Saturday, September 24, 2005

Pedestrians Have Rights Too

I decided not to go to St. Catharines because a) I couldn't find a bed and breakfast that wasn't full due to the Wine Festival and b) I thought I should be practical since the Budget Gods said so.

However; I did do one small thing to celebrate the anthology launch. It's a beautiful autumn day so I walked to the Farmers' Market, bought some fresh tomatoes, some hummous and tablouli, a newspaper and some fresh cut flowers. That put me in an upbeat mood but it was destined to be temporary.

As I was walking back home, crossing the street on a green light - and the WALK sign was on - a car decided to make a left turn when I was in the middle of the cross walk and nearly hit me. I yelled at the guy, yep, it was a male driver, but the only digit I could raise was a thumb since my hands were full, I yelled 'idiot" but I'm sure he didn't see my thumb or hear me shout. He was roaring toward the next red light which was only a block away.

I was only about three blocks from home after that incident and things should have been quiet and smooth. Should have been but were not.

There was only one more light ahead of me. As I approached the light, and I was on the right hand sidewalk, there was a bus stopped at the light waiting to make a left turn. I was behind the bus and behind it was a car with a young male driver (I know, I know, but these are the facts). He was honking his horn at the bus and then he put his head out the window and yelled. He appeared to be getting ready to pass the bus on the right. I could see his hands turning the wheel in that direction. That would mean going up on the sidewalk where I was. Thank God, at that moment the bus was finally able to turn left and the car behind straightened and zoomed off at a speed of least 20 clicks over the posted limit.

I want to know why it is so easy for people who show no knowledge or respect for the Highway Traffic Act to have the right to drive potentially lethal multi-ton vehicles (both were SUV's) They should be demoted to pedestrian status. And maybe pedestrians should have some sort of weapon to use in these circumstances - like a long umbrella with a razor-sharp tip for scratching the paint of offending vehicles.

Tomorrow is The Word on the Street, and the weather forecast is for rain so we may not have many afternoon visitors.

I just came back from Tim Hortons where I had a coffee and a Nanaimo bar to soothe my nerves. Sometimes you just have to have some cheap consolation.

Monday, September 19, 2005

To Go or Not to Go? I wish I knew.

I wasn't going to go to St. Catharines for the anthology launch, since my daugter can't drive me there. However, I'm beginning to reconsider the whole thing since it is possible to go by bus. Possible, but it takes a long time - there and back would be almost 7 hours total travel in one day. The train would be nice, but there isn't one that would get me there at the right time.

So, in typical crab fashion, I'm skittering back and forth, waving my antennae and trying to decide - because - when it comes right down to it. I'd like to be there. This sort of thing doesn't happen every week, or every month or ... and who knows when it might happen again. The Gods of writing contests are a fickle and strange bunch. Of course the Niagara Wine Festival is on the same weekend so it could be that hardly anyone would be at the reading. They might all be out drinking, elsewhere.

Maybe I could go the night before, stay at a B & B and come back after the reading. That way I'd have a mini-holiday and blow all the prize money and then some.

Maybe I should look at the weather forecast and then roll the dice (oh heck! I don't have any dice). Or maybe the universe will send me a sign.

The Word on the Street is Sunday and I've promised to volunteer in the afternoon. So, if I've travelled to St. Catharines and back before Sunday, I hope I don't have to be awake.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spatially Incompetent

I've been dawdling a lot lately and I've also been distracted by the ongoing coverage of the after-effects of the hurricane. So, I've been posting on an internet bulletin board and encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross and so on. Great excuses for not revising my short story draft, or finishing the story that's half-done.

And I found another way to distract myself that's frustrating and fun. There's a game called Troyis (online). It doesn't take long to play (at least not when you're me) and it involves being able to visualize which square you should put the knight symbol on in order to cover the variously spaced open squares. I am not good at this type of game - in fact I'm bloody awful. There are apparently 22 levels - but I keep getting stuck at level seven and sometimes don't even make it to level five. One only has 45 seconds to complete each level, no matter how complex. The upside is that it's impossible to think of anything else, at least on a conscious level, while playing it. And, it does seem to sharpen my concentration.

I've certainly needed distractions lately, since the news from Nancy and Gary has changed again. They have lost some of their staff and are very short-handed. They will both have to go out and do applications if they are going to get all the fall work done for every customer. And, of course, somehow they have to get it all done.

It's a case of keeping my fingers crossed, again. I hope that by November, the end of the lawn care season, I'll be able to pry my fingers apart

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Reflections on Events - Small and Large

I'd thought about titling this post "After Katrina, " but in the end I couldn't.

There are earlier events to mention. My Port Elgin experience was excellent. The challenge of being a panelist in the morning and a workshop presenter in the afternoon was exciting and I may have over-prepared. But, I'm glad I did. At least I didn't mumble - that took a lot of effort and concentration. Instead, I guess I dug out my public persona. It was a little dusty but cleaned up nicely. There's a certain amount of strain involved in being "on" for a whole day and I had quite a headache by the end of the event. The participants drank all the coffee, before I could get any - so perhaps it was caffeine withdrawal.

In the morning session, the panelists read from their work and my contribution was about 2 and a half pages of "Peach Fuzz." Now, I'm going to brag - I got the most applause, and lots of questions about where to read the story too. In the afternoon workshop we had lots of fun talking about Sexy Older Characters. There were nine participants and most were well over 65 years of age. I gave them scenarios for two writing exercises and it produced some interesting stuff. We ran a bit overtime but everyone wanted their turn and gave me another great round of applause when the workshop finished. So, I'm very pleased with the way everything went. And, I'll get a chance to give the workshop here in Waterloo on October 3rd.

I did lots of walking while I was up at Nancy's trailer, maybe a bit too much walking, as my knee is now complaining more loudly than usual, but I've taken it easy since I got back and that's helping. Sunday, August 28th, Nancy and I, and the boys went to Sauble Beach before driving back home. It was a magnificent day and the waves were great. I was not going to go in the water, but I couldn't resist although it was colder than I would have liked - it was, as far as Lake Huron water goes - pretty warm. That's what Nancy told me and I suppose I must believe her.

After coming home, i was still in vacation mode and had a serious case of "camp head" that fuzzy state of mind when one can't focus on anything much and doesn't want to.

It was time to get down to business, more than time. But then came the news of Katrina.

As I watched the television news (damn CBC for being on strike when I really needed their coverage) and weather reports, it became evident within a matter of hours that the disaster would be huge. At least, it was evident to me, and I don't claim to be all that brilliant. But, it didn't seem to be evident to a lot of American people or the American government. New Orleans was the main focus of course, but a large area of the Gulf coast was badly hit.

Many people who couldn't leave New Orleans did as they were told and went to the Superdome and the convention Centre. They did what they were asked to do - and then the help didn't come and didn't come. No clean water to drink, no food, no supplies of any kind - no wonder people broke into stores to find supplies. I think that true "looters" were a minority. Many people tried to help each other, but that was not the focus of the reports coming out in the beginning. Anarchy came because the right actions were not taken soon enough, no one was in charge, and desparate people will do desparate things. Dehydration - or drinking polluted water produces craziness too.

The aftermath of Katrina is immense destruction of every kind. But I grieve most for the lives that have been lost, and will continue to be lost because of delays, medical attention not received at the critical time, no clean water, exposure to toxins in New Orleans' filthy water and so on.

Repairs and rebuilding will take years, not months and in the meantime thousands of people are refugess in their own country. Some commentators have objected to the term "refugee" but it seems to me to be the appropriate one. They have lost everything and they need refuge and not just for the short haul either.

What was most striking to me was the overwhelming number of very poor people (mostly black) who bore the brunt of the disaster. No provisions were made to evacuate people who didn't have transport before the storm hit. I guess the repercussions of that will provoke a frenzy of political blaming and hot air, but will the conditions of poverty and neglect be changed? Probably not.

Not too long ago, I belonged to an internet site where there was a more or less continuous discussion about how we as Canadians are way over-taxed and way too socialist and how we ought to consider having a more American style of government. I just happen to think that doing that would lead to the development of deeper social divisions, more poverty and the growth of an "under-class" that wouldn't care about maintaining society because they don't receive any benefit from it. Some people, of course WILL benefit from this disaster, those who will reconstruct, those who have necessary things to sell, and those who get government contracts for this that and the other thing.

I was about to review my own financial situation when Katrina came and swept away so much. And, it was a while before I managed to do that. But, when I did I had a new perspective. It really doesn't matter that there are many things I can't do, due to having to stay inside my tiny budget. I have enough, while so many in the richest country in the world have nothing and the people continue to suffer and die in Africa too. Will they now be ignored, again.

Is there hope at the end of the tunnel of death and destruction? I truly believe there must be - there are signs of it and I look for more signs in the future and contribute what little I can.