Monday, May 28, 2007

Hollow gut and sweaty palms.

I was driving to work this morning when the radio traffic reporter announced “A serious five car pile up on highway 91 near number 4 road in Richmond has traffic backed up for miles. Try highway 10 or Marine drive…”

I immediately thought “Oh my God!”. My son took that route to work this morning, and he was not very familiar with the highway and its exits. I got that involuntary stab of fear that hits parents at the thought their child could be in danger.

My rational brain fought with my mom brain:

Rational Brain: “It is 8:30 now, and he left the house at 6:30. He must have driven by that spot long before the accident.”

Mom Brain: “ But if it was a serious accident, it could still be tying up traffic two hours later.”

RB: “He would have called from his cell phone if he was in trouble.”

MB: “Not if he is unconscious, …or worse.”

RB: “His old ’91 Ford Escort can’t even go very fast.”

MB: “If a speeding semi trailer, or drunk driver hit him it doesn’t matter.”

And so it went for a few minutes, until I heard that the accident was in the other direction than his. I breathed again.

I worry about the health and safety of my other loved ones, of course. When my mom had heart surgery, I was tense and anxious. When my sister e-mails or texts me that they are in a big storm (she sails for a living) I am apprehensive. When my husband opened his chin playing hockey and had to have stitches I was concerned. (Actually annoyed too, because he had not bothered to do up the chin strap on his face guard. Men. He now has a manly scar like Harrison Ford, whereas a scar on my chin would simply be unsightly.) And I worry about him driving across the accident plagued Patullo Bridge every day.

But nothing is the same as the blood draining, visceral fear that strikes when something happens, or could happen to endanger my child. Like the day a few years ago when I got a phone call from the ski patrol at Grouse Mountain, that started, “Your son has had a snowboarding accident.” My knees started to buckle and I felt faint for a few seconds, thinking “head injury?” "broken neck?" until the patroller added, “He may have broken his wrist”.

I wonder if this lasts forever?

Todays dream travel destination: Grouse Mountain, which is a lovely local ski area, despite my son breaking his wrist there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Too sexy for my clothes.

I am applying mascara when my Beloved struts up behind me, preening in the mirror. He is about to leave for work. "This looks pretty good on me, don't ya think?" he asks. It was B's birthday a few days ago, and he is wearing new clothes he got from me and from his mom.

"It looks great."

"You don't think the shirt is too light to go with these pants?"

"No they go together well."

"Is the shirt O.K., it's a bit wrinkled?"

"Only a little on one arm, no one will notice," I assure him.

"The shirt is cool, I like this colour."

"Yes, it's a good colour on you Sweetie."

"I do look great, don't I?" B is clearly pleased with his dapper image.

"Yes dear. One thing though, you may want to do up your fly."

What would men do without us?

Today's dream travel destination: Wreck Beach, Vancouver, where clothes, and undone flies don't matter.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Happy Queen's day

This is the beginning of a holiday weekend in Canada. For those who do not live here, let me explain. It is not a celebration of happy gay men as my title may lead you to think. No, it is in honour of our head of state's birthday. Queen Lizzie. It falls on the weekend closest to May 24. Although that is not Lizzie's birthday at all, it is old Queen Victoria's. Liz may be queen and all, but she doesn't get her own day.

We treat this weekend as the unofficial beginning of summer. Cottages are opened up and aired of their winter mustiness, gardens are planted, boats are washed and waxed, decks are power washed, the first camping trips of the season are taken, and much beer is drunk. But unless they happen to attend the movie starring Helen Murrin this weekend, no one will actually think of the Queen at all. In fact, most of us call this "the May 24 long weekend," not Victoria Day. I read that in a recent poll, less than 10 % of young Canadians even know the Queen is our head of state. There are no parades, speeches, or even square dances this weekend honouring the monarch. Well, except maybe for the butterfly. But not for Liz. In Eastern Canada, there will be a few fireworks marking the day, but here in the west we save our fireworks for a really important occasion, Halloween.

It is not clear to me, and to many Canadians, why we cling to the monarchy, and the Commonwealth. There are no benefits, and the Queen wields no actual power over us. Perhaps it is just inertia and reluctance to challenge tradition. Or unwillingness to give up a long weekend dedicated mostly to quaffing large amounts of Molson Canadian Lager.

I'll drink to that.

Today's dream travel destination: Buckingham Palace, where Vicky's birthday is likely not celebrated by guzzling lager in the sun.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quick pics and funny fotos # 2

One wonders how many gents from Penrith have been hit by trains while teetering hopefully on the edge of the platform.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Screaming meme-y. Or me me.

There is an interview meme going around, and I took up Ian's offer. How could I resist, he's a professional journalist. Certainly it had nothing to do with my giant screaming ego.

The questions are interesting, and some are tough, not that I would expect anything less from the thoughtful pro. He got to ask five, and the deal is, I'll answer them, and in turn interview you with five questions. Yes you, just invite me to interview you in a comment below. Don't be shy. The rules are, up to five people can pick up this challenge.

Well, here goes.

1. Obviously by your blog name, you love to travel and have travelled to a number of exotic locales. What is the most satisfying and inspiring trip you've made?

Without a doubt, it was kayaking in Gwaii Haanas Park, Haida Gwaii (or Queen Charlotte Islands, BC, Canada) five years ago. For a week our companions were eagles, ravens, seals and orca whales. We slept on gorgeous beaches or rocky knolls, eating fresh fish or crab every night (not to mention the delicious goodies we packed. The beauty of a kayaking trip is there is room to pack lots of good food.) The peace and beauty, the ripple of the paddle, and the eagle laughter inspired me in deep places that even the most profound words cannot reach.
Trekking in the Annapurna Range in Nepal comes a very close second.

2. What, on the other hand, but still on the travel theme, is your favorite R&R getaway?

In summer, camping at the far end of Pitt Lake, at a special beach we know, accessible only by boat. In winter, snowshoeing in Manning Park, staying at the little cabins.

3. In your career what gives you the most satisfaction?

Uummm, vacations? No, I am kidding, I am fortunate to have a challenging and interesting career. It is very hard work sometimes, which can bring its own satisfaction. But once in a while, I get to feel like I've made a real difference for the world my son and the next generation will inherit. That's the big payoff.

4. When you were a pretty little redheaded girl -- assuming you were a redheaded girl -- what did you want your future to look like? By this I don't mean just career wise, but the whole spectrum and panorama of life.

I was indeed a red-headed little girl, as was my mother, her mother, and hers too. That's the easy part to answer.
I knew from age seven I wanted to be an archaeologist, and make great discoveries. So I did become an archaeologist, and had a great time doing it, although the biggest discovery I made was that archaeologists have very dirty fingernails. As a child I never really imagined a husband and baby in the picture, but they happened, and my life changed. So at 29 I found myself married, pregnant and in law school, something I NEVER pictured as a kid.

5. Your quest and your obligation is to 'fix' just one thing either in your own society or on the planet. What would that thing be, and how would you go about it? I realize there are two questions in one here, but what the hell.

Ian, (batting my eyelashes here) I plan to eradicate world hunger, cure cancer, and broker world peace. And win this beauty pageant.

Seriously though, where to start? If I held the world's purse strings, I would pull money out of waging wars and immediately fix the things that are fixable today. Like children dying of malnutrition or dysentery. It is heartbreaking, and incomprehensible to me that in the next few minutes, tens of thousands of dollars will be spent to drop a bomb somewhere, and somewhere else, a baby will die from lack of food, or lack of a simple rehydration mixture. But the only purse strings I hold are my own. B and I sponsor three children and their families through World Vision. Is it enough? Hell no. I wish I had a better answer Ian. Some days I think I should chuck everything, sell all my possessions, and move to Africa to feed babies. But that's not realistic. What I can do, is help provide for three, for now. Plus lobby and vote for change. And rejoice in the smiles of the few that I can help today.

Running to catch up with myself

Crazy week. Moved office. Worked late. Secretary left. I miss writing here. All I can do until weekend is the above pic for your amusement.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lights in the darkness

A gaunt woman with missing front teeth weaves down the sidewalk, shouting obscenities. Her face is scabbed and oozing, a sure sign of a long heroin habit. I pass a group of three men openly sharing a crack pipe in the filthy doorway of a decrepit hotel. A half dozen people are sleeping or passed out on the steps of the Anglican church. I have seen four quick drug deals while walking as many blocks. They typically involve two people: A dealer, who stands off to one side, and a "hired" addict who actually gives a buyer the drugs and receives the money, taking the risk of being arrested in return for a sliver of crack the dealer will give her when she hands over the sale proceeds.

My work frequently takes me to a building in this area of Vancouver dubbed the poorest postal code in Canada. It is the downtown east side, populated by the most hopeless and vulnerable members of our society. Homelessness, addiction, and mental illness are the norm here.

I often walk here from my uptown office, or from the skytrain station. I am never afraid walking in this infamous neighbourhood, at least not in daylight. The streets are always teeming with people. Many are helpful and friendly, and say "hello", or "nice day" as I walk past. More than once I have seen horrified lost tourists here from the nearby cruise ship terminal, surrounded by helpful locals giving directions. I am comfortable here. No one takes much notice of me, since I am not buying or selling anything, and I'm obviously not a cop. Yet a few years ago, before I had ever been in this neighbourhood except to drive through it with locked doors, I was afraid of it.

I am saddened by the pain and despair in these streets, and enraged by the failure of many expensive, ill-conceived political "solutions" thrown at the area. But I am always touched by the signs of hope and goodness here. Like a carefully tended flower box of geraniums in the window of a run down rooming house. And a storefront turned into a drop-in First Nations friendship centre. The needle-exchange nurses greeting their regulars by name. And the ever-present group of smoking men outside the door to the Salvation Army detox centre. They are trying, at least for today, to fight the addictions that crush them.

At the next intersection, an elderly drunk is starting to cross the street against a red light. He is swaying and his knees buckle. I grab his elbow and steer him back to the curb. "Come on Buddy, wait for the green light so you don't get run over." He stares at me for a few moments, and focuses on my turquoise jacket.

"Honey" he says grinning, "You look pretty as a robin's egg."

My day is made.