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Twitter Nation Twitterpation

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Are you ready? Good… then let shagging season begin.

Yup, it’s springtime.

Last weekend I began pruning my Ambrosia apple and Italian prune plum trees, sure signs of spring that, in these global warming times, mean more than the return of robins – in this area of British Columbia many robins stopped migrating south in the winter about 10 years ago.

More spring inspiration? This week I was reading the book Bambi to my grandson and was refreshed on the perennial spring ritual of Twitterpation… sweet… but today, seismic global changes have ritualized us into a perpetual Twitter Nation.

Horniness replaced by irritation and rage.

I long for the return of that lovely twitterpation every spring… can’t help myself. There’s a building pressure and excitement inside… long daylight days, greenery pushing through the earth, birds darting everywhere.

I don’t know about you, but this spring feels differently different… yup, different yet familiar, because 2 spring seasons back we all began the crazy journey of pandemic “social isolation”.

That spring of 2020 was VERY different… remember?

  • We formed quiet lineups outside grocery stores… toilet paper shortages… futile searches for yeast or bottled water.
  • We disinfected canned goods and vegetables when they arrived in our homes.
  • We hesitantly began donning face masks and adopted strange interactional rituals such as elbow bumps.
  • We avoided restaurants and movie theatres like… well, like the plague.
  • We took in newscasts overfilled with stories of ICU units jammed with the dead and dying, tractor trailer morgues outside hospitals, impassioned daily updates by the likes of Anthony Fauci, Andrew Cuomo and our local health bosses.
  • We anxiously anticipated the invention of a miracle-vaccine pulled from a science magician’s hat.

Yes, spring 2020 was much more Twitter Nation than Spring Twitterpation.

Twitterpation is filled with enthusiasm and ebullient zest… Twitter Nation often unwinds with bitter vitriol.

There was no zest in March 2020…. twitterpation just melted away with the dirty winter snows… leaving behind a trail of…

… worry, fear, and uncertainty that filled our hearts and minds. Here’s a song (The Blessing and the Curse) I wrote and recorded in those dusky times reflecting that virus-laden uncertainty…

Then one day the miracle vaccine arrived. Hallelujah, we’re saved. We stood in vaccine lines breathing a collective sigh of relief. Sort of…

And yet – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Here we are in the twitterpation time of year once again… but…

… the worry, the fear, the uncertainty is still with us.

But, not so much arising today from a nasty biological virus, but from a surging maniacal pathogen called Putin.

This virulent bug has infected the human body, and humanity’s immunity systems are struggling just as they did with the COVID contagion.

The world is getting screwed and it doesn’t feel like the giddy sensation of twitterpation at all. Not a bit.

Ukraine is a rape victim that resists and struggles, but, weaker than the wretched perpetrator who insists upon having his way, will likely… sadly… succumb.

Through the unexpected and unwanted destruction and sadness, and with no easy answers in sight, I have to find solace and hopeful signs even when the forward view is bleak.

In spring, hope springs eternal, so…

I’ll leave you with an Emily Dickinson poem that highlights both the beauty of spring light and also the perishability, the impermanence, of spring… the blessing and the curse of our times you might say…

Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

Blooms in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains

I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling…

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lottery winner.jpg

Never won a lottery. NOPE!

Never been to Vegas. Never been asked out by a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model.

So how do I know I’m one of the luckiest guys ever in human existence? Well, lots of reasons but near the top, a mere stone’s throw from the hoodoo peak?

I’ve never once been asked … or tempted… or coerced… to go to WAR.

Never had to defend my home or wife or children with a weapon, other than a flyswatter.

NOT. ONCE. EVER.

In the thousands of years of humanity insanity, how many men can say this? They could almost fit into a historic-timeline broom closet (if the closet was as big as Vancouver Island).

My Ontario childhood was idyllic – riding my banana seat bike with the high handlebars through sprinklers, playing with bugs in the cool grass beneath a huge leafy chestnut tree, licking the drips from orange and grape popsicles, slipping folded newspapers beneath my pant legs for shin protection on the backyard hockey rink my Mom stayed up late to make.

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Armed conflict was a hazy cloud in the rearview mirror… but the memory of recent European battles played a part in my juvenile play.

Yes, I played war with my little buddies. We’d fashion guns out of broken hockey sticks and broom handles to run and shoot and hide… Bang bang, you’re dead (… no I’m not, you missed me!).

GI Joe was a toy superhero.

But I never heard the heart-stopping pounding of exploding mortar shells, the sight of goose-stepping soldiers on my city’s streets, saw the tears of a classmate whose family had just received a telegram from the War Office.

In my earliest youth, war was entertainment.

I’ve watched TV, gone to movie theatres where I’ve munched popcorn, viewing countless masses slaughtered senselessly. Brave, heroic actors shooting pretend guns.

Much of this was what we label “entertainment”.

How is killing others entertainment?

Two of my favourite movies of all time are Schindler’s List and Platoon. Gruesome, vivid stories of World War II and Vietnam. 

Beautiful cinematography, powerful narratives, filled with intense scenes that show me the emotional terror and panic everyday people endured.

Both scared the shit out of me.

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That’s what “real” war movies should do.

War isn’t really John Wayne romantic. War is horror. War kills literally and figuratively (how many vets return home dead inside?).

These were horror movies far scarier than Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lecter and Chucky combined, because they were (reasonably) accurate portrayals of the misery and wretched fear we naturally feel when confronted with our blood and brains splattered, bowels hanging loose from a belly opened wide like a peeled orange. Screams of pain and cries for Mommy.

When I watch a real war movie, I don’t do it for two hours of fun leisure time like I usually do at the theatre.

I do it as a reminder of the harsh cruelty we are capable of inflicting on one another.

I do it as a time of internal reflection on what armed conflict does to children and families and towns and countries. Orphans and refugees.

I do it as a mental prompt of the efficiency of weaponry and how it shreds a fragile human body like a meat grinder.

I do it as a message to myself to vote for stolid politicians who have the mature judgment and intelligence to work towards peace. One of my most important jobs, to secure the future for the faces of the generations that will follow me, is to select wisely with foresight.

I’ve perhaps not been more aware of my lifetime good fortune than since I began tutoring a young Syrian man. Forced to flee with his family from his home and homeland, his life has suffered huge turmoil. And still he smiles. He’s a gentle man.

He did nothing to deserve the upheaval that came his way. He merely made the mistake of being born in a chaotic region of the world, whereas I made the unintended happy blunder of taking my first breath in a Shangri-la.

War has been his experience, no movie scenes needed for him to feel the terror.

My eyes are open but I have hope.

The peace dividend paid to me in my life has been the greatest ROI (Return on Investment) to which I never had to contribute a cent of my personal fortune.

Simply put, this peace dividend will only increase over time as education standards rise worldwide and women have more power and influence in the running of the world.

Shorter term blips of worry occur the same as they do in stock markets, but the long term trend is always promising.

It’s often said that children are our future. Yes, true. But my firm belief is that women are really our future. Decision-making by women is and will make this planet a safer place.

I don’t buy lottery tickets. No Victoria’s Secret model will ever ask me out. Yada yada yada…

I’m just a lucky guy who still harbours a peaceful easy feeling.

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My Blood Flows in Fredericksburg …

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Union soldier

.

Let us cross over the river,

and rest under the shade of the trees.”

……………………………………………..Last words — Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

……………………………….

December 12, 1862 — Fredericksburg, Virginia.

The morning air is chill, but not freezing, thank God.

I’m wearing the standard blue woollen Union army uniform, my McClellan cap or kepi sitting low over my brow, a long-barrelled musket held tight in my nervously-sweaty hands. There’s a frighteningly long straight line of my Illinois friends and neighbours on either side of me, with whom I’ve marched through many dark, cold nights.

We are McClelland’s Dragoons, Company A, come from the farms just outside Chicago.

There were times on this march to Fredericksburg when freezing rain made the chill run so deep into my core that I shook and my teeth chattered in my misery. One of my neighbours just sat himself at the side of the road and quietly died. Two others died of typhoid on the march. I have a rotting tooth that is aching, and bleeding blisters on both feet that also have fungus itching between the toes that is driving me crazy.

Growing corn on my father’s farm was hard work, but nothing comes close to this wretchedness.

Back home — it seems like years ago now, but is actually only 7 months — I anxiously joined my friends enlisting for this exciting adventure to quash the rebel uprising, and to put those southerners in their place. They think they can take our jobs by using the free labour of niggers to make their fortunes. We need jobs for our families too.

And now, I have the glory of walking steadily forward into the smoke and cacophonous blasts of rifles fired from behind a stone wall by those damned grey-coated southerners. I have no armour to protect me, just this heavy woollen coat.

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And all I can think about right now is what my wife will do with our young children when it’s my turn to march towards that bloody wall of fire 300 yards away, and I’ve been ripped open by a blast to the chest of heavy 55 mm lead-shot and I lay on this pockmarked field, in a mound of mud and bodies and blood.

……………………………..

September 17, 2013

The Civil War Trail

The red clay in the  soil beneath my feet makes me think deeply of the huge rivers of blood that soaked into the earth here.

The blood of Union soldiers, the blood of Confederate infantrymen, the blood of countless horses, husbands, wives, brothers, women and children. The blood of warriors and innocents who stood in the line of fire of armies dedicated to destruction in the name of a cause they believed in.

Somehow, it doesn’t feel right that here I am, relaxed, with a warm sun stream coming from the left as I absorb the terrifying violence that tore families and loved ones apart.

A historic saga is running in the breeze through the grasses of Fredericksburg.

I can feel it as I stand on a partly-paved, partly-dirt road recessed behind a long fieldstone fence that rises about 4 feet high overlooking this small, peaceful town. The towering pines and maples and oaks have all grown back tall after they too fell in the maelstrom of the battle 150 years ago.

A few thousand Confederate soldiers crouched behind this fence and slaughtered and wounded 12,000 federal soldiers that approached them head on across a wide open landscape. Above the wall on the hill behind, Confederate cannons blew the walking walls of Union soldiers to bloody shreds with their shrapnel. It was a killing field for young men and boys that marched here from the farms and cities of Connecticut and Maryland and Illinois.

Today, Peter, a young park ranger, maybe 30 years old, walks us along the thick stone wall and tells us a wonderful story of a terrible event. He’s animated and interesting, and interested too not just in the battle, but how it affected the soldiers and their families. How the politics were as muddy as the fields the soldiers marched upon.

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Over the last 10 days, we’ve visited the Civil War battlefields of Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania in Virginia, Antietam in Maryland, and the granddaddy of them all, Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania.

I’ve stood on the spot in Chancellorsville where General “Stonewall” Jackson was shot in the dark by his own confused soldiers (he died 10 days later from pneumonia). Jackson, like so many Civil War Generals, while a brilliant warrior and strategist, screwed up royally and paid the price with his fatal mistake of reconnoitering at night.

I’ve looked over the rolling hills of Antietam from the vantage point of General Robert E. Lee, searching his mind for a stategy to beat Ulysses S. Grant and Abe Lincoln.

I’ve pondered the senselessness of war from the peaceful, grassy knoll in the cemetery overlooking the graves of thousands of Union soldiers where Lincoln delivered his short, but infamous Gettysburg Address.

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From my side, a grey-hair ponytailed fellow approaches with a smile. He begins to talk as if we’ve been friends for years, telling me that he’s a Civil War buff who knows just about everything there is to know about this tumultuous event. I heard him in the museum earlier, collaring others and telling them stories of the battles and strategies used by the generals.

He’s an intriguing guy from nearby Washington, DC. I don’t usually like to be latched onto by strangers, but he seems friendly and harmless, so I let him ramble for a few minutes. We share notes on what we’ve seen as the cool, late afternoon wind buffets and blows our hair a bit.

The sun is just about to set as we shake hands and part ways, cannons silhouetted alongside the paths we take to the vehicle lot and the end of the day.

……………………….

The monster-sized Civil War museum at Gettysburg contains a stunning cyclorama, something popular with the masses in the 1800’s.

Climbing 2 flights of stairs inside the museum after a movie presentation about the Battle of Gettysburg, we enter into a huge darkened theatre that’s like a planetarium in the round containing a cyclorama, a 360° cylindrical painting.

This version that hangs in Gettysburg, is a recent (2005) restoration of the version created for Boston in 1883. It’s huge,  27 feet (8.2 m) high and 359 feet (109 m) in circumference.

The painting was created by French artist Paul Philppoteaux and depicts Pickett’s Charge, the climactic Confederate attack on Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

The intended effect is to immerse the viewer in the scene being depicted, and includes the addition of foreground models and life-sized replicas of cannons and fences to enhance the illusion. The presentation comes to life with a narrated story, loud cannon booms and rifle fire while flashes of light behind the canvas give life to the cannon blasts.

It’s stunning to contemplate the number of artists and the creativity used to produce a painting of this size and complexity.

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A small segment of the cyclorama

……………………….

 

We’ve titled this road trip “The Country Music and Civil War Tour 2013

Travelling these middle-America roads, just like our other travels, has made me ponder many great matters, both important and trivial.

For instance — and you’ve probably asked yourself this question a thousand times …

Which is better, Pancake or Waffle?

Waffles or Pancakes

I throw myself firmly into the Pancake camp. None of those difficult nooks and crannies that catch too much peanut butter or syrup. Warm, tender, fragrant. It’s the perfect breakfast food for getting the day started.

However, the waffle is winning the hearts of those who stay in the hotels of America. The mid-range hotels with brand names like La Quinta, and Best Western all provide a breakfast to varying degrees as part of the package for spending the night between their sheets.

The breakfast, whether simple continental or sumptuous hot buffet, always has THE WAFFLE MAKER.

Nine nights on the road, sampling from a different hotel each morning, has made me the quintessential waffle connoisseur of North America.

Just pour the premade thick batter from a plastic cup onto the round griddle surface, close the lid, flip the whole thing over on a pin, and two and a half minutes later, out pops a golden-brown waffle. Perfect, every time … almost!

Never one to look too carefully, or read instructions (come on, I AM a man!), one morning, I scooped the mix sitting to the right of the waffle maker and poured it over the searing metal plate of the appliance. As I closed the lid, I could see a sign to the left labelled “waffle mix”.

Huh? What did I just ladle into the waffle maker? OHHHH, that would be the oatmeal porridge, just like the little sign said beneath its container.

So, did I panic? Not a chance. Quickly I poured some of the REAL waffle mix over the bubbling oatmeal frying in the maker and closed the lid with a little prayer. I waited with anticipation.

Two and a half minutes later, the beeper sounded indicating the waffle was finished cooking.

I lifted the lid, and there sat a PERFECT golden-toned waffle with extra oatmeal specks, steaming and smelling deliciously wonderful.

So please forgive me for being so glib, but BREAKFAST, like WAR, is HELL!

The first thing I'm going to do when this war ends is eat a pancake ...

The first thing I’m going to do when this war ends is eat a pancake …