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?

Two Kinds of Time

The Skills Co-laboratory is a saffron and white, multi-purpose creative space a few blocks north of Jasper Avenue on 124th street. It's colour scheme made me think of the old Toxics Watch office at the Centre for Environmental Business and Advocacy and Balloons back in the day. The organizers of the September 1-3 RSD4 Symposium at the Banff Centre brought four of the international speakers to the Skills Co-lab for an add-on event on systemic design which, due to last minute assignments, I lucked into a ticket to attend.

I found the add-on event to be generally a repeat of content I had heard before and have already begun using in my own rudimentary way. I also went against type and chose to attend a break-out group led by a South African, Mugendi M'Rithaa, rather than the offered by the Norwegian guest. It turned out to be the right choice.

Mugendi described a rather banal case study about a change management project in a South African municipality, but in the course of doing so he described a cultural distinction that existed between urban and rural South Africans. He said that most people, Westerners especially, operate on chronos, a linear sense of time. Other people can operate on kairos, a sense of time that is characterized by events.

Whenever someone asks me how long No Borders and I were together, I answer, "We saw each other fifty-five times." No one has failed to suggest that this is an odd way of reckoning our relationship. When I offer the clarification, "We saw each other for six months," people seem happier.

I used call this way of reckoning "absolute time". When my grandmother turned 80 in 2001, I started wondering how much longer she would live. Based on the longevity of my great-grandmother, I estimated my grandma would be around for another 10-15 years which felt like a comfortably long time.

But the thought that followed was that I only saw my grandmother at Christmas ~ which meant that, in a more practical sense, I had only another 10-15 days to spend with her. That felt like an astonishingly short time, and I began taking greater advantage off opportunities so see her.

"I think you remember every conversation we've ever had," Amandi Khera said to me while we were relaxing in our Tropicana hotel room one day in August 2012. The truth is that I did not remember, but I wished that I did. I wished that over the course of the ten years we had known each other I had counted all of the days we spent together in absolute time.

That wish to remember led me to reckon my relationships with No Borders and Kaylyn Airey, not in spans of time like pages on a calendar, but in the number of times we have been together: No Borders - 55; Kaylyn Airey - 30.

Until I met Mugendi M’Rithaa, I had thought of this as an idiosyncratic quirk of mine. Now I know it as kairos

A Fragment

I don't recall being an especially prolific writer. And my productivity has dropped off significantly over 2015. My streak of hypochondria sometimes blames Sjogren's Syndrome. If I have a disorder that causes my immune system to attack my peripheral nerves, why wouldn't it also affect my central nervous system as well? Aren't neurons neurons?

At other times, I wonder if I am suffering from a kind of crisis of ambition.

Amandi Khera visited Edmonton this summer, overlapping the Folk Festival weekend of August 7-10. I got to see her for two brief visits on either end of my shifts down at Gallagher Park in Cloverdale. Both visits were at the State&Main restaurant and bar attached to Southgate Mall.

My seat in the State&Main lounge faced the large windows on the west wall. The setting sun shone brightly, and when I couldn't find a position to avoid being blinded by it, Amandi invited me to join her on her side of the table. Once beside her, we talked about how we are.

And I think we agreed that things are not bad.


Neither of us have anything to complain about. We have steady jobs. We have nice accommodations. We garden. We are paid more money than either of us had ever imagined making.

I cannot recall her precise words, but Amandi described a personal state that sounded to me like a comfortable ennui. And I either identified with her condition, or I am now projecting it upon her as a way of describing how I am feeling.

Earlier this year, Amandi and I were talking on the VOIP and after I told her how Sometimes Someone forbade me from writing about her in this blog, Amandi said, "I wish I had said something like that."

The comment surprised me; a mild kind of shock, in fact. Amandi's argument was that when she lived in Edmonton, all of the readers of this blog also had the opportunity to know her in reality rather than solely through the filter of my perceptions that shape the content of these stories. She encouraged me to give up this journalism - such as it is - and attempt a true novel.

"Write about our futures," Amandi suggested, "Instead of our past."

In all of the warehouses and store shelves in the city of Edmonton there contains a three-day supply of food. That that is assuming of course that the food this city-wide cache of food is fairly and equally shared among the 1.28 million residents. Assuming there are no riots or hoarding or raiding or anything else that might result in unequal distribution. Thanks to shipping and trucking, there is continental transportation system that provides an efficient flow of foodstuffs such that this 72 hour surge zone appears to be a never-ending source of provisions. The lack of resilience in the flow of food, the ability to rapidly recover after a disturbance, is invisible. If the import of food into the city were to be cutoff for some reason, it would have to be restored within three days in order to avoid the complete exhaustion of our stores and supplies.

"We would be alright," my friends said after I told them about the finest piece of writing I had read in years. "Alberta is landlocked, and east of the mountains." I had just finished recounting the July 20th article by Kathryn Schultz in The New Yorker magazine, a scientific detective story that turns epic disaster film over the course of a long-form essay that is a pleasure to read.

The article is terrifying. In fact, I heard about the piece from a manager of mine at work who loves the City of Portland, but has vowed never again to return there after reading about the Cascadia Subduction Zone, the tectonic fault line that runs from Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino, California. But among the thousands of words describing the science and mystery; the lack of preparedness, warning systems, or simple evacuation directions; and the devastation, devastation, devastation, is this terrifying sentence: it will take six months to a year to restore the major highways.

The Last Red Star Friday of Peter Rose

Friday last was the Last Red Star Friday of Peter Rose. Also called "Rosepierre" in this blog, Peter is moving back to Toronto after two years of living and working in Alberta. The terms of his long-distance relationship were that Peter and his girlfriend would spend two years apart, but visit each other enough so that they could make a fully informed decision about who should join whom in which city when the time had elapsed. Since 2013, Peter has acquired more transferable skills as a foresight strategist which he could utilize back in Toronto. Alberta has not acquired any additional symphony orchestras which his violinist girlfriend could play in over that same time period. Consequently, Peter is returning to Ontario at the end of next week.

Earlier this year, Red Star put up a glass partition and separate entrance on the east side of the bar and named the new space, Lock Stock, a specialty coffee shop which all the written reviews I've read say is a quite a treat. At nights, the second door is locked and the Lock Stock Room becomes additional seating for the bar. On Tuesday last I stopped in at Red Star after work as spoke briefly to Rebecca who serves there along with Kenna, to reserve the Lock Stock Room for Peter's send-off on Friday night.

Wednesday was a heavy work day for both Peter and I and we decided we needed a beer that evening so we made a spontaneous visit to Red Star. Kenna was there.

"Hey guys," she said in her lyrical voice. "Long time no see." It hadn't been the longest we've gone without visiting Red Star, but it had been a little while. Kenna told us about the drink specials, but added at the end, "because I love you guys so much, you can have your first round of whatever you want at the special price." Peter asked her if she was going to be working Friday night and explained why. "I'll make sure I'm working that section and we'll make something special happen." She turned to me and asked if I had anything special planned already ~ which I didn't. "Well, I have sparklers."

"Awesome," I replied. "Sparklers will be awesome."

Five o'clock Friday arrived and the first five of us walked the half block north on 106 street to Jasper Avenue where Red Star occupies a space a half story below grade: Katherine Capo, Ariel M. Driver, SMF, Peter and I. Rene greeted me from behind the bar. Kenna said, hi Myles, from the back booth where she was making utensil rolls. We took our seats in the Lock Stock Room.

While we were getting comfortable, Kenna showed up at our table with a round of ice waters in tumblers, and a stack of six short collins glasses, each one filled with two fingers of a dark liquid. She handed three out on the far side of the table to where SMF, Ariel, and Peter sat. While Katherine was taking off her jacket, Kenna slide at short collins glass along the length of the table to me, "Western style!" she said. When Katherine had her drink in hand, Kenna lifted the sixth glass from her tray in a toast and said, "let's get this show on the road: to Peter!" and we all shot our drinks back.

Kenna collected the glasses and disappeared with them. Ariel stared at me in amazement - not having seen when I could have ordered that round of shots. "How did you plan that?" she asked. I just shook my head.

"It wasn't me," I confessed. "Kenna did that."

The party started quickly. And it soon turned into a reminiscing game where we each tried to remember our first nights at Red Star. No one could very precisely.

Katherine and I discussed the NOT BORING night as a possible first night, but I think she and I once went just the two of us one time before. Peter suggested that the Vapourizing Sun might have been his first night. Ariel said she could remember her first night but that because there have been only a few that made it a little unfair. I asked her if she was referring to the night SMF told us about Dogme 95 and a look of surprise came over Ariel's face. She had forgotten about that one.

Three other colleagues soon joined us, and at about 10:30, Kenna led a singing procession of the wait staff while carrying a cake with "best wishes" written in icing across the top. They were singing "Best Wishes to You" to the tune of "Happy Birthday".

And again people were amazed at my planning, and I had to confess again that it wasn't me.

Last Christmas I sent the first card I have ever sent to someone I know only as a server in a bar I frequent. "It is a modern fairy tale to have a place to go to that is as welcoming and fun as Red Star. Thank you for making it that way for me and my friends."

Somehow it just keeps getting better and better.
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Red Star Catch-up

It is the Saturday after another Friday. Last night was the first Friday night at Red Star in a long while. The first since Ariel M. Driver, SMF, and Beatrice Cassidy got into a hostile argument about the role of academia in society. Hostile and personal. I don't remember the date of that fight off the top of my head. Only that it was the second time in a row that we were in Rebecca's section instead of Kenna's. And that it was a long time ago.

Beatrice and Martha With the Silent 'h' had both mentioned Red Star to me earlier in the week which was sufficient quorum for me to send up the Signal late Wednesday night. Still, turnout was low. Zowie, Rockette, and Katherine are out of town camping this weekend. SMF is fly-fishing. Ariel is at Interstellar Rodeo. So it was that, not counting my old, ENGO lawyer pal, Felix, who stayed only for a short but full of laughs time, Friday night at Red Star was only me, Martha, and Beatrice.

Still, it was awesome. I was first to arrive and Kenna sat down with me for a quick catch-up. She asked about summer holiday plans and I told her about my luxury suite reservation at the Westin on August 7 and 8 as part my enhanced Edmonton Folk Fest Experience. Kenna explained that she was out in Saskatchewan visiting family earlier, and departs for Las Vegas tomorrow for some more family time. She made a point of asking me if I was dating anyone.

"I'm not," I replied. "I'm not really comfortable with dating as a relationship strategy." I explained how I'm much more comfortable becoming friends first, and then seeing if something romantic comes of it. "You've heard of exit through the gift shop!" I asked. "I like to enter through the friend zone." I didn't have to add that No Borders was an extreme exception. Kenna asked if I wanted a Steam Whistle, but I opted for a Guinness instead. And in the time it took for Rene to pour it, Martha arrived.

Martha With the Silent 'H' is a wholly fictional character, invented for the purpose of filling the space where people who don’t want to be in this blog would have normally been.