Showing posts from October, 2014

Edmonton In Three Acts

It was quite the walk back to work today.

Act 1:

I am 28 storeys above the story taking shape below, standing against an Epcor Tower glass balcony and moving my phone into place for a pic of the futurescape. No people are visible.

The pic shows what years of politics and weeks of steel look like as the new arena, the centrepiece of the downtown entertainment district, takes shape. I am up here talking to others about the story of our city, but I am thinking of Michel de Certeau. Writing of the experience of being 82 storeys higher than I was, atop the World Trade Center, de Certeau said: "To be lifted to the summit of the World Trade Center is to be lifted out of the city's grasp." And then: "An Icarus flying above these waters, he can ignore the devices of Daedalus in mobile and endless labyrinths far below." And again: "Must one finally fall back into the dark space where crowds move back and forth, crowds that, though visible from on high, are themselve…

Standing, Guarding

Edmonton's High Level Bridge was lit in red and white to mark the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo.

I added the voices of some of the people they worked to protect.

Nathan Cirillo, RIP

I think we can now get a better picture of what Canada's unknown solider might have looked like.

The tomb of the unknown soldier is a feature of the National War Memorial in Confederation Square in Ottawa. The tomb holds the remains of an unidentified Canada soldier killed in France in the First World War. The idea is powerful: this soldat inconnu represents the Canadians who have served—army, navy, air force, merchant navy—and died, in the past, in the now, and in the future, in the name of this country.

Reading those engraved words—The Unknown Soldier Le Soldat Inconnu—summons a foggy image. I hear the words and I see a featureless soldier wearing a steel helmet and for some reason I imagine I see hills. Or, do I somehow see the idea of that soldier and the idea of those hills?

I can keep these wispy images framed for only a few seconds before they vanish. My experience has nothing else to anchor them in anything more solid.

But the murderous events of October 22, 2014, have al…

Ottawa, 10.22.14

There has been a load of words spilled after the historic attack in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 22, 2014.

We have heard that this will change Canada. Or that Canada will not change. And that this marks the capital city's loss of innocence. Our peace has been shattered. The openness of our democracy has been attacked. We are, we are told, not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world. We will not be intimidated. Hockey arenas pay tribute in light shows. We remember the brave soldier killed at the National War Memorial. Scary today, says The Globe And Mail's Roy McGregor, and, sadly, scary from now on. And on and on.

I want to quietly add only three words more: House of Commons.

The media coverage has dissected and graphed and animated the movements of the gunman, and the response of security forces. We have, rightly, celebrated the reaction of the Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, hailed as a hero. We have seen images of committee room doo…


The waiting room at the Medicentre on Jasper Avenue and 117 St is a lot of things. As a waiting room, it is a reminder, of course, of a strength imbalance: those without power wait. It is a processing plant (numbered patients are transformed into hopeful prescription carriers), it is a soundscape (sniffles, coughs, sighs, the squeak of adjusted chair legs, the so-predictable radio songs). It is a wailing room, a mourner's bench, an unlikely-intersection-of-lives point. It is a camera tight shot, as features of fellow patients are studied, furtively. It is a leveller and a lottery. It is a tinder-dry piece of ground for short tempers. It is a borderland, a purgatory, a confessional, an examination room itself.

It is a maze of thoughts backward and forward, and it is a loneliness.

And last week, thanks to a painful and persistent pinched nerve in my neck, it was where I sat. Facing a three-hour-plus wait.

But, for that wait, I have Twitter and the characters on the other side of t…

Sound Advice

Before I hit the keystrokes that started this sentence with the words Before I hit the keystrokes that started this sentence, I had already sounded out and quickly given up on a few other openings, including different versions of This morning's New York Times serves up, etc... before hitting *delete* *delete* *delete* *delete* and starting again. With a blank screen and invisible gargoyles screeching at me from somewhere.

With no apparent way to begin, I tried for a headline. Hear, Hear came quicker. Don't know if that will last, but, sounds good for now.*

After wasting another five minutes failing to find that first sentence, I started collecting possible stuff for the middle of the piece. A cut-and-paste fragment of a quote from Walter Ong on the fleetingness of sound. Dictionary definitions of sound as noun, verb, adjective. Even a pic of Howe Sound from Google Images. And a graph showing the rising usage of the word "resonate.'


While it may not resonate,…

A Verse To Pain

For the past seven days I have been in pain.

I am in pain as I hit these keystrokes.

Pain makes for short sentences.

Or long.

In Remember The Titans, pain, yes, is French! Bread! But this is pain of the older, pre-wordplay variety.

A week ago the pain came creeping around my right shoulder blade. It flames into my biceps and triceps. It makes raids down my arm, leaving behind a numbness and fear of return. It is a pinched nerve near my C7 vertebra. And that pinch has stolen sleep and altered mood. When I am on my feet, I move as if operated by a primitive joystick. I begged a friend at work for some extra T3s. I don't quite recognize myself.

I don't even know how it happened. That is the first search. What did you do? How did it happen? No clue. It was just there one day kind of like a hint and then a statement and then a yell and then a howl. And then a laugh.

Nothing is easy. Lifting a glass, turning a page in book, going to the washroom, doing nothing -- none of it is easy…