a bit curt – I’m new to this interview thing.

ME: That’s alright, I’m new to it too. So Oli, and stop me if this is a sore subject, but how’s it been around here with the…the…big colorless fish.

OLI: You mean the Great White Shark? It’s okay, I don’t mind talking about it. I mean it’s tough obviously; we all have friends, relatives even….[he trails off and turns away]. But we’re getting smart. We got this new thing where we swim towards the surfers legs and then duck away at the last instant. The stupid fish can’t tell the difference and usually takes a big chomp out of the leg, leaving us to swim away scot-free. It’s working wonders; at least for now.  But you know, we’re just small fries. it’s the seals that really gotta worry, man, they’re watching their backs 24/7. It’s like Boys n’ the Hood for them.

ME: Sounds rough. But on a lighter note, you guys have been called the ‘cutest mammal in the ocean’. What do you make of that?

OLI: Ya, I heard that somewhere. As flattering as it is, to be honest with you, I’m not sure we deserve the title. After all, we’re only part-time ocean goers. What about the bottlenose dolphin? Or the Orca? Those guys are doing the ocean thing day in day out, grinding it. They at least deserve a look. And if you are going to include the semi-aquatic, how do you leave out the polar bear? Seriously, even I want to snuggle with that mass of carnivorous fluffy cloud. And they’ll eat my ass raw!

ME: Your humility is charming Oli. So aside from appearance, it looks like you guys are really having a good time out there, playing around and all. Tell us, what’s it like being an otter?

OLI: Well, you know I can’t speak for everyone, but when I’m twirling my way through a wave, or darting amongst kelp forests, man, I feel so alive!  And I hate to say it, but when I watch you humans flopping around like fish out of water, man I gotta laugh. I guess it’s a bit of schadenfreude, but hey, when I think back to our “history” together,  I can’t feel too bad about it.

[Oli gestures quotation marks on the word “history”; well, tries to anyway. Otters don’t really have fingers, so it’s hard.  Sure they have paws, but their stubiness restricts the precise movement necessary for making a quotations gesture. It’s sad to see this poor otter struggle so, but I know that behind the word “history” are struggles that far outweigh anything he faces today. Only the 1911 Fur Seal Treaty prevented the complete extermination of his species. And yet, as Oli picks up a shell and  effortlessly twirls it between those very same paws, I am stunned by his dexterity, dexterity that represents my hope for his future.  This creature, at once pitiful and proficient, the savant of the sea, thrives anew.]

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