Showing posts from August, 2015

Wor(l)d Building

"Nice jacket!" grey-bearded, hard-hatted Construction Worker Elder hooted into the wake of air left by the woman who had just about finished flowing by on Rice Howard Way.

His verbal spasm was delivered with the stress on jacket, and was aimed not as much at the woman (she was pretty much out of hearing range) as at sunglassed, hard-hatted Construction Worker Younger,  who was standing next to him in line at the Fat Franks gourmet hotdog cart.

His remark was in reply to Younger's question.

"What do you say now?" he had asked his wizened workmate. "We can't even say much anymore!"

By this curious lament (his stresses were on now and anymore) Younger was presumably testifying to the uncomfortable presence inside him of some kind of cultural governor, some piece of internal argument that inhibited what came naturally to a construction worker set a-sizzle by the presence of downtown beauty.

Things like, and worse than…well, you may know the gross sou…

Mourning Scenes

The rabbi had requested that the clump of mourners stretch out from the graveside and form two parallel lines, and they did, and they faced each other, this somber, believing band. Inside the framed path moved the dead woman's family, her brother, husband, her sons and daughters-in-law, the grandchildren, and they were looking down and up and in. Behind them was a mound of fresh earth that emitted a kind of gasp with each gouge of the spade.

This was the scene at the Jewish Cemetery, and it was elemental and overpowering.

It was the scene that rose up two days later as I pedalled my bicycle up and down the highway pavement, alongside golden fields west of the city, alone. I stopped and the silence was everywhere, and I looked at the wheat, and looked, and thought that the path mowed through it had left a stubble of grief.

Three Life Sentences

When I was young, being no stranger to feeling comfortable alone, I collected stamps. Before I first crawled through the wardrobe behind the Pevensie children, my windows into worlds beyond and ages ago were stamps. Philately, it was called. What language was that? For whatever reason, my imagination was fired by U.S. Civil War postage. And Lincoln. And Whitman. And civil rights themes. And authors. My childhood stamp album has survived the waves of decluttering that routinely roll through our bungalow and break into the dump, and it sits in a box in the garage, preserved, protected, waiting.  I still pause to look at new stamps when I'm at the post office, but an Edmonton Eskimos stamp or an Edmonton Oilers stamp doesn't quite carry the thrill of 4-cent Lincoln words. I hope there are still kids who collect stamps and dream of cold camps in Antietam (without yet knowing how to pronounce Antietam) when rain falls outside. But, for me, these are post-postage age days.

I now co…

Speed Of Smell

The Bow Valley Parkway, that ribbon of road not travelled as much anymore between Banff and Lake Louise, got into me for the first time three decades ago (actually 30 years ago this month where does time go, where does it actually go?) and it came back into view the other day as I pedalled north of Edmonton.

I was in the Tour de l'Alberta's 100 km ride out of Morinville, and had made the turn up Highway 44, and what struck me at approximately 28 kilometres an hour was the wreckage. Bolts and spears of wood and chunks of plastic and shards of fiberglass and a soiled glove and a baseball-style hat with a trucking logo on the front and the rubber of exploded tires discarded by passing tractor trailers. The shoulder of a highway is the asphalt shore where the flotsam and jetsom of modern travel washes up and sits discarded and forgotten, and, at 120 kilometres an hour, unseen.

"It's amazing how much crap there is on the shoulder," I say to a cyclist moving alongside…

At 28, With Friends In France

We are cleaning 25 years of a) junk b) books c) clothes d) sports equipment e) children's schoolwork
f) all of the above out of the bungalow this a) weekend b) month c) summer d) year e) decade f) all of the above. There are some interesting finds, including this piece of juvenilia, a letter written to my friend, the now very accomplished executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, David Blatt. No, not the coach of the Cavs David Blatt. The Vernon Barford Blues David Blatt.

At 28, with friends in France,
And others dead,
I, being neither, will take my middle circumstance
(Bowing to the Larkin I've lately read)
And begin a trans-Atlantic chat
With a friend I remember as David Blatt
But, first, yes, the thermostat…

Which, now adjusted, let's begin,
Hoping this letter finds you in
Good health, warm room, old shoes,
Because, as one who works in news finds out,
All becomes a blur of soot
With no foundation underfoot.

Yes, says the reader right on cue,
"That does …