Sunday, April 23, 2017


I think the reason most bloggers do not blog every day is generally because they don’t have enough to say. Or else they think they don’t have that much to say.

I have more than enough that I wish to say (whether appreciated or not). One of my April objectives is to defeat the barriers which keep me from posting. One of them is this: If it’s too simple and obvious then I’m reluctant to say it.

Because A-Z is so structured I feel like there is no room to go exploring on the page until something subtle and useful comes out and thus the subtle useful thing must in this case be part of the plan. And for letter H this year, there is no such plan. But here: let me hold my nose and swiftly get this over with.

April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

H is for Health!

When I spent two months between vehicles; after the banana boat was grounded, I found myself in a very joyful position. I was often walking downtown (not downtown Scooterville but rather the village area of our particular burrough) in order to run small errands. I was also taking buses and walking to the stops. I was getting exercise and doing a small favour to the environment. My circumstance was physically healthier and mentally healthier.

Unfortunately the unreliable nature of bus company logistics convinced me that, given my current roster of commitments, I needed my own car again in order to be sufficiently reliable.

There is little doubt I think, that in this chronically obese society, we’d all be getting more exercise and subsequently healthier if it weren’t for our personal cars. The problems with making yourself an exception to this norm include the above instability, which is less a problem in heavy metro areas and a progressively greater problem the less urban you get, as less and less participants (and smaller budgets) leave public transport a flightier prospect; a less-robust system.

Another problem with being the exception in your community is that walking or biking for health/recreation is wonderful on the trails, but doing so out of logistical necessity means you’re sharing auto routes and sucking exhaust fumes the whole time. Not a boon to health.

And that’s about all I have to say on that topic. Short and sweet. And it frankly could have been a lot shorter. I think it’s great to be concise. And I know I’m generally a more concise (and appropriately, more subtle) writer than many. But I have to convince myself that it’s okay to post small pieces. In fact I should try to make it more the norm.

Monday, April 17, 2017


April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

When I was about nineteen and working an entry-level bank job for about 20K per year, I took my first car – a little Toyota Tercel into a Speedy Muffler King shop on my lunch break and reported a squeal which I thought must have been a brake-wear indicator. The slithery, slimy, kitten-eating cretin of a mechanic told me that indeed that was so and I needed new pads, rotors, shoes and drums immediately and to the tune of $1200.00 which was an unfathomable sum to me way back then.

I told him I didn’t have that kind of money on hand and needed to get back to work but that I would soon return. He claimed the car was unsafe to drive and had to stay until repaired. Being precociously skilled at diplomacy I talked him out of my car and fled the place like Luke-and-friends fleeing the Death Star in a squealing Millennium Falcon.

Shortly after I took the little Tercel (everyone always asked me, How’s your little Tercel! To which I finally started replying, It’s the same size as every other Tercel) – sorry. I took it to a little independent garage near my home which I’d never been to before. I think his name was Tony. Or maybe Mario. He gave it a good inspection, fixed the squeal which required no new parts after all, and told me that all the brake components were in such good condition that he would be happy to sign an affidavit guaranteeing that all my brake parts would last at least another year – in case I wished to pursue legal action against the Speedy Muffler King of Crap.

I was wildly angry at the time that this soulless bastard had tried to criminally steal from me and make a disaster of my finances. I went to the Better Business  Bureau and there learned that it takes a gargantuan effort to achieve any kind of truth or justice through the Better Business Bureaucracy and that I didn’t have what it takes.

Tony-Mario meanwhile had won my loyalty and I only took my car to him for the next year or two.

But I couldn’t help but notice that every time I went to Tony-Mario the bills grew gradually higher.

In the decades since I have noticed a rather consistent and interesting pattern. The newer I am to a garage the less my repairs cost and the longer I stay with someone the higher they grow. I have theorized that garages have a general strategy of sucking in loyalty by treating new customers with honesty and then gradually juicing you like a poor defenceless lemon the longer you are lulled into their warm sticky embrace.

A year ago I bought a 2002 Saturn, old but safetied by the selling garage – for $2000.00. I mentioned that I could hear a ticking kind of rattle during the test drive – coming from the front passenger wheel. They assured me it was nothing. I was so desperate for a car, so broke and barely employed at the time, that this deal was a major score and I was cornered into optimism.

The noise grew though, with time, until it could no longer be ignored. Knowing almost for certain I had been fudged with, in terms of a questionable, likely unlawful safety certificate, I took it back to the same place where the head dude, a young fellow whose personality positively dripped with venom, told me I needed new bearings on both front wheels. Hoping he felt guilty and/or scared in relation to the original deception, I hoped for a compensatory discount and appeared to get one: two new sets of bearings of the finer quality for a discounted price and no tax (and thus no receipt – wink-wink). Again I was desperate and accordingly optimistic. I paid the $500.00 knowing almost for certain I’d be getting the low-end parts instead from this lizard but satisfied that our verbal chess match had gone as much in my favor as I dared hope.

A couple months later at most, the noises came back and I took the beast to the garage of my housemates’ preference and there learned that I still urgently needed new bearings on both front wheels; the passenger side most urgently, and that it looked like someone had machined a “hub” in order to fit bearings onto my wheel which neither looked new nor were the right size for my car! And thus I now needed a new hub part as well.

 So I paid yet again for new bearings on the one side which I never should have needed in the first place and vowed to soon return to deal with the driver’s side bearings. I then plotted how I would return to the garage of origin and handcuff the slime ball to his hoist before burning his oily mechanical lair to the ground. “I’ll tell you what, Officer!” I would say. “Just let me stand here in the parking lot a little longer – until his screams stop, before dragging me away to jail – and I’ll sign a full confession! Deal?”

Since then a third garage – one I have pretty good reason to trust due to family-friend connections, indeed declared that I need bearings and on the driver’s side only.

These kinds of stories are everywhere. A friend when I was young was a mechanic and he told me one day, very defensively, that he only cheated customers as much as every other mechanic does and no more. I later stopped being his friend for several good reasons.

For the years that a pal of my stepdad’s took care of my cars – both sold them to me and fixed them – I paid next to nothing each year in auto repairs. Many problems were fixed without even needing new parts.

It’s pretty clear to me that almost universally, garages and their mechanics cannot resist the urge to cheat people for money. They have us at their mercy. I used to buy my own brake parts for the Tercel and fix my own brakes in the driveway. And with my uncle’s help and two years of high school auto shop learning, I even performed my own engine work. Today cars are complex and computerized and we are so dependent on mechanics that they are like evil wizards who will do with us as they please.

I sometimes think that if our society had any actual sane regard for truth and honesty that we would legislate small arena-like garages where mechanics, like surgeons addressing interns, would do all work transparently before our eyes and have to show us our damaged parts in comparison to the new ones and demonstrate the need for replacement and be obligated to answer any of our questions.

This over-replacement of parts is no help to the environment obviously. And the problem is further propagated by garages who give mechanics commission on replacement parts. How messed up is that?

Here’s some advice to consider: If you don’t have a mechanic you trust because either he’s a blood relative or you’re sleeping with him, or else you know where he’s been burying bodies – try going to a new garage every time and see how my Theory of Customer Newness holds up!

And two: Stay away from garages where there is little activity and they can always book you right in, spur of the moment. Because if they’re not busy they’ve probably been scaring customers away due to suspiciously high bills, and now being dormant, are more desperate than ever to jack up imaginary repairs and part-replacement needs.

Good luck. It’s a jungle out there.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

One day when I was a young man, living here in Scooterville, there appeared on the southern horizon a nasty dark haze which centred over the community of Hagersville; a small farming town about a half-hour drive away which is known for several things:

1. The birthplace of Neil Peart; drummer, composer and lyricist of Rush and the most significant musician since the birth of Rock and Roll by my own subjective accounting!

2. The birthplace of Jay Silverheels; the most significant actor to ever follow around a masked man, calling him “Kee Mo Sah Bee.“

3. The place where I lost my cherry to a married high school teacher. We don’t talk about that.

And 4… the place where thirteen million tires at the Tyre King recycling yard caught fire, burned and smoldered for seventeen days while heavily toxic fumes chased four thousand people from their homes.

Expert fire fighters converged from across the nation, employing 350 tanks of air per day and two water bombers normally employed against forest fires. The disaster loosed tonnes of oil into local groundwater and inflicted “rare and aggressive cancers” on many firefighters.

This “lark” perpetrated by five local teens cost ten million dollars and one year to clean up and remains the worst environmental disaster in Ontario history though I do not know by what criteria specifically. A scarred tundra the size of 18 football fields remains there today.

Tire fires, most of which are ignited through mischief or accidental mishandling of nearby legitimate combustion, are either occurring with increasing frequency or else are being reported with increasingly wider circulation. Reliably, two per year make broad headlines in this decade. The second of 2017 has already ignited on March 5th at the En Tire facility in Phelps City, Missouri and burned for days.

Friday, April 14, 2017


April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

I left a prosperous I.T. career in order to embrace a simple, reflective, creative, charitable life. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I work on a plethora of creative projects now; musical, literary and recreational. I do a lot of research and exploration, do some volunteer work and squeak by on a part-time low-income wage. I’ve never been happier.

Every four or so years I buy an old car for next to nothing and together we grow older.

And every other year the Ontario Drive Clean Program kicks the crap out of us.

Every twenty four months I must take my old car – not to the one garage where I trust the mechanic; a friend of a friend of my family – but to the licensed rapist of my choice; a government approved garage licensed for the Drive-Clean program. “Clean” meaning they take you to the cleaners.

Invariably my old car computer kicks out a trouble code or three; whether legitimately or because these strangers, alone with my car, out of my sight, have tinkered with something, I cannot possibly know for sure. What I do know is that I don’t trust these people who invariably deal with me with sharp no-nonsense voices and averted eyes.

Then the magical Drive Clean math kicks in and I end up spending precisely the $500.00 cap plus a little more in order to get a conditional pass (which allows me to renew my vehicle license), some $60 part I’ve never heard of and a baffling receipt detailing another $470.00 in taxes, fees, re-testing fees, labour for installing the mystery part, a perfectly-priced Eco-Check-up-and-Maintenance package(which means who-the-fudge knows what) and then some additional mystery labour for good measure.

I then get the car back with the same old throaty muffler I could have replaced had I not just been financially assaulted, and a mysterious new noise; a symptom of something new gone suddenly wrong with the car while it was behind enemy lines and which will necessitate another garage visit ASAP.

Let me be clear: I’m all for the environment. But every other year when this crap goes down, I could be doing a lot more for the environment with that $500.00 instead of spending it all on fees and taxes and imaginary services.

I get screwed. The environment gets screwed and the government and corporate-owned garages make a bundle of money for accomplishing nothing. In the name of the environment the poorest of us get hit the hardest while rich corporations continue to get away with murder, for instance: documenting their imagined worst-case-for-the-environment process scenarios and implementing their best-for-profit scenarios and claiming environmental reward money as if they’d done us a favour when they haven’t. The injustice always strikes me as deplorable and scandalous.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017


April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

 Many years ago – I was nineteen or twenty years old; the age when men think they know everything and if their lives go well, later discover they knew nothing  – I got into the habit of hanging out at a little bar across town. It was the local bar where Bio-Dad hung out every night and got completely drunk before staggering a couple blocks home. I tended to go on Friday nights. A group of five owned the bar and served as its main bartenders. We were chummy with all of them. They replaced my beers without needing to ask – until I stopped them, at which time we switched to vodka and tonics. And if the night grew long enough the vodka and tonics turned into shots of sipping whisky. Then when the bar officially closed at one thirty or so in the morning they’d lock the door and often a few of us would stay behind and help ourselves behind the bar for free.

Sometimes Bio-Dad and I cabbed it back to his place where I crashed on a pull-out sofa, or sometimes I would just retreat to the parking lot and crawl into the backseat of my Chev Cavalier and sleep off the worst of things before drifting home in the morning with a pounding head and a blood alcohol level likely still on the wrong side of the limit. I was not a big guy back then.

But then I ran into occasions where I would go there on weeknights – such as when the Blue Jays were busy winning post-season games every night en route to their first World Series championship. Everyone in the bar got a free shot with every Jays home run. And there were a lot of them. On nights like those I would slip out of the place at two or three in the morning with a work day ahead of me and a need for a short sleep and my alarm clock, and a strong sense of bravado and legitimacy: It’s the middle of the night. No one’s on the roads. Certainly no children. I can see straight. I’m walking in a straight line. There’s nothing to stop me getting home safe and sound. No big deal.

One night I even came out with keys in hand and my car in the rock star spot – right in front of the door. A cruiser with two officers on board sat parked one spot away from me – an empty spot between us, and with them looking on and my nerves tingling I smoothly slid my key in the lock, calmly entered the car, started it up and right before their eyes, calmly and smoothly drove away.

Then one night as winter had come and the roads were snowy and channeled by snow banks, I drove home from the bar in the middle of the night, confident in my mastery of the situation, and then discovered to my absolute amazement – that I was not in control. The lane I was presumably driving in (the lines were entirely erased from view beneath the tight packed shiny snow) was ending, becoming an extra left-turn lane, while I was going straight, and right directly in front of me was a snow bank and a towering steel lamp post.

I cranked the wheel, bumped off the snow bank and then repeatedly over-steered back and forth trying to gain control of the car. Eventually I hit another icy snow bank and came to a stop.

A motorist came by a few moments later and stopped beside me. “I’m fine!” I said with a wave. Soon after I restarted the car and continued home.

In the morning I looked at my car in the driveway. It wasn’t going anywhere. I’d be calling in sick. I’d done enough damage it would need repairs. My partner looked on beside me, knowing full well what sort of thing had gone on the night before. “What have you got to say for yourself?” he said calmly.

I’ve rarely felt so ashamed. All I said was: “I’m never going back.”

Bio-dad has passed away and the corner bar became a number of different retail joints over the years, including a music store for a while. I only ever went back there once: to buy guitar strings.

Carbon Dioxide

April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)


This should be an easy post to knock off quickly and we’ll let you get on with your day!

The average family passenger car or light truck (of the common combustion engine variety) in North America produces roughly 10,000 lbs (or 5000 kg) of carbon dioxide per year from burning gasoline. This is the most voluminous of my car’s exhaust pollutants which include carbon monoxide, mono-nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. Yay!

You probably already know that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a naturally occurring trace gas in the atmosphere which we and other critters exhale and which plant life, inversely, absorbs before spitting back oxygen for us. Very convenient! Yay!

And you probably know that there is way way too much CO2 around these days and that that is a problem because though it is not the most severe greenhouse gas, it is currently the most voluminous and by most accounting currently the most significant.

Greenhouse effects are awesome! Without a substantial one the Earth would be more like Mars and humans would either not exist or we would have evolved into something more like a sandworm …(*) However…! When a planetary greenhouse system over-evolves you end up like the planet Venus did, where it rains sulfur 24-7 and where an evening stroll on the planet’s surface would pressure-cook you to culinary perfection in a matter of seconds. Yum! At one time Earth would have been on pace for such an eventual state in millions of years from now, however that pace is now accelerating exponentially. Buckle up!

Meanwhile CO2 emissions from automobiles (with a little help from cement production) is largely behind our smog problems – omnipresent in essence but most noticeable in Los Angeles and  New York for instance (the immense Chinese phenomena stems more from coal burning) and is credited for causing and worsening our most common respiratory diseases and boasts many thousands of human deaths annually and is a fairly obvious major contributor to a rare little-known disease called… cancer.

And then of course there’s all the carbon dioxide emissions which come from the extraction of oil and ore and all the manufacturing and refining that goes into building roads and cars and delivering them fuel. Oh well! It’s been a good day in Hell! Thanks for stopping by!

FWG/New Day Rising

* [Editor's note: the author has no clue under which conditions humans might have instead evolved into sandworms, nor what the heck a sandworm is.] 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Busy Busy Busy…

April A-to-Z:  A Celebration of the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)

“But there are positive things also,” said the Journeyer.

“About cars? Are you sure? Like what?”

“Like convenience. Like access. They allow us to get places efficiently. We can do more. We can get places we wouldn’t have time to otherwise.”

Those things are all true of course. And they are also all bad.

Everybody driving around in cars is either doing so in order to solve problems which are only created by the existence of cars in the first place, or they are driving in pursuit of something they shouldn’t be pursuing.

Captain Vino once objected to my criticism of long term regional planning around expansion of highway infrastructure and the ghastly proclamation from an idiot politician: “Cars are never going away!” by claiming cars were necessary for such noble purposes as his visiting his young daughter in a town sixty kilometres away; seeming unable to grasp that without the pre-existence of cars and car culture he never possibly would have ended up in this circumstance. His friends, his baby-mama and his daughter would all have lived in the same village as he, the precise experience of somewhere between 97 and 99.9 per cent of humans in history.

We live in a society almost completely absorbed in artificial needs. The existence of cars has allowed people, in their confusion and standard-norm insanity to imagine that their needs are best met beyond their own locality. This “car culture” breeds profit-driven priorities of centralization; the basis for corporate culture. For thousands of years people met all of their needs in and around their own village or on their own migratory path. This has always been possible – and – mentally healthy (I will get to that explanation in another post if not here).

The natural human appreciates and loves their neighbors, instead of regarding them with the repressed resentment which belies the ugly suburban attitudes and architectural trends of the day:  smaller stoops and front yards and larger walled-in backyards. The modern home is more a stronghold than a dwelling. Cars have made neighbors an optional feature of our lives. And overwhelmingly we tend to decline them as we whiz by them in favor of function-specific neighborhoods such as the super mall; the crown jewel of the auto's reign over our society.

Everybody’s busy busy busy… without grasping how artificial the vast majority of their business is. Most of our “needs” are imagined. We seem to need them because everyone around us seems to need them. The more we have the more we want. Technology, as predicted in the past, has indeed enabled a standard 2-hour work day. There is no doubt about it. But no matter how much technology improves efficiency we will keep working the eight-hour day – come ten hour with overtime born of slave mentality, reputation mongering and greed – come twelve hour with travel time. Because we’re blindly absorbed in ideas of capitalist competition which is pure unbridled insanity and contradictory to life itself  if you stop long enough to think about it (again I'll elaborate in another post).

Our needs are so much simpler than we imagine and much of them – the need to contemplate, learn (real learning – the acquisition of wisdom, not factoid collecting) and creativity – are wholly overlooked due to our constant distraction and addictions.

The car enables us to stay permanently distracted and permanently busy because we are insanely enslaved to greed and ego - to our vast detriment. The car brings too too much within our reach while we fail to stop and really look at the things around us; and so we never take the time to discover the remarkable essence of the supposedly simple things in our presence. We never learn to see things - or people - or ourselves - for what they - and we - really are.

Without the car and it’s unlimited access we would be far more inclined toward (and have the time for) the great human necessities of regular solitude, mindfulness, observation and deeper processing of contemplation. All of that is quite present in the prominent philosophical, poetic and religious texts of the world by the way – if you look for it.

The intelligence levels of average western citizens has been dropping alarmingly. We’re breeding cities jam packed with functional morons; instinct robots deeply disconnected from their potential humanity who imagine they are intelligent or cool or special or successful or normal because the inventions of our ruthlessly clever (and ruthlessly unwise) elite have mechanized us with iPods and cell phones and automobiles (and yes – my own laptop) which FEEL like our own extensions; which FEEL like something to our individual credit and which in no way are. They are chains which bind our minds to the matrix. And the thing about being an instinct robot is – our FEELINGS are almost always corrupt; almost always a placebo to lull our weak consciousness into dreamy comfortable submission, while our actions go about destroying us: our society, our planet and our arrested evolution. Because, of course, our instincts have barely evolved in the last hundred thousand years while technology has taken over the world and evolved our circumstances a millionfold.

You and I and everyone we know are Xboxes running on Pong software and this problem is in fact at the root of every problem you can imagine - from war to global warming to racism and to all the rampant - practically ubiquitous - superstitions which warp our minds and society into a whirl of delusion, vanity and accusation; 

We should ask ourselves how useful we would be, as an individual, without any of our tech gadgets – as if they all disappeared one morning. How useful would you be? Think about it. The answer is not simply hypothetical; it is crucial to our existence.

And now I must apologize. I am very tired (three hours sleep last night) and mentally sluggish. I've failed to contain the scope of this post and with no brain left with which to further edit it into something more fair and manageable to read, and the deadline upon us, I must now surrender this beast and collapse in bed.

With regrets,
FWG/New Day Rising

Sunday, April 02, 2017


Hey readers!

How are you both doing!

I’ve been allergic to blogging for quite a while now, even though I’ve had much to say; much of which is coming. Part of the reason is that I succumbed to sustained emotional duress which had been percolating in cycles for years. This pertains to the one person most dear to me and it has been weighing on me so constantly that it coloured everything going on in my life, and for practical reasons cannot be fully explored  in this space; at least not currently. Though it would very unlikely impede on a certain other’s privacy, there is that slim chance. And I don’t know how he would feel about it. I’ve never asked.

In short, I believe that barrier has been defeated, partly because, for the first time in my adult life, The depth of infatuation for my current interest has settled down to a simmer. Whether this is permanent or temporary I do not know. It’s very strange to have that urgency absent from my life, literally for the first time since I was fifteen. Like a part of me has been amputated.

The other reasons for defeating this barrier, too boring to detail here, are more solid and permanent.

It’s April A-to-Z time! I missed the reveal but you can glean it from my last post. The theme was supposed to be “Twenty Six Reasons the Automobile is the Devil!” but The Healer heard this and said, “That sounds judgy” (in a way which sounded altogether judgy). So to keep her happy I have changed it to “Twenty Six Reasons to Celebrate the Automobile! (If You’re the Devil)” which is obviously much more positive.

Today is Sunday and thus a day off from A-Z. Tune in tomorrow for reason B!

April Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us as well, and for the first time in any NaNo event I am dedicating it primarily to the blog. I will be engaged in pursuits designed, not just to provide material for the blog, but to set structures in motion which will keep the blog productive and foremost among my pursuits on a hopefully-permanent basis. I’m hoping this is where I finally turn the corner and bring this thing to the next level.

Hope you stick around.

Much love,
FWG/New Day Rising

Saturday, April 01, 2017


April A-to-Z: a celebration of the automobile! (if you’re the Devil)

Motoring is a lot like the internet.

Just as faceless internet users, be they trolls or often-nice-only-occasional trolls (and I should say “we”, not “they”) sit behind computer screens or cell-o-phones or whatever all you technofolks are using these days, sealed behind a barrier of anonymity, tenuously interacting with one another on the information highway, so do the faceless motorists interact on the oily black highway, sealed within their own metal boxes of anonymity.

When we bump into strangers in the store, on the hiking trail, in an elevator, at a large party perhaps, and with some cause to interact, face to face, eye to eye, we find that ninety nine per cent of the time, we are kind to one another; polite by default, demonstrating that we are nice people; respectful; deserving of our good reputations.

And whether we behave this way because we’re just plain super duper or because we depend on that reputation; that social currency, is a question not often pondered it seems; not aloud anyway. Much safer to just assume we’re indeed super and duper.

Yet if we’re so super duper, why then is the internet a giant cesspool of deplorability? Why are YouTube comments an endless litany of stupidity, hate-mongering and reckless, mindless  insult and accusation?

And why are half the drivers on the road so evidently selfish; loathing to share the road; not bothering to signal intentions, intent on one’s entitlement, blind to opportunities to more effectively use the road to everyone’s advantage; openly resentful of other drivers’ presence? Where did the ninety nine per cent rule go? And on the semi-frequent occasions where drivers are polite to one another, gracious and deferential as I will boast I most often am, are we doing so out of love for our human brothers, or to cajole our own ego, to assure ourselves that we must be super duper?

Again I will boast that I do so out of the former causality, but only sometimes and only since the latter quarter of my life.

The automobile, if I may indulge, is a window to the soul of sorts: this is how we behave when there are no social consequences. This is who we are when no one sees our face. And as I look around at rows of the immovable; intent on owning one’s lane, one’s right of way; adjusting only to further one’s own interest and almost never in order to provide opportunity to another…  the view is rarely flattering.