Saturday 24 November 2007

From Lions Gate to Golden Gate

The year was 1972, two weeks before Christmas. This would be my second trip to California in the space of six months. I just knew this would be another great adventure in my life.

In the early summer of '72 I had travelled from Vancouver to San Francisco on a Greyhound bus. Upon my arrival in that great northern California city, this wide-eyed eighteen year old prepared himself for a wonderful, multi-cultural experience. Here I was, in San Francisco! Wow!  It looked just like it did on television. Cable cars, Fisherman's Wharf, the winding roads, the very steep hills, and of course, Alcatraz.

I spent a few days in that great city, absorbing all the sights and sounds of the bustling community. Being of an exploring nature, I found myself back at the Greyhound bus depot. I purchased a ticket for Lake Tahoe, which is located on the California, Nevada border. It was there that I met a a very friendly California family. We got along so well, that I arranged to stay with them for Christmas. They lived in a small town near San Francisco named San Pablo. Ah yes, it would be Christmas in California. This brings me neatly back around to my opening paragraph.

So now it is nearly Christmas in the year 1972. My long journey south from Vancouver to San Francisco, a distance close to a thousand miles, was going to be an even greater adventure than my first trip. For this time, an even wider-eyed nineteen year old was going to drive there in his first car. Yes indeed, I headed off down Interstate 5 in my '64 Plymouth Valiant. Fingers crossed, my pride and joy would get me there safely.

Well, somehow, I did make it. Driving through some of America's great towns and cities. I travelled through Seattle, home of Bill Gates, home of Boeing, home of Jimi Hendrix, home of that legendary band 'Nirvana'. I moved on through the beautiful city of Portland Oregon. Soon I would be in California. Soon I would see my friends in San Pablo.

Over the next two weeks, I would have some of the most memorable experiences of my life. It was an action-packed time. I social-networked with loads of people. I had a fantastic time, heck I even went snow-skiing for the first time ever. Skiing was a rather strange concept. I mean it was like suddenly strapping on a pair of size 107 shoes on your feet. It took some getting use to. I recall being covered in snow, lying on the ground and staring up at the sky. I look back on that very special, very different Christmas with warm, fond memories. Yet one memory of that California Christmas has left me with a profound sense of caring for those not as fortunate as myself.

On Christmas Day, that wonderful family that I was staying with had a Christmas tradition that I will never forget. That morning we drove off to the grandmother's house. She lived in a city named Oakland, which is located across the bay from San Francisco. Her home was in an Oakland ghetto.

Yet despite my anxious perceptions of a ghetto and the stigma attached to such places, all I felt was warmth and kindness. This was a proud lady, living in a place she chose to stay in. This was a lady, whose fair skin was part of the minority in the neighbourhood. Somehow, it didn't matter.

I was introduced to her friends and neighbours. They were part of a community that knew all too well what being underprivileged meant. The adversity that they endured seemed to unite these folks in making their lives that little bit better. Seldom have I experienced such community spirit. I left that ghetto in Oakland, with inspired perceptions. Despite the trouble and strife that was so much a part of their world, they never gave up on being positive towards each other. That day, that special Christmas Day, I was honoured to be among such caring, genuine people.

So from the Lions Gate Bridge, in that great Canadian city of Vancouver, to the Golden Gate Bridge in SanFrancisco, I had travelled down the west coast of North America. Somehow, despite the frantic driving methods of the Californians, my 1964 Plymouth Valiant survived. As I reached the Canadian border and went through Customs, I knew my journey was almost over. It turned out to be a journey of self-discovery. I have been truly blessed with some wonderful memories. What a positive focus.

Friday 16 November 2007

A 'Fan' of Mine

I remember that morning all too clearly. The alarm went off, I got out of bed, I collapsed in a heap on the floor. My mind and now my body could tolerate no more. The incessant workplace bullying, the drinking to numb it out, the consequential destruction of my marriage, had finally overwhelmed me. I succumbed to my own inevitable demise, the onslaught of so many negative factors reduced me to a quivering wreck.
I had tried so hard to ignore my own 'warning signs'. I was stronger than the physical, financial and the psychological workplace torment. Well, I thought I was. I mean, I needed the money? So for over eight years, I endured the relentless, outrageous impositions on my wellbeing. I would block out the sinister threats. Yet, somehow I knew, my increasing paranoia had a tangible, evil source.
So on that cold, dark morning, I knew that I was plunging into a new 'ocean'. I was becoming immersed in an 'ocean of madness'. Mental illness was beckoning me on into a place I thought I would never visit. Mental illness was an alien concept. Mental illness only happened to other people. Oh how wrong I was, oh how scared I was.
Somehow, I managed to crawl back into my bed, just strong enought to pull the duvet over my head. In that darkness I began to shiver, I trembled with panic. This man was withdrawing from life. This man was turning into a frightened little boy. This man was on the verge of becoming baby-like. I needed comfort, love and reassurance. Trapped in my bed, I somehow knew, this was not forthcoming.
I peeked out from under the duvet. On my bedside table was a heater fan. In my tormented, confused, panicky state, I decided the fan would be my source of comfort. I switched it on and listened to its 'whirring' sounds. I began to familiarise myself with the fluctuations of noise it produced. My fan created 'music', a 'symphony' for the tortured soul. Hour upon hour, day upon day, I lay in bed listening to the soothing sounds. During the ensuing month, this would be my focal point. That heater fan represented my own bizarre contact with some form of reality.
Over a month later, I managed to muster up enough strength to crawl out of bed to see a doctor. So now on medication for the first time in my life, I went back to the 'hell hole' that was attempting to destroy me. The bullying continued unabated. If anything the threats and the ridicule had intesified. Living in a small town, word gets around, the 'nutter' had returned. So now I was stigmatised, labelled by small people with small minds.
I could endure no more. I went back on 'the sick'. Three months later I was summons into a meeting with management. I was questioned by people who were fully aware of what had happened to me. For it beggars belief, that management were aware of the bullying and the corruption. They didn't want to get involved, my 'face didn't fit', so I was made redundant. I left that meeting almost a shattered man. The date was 24 May 1996, it was ex-wife's birthday.
I know my situation and the ramifications that occurred are far from unique. Workplace bullying has had an adverse mental affect on many people. It causes emotional 'ripples' that extend beyond the individual. Employers must recognise and address workplace harassment. They should look at the costs incurred because of their workers becoming ill. I believe the media have a moral obligation to highlight the sensitive issue of workplace bullying and the mental anguish that can result. Enough is enough.
Yes I survived. Deep within me was an inner-resolve. Yet the scars of those painful times run deep. It has been over eleven years since I have been in paid work. So from another angle, I may be perceived as a financial drain on the economy. I have been too scared to apply for paid work. Negative speculation invades my mind, what if the past repeats itself? So instead I have done lots of volunteer work involving people who may have been subjected to a negative environment. At least this empowers me and I hope that what I do has been of some help.
These days I use bravado. My bravado can be interpreted as relief, relief that, despite it all, I have survived. I am strong, I am positive, my right to a happy and peaceful life will never be violated again.
A 'fan' of mine used to be my best friend. I look back to that time and understand that a fan is fine but a real friend is a precious commodity.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Face the 'Fax'.

Hello there. The other day I was going to make a call but I couldn't even look at
the I'll just have to 'face the fax'.

Oh no, here we go again, I'm doing another blog because I'm bored and I'm lonely. Yes indeed, my fingers being to 'dance' on the keyboard. I merrily type away, wondering what sort of sentences will be formulated. What the heck is going to transpire in this blog? I continue on, perhaps an inspiration will come to me? Perhaps not.
Now speaking of telephones, I bravely grabbed the receiver the other day and with trembling anticipation, I dialed 1471. I'll let you in on a little secret, please don't tell anyone. The 1471 computer-generated voice is my 'friend'. When I had nobody to talk to, I could rely on her to speak to me with her soothing tones. "You have no new calls..please hang up" she would say. So imagine my surprise, when the last time I rang her, my '1471 lady' said to me "You have no new p*** off and quit pestering me!" she still my friend or what?
Ofcourse part of the above paragraph is somewhat fictitious. Okay, there have been times in my life, the phone would ring and I'd think, "what the hell was that noise?" Those days of complete isolation really hurt. I let my solitude get the better of me. All I envisioned was day upon monotonous day of wandering about the confines of my home, like some caged beast. I immersed myself in wave after relentless wave of negativity. I forgot about life and its ironies, I forgot how to laugh.
"Ring, ring!" "What the heck was that?" Whoops sorry. Now then, speaking of 'rings', imagine the guy who does the announcing at boxing matches was a friend of yours. He introduces you to a stranger. "In the blue corner, wearing ripped up jeans and a baggy old sweater...from Vancouver, Canada...the man from the 'land of the beaver'...hhhheeerrrr'sss.......... Kllaaahhaaanieee!!" Now how embarrasssing would that be?
Continuing in the theme of bells, hmmm...considering I didn't have anything in particular to blog about, I have come dangerously close to almost having an actual topic. Does the name 'Quasimodo' 'ring a bell'? Now then, one of the great mysteries in my life is the following. It seems that any time I go outside to do work in my massive garden, the phone rings. So I make a mad dash from the end of my garden, rush into my living room, only to have the phone stop ringing, as soon as I get to it. I wonder why this is? Does the person at the other end know I am about to grab the telephone? Do they reckon I need the exercise? Oh well, never mind eh!
So I'm gonna' end this blog with some 'I wonder why?' thoughts. I wonder why when I drain pasta out of a pot, one piece always sticks to the bottom. I wonder why when I vacuum, one bit of fluff always refuses to be sucked up. I wonder why when I brush the dog, very little hair is on the brush. Indeed, I wonder why, using my hands works better, as great big clumps of hair magically appear. I wonder why the dog always thinks the post is for her. What a silly Jack Russell. What do you think it is? Do you think someone, or some dog, has sent you a DVD of 'Lassie come Home'?
"Ring, ring!" That's strange, the phone is ringing and I'm not typing this from my garden. Well to heck with it, maybe it's the '1471 lady' calling to apologise. Maybe it's a 'junk call' trying to sell me double-glazing I don't need. No, ignore it Klahanie, I don't even want to look at the I'll just have to 'face the fax.'.....