Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Carbon Bubble

The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts Jeff Rubin Random House Canada 2015 $32.00 305 pp ISBN 978-0-045-81469-2 Jeff Rubin was the Chief Economist at CIBC World Markets for over 20 years. What we hoped seems to be coming true: At the same time as the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) predicts that we can continue to burn carbon at the rate we’re doing it now, for 27 more years before we raise the global temperature by 2 degrees, Rubin points out that the precipitous drop in the price of oil has given humankind a natural incentive to adapt. It’s nature’s way of telling thickheaded humanity that the carbon-burning age is over, it’s time to advance to the next stage-the green economy, green power. Rubin says, “….conventional, easy to access, low cost oil peaked about a decade ago….All recent increases in global supply have come from high-cost unconventional sources such as oil sands, shale formations and deepwater wells.” “As we’ve seen, the rapid expansion of the country’s high cost oil sands is simply unsustainable in today’s marketplace.” As a banker Rubin advises people that green investment is replacing coal and oil investment. This is to emphasize that Canada’s future is not, as Harper’s government insisted, to be found in exporting tar sands products to the rest of the world. Rubin says, “For years we have been warned that switching to green energy sources reduces economic growth. In the past, going green came at the expense of economic growth. In a carbon emissions-constrained future, the greener the economy, the more room it has to grow” Rubin also tells us that a Canadian, Dr. Abraham Gesner, first developed a process for producing kerosene from crude oil. Up until then it was used for tar pitch to pave roads. The first oil well drilled in North America was drilled in SW Ontario, in Oil Springs, Ontario, a year before (1858) Col Drake drilled his well in Titusville, Penn. “Canada’s tar sands (the Alberta government spent millions of dollars in a PR campaign to change the name from “tar sands” to “oil sands”) are one of the most emission-intensive and costly sources of oil in the world.” At $100 a barrel, the oil sands are a huge untapped reserve, at $20 a barrel, they’re not worth the bother. USA and European oil consumption is falling. The recent Paris Conference emphasized that we must switch to renewables from carbon–burning based technologies. Rubin was one of the first unapologetic public figures to call Canada’s insistence on tar sands development, “Dutch Disease”. This naming of Canada’s economic dependence on oil was laughed off by the Harper Conservatives when Dalton McGuinty and Thomas Mulcair mentioned it but it proved to be true. Dutch disease, not to be confused with the disease which is killing elm trees, is the unintended pushing up of the value of the Dutch gilder in the 70’s when Holland discovered it possessed a hitherto unknown supply of offshore natural gas. The rising value of the gilder rendered huge swaths of the country’s manufacturing sector uncompetitive. In order to transport bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to the east coast so that it can be exported or refined, the bitumen (with the consistency of a hockey puck) must be diluted to flow through a pipeline or to be loaded onto rail cars. The company, Enbridge, in this case, has offered to build a pipeline for the purpose which it will finance by charging the captive residents of Ontario exorbitant prices for its natural gas. Since the US president has rejected a pipeline, the alternative is to transport the bitumen by train. Coincidentally, the fourth richest man in the world, Warren Buffet, just bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway for $34 billion, a freight railroad network which owns over five thousand kilometres of track across the western two-thirds of the US. In a related purchase the year before, he bought Union Tank Car in the US and Procor Ltd. in Canada, the companies which manufacture the DOT-111 tanker cars used to haul oil from booming shale plays like the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana to refineries in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New Brunswick. In the early 1950s Donald Baker, a planning engineer in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, visualized a huge water diversion which would solve the Californian irrigation-drought problems. It was based on a plan which would redirect the water flow of Alaska, the Yukon and British Columbia into huge reservoirs. Environmentalists on both sides of the border were horrified by what implementing the plan would do to the watersheds of the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, the scheme was too expensive at the time and never got off the ground. The Prime Minister of Canada at that time, Lester Pearson, as well as the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, were both enamoured of the plan. In 2008, Peter Lougheed, the former premier of Alberta, told the Globe and Mail, “With climate change and growing needs, Canadians will need all the fresh water we can conserve, particularly in the western provinces…I hope when the time comes, Canada will be ready. The reality is that fresh water is more valuable than crude oil”. The oil sands used 170 million cubic metres of water in 2011, an amount equivalent to the yearly domestic water usage of 1.7 million Canadians. This book touches on the important points which we are all thinking about. Even those of us who deny the reality of climate change must finally face the facts that put tar sands extraction firmly in the territory of financial impossibility, impracticality. As Canada’s temperatures rise, more and more fertile soil combines with longer and longer growing seasons to produce bigger and bigger crops of corn, soy beans, wheat and even wine grapes. At the same time former arable land will become less productive as prolonged droughts and less precipitation result in the loss of moisture in the topsoil. Canada’s rising temperatures will eventually make it into one of the earth’s breadbaskets. Temperatures in the High Arctic are the highest they’ve been in 40,000 years and possibly, in 120,000 years. In just the past 50 years, temperatures have risen 4 degrees in the Canadian Artic. A ship sailed from Dalian, China to Rotterdam, using the Northern Sea Route (as the Northwest Passage is known in Russia), shaving off 24,000 nautical miles with attendant fuel savings and shortening the trip from 48 days to 35. A month later the ship, Nordic Orion, sailed from BC to Finland through the Northwest Passage, saving 4 days and 1,000 km with attendant fuel savings. The Carbon Bubble states clearly that Canada’s economic future will be found in hydropower, which we possess in abundance, food production, with arable land extending further north as the planet warms up and shipping goods through the Northwest Passage.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Me 'n You and a Dog Named Boo

The dog’s name was Rocky. He was a Malemute pup who spent his first few months on earth travelling through the States with us, in the back of an old pickup. We left Vancouver early one morning and drove to Doug’s parents’ farm in the mountains of Washington. They said goodbye over the weekend before we headed south through the mists and seascapes of Oregon. I didn’t know it when we left, but Doug had stolen some plates in Vancouver and had a credit card in someone else’s name with a fifty five gallon drum for fuel in the back of our pickup. When we needed gas, Doug stopped up the road, we changed plates, sometimes filled the fifty five gallon drum, refuelled, stocked up on snacks and beer. He had the guy’s signature down pat. We were good at shoplifting, spent some satisfying nights by the campfire, frying stolen steaks, purchased mushrooms. We slept in our sleeping bags, camping beside the pickup, drinking black coffee, rolling our own Bugler’s. Siphoning fuel from the drum to the gas tank became a fine art after a few mouthfuls of gas. As a kid, Doug had earned money guiding elk hunters in the mountains. He simply changed the sites of his camps to urban or highway settings. I learned the tricks of living on the road along with Rocky while our tape deck blared Mountain and the Stones. We met some people as we travelled south who invited us to a party in LA where some of the company were offended at our looks and attitude. One guy called us “common criminals” We were attracted to the women, but when the crowd headed for the swimming pool to get naked, we couldn’t do it. There was something in us which stopped us. Were we really so free when we couldn’t be free like these people? It was a negative thought, not worth worrying about. We knew these people couldn’t live as we were. We landed in Imperial Beach; road weary, dirty, ready for a good rest. Imperial Beach, the furthest beach south, next to the Mexican border. In those days there was just a chain link fence topped with barbed wire over which Mexicans and Americans lofted packets of marijuana to someone else or to themselves, to be picked up later. We had come to see Danny and Jan. They were from Doug’s small town in Washington. Doug and Danny were celebrities, each in his own way. Doug because he did time in Walla Walla State Penitentiary for blowing up his principal’s house when he was a teenager. They said it was really only a cherry bomb thrown at the front door, but the cops wanted to stop Doug’s wild behaviour. Danny was famous in their town because he had successfully convinced the US military that he was a conscientious objector, unfit for duty in Viet Nam. Few fought the authorities through interviews and writing, to gain ‘conscientious objector’ classification. Jan was a tall, slim, blonde nurse. Danny was a balding in the front, long hair in the back, ex male nurse who played a mean guitar along with his version of Greenback Dollar. They had a comfortable, little apartment on the ocean. Danny had his weekly ounce of good weed delivered on a certain day. That day he’d heat up sake to drink while he sorted the weed in a shoebox. When he tilted the box, the seeds rolled to the bottom. The sake changed flavours as it changed temperatures. The only thing I remember from the trip to Tijuana with Doug and Danny, the three of us stuffed into cab of the pickup, is standing at a bar trying to match them with shots of tequila. Between each shot they would pluck a whole hot pepper from a glass of water in front of us, chew it with gusto. They’d see who could eat the hottest, stand the most pain. I couldn’t even compete. Doug won but had mucho trouble later because of his haemorrhoids. Years later I visited Danny and Jan in Washington. They had moved to an isolated farm with their three kids. Jan had gained a lot of weight and lost her feminine attractiveness. Danny, who had grown a long beard, wore only overalls, boots and a battered, old hat, had gotten even more radical and disgusted with the system. There were a lot of ‘Government Agents Not Welcome, Keep Out’ signs posted on properties in the mountains of that area. Lots of weapons. The people I was with, already disgusted by the dirty appearance of the farm, the kids, Jan and Danny, were horrified when Danny walked us to the car. As we stood saying our goodbyes, admiring the horses in the field behind the house, our host confided that the meal we had just eaten was made, primarily, of past horses which he slaughtered and canned himself. When I read Joseph Wambaugh’s book years later, I realized that we had worked in the very onion fields which the book is named after. We ended up there on our way east from Danny and Jan’s. In the Imperial Valley, the vegetable producer extraordinaire of central California, they were hiring labourers by the day. After spending what we had on fuel, eating meals left on neighbouring tables in freeway Macdonald’s, we picked onions there, gladly, for days. The gangs of Chavez pickers, who were doing most of the work, laboured in fields beside us. They were just smudges of colour in the shimmering heat. We were left alone in a gigantic field of shallots. We were so hungry by the end of the first day that we wiped off the dirt and ate the onions as we picked. At the eastern border of California, on the Arizona side, we discovered a reconstructed English village in Lake Havasu City. As we partied through the days and nights of Cinquo de Maio there, only a few were killed waterskiing on Lake Havasu and the Colorado River which divides the states. We were told that there were usually larger numbers of deaths of drunken boaters and skiers on this annual celebration. The Grand Canyon provided a Colorado Rocky Mountain high as we chugged up highways in the thin air and bright sunshine. The pair of girls who quit their jobs at the tourist restaurant overlooking the canyon to hitch a ride with us, left us to go home to Utah as we moved east. The kindly stranger who gave us peyote buttons in Arizona was fondly remembered that night at our desert campfire. It was probably a blessing that we couldn’t afford to try for the five pounds of steak and fixings which was offered for free if you could eat it all, at a truck stop, in the Texas panhandle. Who knew how our stomachs would react to that much food after the way we’d been living? Our long hair and old pickup drew unfriendly stares as we filled up. The period between leaving Texas and arriving in New Orleans is hazy. Doug ran out of the medication he took for epilepsy. Combined with our drugs and alcohol consumption, the heat, living in the truck and surviving on highway junk food, the pace proved too much for him. He completely freaked driving down the road, sheared off at least ten maiboxes, screamed insults at anyone we passed, black or white, until I forced him to stop, take a break, trade places, let me drive. We stayed with a friend of a friend in New Orleans. He happened to be confined to a wheel chair, paralysed in a car accident a few years before. The moss on the magnificent bowing trees. The music everywhere in the French Quarter. The smell of chicory, fish and perfume in the air. We refused to cut our beards and hair or we would have got a bit part in a Terrence Stamp western which was being filmed there. The bars were filled with beautiful dancing girls who turned out to be men. A bad experience, actually, a dumb, rube mistake with a transsexual and discovering Rocky at home, one drunken night, with our host’s full colostomy bags torn up all over the kitchen, got us on the road north. By this time we needed to stop for rest and work. Since we were on the East coast anyway, we headed for Ottawa, my home. Tuscaloosa, Alabama was where the old pickup gave up the ghost. When Doug stopped to fill her up beneath the canopy of a service station, some pieces of metal fell out of the transmission right there on the asphalt. There was no possibility of affording repairs so we sold everything we couldn’t carry to a kid at the station. We hitched north, consulting a worn map, singing Beatles songs, throwing stones on the side of the road. The image which is implanted in my mind is that of Doug, his cowboy boots, jeans and long hair dusty, pulling Rocky on a leash behind him, up another on ramp as I followed with my sleeping bag slung over one shoulder, the sounds of rock ‘n roll coming from our boombox slung over the other. In Georgia, a man picked us up in a new, air conditioned Cadillac. He said he had done some travelling in his youth, showed us the Bowie knife he kept beside him in the front seat. He pulled over, led us back to the trunk which contained a cooler of beer and the handgun he always carried. The message was clear as we sipped the cold drinks. He took us home where his wife washed our clothes, cooked us steaks and fussed over Rocky. We resumed our journey north with renewed faith in humanity and rednecks. In Tennessee we soon found out that hitchhiking is illegal. We were dropped off, had no way to proceed north without hitching. Doug found the credit card which we had used with the truck, in his pocket. He buried it and some other papers by the side of the road, just as a state trooper pulled up. He listened to our story, thought for a moment, looked at Rocky, gave us a lift to the border. His gesture seemed to lead us to the party with the marines in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. We attended a party in a barracks full of stubble headed Marine recruits where Doug found fanatic Leslie West fans and the best weed we had encountered since the West coast. The last stretch seemed to take forever. An endless series of highways, freeways, taking turns talking to the driver while the others slept. A desperate scramble for the finish. When we had installed ourselves at my mother’s house in Ottawa, we discovered that Rocky, Doug and I had ticks. They’re like crabs, under the skin. Probably from sleeping in ditches on nights when we had given up hope of getting a lift. We had to undergo a rigorous treatment supervised by my disgusted mother, observed by my laughing sister. Doug and I had, understandably, gotten sick of each other’s company. He had a grand mal seizure at my mother’s breakfast table, broke his jaw. I said goodbye to Rocky, escaped, hitched solo back to Vancouver when I realized that Doug and my sister had fallen in love.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Bingo

We didn’t see it as a line drawn in the sand at first. Roy hired Eldon, Ruth’s nephew, just before the bingo started. Aunt Ruth saved him from returning to a life of petty crime and jail with a kitchen helper job. If Roy hadn’t fought with Ruth, his wife, who worked at his diner that night, things might have stayed quiet for a while longer. It was bound to explode, but maybe it could have been a little less volatile. And deadly. No one could ever figure out why Roy and Ruth were together. It wasn’t physical attraction. They fought constantly and enjoyed showing the other up in front of everyone. None of us at the counter could imagine them making love without grimacing. Roy had let himself go, sampled too many fries, drank too much beer. The diner had taken over his life. He even smelled greasy outside of the diner. Ruth was putting on the beef as well. She had a shrill voice that grated on everyone’s nerves. We only heard it peak when they were busy. Eldon hung around the back, chain smoking when he wasn’t scurrying around the kitchen following orders. He had a shaved head and some jailhouse tattoos on skinny, big veined arms. Geordie and I sat at the counter one morning and witnessed the birth of the bingo. We were waiting for Ruth to check the last of her lottery tickets. When she had counted up her losses, to hear her tell it, she served us our second coffees. There was a gathering of women at the table in the corner. It was unusual to see the female diner regulars sitting anywhere but at the counter next to us. They talked to each other and ignored us. It was the first meeting of their bingo committee. The women must have talked about it before, somewhere else. Roy brought the morning paper to the counter open at the picture of that day’s beauty. She was beautiful all right. Not wearing much either. Neither Geordie nor I had attempted relations with a woman for so long, it was as if we’d forgotten about sex. Roy had a way of leering at the pictures, every morning, which was probably similar to ours in our younger days. These days, when he did his little act, it was hard for us to watch. We didn’t think he was so attracted to the pictures, he was just doing it to get under Ruth’s skin. Geordie rolled his eyes at me and smiled at Roy. The licking of his chops and the quick glance down at his greasy apron were too much for customers who didn’t know Roy. One man, standing at the cash to pay, watched Roy ogle the picture and dirty dance to the kitchen, his big, old belly undulating beneath his apron. The man observed him as if he was watching a lunatic. He was wondering if Roy had cooked his ham and eggs. Gladys, Caroline and Linda were the three regulars sitting at the table. They had a pile of papers and looked like they knew what they were doing. Linda had already done most of the paperwork about licences and permits. Gladys was an old farm wife with a brood of kids, grown up and settled elsewhere. We heard one got into trouble and ended up in jail, but we kept our noses out of other peoples’ business. Gladys’s husband, Hubert, died a few years ago. She figured she did her part, putting up with him and his farmer ways and the kids were on their own. She was enjoying her freedom, doing her thing. Caroline’s driven the school bus ever since her husband died. She sounded like a rough, old trucker and drank everyone under the table on special occasions at the Legion. We suspected that there was a female part to her, aside from the obvious ones. She hadn’t lost a kid from the bus yet though. Geordie’s son, Cliff, a cop, told us that she was really a sweet old thing. He said the kids trusted her more than their parents and teachers. Linda had retired and moved here from out west. Nobody knew much about her. We couldn’t figure out her age. Roy took a long look at her rear end and legs when she wore shorts in the summer, licked his lips, rolled his eyes and attempted some pelvic thrusts beneath his big, round apron. We saw Ruth catch Roy in his act. She got that angry glare on her face and wouldn’t speak to him for the rest of the morning. It wasn’t as if Ruth was jealous, every sign pointed to her not caring what Roy did. She laughed at him when he made a mistake with the orders and enjoyed telling everyone at the counter, especially Linda, about her husband’s latest screw up. It was more like she didn’t want competition from Linda. If she only knew: there was no competition, Linda was much better looking and younger. Some mornings, Linda watched, with a steady stare, Roy do his act with the morning paper. While Geordie and I were cringing with embarrassment, Gladys and Caroline chatted. They had seen Roy do his thing so often, they didn’t even notice. Roy took Linda’s stare as a sign of interest. Ruth saw how foolish Roy looked. Linda, Gladys and Caroline were like peas in a pod when you gave them a coffee and a place to sit. The bingo really fired them up. They were gung ho to get started. Ruth got involved in the bingo, too. Anything Linda did, she criticized or tried to do one better. Even though the others had done all the work, she insisted on being consulted about everything. Ruth had been at the diner for years and here was this newcomer organizing a bingo. Everyone knew bingos didn’t work around here, there was no support. Ruth figured that everyone around her was poor. But she had no trouble sleeping at night when she took their tips. She thought that the world was doomed. We couldn’t argue with her there, but she didn’t have to be so gloomy about everything every time she opened her mouth. We had to survive, somehow. Laughter seemed better than complaints nobody listened to. The regulars at the diner found Linda to be someone new and interesting. She had strong opinions but she was happy just to fit in with the others. Ruth knew that she, herself, wasn’t interesting enough to hold the attention of the regulars without the coffee pot in her hand. She repeated each new piece of gossip so that it was old by the end of the day. It drove Roy and the regulars crazy. Geordie and I sensed Ruth’s smouldering jealousy over Linda’s popularity, but it was none of our business. We played cards, euchre, on Tuesday nights, at the Legion. There were four tables of four, sometimes five. It was an excuse to drink while we played. They showed up on a Tuesday night when we were just getting started. Linda led them straight into the Legion with the bingo machine, sheets of cards, change box and everything. Geordie and I were about to protest, when Jack appeared. Jack Lawson was the president of the Legion. He approved of the bingo, a potential money maker and told us so. We had to move our card game to the other room. We were upset by this interruption of our routine and did our share of grousing when we went to pick up our next rounds at the bar. The euchre games lost a little charm when speakers droned, “Under the B, fifteen” or “under the N, thirty five”, in the background. At first, there were a lot of sudden attacks of deafness at our tables. The players raised their voices to speak over the bingo noise. Gradually, it calmed down. There was less interference once we got used to it. Jack came to sit down at our table later. He told us that he had refused to cover the bingo losses if they didn’t have a good turnout. He’d back them, once they showed a profit. It was business, pure and simple. We realized, after talking with Jack, that having a money maker around was a good thing. Ruth was there from the start. From the sound of it, the next morning at the diner, she did everything she could to disrupt the proceedings. Relations were frosty between Ruth and Linda. The bingo had been a modest success in spite of Ruth’s interference. She was mad, Linda quietly triumphant. Roy loved it. Geordie and I ate our usual breakfasts listening to the women at the counter. They were attacking Ruth that day. She had crossed the line at the bingo. We had an extra cup of coffee and read the paper twice so we could listen to them tear down Ruth. I don’t think that there’s much doubt anymore, about the notion that women are more vicious than men. After we heard what they had to say about Ruth, there was no doubt for us. They’d smile and change the subject when Ruth approached with the coffee pot. They made small talk with her while she topped up their cups. When she was out of earshot, they resumed the attack. Sounded to us like Ruth had ruffled a few feathers by being a little too bossy at the bingo. It was the second Tuesday night bingo at the Legion. There were five tables for our euchre game. The bingo organizers, led by Linda, all carrying sheets of cards, got there early. Ruth was still working with Roy back at the diner. The games went well for us. Geordie and I were cleaning up. There was a good crowd for the bingo in the other room. The buzz of their chatter subsided as Linda, the caller, started each new game. When there was a winner, Gladys called back the numbers to Linda and Caroline paid. We heard the first disturbance after a lot of cheering from the bingo side, figured somebody had won the jackpot. Geordie was returning to our table with the quarts when a loud bang froze everyone. It was the sound of a gun. The Legion is full of old soldiers and hunters. The old soldiers hit the deck, the hunters jumped to see what was going on. “Hey, stop right there” We heard the female voice clearly. I peeked around Geordie, who was also hiding under the table soaked in beer and saw Linda fire the gun. We heard the body drop and screams. I saw Linda stand up, put the revolver down on the table and walk toward the body. Silence at the euchre tables broke into excited whispers. “Holdup. Robbery” The words bounced around the room. “Mask” Ruth arrived at this point, glanced at us rising from the wet floor and kept going into the bingo room, a worried expression on her face. There were more than a few legionnaires regurgitating their beer when they saw the mess that Linda had made. She must have hit a blood vessel when she shot him. There was blood on the hysterical women sitting at the table beside the body, a mess on the floor. The guy was still masked. Jack Lawson pulled the sticky balaclava up far enough on the guy’s head to reveal Eldon’s face. There was no breath left in him. They tried to revive him while we waited for the ambulance but there was no hope. Eldon had tried to rob the bingo at gun point. He fired his weapon once into the air. He was leaving with the cash when Linda stood up and told him to stop. She pointed her gun at him, he pointed his at her, and that was it, she fired. It didn’t make Linda feel any better when it was discovered that he was using a harmless starter pistol. It looked real enough, one cop who knew Geordie confided. Ruth blanched when she saw Eldon’s face. She stared at Linda, looked at the body on the floor and sat down. The next morning, the diner was buzzing about the happenings at the Legion. Linda arrived late. She had been talking to police, reporters and her lawyer. There would be an autopsy and a trial. With so many witnesses to the attempted robbery, she would be cleared of the charges. Linda entered the diner like a conquering hero. We applauded her. Eldon didn’t have any family, except for Ruth, in the east. She shipped the body to Vancouver. It only took a day of her time. She was back at work that week. It came out later, through the press, that Linda was a retired cop. She had worked undercover for years and carried a licenced weapon all the time. Nobody knew it, but she went to target practice at the shooting range on the weekends. She had seen all of their hard work go for naught when that boy scooped up their bingo money. When he pointed his gun at her, it was instinctive to shoot. She didn’t think about killing him. It was cut and dried with Linda. She regretted Eldon’s death, but he was the bad guy. Geordie and I were treated to a visit, by Cliff, one night at the Legion. He let it slip, as we watched the hockey game, that Ruth was being investigated. None of the cops thought that even Eldon was dumb enough to risk everything for the small amount of money at the bingo. They figured he was put up to it by his aunt. They didn’t know why, what her motivation was, but they thought she was behind it. One thing for sure, Cliff told us, without Ruth’s confession, they couldn’t prove it. Ruth paid particular attention to Linda after that bingo. She served her first among the counter people, her coffee cup was always full. It was impossible for Linda not to know that Ruth was suspected by the cops. Roy wore a hunted look, like he was confused, not sure where he stood. He checked out the morning paper in the kitchen. We heard that Ruth had left the diner on the night of the bingo, in a huff, after a big fight with Roy. Maybe it was enough to push her over the line. Maybe her jealousy and anger caused her to put the kid up to it, to make Linda look bad. Unfortunate for young Eldon, her dead nephew. Geordie and I watched and listened. We knew that Ruth knew that Linda knew. Ruth attended the bingos but she didn’t boss anyone around any more. Linda watched Ruth fill our cups at the counter and listened to her repeat tidbits of gossip. We saw their eyes, Linda’s steady gaze, Ruth’s furtive glances, meet. That was when we saw it as a line drawn in the sand.