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Alphabetacycle

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Pedalling a bicycle in the city gives the rider the extra bit of time needed to read the surroundings. This open invitation helps make bicycle commuting something beyond an A-to-B mode of transport. In fact, there is an alphabet of experience between A and B.

Here, in alphabetical order, are some of letters I read as I write myself along the streets of Edmonton.


ATB Place on Jasper Avenue, where I worked for five years with some well-lettered people, used the bicycle as a metaphor to explain the balance needed to keep a complex organization moving ahead.



Bon Ton Bakery is a block away, but I would ride across the city to get those poppyseed danishes. My grandmother in Winnipeg baked poppyseed bread.



The snaky C on top of the CN Tower in Edmonton is my favourite neon sign. My father was a locomotive engineer with CN. My friend the artist Slavo was inspired by the CN sign. I always look up when I am riding below.



Delwood Park, home to Delwood Hill, the highest point of my childhood unt…

A short post about today's wintry weather in which I pay a small tribute to Eric Jenkins and try out a new word

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"I could use a little more green," John said as we pedalled across the 142 St bridge over the MacKinnon Ravine yesterday afternoon.

The comment was different parts description and defiance. Mostly description: it's still pretty brown and leafless out there. The trees and lawns haven't yet gone all in in the spring photosynthesis sweepstakes. Some defiance: The weather forecast was for snow by morning.

The trees and the meteorologists got it white. The brown ground and bare trees have a set of fresh linens today.

The reactions are varied. Some people deliver the neutral facts and emojis.



Others share the surprise that change brings:


Some bemoan and go all first-person singular about it.


Others detect a mythology in which Edmontonians are eternally punished for their puny, chorophyll longings .

Some offer a tentative, questioning resistance to the negativity.


And others are Eric.


Eric is out there.

Eric is out there on his bike in a kind of precious urban chemical rea…

Words that make me stop in my tracks

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I stop for words on the street.

Like the day a couple of summers ago on the 103 St bike lane when page 70 from Shaw's Pygmalion lay face up on the asphalt.

I picked up the loose page and, standing over my bike, read the scene where Henry Higgins tells his mother he has picked up a girl.

Mrs. Higgins: Does that mean that some girl has picked you up?
Higgins: Not at all. I don't mean a love affair.
Mrs. Higgins: What a pity!

I remembered how Shelagh shared her love of musicals when we met. Camelot. My Fair Lady. She taught me that West Side Story was Romeo and Juliet.

And the day last summer in the north end when I pedalled across scattered pages from the Book of Psalms.


I stopped and retrieved Psalm 33: The Lord frustrates the purposes of the nations; he keeps them from carrying out their plans.

I smiled. Still in the news that week was criticism of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions's retreat to St. Paul (not the city) as controversy swirled around his government's p…

Being sick, looking at old photos, thinking about bungee cords

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If memory is a guide, I've now been sick for exactly two weeks with a virus that planted its flag in my throat and then advanced to my lungs, sowing a confusion of drip and phlegm on its march. My artillery has coughed out weak replies. To those feeble rattles, the mocking invader has blanketed the countryside with "remember to breathe" tissues.

I do wonder if it has actually been two weeks of coughing and hacking and sinus congestion like the Groat Road Bridge at automobile rush hour. Am I remembering right? The days blur into each other under a pattern that goes like this: sleep, take pills, use inhaler, swallow cough medicine, consciously inflate my zeppelin lungs. Then: watch whatever Top 100 sports highlights package is on TV, make it to No. 98, fall asleep under the sway of the monitor's hypnotic colours. I have omitted the less elegant aspects of the assault and retreat. 
This is how desperate things have been. I haven't been on my bike for two weeks.

My b…

Perry Mah, Perry Mah

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Let the record show that I once shared a bed with Perry Mah.

It was April 1992. I was a young reporter with The Edmonton Sun. Perry and I were assigned to cover the flood in Peace River. The Sun was not a lavish outfit. The newspaper paid you in experience. Part of that experience was a tiny hotel room between us and nothing between us as far as sleeping infrastructure went. Good night, Kub, he said from the left side. Good night, Perry Mah, Perry Mah, I said from the right.

That trip was important to me. I learned how to talk my way into a flooded mall. I learned how to anticipate the next angle, to see where the story was going—and then how to make it go that way. The water everywhere today was so obvious, but tomorrow people will start asking if there is disease in the everywhere water. Ask that question today. I learned how photographers work themselves into position to see the world that people will see in time. I learned how to sleep still.

Perry took one picture of me. This is…