Dedicated to nobody.
If the title sounds familiar, it should.
It’s from Charles Bukowski’s novel “Post office.”
He was quite a character. Read about him at your own risk, and I really mean it.
Basically, he accepted himself as a loser in life, wrote about it openly, and spent most of his life working in the post office, doing crazy things in between.
Even after he made it big in literature, he’d show up to author’s meetings hammered and would verbally abuse the audience.
His tombstone reads “Don’t try”.
And you know what? I respect that, it’s a fine art of not giving a damn, or more precisely, giving a damn only about things that are important, few of them as it is in life.
I am convinced that he was on to something. I open my Facebook feed and am bombarded by news of people who are having the time of their lives and how great everything is. The great husband, the wife, the kids, the trip, the food.
And the dog Sophie.
Sure, there are moments, but please, stop trying.
For a change, I think that there are things in life that are not pleasant but essential. For example, I can’t possibly make a meaningful impact on somebody’s life without being ridiculous to someone else.
And this is a difficult pill to swallow; only a few people can take it. And they are the ones making the difference.
So you may ask now – Tom, what is the point of this essay?
And the point is this – we’re wired to handle problems and that’s what makes the world turn around. Problems stimulate our creative thinking; there is nothing wrong with them.
I give you an example. A guy I know found out that his mother was cheated out of some serious money by somebody she knew all her life. So she approached her son for help.
And there are two choices of not giving a damn here.
One is “sorry Mom, things like this happen. I am busy downloading the next episode of Brooklyn 99. Just get over it.”
The other is – “let’s lawyer up and go after this guy, I don’t care if I ruin his life, he has to pay for what he did.”
Both not giving a damn, huh?
There are some very interesting choices that you need to sort out in your mind.
The first is - it doesn’t matter what your message is. It matters who it resonates with.
It doesn’t have to be many. In fact, it better not be, that’s how you know that your thinking is quality,
It is very opposite to the idea of a democratic system.
In a democracy one can be totally wrong but have the charm of an angel – Hitler was voted in by a majority, to give an example. Maybe one from the edge of sanity, but still true nevertheless. People do stupid things, they give a damn about too many aspects of life, whatever triggers their emotions.
Just to show you how nuts democracy can gets if it’s not controlled.
But none of it is in my brain. It seems that my mind is still intact.
I would think it would be tired after all these years but I am still sharp.
The life feels good.
A view from the 6.
It’s been a great sunny week in Toronto, the great Canadian city on the lakeshore of Ontario, probably the best kept secret in Northeast America.
The city is booming, and it has been for some years now – it shows everywhere you look and it’s always good to be here, even for a short time.
About the 6 – Toronto downtown area code is 416 or 647, so if you get it, you’re part of a great community.
On Thursday I attended a graduation ceremony at the University of Toronto, a historic old campus in the heart of the city.
A fine young man graduated from the prestigious Rotman school of business and I was the proud dad.
And there was something the chancellor said in his speech during the ceremony that resonated with me.
He said this – we all need to do our best building communities, add to the quality of life with your work, with your talents, we must volunteer and get involved.
The distinguished old man was absolutely right and gave great advice – work hard to become a part of something great.
And I love the vibe of great universities. The way I understand their message is this: if you really want to know what’s going on in the world, read books and avoid the noise. Zoom out and think.
Still, some noise can be charming, but one needs to watch the right people for a meaningful input.
One is president Trump, of course. He is pushing the tariffs subject exactly how he promised to the people who voted for him. The mass media is up in arms. How can one even question the status quo? But the Donald is a businessman and he is totally right. All he wants is to start a negotiation to figure out what works best for America.
What’s wrong with that?
It’s a really long shot to figure out what will come out of it, but the conversation on the topic needs to continue. This is exactly what he is good at.
And he is not alone in Washington; he seems to have meaningful backing, from the army at least. If he didn’t, he would likely be dead by now like JFK.
And I like how Melanie puts her own spin on the events and shows how she is her own person.
On Thursday, the first lady boarded a plane wearing an olive-green Zara style jacket with graffiti-style writing on the back that read “I really don’t care do U?”
It’s a subtle art of not giving a damn, and I respect that. Live your life and let other people be. This message resonates with people way better than CNN would let you believe, assuming you still watch this channel.
So, how does it all look from the 6?
I spend less time here in Toronto than I would like, but I will say this:
The 6 will make you feel welcomed the way New York never possibly can. And we just elected a new major who is not far from what the Donald stands for. It’s like the best of both worlds.
The city is vibrant, the restaurants are great and people are very nice.
“Sure”, my younger son would say, “but we don’t really mean it.”
Still worth the trip to TO.
And I will give you a ride on my big cruiser down the DVP for a Raptors game if you impress me.
There is usually something significant happening in the world somewhere, but it’s highly unusual that something big is happening almost everywhere.
If you are like me, you are probably convinced that it is no coincidence and that all these events must be connected in some way.
As I sat on a Parisian patio, the news broke that President Trump will be escalating the ‘tariff war’ with Canada and referred to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as “very dishonest and weak.”
I don’t recall the US-Canadian relations being this strained, ever.
And this seems to be just the opening salvo.
The Donald tweeted these words upon arriving in Singapore for a historical meeting with Kim, the Rocket Boy, from North Korea. And Kim almost never meets with anybody – during his reign he went to China twice and recently met with his counterpart from South Korea, that’s it.
Why, all of a sudden, is he now open to meet with his biggest adversary is a question worth asking.
As always, the “why” is what is most interesting.
One reason may be climate change – as the temperatures drop, food production will be affected. North Korea had devastating crop failures in the mid 1980s and again in late 1990s, which caused the death of about 2 -3 million people from starvation and hunger related illnesses. Kim Jong-un may be afraid that he will not be able to hold to power should that happen again.
But there is another aspect of this historical meeting in Singapore – it is the US’s gamble to put pressure on China. Should the Koreas unite under some scenario, the Chinese will have the American army on their border.
They were historically supporting North Korea to avoid exactly that.
Just like in our homes, it’s better to have a noisy little dog at the door than an aggressive stranger.
The stakes are extremely high and in this light it is rather obvious why Trump reacted so sharply to the Trudeau criticism (the Canadian prime minister called the tariffs “insulting” repeatedly). The American president must negotiate with Kim from a position of strength, and so the young Trudeau picked a terrible moment for his actions. It just shows who is a businessman and master negotiator and who is a leftist politician.
Moving on to Europe – the huge development here is the coming tampering of bond purchases (both, government and corporate) by the European Central Bank under Mario Draghi.
To be clear, the ECB is by far the biggest buyer of these papers, and if they even slow down where will the bid come from? Big money knows that, of course, and capital outflows from the core Europe have been intensifying.
In addition to money being parked in the US, there are reports of increased outflows to Scandinavian countries and even to Easter Europe, mainly Hungry and Poland.
The German Bunds are still flying high, but this is simply a bet that if the Euro fails, investors will end up with Deutsch Marks.
To end on a lighter note – on Sunday, the Swiss rejected a referendum to return to “Vollgeld”, which would mean the end of fractional reserve banking, the current modus operandi of the finance system worldwide.
It is not just. If a private person handled money the way the banks do, he or she would go to jail. So it’s not a surprise that a logical Swiss mind has a problem with it.
Anyways, the Vollgeld idea fell.
Weiter wie bisher.
Spring came reluctantly in Switzerland this year – while its kind of warm, clouds cover the sky and it rains almost every evening.
Here on the Swiss Riviera, I can’t see much of the mountains, either to the south or to the north of me.
Still, I bought myself a motorcycle, a decent one, for the roads in the Alps, and went out for a ride very early last Saturday.
By the time the country woke up and people started going about their business I was crossing the Col du Pillon pass in the western Swiss Alps, on my way to Gstaad.
It’s not an easy ride, riding mostly in second or third gear, but the views make every kilometer worth it. The pass is at a lousy 1546 m elevation, but it felt like an achievement when I got up there. Arms aching and all that.
After living more than three years in Western Switzerland, I’ve come to think that life is tougher in the mountains, one that is very different than on the plains.
So people here are strong, they know how easy is it to die when one doesn’t make a right turn and falls into the abyss, especially in the winter.
And it’s always hard uphill or downhill wherever you go, but the scenery makes up for your efforts, if you’re inclined that way.
I was talking to a friend of mine, who flies up here in a quiet glider, and she said: “the mountains have a distinct smell at night, I love it.”
Riding through a small mountain village I came across a sprawling Bentley and Porsche dealership. “I must be getting close,” I thought. Bentleys sold in the mountains, hah!
Gstaad attracts celebrities the way a pot of honey attracts bees – it’s good to be seen here. Some have villas here – from Polanski to Bernie Ecclestone and Julie Andrews.
I had a coffee in town that morning, under a beautiful sky, trying to navigate the Swiss-German dialect and it was not easy. It’s possible that the people here don’t even understand each other.
Later, I turned east, riding through Rougemont towards Bern. They don’t have speed cameras there, so I switched the bike settings from soft mountain driving to the most aggressive there is on the menu.
When I reached the entrance to the highway, my front wheel was getting light under the hard acceleration, so I moved forward putting my weight on it and had a sweet flight in the sun all the way to Interlaken.
It’s a town between two lakes, hence the name, and they’re both an intense green like her eyes in the sun.
A lunch in Interlaken will set you back $60, but the food is splendid, and hey – it’s Switzerland. All worth it.
La douce vie.
La Dolce Vita
The people of Italy really know how to enjoy life. Here, in the south of the country, on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, it is more obvious than anywhere else in Europe.
Even when the government was in turmoil, sending bond yields higher and stocks lower, life just goes on in the sun and the refreshing breeze from the sea.
People here are happy. The restaurants in town are full and midnight doesn’t mean that one is going home, even in the middle of the week. Hell, the kids are up at midnight, don’t know how they get up for school the next day.
Italy is an empire that was. The first one in history – it controlled large swath of the ancient world and I have nothing but respect to their engineering marvels, their road networks, and the establishment of Roman law throughout the empire. They were also renowned for their war-like nature. After all, this allowed the Romans to build an empire in the first place.
Their fall in the 5th century seems to have two reasons – the usual one, government abuse of the people, but also climate change. The second is almost never discussed, because we’re conditioned to think that climate change is caused by industrialization and resulting pollution. While it’s true that we’re dumping tons of garbage on this beautiful planet, climate change can only be caused by sun activities. And this is what broke the back of the Roman empire. When the weather turned cold, the warring tribes from the north of Europe stopped fighting each other and turned attention to the south. As it was getting colder, it was more difficult to grow food and feed families. It was a necessity to go where it’s warmer and fight hard for a place in the sun. Hunger is a huge motivation.
Over the centuries many great things came out of Italy – the arts, the food, the wine, the relaxed lifestyle.
And today they’re in the news again – Italy, the third largest economy in Europe, just managed to form first EU-sceptic government, which the media call “populist”.
This is code word for “anti-establishment” these days.
To be clear, Italy has suffered greatly under German hegemony in the EU, their unemployment rate roughly doubled since 2008.
Correspondingly, the unemployment rate in Germany was cut in half during the same period.
Let this message sink in and then try to say “populist” again.
The unelected officials in Brussels can’t hide their wrath and are out in the media to bash Italy in undiplomatic terms. “How can people decide what they want to do??” the thinking goes.
Well, the Italians just did.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler