A Second Indian Summer

Up here, we call “Indian Summer” a few consecutive sunny days in the fall that are as warm as summer days. To qualify as Indian Summer, the nice weather has to occur after the first hard frost.

Although we hadn’t had a hard frost in southern Nova Scotia by early October, other parts of the region had. So those days when the mercury climbed to 24C counted as Indian Summer, at least in our minds. Since then we’ve had a frost down here, and now we’re looking at three days of sunshine and temperatures around 15C, which is a good 5C above normal. It’s quite glorious, in fact, and relatively speaking, it feels like a second Indian Summer.

Truth be told, this has been a very mild autumn by Halifax (and even Maritime) standards. There are way more leaves left in the trees than usual. In fact, when I called my mother on her birthday, I reminded her about our drive to Fundy National Park on her birthday last year, and how we teased her that her birthday should be earlier in October so that all the fall foliage wouldn’t be over when we’d go on such a drive. But had we done that drive this year, there would have been plenty of leaves left.

Feeling that I desperately needed some time away from the computer, I decided to take Friday off and go on a “nowhere”—an aimless drive in the country to see the fall leaves—and I asked Stephanie to come along. I know of a lot of places in this province that few tourists would ever find or, for that matter, bother noticing, in that “It must piss God off for someone to walk by the color purple and not notice it” manner, as Shug told Celie in The Color Purple. In fact, at one point along a rural highway, we both stopped talking and found ourselves slackjawed at the beauty that surrounded us. And I was reminded once again of how I discovered many of these places by accident when I got my first car, Guildo, and would take off on nowheres all the time.

I’ve always been sensitive to my surroundings, but I think I’ve become even more so in recent years. This year, my trips to the beach were even more calming and inspiring than usual. I really paid attention to the changes from week to week—how the lilies came and went, then the roses, then the thistles… And several times, walking back to my car, I would stop along the trail some distance from the water and listen to the silence. A few times, I was with friends on the walk back and I forced them to stop and shut up just so that we could all listen. I think that gave them further insight into why this place is so magical to me.

But now the time has fallen back this weekend, and although it’s only 5:00, the sun has set. I try not to think too much about how we’re a good seven months away from the next opportunity to go sunbathing naked at Crystal Crescent. But I’m thinking about finding a way of escaping to Montreal for a few days this winter, and possibly convincing one of my beach buddies to come along. I think we’d have fun.

I Really Don’t Think So

Back in 1991, the Canadian Conservative government of the time foisted on us the much-hated 7-percent Goods and Service Tax—a European-style VAT—on all purchases except food. When they were considering the tax, it was supposed to be 9 percent, but I think, like many others, that it was a political ploy—that they wanted 7 percent from the offset but started by pushing 9 percent because they knew the tax would meet with a lot of opposition from the public, and they could then seem like they were backing down. Some provinces, like Nova Scotia, already had an 11-percent provincial sales tax, so in the first years the GST kicked in, given one of the taxes was applied on the other, we ended up paying 18.8 percent on all purchases. By the mid- or late-’90s, provinces like Nova Scotia harmonized the sales tax so that now the rate is 15 percent.

Like everyone else, I’m not crazy about paying taxes. But my ambivalence kicks in when I consider the services our governments provide, which aren’t provided in jurisdictions where taxes are lower. Our universal health care system alone, though plagued with problems of its own, is the single, most compelling argument in favour of higher taxes. When I think about how someone in the U.S. who came down with cancer and had no valid health insurance at the time is now facing as much as $100K in health-care costs, I appreciate even more how I, as a Canadian, if I had had the same misfortune, would not be in such an awful situation. Or when I think about all the time my father spent in hospital in the last years of his life, or about when my elder brother’s appendix nearly ruptured almost two years ago, and we’re not having to pay for any of the care given during those events. It’s a role I believe the State must continue playing, even if it means high taxes. It’s a sound societal project.

However, the problem with sales taxes—or any single-rate tax, for that matter—is that it’s inherently unfair for low-wage earners. I have no problem whatsoever with someone who can afford to buy a big motherfucking SUV paying a lot in taxes. But if you’re a working poor, having to pay 15 percent on all purchases hurts a lot more. It can mean having to choose between essentials. The federal government’s GST credit (up to $304/year), while welcome, doesn’t come near to recovering the 7-percent federal portion of the sales taxes.

Consequently, I gasped when I read this story today, in which the Agricultural Institute of Canada is suggesting that the GST be applied to food and that the revenue be given to farmers. Now, don’t get me wrong: It’s clear to me that farmers across Canada are hurting. But adding the GST to food is not the way to go. For one thing, can the government be trusted to earmark every penny raised from the tax for farmers? And for another, is imposing additional financial hardship on Canadians who already have trouble making ends meet such a good idea?

Governments everywhere, it seems, are obsessed with the idea of cutting taxes—a vestige of trickle-down economics, which has been proven not to work. Yet wouldn’t it be more sensible to take existing tax revenues that might seem dispensible on the surface, and redistribute them where they’re needed now? Like helping farmers who are struggling for no reason of their making?

Oh My Gawd! He’s NOT Dead!

Nope! I’m definitely still alive, although you could be forgiven if you believed otherwise given how long it’s been since my last blog entry. After all, it’s been what? More than two months? How time flies! However, I swear my resurfacing on Hallowe’en is just a coincidence! I just couldn’t bear the thought of another month going by without a post…

So much has happened since my last entry—in the world, personally and professionally—and summer, alas, is already fading into memory. Mostly I haven’t been inclined to blog in good part because it’s all been rather overwhelming, but also because I’ve been working very, very hard and going to bed when I haven’t a single ounce of energy left in me. That said, I would be lying if I said that the thought of posting a quickie or two hasn’t crossed my mind in the last two months, but the few times an opportunity would present itself, I just couldn’t bring myself to take advantage of it.

Not that aMMusing ever had a huge readership, but I’m sure my prolonged silence has eroded it considerably. Or maybe not. Maybe you’re like me and frequently go through your blogroll even though you don’t expect there’ll be anything new, and are pleasantly surprised when there is. In fact, except for the most prolific blogger on Earth, most of the people on my blogroll are irregular bloggers. I like to think that’s because we have a life to live …not to say Mac doesn’t have a life. Au contraire! But I have no idea how she manages to do all the things she does and blog so much, but it’s great for her readers that she does.

Although being busy is my official excuse for not blogging, there’s another reason and it’s not lack of interest. I’ve mentioned before that, for the sake of my clients as well as my own, I don’t feel I can get into some of my professional quandaries on this blog. It’s one thing to put out an opinion with which some of my clients might disagree if that opinion has (or should have) no bearing on our professional relationship. However, it’s another thing to lay everything out as far as how my business is going, the frustrations and challenges of my work, and the stuff which for now I should keep to myself as so- called “trade secrets.”

I’m not worried about you, my regular readers …except for the fact that my rambling thoughts on this subject might quickly grow tedious and old on you; rather, the lurkers are the ones I’m concerned about. Because of them, I don’t feel I can be completely candid. Only my local friends, my family and Damian in Australia have heard some specifics.

I did give some thought to starting a new blog where I would post under a pseudonym, but that struck me as a bigger hassle than it’d be worth. Similarly, I thought about using WordPress’s password feature on selected posts and coming up with a low-maintenance way of getting that password to you. But, knowing myself, I know I’d end up spending way too much time concocting a PHP script that would do that.

So, I’m in an impasse as far as aMMusing goes. I don’t want to abandon it. I wonder if my worries about what I can or cannot blog about are founded or presumptuous. I would like to resume blogging, at least more frequently than I have so far this year. I worry that I’ll bore the bejesus out of you, for because work is at the forefront of my mind these days, I’m likely to completely geek out on you and write a lot about that. And, at the same time, I’d like to get back into writing anecdotes and reflection pieces like I used to in the beginning of this blog …just for the heck of it …the mental gynmastics of it …the fact I love to write.

What do you think? Do you care? Hell, is anyone still out there?!