Monday, May 31, 2021

Mass graves? My Catholic background, the 215 children, and a striking paucity of detail

Last March, when I packed up at my job to come do it at home, I brought a few books with me. One of them is the copy of the Truth and Reconciliation Report summary - the first volume of several, I believe, all of which, I believe, can also be found and accessed for free, online. I've had cause to turn to it this week, as there is ample mention in it of unmarked graves, and calls to action to find these graves, and "work with churches, Aboriginal communities, and former residential school students to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including, where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children." There are calls to action to "develop and maintain the National Residential School Student Death Register" and for "the federal government to  ensure that appropriate measures have been taken to inform families of the fate of their children and to ensure that the children are commemorated in a way that is acceptable to their families" (that last is not one of the numbered "calls to action" but appears on page 260 of the Volume One: Summary segment of the book-form report). There is also discussion of how "the residential school cemeteries and burial sites... are abandoned, disused, and vulnerable to disturbance," that these graves are typically "unmarked," and there is a call to action "for the ongoing identification, documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries... [including] the provision of appropriate memorial ceremonies and commemorative markers to honour the deceased children." (I haven't given the exact location of each quote but the section of the book in question is "The Challenge of Reconciliation," pages 258-263, a section entitled "Missing children, unmarked graves, and residential school cemeteries.") There may be more in the book about graves, but that - and a brief entry on page 19 - are it as for what is indexed.

What there is not mention of, as far as I can see, in said book, is "mass graves." (There is also no mention of mass graves in the original Tk’eml├║ps te Secwépemc press release about the discovery). And there seems to be an important distinction between forgotten cemeteries and unmarked graves, on the one hand, which is what is mentioned in the Summary, and "mass graves." It may not be important to some of you, and if you're already bristling with anger that the distinction troubles me, maybe you just want to skip what I write below. I am not seeking to make anyone angry, or to seem insensitive (I probably will do both). I just want to wrap my head around this story, and I'm having a bit of trouble doing it, because the news stories I've read so far - about half a dozen - are lacking precisely the details I need to feel like I know just how disgusted and outraged I need to be. 

Allow me to backtrack a bit, and give some personal context. I was raised Catholic, with Catholic parents; I went to catechism classes, read Bible stories in children's books, prayed regularly as a boy, and at around age 12, received first communion - the "body of Christ," placed in your open mouth, a kind of taste-free papery wafer that kind of fascinated me (about the only part of Catholic ritual I liked). Shortly after receiving first communion, however, things began to turn for me; I was questioning the idea of an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing Deity (and remember apologizing in prayer to God for not really believing in him, asking him to forgive me if I was wrong). Mostly, though, I didn't want to have to go to confession, which was seen as part-and-parcel of receiving communion - because, as a pubescent boy, I was sinning pretty regularly back then, sometimes several times a day, and had the wisdom to not want to talk about what I was doing to a priest in a dark booth (this being years before I had heard anything about Catholic priests sexually abusing young boys). Plus I didn't feel the slightest bit contrite about what I was doing with my body; it didn't feel sinful, which got me questioning why the hell I would want to "confess" it in the first place, just because the church thought (presumably) that it was sinful; it was the last thing I wanted to talk about with any adult, something private, about me and my body. So without mentioning that real reason to my parents, I stopped going to church, only going a handful of times after that, to humour Mom and Dad on Christmas, for instance (and once because a Muslim acquaintance of mine asked me if I would be his "guide," because he was curious about what a Catholic service looked like, never having seen one - fun story, but a bit besides the point). I heard, occasionally, of Catholics who I respected - the Berrigan brothers, for example, who embarrassed the church with their committed anti-war activism - but mostly, in terms of culture and literature, it was lapsed Catholics (Robert Stone, Graham Greene, even, uh, Georges Bataille) who spoke to me - to the extent that I thought of Catholicism at all.

What really disgusted me about the church, however - in terms of my personal experiences - was that the parish priest in Maple Ridge, who gave my father the last rites, refused, after Dad died in 2009, to perform a full funeral service for my father unless his body was intact (maybe even present, I forget). My father - a good man not particularly versed in the rules of his faith - had requested there be no coffin, no plot - just a cremation; the thought of his body lying dead underground disturbed him ("no bugs on me," was how he put it in hospital, making various nurses around him chuckle). Rather than a burial plot, he wanted his ashes to be scattered with my mother's, when she should pass (which was also what she wanted). He asked me to choose a place, which I still am hemming and hawing about. But the priest made very clear, as I explained these wishes to him, that this was all objectionable to him - I can't explain why now, exactly, but it was breaking the "rules" of the church, and he told us that if my father's body was cremated, there could be no funeral. He could mention his passing in a service and say a prayer for him - and later did, with Mom and I in attendance, which was the last time I was in a Catholic church - but no full ceremony could be performed without my father's body being intact.

Well, fuck you, buddy: the audacity of standing face-to-face with grieving people, telling them that the rules of your institution are more important than the needs and wishes of the bereaved, angered me (and Mom, too - she stopped going to church after that, though she did continue to pray). Plus, y'know, coffins are expensive (cremations, too, but less so) and we didn't have the money for much more than a cremation, which itself cost around $800 in those days. Doing it the priest's way would have not only been contrary to my Dad's wishes - it would have cost us a few thousand dollars we didn't really have, at that point. Great way to follow the teachings of a man whose primary moral concern was ministering to the poor!   

That's a roundabout way of pointing out that I know from personal experience that the Catholic faith has definite ideas about what should be done with bodies - who can be buried in sanctified ground, what sort of state their body needs to be in, what rituals have to be performed so that the soul may enter heaven, and how important all this stuff is to them. So when the first reports broke a few days ago about 215 children buried in a mass grave outside Kamloops, I was very curious: what was the state of the bodies? Was this an unmarked, forgotten cemetery, with individual plots and signs that the bodies had been, whatever else might be said, "respectfully" entreated to the rituals that Catholics have around death? Or was this basically just - sorry - a pit that bodies had been thrown into? 

That's the definition of "mass grave," by the way. If you go to Google, and type "mass grave definition," what Google comes back with is, "a pit dug in the ground to receive a large number of corpses," giving the example sentence of, "2,800 civilians were massacred and buried in mass graves." 

Facebook friends seem to think I'm weird for caring about this distinction ("does it matter?" one wrote), but in trying to visualize what happened in Kamloops, trying to understand it, and how to react to it (I mean, horror and grief and shame and rage aside), yes, it actually makes a huge difference to me to imagine an unmarked cemetery, where maybe there WAS some Catholic ritual around each burial, showing the priests at least attempting to care for the souls their charges, albeit on their own strange and questionable terms, or a pit with multiple bodies piled inside. Either way, it's wrong and bad, but it's one thing for someone supposedly trying to convert children to the same religion, to treat their body - when they die of the abuse your religion justifies/ facilitates/ permits and/or turns a blind eye on - with the respect that your religion DEMANDS; and quite another to disrespectfully discard of them like garbage. And while the former scenario allows for the practice of burying children to have gone on for a long time, the second (215 people in one grave) suggests a mass wave of death - a massacre, the definition above offers, or perhaps, more likely in this case, an outbreak of disease. Either way, the children are dead, and a great wrong has been done - I am not defending the Catholics or the residential school system or the Indian Act or so forth - but the latter is, to me, a more repugnant scenario, one much harder to fit my mind around, one that is somewhat (to my knowledge) unprecedented in the known history; one requiring much more of an explanation. 

None was provided, that I saw, in those first articles I've read. The first few news reports I saw on the CBC and News1130, made no mention of the nature of the site. They talked about how the bodies were located, but not if we were talking about individual plots. It gave no indication of how the count had been arrived at. It offered no information as to how long the bodies had been buried, or even if any had yet to be excavated. Presumably, some of this is yet to be determined, but it's information I still haven't been able to find online (if you have read an article that has some of these details, please share it. The most informative I've found thus far has been from the National Post, which provides some historical context - it begins a bit glibly, but strikes the right notes by the end). 

But since those first few, cautious, information-scarce stories I read, newspapers everywhere have moved to talking about a "mass grave" in Kamloops - which, if they are using words carefully, is the more troubling scenario by far, by me. Like I say, for a school that operated as long as the Kamloops one did, a cemetery filling slowly over time is one thing, but 215 dead in a short period... is quite another. (As is the idea of throwing bodies in a pit for a long period - like this could somehow have been a normal practice, which no one questioned...?). But these news stories are using the language of a mass grave without explaining it, without it being clear if they are just using the term in a sensationalistic, inaccurate way. It seems to have crept into the journalism around this crime - from not being used to being used routinely - without anyone having gained or offered more information. It raises more questions than answers have been provided for.

I still don't know what the situation was in Kamloops. Like I say, the volume of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee report I have at home makes no mention of mass graves. But volume 4, devoted to missing children, does have a section on burial practices, where we read this, about a different school:

Several of the schools were overwhelmed by the influenza pandemic of 1918–19. All but two of the children and all of the staff were stricken with influenza at the Fort St. James, British Columbia, school and surrounding community in 1918. Seventy-eight people, including students, died. Initially, Father Joseph Allard, the school principal, conducted funeral services at the mission cemetery. But, as he wrote in his diary, the 'others were brought in two or three at a time, but I could not go to the graveyard with all of them. In fact, several bodies were piled up in an empty cabin because there was no grave ready. A large common grave was dug for them.'

This passage appears on page 119. There is mention of another school in Red Deer where, due to lack of funds, children who died in that same flu epidemic were buried "two to a grave." That, however, would appear to be it, all there is on record previously about mass burials at residential schools. I have not read the whole volume yet, but doing a CTRL+F search for incidents of the word "mass grave" together turns up nothing; mass whippings and mass floggings, yes, but no mass graves. "Common grave" turns up only the entry above. It seems quite likely that it could have been the same influenza epidemic that caused a wave of deaths in Kamloops - that could be one explanation for 215 people dying in a short enough time to be buried together - but the sheer number of dead still staggers the imagination, if the largest mass grave previously on record on residential school land contained 78 people. 

Maybe this all seems like weird quibbling, I don't know - like I say, some of my Facebook friends seem to think so. But the details here trouble me, and I want to understand them. I think reading the whole chapter on the report of the TRC about "Missing Children and Unmarked Burials" is pretty essential now, for all Canadians. I hope I haven't offended anyone in my attempts to make sense of this. There's a lot more I need to learn, obviously. There's a lot more I want to understand. 

Whatever the case, it is clear that the Catholic church needs to be held to account here, in particular, and the government of Canada needs to truly devote some resources to finding and documenting any other such graves - mass or not - on residential school land. I don't much trust Justin Trudeau to "do the right thing" here (I do trust he will say the right thing, but that's a different matter). I certainly don't trust the church. But since, as the Globe and Mail says, this is "just the tip of the iceberg," I think it's important to understand exactly what we're talking about here... 

Preparing for my colonscopy (part three)

 Okay, so if anyone is reading this hoping for useful information - helpful tips - for preparing for their own colonscopy, here is the wisdom I have gained, based on things I did wrong (or woulda done differently had I known).

1. You may hear horror stories about how awful the prep fluid tastes - especially Colyte (Peglyte seems like it might be better) - but you may think, after your first few glasses, that it isn't so bad. Wait until you've drunk 3L of it before you decide that - it gets nauseating and very hard to down. It may be a good idea to START THE PREP EARLY - especially the evening prep - because otherwise, you may have major trouble finishing it.

2. You may think that people are exaggerating about getting baby wipes. They are not. They are very welcome as you near the end of the process: your ass will be raw. 

3. Once the prep starts working, do not sneeze, fart, or vomit without your ass being on a toilet. (I have found that pinching my nose shut can help stop a sneeze in its tracks).

4. If you begin to feel nauseated and headachy near the end of the process, and start thinking, "I can't drink any more of this bile," do NOT try to compensate by slugging it back with renewed vigour. That's what I did - followed by slugs of Gatorade Zero and no-sugar-added apple juice for hydration. Big mistake. Do not slug ANYTHING back with vigour near the end of the process, or you will probably find yourself vomiting...

...which is what I was doing, on-and-off, from 11pm to 12:30pm. I ended up not being able to finish the Peglyte. I do not know if they will go ahead with the colonscopy, given that there are about two full glasses of Peglyte still sloshing around in the container (and that maybe as much came out of me as vomit, prior to my stopping). The 811 nurse confirmed my feeling that there was no point drinking the stuff if I was just going to barf it out, but had no idea if they would be able to go ahead with the procedure. (The fluid is supposed to clear all shitty residue off the walls of your colon - since shitty residue can obscure polyps and other such things). 

Anyhow, that's all I have about getting a colonscopy. I don't even know if I WILL be getting one, given the above. Really hope I don't have to repeat this procedure ever again, though. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Preparing for my colonoscopy (part two)

It is closing in on 11pm. I am so sick of this Peglyte solution. 3.5 litres consumed over the course of the day, and the not-particularly-objectionable taste has grown nonetheless tiresome; I want no more liquid in my stomach this evening, but there's a half-litre left to go. 


All in all it was an okay day. I sneezed once and had an accident; Erika spilled Thai soup on herself; and Tybalt barfed on his blanket, so there's been a little more running down to the laundry than I'd planned... but I always made it back upstairs in time to get to the toilet (with the exception of that time I sneezed). My evacuations have "gone clear," I believe the term is; the last five trips looked like increasingly thin chicken bullion, maybe with some cloudy dark undissolved bullion powder lurking at the bottom of the bowl. But it is no longer like passing a solid at all; I'm just shooting liquid out my ass (the last blast got surprisingly frothy). All the same, I'm holding up better than some of my friends seem to have. Biggest irritations have been just how much of this "drink" I gotta choke down, a mild headache, and that sneeze. 

Oh, and I've actually gained weight, somehow, having had nothing but liquids and jello all day. Seems unfair - I'm up to 319, last I checked. But I'm sure I'll be down again in the morning. 

There's a bit of nausea settling in - maybe I should call 811. 



Preparing for my colonoscopy (part one)

 Because my father died of colon cancer, I was contacted last year by the Cancer Society to say that I should undergo a screening for the same (I'm not sure they also realized I myself had had cancer, a few years ago - though in my tongue, not my colon). With everyone distracted by COVID, the paperwork sat around long enough that they sent it a second time, suggesting I get my stool tested and included a lab requisition for the same. I actually intended to comply all along, so with the second requisition in hand - I still had the first somewhere - I got a stool kit at LifeLabs, when there on other business - and brought it home.

I didn't really need it. That morning, as happens every now and then, there was visible blood in my stool - actually a puddle of it around the turd that sat on the paper I'd stretched over the toilet bowl, to collect my sample. It seemed purple in that context, which disturbed me a little; bright blood in poop is, I am told, a sign that is coming from the outer realms of your, uh, anal mechanism, while dark blood suggests it is coming from further up the tubes. 

Anyhow, I stuck the stick in the bloody poop, brought it to the lab, and was contacted about a colonoscopy. My doctor - whom I was contacting about my Astra-Zeneca panic, described below - suggested he have - pardon the pun - a hand in things, because he could speed up the process. Soon enough I was lying on a table in his office with my pants around my ankles and my ass sticking out, and he was feeling my opening with lubricated fingers (he checked my prostate while he was at it). He felt nothing (as in, no lumps or bumps or so forth) - but contacted a local doctor (a proctologist, I guess?) and they contacted me, quite promptly, for a colonoscopy. Arrangements were made for mid-June, and then they had a cancellation - and arrangements were made for today, instead.

The prep, everyone tells me, is the hard part: I can't eat at all today, and instead have to plow through four litres of a prep fluid called Peglyte. It's one of the alternate methods; the other, more common one is Colyte, but I have been assured by so many people that it tastes AWFUL that I opted for one of the other brands on the doctor's prep instructions sheet.

I've mixed up the powder with water, and have it in the fridge, cooling. In a couple of hours, I will begin to drink it - I'm supposed to plow through two litres around noon, with the recommendation on the bottle itself being to use a straw, and to put it as far back in my mouth as I can, so as not to taste this stuff. Sometime after that - unclear how much - I will commence to crap, and I will crap all day until I am cleaned out. Apparently. The remaining 2L of the Peglyte will be consumed through the course of today and tomorrow morning, and 11:30 I will go and get as sedated as they will let me get and have a tube with a camera on it stuck up my ass.

This, I gather, is a procedure that can go wrong. Remember Mr. Hands, the guy who died after being fucked by a horse in Enumclaw? (Subject of my first major interview, with Charles Mudede; it appeared in different form in both the Straight and Cineaction, my first time in either publication). He died of perforated colon, which caused internal bleeding. Colonoscopies carry the same risk, apparently; the camera doesn't always go where it is supposed to, and there can be tears and discomfort. I am, actually, pretty curious to see up my own arse - why not? - but have a mild bit of anxiety that, say, I might die, with my big feature on John Wright unwritten, with all other personal business out there unresolved. 

But just like with vaccines and COVID, I deem the risk to be worth taking. My father's death is on the official medical record as being caused by colon cancer, but the reality is, it was caused mostly by a sluggish medical system (and his own willingness to trust it to get round to him eventually). He had severe constipation and pain for weeks before he went into get tested - bad enough that when I found Screamin' Jay Hawkins song "Constipation Blues" and played it for him during one of our family Scrabble games, he was clearly not amused. My father had a pretty good sense of humour, but it just wasn't funny - he realized I was trying, but it didn't work. I read tons of articles online about constipation and its causes, sitting at their computer, and urged him to go to the doctor; when he finally did, the doctor said, "It was probably just polyps," and unlike my doctor, did NOTHING WHATSO-FUCKING-EVER to speed up the process by which my father got tested properly. His colonoscopy took weeks, maybe even months, to get scheduled, and by that time, the "probably just polyps" had grown into full-blown colon cancer and spread into his liver. 

And yes, that was why he died - two gruelling years, a colostomy, and countless chemotherapy side-effects later - but in my mind, I have always held, more than the cancer, that it was that delay that killed him. If the medical system had acted sooner (and if my father had been quicker to enter it - he was always the type to put off going to the doctor, if he could), the polyps could have been removed quickly, and thereafter, when my father announced that he had a "shitty story" to tell, it would have been about something OTHER than a colostomy accident.

And, um, he'd quite possibly still be a live. 

Anyhow, it's my intent to be proactive here. I don't care if I have to refrain from eating all day, and have hours of discomfort in the toilet; it's gotta be worth it, because - while I realize I'm going to die - I don't think I want to go through the two years of humiliation, suffering, anxiety, and dread that my father had to endure. Bring on the Peglyte! Lock me in the toilet! 

I may have some shitty stories of my own, soon. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

On finally re-visiting Event Horizon

...This is another one I've also posted on Facebook, but want to keep here, as well. (Pardon my laziness but there just isn't time enough to do better at the moment...)

Man, Event Horizon truly is a curious film. I don't know that I've ever seen a film as bad as it is that is nonetheless so full of interesting ideas, that comes so close to greatness and yet somehow fail so utterly. I mean - in a way, while it is not as STRANGE as Battle Royale 2 - that bizarre confection of Taliban-loving Japanese anti-Americanism and masochistic teenage dreams of being slaughtered on the beach like in Saving Private Ryan - it is almost on that level of "boy, this doesn't work." But it's far more thought-provoking than that film - you don't just recoil in horror, wondering, "what were they thinking," but you actually come away wanting to think about it MORE. It raises very interesting questions about science (Sam Neill's character, who is expected to be a voice of authority about what's happening, lies to himself and everyone else because what's happening does not appear to be within the bounds of scientific possibility, because accepting it would actually sabotage his authority) but also morality and narrative, because, in a way, the narrative of the film, like the ship in it, "folds space," by having a ship captain who feels guilty about leaving his crew to die, in the past, redeeming himself by himself being left to die... Sam Neill's trajectory from belief in and dependency on scientific order to his desire to live in a realm of pure chaos is also kind of fascinating and space-folding (or at least mirror-imaging; there's even an image reminiscent of the end of Prince of Darkness where things happen with mirrors). There's ALL SORTS of interesting stuff going on in the film, in fact - and some really striking visuals -
- but in terms of storytelling, in terms of engaging you with its characters AS CHARACTERS (not as ideas or representatives of ideas), getting you emotionally invested in what's happening - which is what my wife likes most about a movie, I think - Event Horizon falls short, even, of the movie we watched LAST night, which, God help us, was Army of the Dead - a film that keeps you happily watching for 2 and a half hours without having a single interesting idea to its name, acknowledging it is bad but still being entertained... (Actually, Erika thought they were both about equally bad, but... they're bad in different ways, I would say... Event Horizon is far less entertaining, but it's WAYYYY smarter). David Thomas of Pere Ubu once called it (or joked about it being?) his favourite film, adding - I approximate from dim memory - something to the effect that it was because it was just good enough that you need to come back to it every few years to see if you can appreciate it THIS time. Having just watched it, I gotta say, I kinda see what he means. I could see myself watching it again, for a similar logic, in fact. Part of me wants to re-watch it right now, with a notepad handy...

Anyhow, there - given that the "movie pitch" has come up in regard Army of the Dead, as well, let ME make an idea pitch to Netflix, here, too: SOMEONE SHOULD REMAKE EVENT HORIZON. People have talked about the potential in a "restored" long cut of the film, despite the fact it probably can never happen; in lieu of that, the next best thing is to do it justice. Develop it as a limited series for Netflix. Get us actually involved in its characters. Keep the same basic storyline, the same basic idea, but make sure that each person's arc works in exactly the same way that the two main characters' arcs do: having to face and embrace your EXACT OPPOSITE in order to redeem yourself. (It's actually a pretty Jungian SF film, I think, based on what little I've read of Jung). Hell, you could even give Sam Neill and Lawrence Fishburne cameos, if you wanted to (I don't really mind either way).

Anyhow, it's the most interesting bad movie I've seen in a long time. Too bad it falls short, as a story, because whew... there's a lot of potential in it.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Second dose Astra-Zeneca anxiety: what the hell is BC doing?

[I just posted this on Facebook, but it seems like a good rant for the blog, as well.]

There must be other people out there in the same boat. I got my first dose of Astra-Zeneca a few weeks ago, and as soon as I heard that it was being removed as a "first dose" choice, started inquiring about whether I could get my second dose moved up - because a) I want to be as protected as possible, because b) I want my second vaccine dose to be the same vaccine as the first, and because c) I trust that AZ is almost completely safe - that the blood clot issue is rare and unlikely and far less of a risk than catching COVID. However, as a result of phoning around trying to get clarity, I have discovered something that has not been reported widely and that is freaking me out: Astra-Zeneca has, apparently, been COMPLETELY REMOVED from the table pending results on a study on mixing vaccines. When government missives on AZ say it is being "held" for second doses, that doesn't mean "reserved," it actually means - two nurses have confirmed this - that it is being "held back." This is apparently being done not because there is any new information about Astra Zeneca - it has not been found to be any more dangerous than it was when I got my first shot, or at least not that anyone is telling us - but for political reasons, as the government waffles and succumbs to people's hesitations and tries to govern as if this is some sort of popularity contest, not an issue of public health and safety.
I can understand people's reticence around AZ, actually, but here's the thing: I DON'T WANT TO MIX AND MATCH VACCINES. I am willing, given the circumstances, to be injected with a very new drug, to risk side effects or as-yet-unrevealed long term effects. I don't think it's entirely unreasonable to be worried about these things, but in the circumstances, I much prefer the idea of NOT GETTING COVID, and hastening by whatever means I can the return to "normalcy," or something approximating it, by getting the first vaccine offered to me (which turned out to be AZ). That is exactly what the government of Canada was advising as recently as three weeks ago. What I will NOT do, however - especially when there is a plentiful supply of Astra-Zeneca - is mix the stuff with some other vaccine, and trust that it is going to be safe and effective. It just seems a bad idea! While the BC government has been very quiet about this, this is EXACTLY what they are hoping to do, however - to get us to take not ONE vaccine, but TWO, hoping the combination magically works to protect us. Not one but two 811 nurses have confirmed this horseshit/ chickenshit decision, but if you're skeptical, look on the BC government website linked below, where it reads, in the section on "Information for people who got the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine," that "B.C. is waiting on the full results of the Oxford Vaccine Group's Com-Cov vaccine trial and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will use the results from the trial to inform second dose recommendations." So not only can I not move UP my second dose, I might not be allowed to get it at all; they might be en route to trying to make us mix-and-match with some other vaccine, which I EMPHATICALLY DO NOT WANT TO DO.

Look, you folks in power: I made an informed decision to get AZ, when you were saying it was ALMOST completely safe, three weeks ago. Were you lying to me then? If the answer is yes, then WHY THE HELL WOULD I TRUST YOU NOW when you say that it is safe to mix-and-match? If the answer is no, then WHY THE HELL WILL YOU NOT HONOUR THE PLAN THAT WAS SET IN MOTION THREE WEEKS AGO when I had AZ shot into my arm? I signed on for two doses of AZ - don't change the plan in the middle of the contract, for no good reason whatsoever. You're moving up Pfizer and Moderna, great, but you've stuck those of us who received one dose of AZ in an anxiety-producing limbo where it is hard to get a straight answer. If this is the result of cowardly bending-to-the-will-of-the-people-so-you-can-get-more-votes - which is sure how it smells - rest assured, YOU ARE HAVING THE OPPOSITE EFFECT ON ME; you're making yourselves look incompetent and/or dishonest (haven't figured out which yet, exactly). Quit fucking around! If you're giving us first dose AZ, let those of us who want it get second dose AZ, and as soon as possible, without this waffly bullshit (unless you have a good reason for this waffly bullshit you're not telling us; I mean, that's the question, isn't it: "Is it safe?")

Unduly anxious and VERY disappointed in our leaders.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

A visit back to the Lower Alouette River

One of the places of my childhood was a river within walking distance of the condo I grew up in at 216th and Dewdney. It's an impressive three mile walk, I would guess, but I would make the trek there regularly with friends on weekends, often carrying fishing rods - though there were other things I did there, too, from turning over rocks to catch crayfish and/or catching minnows in baggies (this in my childhood) to meditating from dusk well into the night with a joint, sitting cross-legged on the banks of the river, watching bats skimming the surface of the water (this in my mid-20's). After a month long misadventure in treeplanting in the mid-1990's, I planted a sapling I'd brought home there - sadly, it seemed to get washed away after a periodic freshet-season flood. On one of my final visits, I came without a rod - I never liked killing fish and catching them "for fun" seemed sadistic - and just got in the water, walking several miles up to my crotch, using the river as a road, just for the experience of it - shoes slipping on underwater rocks, glimpses of shimmering trout in patches of sun below the surface, occasional eagles overhead. There were a lot of magic moments, and a few weird ones, along that riverbank, and it meant something to bring Erika there yesterday. Delightfully, a beaver - something I haven't seen in the wild in years, and that Erika has seen far less often than I - swam by at one point. A fisherman coming out said you could still catch fish in the river, which pleased me, and there were visible minnows in the water. It was pretty un-fucked-up, given that almost every other childhood bit of local forest I valued has long since been condo-ized. One clearing wasn't as I remembered it - but it was nearing sunset, so we didn't delve too deeply.

Anyhow, not really up for a big piece of writing at the moment, but here are some photos of our trip. You can see Erika's trepidation about her footwear (inadequate for a dirt trail) as I urge her forward... there's a wee narrative here, I hope! 

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

British Columbia Cryptids - stories of giant salamanders, horned lizards, and other weirdness you find online at 3am

Awake at 3am - CPAP mask crapped out on me, and now I'm down a cryptozoology rabbithole. 

I remember my father reading a strange story to me from The Province when I was a boy, about a prospector exploring Pitt Lake and finding a "lost world" hidden in a valley. It made quite an impression on me, and for awhile, I would actually ask my father about it: "Was there anything more in the paper about the hidden valley with the giant horned lizards?" There never was, and after a few years, I stopped asking my Dad if he'd read updates on the story. 

At that point I had read Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, and - as a dinosaur-and-horror-movie obsessive and childhood Sasquatch enthusiast - I loved the idea that there might be something akin to it, a hidden valley with prehistoric creatures only a short drive from where I lived.

Later on in life, I used to spend a lot of time with some friends who lived on Pitt Lake, and the story, I'm sure, is one I mentioned to them. But it kind of disappeared from the forefront of my consciousness, since nothing was ever there to feed  it. It would surface from time to time, however, and I sat down some time ago online to see if the internet could help me track down the original story (and again, to see if there had been any follow-up). 

As close as I came was mention of horned lizards in an article about another really interesting BC cryptid, a rumoured, but un-proven species of giant salamander, from 6 to 12 feet in length - many times larger than the known-but-endangered Pacific giant salamander, which is only a foot long. (I might have seen one of these fellas as a kid - two neighbours, knowing about my love for reptiles and amphibians, showed me a really big salamander that they'd caught under a log while fishing in the lower Alouette - a place I also fished as a child; I remember it being almost a foot long, and like nothing I've seen before or since).   

Well, being kind of Peter-Stampfel-centric lately, I read something he posted on Facebook about hellbenders - a known, proven-species of Appalachian giant salamander. It reminded me of all the above, and sent me down a Google rabbithole, where I found another story related to this, which had only gone online after my last round of searching. 

But what about those mysterious horned lizards?

Good news! The story - not original article my Dad read to me in The Province, but one that captures some of the details - is recounted here, on the BC Prospectors' website, excerpting and altering a longer version of the story here, apparently by the same author. It talks about a "Mr. Scott, of Haney BC," informing the news media of a lost valley he'd discovered, that "had a tropical climate where extinct vegetation grew in abundance. Inhabiting the valley were 6 foot long meat eating horned-lizards, huge white frogs and a 150 year old man."

I don't remember the 150 year old man from the original story, but I do remember that some of the captured horned lizards were supposedly sent to a university for study. Warren Scott, whose name is mentioned in some articles about this lost valley, also pops up in some stories about the giant salamanders, it seems, and looks from this forum discussion to also have been a Sasquatch enthusiast.

It's kind of interesting that this Warren Scott fella connects some of these stories. Wonder if he's still around? There's mention in that forum discussion that he was interviewed on a show called Alden's Outdoors in 1977... if he was an adult then, he'd likely be in his 80's or 90's now... Hm. Barrie Alden seems to report from hospital occasionally on Youtube videos.... it's a pretty odd Youtube channel, but the most recent post is here, about cougars. I've posted a comment to see if he can do something on Warren Scott - if he can share his memories of interviewing him, say...

Anyhow, I'd rather be asleep - I have to work today - but... it's been an unusual couple of hours!