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Showing posts from 2017

Psalm 23 on Stony Plain Road

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I stopped to record this fragile scene yesterday. Motionless, protected from the December sun by a giant black umbrella, a figure wearing black boots sat pointed at a gravestone in the snow.

The poise and publicness of this silent communication were remarkable. Out of the frame, automobile traffic streamed by.

What is happening? Are memories being replayed? Answers sought? The news of the day shared? A promise kept?

And what is happening as I stare at the image, itself a recording of time vanished into the dark?

Today, I pedalled back to Westlawn Memrorial Gardens and added my prints to those that led to and from the marker.




One person, Johanna Hancock, is buried here. Johanna Hancock was born in Prospect, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1932. The gravestone is inscribed with the final line from Psalm 23: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

According to an online obituary, Joan Miller leaned into the world. At age 24, she left her island for England, where she was accredited as a nu…

Word games people play, now

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Joe South said it pretty well then: Oh, the games people play now/Every night and every day now/Never meaning what they say now/Never saying what they mean.
Eliot found words for the way words don't want to be found: Words strain/Crack and sometimes break, under the burden/Under the tension, slip, slide, perish/Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,/Will not stay still.
I listened to South as a boy. My parents had cool LPs. I found Eliot as an undergrad. I love those lines from Burnt Norton. The poet uses perish and decay to talk about words! As if they were alive. And that word still that ends the line, what connection is there to the plea in Ash Wednesday to teach us to care and not to care/Teach us to sit still.? 
(Perish. St. Francis Parish. Larry Parrish. Parrish played for the Expos before the parish had perished, and before the Expos had, too. Perish/Parish/Parrish the thought. Anyways.)
I was considering these and other things yesterday as I rode along the tired …

mcdaveni, mcdavidi, mcdavici

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In the event that Oilers captain Connor McDavid scores five points in a victory at home against [insert opponent team name here], I offer this verse, with apologies to L. Cohen, to capture the scene as high-spirited fans wearing #97 sweaters stream out of the rink, high-fiving each other, on the way to the Edmonton night. And to get this out of my head.

Well, they looked up at the big scoreboard
That McDavid made and it pleased the horde
Because winning is quite therapeutic for ya

He got four points and then a fifth
The [insert opponent team name here] he did away with
Leaving dazzled fans approaching Ford Hallelujah...

This will happen. I want to be ready.

I am still trying to figure out how best to combine in verse McDavid scored with Taylor Hallelujah. That will have to wait for another day. 




Thank you, Sapporo! ありがとうございました

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There must be imperceptible valleys of isolation between us.

Email has revealed this communication gap. You email me. I see it drop onto the top of the ladder of messages on my smartphone. I am content for now to know that your message has come in. I do not respond. You may feel slight anxiety with my delayed response to your call. I respond later. This is called asynchronous communication.

But it is all asynchronous communication, isn't it? The email version is just easy to see. Like the interval of white space between communication in the previous paragraph and It is at the start of this paragraph is easy to see. After I had hit the enter/return button.

Yesterday, Coffee Outside was marvellous. Most Fridays for almost three years now, summer or winter, for 10 minutes or two hours, a group of us bicycle riders in Edmonton have met in Faraone Park to drink and brew coffee and talk about the weather, the city, our travels, the media, bicycle components, issues of the day, works of…

Long live Leonard Cohen

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It is now after midnight in Montréal. Leonard Cohen has been dead for one year. Is it ever November 7.

Tomorrow, I am off to Calgary for an evening bicycle ride with friends I haven't yet met to mark the first anniversary of the poet's death This may seem a strange thing to do. 

But I remember driving alone in the rain through the Rockies. It was night. I was on my way to Vancouver to start a new job. Taillights ahead comforted me. And Jennifer Warnes sang Joan of Arc from the cassette player. Into the smear of red and black I sang so loud. 
I remember running down Clinton Street with Shelagh on the way to see a play and I remember how we stayed in a restaurant afterward and ate fried chicken and drank and listened to music. 
There should be a plaque at the Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton. Something to the effect of: From this bar Leonard Cohen was kicked out one winter night after making too much noise and without this expulsion he never would have met the University of Alberta …

Scenes from Saturday in Edmonton

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"Are those AVOCADO earrings?!" the server asked Shelagh.

"Yes, they are," she replied with a bit of a head tilt to the right.
We were sitting for lunch at the Local Omnivore. I was a quarter way through a double burger so good I later walked up to the guys in the kitchen to say thank you.

The main wall at the restaurant is for writing on. I took a fat felt marker from the next-door table and, with squeaky ups and downs and crosses and loops, printed this: The poet's head is in the clouds. To which Victor Hugo replied: So is the thunder! I read that in the McLuhan biography I am close to finishing. Our server smiled when she read the words. She told us she plays violin. There is a Victor Hugo quotation in her studio at the University of Alberta. She read Hunchback of Notre Dame as a girl. Her father helped her. 

                                                                              *****
I started the day at Hap's. It was Fitz's turn to buy break…

See you at home!

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"I'm gonna stop for some groceries," Shelagh said. "See you at home."

We were leaving, she in her little car, me on my bike, after having coffee at Iconoclast by the graveyard this morning.

I got home first. To a locked house. Unless I have to, I don't carry keys anymore. I still can lose keys if I don't actually have them on me, I have proven that. But it is more difficult. I took my phone out of my pocket to text Shelagh and get her ETA. Dead phone.

Locked out of house and phone, what do I do?

For whatever random reason, my first thought was to pedal to Meadowlark Mall and go to Tokyo Express for a double chicken rice bowl, with skin. Why this came to mind I have no idea. Then I saw the orange plastic ball by the stump of weeping birch in the middle of the back lawn. I keep the ball there on purpose. It's a reminder of boyhood. We used those iconic balls to play road hockey and indoor ball hockey and we also used them to play baseball at this tim…

Smart phone drives home message

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Yesterday I upgraded my iPhone to version 11.0.3, and today it is suggesting I might be a liar. I kinda like this. 📱

The new version gives me the ability to delay all notifications to the phone while driving, say, to Jasper, say, today. Before driving off this morning, I wondered for a second if I should enable the feature. My instinct when given an option by a phone (tell us where you are? tell us where you're going? and so on) is to say no. Privacy and all. But, invariably, I then remember Dave Mowat's take in this regard on Molly Bloom's final words by saying yes yes yes yes when his phone ask permission of him. I've started saying yes all the time, Dave says, to see what I can learn.

What I learned from this simple little feature is an effective little way to keep me from using my phone while driving. Effective in a different way than the law tries to be effective (threatening punishment), and effective in a different way than advertising tries to be effective (d…

Things I don't like ;)

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This afternoon, as I sat in a darkened theatre watching a movie I never would have chosen to watch had I known how sad this scene I was watching Amy Madigan in was, I remembered something Alexander Prior had said.

Prior is the Chief Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is young, like 24, I think, which means I have two neckties, one suit and an old Trek 750 older than he is. Anyways, there he was above us on stage a couple of weeks ago during an ESO Late Night gig at the Winspear. He was introducing Jalons, a work by Iannis Xenakis. Right. I'd never heard of him either.

Before he poked his players to life with his baton, Prior said something remarkable to the audience. He said we probably wouldn't like the music. He said we didn't have to like it. Just listen to it and we could talk about it later, he said. And then they played it. The work was unfamiliar, grating in parts, coming apart in other parts, and soaring. I liked parts, but, overall, he was right. I …

Vegas

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I sometimes but not often enough and not deeply enough think about what to do next when bad and strange and heartbreaking things happen. This is the residue of a work life spent in newsrooms monetized in part by bad and strange and heartbreaking things happening.

In a newsroom, you have to know what to do, and quickly, when disaster reveals its face. I am thinking now about the recent massacre in Las Vegas where a sniper transformed a tower from an illuminated landmark into a bristling gun nest. He killed 59 people on the Strip below. They had been listening to music.

In a TV newsroom there is no time to stare and wonder. Facts have to be chased, rumours abandoned, tweets tweeted, video reviewed for suitability, anchors called in, production lineups built, stories debated, angles checked off. Find a way to localize the story, bring it home. Were there any Canadians there? Albertans? Edmontonians? Among the dead, the same questions. Think about breaking into regular programming with u…

Len Thuesen #7

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Unreal red light inked itself onto a light standard on 142 St last night as I waited to cross the road. The temporary red on the pole was cast from the overhead traffic signal. I was on my bicycle, headed downtown for a newspaper.

Memory tugged.

We had a radio when I was a boy. It sat in a small, black cabinet about a foot and half high and as much wide and it had a black handle on the top. The dial glided across the numbers under the illuminated glass display as I wheeled the knob back and forth. That tiny stick of light glowed like a match. Or a lure in the water. For hours, I sat transfixed in the dark in my basement room listening to voices from afar. At night, stations from Seattle and even California pulsed in. It was eerie, that crackle, those voices that came from out there. Augusta La Paix brought Billy Bragg in. Len Thuesen brought Mark Knopfler in. I loved it.

These memories swirled up last night as I rode the multi-use path in Glenora. It was black, chilly, windy. I was a…

What I learned from Lana Stewart

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I recorded on Strava my bicycle ride to the post office at Shopper's Drug Mart this afternoon, and sent a quiet thank you out to Lana Stewart for the prescription. 
This is Lana in de pecha (kucha) mode earlier this year in Montréal: 

She was making a point that has stuck. Here goes: riding a bicycle to work is a lot of work. For the newcomer, there's a lot of obstacles. Safety in traffic, changes of clothes, storage, sweating, matted hair, risk of bike theft, mild ridicule, change of weather, and so on. Why the fascination with getting people interested in riding a bicycle to go from zero to workplace? Why not instead encourage people to make the simple rides, the neighbourhood trips to the grocery store, the bakery, the liquor store, or the post office? Better to build local and solid by encouraging wanna-be-again bicycle riders to make trips to the locations that, if they're fortunate, sit within one or two kilometres from home. 


That's how I started. For childhood…

A fish in Facebrook

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I am reading Ted Bishop's Ink: Culture, Wonder, And Our Relationship with the Written Word. I am trying not to read it too quickly. I don't think there's a sequel to dive into next. So, I use my computer as a kind of teacher's internet assistant. When Hongwu is mentioned, I check out the emperor's Wikipedia page. When a willow tree in the wind is likened to a writing brush, I head for Google Images to look at a willow tree.

But I don't always get where I am going. I get lured this way and that. On the way to the willow I fell into Facebrook. In rough order of encounter, I:

saw that my friend Rosa gave a clown face to my Facebook post last night on the changing colours of traffic lights, looked at Keith's nature photography from the Upper Peninsula, monitored a debate about the mixture of musicians at Folk Fest workshops, learned that my friend Michelle went to Ikea on Thursday, a trip immortalized by a Facebook-generated video, learned my friend John needs …

I packed my pannier, and in it I put...

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When I pedal my bike through the city, I carry some things with me. Some other things I pick up along the way. Here are the contents of my red Arkel bike bags (Red Bike, Cliff), in no particular order of weight, after this morning's ride.

Ziploc large freezer bag, transparent, containing orange bandana from murder mystery dinner night in Chelem, México, where Shelagh was a reporter and Sheryl was the sheriff, eyeglasses (right lens chipped, prescription: -1.00, -1.25, not bad), 3x pencils (2 Blackwing 530 special edition California Gold Rush series from Stylus, closed on Saturdays in the summer, 1 with Chinese charactering, gift), eye drops, pencil sharpener containing shavings that remind me of a dancing woman's hemmed dress, City of Edmonton red reflector and blue reflective bracelet courtesy bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a downtown bike grid, iPhone 6ring of keys: Honda Accord, not driven in a month, unknown …

What could go wrong? :)

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If I remember right, Chris Hadfield made the suggestion that, instead of envisioning success, we should all picture failure. Imagine the countless ways that things can go wrong. Engineers like Hadfield build bridges and launch rockets and keep the Talus balls from rolling into the North Saskatchewan River*, but what they're really acquainted with is collapse and the rest of the long, sad list of how things fade, snap, break, shatter, splinter, fragment, turn to ash, and, essentially, are torn asunder.

This is the honest way of making sure the centre holds for as long as the centre can hold.

Taken to its extreme, it means living life by remembering that I will die. Not that everyone will die, not we all must die, but, me, the tapper of these keystrokes, I will die. Morose? Maybe. Pessimistic? Perhaps. True? Yes. A flight plan for happiness if interpreted in a healthy way? I am beginning to believe so.

Yesterday I pedalled through the city and considered these things from my side o…

Renée

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If you happened to be driving west on Stony Plain Road between 170 St and 178 St this morning around 10:30am, and if you glanced over to the sidewalk on the south side of the road, you would have seen two people speaking. A gangly, helmeted man standing over his bicycle was talking to a stylish older woman wearing a floral print skirt, a pink turtleneck, teal-framed sunglasses, her head covered by a summer scarf from which grey pigtails poked out on either side. She moved with the help of a wheeled walker.

You wouldn't have been able to hear why, as they parted, the bicycle rider was laughing, but here is why.

"Tell your wife she has nothing to worry about with you talking to an older woman from Europe!" the woman said.

The laughing, goofy-looking guy was me. She told me her name was Renée. She was walking to McDonald's and was taking a detour from her route because the direct-line sidewalk was under construction. She wondered if she could cut across the box store p…

Tombstones of the days: July 22, 2017

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For a reason that I trust will reveal itself as time rolls along, and despite that article of faith proving how poor a researcher I am (I mean, when has data collection by itself magically suggested a theory, instead of the other way around?), I am almost nine months into a writing project that took an interesting turn yesterday.

Starting back on Halloween last year, I have witnessed in word and photograph the sights and thoughts that strike me every day I ride my bike. I am into my fourth booklet of souvenirs. I have been uncharacteristically disciplined about taking pics and reviewing video and pencilling my observations from the saddle. The entries are little tombstones of the days.

From 11.29: A joy of riding a bicycle in the city is actually touching the city as I ride. I reach out to touch the overhanging spruce boughs. I let them scrape my helmet hello. I like to run my gloved hand along the bridge railing, especially when there is a film of snow to wake up. I like to read the…

Of pennies and senses and palate revolts

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The penny dropped. I love that idiom. I am old enough to remember pennies. I was around when the government dropped the penny from circulation. I love short sentences. I love the stubbornness of solid idioms from analog times. What's better than that click sound I hear in my mind when someone voices the idiom? (The absolute best is when banker Dave Mowat employs it.) The penny dropped is the sound of realization, the testimony that insight, like starlight, takes time to arrive, and, when it does, it resonates. Just like a coin-in-slot machine come to life when the stuck penny drops.

Peas, too.

Shelagh was talking the other day about children and their young taste buds. I don't know how the subject came up. For the most part I stay in touch with the subject matter of current podcasts when Shelagh summarizes key points from the 100 or so she stays current with. So, maybe the observation about taste buds was from a pea podcast she had heard, I don't know.

The taste buds of yo…