Showing posts from 2019

Thought bubble

I didn't see much of it at the time I pedalled by. I didn't have enough time to see much of it. It was all too small, too fast, too big to take in with however many frames per second my impoverished eyesight limits my experience of the world to the first time through.  
I mean the two girls making bubbles visible through an escaped floating planet of a bubble, its poles two soapy, iridescent continental caps—I saw all of it only later. Through my computer. 
The scene unfolded in Hawrelak née Mayfair Park yesterday afternoon as I pedalled past two boys playing on the gravel path with a basketball, one trying a dribble between his legs while the other watched. I said hello, then headed for the footbridge, and that's when I saw the bubbles in the air. I had enough time to check that the Go Pro on the handlebars was still rolling, and then pedalled toward the biggest bubble. Go to the story. Go directly to the story.

I took aim, and then swerved back onto the trail so I wouldn…

Edmonton Jazz Ensemble @ 30

In March, when it is dark outside in the early evening in Edmonton, Shelagh (child 9/9 in her McAnally family) sat with her brother Sean (8/9) at a table with Al Jacobson at his house in Bonnie Doon.

Thirty years ago, Sean (trumpet) and Al (trombone) were turks in the Edmonton Jazz Ensemble (EdJE). They won the Alcan Jazz Prize. They played all the jazz festivals in Canada. They were nominated for a Juno. They toured Europe. They were big deals. For me back then, new to the McAnally family and its circle of characters, Sean and his bandmates (Al, Jim Pinchin, Wayne Feschuk, Marek Semeniuk, Tom Foster) were exotic. I was from the north end. I listened to Nazareth. They knew about Miles Davis. The way they moved was in a foreign time signature.

That night in Bonnie Doon, Sean, back in his old city from his home in New Jersey, and Al were talking about what is now only a little over a week away: the 30th anniversary EdJe reunion concert at the Yardbird Suite.

"I told [Edmonton Jazz…

Waves of graduates

The University of Alberta President, David Turpin, stood on stage at convocation ceremonies and asked the graduates seated before him to look back.

"Your parents, your siblings, your grandparents, your spouses, your children, your friends, let's turn around and say thank you," Turpin said.

Under Turpin's baton, a couple hundred gowned students rose in a wave from their floor seats in the Jubilee Auditorium, their mortarboards bobbing, their academic hoods, red for Law, white for Arts, shining. They cheered and clapped and received back hoots and hollers and hellos from the balconies.

It was something to behold from our seats in row C of the first balcony.

It is something again to behold from the stage.

For a couple of years I sat on Alumni Council. Among the thanks for the early morning meetings on campus was the chance to represent alumni on stage during convocation.  It wasn't much of a chance, actually. It was a privilege to sit gowned up with the other medie…

Today I saw 10 pelicans above downtown Edmonton

A remarkable and a quite remarkable and a truly remarkable thing happened at the farmers market this afternoon.

In exquisite formation, 10 American white pelicans soared overhead. I stood dumbfounded, at first thinking they were airplanes. I do this. I mean, I transpose nature into artifice, as if somehow birds resembled aircraft and not the other way around. For a few heartbeats, the creatures flew out of sight behind the old GWG Building. I ran, and they reappeared over the new museum, banking to the north, then looping back and around high over the law courts, the undersides of their wings shining as they wheeled. It was remarkable aerial performance for a groundlooker like me.

Shelagh had seen the birds first.

"Oh, look," she said, pointing up as we stood beside the Blindman Brewing stall.

We had been talking with Nicola.

"They're pelicans," Nicola said immediately. And then, after a second or two of considering the things above, she said: "American w…

Where there's smoke...

In the history of kisses recorded during a forest fire, this was, perhaps, the smokiest.

I had just crossed the High Level Bridge and was pedalling up the hill to meet Shelagh at the Sugar Bowl when, all of a sudden, there they were, two strangers on their bikes, smooching like there was no tomorrow, while a thick, brown-grey shroud of wildfire smoke embraced them.

That's a great shot, I thought, and checked to make sure my handlebar Go Pro was rolling. I decided to make a line for them. How close could I get? As it turned out, I could have stopped and started singing Jason Isbell and they wouldn't have noticed me.

I tried to keep the handlebars steady, and smiled as I slipped by. Somebody whistled.

At the Sugar Bowl, Shelagh and her bicycle-riding friends from MacEwan had the patio to themselves. I ate a lamb burger and drank Delirium Tremens from an elephant-trunk-shaped goblet. There was no conversation from the next tables. Nobody was at the next tables. It was eerie.

We …

May 23, 2019

This morning's bike ride downtown was nothing extraordinary. But there were some things worth noticing.

The big tree on 101 Ave was all in at the photosynthesis roulette table. On green.

At the shared use path trailhead, I felt like a spoke in a fancy dance.

My friend Brian suggested Strauss.

I said hello to a pedestrian heading south.

I said hello to a magpie heading north.

I correctly predicted that the white Uber would right hook across my path.

I heard 10,000 Maniacs.

I waved to Karly, who I count among my bicycling friends.

I said hello to Jason as we arrived at Edmonton Tower.

My morning had unfolded nicely.

The day took unique turns. I guided Milan to City Centre Mall. He had a stroke three years ago. He was off to buy razors.

I took a photograph from 1978 back to the exact place I took it on a Kodak Instant Camera as a 14-year-old kid. I loved that camera.

I told the story to Eric and Brad from the Westin.

Also, I ate the first two caterpillars of my life. From Botswana. …


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…