The Geezer’s Gaze

September 10, 2014

For three days this past week I have subjected my sun-damaged face to a chemical peel with a new, jaw-droppingly expensive product called Picato. Then yesterday I emerged into the light of day.

All went well until my wife and I entered Costco in Kingston. Most people I had met to that point had basically ignored me or met my eyes and passed on. But several men of about my age stared. Right at me, eye contact and all, trying to figure out what was wrong with my face. The jarring disparity between their behaviour and that of other people I encountered left me wondering: were they staring because they were identifying with my plight or glorying in my apparent illness? Maybe they were also worried about their faces and bodies deteriorating. Or maybe they just don’t give a damn any more, and stare if they want to stare.

This was my first encounter with what feminists used to call the male gaze. It wasn’t pretty. I’d have to agree with their accusations of entitlement and objectivization. My few square inches of reddened skin really didn’t deserve to be viewed as an ugly bit of landscape, but that’s how I felt after these brief encounters.

In sharp contrast to the geezer gaze was that of younger women. They had no reaction beyond polite eye contact. At first I thought they were remarkably controlled and kind, but as I think about it, maybe they didn’t see beyond the gray hair and beard. Maybe I have moved into that age group where I am now invisible to pre-menopausal women.

What if the fellow geezers were actually the kind ones? At least they acknowledged my existence.

Anyway, I have discovered a new narcotic: Grey’s Anatomy, Seasons 1-3. Those episodes were better than codeine at making time pass in a smooth, mildly pleasurable manner. The shows are of consistent quality, just clever enough to hold one’s attention, occupy 42 minutes, and provide the kind of emotional “ups” Huxley raved about in his drug-addled Brave New World.

Grey’s is available for download in almost unlimited quantities as well, so after surviving two trans-continental flights on it, I went on a 3-day Grey’s holiday in bed away from light, without glasses, while the Picata chewed away at the sun spots. Grey’s Anatomy, streamed online without commercials, is Huxley’s Soma.

DSCN0677Sockeye fishing is well worth doing, though the learning curve is steep.

The sport is conducted on sandbars and from anchored boats when the fish run up the river in enormous numbers. Sockeye are fine fighting fish, prone to using the fast current for leverage, and bursting into unpredictable leaps when they see shore approaching.

Of course the water is too murky to see anything, so one must cast on the assumption that the river is full of the things. Sometimes it is; most times it isn’t, so fishermen tend to herd into areas where others are catching fish.

After a placid morning with a single sockeye, my beginner’s luck fish, we got wind of a hotspot and crowded onto a sandbar eroded by what seemed a powerful current. Chad worked hard to beach the 20′ jet boat and keep it from dragging the 60 pound anchor and chain right back into the river.

But the fish were there, and fishermen on all sides of us were hauling them in. Jim and Molly fished from the boat while Jamie and I preferred the coarse gravel of the bar. We started getting hits, and some came to the boat, to be netted, bled, and put on a stringer to keep them fresh in the cold water.

All afternoon we made long casts across fast, shallow water with a 4 oz sinker to anchor the hook, followed by a little, floating plastic egg.

Chad taught us to bounce the sinker down the current, with 12′ of mono leader behind it before the hook, feeling for anything that isn’t rock. Strike instantly.

The fish get hooked around the mouth, and so they call it flossing, or bottom bouncing. Fights are impressive.

The strenuous part of the fishing, though, is cranking in the heavy sinker back against the strong current. It’s like landing a fish each time you retrieve.

I grilled two fillets for supper. Words fail to describe the eating quality of this fish.

UPDATE: 26 August, 2014

Day two of sockeye fishing began quickly with a series of hits which had Curtis, our guide of the day, sprinting up and down the sandbar with a large net to land fish. We kept him busy.

I asked him to rig my favourite bait-casting reel, an old Shimano Calcutta, in lieu of the spinning reel he provided. Things improved dramatically after that, though an occasional backlash would send the 4 ounce sinker and accompanying tackle halfway up the nearest mountain.

But I averaged two good fish per backlash, and I didn’t complain when he missed a particularly fine sockeye at the net. It just became another of my many remote releases.

The problem with the spinning reel was that everything was out of whack. My body just wasn’t designed to crank that thing. Tony told me it was because I was turning the handle with my right hand and making my left do all of the strength work. He may be right, but my skeleton had nothing good to say about the series of spinning reels which passed through my hands Monday.

I had managed the odd backlash with the spinning reel, too.

This morning the more experienced fishermen made good use of the wave of fish passing the bar and we filled our limits quickly. Then we lazed in the sun while the inexperienced member of our party struggled to find a sockeye, any sockeye, so that we could finish up and go chinook fishing.

Chinooks were scarce today, so we came in early to sort out the fish packaging for one group in our party. Before we could find our beds, Tony, Sean, Sharon and I cleaned, packaged and froze twenty-three pristine sockeye salmon which ranged from five to nine pounds. They are beautiful fish.

Three years ago a day of sturgeon fishing on the Fraser River with guide Dean Werk was doomed to failure because I was in the boat. Two large fish nearly jumped aboard, but none would take a hook. The variable in the unaccustomed rout of a lucky guide was my presence on the boat and I quickly earned the title “Jinx.”

Today for a trip up into big sturgeon country in the Fraser River Canyon I presented my ultimate gift to the Izatt Family: I boarded a different boat. So of course Dean’s boat had a great day with all crew catching fish and one tagging an eight foot, three inch monster. I filmed from afar.

Chad’s boat produced one fine fish and a smaller sturgeon, and then my turn at the stern came up. The rods grew still. Time passed. A nibble. The fish failed to return. Another nibble came to nothing. Our guide Chad hooked a fish and handed me the rod, but the fish released itself in mid-transfer. I tried to hook a nibbler myself but it dropped the bait. And so on.

The Jinx had found me, so I resolved to experiment with its effects. Because the fish were active this did not take long. I waited well back from the rods until Chad had set the next hook and said, “Rod!” The line went slack the instant the guide incanted my name. Twice more a sturgeon dropped Chad’s bait as I stood back, testing the power of the jinx.

Meanwhile Dean’s crew was waiting around for the eight foot, 420 pound sturgeon on Ivan’s line to give up. Jim and I decided that the jinx had more than done its work today, so we pulled up our lines to enjoy the scenic return trip without interruption.

We even noticed a group panning for gold along one sandy stretch. It’s a magnificent river.

Tony and Sean Izatt and I arrived at Sharon’s farm in Yarrow in the middle of the night. We devoted the morning and early afternoon to settling in, shopping for lunch materials for the upcoming four days of guided fishing on the Fraser River, and an unsuccessful search on the black market for an early-season sockeye.

By afternoon when members of the group dropped off for naps, I found a flat pan and wandered across the road to the neighbour’s to inquire about the “Organic Blueberries – You pick” sign on the driveway of a trim mixed-farming operation on 10 acres. From the looks of things they raise a few cattle, sheep, grapes, blueberries, and a principal crop of squab, my hostess told me. Honest, there’s a ready market for large quantities of baby pigeons, year-round.

The owner Jacob directed me to a corner of a 2 1/4-acre field of blueberries and set me to work, muttering that he didn’t think I would pick many.

This was my first encounter with a domesticated blueberry bush, though as a little kid I had earned my first cash by selling wild blueberries to passing cottagers.

The berries hung in plump bunches on the shrubs and I dug in with a will. Catching the clumps of berries proved trickier than I expected. First of all, two hands would be much better than one. The flat pan soon found itself nestled in the grass below the bush, and I gently dropped berries into it. Many were overripe and squished when I touched them. These, of course, were eaten. What could I do? Delicious flavour. Oh yeah, the dish. Seems it was easier to squish them and then eat them by the handful than bend to drop them into the pan below.

I blamed my bifocals and considered removing them, but the berries were actually accumulating quite well in the pan by thethird bush and I had well exceeded what I could eat over the next week. Besides, I only had four dollars in my pocket and the stated price for pick-your-own was $1 per pound.

But then our hostess Sharon Izatt showed up to add $2. to the kitty and even pick a few berries. Before long a cat came along to supervise and Sharon was lost in that wordless communication that some people have with felines. Damned thing was trying to roll in my berry dish, but Sharon was in heaven.

At length my human supervisor called a halt to the harvest and we walked up to the owner’s deck to pay. Mrs. Jake looked at the pan, smiled, and said “$2.00.”

Sharon whispered, “$4.00.”

I handed over four loonies and grinned at Jake. He quipped: “From the looks of his face and tongue, he’s eaten about a pound, so they’re not far off.” I gaped. He continued: “How you tell that blueberries are really organic is that they turn your tongue and teeth blue. If your tongue doesn’t turn blue when you eat blueberries, they’ve been sprayed. They’re not organic.”

Then I wandered off into a conversation with Jake’s guest from Illinois about bass fishing in BC until Sharon had finished her neighbourly chat. Away we went with our haul of fruit for a picnic up in the Fraser River Canyon tomorrow.

After supper I tried to catch the sunset and discovered Rider, Sharon’s rough collie, is as skilled a photo-bomber as I have met.

Rider inspects the day's crop of blueberries.

Rider inspects the day’s crop of blueberries.

So the Conservatives plan to sweep to power by rousing ordinary Canadians against the “Elite” who want to take over the Government of Canada.

They’d better get the new talking points out to the trolls haunting newspaper comments sections. They’re still running Justin Trudeau down as a part-time supply teacher with no background and no experience and no ideas, in over his head.

Now at the stroke of Harper’s pen Justin is “Elite.”

Harper’s had good luck with Harperspeak before. Stephen Lewis’s “Corporate Welfare Bums” became “Job Creators” in Harper’s new language.

Members of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition became “traitors” and “losers” when they formed a coalition.

“Canadians (didn’t) care about…” a variety of things including flouting the rules of Parliament, misappropriation of funds by government representatives, multi-million dollar ad campaigns for non-existent jobs, and I guess the systematic torture of prisoners in Afghanistan.

Remember “You’re not supporting our troops”? It was a popular heckling line in the House of Commons until it grew so threadbare that not even Fantino would try to wheel it out after stories in the “elite media” revealing the extent that veteran’s affairs has slid off the table of this government.

So expect to see lots of footage of the elite Trudeau and his elite wife in the elite classic Mercedes convertible he inherited.

It’ll be interesting to see how this one backfires.


First reaction to the new edict was a tweet by Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s main advisor: “My dad mined coal for 40 years in Cape Breton. He’d be proud the prime minister thinks his son’s an ‘elite.'”

Have you ever felt like a character in a scifi movie, the unsuspecting schlep who first encounters the mutant plant and then is devoured by it before it goes on to conquer the world?

I felt like that guy this morning when I realized that there was a whole new layer of growth coming up through the huge patch of DSV I had zapped three weeks ago.

Dog strangling vine spreads more rapidly than anything I have seen before. Its rate of growth is hard to believe, and it is relentless. Roundup will kill it, but it’s a lot like creeping charlie, the weed which bedeviled my mother’s gardening days: break it up or cut it off and any bit of root or stem will simply produce another plant.

But DSV also produces pods which rather resemble small green beans. They dry and release milkweed-style seeds on parachutes, and there are millions of these pods on the plants. DSV also climbs with alacrity, wrapping itself around other vines to produce the “dog strangling” effect after which it is named.

On my first attempt to walk through a metre-high mass of this stuff I nearly pulled both hamstrings.

This week I have seen outcroppings of the weed along the Ferry Road near Chaffey’s Locks, the Chaffey’s Locks Road, and Lockwood Lane. On my friend’s building lot it has made it 150 feet in under the forest canopy in one area. On the other side of the road it seems to be progressing unhindered.

If we don’t take immediate measures to control this invader, we can forget about plant diversity and seedling growth in our woodlots. DSV will crowd everything out. We can also forget about walking through forest trails in summer and fall.

By comparison the wild parsnip which lines our roads is a mild irritant. The DSV is a crisis and we need to take immediate steps to fight it back.

Municipal governments must get on the ball. This stuff is vectoring down roadways, quite possibly spread by mowing. Spraying to control the infestation is the logical first step. But it must be done immediately.

In Ogdensburg at the TSC, Roundup and other concentrated herbicides are on the shelf for anyone to buy, but to obtain the same materials in Ontario you must write the pesticides examination every five years. Many tree-huggers, myself included, now hold expired licenses, and our life supplies of Roundup (purchased before our licenses expired) won’t last through a blight on the landscape like this.

The second step would be to facilitate the acquisition of pesticides licenses and renewals: a single exam in Perth in mid-March will do no good for land owners who wish to protect their property this summer. And they’ll need the restricted stuff if they want to do any good. So far in three sessions I have sprayed 6 litres of concentrate (diluted 100 to 1) on one infected building lot, and it will take more to do the job. The diluted stuff in hardware stores available without a license just won’t cut it.

We need to get serious. If a brush fire were blazing at the front of your property, you’d try to put it out, right? DSV will easily have as devastating an effect as a forest fire on your property if it is allowed to spread unchecked.

Once those seed pods dry out and split, the time for action will have passed, and we can forget about walking through the woods.

UPDATE:  August 14, 2014

My neighbour dropped a clipping from Tuesday’s Citizen by the house.  It’s an interview with Dr. Naomi Cappuccino of the biology department at Carleton University.  Her specialty is biological controls of invasive speces.  She claims to have located a moth which eats only DSV. – Ottawa Citizen – 12 Aug 2014 – The tale of the moth and nasty plant

I bought this rig to mount in the back of my Polaris Ranger because backpack sprayers were becoming a lot of work. In the first year it did a reasonable job around 8000 little trees, though I needed a driver for the Ranger.

As time went on the sprayer’s role changed to defender of the farm against invasive plant species, and in this role it served pretty well. A couple of tanks of Roundup mix per year did the job until wild parsnip moved in. I went at the parsnip with a vengeance and the sprayer continued to do its job with occasional repairs to the 12v outlet. I had to switch to a heavier plug because extended running would melt the little plugs.

Then came the current scourge of DSV (dog strangling vine) on a friend’s building lot, an intimidating mass of tangled vines stretching back into the forest. The pump delivered its load, but I melted a high-quality plug from sustained running.

I realized we need a longer hose to deal with this infestation as I don’t like disassembling the Ranger after every spraying session to ensure there are no seed pods hidden in its body.

The $129. sprayer has delivered yoeman service over five years with the only problems the power supply and an occasional hose connection coming loose. I wish it had a 50′ hose as an option.

Update 10 August, 2014:

This morning I grafted 50′ of beverage tubing to the hose and tackled the DSV anew. The load of 1% Roundup 3 weeks ago made it easier to move around in the infested area, but there was still more to do.

With the property owner handling the Ranger and the hose, I was able to venture deep into the jungle and kill stuff all of the way out while Les withdrew the hose and coiled it in the back of the Ranger in preparation for the next sortie. We sprayed two, 15 gallon loads in an intensive session where, among other obstacles, I had to belay down a ten foot embankment into a loose pile of logs hidden under vines.

Mosquitoes and deer flies had no use for me today. Roundup’s a good insect repellent, though I wouldn’t recommend it.


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