Archive for the ‘Politics & Activism’ Category

Sweat lodge

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Ben is stoking the fire for Chief Reuben’s sweat lodge, on the Tsleil Waututh reservation on the Burrard Inlet. He places another log onto the big fire over the grandfather stones and I ask him, so…how intense is this sweat, usually…like, on a scale of 1 to 10?

In the gap between my question and his answer my mind flips to the habit of deciding my preference: do I want it gentle or tough? How tough do I want it? Oh god i hope it doesn’t hurt. I hope it’s not too wimpy. I hope I don’t die. How do I hope it will be?… (more…)

Robin under the hawthorn tree

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

We buried Robin’s ashes yesterday in the roots of a black hawthorn tree out behind the Gumboot.

As the tree went into the ground three eagles circled overhead, and it being Roberts Creek, a few lazy dogs and feral children wandered through the circle of held hands. Someone blew marijuana smoke from a fancy glass pipe through the branches. And then we walked up the road to the Hall which was filled to capacity with several hundred Creekers and friends and fans, who cried and told stories and sang Bobby McGee, and then laid on a generous potluck. Robin for sure would have laughed and loved it all, especially the many chocolate desserts.

I met Robin some 15 years or so back when I was publishing a little bicycle magazine in Vancouver. She wrote me a letter—by hand, back in the day— saying she had a sort of a farm on the Sunshine Coast, and was wondering if cyclists might like to come to visit. It could be, like, a sort of bicycle b&b. The only thing was, the road was muddy and up a steep hill through the woods of Mt. Elphinstone. And there wasn’t any electricity. And oh…the water wasn’t fit to drink…in fact, better not to advertise, since it was probably illegal for her to even live there, (more…)

When shit happens

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

There is no question that my escape from  Homeland Security was partially pure dumb luck—or if you prefer, fate, or karma. Others have handled such situations with greater skill and been refused. The winds of confusion and paranoia blow in all directions and right now those winds are blowing strong in the US of A. They are clearly on a witch hunt for people who don’t fit neatly into their established categories. When it comes to folks like us crossing the border, all bets are off.

However, looking back on this very interesting adventure, I can identify some strategies which I consciously engaged and which at the very least upped the odds in my favour. I have been in similar situations in the past and similar strategies have helped me through. The next time shit happens, I want to clearly remember how this worked. And maybe next time shit happens to you—when you find yourself in a situation of confusion or opposition or personal conflict—these  reflections might be useful. (more…)

O Canada, I’ve escaped!

Saturday, January 14th, 2012

I am back at Upaya in the New Mexico desert. Big sky, red dust, snow, magpies. The whole enchilada. Home sweet home sweet home.

I was in shock after being bounced from the border. I sat still, felt my heart beating and my breath going in and out. That was all I could do to stop my body from shaking. Then it would start again.

I ran through every possible escape scenario in my head, by train boat or plane, in the trunk of a car. Every story I could tell. But the fact was I had been denied and told not to return, and they would know that the moment they swiped my passport. I knew there were risks involved in even trying to appeal. I read a legal advice website that scared the shit out of me, warning that simply by approaching the border again I could be fined, banned for years, or arrested. (more…)

Busted at the border

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I’m the one who got pulled off the bus today.

I had just spent a week in Vancouver visiting with my very sick friend Robin. I was going back to Seattle to catch my return flight to New Mexico, to finish out my time at Upaya.

What are you doing in Santa Fe?, the US Customs officer asked. “I’m staying at a Zen Buddhist Center,” I said, sure that would carry some kind of earnest credibility. “Doing what?,” he asked. “Volunteering,” I confidently replied. It transpired then that I do indeed get meals and a bed at Upaya, which might otherwise go to some deserving American. I tried to protest otherwise but was told that if I made the man angry, he’d bar me from the States for five years. And so under a gaudy pink sunrise I was escorted through No Man’s Land and placed on a Greyhound bus headed back through the Massey Tunnel to Vancouver. The plane flew away without me on it, and here I remain. This is how the Universe will pull the rug out from under your feet. (more…)

Climate talks fail. So what.

Monday, December 12th, 2011

I don’t believe international accords mean squat any more.

I’m not a cynic or a fatalist, I am a realist. There’s no evidence whatsoever that climate change can be reversed at this point. Exponential increase is what defines this process and the clock can’t be turned back. However, global realization of the interconnectedness of all matter is also growing exponentially, and that is changing the whole game. Our governments will not save us, but maybe we will save us. “Save”, as in, adapt to the new realities of existence—not as in, return to some Eden from back in the day (more…)

Albuquerque Amtrak blues

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I rode the Rail Runner from Santa Fe to Albuquerque (with bike), then Amtrak to Gallup, New Mexico. To visit Ruth-Claire on the Navajo rez, just over the state line in Ft. Defiance, Arizona. In Albuquerque I pedalled the sturdy Diamondback over a long red bicycle bridge spanning the wide Rio Grande, spectacular in fall colours with the Sandia mountains rising up behind. Before I left Santa Fe someone told me the place was “an armpit” – and such is the view, of most any place, from behind the wheel of the cage. Albuquerque is really a rad town, as only a town explored by bike can be.

And the train through the desert, well!—isn’t that just the way. No billboards or strip malls or gas stations, no interstate monotony. Just me in my glass spaceship gliding along the rails, fully exposed to the horizonless mesalands and the intimate backsides of cities and towns. Children waving, dogs barking, horses and graffiti and laundry flapping on lines. Blues guitar soundtrack with low trainwhistle and steel wheels soft chunkachunk. Flying free.

Private property

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Once when I was a child, I went on a car trip with my parents. We passed through miles and miles of pine forest between Toronto and Montreal. Looking out the window I was mesmerized by the endless, depthless green. I leaned over to the Oldsmobile’s front seat and said “one day i’m going to go live in the woods.” “You can’t,” said my mother. “It’s all Crown land, or else it is owned by people. You can’t just go there and live.”

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. When we got to my grandmother’s house in Montreal I lay sobbing on the bathroom floor, my face against the cold tiles. The idea that the forest was owned–a place I could not go–was bigger than I could process. (more…)


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