Oh, Canada

Spotted recently during a walkabout in Victoria, BC. It set me to wonder because it was over sixty years ago that Ayn Rand (aka The Russian Radical) made the non-intuitive and controversial claim in her essay that there are no conflicts of interest among men. If true, then surely there would be nothing for a Conflict of Interest Commissioner to do, a textbook example of a sinecure. Consistent with that conclusion I noted the office was closed.

Canadians, it seems to me, are inclined to being overly officious. Although my average impression of them as a lot is that they are otherwise nice and non-threatening. In every social context during the three days we were there, never once did HW or I feel insecure or unsafe in our surroundings. Not anywhere in our daily peregrinations exploring the city, driving the roadways, aboard their ferries, or even relatively remote places beyond the city like the park we visited where we hiked to the beach. My impression isn’t based only on our recent visit there either, I’ve visited other locales in Canada before, same impression. Even the impromptu “street performer” we observed one day while out shopping – who as I passed close by him erupted in thick brogue, “Aye, you can’t have a discussion of bravery without the fuckin’ Irish!” – startled me, but he didn’t frighten me. Someone like that appearing suddenly in my personal orbit on Market Street in San Francisco might have me pulling HW tight and quickening our pace, but not in Canada. I’m not sure why.

We plan to visit Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island sometime this summer, supposedly a kayaker’s dream, so HW especially is looking forward to this. Another place of interest for us in southern BC (mainland) is the Okanagan Valley, where some surprisingly decent wines are made. We’re also looking into road trips this summer to Montana, Idaho, and Colorado to visit good friends who live there. And possibly a touch-base trip to Wisconsin to catch up with family. It’s gonna be a busy year of travel. Overseas, we’d like to return to northern Italy, this time to experience the food and wine of the Nebbiolo region (next to Amarone, Barolos are one of my favorite red wines), and to take our time exploring Turin, the city where Frederich Nietzsche descended into madness and died. And for years we’ve talked about hiking the full extent of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. It was constructed around 122 AD by the Romans as a defensive fortress and to mark the northern extent of the empire at the time. Some historians think one reason for building the wall was maybe to keep the “barbarians” to the north (ancestors of modern Scots) from invading the empire. Supposedly them early Scots were wicked scary.

What else is going on? Well, the hole in our home left by Chester’s passing is still here. Nothing but time can seal it, and there’s no treatment to avoid the experience of grief while we wait. We cannot “will” ourselves to get over it. Slowly, though, we’re getting out and about and feeling better about feeling good again. Endless wallowing in self-pity is not our way.

Those tunnels beneath Gaza are something aren’t they. Whoever ends up governing Gaza should turn them into a tourist attraction, use the proceeds to help rebuild the place. Some reports I’ve read estimate that upwards of 50% of the buildings in Gaza have been leveled or damaged beyond repair by Israeli bombs. Who’s gonna pay to clean up the mess and rebuild it? In Ukraine, damage to private and commercial property will shortly exceed $150 billion. And Putin, it seems, is just getting started. Syria is an utter disaster, and was the worst humanitarian crisis in recent times to strain credulity, until the starving refugee crisis in Yemen dropped our jaws. Iraq, a country we invaded and occupied for eight years on a phony casus belli – The Global Policy Forum now estimates the total cost to America for that fiasco at over $1 Trillion. That’s roughly equivalent to the cost of the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. What did it get Americans, increased security? Ha. I don’t think so. We still have Americans there getting killed by Iranian-backed insurgents. And then America retaliates, blows up some infrastructure and kills some bad guys, only to have a new group of bad guys emerge someplace else and attack us again. Ever heard of the game Whac-A-Mol? One trillion dollars wisely spent at home could have transformed every inch of this country into a Lake Woebegone experience. Plus spared a whole lot of unnecessary death and destruction. Instead, there are places in the world I’d like to visit, but now more than ever would never visit because, qua American, I’d feel like there was a target on my back (except Canada). And we (taxpayers) are stuck with the bill.

Anyway, I’m off to watch the game. Prediction: 49ers by a smidge in a late comeback rally.