Monday, 30 July 2012

Op/Ed/Charles McGillivary.

It's been nearly a full year since the death of a disabled man in Toronto.On the evening of August 1st,2011,Charles McGillivary was walking with his mother in the area of Bloor And Christie streets.Charles McGillivary was a disabled man,unable to speak as the result of a childhood accident.On that night he was out for pizza,a favorite activity.By all accounts,Charles McGillivary was well known and well liked in his neighborhood.At the vigil I attended a week later many described him as gentle and kind.

Unknown to Charles or his mother,a short distance away,police were  attending a call about a disruptive tenant.Shortly after they received that complaint,they confronted a man they believed to be the person of interest.That man turned out to be Charles McGillivary.Officers called him by the name of their suspect and received no answer,so they exited their patrol car and a further confrontation occured,during which Charles McGillivary was wrestled to the ground.Keep in mind that,being non-verbal,he had no means of  answering police inquiries.I can well imagine that he must have felt terror as well,as he was taken to the ground,something which no doubt caused him to continue to struggle.In the end,Charles McGillivary ended up dead,a tragic case of mistaken identity.

The usual inquiry took place,with what seemed like the usual outcome.I should note that the announcement that Ontario's Special Investigations Unit(SIU), had cleared the officers involved of any criminal wrong doing came this spring.Had I not been listening carefully for their ruling I would have missed it,as there were a couple of high profile murders in the news at the time?Coincidence?Perhaps.

But i'll cut right to the main point.Do we simply have to accept a "no harm,no foul"explanation for these events.Have we learned anything at all from this mans death.Or was it just another case of police just doing their jobs.The Coroner ruled cause of death inconclusive,but suggested that Heart failure as the result of a struggle was likely.I'm not saying that the coroner is wrong,but the inconclusive tag does cause me some seems an appeal to the stereotype that disabled persons are somehow in suspect health and that that was the real cause of death,as opposed to the incident itself.I'm concerned that enough people will buy into that thought and stop asking questions that need to be answered.And,that as a result,Charles McGillivary becomes just another disabled ma who died,but,somehow just doesn't count quite as much as other citizens,who would have the verbal and intellectual abilities to defend themselves.As long as that is the case,there is just something unacceptably lacking in the way this whole thing was handled.

Some things I'm still unclear on:Who comprises the SIU.How many of them are former cops.Is there any provisions for the SIU to access special consultants from outside their ranks when the situation calls for it?Specifically,could they access the services of anyone with expertise as to how disability may have affected the outcome of this particular case?And most importantly,who speaks for Charles MCGillivary?

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Photo essay

One of the things I love to do is mess around with a photo editor.Everything seems like a nail when you have a hammer in your hand.Here are a few of my favorite creations.

Mountain Strings

Old and Blue


Along The Tracks

memoir writers homework/wilderness/wildlife

I've always enjoyed wilderness and wildlife,believing that a benevolent creator put both here for us to see and reflect upon.I've never been able to deny,when I see a hawk or a whale or some other creature that it points the way to a power much larger than myself,and that He furnished all these things that He might be recognized.

In fact,it's not really necessary to seek out wild and remote places to enjoy God's creatures.Just the other day I witnessed two hawks circling high above the banks of the Bow River,looking for prey.And it was amazing that we could hear them screeching as they rode the wind currents while we looked up from constructing a building on the ground.And all the more amazing is that they have eyes that allow them to locate something as small as a gopher or a mouse hundreds of feet below.

In Calgary,where I live now,there is an abundance of wildlife very close to downtown.Coyotes are commonly sighted,even on busy streets,especially at night.In 2001,I had a coyote follow me to work for about a two week stretch.As I would walk down a set of railway tracks,I would turn off to my left,and she,following a hundred or so feet behind would veer off to the left.It turned out she had a den full of pups inside an old 45 gallon drum just off the tracks.So,I would come to work a half hour early so as to have the opportunity to take a few minutes to stop and watch them at play.It seemed a sort of respect developed between myself and the mother.She would always follow me each morning,maintaining exactly the same distance.I did not feel as though I was being stalked and it never occurred to me to be afraid of her,as much as people around here say coyotes are dangerous.I don't believe it.I think  this particular coyote came to the conclusion,eventually that I was no threat to her or her family.She stopped following me,but remained in her den and would allow me to watch the young ones each morning.
Pleasant surprises can come from the most unexpected sources.i find as I grow older there seems so much disrespect in the world that I greatly appreciate it's opposite.So I was surprised,even somewhat taken aback last night to hear a younger native man call me "Uncle."By that he doesn't literally mean that I am his uncle.It's just a term of respect that Canadian native people from his part of northern Canada use when addressing an elder.It may be that the darkened color of my skin led him to mistake me as native.That's been known to have happened in the past,as I can grow quite dark in summer months.It really makes no difference.I was,in fact honored to be addressed as "uncle."To be truthful,relations with native people here in Western Canada can be strained at times,by the weight of negative history,but I've always tried to treat people right.At times I've been accepted by people of other races,and at times I have not.But I believe I've done my best to not practice racial prejudice.So,it made my whole week,in fact,my whole year to date,to have that recognized when a younger native man called me "uncle."

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Some Thoughts About Being a Liberal Christian

Well,I've spent some more time reading "Jesus Was a Liberal" and I find it a very interesting read.A few weeks back a man asked me how it was I could call myself both Liberal and Christian at the same time.Quite honestly,I've never really experienced the cognitive dissonance that my friend seems to come by naturally,as a Conservative when hearing "liberal" and "Christian"in the same political conversation.What's interesting is that my friend,who measures himself as an agnostic seems to picture Christianity as belonging solely to right wing side of the political spectrum.I might well ask how one can be agnostic,or even atheist and still consider themselves conservative,but I'm not going to bother.That would only serve to extend the obvious error of not thinking beyond my immediate perceptions in such matters.

What does it mean to call oneself a Christian.I'll deal with that first as it's a relatively easy question to answer.It means that one believes in God,and in Christ,his Son who was sent to die for my salvation,if I believe in him by faith and accept the free gift of his grace.But I would have to say that by the time I became a Christian,many of my political ideas were fully formed.They may not have been informed by my current faith,but I don't believe that most of them are bad ideals.And in truth,I consider them subject to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to change,if necessary.

My political views are essentially Liberal.And I'll take the time to lay down what I consider the central idea of Liberalism,so far as I understand it.Liberalism grew out of the Enlightenment and began as the idea that we could subject all things,including politics and theology to reason,and then be free to choose from among those ideas.Of course,this implied a lot of wrong ideas,perhaps,but that could hardly be worse than the church of the day having a nearly complete monopoly on social control.And the Catholic Church of that day were conservative in nearly every respect,not encouraging people to read and/or think about religion.Anyone who valued their reputation and life was expected to swallow the word whole,as presented by priests.So,in fact,enlightened Liberalism was largely responsible for enabling the religious freedoms we know today.

In terms of social implications,Liberalism to me is synonymous with human rights and egalitarianism,or the idea that all people should have access to the same opportunities.Accordingly,if I say I am a believer in egalitarianism and human rights,I must be willing to fund those ideals through government.Therefor,I believe in public education for all,public health care,and a basic social safety net.Now,in point of fact,I can find support for these ideals way back in the time of Moses.For instance,it was forbidden for Israel to glean wheat from their fields more than once,and the poor were permitted to glean at the corners of the fields.Primitive though it may be this has all the markings of  social welfare.

So how did Liberal become a dirty word among conservative Christians?Well,as I noted,more than a few really bad ideas resulted from the newly found freedom to inquire.Freedom of most kinds carries that possibility.It's implicit in the concept of freedom.For instance,the Theory of Evolution is most likely a "liberal"idea,in the sense that no one would have dared propose it two hundred years prior to Darwin.But that is far from saying that all Liberals actually believe in it.In fact there seem to be a growing number of scientists who question the theory.

That brings me back to the book"Jesus Was a Liberal,"not because I'm prepared to give a long commentary,at this point on it,but because it's author makes a great point about liberalism and the response of many conservatives to all things liberal.To paraphrase,he notes that the term liberal has taken on the meaning of godless or secular or anti-religious.In so doing,the book quotes another author I've been reading recently,Ann Coulter:"liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith."

A few words,and I'll try to hold it at a few,about Ann Coulter are in order.While reading her book,the first thing that came to mind is that she paints liberals with a very wide brush.Imagine my surprise at finding out that among the things I hold "sacred" in the mind of Coulter at least is "killing the unborn"and "allowing dangerous criminals to go free."Fortunately I managed to put down Coulters book in a laundramat and it was stolen.After the first five insufferable chapters I got the general idea.While Coulter might be doing a great job of defining ALL liberals,to her own edification,I do not need Ann Coulter to tell me what I believe.And for the record,I am pro life and in favor of keeping dangerous criminals off the streets forever,Coulters comments notwithstanding.The point is that I attempt to subject political thinking to both reason and scriptural scrutiny.Above I mentioned one example of how scripture might be interpreted as liberal.It is far from the only example.Liberalism to me reflects the love and care for our fellow humans that Jesus spoke and preached about.Even so,it does seem true that it's the "Religious Right"that most people view as the face of Christianity.I suspect that many Christians find themselves on the right side of the political spectrum for reasons of belief that not every Christian,or for that matter,every Christian sect believes in.But I wish,instead of trying to explain my beliefs to me as though they were the definitive authority,they would explain their own beliefs to me and allow them to be questioned.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Memoir Writers Homework/Transportation.

"The Old Trail,just moseys right along,
moves at the speed of a sweet love song..."

The rivers used to be roads,and the roads rivers.The Saint John must have been the number one highway in those days.Those days were ended before my days ever began,but I could still see the ghosts of that time when we took the old road that meandered by the river.A few logs being floated to mill,where once the river was full of logs,so that you could walk across on them from bank to bank.Old covered bridges and broken down,waterlogged river craft.

Mostly we went places by car,where we could watch little bits of the past drift by the windows as we sped on in the opposite direction.And the cars we had,most often two of them were grand things:a 1961 Valiant,an old Nash Rambler,a 1964 Chevelle,and the 1966 Chevy Impala SS which became my first car.Until they too drifted away,to rust in a hay field,where we could see them as we roared by.

The old road,the one that followed the river wasn't good enough.Because the province needed more power,they built a dam,and the old road gave way to one on higher ground.But you could still drive along the rivers banks and dream of the time past when it would carry men along at it's own speed,back when rivers were roads and roads were rivers.

Then,even the new road wasn't enough for us and it needed to be replaced with one on which you could by-pass nearly everything,cut hours of driving time,and arrive no more rested and far less edified.

There seem to be words that the road builders hate,and try to drive from our language.Words like "pastoral" and "meander.""Pastoral" as in a pastoral painting.Native children with a string of trout.Jersey cows grazing by a covered bridge,or an old woman gathering herbs.Back then,while driving,I could see my province in pastoral,impressionistic splendor."Meander"as in to travel the way the river does and enjoy it's green banks.But who needs that kind of road,because roads were not intended for the soul.So they cut a new one,straight as an arrow through the heart of the province.It will get you to all the same places,but by-passes everything,giving thought to nothing.It cannot recall the time when rivers were roads and roads were rivers,nor even when roads meandered by pastoral riverside.But I remember.

The Quote is from a song called "The Old Trail",by Don Williams.From back when country music still existed.

Friday, 20 July 2012

memoir writers homework/bullies

Bullies seem to be a part of everyone's life and certainly Moncton had it's share.My mother believed in finding and recognizing the good in everyone,and of speaking only of that good.She must have been deeply troubled at the state of our world in the mid 1970's but chose to remain outwardly naive about many things.During those years,two policemen were killed,their killers found,tried and sentenced to death,only to have their sentences commuted.Then a small girl disappeared at the beginning of summer.Some monster must have snatched her away and as I grew older I came to recognize more clearly what such monsters do.

I wanted to go on the search for this girl and my mother decided to allow it .I was 14 at the time and when I went on the search with a neighbor,I discovered a bully,and a thought as to why all things seemed to be going to Hell in a handbasket.At the time,it was unusual for us to even lock our front doors.

We piled into my neighbors car,went to the police station,where hundreds had gathered and at the command center were assigned an area to search.Our area turned out to be northeast of town.Moncton is divided,northeast to southwest such that to the north and east the rural communities are predominantly French,while to the south and east they are English,United Empire Loyalist.So,being of the latter category I found myself in a very different world in many ways.

By mid morning we had searched ditches and fields near the road,finding no sign of anything suspicious.At last we came to a tiny church with an equally tiny man outside,cutting it's lawn and tidying up it's grounds.We approached.He spoke hardly any English,though he seemed to know why we were there.My neighbor,who reminded me of a great hairless bear asked the man in English if we could search in the church.His voice was loud,as it always tended to be.Even in polite conversation it's volume was just a notch too loud for the occasion.He took a step towards the man while asking.His eyes were fixed on the door.His manner did not invite no as an answer.Why would the missing girl be in the church?Still,he desired to inspect the church.The groundskeeper nodded his assent,looked at the ground and stepped aside.We looked into the small sanctuary.A single,straight ahead view allowed us to take in all of it and there was no sign of anything that should not have been there.So we left.And I thought of those two men for all my life since and how much of Moncton's social reality was spoken in that mostly unspoken event.And I began to be aware of certain undercurrents that my mother was uncomfortable recognizing.Wolves often wear sheep's clothing.
Normally I like to finish reading a book before I offer a review of it,or for that matter,even comments about it.I think that it's nearly as bad judging a book by it's first fifty or so pages as it is to judge it by it's cover.The book I'm speaking of,just added to the "What I'm Reading" section of this blog is entitled "Jesus Was A Liberal-Reclaiming Christianity For All,by Rev.Scotty McLennan.

Now I would have to say,a book with this particular title is provocative to the point that it invites itself to be judged by the cover.I can just see copies of it being cast into the flames in church parking lots all over middle America,and some places in Canada as well.You couldn't necessarily accuse all kinds of Christians as being open minded.But many are,hence a book like this one which,even if you disagree with it's premise,clearly stated on it's cover,offers a perspective worth considering.

For now,I want to speak to a single premise made by Reverend McLennan early on in the book.But before we go there,I must comment on the title.This will bear some further discussion later perhaps,when I've actually read the entire book,but let me simply say,I think it's perhaps not a good thing to hang a label on Jesus,or anyone else for that matter.I consider myself a Liberal,and I know what I mean when I say that.But here is what political labels really accomplish:they justify the perception of the person doing the perceiving based on their own political views.So.for instance,when I say I do not believe in capital punishment,others,usually conservatives will react by saying"He's a Liberal."But,when I say I do not support abortion,others,usually liberals will respond by saying"he's a right wing,intolerant,bible thumping red neck"Somehow both sides miss the consistent pro- life leaning when they try to neatly arrange everyone into one of just two categories,based on the totality of what they think.And to be certain,not all Liberals,or Conservatives think the same things.I know that certainly applies to me.As a Liberal I'm constantly astonished at some of my more conservative beliefs.

Political and moral beliefs and the expression of them is a complex matter.Labels, I find are just too simplistic when applied to almost anyone.Imagine how much more difficult it would be to attribute particular political beliefs to a person who clearly transcends us all in terms of thought and view.We can take note of particular statements made by Christ,or actions carried out by him and from that, perceive those actions in a particular political light,but I would be hesitant to label The Living God in terms of human politics.After all,the greatest fallacies seem to stem from us forgetting who God really is.But I will look forward to seeing if Reverend McLennan can present a reasonable,if insufficient proof of his claim.

Now,as I said,I find I must take issue with a particular point raised early on in this book.That is,that it was,and is the "Judeo-Christian" position,throughout history that life begins at birth,as opposed to conception.I don't intend to take up the well known and entrenched arguments here,but I simply want to point out why I believe you cannot justify such a statement as being a Christian belief.And I will note here that McLennan says,to paraphrase,that just because one believes in life from the moment of birth,it does not follow that they were not"concerned with potential life."However,concern simply does not address the actual problem here.And the problem is that such an argument undermines the whole of Christian thought,the whole of Christian history as revealed in scripture.If life began at birth,and not conception,we ought to be able to apply that idea to the life of Christ.Yet that is far from the thrust of Christian belief.The whole telling of the Biblical story goes far beyond the idea of potential life as being a fetus.Christ was conceived of by an omnipotent God as a means to salvation from the beginning,such that we could receive that salvation either by looking forward in history,or back,as we do today,and believing in faith.His identity is revealed to us through prophecy that pre-dates his actual physical birth by hundreds,and in some cases thousands of years,yet is more than sufficient to establish his identity.All of scripture foreshadows the existence and purpose of Christ.Moreover,there is scriptural narrative of repeated attempts to extinguish the line of decendancy of Christ,again,from the beginning of recorded history.In each attempt,there is supernatural provision made to direct the purpose of God in establishing salvation,as revealed by the prophets and all of Biblical revelation.So clearly,Christ was considered a person,by God,long before his immaculate conception.It follows,then,that if we were to rightly claim that life begins at birth,we would be justified in doing,for medical or other reasons,what God's hand has prevented throughout Christian history,and the very salvation  which Christians regard as central to their belief ceases to be legitimate.Now obviously many people still believe that life begins at birth.Many are Christians.But,as for myself,I cannot sustain belief in that,and in the whole of scripture too.That building is simply not square.You simply must illiminate one side of that equation,either belief in life that begins at birth,or biblical belief.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Memoir/introduction part two/things.

Every memoirist thinks a lot about how the world has changed,I think.It's part of the whole memoir process.With that being said,I find it helpful and necessary to make this list,far from complete,of things that hadn't shown themselves in the world when I was young.That was in the days before:Ipods,Iphones,Itunes,Facebook,Youtube,email,Google,Kijiji.Craigslist,SUVs,microwave ovens,photo radar,frozen pizza,ATMs,tasers,cell phones,usb chords,DVD players.CDs,Blue Ray,bug lamps,The Green Party,space shuttles,Mars probes,GPS,,space saver tires,drivers licenses with photos,garage door openers,self serve gas stations,ornate running shoes,personal heart monitors,daycare,seniors daycare,doggie,daycare,dog training collars,dog parks,pooper scoopers,rubber dog turds,humane mouse traps,security cameras,key cards,satellite radio,apps,fish finders,colored duct tape,computerized car motors,twitter,Tickle Me Elmo.Cabbage Patch Kids,metal baseball bats,fast food drive throughs,online university,online gambling,online dating,online porn,online anything,police helicopters,football replay,rap music,privatized liquor stores,radar detectors,check cashing outlets,self serve checkouts at the grocery store,Mega malls,mega churches,praise courses sung in those mega churches,e readers,smart phones,smart cars,Google Maps,nail guns,crack,meth,prozac,viagra,red light cameras,global warming,portable toilets,internet cafes,cruise control,airport security,fanny packs,telephone solicitors,airborn traffic reports,AIDS,ADHD,fetal alcohol syndrome,west nile fever,lyme disease,mad cow disease,Snooki,Justin Beiber,New Kids On The Block,Taylor Swift,Michael Jackson,chemical castration,Dr.Laura,what would we do without her,bless her soul,Dr.Phil,Steve Harvey,Ellen,Oprah,Geraldo Rivera,Maury Povich,Judge Wapner,Judge Judy,and,of course Jerry Springer,Rush Limbaugh,Al Franken-no relation to franken foods,Don Imus,Howard Stern,Jaws,Close Encounters,Star Wars,Nightmare On Elm Street,Silence Of The Lambs,The Little Mermaid,Harry Potter,American Idol,,Dancing with the stars,Ice Road Truckers,Mayday,Wild Hogs and of course,my favorite,Swamp people.Well,in truth there were swamp people when I was a kid,but I never saw any because we didn't live anywhere near a swamp and they never ventured into town,except perhaps on Halloween.In those days "Hillbilly Handfishing was something that involved a trench coat and a dimly lit part of Centenial Park,or at least that's how the romours had it.

That's a partial list and I'm sure it will double in size before I die because people have the audacity to keep inventing things the world managed to get along without less than sixty years ago.I do like the idea of dumping a lot of Viagra into the fishing hole though.I cuts way down on lying for some reason.If I were an inventor,I might get in on the act myself...looking at all these TV personalities and"reality"shows it sure seems as if TTN would be a great place to start.Trailer Trash Network.Seems like a good idea to me with the way the worlds going.

memoir/introduction part1/a cast of characters.

Mother was short and heavy.Religious.Father was slim,neither tall nor short.Emaciated in his later years.Everyone called Mrs.West,"old Granny"She taught sixth grade and ruled with an iron hand.She used the strap a lot.Kenny lived down the street at house #59.The first best friend I remember.He moved to Lewisville before we started school..I met the girl across the street by having a rock fight with her.Her name was Karen.She had an older brother and a huge doberman named Brandy.We used to ride Her dog like a pony."Grandpa was a carpenter,he built house stores and bank..."And he said he built ships.He also built an outhouse with as much care as it took to build any house.Howard was a large boy and his father a large man.A policeman.Uncle Bill was a mountie.Peter was the first new boy I met in grade one.His head looked like an egg.Robin was a toddler when he threw a whole room full of toys out the window and into a snow drift.His father drove an eighteen wheeler.Randy Hopper was a Sunday School teacher.He had a very red face.Mr.Wiseman was another Sunday school teacher,who was nearly blind.They called Patrick"Rabbits."He lived down the street and had a lot of brothers and sisters "Because they were Catholic"His sister and another girl were hit by a car one night.The other girl died.Ann and Pierre,and later their twin brothers lived across the street next to Karen's house.Mr.Duffy lived on the other side of Karen.Sometimes he would use an arc welder in his garage and light up the whole street.Robin lived on street over and was what was then called "retarded"We were not allowed to say"retarded."My parents knew a couple called Don and Linda.They had two older kids and lived in the West End.They were divorced,then Don died in a fire.Uncle Ernie ran an Esso station and store at the top of the hill in Canterbury.No one called Randy retarded,but he was never quite right.Big as a rhino,mean as a snake.He could be your friend,but he turned on a dime.Patricia was a ten year old flirt with long blond hair.Mrs.Johnson was a nasty old woman who treasured her own misery..The Clarks lived beside us and owned a store on St.George Street.Their kids were Suzanne,Nancy and Danny,all older than me.There were some tough kids who lived on the other side of Mountain Road who stole kids lunch money at school.Grandmother Davis was short and had a very sharp tongue.Mrs.Sherwood lived on our street and taught school.Everyone said she was nasty.My sister said she was sweet.Mr.Cormier lived beside us.He fixed televisions and worked long hours in his garden.Mr.Brooks was the church pastor.He was old,tall and very kind.Brad lived behind my grandmother Graham.We played together when we were small.He bit me on the hand once.He was there when I fell down the steps at his house and split my head open.There was a lunatic who lived near my grandmother,but no one called her that,until I got older.Laura was a cousin who opened a store in downtown Canterbury.I didn't like her children when we were small.Mr,McMillian was a school vice principal.We never saw eye to eye.His wife was a teacher and school librarian.My grandfather Davis lived in a large rooming house in Pugwash.There was an old woman there who could imitate bird songs and crow like a rooster.Art lived in Springhill,and taught me how to play golf.His wife was Eileen and her father was Ed.He liked to watch the ocean.Mr.Grant lived in a summer cottage close to ours.He once told me he'd seen a UFO.Aunt Roseanna moved around a lot.From Nova Scotia to Alberta and back.Her husband was a loud little Dutchman.My Grandmothers brother married Americans and lived in Maine.Uncle Clifford and his wife lived in Fredricton on Charlotte Street.He worked at the university.My great aunt was Anna English and her husband was Fred.She had TB when I was small and lived in a sanatorium.I asked her a question about God once.Her and Fred were religious and loved children.My grandmother may have had ADHD.She never stopped moving.The red headed kid was a pervert.A man with a fiddle came to our house every Saturday night.His name was Don Messer and he came via the TV.Uncle Fred Davis lived in Germany for a while.I never knew his family well.There were many barbers at the barber school,but they all looked alike.I looked like them too after they cut my hair.There was an old security guard who tried to chase me away from the hospital.Jeannie was a border at our house.She married a man called Ray who worked at the CNR shops.Her father was murdered by a man named Alan Legere.Old Jimmy ran a candy store in Springhill.He was Greek and loved seeing my father.I visited a barber in Springhill once too.We stayed at Mrs.Bantings house when my mother worked.I was standing with her in the driveway once and saw some ball lightening.Her children swore a lot and she fought with her husband and got angry when her son Robin threw toys out the window into the snow.Another neighbour,David was a bully.There were a lot of bullies about but I don't remember most of them.Father McKee was my hockey coach.The bullies would be mean to Robin,the "retarded"boy,but many kids were nice to him too.Dana was a gunsmith.My father was best man at his wedding.Anthony liked guns too.He was french and maybe even part Indian,though people never said so.My father brought people home from work for a meal sometimes.Sometimes even hitch hikers.One of them stole his car and abducted my sister once.Susan got a bad head injury the year before I met her.Her family owns a hardware store.The Harris family moved into Karen's old house.Their son Dick fixed furnaces.An art teacher once kicked me out of class and,to this day I don't know why.Ted was a friend of my father and he could fly planes.We went up for a spin with him one time.I met a couple of Rabbis once in Montreal.They asked me if I believed in God.My father bought a red trailer from an old French couple when I was small.The old woman spoke no English,but gave us some cookies.Mrs.Banting died when I was in grade one.Mr.Baxter was my teacher in grade two,then Mrs.Cale in grade three.She was tall and wore an enormous bee hive.In grade six my teacher was Mrs.West.She was fierce,but I liked her.Mr.Cohen was my seventh grade teacher and he was a bit of a buffoon.He gave me a hard time when I missed a day for my grandfathers funeral.In grade eight I had a notorious teacher.Malcom Ross.Thats the same year the pervert started hanging around.And the policemen were killed,and their killers sentenced to die,then had their sentences commuted.Then a little girl named Michelle disappeared and was never seen again.Everyone thought we were going to Hell in a hand basket.I searched for her with a man named Ray who lived across the street from us.Ray was a brute of a man.Holly was a girl I walked home with sometimes at noon.She was a plain girl who worried about older kids sneaking up behind us and mashing peanut butter sandwiches in our hair.We would play kick the can on the way home.Mrs.Foster worked at the bank with my mother.So did a woman named Rita.She had a beautiful samoyed dog that I liked to go play with.There was an old man who delivered milk in an old,old green truck.Old Charlie ran the Co-op in Fox Harbour.Norman Murray sold cars and my father worked for him for a while.Grandfather Graham was thin and almost stone deaf without his hearing aid.He smoked a pipe,chewed tobacco,and read Western novels and detective magazines.He hardly ever spoke.And there was more than one lunatic that lived on their street.My friend Steven was a Jehovah's Witness.A kind,decent kid but so very different.Never hung out with anyone from school when school was out.And there was a little girl that used to walk past our house on the way to school.When I first saw her my heart skipped a bit.She was wearing pigtails and that was in 1967.And when I last saw her,well,my heart skipped another beat.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A dream

I don't often write about dreams because it takes me such a short time to forget them,unless of course I write them down as I did this morning.I don't really impart any interpretation to this particular one,but then again I haven't really thought about it at length either.In fact I'm really not convinced that dreams have any real meaning,but they are truly interesting things to consider from time to time.

I am in a strange land.It's green with grass,but not leafy.It's cut everywhere with small crooked ravines.I am laying down rails and cross ties for a railroad,but as soon as they are in place they fade away.There are indistinct figures of animals and birds about.The land is very hilly but not mountainous.And a man appears in the dream.He is short and stout with huge arms.Over his left forearm he has several horse shoes looped.He is pointing at a building and saying something I cannot understand.The building is a place where cheese is made,and it's the only building anywhere on the land.I can walk towards it but it moves farther away.The mans presence seems malevolent.And there is a sense of being in the land but somehow separated from it.


Photo Essay/After The Stampede

Going home.
Hi everyone.This is my first attempt at a photo essay and it is entitled "after The Stampede.It occurs to me that there is a sense of loneliness all around after an event like the Calgary Stampede,just a few hours after the last people have left and a few moments before crews start tearing down.So I took these pictures on my cell phone camera.You will notice I am hopelessly addicted to online photo editing.I'll likely get over that but for right now,when I have a hammer,everything looks like a nail.

A lonely lemon.

Stampede montage

                                        Ghostly Haulers.

Morning after-Midway.

 Gate Ticket    


Just last night,everyone was a cowboy.

Colossal leftovers                                                                  
Empty ponies,empty bleachers.
Bike and volunteer shuttle bus.  

Sunrise through a Stampede banner.
The Stampede.

Monday, 16 July 2012

A New Place to Roost.

Firstly I want to apologize to all four of the people who read the piece I wrote on Calgary and The Calgary Stampede a few days ago.It was a low quality,lousy piece of writing and I'm amazed that anyone bothered with it.I wasn't happy with it ten minutes after I'd written it.

What I have to learn to do is to be more real.You see,I was raised to say nothing at all unless I could find something nice to say.By natural inclination,I am adaptable and tend to like to respond to my immediate surroundings in a positive way,and believe that things could always be worse.Indeed they could be but that doesn't excuse my lying,even if that were not my intent.So once again,my deepest apologies and I promise to try to have a bit more respect for anyone who reads my blog in the future.

So let me tell you how I really feel,keeping in mind that my attitude tomorrow may or may not be the same as it is right now.I've caught myself saying so many times in the past few weeks "man,I hate this city."And I well and truly do,I may as well tell the bare faced truth.It doesn't seem to matter if I'm waking up in the morning or going to bed at night,looking at the skyline or watching someone drift down one of our rivers on a raft,taking the train or walking,I just have no heart for this city,and I wonder why I ever came back here.

I don't want this to sound like sour grapes or a self indulgent pity party,but that's the way it is.I arrived here some three months ago with money in my pocket,rented a room,which are in short supply and then ended up being locked out of that room because my room mate failed to pay the rent.Never mind that I paid my rent.I found accommodations following that,but they are far from acceptable and certainly not sustainable in the long term.I also had a guitar when I arrived and one that was kept here for me by a friend during my eastern sojourn.Both of those are apparently gone since my old room mate cannot be found.They are with all of my cds and the majority of my clothing,not to mention much of the personal writing I've been doing over the past three years.I did manage to escape with the clothes in my back pack which are at least sufficient.Life's tough,then you die.I just didn't count on going to Hell before that happened.

During my time in this infernal city I've endured harassment,theft,flooding,a deliberately set fire,a lay off,default on pay that was owed me,crackheads banging on my door at all hours of the night,unjustified accusations of racism,and the garden variety intolerance of some Albertans for anyone who was not born and raised here.Well,guess what.I no longer have the energy for any of this.I simply do not have enough blood in my body to satiate the energy sucking vampires that are all too common in this city.It's time to find a new place to roost.

I've decided,and to be honest,it wasn't even that hard of a decision,to move west come the end of this week.Give Vancouver a try even if I have to crawl,which is a distinct possibility.Nevertheless,if I were to admit it,I simply hate it here and I just don't see how living in a city I hate is worth the effort.If it doesn't work out,I guess I can come back but I'd prefer not to think about that for the time being.

All of that writing I did about Calgary being an ok place...I take that back.All my readers saw right through that anyway.This is a boom town,like San Fransisco in 1849.A great place to work,but a miserable,low down,mean spirited,unfinished and dirty place to live.And,in point of fact,I don't recommend that you come here even to visit.

Yes,I'm possessed of a very poor attitude tonight and it may change tomorrow.In a way I hope it does,because I hate having a poor attitude.But,in truth I can still see myself looking around at this city tomorrow or next week or next year and thinking how much I hate it here and how I'd really rather be anyplace but here.So it's time to move on hopefully this time for good.And while I do have some very dear friends here,to whom I apologize for knocking their city and whom I will greatly miss,I will not miss the city itself.Good riddance!

Maybe I'll have to give my head a shake.I'm not sure how much of this being more real I can handle.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Op/Ed-Integrity in Journalism.

Integrity is hard to find these days.But don't necessarily blame the younger generation.It's a godless,post modern,moral relativism thing.That seems to especially apply to journalism.Don't get me wrong,there are still a lot of responsible journalists around,even if I don't agree with them all the time.Even if they are sometimes imposed upon to to cast the"news"in a light that they are not always comfortable with just to be able to continue making a living.

My fight,in this case is not with some huge,politically slanted news agency-you know who most of those are,so I need not mention them by name.My quarrel involves a small "news agency"located in a medium sized city in Eastern Canada.For now they will remain nameless as well,for admittedly legal reasons.At any rate,it has no real bearing on the problem.I will say that this group gathers and distributes"news"in their local community.They display their version of the news both on Youtube and Facebook.As far as I can determine,most of their stories involve local interest.There tends to be a lot of coverage of auto accidents mixed in with arrests and the like.Also,there tends to be very little in the way of editorial content.I have not been able to determine if anyone involved with this agency has any formal journalism training,but what they do, they do reasonably well.The scene seems to be accurately represented without a profusion of leaking body bags,which is more than I can say for some mainstream media outlets.

What,then is the problem?Why do I direct my wrath towards this supposedly decent,hard working group of journalists?It all stems from the identity of one of their directors,who I found out about while doing an unrelated online search.Again,I will decline for the time being to identify this person by name.But the problem is that I know this person,this news director, to have made unsubstantiated and unsupportable statements regarding someones alleged criminal activity,specifically, alleged domestic violence..A simple criminal background check,made with the full blessing of the accused,I assure you,reveals no such criminal involvement.Yet this journalist steadfastly clings to their story,refusing to apologize or defend her statements even as the story,along with a good deal of journalistic integrity dissolves like a puff of smoke.

The problem is obvious.Why is this person still a director of a media outlet?Any media outlet?Is it not fully apparent why this person should resign from their post at least until their issue is settled?At this juncture,it is unclear as to whether or not the agency was aware of the activities of this person.It has at least the appearance that the journalist in question may have actively concealed these facts,or,perhaps with no formal training in journalism,to mention nothing of a comprehensive course in media ethics,simply didn't que into the relevance of the matter.That is about to change.

This matter will be a true test of integrity for what I consider an unconventional form Of media.Again,I have no quarrel with the nature of any given report produced by this outlet.but I'm unclear as to what their position is regarding the ethical reporting of news.Perhaps they would like to respond to my doubts by asking their director to speak to the issue at hand.Because I don't see that we can trust the veracity of any reporter,to say nothing of a director,who has behaved in this manner and then,to be charitable,forgotten to mention it to their fellow colleagues and fellow directors.

Unconventional forms of media are not,in my opinion bad forms of media.I can see how they can play a useful role in local markets,perhaps even more effectively than remote agencies who have little interest in local matters and are largely politically slanted.

But this particular agency,it's directorship and it's reporters need to take a stand for moral journalism if they are to be recognized as a real force in their particular market.They can start by speaking to this issue,either by asking their director to support the claims made or withdraw them and issue an appropriate apology,and to resign,at least temporarily,pending the outcome of this unresolved issue. 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Since I live in Calgary,in the province of Alberta,in western Canada,my readers would likely view it as incredibly ignorant on my part if this whole week were to pass and I were to make no mention of the Calgary Stampede.But you see,even though I live here,I do not really partake of the Stampede.I did not take parade day off as many Calgarians do,to watch the opening of our cities biggest annual event.the reason is simple.I work for a living and that is simply not an option.Moreover,I do not enjoy rodeo events,though I don't dislike horses.and the Stampede is certainly about horses.All week long the rodeo and chuck wagon races go on at the Stampede grounds,and processions of horses interrupt the flow of traffic right in the heart of downtown.Many of these horses are amazingly beautiful,proud animal.

With this being the 100th anniversary of the Stampede,it seems to be a bigger event than usual.Streets are crowded as they normally are during Stampede,though this year there seems to be more visitors than ever.Judging by all the languages I hear spoken,people come from all over the world for this event.So,in a sense it seems really odd to live here and not participate.Everyone dresses the part of a cowboy it seems.Everyone but me at least.I don't much see the point of having a cowboy hat for only one occasion.Some people here will wear their hats year round,but I never have liked wearing a hat.Cowboy boots are in fashion too,and there was a time I used to wear them,but I found them rather uncomfortable for daily use.As to the pancake breakfasts,and there seem to be about a thousand of those,well,again I'm at work at that time of day,and I really don't care much for pancakes.Still the breakfasts are a  well attended staple of the event.

Calgary Stampede never seems to pass without controversy.Often PETA has protesters picketing the rodeo events,believing them to be cruel.In point of fact,the rodeo stock is a valuable commodity to western ranchers and as such is well cared for.Sometimes though,there are accidents which result in tragedy,as was the case on Thursday night when a wreck occurred during one of the chuck wagon races and three horses were killed.Of course that brought the animal cruelty protestors out in force.And while they raise reasonable issues,I sometimes wonder where they go during the rest of the year.They certainly are not as visible.

Please don't misunderstand.I am not down on the Calgary Stampede.Come some year and enjoy the event,by all means.It's just that I do not personally participate in the lifestyle that the Stampede represents.Except for perhaps the exhibition of art by Charles Russell being held this year at the Glenbow museum.Russell was a an artist noted for his portrayal of western life,especially in Montana and southern Alberta.I think perhaps it's easy to take an event like the Stampede for granted when you live here.And,speaking for myself,though I know other writers who have similar difficulties,I seem to be cursed with an inability to write well about a place-any place-when I'm actually there.I'm trying to overcome that,but you'll have to bear with me.Hence,you don't find daily rundowns of events like the Stampede in my blog.


Book Review

Once again I direct your attention to the"What I'm reading"section of this blog at the bottom right.Here you will see a list of books I've read recently,though it is not an exhaustive or all inclusive list.From time to time I may take the time to make comments on certain of these books.

I have just finished reading a fascinating book on Galileo entitled Galileo's Daughter-A Historical Memoir of Science,Faith,and Love,by Dava Sobel.In  this book we see Galileo revealed through both the authors narrative and through letters sent to Galileo by his eldest daughter,a nun.

The book deals,of course with Galileo's trials in which he ran afoul with the then seemingly all powerful Catholic Church for defending the position of Copernicus that the Earth revolved around the Sun,contrary to the literal position of the Church that the Earth was central to the universe and stationary.We see,through his communications with his beloved daughter a picture of his faith and commitment to that faith,as well as his steadfast refusal to deny what he can see and experience of the world he lives in.What is important here,and should be an important lesson for today's materialists is that Galileo was hardly dogmatic in faith when confronted with visible evidence of a reality contrary to the literal word of scripture.And,of course,the lesson is that we need not view God's word and Science as being mutually contradictions.

It is astonishing to the modern mind how much power the church exerted in Galileo's day.The elite institution literally had the power,then viewed as legitimate,of life or death over those it viewed as heretics.Such was it's influence that even civil authority had to bow before it's popes.Certainly it had the ability,used to full force,to destroy Galileo's reputation such that  his credibility was never restored except in the light of fairly recent history-disturbingly recent so far as the Catholic Church is concerned.

Clearly there are some parallels to our time inherent in the story of Galileo,being as it is about dogmatism and the injustice that often results when the position of orthodoxy is occupied by a relatively small unpluralistic group with vested interests of it's own.Today,we could note that the shoe seems to be on the other foot.Whereas in the time of Galileo the Church held the orthodox view,today faith seems to be under attack by Darwin and his proponents as well as athiests such as Dawkins,Dennett,and Hitchins among others.In most "intellectual"(actually pseudointellectual) discussions,materialists,atheists or agnostics begin at the default position of their non-belief as though to question it causes one to lose all credibility in the academic arena.It may be that such things follow naturally from the entrenched attitudes of Galileo's time and the point is we need to be aware of their presence in our society so as to learn history's lesson adequately and not obscure reality behind a veil of dogmatic belief.In the meantime,a whole class of people with Dawkins as their vocal leader have raised spiritual ignorance to the status of a new religion,in the sense that it takes a good deal of faith to believe most of their suppositions.And while they claim atheism,they believe in it's tenants with religious fervor.

What is also strikingly evident in Galileo's story is that he did not view religion and reason as being mutually exclusive concepts.There was a deep seated knowledge that God provided men with intellect so that they might enjoy the discovery of His world.I would note that today,many people seem to reject faith because they view it as something that cannot be believed intellectually,when in fact,if we don't listen too closely to the current voice of orthodoxy,true science can affirm faith.Galileo got this concept and was possibly one of the first people about whom this can be said.As to his faith,in terms of actions,he was a loving parent,generous supporter of his community and steadfast in his support of what he knew to be true,in the face of overwhelming opposition.Hardly lacking in faith,as revealed by the letters from his daughter.

Take some time to read this amazingly insightful book.It comes with my highest recommendation.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Memoir Writers Homework/Humour.

I love humour of most,but maybe not all kinds.As a writer it's something I strive for.Because I love to laugh,it would be great to be able to make others laugh.In fact,it's one of our God given rights to laugh.And while I'm invoking God's name,I'm convinced God has a sense of humour.How could anyone who created Giraffes,platypuses,Jeff Foxworthy,Jeff Dunham and me,not have had a sense of humour and wanted us to laugh?

Humour,to me needs not to be mean spirited,though it may cast us,or any group of us in a humorous light.But I've always had my limits.Some things are not funny.Like AIDS jokes,for instance that started making the rounds in the 1980s.I never want to reinforce the joke teller of a "joke" like that. The same with jokes that are racially degrading.

I always wanted to preform stand up comedy and,eventually,I got my wish.I sat down,wrote some jokes,tried to memorize them,then got up in front of an admittedly rather friendly audience at a club I used  to haunt in Edmonton,Alberta and let her fly.The whole thing was more or less a success.The crowd laughed.I'd prepared about 30 one liners and managed not to forget them.I don't know what I'd have done if there were any hecklers.I'd asked my friend,also a comedian,and a much better one than I,to keep an eye on the crowd and try to find out what jokes got the best reaction.It turned out my featured stuff wasn't near as funny as some of the jokes I wrote mostly as filler.Here is the one they liked the best,according to my friend:"There are some things the Bible doesn't come right out and say.Like that part where the snake got us all off on the wrong foot-and snakes don't even have feet-and God made him crawl on his belly for all eternity.Well,God must have been really chocked with the aardvarks...he made them suck ants through their nose."Howls of laughter,according to my friend,though I thought some of my other jokes were better.

I like to laugh at myself too.I am a big man.By big,I mean big around.It's called generously proportioned.Well,one time I was getting into my friends Smart Car,and having a bit of trouble.He says to me, jokingly,"if you were not so well endowed you could get in with no problem."

"Really",I replied,"are you sure you didn't mean"generously proportioned?"

"What's the difference?"

"Let me demonstrate by using both words in a sentence for you."I'm so generously proportioned,I can't tell whether or not I'm well endowed."Howls of laughter,I hope,because I might like to do stand up again sometime and I can see a place for that one in my routine.But as for humour in my writing,I suspect it's still a work in progress.You be the judge.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Three months seems an appropriate time to conduct a review of my blogging activities,so please bear with me as I take a few moments to do just that.My stats page indicates I have made 55 entries over just a bit more than three months and have just over 850 page views.I wish there were more and that I knew how to promote my blog better,but it's just my first try at it and I am learning.Hopefully the writing will get better too.For now I'm reasonably happy with things overall,though not necessarily with every entry.

I set myself the goal of getting to 75 entries before the end of this month,but that is looking like a bit of a challenge at this point.I've been busier than I thought I would be and I still do not have my own laptop so getting computer time can be a bit of a problem too.And really,I think it is more important to aim for quality rather than quantity,even if it means I miss posting for several days.The problem is that pageviews seem to drop if I don't post at least every couple of days.Also, unfortunately I'm not blessed with an inexhaustible supply of writing ideas either.That seemed so much easier when I was doing my writing in a notebook.Notebooks,though seem to keep getting lost,stolen,burned or flooded or just plain thrown away by someone that doesn't see their significance

So what about the direction this blog is taking?Well,basically the idea was to start a sort of a memoir.But really this blog contains just about everything I would normally be writing when I was putting things in my notebooks.In fact,the blogs entitled Memoir Writers Homework are prepared by hand first anyway.That is because the intent with those entries was to continue the writing in the same way as when I was attending the writers group in Toronto.Those entries are topical in nature and took about 10-15 minutes to complete,which is something I could never achieve in similar time with a keyboard.Still,apart from writing memoir in larger themes,or chronologically,I found those assignments a useful hunter gatherer activity and they have produced a wealth of raw materials for the actual writing.So they will continue.

So far I haven't really started the memoir except to set a sort of a context and provide some of the backstory without which the story itself would not make sense.But the starting of that is not far off.

Why write a memoir.Well,simply,I think everyone who can write should write.I don't really see my life as being especially interesting,but others might.My grandparents stories are mostly lost because they didn't write.They were not extraordinary really,but I am at a lack for some things I expect I would find interesting.As might people a hundred years from now when they see my name in a family tree.

Mostly I think my story is about my identity as a Canadian,and how you find that identity in a country so vast.That's still an ongoing experience for me.Consequently,you will see basically two kinds of writing.There is of course the memoir complete with some of the writers exercises that help to create it.So you will tend to see some insight into the actual process as well as the work product,which is an idea that appeals to me,at least right now.You will also see what I like to think of as writing in the here and now,which are really my daily reflections on a wide variety of subjects,that,until recently were being kept in coil notebooks as a kind of a journal.That too will continue.A couple of years ago I tentatively decided to separate the "now"from the "then" as far as writing is concerned.Format rules that out for the moment but it is just something I will have to live with.

How do I feel about keeping all these thing in a blog?Truthfully I'm not certain.At times I think the writing is not good enough,but I guess everyone who writes is subject to those thoughts.I sometimes wonder if putting all these things in the open market changes the way I write,or what actually gets written.Subject for a separate entry perhaps.Then there are the times,less frequent when I think that this writing might actually be of interest or use to someone.I notice I have readers from several countries all over the world,who might be getting a sense of what living in Canada is like and that keeps me going.

To everyone who takes the time to read,I thank you for your indulgence and I hope you will continue to follow along.I hope you will read the blogs I'm reading too as well as the video lists posted at the bottom,and some of the books I'm reading,which I've also posted.

For at least another three months and likely longer I will continue to keep this blog.I also welcome some of your comments,good or bad.It would be great if you could just leave me a note and let me know who you are and where you are from.Also,if any of you are writing blogs,I would like to check them out and possibly list them among the ones I'm currently reading.

That's all for now on this very hot night from Calgary,Alberta,Canada.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

memoir writers homework/a hated place

It was 1979 when I first came to the most hated place I can think of.I have no idea why I would come back again in 2012 for a third kick at the cat.Oh,yes,there is plenty of work here,it's a boom town,just like it was the first time around.Money grows on trees,or at least on the kind of trees that go to make news print for the classified ads.I'm not sure I ever really believed that money grew on trees anyway.

But just because there is work is not to say that Calgary offers a decent lifestyle,with all respect to those who like it here.I don't!

This town just sucks a person dry.Sure you can make money,but the city takes away as much as it gives.Boom town economy brings boom town prices.It's hard to find housing at any price and even a lot of the working people are homeless.For $500/month you can sometimes rent a room roughly the size of a broom closet.And you have to put up with things a person should never have to put up with.Crackheads living in the next room and leaving their needles all over the place,or knocking on your door at 3am to see if you have anything to sell.I never have been involved in that kind of enterprise,but try telling a crackhead that,or that you have to be up at 5am to go to an honest job.And there is no point calling the police here in Calgary when you have bad neighbors.You see,most of the affordable suites are illegal in terms of zoning laws so there is a danger of becoming instantly homeless.Or,more likely the police will just say you consent to being mistreated by virtue of living in an illegal suite.Unless you get very seriously assaulted,the police could not be bothered.There is no shortage of police cars to hide in the bushes though so as to capitalize on the flow of money with speed traps.

Food is another thing.In Toronto I could actually afford food.I could purchase anything I wanted in good quality with a far better selection than I ever could here.The same goes for clothing.All part of the rat race I guess.People running about to get nowhere,never realizing they are slaves to a system.

Then there are the people who say"if you don't like it here why don't you leave"That's long been a prevailing attitude here.I'm here to help fill at least one of those jobs that you say can't be filled because of a shortage of workers.But as sure as the oil prices could drop like a stone again,sometime at least,these people would be talking about firewalls against the rest of Canada and offering anyone not from here a bus ticket home.Calgary is not a welcoming city.I have some very dear friends here,whom I dearly love.But that is in spite of the way this city really is.I will always,along with many like me be perceived as"that eastern trash that brings crime and social problems to Alberta"It may be thirty years since our former premier said that,but it's impossible to live here and not know that many Albertans still feel it.So,as I look to the blue mountains only sixty or so miles away,I wonder why I don't just start walking into them.Maybe someday I will.Calgary is a place to work but not a place to live.

More Reflections On America

Wherever you live in the world,it's difficult to ignore America.We are all very influenced by the presence of the most powerful nation on earth,especially those of us who live right next door.Of course we are influenced by American media-who isn't?I know from watching CNN everything I need to know about what goes on in the world.The world is an American colony and all media must be presented with that world view in mind.Well,I watch CNN faithfully once every couple of years,just in case anything has changed,but ,truly,that's not the only source of American ideas,or,believe it or not,even the best source.We watch American movies and television,read American books and,for those of us who have spent any time near the border,we even meet American people,always the most informative source of enlightenment on all things American.I've even come to find out that many of those Americans are nearly as cynical about CNN as I am.Who would have guessed.

A big brother sometimes casts a long shadow.Here in Canada we are,I think more like our brothers to the south than we are the British,from whom we came.Some people are still resistant to that idea,but it's largely true.

When I was a child I spent some time at my grandparents house,near the border of Maine and New Brunswick.While the maps clearly show where the one begins and the other ends,it's not nearly so evident when you are standing within a few miles of the border.In my part of the world,when I was young you could easily have walked across the Maine border without really realizing it,just by hunting animals in the woods.You see,New Brunswick,like Maine has a couple of interesting pine trees,as well as a few bears and moose,none of which differentiate themselves along national lines.They will not let you know when you've stepped over the line and even the most diligent border officials can't be everywhere.They seem to have gotten a lot better,or at least a lot more zealous at their job since 9/11,though.All in all,that's a good thing,but it sure is different from the old days.

In dead Creek,not far from my mother's old home there is a p[lace where you can look across a few miles of countryside and,on the rare day that is clear enough,see Mt.Katahadin in Maine.It is a picturesque peak,which sometimes has snow on it's peak even in late spring.The first time I saw it,I wondered what it would be like to walk to it,but,of's much too far.It looks reachable from where you can see it though.

We used to go over to the town of Houlton,Maine sometimes.Houlton is located at the head of Interstate 95,which actually begins near Woodstock,New Brunswick as N.B.95.Houlton and Woodstock are not far apart and so we used to cross border shop in Houlton.We thought it was a really big thing to have crossed a border into the greatest country on earth,or so we were told.What I never really knew was that Woodstock was nearly three times the size of Houlton.But,of course,America was so much bigger and better than us,or at least,that's what we thought.

When we went to Maine,we were always aware that certain things could be gotten in America that could not be found in Canada.Usually it was just simple things like a bag of barbeque chips that actually tasted like barbeque chips.I guess that's how I became aware of Americans who would cross into Canada for a few hours just because they liked or beer.One of the things that I was told,over and over again that I would have to try when I went south,was Dr.Pepper.We could not get that here in Canada then and at least one of my friends would drive himself nuts with anticipation at being able to get a can of it when he went on vacation.You would have though that Dr.Pepper was the Holy Grail,the way he carried on about it.So one summer I bought myself a can and I thought,this tastes nasty.I could not believe I'd wasted even one minute thinking I had to try it.Not everything,it turned out was bigger and better in America.But around the border,there is always this though about the grass being greener on the other side.

   In the west,things are about the same.There is a big,wonderful mountain that you can look across at from anywhere in  southern British Columbia,called Mt.Baker,located nearly on the border.Farther away you can sometimes see an even more wonderful mountain called Mt.Rainier.That mountain truly is worthy of the thought that sometimes things are bigger on the other side.And,of course,Niagara Falls also shares the border between New York and Ontario.I've never crossed that border,but it is a very busy one,with sometimes hours wait to pass through the check point.

On the west coast,two large cities are located close to each other,Vancouver on the Canadian side,and Seattle in Washington state.They really are very similar cities though in different countries.They would seem to be of similar size and both are set in the scenic Pacific Northwest.Well,the term Pacific Northwest is a bit inaccurate as Vancouver is actually in Canada's southwestern most corner.But in our minds we tend to view it as more of a part of a region than as separate countries.Likely the Americans,or at least some of them view themselves as owning that part of our country anyway.There was once quite a fight about that and sometimes things like that are hard to forget.

It might be that Americans and Canadians are most similar here in the Province of Alberta and in Montana to our south.Again,the land doesn't change all that much,being farm and ranch land with the front range of the Rockies to our west.The border crossings here are busier too.People in Alberta like to visit Montana,and really,who wouldn't.Glacier Park has some of the most magnificent scenery anywhere and I'm certain Americans feel the same about Banff,given the number of American plates that can be spotted on cars there.Here in Calgary,there are a lot of truckers that bring produce back from Texas and California,so they spend much of their working life south of the border.One of the stories I hear from them has much to do with one of the differences between Canadian and American society.It seems that there is a truck stop somewhere south of the border where truckers stop,put their guns in a locker,then proceed into Canada,only to pick them up again on the return trip.More than once a trucker has told me that traveling in the southern states can be dangerous and that he would never be caught without a gun.That may be true,but I've never felt in danger in Montana,Washington,Idaho,or any of the Northeastern states either.

I guess taken as a whole,our countries can seem really different.but that doesn't seem to be nearly so true when you live near the border.True,Whitehorse and Miami have little in common.Neither do Los Angeles and Montreal or Vancouver and New Orleans.But here on the border things are very  similar regardless of which side you are on.Most of what we couldn't get years ago on our side of the border we can now.Canada has most of the big American stores:McDonalds,Burger King etc.Even Target is making it's debut in the Canadian market.I know I can hardly wait.We don't have any Sizzlers restaurants yet,but that's likely a good thing(one of those stories for another time).And I do suspect the when I access itunes to buy music here in Canada that I don't get exactly the same selection as I might if I were in Houlton,Maine or Great Falls, Montana.And that still truly annoys me to no end,so I guess in some ways,big brother still casts a big shadow.