Showing posts from 2017


Today is December 26. 12/26. Which brings to mind Bob Howes snapping the ball to Wilkie, #12,  who pinned it for toe-first Dave Cutler, #26. I think Howes was #53. Which is how old I am on this 12/26.

The 26th of the month has a kind of manufactured significance this year. Every day for six months, starting on June 26, I have pedalled my bicycle. Each day I have taken a pic during the ride. As a way to try to notice, and not just see.

On June 26, the telephone wires in the alley played cat's cradle.

On July 26, the leafed elms along 91 Ave still blocked the sky.

On August 26, I rode with these characters as the city celebrated the downtown bike network.

On September 26, red made us stop.

On October 26, the dark blues and blacks of morning framed a streak of sunrise.

On November 26, I rode to feed the chickadees.

On December 26,  I contemplated the road ahead.

In an article in 1897, the English writer and humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote: "From inquiries I have made, I gather …

Video Taken a Few Kilometres above Jasper Townsite, on Revisiting the Shore of Pyramid Lake during a Tour, September 20, 2017

Wordsworth, de Botton reminds us during this, the Christmas season of reading books and listening to music and remembering events, believed that spots of time spent in nature were, when recalled, correctives against the corrosive work done to human souls trapped in the enmity and envy that course through cities and industrial workplaces.

This is from Book Twelfth, The Prelude:

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue, whence—depressed
By false opinion and contentious thought.
Or aught of heavier or more deadly weight,
In trivial occupations, and the round
Of ordinary intercourse—our minds
Are nourished and invisibly repaired;
A virtue, by which pleasure in enhanced,
That penetrates, enables us to mount
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
The pic of Shelagh standing red-coated in the September snow at Pyramid Lake is a spot of time from 2017 for me. The video is poetry in slow motion:

Spots in time are like hea…

Do the crosswalk of life

Let's quickly rewind how I somehow managed today to kind of get invited to Ethiopia.

I am just back from Rogers Place in downtown Edmonton. I walked there with Averra to make sure he got to the proper entrance. He works housekeeping at the arena. He has been in Canada for just a few weeks. He wasn't sure where to go. This might have been his first day on the job.

We got to the staff check-in after some good directions from a friendly face at the arena information desk.

On the way to the arena we had talked about the weather. It's a windy evening in downtown Edmonton. Minus seven. But it feels colder. He said he was from Ethiopia and had come to Canada to join his wife. I said I don't know much about Ethiopia, but I know Addis is the capital.

"a-DISS," he said, gently correcting my ADDis pronunciation.

He told me the city has four million people, is inexpensive, has great food and, then, laughing, that it's always summer there.

Averra and I had started ou…

12 of the ornaments of Christmas

The star is a few degrees off, the garland sags here and there, and the tree itself is quite fake, but this is our Christmas tree. It's our family tree. It points to the real places we have been. I still get up early to watch it twinkle and I squint and squeeze lens flares out of the tiny lights.

Its branches bloom with new ornaments every year.

1988 was Christmas #2 for Shelagh and me. I confirmed this math with Shelagh earlier today.

We've been to San Francisco a few times. I wish I could find a bicycle bell that sounds like the cable cars saying hello.

This is the Bellingham ferry. We have not yet been on the Bellingham ferry. We found the ornament in Fairhaven after a night in the town square under blankets watching To Kill A Mockingbird with the boys and others munching popcorn. At one edge of the square was a booth where Democrats were registering voters. That was 2004.

Shelagh brought this disco ball ornament and a love for the Bee Gees to our quartet and tree-o.


Psalm 23 on Stony Plain Road

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 this ritual response to an unimaginable event.

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…

Word games people play, now

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 (updated)

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.


Posted this morning from Amsterdam:

Thank you, Sapporo! ありがとうございました

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

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

"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!

"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…