Book Hippo

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

For The Love Of Animals

I used to walk down by the Ottawa River on the bicycle path. It's a lovely walk and I've been lucky to see lots of animals down there. Mostly squirrels but I've also seen Great Blue Herons, a pair, and it excites me every time to see creatures in nature.

I'm always surprised and I admit a little angry to find that other people who walk down there don't care for them at all. I was upset one day when a young man on a bicycle almost ran over a rabbit. He saw it but didn't feel he had to swerve to miss it. Why care about little defenseless animals, they think?

Now, I like animals and don't understand the reasoning that because something is harmless, it fair to hurt or torture it. I find it cowardly because it means that if an animal can 'whup your butt' you wouldn't be brave enough to challenge it.

Take bears, for instance. When I was up in Algonquin Park I found so many people who would never do anything to hurt a bear. They would not report when a bear stole their food so the bear wouldn't get shot. They do shoot them up there for that, too. But some nice, tiny, peaceful animal is fair game for attack. They don't care if they're being cowards, that's for sure.

So I wonder if there's an underlying Western thought behind this. As is being polite to your superiors, like your boss, even if he's a prick. Maybe it's so ingrained in Western people to bow down and not insult the stronger people of society that they even feel that way about animals.

Or maybe it's just a sign of the times, where people don't believe in fair competition anymore, but dirty tricks and getting away with things. I would faint if I ever saw a young man of these days look at another man and say, "Yes, I think I could take you on." It doesn't happen anymore. Most men believe that it's stupid to fight someone whose stronger than yourself. It's stupid to lose. So attack, take on, weaker things. Like disabled people or little animals. Or people who have no support, no friends. Losers, if you like. But why, if they're losers, would you want to waste your time besting them? Isn't it too easy? Alas, that's what modern people want.

So when I think of what I like in people, I think of the other young man down on the bicycle path. The one who saw a rabbit and called out "Hi, bunny." I love sweetie-pie people, I think they're the standard we should all attain to. I didn't even laugh when the young man waved a greeting to the rabbit. He was wonderful.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Marilyn Monroe

I don't consider myself a celebrity worshiper, I never read the scandal sheets and often can't put a name to a face, but one celebrity I do like is Marilyn Monroe.

I argue with those who consider that her life was not successful because she was unhappy, I'm not sure she was all that miserable until right at the end. I'll tell you why I think so.

Now Marilyn's mother and grandmother had paranoid schizophrenia, and so did Marilyn. Her mother spent most of her life in an institution and was very unhappy, if there is a tragic person, if was the mother. But Marilyn, despite her condition went on to become one of the most adored women in the world. She went to a lot of places and knew a lot of important people.

If there is a tragedy in all of this, it's that people with schizophrenia are seen as less than human. How much better would hers and other people lives had been if she could have spoken openly about her condition.

"How are you today, Marilyn?"

"I'm just hallucinating tigers right now but I'll be okay." Or something, so that she and other wouldn't have to hide themselves away for fear of being shunted off the the 'nut house'.

More than anything, fear of being institutionalized destroys any kind of happiness that the schizophrenic may have. To be constantly worried of being wrestled to the ground and injected with a substance that makes you drool all over yourself is a total mood killer

How would anyone like to be treated like that?

So, in my opinion, the only tragedy in MM's life was the one that all paranoid schizophrenics suffered along with her, having to hide and be ashamed of their condition and being treated like some sort of terrible lunatic. If only she and others could have talked about what they had, they wouldn't have had to hide and in her case, she might not have over medicated herself.

In view of the fact that most of her kind spent their lives in mental wards, I see her life story as a success, albeit a short one.

And speaking of e-book, The Mountain City Bronzes is available at and Kobo and Smashwords along with being available for download at the MuseItUp Publishing bookstore.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Times Changing

I can look back now at age fifty-four (almost) and see how different things can be. Now-a-days, when parents want to take their children on a vacation, they ask them what they want. They gather them around the kitchen table and discuss everything the kids want to do and give them what they want.

When I was young, though, my father never told us where we were going until about two weeks before. The idea was that the parents would show the kids something they hadn't seen but might enjoy. To give them an experience they wouldn't otherwise have.

One summer day, Dad said to us kids, "we're going to Prince Rupert." Prince Rupert? What on earth is there to do in  Prince Rupert? The idea, he said, is to travel up the coast and we will be sailing on a ferry out on the ocean. Oh.

We set off in the car when the day arrived. We stopped at a motel. The cupboards were locked but Mom refused to pay the two dollars they wanted to open them. She thought they were ripping her off and instead made us sandwiches. The next day we drove some more and then parked where the ferry was. In those days parking at the ferry terminal was free. We would not take our car to Prince Rupert.

So we boarded. It always seems to take a long time for boats, trains etc to leave when you're a kid. It seemed like forever before we pulled away from the quay. It did not take that long to find out that I was terrified by being on the water. As soon as the ferry got out of sight of land, I panicked and ran to my stateroom. I lay down and felt sick. I didn't come up again until land was sighted again.

I must say here that I loved my stateroom. It was tiny but I thought I might like to live somewhere like it someday. When I grew up I like bigger rooms but then I liked tiny.

Off the coast of Prince Rupert we saw some whales. And a couple of older American tourist ladies, going on to Alaska expressed surprise that there were bald eagles flying over Prince Rupert. "But bald eagles," they insisted, "are American birds." They were nice women but not knowledgeable about animals dispersion.

Prince Rupert made almost no impression on me. I have no memory of the town, the people or any stores at all. I know we went ashore because the ferry was going on to Alaska. So I guess I didn't learn anything from our trip. But I find myself wondering if any of those kids today are missing out by not being surprised by something new their parents picked out for them. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Once in ninth grade, my class was taking gym outside. We were playing grass hockey. I overheard our gym teacher say to the other gym teacher. "I don't know why, but this grade is the worst grade I've ever had." To which the other teacher replied. "I had them last year and they were the worst I ever had, too."

I wondered about this, about why this should be so and I think I've finally got an answer. As smaller children we were directly influenced by the older kids, the teenage hippies, who were telling us not to trust anyone over thirty, ie our parents. Of course our parents were telling us not to trust hippies, they would take you away and feed you drugs, you would think you were a bird and jump out the window and all sorts of other things. So I wonder if we just said to ourselves, since we can't trust anyone, we'll trust ourselves. As we know from the Chinese Cultural Revolution, children doing what they please does not set them free, it turns them loose.

One thing above all that I carried with me for most of my life was a distrust of older people. Now I consider it benign, I was not one of those who were frustrated at old people who took too long in line or couldn't move fast enough on the street, but still I thought of them as people who spent their life dreaming of olden days and forgetting what they were doing.

Then in the nineteen nineties, I began to do something I'd always wanted to do and that is trace my family genealogy. Instantly I found that not only were old people wonderful but irreplaceable. I found a woman near one hundred who had known my great-grandmother. She told me my great-grandmother used to pick up an onion and eat it like an apple. Priceless!

Other old people knew other things. Like one of my McLaughlin great-aunts married a man who was so strong that once, he walked into a restaurant he owned and found a man robbing the till. The man raced away, my relative followed. Deciding he might need a weapon, he reached down and picked a manhole cover up from the street and ran with it above his head, until he caught up with the guy, who surrendered.

Anyway, in some eyes it may make me a bad guy to have had such opinions of our aged folk but I'd be willing to take a little disparagement just to be able to realize that I've found something so much more precious in the minds of the old people.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Old Age

My holidays were successful. I had a great Christmas and New Years. Now I'm looking forward to my birthday in February. I've always liked my birthday because it's Groundhog's Day, so I feel like the whole world is doing something on my birthday.

I'll be fifty-four and I suppose I'll have to start getting used to not having the memory I used to have. Just the other day I was trying to remember as much as I could about Expo '67 and couldn't come up with much.

My dad saved for it. We would spend three weeks in Montreal, traveling from BC on the train. I do remember kids telling me to avoid the hamburgers. It was rumored that the meat was actually 50% sawdust. People wanted to walk home with me after school and I had to do a lot of homework and extra tests just so I wouldn't miss any schoolwork.

I can also recall being at my grandparents house to say good-bye before we left.

"When will it be time to go?"

"In half-an-hour."

Two minutes later.

"Is it half-an-hour yet?"

And so on. But finally we were on the train. It would have been dark and I suppose we went to bed as soon as they let the berths down. I don't recall that part. I suppose it would be the next day when we went over the Rockies. We were going through Banff and there were animals all over the place. On the train, a ski team was in the same car as us.

Someone on the train. "Look. Look. There's a moose."

Another person on the train. "Look. Look. There's a deer."

Member of ski team. "Look. Look. There's a volkswagen." He pointed at a Beetle as we all laughed. The cook had a sense of humor, too. Once when all the passengers were crowded on the right side of the train looking at some animal, he came up and announced, "The driver wants some of you to move to the other side because the train is in danger of tipping over."

I went to move but my mother assured me it was a joke. The rest of the train ride is a blur.

In Montreal, we were staying with my cousins. My mom's sister and her husband. They picked us up in their station wagon, a huge car. After a few minutes my father said to my uncle who was driving.

"You're going in the wrong direction. You're headed to the States."

My uncle assured him he was wrong but my dad kept at him. Finally we passed under a highway sign: to the USA. My uncle shut off all his car lights. Cars racing past us. We couldn't be seen. Then just a I thought we were going to get hit, he made an illegal U-turn and we were going the right way. They don't make stuff up about Quebec drivers.

I don't remember my cousins house but I do remember taking a plastic clock for my collection of stuffed animals. I remember getting my Expo 'passport' stamped at each embassy. I refused to go into the Greek embassy because of all the naked statues. It's funny what we're like as children. The American embassy was a Buckmeister Fuller geodesic dome. For most people it was 'the belle of the ball' but I found technology to be boring as a child as wanted to leave.

We rode La Flume. A plastic log that went on the watercourse and a plane ride which terrified me. And a waitress dropped a whole tray of dishes on the floor in a restaurant. A photographer took my picture as me and my mom walked by. We bought the picture. That's all I can call to mind of my childhood adventure.

I do, though, recall on the train back. I threw up and couldn't wake my mom so had to call a steward to help me. The next day a nun asked me if I felt better. I didn't answer so she said it in French. I still didn't answer so she repeated it in English and then I answered. I still don't know how she knew I'd been sick. I remember her sweetness and concern.

I don't know what to do to bring back memories like this, I just hope that as I age I don't forget the nun.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Normally Challenged

I was watching a comedian the other night and one his jokes was that he didn't see why he had to not offend the mentally challenged because he's offended when he meets someone who pronounces his name "Duh." Now I've lived over half-a-century and have never met a Down's Syndrome or brain damaged or mentally ill person who has pronounced my name "Duh."

It makes me think of the outright hatred that some people carry for anyone who has a mental disability. That's why a lot of mentally disabled people live in fear of going out alone. It is possible that they will be attacked by someone who is offended with their 'stupidity'.

But why then should people accept someone who is 'normal' but continually marries people who treat them wrong or other people with non-challenged brains who screw up. Like mothers who don't know how to raise their children because they weren't raised right. I see a lot of people helping people like that and while I'm not against it, I think that if they were so against 'stupid' they wouldn't help.

In  my mind this means that they don't really care about 'stupid' but it's more about what they can get away with. And why is it okay that 'normal' people have the mind-set of children about 'getting in trouble'. They are perfectly happy to make someone's life miserable if they won't have the police or a brother at their door.

To me, the thing to change is the 'dog-eat-dog' mentality that a lot of people have. Get them before they get you is, at the heart, an evil way to think. It's not that most people will go out a do evil, it's just that when a population gets used to thinking in terms of people who 'let' others take advantage and people who don't let them, you have the perfect set up to keep the mentally challenged poor and lonely.

I think it would be nice if a Down's Syndrome person could go to work and not have to protect her/himself against people taking advantage of a 'stupid' person. It would mean that they could take part in a free society like all the rest and have schooling catered to them and work where they wouldn't have to be pushed around. Who are 'normal' people anyway, to say that mentally challenged are not up to scratch? What gives them the right to decided what normal is?

Anyway, I've decided to limit my comedy watching just so I don't have to hear a joke like that again. I wish I could remember his name.