Unreasonable Expectations

There’s no sharp “point” to this post.  It’s just another gentle Remember When story about my growing up, although it does have a quiet comment at the end about how we sometimes dig our own trench to experience tunnel vision.

My little 1800-resident home town swelled to about 15,000 in July and August, with the influx of tourists.  They came in two basic types, the one- or two-week temporary vacationers, and the more affluent cottage-owners where mom and the kids came up as soon as school was out, and dad visited on weekends.

I don’t remember any townie–vs.-tourist rivalries, and my little circle got along with both batches well.  Perhaps it was because of the lack of size of the upper crust, but even the well-to-do group often associated with the commoners.

I was friends for years with mother and kids of the family who still run a large Kitchener wrecking yard.  I hung around with son and daughter of a couple who owned a well-known car customising/detailing shop in Oshawa.  Both these families were a bit unusual, in that they had hauled a small trailer to town, and permanently placed it in the tourist camp.

Our group was sometimes joined for bowling, or a bush party, by the daughter of the C.E.O. of a large Kitchener firm where, seven years later, the wife got her first job as a receptionist.  The summer I worked at the convenience store, I also had a two-month romance with the daughter of a minor scion of the family whose name graces a fourteen storey office building in downtown Uptown Waterloo, five floors of which constitute the City Hall, and where her uncle sat as Mayor.  Her “summer cottage” was probably worth five times what our year-round home was.

I/we also made many temporary, one-time friendships with kids from the cabin-renting crowd.  These folks paid good money to live in little wooden buildings that chickens would have rejected, just to be near tons of warm white sand and cool blue water.  Unlike the others who were around for two months each summer, these evanescent visitors were only with us for a week, or perhaps two.

And so I met Danny.  A first time visitor, he had not been in town an hour when I ran into him early Saturday afternoon on the main street, looking lost.  Probably to get him out from underfoot while his parents unpacked, he had been told to walk the four blocks to the retail area, to familiarize himself with the stores.  By the end of the day he was part of our pack.

He was thrilled.  You can only hit the beach so much.  He had envisioned two lonely weeks stuck with only his parents, but we included him in everything we did.  We got him rental skates and took him roller-skating.  We took him down to the river harbor to swim, and I taught him to dive off the fishing boats.  Despite the age limit of 18, I got him into the pool-room and taught him several games.  Where he was from, pool-rooms were dark, dirty and dangerous.  We took in a couple of movies.  All in all, the entire group spent more time and energy on him than we ever did with any other tourist.  He was a nice kid.

Sadly, all vacations must come to an end.  Two Saturdays later, he walked uptown while his parents packed, to say thanks, and good-bye.  The leaving was lonely enough but, as he got ready to walk away, I sensed something else, and asked what was bothering him.

He said, “Somebody told me that there was an Indian Reservation just outside town.”  “Yeah, so?”  “Well, in my entire two weeks here, I never saw an Indian.”  I was stunned!  “You’ve played pool with Donny Kewgeesik, and his older brother Ronny.  You roller-skated with Nathan Akiwenzie.  You swam and dived with Frank Shobadeez.  John Petoniquot took you fishing in his boat, and you took his sister Laura to a movie.”

Now it was his turn to be stunned.  “They’re Indians?”  “Of course!  Did you expect the Indians to ride into town on horses, wearing feather headdresses, and war paint, shaking spears?”  The empty expression on his face told me that that was exactly what he had been expecting.  In the entire two weeks, hardly anyone had used last names.  These “ordinary people” he had met didn’t meet his expectations of what Indians looked and acted like.

We said our last goodbyes, and I never saw him again.  I often wondered how much effort it was for him to re-integrate his understanding of what and who Indians are.  It’s occurrences like this that taught me early, not to judge a book by somebody else’s cover.

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I Get The Picture

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About the middle of August, we got two violent windstorms within a week.  Not hurricane   quality like KayJai received, but nasty.  The second, especially, had downdraft winds which snapped branches and trees in LadyRyl’s neighborhood.  These shots are of a 100-year-old willow, beside the creek, in front of her complex.

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A couple of blocks away, this big maple beside the road was snapped off about 8 feet up.  After cutting it up for giveaway firewood, the artistic homeowner turned the remains into an eagle.

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When I went to pick up Granma LadyBug, after her nose surgery, I spotted this sign….Pick her up??  Or have a beer and pizza??  I’d like to claim that I did the honorable thing, but the truth is, I’m too broke to be naughty.

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LadyRyl took a couple of shots of the knapped agate knife she bought at the pow-wow.  Not SDC10469much difference, but one is the front, and the other, of course, is the back.

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At the same pow-wow, the grandson bought a cool smudge fan to be used to move sage-smoke, or incense around – no hemp!  Can’t even spell hemp!

The only Segway owner/rider in the Region, and possibly all of Southern Ontario, apparently lives near enough that he shops at EuroFood, my favorite little deli.  Since he was only going to be inside “for just a couple of minutes”, he left the key in it.  If a Segway key is like the key for the daughter’s power wheelchair, it’s only a stereo-cord plug.  You could ride away with it while listening to music on your headphones.

Didn’t matter!  Apparently two teenage boys just lifted it up and carried it off.  Two words, fool – Bike! Lock!  I was going to scan in the newspaper picture of him in his gay little bicycle helmet, but if you want a photo of a clueless guy looking lost, my gravatar is still available.  He’s 62, and the old-boy genius liked to ride around on his Segway with a clown nose, or Oktoberfest lederhosen, with a bright feather in his helmet.  I don’t want to picture either of those. Ew, ew, ew!

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas, is probably more responsible than any other individual for the government shutdown.  He recently stood and spoke about nothing for 22 hours, (Sorry for the redundancy.) trying to prevent the passage of Obama’s Health Care bill.  Sarah Palin says she supports him.  She’s always liked him since he was in the movie Top Gun.

He’s a member of a political party which has been bitching for years, that Barack shouldn’t be president, because he wasn’t born in the U.S., and now he wants to run for president himself, in 2016.  The biggest problem with that, is that he is a poutine-eating, Maple syrup-sucking Canadian!  Sshh, don’t tell him.  While his mother was a US citizen, his father was from Cuba, and he was born in a hospital in Calgary, while his dad worked in the (Canadian) oil industry.

While the US government may consider him a citizen, his birth certificate makes him a Canadian.  He has thundered to the press that he will renounce his Canadian-ness, and claims, “I’m an American by birth.”  So sad, dad!  Tough luck Chuck!  The boundaries of his egotistical imagination do not match up with reality.

At least Barack eventually provided an American birth certificate.  After this little revelation, I can’t picture him even being allowed to run for president.  I would like a picture of his face when he finds out that, for all his ugly-American jingoism, the rules include him out.

Did you like our pictures?  We’re practicing for some upcoming posts with photos in them.  Kittens anyone??    😀

How Now Pow-Wow

To inform NotestoPonder, an inquisitive, new, Western-Canada follower, here follows the tale of the Great Pow-Wow.  😉

Knowing I had to get up early to take the daughter to the Pow-Wow, I went to bed early.  Since regular for me is four AM, I headed for bed at three….right after a blog comment…and another.  It’s 3:30, and the wife is still reading….it’s 4 AM and she’s turning the light out.  Toss, turn, toss, turn….it’s 4:26, I’ll never get to slee….waddya mean it’s 7AM, and the alarm’s going off?

Juice and pills, feed the cats, water the dog, the son comes home and I take the car to pick up the daughter’s friend, and then her and her stuff.  Not a cold day, but the fog’s so thick I can see KayJai’s face in it.

It’s so thick, I almost couldn’t see the photo radar police car.  I drove past one last year.  They sent me a picture of my car and licence-plate, along with a $50 speeding ticket.  I sent them a picture of a Fifty-Dollar bill.  They sent me two photos, one of a pair of handcuffs, and the other of a cell door.  I sent them an email video of me, walking into the police station, right now, to pay the damned ticket.

By the time we got to the venue, the worst of the fog had dissipated, but the grass was wet.  The nearest parking was at the top of a 40 foot hill.  I hauled down the first couple of items, just in time to claim a good spot, but I am not hauling 500 pounds of stuff, down, and later, up, that hill.  We were allowed to, carefully, drive on the paved walkways, and park at the bottom.

After getting the daughter unloaded and set up, I headed home for some more sleep, and some chores.  There either was, Friday night, or would be, on Sunday, an old car show.  At a red light, a 1972 Oldsmobile 442, and a 1939 Ford drove past my nose.  After some computer time and more sleep, I drove down to the plaza to pick up a pizza for lunch.  In the parking lot, near the restaurant were 8/9 more oldies, a ’41 Dodge, a ’67 Mustang, and, side by side by side, a ’62, ’63, ’64 and ’58 Chevy Impalas.

The son says the only person who impresses him more with old cars than me, is the young fellow he works with.  We just look at a car and tell, within a few years at least, the make and age.  This was easy back in the day of yearly model changes, before they all became featureless clones, and you can’t tell Detroit iron from imported rice-burners.

Back in the tailfin heyday, 61 Chevies ended with a \ slant.  62s looked like /, 63s combined those with a <, and 64s softened it to [.  I could probably have got the ’58 on my own, but an IMP58ALA vanity plate gave it away.  I could even tell the unchanging VW Bug by a larger rear window or taillight.

I got back to pick the daughter up early enough to catch the end of the outdoor, commercial portion.  There was an indoor feast and speaker for those with tickets.  There were 40 to 50 vendor booths, none with fewer than two attendants, arranged in a horseshoe around a grassy lea.  About half were Native Indians.  The rest were White Eyes.

Closing the horseshoe was a large gazebo tent for the organizers.  This is where the dancers danced, the singers sang, the drummers drummed, and the First Aiders aided….announcements, contests, lost and found.  Some woman tried on a pair of earrings, and walked away leaving her large silver hoops.  Another left a green leather (?) purse with a $500 bill in it….or so the emcee claimed, to drum up interest.  Like the U.S., I think drug dealers have forced Canada to not print denominations larger than $100.  I need to research that.

At the base of the hill, white canvas skinned a cone of poles to make a teepee, but her dress had shrunk, and didn’t meet the ground by eight inches.  You’d need to pile a lot of bison shit around the bottom, to keep out vermin and snow.  At the other cusp of the horseshoe, a crew built and maintained a smoky campfire all day.

Everyone had a good day, socially and financially.  Daughter’s friend did some card readings and sold a bit of bead jewelry.  No beaded bookmarks, but the wife sold $51 worth of beeswax candles, in absentia, including a votive that the buyer pulled the wick out of, to rub on buckskins, for waterproofing.  The daughter didn’t actually spin yarn, but brought along two bobbins full, and plyed them together.  The fascinated watchers didn’t know the difference.

Aside from mother’s candles, the daughter sold some of her jewelry, and a couple of hand-knitted shawls, one of commercial yarn, the other, a bit more expensive, with her handspun yarn.  She asked $50 for the first, of the girl in the next stall, but she only had $40 in cash, so the daughter bartered in a $10, hand-painted leather wristband for the grandson, for coming along to help.

$30 bought her an antique Sterling ring with jade stones – cheap at twice that price.  Another $25 bought her a hand-knapped stone knife with an elk-antler handle, held on with elk sinew, with a plain, handmade leather sheath.  I expected it to be flint, but she tells me it’s agate.  Not delicate enough to trim salmon filets, it would still hack a roast off the side of a bison.  The grandson bought a four-feather smudge-fan, and two plastic bags of sage.

Daughter forgot to bring her camera, but went home with lots of happy memories, more money than she came with, some lovely parting gifts, and the intent to do this again next year.

Attawapiskat

The title of this post is a Cree Indian word meaning, “If white man and red man co-operate, we can really f**k things up!”  Attawapiskat is really the name of an Indian reservation on the western shore of James Bay, in Northern Ontario.  It’s so far north, you can barely see The Harem Master’s back door.

In colonial times things were often done that we are now not proud of, nor happy with the results.  The white men gathered all the Indians, who had made a subsistence living from hunting and fishing, and said, “In return for stealing all your land, you have to live on this reservation, but we will take care of you.”  For over a hundred years the government has thrown money at them, actually, a lot of money, but last year we found that sending money wasn’t the same as *taking care of them*.

Stories leaked to the press about Indians living in squalor, in moldy shacks, and tents, up where temperatures can get down to minus forty.  It doesn’t matter whether Celsius or Fahrenheit, at that level, they’re the same thing.  The white men stuck them on swampy ground.  They have no reliable water supply.  They have no sewage system.  People, especially children, are getting sick from contaminated water.

This is a little town of less than 2000 people.  White men taught the Indians how to live in a town like the white men do.  White men gave them money to support themselves, but white men didn’t teach them how to manage the money.  This is like Jeff Foxworthy talking about giving money to rednecks.  You just know that they’re going to buy a fancy belt-buckle, and an Elvis, Jack Daniels decanter.

In the five years from 2006 to 2011, the Federal Government gave ninety million dollars to the band.  Besides that income, they are receiving royalties from the recently opened Canadian diamond mines, so why are so many living in crappy conditions?  The government has tied its own hands.  All monies are paid to the band, and the government is forced to remain at arm’s length, and cannot tell them how to administrate it.

This town of 2000 has three chiefs, or mayors, each earning $100,000/year.  The tiny town has 18 councillors, each earning (well, let’s say receiving) $90,000/year, as well as other well-paid bureaucrats.  It’s unknown how many are in it, but the school board is also fully paid.  There’s a funny story about the school board.  The school also was full of mould, and derelict, so it was pulled down….and replaced with an arena.  And, now that they’ve got a new arena, they bought a Resurfice ice-machine, made in nearby Elmira, for it.  With all the extras, this machine cost $96,089.55, but it cost almost that much again, to have it shipped north.  It got trucked to Cochrane, sent by train to Moosonee, and sent by barge to the town.  The band already has a 1997 model in the arena they now plan to pull down.  They claim that income from bingo games paid for the new machine, more government money from a Southern Ontario casino paid to get it to Moosonee, and the barge company hauled it for free.

Despite the outrageous shipping-included costs of everything, these people are status Indians.  They pay no taxes, no income tax, no sales tax!  Their $100,000/yr. is like our $200,000/yr.  Other than the few local streets, they are two hundred miles from the nearest road, and yet there are a number of beautiful big sport-utes in evidence.  $40,000 to buy and $50,000 to ship, and gasoline at $4/liter to run them.  The government sent an investigator north to have a look at the situation, but he was perceived as a white man, interfering in Indian affairs, and was forced to leave.  He reported what little he found to a Federal judge, who finally ruled that there were no financial improprieties.

People were outraged; surely there are improprieties – but it’s the hands-off regulation again.  Within their community, they are allowed to make their own rules.  If they want to select three chiefs, if they want to pay them, and the bureaucrats, and the school board, if they want to tear down the school and put up an arena c/w brand-new ice machine, that’s their business.

I wrote recently about a man who asked if it was moral to kill pigs, just so that we could eat bacon.  Here is another place where it seems to be a good idea to ask the question, “Is it moral to revise the statute, so that the government can step in and take care of those who cannot take care of themselves and those they are responsible for?”  It’s the thin edge of the wedge.  I don’t trust white bureaucrats any more than Indians do.  President Ronald Reagan said the most dangerous words were, “I’m from the government.  I’m here to help.”  And yet, can we stand by and do nothing?

This situation spills over into other social areas.  Charities say that they are having increased trouble collecting funds for worthy causes.  Canada sent $25 million to Haiti after the earthquake and still the people have no homes, no food, no safe source of water.  What we do see is even more politicians driving Cadillac Escalades past the shanty-towns.  What we see is Somali war-lords taking Red Cross food before it reaches the people who need it.  I feel extremely sorry for the northern Cree, the common Haitians and the poverty-stricken Somalis, but why should I donate, when I see that my money will not help those in need?

It took several hundred years in England and Europe to establish the concepts of social equality and concern for others.  We can only hope that other sections of the world learn faster.  The Canadian troops have returned from Afghanistan.  BrainRants is still there with folks who are trying to teach them better manners, but it’s a long road.  We can’t even get rid of three petty warlords chiefs in Ontario, how can we change the entire middle-east?  Far too many outside North America think in hierarchies, first me, then my family, then my clan, then my village, then my valley.  Equality, democracy and concern for others are a long way down the scale.  It’s sad, but it’s a fact of global life, that we can only hope and try to change.