If this is Red Star, then it must be Friday

It is the morning after another fine Friday night at Red Star Pub. It is true: I go there a lot. Even when I'm not planning to.

SMF leaned around the corner of my cubicle wall Friday afternoon and asked if I'd be interested in a beverage after work. It wasn't exactly sending up the Red Star Signal, but it got the job done. Next, he stooped a little so that he could see Rosepierre through the Panel-Opticon.

"Are you in, too?" SMF asked. Rosepierre was in. At the same time, I received a text message from Jonathan Veale asking if I was going to Red Star that night and in the span of mere minutes I went from "not going out" to "see you all there!"

The first act of the evening was with we four fellows talking about predictions and hopes for this Tuesday's, May 5th, provincial election, and observations about the strategic posture of our executive leadership in the Alberta Public Service. Jonathan logic-mapped our organization on a napkin, positioning the work that SWF, Rosepierre and I do (re-design) in relation to the preoccupations of our executive (optimize), and advising that we have to find a way to make an obvious connection between the two.

By my count there were four servers at Red Star last night, not counting the bartender; an unprescendented number. We weren't in Kenna's section, but early in the evening as she was passing our table we made eye contact. She stopped suddenly and shone a smile that felt like the sun. Small talk about work and the night ahead, and she excitedly shared the news of her two-week Hawaiian holiday commencing Monday. After Kenna went back to her business, Jonathan commented on what a special place Red Star is.

Soon, Jonathan and Rosepierre departed. Red Star's windows are all below the grade of the Jasper Avenue sidewalk. I happened to glance out, up towards the parking meter that my Electra Fast 5 3i was locked to. There were two figures studying it. I quickly registered Katherine Capo's profile, but didn't recognize Zowie Madison until she turned around and started descending Red Star's stairs thus kicking off Act Two.

Beatrice Cassidy remarked once that reminiscing with my favourite people is one of my joys. It is a recreation that is literally re-creation. At one point Zowie and I were talking about the Boardroom 3 night that she met her young Dutch boyfriend. She told the story from her memory and then I re-told it from mine, and they flowed into each other like two colours of lava in a lamp; building on each other on some points, and filling in gaps on others. We both remembered it as the night we exchanged our favourite Dutch jokes for Canadian jokes. I reminded Zowie that it was the night we learned the "Thrown Coaster" pick-up trick. And she reminded me that it was the night that Young Dutch's landlord recognized me as Kelly Nightengale's ex-boyfriend.

Zowie asked me about my love life. And I told her the Diana/Mylesk story from start to finish as a full-on, star-crossed, pure-and-chaste romance. Everytime there was a scene that took place in Red Star, I pointed to the places where they happened, especially the table where we first kissed. I made sure to include Kenna as fifth business.

"That will never happen again," Zowie said when I finished. I think I smiled and looked down at the table.

"I love it when we tell stories," Katherine had said earlier.

The Harmony of the Pen and the Sword

Unity of words and deeds, harmony of pen and sword: part of the credo of Yukio Mishima.

There is another pairing, I think: the matching of feeling and action.

Peter Rose and I eat our lunches in the common area on 14th floor, Baker Centre; a place we refer to as "Cafe Fourteen". I haven't ceased the habit of eating lunch there ever since I was originally stationed in the cubicle next to the large boardroom, 14A.

"I think I have overrun the idea," I told Peter over lunch on March 31st, responding to his oblique inquiry into how things were going between Diana and me, "that I can't control how I feel, I can only control what I do." Overrunning the idea was just my idiosyncratic paraphrasing for "taken it all too far".

"When I was 29 I read a men's studies book about emotions called Awakening From the Deep Sleep. I found Chapter 5 to be especially useful, 'How to Tell When You're Having an Emotion'." The conceptual innovation I got from the book was understanding that emotions are not cognitive states. Until that time, I'd thought my feelings were essentially mental states and the fact that they happened to me, beyond my cognitive control, was a symptom indicating that I suffered from some type of mental illness. But the book said that emotions are somatic states; they are of the body.

"I can no more control the emotions I feel," I recounted to Peter Rose, "than I can control feeling pain when I'm stabbed with a fork." This observation gives rise (or perhaps better, "gives depth") to one of the core inception ideas that shapes my life: I am not accountable for what I feel, I am only accountable for what I do.

What does it mean, then, Diana asked, to be in a monogamous relationship if you have feelings for another person? The underlying frame to her question, the implication she was making, is that feelings for another person changes the meaning somehow.

Thinking about this now, I suppose relationships are just another type of meaning-carrier, like any of the mementos and ephemera that I have here in this treasure chest of an apartment called St. Mark's. My philosophy of love allows feelings for anyone because I do not believe they change the meaning of my other relationships, only actions do. But if feelings change the meaning to Diana, who am I to say that they shouldn't?

And I remember that Diana is not alone. Heather once told me that, not only is loving someone else a betrayal, it is a worse betrayal than merely sleeping with someone who you do not love.

I made a new iPad photo album last night named "Tessaract" and put in it pictures of the four women I have loved most over the past 15 years. I study their faces and search myself for the differences in meaning among these relationships. Of course, in a purely subjective matter like this, confirmation bias is inescapable. All I am really asking is, "what is the bias that I am confirming?"

I think I see that meaning is created by my feelings for them and the structure of the relationships I have had with each of them; the times we shared, the things we did, the promises we made to each other. Our relationship is the motor, but emotion makes it run. Or, another metaphor: the relationship is like the image on a decorative stamp and emotion is the ink.

This makes me think of Kenna again. Our relationship, customer and server, is not complicated. But there is enough emotion in it to make it meaningful to me.

Simultaneous Emotions

Until I met Diana I didn't really look forward to weekends. They were only times to sleep-in and do chores. But once they became time with Diana, I started to long for the weekend the way I longed for her.

Two weekends have passed now since we've "stepped back" from each other and they have been as sad for me as previous weekends were joyful. I felt constricted inside, as though the bag of skin that surrounds me had been filled with snakes.

But thinking about this weekend past also fills me with gratitude. My weekend began early at Red Star pub when Peter and I reconnoitered the other of the two eight-seater tables in the bar. We were alone there for nearly an hour as we waited for the rest of our crew to arrive. When our conversation eventually got around to how I was doing, Peter told me that I had no reason at all to be discouraged about my prospects, that my qualities as a person are clear and recognizable, and there will be a young woman who will see them. And then Kenna appeared and sat down with us carrying three shots of coffee-flavoured vodka. She knew on Wednesday that we would be there after work on Friday. It had been during that mid-week visit that I told her how despite appearances the last time she saw Diana and I together we were not, in fact, together.

The three of us lifted a toast to Friday, to being there then, but my mind also connected the moment to the sympathy Kenna expressed two days earlier. The story I tell myself is that within the structure of our relationship, Kenna was showing her support for me. When everything two people are to each other is customer and server, how do you express happiness at witnessing a first kiss* or the sympathy of learning about lost love? With free drinks, of course.

The next day I had scheduled more moving out work at the Main House. Tracy is planning to change bedrooms so that she can be as far away as possible from Tipton Park where young people congregate on late summer nights and make a disruptive amount of noise. We made some progress clearing out the room I had used for more than two years as a home office, then did some other errands and had some dinner. She could tell I was saddened by how things had turned out with Diana and asked me why I hadn't used the fact that we had filed our final divorce papers in court the previous day as part of a campaign to win Diana back. Not only is Tracy coming to accept the new reality of our lives, but she is supportive and sympathetic to me as well.

Finally, last night Kristina and Don invited me over to share a feast with them: three dungeness crabs in what Don called his traditional homeland boil, complete with corn on the cob, potatoes, with wilted baby bok choi on the side. We had Portuguese white wine, professionally selected to match with crab, bourbon, and finished with a creamy dessert wine and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

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Something is crushing my heart

It is Saturday night, April 25th, and for the second night in a row, I feel like there is something squeezing me. It is that feeling I associate with cabin fever and sleeping in the Ottawa hostel that was once the old Ottawa city jail. It is like the muscles in my arms and legs have turned into snakes and they are all crushing my heart.

Is it the return of single male angst? Friday over the lunch hour, Tracy and I filed the last of our divorce papers at the Provincial Court House. We are now one judge's signature away from being single again.

Tracy asked me why I didn't update Diana immediately. Why am I not using this event as part of a campaign to get her back when Tracy can clearly see that I am sad and heartbroken. I told her that Diana already feels like this is only happening because of her, to appease her, and she doesn't like it. Add that to all my other sensibilities that Diana objects to and it seems to me that I should continue to give her space.

I feel myself forgetting the few bad things that happened between us and I dwell on the things that made me feel like we were finally sailing clear. On the first morning of the Easter long-weekend, holding her in my arms, I told Diana that there was no going back for me; she was the most important person in my life. And on Day 52, when I asked her what would our place be like, she gestured around St. Mark's and said, "just like this, only bigger!"

Day 52 seemed so good, that it's aftermath shocked and angered me. It was as though they way we were when we were together, which was almost always the focus of my thinking when we were apart, didn't matter at all. What mattered was how Diana felt when we were apart and she felt anxious and hopeless.

I wonder if she misses me as much as I miss her. I wonder if she misses me at all.

Trouble Remembering

As I wrote on March 1st, I'm having great difficulty remembering conversations so I have to increase my efforts in writing things down. I fear I am visualizing too much Leonard Shelby in Christopher Nolan's movie, Memento. Indeed, I just recollected that my blog-name in Kristina's weblog is Leonard.

Kristina came up to St. Mark's on Monday night, the first time I've seen her since her return from a diving holiday on Bonaire Island, off the coast of Venezuela. We relaxed on the Friheten drinking her favourite Vanilla Earl Grey tea and catching up on our recent experiences; her's with Don and mine with Diana.

What comes back to me about our visit that night though, was that feeling I had when we were having breakfast together at the round table beside the front window of Tasty Tom's Bistro. Kristina had felt it, too. When I reminded her about that conversation later at the Rose & Crown, Kristina couldn't remember what we had said, but she had a string of adjective for what it had felt like.

But two things I remember about Return From Bonaire:

I told Kristina that on March 9th, Diana and I fought outside The Hat, on the sidewalk of Jasper Avenue.

"I can't even imagine that!" Kristina replied.

"Well," I said. "It was what is, for me, a fight."

"Ah yes," she nodded. "You walked off quickly after a curt farewell."

I laughed. Because that was exactly what it was.

The other thing was when we were talking about whether it was time to make new vision boards.

"I wonder who the patron saint of affirmation bias is?" I asked. And Kristina laughed right away.

Found Wisdom

I just finished the first scheduled session of my first massive open on-line course, a panel discussion of World Bank and international NGO leaders on the topic of citizen engagement. In the closing remarks, the panel moderator said:

Work on something deep in your heart, and that will make it sustainable.

And an inner-voice echoed in me:

Work on something deep in your heart, with someone deep in your heart, and all life will be a joy.

Between Longing and Belonging

“The restlessness in the human heart will never be finally stilled by any person, project, or place. The longing is eternal. This is what constantly qualifies and enlarges our circles of belonging. There is a constant and vital tension between longing and belonging. Without the shelter of belonging , our longings would lack direction, focus, and context; they would be aimless and haunted, constantly tugging the heart in a myriad of opposing directions…Belonging without longing would be empty and dead, a cold frame around emptiness…There is something within you that no one or nothing else in the world is able to meet or satisfy. When you recognize that such unease is natural, it will free you from from getting on the treadmill of chasing ever more temporary and partial satisfactions. This eternal longing will always insist on some door remaining open somewhere in all the shelters where you belong…it will intensify your journey but also liberates you from the need to go on many seductive but futile quests.”

John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes

Tad Hargrave posted this quotation in his FaceBook feed on December 29, 2014. I copied it and e-mailed it to Hannah who replied:

EPL doesn't have this book but U of A does. I will borrow it for you when I'm at work on Friday as I sense this paragraph speaks to you loudly. I think there is some truth in what he says but I don't completely agree with the sentence "There is something within you that . . . nothing else in the world is able to meet or satisfy." I think it's true that nothing worldly will satisfy the restlessness of the human heart but from what I've read and heard discussed within the OBC (from both lay and monastic trainees), those that have experienced a spiritual awakening (aka kensho) truly understand there is no separate self - step off the treadmill - and are most reluctant to ever get back on. But EVERYONE needs to continue to train throughout their lifetime, regardless of kensho, because we are humans and mistakes can be made.

A natural unease, O'Donohue called it. A irreconcilable tension within between longing an belonging that nothing else, no person nor project nor place in the world, is able to meet or satisfy. On December 28, 2013, nearly one year ago to the day of Tad's posting, I wrote The Allegorical Painting, which, in other words, described how I visualize the conflict between longing and belonging.

In my imagination, I [see an] allegorical painting, with Kaylyn symbolizing happiness juxtaposed with Hannah symbolizing love. And in-between them, the Reverend Koten, representing the hope that there is some hidden truth whose discovery will enable me to reconcile this unbearable tension.

The Fruition of October 2 Part 1

October 2 was, as you might recall, a happening day! I attended my first ComicExpo and acquired Mads Mikkelsen's autograph ~ in my annotated copy of Thomas Harris' Hannibal ~ and, after a multi-window attack on the TicketMaster website, I managed to acquire a ticket to the December 4th Cat Stevens concert at the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia.

Thinking about the role Cat Stevens has played in my life has raised my awareness of my own religiosity. While I adhere to no particular religion or dogma, I have a distinct sense of a psychological space in me that seeks guidance and salvation. For me, Cat Stevens' music was literally an ethos.

If I make a mark in time
I can't say the mark is mine
I'm only the underline
of the Word

I'm like him
Just like you
I can't tell you what to do

Like everybody else
I'm searching through
What I've heard

~ Tuesday's Dead

In 1978, three years after nearly drowning while swimming of the Malibu coast, California, the man named Cat Steven quit music and became Yusuf Islam. The next I'd heard of him, it was being reported in 1989 that he supported the Ayatollah Khomeni's fatwa on Salman Rushdie for the novel, The Satanic Verses. A few years later, he was reported to be on the United States no-fly list. Back then, I had said several times that when I was in high school, Cat Stevens sang Peace Train and Yasser Arafat was a terrorist. "Now, Arafat gets the Nobel Peace Prize and Cat Stevens is on the no-fly list. I think if I live long enough I will see everything."

It's more than $300 more expensive to fly into Philadelphia than into La Guardia, New York. And the fare on the double-decker bus service, MegaBus.com, from NY to Philly is $6(!), so you know what I did. MegaBus drops you off in front of the Philadelphia Visitor's Centre across from Independence Hall where, in 1776, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, the traitorous George Washington, and others, negotiated and declared their rebellion against the country that nearly bankrupted itself successfully defending them against France thirteen years earlier. Things have a funny way of turning around.

From the Visitor's Centre, it is only a six minute walk east on Market Street into the heart of historic Philadelphia to the Apple Hostel on Bank Street, not far from Benjamin Franklin's historic home, Franklin Court. Franklin Court is a hybrid of an archeological site (the foundational elements of the original house); a living history museum where interpretive staff carry out some of the same activities that Franklin himself did as professions (postmaster and printer); and an actual museum filled with informational displays and many of Franklin's own artifacts.

The museum proper is a large, modern, underground facility, completely hidden beneath historic Philadelphia. Only the admissions desk, elevator, and gift shop are at grade in Franklin Court. When I descended the entry steps to the underground display level, two female park wardens were nearby, on seated, the other standing. It's quirky how park warden uniforms are all the same whether you are in the forests of Yellowstone or downtown Philadelphia. Everyone is dressed as though the next thing they are about to say is, "Only you can prevent forest fires!"

They both greeted me and offered directions to the exhibits. The seated one, a woman in her late forties, eventually asked me the inevitable tourist question, "Where are you from?"

"I'm from Western Canada," I answered. "Alberta?" I intoned it as a question, not because I don't know where I am from, but to prompt them to indicate if they have heard of the province or not.

"Oh, I know Alberta," the seated park warden woman replied. "I was there, oh, well, I guess it was almost thirty years ago now. We went to... Jasper, was it?" She turned her head to the other standing park warden woman. "We saw the most amazing aurora borealis, like ribbons of green light in the sky!" She turned back to me to say, "I remember lots of caribou!"

I asked her if she had heard of the oil sands and, while there was some flicker of recognition, it did not connect at all with her memories of the province.

It was mid-afternoon when I departed Franklin Court in search of a place to have lunch. My map of historic Philadelphia indicated that the urban national park called Independence Park included the site, "City Tavern", a public house where the founding fathers (or rebellious cousins, one could say) gathered to eat, drink, and negotiate in a more casual setting. While I knew tourist pricing would be in effect, I wanted to eat in that storied place.

City Tavern 1

The sweet potato/pecan biscuits were a favourite of John Adams, according to the period dressed man-servant who waited on me.
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Predicting the Future

The best indicator of what you are going to do tomorrow is what you did yesterday.

On that premise,and in relation to my physical fitness, I am going to adopt the rule to do at least as much as I did yesterday. Which means that tomorrow I have to do at least:

- 25 push-ups
- 25 sit-ups
- 5 chin-ups

At least.

Kenna and Hannah

I'm getting an idea about what is going on.

2014, this red year, this Year of the Horse, has been quite the thing. Perhaps every year has been a thing like this year has been and I have only been too stupefied to realize it, but this year feels as though it has been full of newness. 2014 has been an undiscovered country, filled with madness and amazement. If I have complained to anyone about my lot over the course of this year I ask that you regard it as a trespass and to please forgive me for it.

One train of thought upon this year is of Kenna, the tall, red-haired and fabulous server at Red Star Pub on Jasper Avenue. To my recollection, of all the times I've been to Red Star in 2014, the number of times Kenna has not been my server is three. The people who join me at the pub are all equally impressed with Kenna because she always is as wonderful as I make her out to be in my invitations. Of her life beyond being a server at Red Star, I can say only that she also works retail at the West Edmonton Mall Hudson's Bay Store. In other words, I hardly know her.

When he joined me at Red Star in September, Sheboygan had assumed I held romantic ambitions for Kenna and encouraged me to pursue them. Similarly in November, SMF asked me if I intended to "go for Kenna". SMF wanted to know in order to avoid an offense to me similar to one that he imagines in our past.

To "go for Kenna", as I understand the phrase, means to apply whatever means I have at my disposal to transform our relationship from whatever it is today into one that fulfills my romantic ambitions.

But I am thinking this: when I imagine Kenna and I in a romantic relationship, I anticipate heartbreak and disappointment; when I imagine us as friends, I feel awkward and uncomfortable; when I think of her as the most wonderful server I've ever had in my life, I feel blessed. It is as though every evening I get to spend at Red Star with Kenna checking-in on me is another experience that I never imagined ever having: to have the attention of my lifetime favorite server. I feel like I get so much from our relationship the way it is, that I don't want to give it up.

I was over at the Main House on Wednesday, December 24th. Hannah and I both had the day off and we were sitting at the kitchen table having a snack with tea. Hannah had been quiet, and I told her that she looked sad. She said that she was. She she was sad that things didn't work out.

"Between us, you mean?" I clarified. She nodded.

It might not be fully apparent, but I have this sense that our relationship not only has worked out, but it continues to work out. Hannah and I remain profoundly important to each other. I asked her what we were supposed to be which we are not, but she didn't say.

Perhaps what makes something sad or joyful is the size of the gap between what is and what we expect.

Something I aim to do better in 2015, The Year of the Green Wood Sheep, is to more accept things as they are, and to make the best of them.