Showing posts from 2014

The Chain Is Strong

Bill Clark, from all I have seen, is one great cop. The city owes him a lot. The families of murder victims that he has given answers to owe him a lot. Prosecutors owe him a lot. News reporters, who get the benefit of his unique personality and his talent at clipping up (as we would say in the TV news game), owe him a lot. He's the real thing. Like Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue.

Now, Bill Clark has convinced more than a few of us it is time to pay. :)

Bill Clark is making news these days, angry that the Edmonton Police Service did not get all it asked for during budget hearings at city hall.

Quick background: Edmonton city council granted the police service only 87 of the 136 new employees the force asked for in the 2015 budget. 
Clark made his case to the media, and made headlines by comparing the money the cops didn't get to money that is going to other city initiatives, including bicycle lanes and a suicide-prevention barrier on the High Level Bridge.

Quick background: both of …

What's A Reuben Sandwich Really Made Of?

When I start out for workday lunch downtown, I am, invariably, kinda lost.

For some reason (okay, advertising and the salt on the fries and my fascination with the Mayor McCheese mascot from my north-end youth) my first thought is McDonald's in Commerce Place. But, after all these years, I am now pretty good at tranquilizing those happy thoughts. And so, I wander by, looking and remembering and weighing.

I remember that that place over there never has the salad rolls they say they have, and that other place across the way asks me mindlessly, every time, if I want a cookie with my individual pizza. As if I have ever once bought a cookie with my individual pizza.

And, so, slightly agitated by the tickingtocking clock, I end up in Manulife Place in front of Zenari's. Like today, when I walked into the din and pointed to the remaining Reuben sandwich, smiled my transactional smile and forked over a $20 bill. I got my change and said my transactional thankyous and waited for the s…

A chain's gonna come!

I think the men and woman on city council should support more bicycle lanes in Edmonton.

Not primarily or just because cycling is a good way to move. It surely is. It is good for the person pedalling (it's better to move your legs than to twitch your gas-pedal foot), it's actually good for the person driving (selfishly, there are fewer cars and trucks to deal with in traffic), it's good for neighbourhood-building, and it's just plain good for the environment.

It's just not as good for a certain kind of politician.

Bicycle commuters are a minority. That's pretty easy to see. It's seen most easily by those who are in their seats, in large part, because they are skilled in speaking to already-formed majorities. They're not as skilled at making majorities, but that is a different art. More people do rely on cars and trucks as their primary mode of transportation than do those who lean on bicycles. Many are not interested in changing that equation. And nobo…

Pedestrian Thoughts

"So," I said, somewhat desperately, "if I can't ride my bike until this gets better, what do I do?"
My physiotherapist looked at me. He wrinkled his lips. He started to answer, and then considered his reply. The delay was just long enough to send its own message. Like a dash after a long in Morse Code.
And then he said: "Walk."

Well, that shorely makes me old, I thought. As old as the physiotherapist giving me the advice, I thought. Walk? I thought. I said nothing. But, really, waaalllkkk?

There is a scientific explanation for what is wrong with my neck and a mechanical explanation for pain in the shoulder blades and arm and the numbness in my fingers. I have my own description of it. But my mother reads these blogs, so I can't use "F---!"

The pain has knocked me off my daily bicycle commute, and that is sad. And it's dangerous, too, because the camouflaged sitting sneaks back in. Sitting at work, sitting at home and now sitting in …

And Snow It Begins

And so it begins. *

Actually, "it" is the oldest, easiest story out there. Old because it is as old as the hills it covers. Easy because it actually falls into the laps of those, like TV news personalities, whose job it is to tell us important things and reflect us back to us.

"It," of course, is the snow.

It snowed today in Edmonton, Yes, it did. The city looks like a piece of blank foolscap ready for inscribing. And the snow means that the storyline of the last few weeks—that is, how much longer can we get away with no snow?—has given way to the new questions from TV land. These include: will the white stuff actually stick around? How much more will we get? And, should I get winter tires this year?

The winter-tires question is the penetrating one, because it gets us a bit closer to one reason we are told we so dislike the arrival of the season. It turns out to be pretty simple: it's hard to drive automobiles when it's snowy and icy.

In fact, that was the…

Thanks, Terry!

When it comes to images of house-seller Terry Paranych, I still prefer the bus bench variety. His arms are folded confidently. He is looking ahead confidently. He appears trim and powerful and healthy and forever about 38 years old. In the suspenders, there's both a touch of the guy who has taken off his jacket to get to work for you, and a whiff of the guy who's not afraid to show you he's doing quite well by taking off his jacket and getting to work for you.

Plus, he gives the bus set a place to sit while waiting for the #1 to trundle down 102 Ave. Good guy. Nice teeth.

So, how to square that picture with the flame-throwing Paranych who emerged on Twitter recently? In a series of tweets, Paranych tried to torch the reputation of Ward 1 councillor Andrew Knack. He called Knack a "liar" and "The Great Pretender." Knack, said Paranych, made an "idiotic" decision that "let down" his constituents. He ridiculed those who support Knack a…

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…