Jimmy Carter, Cher, and Me

I remember being confused by politics as a child. I did not understand how politicians knew that some things were issues and other things were not. To me, there had to be some tangible quality, something inherent to a topic that made it an issue - the way gravity is an inherent quality of matter - otherwise it was all just arbitrary. My parents explanation that issues became issues because people thought they were important was deeply dissatisfying to me.

I remember the evening I decided to try paying attention to politics in the hope that I might come to understand it better. While I don’t recall the precise date, it was a Friday night, a week or two before November 1, 1976.

I don’t recall how long we did so, but my family would regularly gather at the television to watch The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Like all variety shows, it featured skits, songs, and special guests. It would open with a musical duet by the couple followed by a comedic dialogue and on the night in question they spoke about the looming November 1 presidential election.

They bantered about the importance of casting a your ballot and Sonny said something to the effect that he and Cher knew all of their audience was united in their support, as the two of them were, in supporting...

[spoken simultaneously]

Sonny: Gerald Ford.
Cher: Jimmy Carter.

They bantered more, and the dialogue ended with Sonny saying, “there is definitely a Ford in our future.” And Cher got the last words in, “and it will be driven by Jimmy Carter.”

On that night at age 11, I decided to start caring about - and hopefully understanding - politics by hoping, like Cher, that Jimmy Carter would win.
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Another Night at Denizen Hall

Your reputation is made up of the stories that other people tell themselves about you. Your identity is made up of the stories you tell yourself about yourself.

Edmonton feels safer to me today than it ever has. My perceptions of safety seem to have a lot to do with urban renewal. I remember being told a crime story as a child about the Park Hotel that used to stand where Bryan and Allisons No Frills grocery store is now at 104th street and 80th avenue, and I remember ducking down in our family car every time we would drive past it; peering over the edge of the car door as if surveilling that dangerous place. Now it is one of my regular grocery stores.

104th street and Jasper Avenue used to host the Cecil Hotel which was the epicentre of violent crime in Edmonton. The Cecil was an early emblem of this city's "Stabby Stabmonton" brand. Jasper and 104th is now the gateway to downtown neighborliness, the Warehouse District filled with pubs, cafes, coffee shops, and condominiums, all behind historical and faux brick warehouse facades.

Last night I met up with Daag and his girlfriend of two years, Perrin. Daag and I go way back - thirty five years now - having met in Frau Docktor Jutner's German 10 class at Harry Ainlay Composite High School. The venue was Denizen Hall, the fairly new-ish entertainment pub on the main floor of the Grand Hotel at 103 and 103, across from the Greyhound Station.

Regardless of the city, "across from the Greyhound Station" always conjures images of sketchy, run-down hotels to me; the kind that get rented by the month or by the hour, and fit easily with the Stabby Stabmonton brand. The Grand has always fit that mould so well that I still felt surprise last night, on my fourth visit to Denizen Hall, that I actually partronize the Grand Hotel.

The very slender, lightly tattooed and raven-haired server cheerfully checked-in repeatedly with us as we dawdled in our menu decision-making. When she departed after finally acquiring our appetizer tray and drinks order Daag asked me if I feel fifty.

"Yes," I replied readily. "I feel fifty. I feel like I have less energy than I used to." Both Daag and Perrin nodded at that. "And I feel love differently." That latter comment needed explanation.

One of the things I learned from my 6-month (chronos-time), 55-day (kairos-time) relationship with No Borders is that I experience love like a 50-year old who has been through an 18-year marriage. I learned that I regard devotion in action much higher than devotion in feeling. And I learned that I had forgotten than I haven't always been this way.

"Twenty years ago, I wouldn't have been able to tolerate being with someone who also loved someone else," I told them. "And I would forget that No Borders and I were seventeen years apart in age." No Borders tolerated my continuing relationship with Hannah for the first few months, but she must have been imagining an eventual phase-out of her from my life. And I never got the chance to bring up Amandi Khera or Kaylyn Airey with her. I carried my feelings for them like grenades in my pockets that I would have to bring out and show No Borders one day. "I think that my being fifty means that I happily accept that there are relationships of love and devotion, and realtionships of only love. And you don't have to abandon one for the other."

Food and drink arrived, and Denizen Hall continued to build its reputation with me as serving the best traditional pub food anywhere. The appetizer platter include mini-corndogs, grilled cheese sandwich bites, chicken-wings, potato pops, popcorn, and, to my surprise, peppered chicken-skins. Excellent food.

Daag shared his signature story about me with Perrin. "This is the guy," he said, "that I had that conversation with about the cabbage-on-the-bus." Perrin and I may have looked equally perplexed. Daag enjoys the philosphical bent of many of our conversations which are best epitomized by a discussion about sentience.

"We started debating about whether only humans had rights or do we owe them to any creature with sentience. And we eventually wound up at the question: if you met a sentient cabbage driving a bus, would you say 'good-morning'?" Daag said it was one of the best conversations he's ever had. I had no independant memory of it but the story sounded true, and it made me laugh.

"Have you approached that girl at Red Star yet?" Daag asked.

"Kenna?" I asked. "Romantically do you mean?" He affirmed. I explained how the best possible outcome (without explaining why the best possible outcome is unlikely) would be that Kenna and I would meet each other's expectations of a romantic partner. "The way things are now, she so dramatically exceeds my expectations of a customer/server relationship that I get so much joy from it that I will never give that up. It is the best customer/server relationship that I will ever have." I left off my punctuating statement that I've been using recently when talking about her:"I love Kenna."

We finished off our food and drink, and enjoyed the rest of our time playing the new Star Trek pinball machine. It was a fine time.

That's Terrifying

Last Thursday, October 15th, Sometimes Someone texted over our internal chat-client the suggestion that we meet for a quick drink at Red Star after work. We sat at the two-top closest to the wall that separates the Red Star Pub from its sister venue, the Lock Stock coffee shop. Sometimes ordered Strongbow and sliders and I had a Guinness and a small bowl of nocellara olives.

I had a proposition in mind.

In July of 2014 I launched what seemed to her like a "sudden burst" of attention. Beatrice Cassidy asked me to send her a text inviting her over to Mississippi Malick's townhouse for a barbeque but Sometimes had had a comittment that evening to see a movie with someone.

"Luc Besson's 'Lucy'?" I asked randomly. She texted back that they were seeing Desolation of Smaug but added that she would be interested in seeing Lucy if we were going sometime. A week or so later, I happened upon Sometimes' OKCupid profile. Knowing that she would be receiving an automatic notification that I'd visited her page, I sent her a message suggesting that we go see Lucy in an attempt to avoid giving the impression that I was stalking her. According to my ticket stub, we went to see that disappointing Luc Besson film at 7:15pm, August 20th.

Since the summer of 2014, Sometimes Someone and I have gotten to know each other better. We communicate almost daily and see each other at least once per week. Except for No Borders, she has probably spent more time at St. Mark's than anyone else. While she may not know me best, she probably has come to know me the fastest.

This means that she has been exposed to my idiosyncrasies perhaps more intensely than other people. Say, to my general interest in serial killers, for example; and in Hannibal Lecter in particular. "That's terrifying," she will sometimes deadpan in relation to something that might only be a little creepy.

Hannah and I named my apartment St. Mark's shortly after I moved here. The colour of the paint and the size of the room reminded me of the Cloisters of San Marco in Florence where Savonarola and Cosmio de Medici studied. I added a simple trompe l'oeil trick to the place by hanging a wall-sized poster of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio as seen from Piazza Michaelangelo. Beatrice is always amazed at how something so simple can create such an expansive sense of space.

I love my apartment. Clearly, one of its dominant themes is Italy which permits me some latitude to make subtle references to Hannibal without appearing to out-of-place. NBC's television series based on Thomas Harris' characters expanded the characterizations of several figures that are only mentioned in passing in the movies. Will Graham's first collar, Garrett Jacob Hobbs, for example, is only mentioned by name in Manhunter but in the series we get to see not only his capture, but his family, his modus operandi, and his killing room; a hunting cabin attic filled with antlers.

Sometimes Someone and I were buying booze at the 109 Street Liquor Deport one evening this summer when something she liked caught her eye. Or rather, something Sometimes liked at first, a resin deer antler, but once she understood that it was designed to hang upside down so as to function as a wine rack, she no longer liked it. The points of the antler curl upward like two claws closing slowly around prey. As soon as I understood what it was, I liked it immediately. My rule for furnishing a place as small as St. Mark's is that everything has to either collapse, fold-up, or have two uses. A decorative piece (an antler that you hang on the wall), that is a wine rack, and is a symbolic reference used in the Hannibal t.v. series definitely fits the bill.

The Liquor Depot cashier bagged my purchase but in no time the points of the antlers had punctured through the plastic as though some creature were fighting to escape.

"That's terrifying," Sometimes Someone deadpanned when she saw the bag. That I called it my Garrett Jacob Hobbs wine rack likely did not help.

Sometimes had not yet seen Ridley Scott's film, Hannibal so we watched it together at St. Mark's one Saturday evening. The view of the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio from Piazza Michaelangelo faded in early in the movie, an identical perspective to the one on my apartment wall. "That's kind of creepy," Sometimes said.

The next weekend we watched Guardians of the Galaxy again, and the weekend after that, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. For some reason I had to open a small storage cabinet which holds a myriad of things; the house's wireless router, spare LAN cables, candles, powerbars, and knickknacks which include a mould casting of Hannah's upper and lower teeth from when she had been fitted for a bridge. When I opened the cabinet door, the casting tumbled out of the cabinet and landed, teeth up and open on the floor as if in a silent scream, in front of Sometimes Someone, vaguely suggesting that there was a collection of dismembered body parts stored through out the apartment.

"That's terrifying," she said.

I told Hannah about her teeth casting and she thought it was a very funny story. It was the kind of story that I would like to write down.

As I walked to Red Star after work on October 15th, I formulated an inquiry that I planned to pose to Sometimes Someone who had told me last winter that if I wrote about her in my blog we could not be friends. What measures could I take that would make it acceptable for me to write about things we did together?

"What if," I suggested, "what if I make them happen with someone else?" I suggested that I would write about things that we did together, but replace her in the story with another character. That way I could both comply with the rule not to write about her, but still get to write about the funny things that I experience.

In the end, Sometimes Someone said that I could write about her again. Really Large Editorial Committee rules apply.

Movies to See

Before I Go to Sleep

because Memento; 50 First Dates; Star Trek: Enterprise, Season 3 Episode 8 "Twilight"; and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


because Gravity. And even All Is Lost.

Bridge of Spies

because Spy Game, Three Kings, The Siege, Lions for Lambs.

Today and Tomorrow 1 draft

A productivity article I once read recommended that you avoid doing e-mail work first thing in the morning. I suppose we should scan it for urgent requests and important notices, but the best way to start your day is to plan your day's accomplishments.

Yesterday disturbed me. As I crossed 97th avenue on the north end of the High Level Bridge, my sense of where I was suddenly disappeared.

97th Avenue is a busy roadway, feeding downtown traffic across the High Level Bridge which is one-way south. But in this sudden confused state, I had pictured 97th as a two-way road and imagined the lane nearest me as east-bound and I rode across the lane looking west. I was fully across the lane when a west-bound car whipped by me, reminding me where I was, what was going in, and how blind I had been to whatever hazards I was in. It was disturbing.

When I arrived at the Baker Centre I realized that I had no memory of packing my bike lock. Believing that I had no means of securing my property, I rode my Electra Delivery 3i up the parkade ramp which racking my brain for an idea. Hopeless, I opened my MEC Courier bag to discover that I had indeed packed my BikeClub. I had only forgotten that I had done so.

At that point, I noticed that one side of my courier bag was drenched. The spring-loaded cap of my water bottle had popped open, soaking the foam padding of the bag and the Logiix case of my iPad Mini. The iPad touchscreen was dappled with water, and the edges of the Home button were beaded with droplets as well. The iPad flashed the power-down screen, and then the Apple logo pulsed, both symptoms of malfunction.

I felt a worry about my day that could easily have been fear.

Playground Rules

In 2009, a Twitter feed by an L.A writer who tweeted his father's rude and ignorant remarks went viral. The pop culture phenomenon Shit My Dad Says eventually became a book and a t.v. show starring William Shatner. When rude and ignorant behaviour is framed in media, it acquires a distance when enables it to be enjoyed as a coarse type of comedy. But when you encounter it in real life, intended sincerely, it really isn't funny.

Sometimes my father says shit. And when he does, I take a particular tone with him. One afternoon after replying in that tone to something he had said, my father responded with the non-sequitur, "You're calling me an asshole."

I was surprised by this sudden change in the content of our conversation. After a beat, I asked, "What does it mean to be an asshole?" Then it was his turn to be surprised.

"If it was anyone else, I wouldn't believe that was a serious question," he replied.

My father didn't continue. But in my imagination the conversation ends with him saying, "someone is an asshole when their behaviour is rude and ignorant" to which I reply, "In that case, yes, I am calling you an asshole."

For several years now, probably starting in earnest in 2005, I have been curious about the propensity for right-wing culture ~ the broad behaviour of Conservative political supporters and media personalities ~ to participate in name-calling. "Libtards" and "Lieberals" are the most common, but there are more with many specific to particular people. The Edmonton Sun was fond of referring to Premier Alison Redford as "Premier Mommy". Judging from my mother-in-law's pronunciation, 'mommy' is said in a sneering and condescending tone: "Premier Mah-mee". It always strikes me as odd how a vast swath of ostensible adults so unabashedly participate in such childish behaviour, and in defiance of one of the foundational rules of childhood, "don't call other people names."

Hannah and I were at her mother's condo over the weekend and in the course of conversation, she brought up a recent Edmonton Sun story about a planned, then cancelled, trip to Boston by two government staffers. When she had to refer to the current Government Party, she used the term "NDPiggers".

"That's what they call them now," she said after she'd expressed her point, "NDPiggers."

I speak in unfavourable and uncomplimentary ways about Conservatives, Conservative supporters, and Conservative culture. (Please note the capitalization of all of these words. In accordance with the insights of Jonathan Haidt, I do appreciate the importance of conservative thought.) Whenever I have described some action by the Conservative Government and conclude by characterising them and their supporters, I say, "Conservatives are either evil, selfish, or stupid", with "stupid" defined as "bereft of the senses as if in a stupor." They are unable or unwilling to foresee the consequences of their positions. If my preceding point required me to characterise them politically, I call them "fascist". If I were going to call them a name, I would have to do a Google search. I think I have seen CONservative in the comments section of some news stories, but beyond that, I can't think of any derogatory phrase for right-wingers on par with "NDPiggers".

Suppose right-wingers had to follow my lead and instead of making up derogatory names with implied meaning for the so-called Left, they actually had to literally characterise them and their policies, what words would they use? Generous? Caring? Naïve?

The would certainly use "socialist", but when I hear it, it seems to be used as a derogatory name in Conservative speech and not as a term describing a particular political and economic structure (which is what I mean when I say "fascist").

My working conclusion is that Conservative culture resorts to name-calling because if they had to use literal language to describe the so-called Left, the words they would hear themselves saying would sound virtuous.

A Sentence is a Contract

Writing in this blog is a profound thing for me. I've always known that to be true, but it's being demonstrated to me in a new way. I have agreed not to write about someone who also happens to be the person in my life I now see the most ~ and I'm finding it harder to live with that contract than I had imagined. Perhaps because a) she is in my life and I write about my life, and b) she says things that are worth writing down.

It might be the universe conspiring to help me. When I mentioned this prohibition on blogging to Amandi Khera in conversation a few months ago, she surprised me by saying she wished she'd had one too. Amandi has her own reasons for wanting such a contract, but being the talented negotiator that she is, she went on to frame it in my interests by telling me that it is time for me to dispense with the journalism and write a real novel.

Understanding innovation is part of my work and I regularly read articles on the topic. A Harvard Business Review literature review found that the most significant factor in spurring innovation is scarcity. Like the master painter who arbitrarily decides to work in black and white, limits challenge creativity.

If I can't write about Amandi Khera or Sometimes Someone, and I have to write, what do I write about?

Chonos Kairos Conversion

I've been watching Interstellar repeatedly since I borrowed it for K25 on September 6th. It has not diminished after repeated viewings, even on a 24 inch screen.

In one discussion of time, Dr. Amelia Brandt suggests that to five dimensional beings the past might be like a valley they can walk down into and the future a mountain they can climb up. For them, there can be a geography of time that can be explored like space.

I once used a geography metaphor with Kaylyn Airey at K1 to describe memory. "...I think of my memory as a place. It has a geography and all things relate to other things in a metaphorically spatial way. I like to say, "I go to [a particular memory] often" as though it is a tourist-trap for some ephemeral traveller" I told her over brunch at Cafe de Ville. I was describing how I was having a hard time living with the memory of a very awkward night at Mercer's Tavern and it was interfering with enjoying the memory of our afternoon at the Star Wars: Identities exhibit a few weeks before. My Memory Palace is like a tesseract for the past and I couldn't get to The Space and Science Centre without passing Mercer's Tavern along the way. Cafe de Ville was my intervention from the future (relatively speaking) that I needed in order to fix the past.

If the memories of the past are analogous to the retrospective powers of the tesseract, what is an analogy for the prospective powers?

I love Interstellar. It is a complete cosmology, tailored to my sensibilities.

Hannah and I had a late lunch together today at Buddy Wontons Seafood Restaurant in the Strathcona Centre strip mall on 104th Street. I had been craving beef brisket noodles ever since seeing a delicious-looking bowl of it in Anna Yein's Instagram feed earlier in the day.

"Did I tell you about the systemic design workshop I went to a few weeks ago?" I asked Hannah as she delved into her Fried Rice with Egg and Bits of Ginger. I proceeded to describe the chronos/kairos ideas that I learned about from Mugendi M'Rithaa.

"I think it's true that everyone does both," I expanded. "For example, whenever we observe an occasion like a birthday or anniversary, we are being event-focused. But I think that kairos-biased people like to think in anthologies of events and aggregate them into meaning." I explained how I think that I have chronos-based relationships and kairos-based relationships. "I'm curious to see what happens when I try to turn one into the other."

I asked Hannah, "What is your first memory of an interaction between us?" Her first response was about a satirical postcard she had given me; a 1950's family printed with each of the faces a different primary colour and reading, "our house is built on a hazardous waste dump. The government says we're fine!" She amended this reply since, logically, there had to be an interaction prior to this in order for her to think that this was an appropriate card for me.

"Wasn't the photocopier near your office?" Hannah asked. We recalled an introductory conversation one time where we talked about my gambling hobby while she was making copies in the Environmental Resource Centre's Big House. During that summer of 1993 or so, Hannah worked out back in the old servants quarters as the Alberta Environmental Network's Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP) position.

When we tried to remember a third event, it was my turn to skip ahead in time. I remembered a Valentine's Day where we each delivered a card to the other, not knowing that the other was doing the same. Hannah's included a picture of herself that she had clipped from her work newsletter.

"No," she corrected. "Cafe LeGare was before that", and I immediately agreed. Hannah and I had met twice in Old Strathcona coffee shops in the very early days of our relationship. At Cafe LeGare I had embarked on a long monologue about the idea that we are not discreet, separated beings delineated by the boundaries of our skin. Rather, we are all "ecological beings" who are subtly interpenetrated and interconnected with our environment, and to each other.

"At what point," I argued, "does the air we breathe stop being the environment out here and become ourselves in here?" The same observation applied to water, and to the eleven neuroactive substances that a person emits in their tears.Kissing away someone's tears literally connects you to that person. "They get inside you," I said, waving my hands around my head miming a neuro-electric field. Later Hannah reported thinking, "this guy is really out there...".

H4 may have been a second coffee date, this time at the Second Cup on Whyte Avenue. Somehow the subject of a new double-breasted suit I had recently purchased came up. At that point I hadn't yet worn it and I implied that I might save it so that its first wearing would be something special that we might do together. It was the suit I wore when we got married at the Devon Botanical Gardens in May 1997. In that conversation, Hannah had made the point that she felt we didn't have very much in common. Later Hannah said she had intended that remark to mean that we shouldn't see each other anymore. I had missed that point.

It's ironic to me to remember how little time Hannah had for conversations like this when we were married. There was always more important things to think about: getting ready for work, housework, thinking about the frustrating aspects of her job. But now, our conversations are more like dating conversations - recollections about each of our past experiences and what they meant to us. And now we have something in common to talk about - our marriage.