Wednesday, 31 October 2012

memoir writers homework-on the way to the library

It was a fine day in early September and I awoke later than usual because it was the first day of vacation from work.I didn't have a lot planned for the day,or the week for that matter.So it was a perfect time for a visit to the library.I'm in the habit of going to the library more than once a week anyway because I'm always reading and I always have books that need to be returned.The library is located in a decrepit old building in downtown Calgary,a little more than a mile from where I lived.Part of the walk takes me through Lindsay Park,on the banks of the Elbow river.It's a very picturesque part of Calgary,and it was still summer and quite warm. Squirrels ran frantically about gathering nuts and magpies squabbled over every tiny bit of food they could find.Lindsay Park also has a sizeable population of homeless people living in the bushes,under picnic tables and in cardboard boxes and even tents.By the time I started on my way to the library,most of those people were up and about,wandering about in the park or just sitting in groups in the grass.They are usually somewhat rowdy,sometimes passing a bottle around.Today was different.Today they were not making a sound.I walked along the path from west to east,then turned north when I came to McLeod Trail and walked the remaining fifteen twelve or so blocks to the library.I returned a number of books,borrowed some others and used the computer to send my mother an email.When I was through,about noon,I started off for home again,wondering how to spend the rest of the day.I finally decided upon gathering up my guitar and mandolin and heading back to the park to spend the rest of the afternoon.Because there might not be so many nice days left to do that.Lindsay Park had barbecues too,so I thought I might stop on the way home and buy some steaks top bring along.But when I reached the path leading through the park again,it was blocked off by police with dogs,and there was even a helicopter hovering overhead.It turned out that someone was murdered in a tent just off of the path.On the way to the library,I must have walked within a few feet of the place where the body was hidden.I didn't see a thing.I only noticed a stillness among the people who always occupied the park.They knew something,if not everything,and they were saying nothing.Sometimes I wonder about that trip to the library.How close did I come to walking into something really bad? 

Monday, 29 October 2012

morning people-calgary

foggy morning/calgary

  It's trying to warm up after a week of unseasonably cool weather.The result is that the air was filled with ice crystals and fog in the early morning hours.Ice crystals are not so unusual here.Fog is a  somewhat more uncommon event.

op/ed-alabama amendment 4

What in the world is going on in Alabama?I'll have to admit a limited knowledge of Alabama politics.I am,after all a Canadian,so you can easily appreciate how I would have a limited exposure to all things Alabama.But,between braving the lineup at Tim Hortons and getting the old igloo decorated for Halloween,I took notice of a newspaper article noting that Alabama voters are being asked,on November 6 to support an amendment to their state constitution which would remove racist language regarding the establishment of separate and segregated schools,and the establishment of a poll tax.High ideals to be sure.But shouldn't this debate have been settled long ago?

Amendment Four is sponsored by state legislator Arthur Orr.It seems Mr.Orr is concerned with the image the current language imposes on his state and the people there of.And that worry might be well invested,because the fact that Alabama's constitution contains any artifacts at all to it's Jim Crow past certainly causes a less than favorable image to form in my mind.That image does not make me want to visit the fine state of Alabama,or,for that matter,invest there.So voting yes to the amendment would show,if only symbolically that the past is past in Alabama.Never mind that segregation is not the reality in Alabama and has not been for many years now.But Alabama had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the feds to it's current progressive reality.Still,the ancient,archaic language remains.That gives birth to a nagging suspicion in my mind that attitudes may not have changed so much as having been hidden under a bushel.Time alone will tell,I suppose,but Arthur Orr is correct-the world is watching.While we here in Canada scarcely give race a second though,and while the United States has a black president-it's first,George Wallace seems as though he my be among the undead in Alabama.At least when Wallace was foaming at the mouth about segregation,the whole world knew where he stood.Prejudice and bigotry driven underground is far harder to deal with though.So come on Alabamans,show us that there is nothing hidden in your closet by voting yes on Amendment Four,even if it's thirty,forty or a hundred years too late.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunday Music

op/ed-devon clunis

Devon Clunis is a cop,and a religious man.For the past number of years he has been a chaplain with the Winnepeg Police Services in Manitoba,Canada.That is until he was recently appointed Chief Of Police.There would be nothing out of the ordinary about that,except that Devon Clunis has publically stated that he believes in the power of prayer,as you might well expect from a practicing Christian.This,of course invites the critics of organized religion,and there are so many in this world to cast Clunis in a negative light.Most of their arguments relate loosely to the ideal of separation of church and state.Their fears are that religion will somehow be imposed upon the rest of us,including rank and file members of the Winnipeg Police Services,and perhaps even those they serve.In point of fact,Clunis has said nothing of the sort.His comments were made in the context of an interview to Christian media.Without a doubt,we should expect such an interview to explore the faith of the person being interviewed.I am at a loss as to why there is any controversy here at all.

On the other hand,maybe what we are seeing here is a reaction to the state of todays world.I made mention of that last week in response a story involving some Texas cheerleaders who created a controversy by displaying religious signs at high school football games.For decades now we have seemed to be moving toward a society where the only orthadox belief is a belief that excludes God and elevates man to the level of deity.The problem is that such things don't work very well.they don't seem to serve human need.Ultimately,while we can ignore God,we cannot evade the reality that we are in a fallen world,with all that that entails:crime,enviromental degredation,school shootings,drunkeness,depression,drug use,bullying and corruption. Devon Clunis is tired of living in what is often the murder capital of this country and he plans to do something about that.I'm certain he did not mean to replace proven police methods with prayer,any more than some studies showing that cancer patients benefit from prayer recommend casting aside proven medical practices.But Devon Clunis is a Christian.I would be very uncomfortable if my Chief Of Police presented himself as something other that who and what he is.To his credit,we see a man living out his chosen lifestyle in the context of his employment.Moreover,I expect to see job performance that flows out of that belief.There is a name for that.It's called integrity.Sadly it seems have been going the way of ethics in general,to be replaced by political correctness and subjective morality a failed social experiment.Thank you Devon Clunis for saying so,if in fact that is what you are saying.You are quite right,it's time we were more involved in our community,it's time we treated each other better,it's time to do whatever it takes.Should we give up on current police methods.Of course not.Should we require prayer of police personel.No.But the same freedom of religion that allows one to be Muslim or Atheist,allows Devon Clunis to practice Christianity and to advance through the ranks to a position he has earned by merit.Should we pray for Winnepeg.It sure couldn't hurt."The prayers of a rightous man availeth much."Devon Clunis has shown the leadership,by way of his comments,that will serve him and his fellow citizens well in years to come.Sadly,that is far to rare in todays world.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

memoir chapter II-continued

Tuberculosis is an ancient disease,going far back into human history.It is said though that it reached it's peak in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,then declined until the later part of the twentieth century when resistant strains began to appear.Mostly it is a disease  of the lungs,but other parts of the body can be affected as well.It was also known as consumption,for the fact that one of it's symptoms was weight loss that seemed to consume the body of those infected,seemed to make them waste away.Until quite recently a diagnosis of tuberculosis was a death sentence,though death would often take a long time to claim it's victim.

In the later part of the eighteen hundreds,tuberculosis had been recognized as being an infectious disease and better treatment protocols had been developed,though anything approximating a cure was still years away.Doctors would collapse an infected persons lungs,presumably one at a time,to allow the infected tissue to heal,a treatment that was to some degree helpful.Another approach to treatment involved dedicating hospital beds to the care of those with tuberculosis and thus sanatoriums were developed to provide treatment specific to tuberculosis.It was also thought that clean, clear air was helpful in treating tuberculosis.Thus,many sanatoriums were located away from major population centers.The first sanatorium in the United States was opened in Saranac Lake,New York in 1885.The first in Canada,located in Muskoka,Ontario followed eleven years later.By the late thirties there were over 60 sanatoriums in Canada,including one in River Glade,New Brunswick,about a half hour's drive from where we lived in Moncton.Conditions within sanatoriums was said to range from resort like,to prison like,where poor people infected with the disease often did not recover.I really have no idea what conditions were like inside the Jordan Sanatorium at River Glade,as my memories of the place are memories of being outside the building.It was closed as a sanatorium in the 1970s.

Jordan Sanatorium,River Glade.

In addition to the sanatorium at River Glade,Moncton also had a tuberculosis hospital located at the corner of Killiam Drive and Collishaw Street,in some old army buildings.In my day,that building was known as the hospital annex,and it was a low,long,narrow and rather dingy looking wood frame building.In those years no one ever mentioned to me anything about it's housing tuberculosis patients.I learned about that later from a grade six teacher who described it as a terrible,very sad place.But,that is where our mother worked when we first came to Moncton.In those days,some of her family were staying with us.They lived in the western part of the province,at a place called Dead Creek,about 200 miles away.I have memories,though not especially clear ones,of my grandmother being there,as well as my mothers sister Ruby.And,to the best of my recollection,I think it must have been around then that my mothers aunt,Anna English was in Moncton as well.Or,to be more specific,at the sanatorium in River Glade.

Of things like tuberculosis we had no thoughts when we were small.We lived in a world where our mother would not acknowledge any kind of unkindness or impurity.And I suppose it was not a bad place for children to live,at least while they were still children.But it also leaves me with a cloudy sense of family history.While we played happily by day and went to our warm beds with Bible stories for children,there was a whole world just beyond that was never spoken of,even when we were older and had began to ask questions.

Anna English,like my grandparents lived at Dead Creek,just across the road from the Derricks and just down the road,on the same side of the road as my grandparents.*It must have been a hard existence there as the land was not really very good.They were,as far as I know,farmers and lumber men,like my grandfather.My memory of Anna English is of a kindly old lady,rather smallish,and,in fact tiny when I last saw her in the late 1980's.She seemed to get smaller with age,as people do,though on a sub conscious level,it evokes thoughts of consumption.That was likely not the reality of things though.She had a crooked baby finger on one of her hands too.Anna loved children of all kinds,and I loved being around her and her home.she was married to Fred English for more than sixty years.Fred was a very old man even when we were small children.Sometime in the 1960's,they moved into the nearby town of Canterbury,where they lived just past the crest of a hill going out of town toward Skiff Lake.That was at or near a time when most of my mothers family was moving from Dead Creek.Some moved a few miles into town,while others were moving farther away.

Of course the reason for Anna English being in River Glade is that she had contracted tuberculosis.And this is something that I can only conceive of in my imagination,as to what that time must have been like.Dead Creek is nearly 200 miles from River Glade.It could not have been easy to manage a farm without the help of a wife,to say nothing of being separated for a protracted amount of time.The disease itself was still a feared thing in the 1960's and must have taken a toll on her body as well,though neither she,nor anyone else I knew ever talked about that.I also get the sense of sanatoriums that were rather like leper colonies,though that may not have been their intent.There seems to me to have been at least some sense of stigma about them,as they tended to be located in remote places,far from the rest of society,not unlike insane asylums or homes for severely disabled people.Their disappearance also seemed to correspond with a move to deinstitutionalize insane persons and disabled people,though it may have been connected to a decline in tuberculosis rather than in more progressive attitudes that were evolving regarding institutions in general.For Anna English and her family,including my mother,it must have been a very difficult time.

Once or twice I recall being outside the sanatorium in River glade with my mother and my grandmother.We were very small.I recall that there was a big,imposing looking building which we stood beside.There were a number of pipes issuing from the building,and steam issued from one of those pipes.In an upper floor window,near the corner of the building,a woman would appear,and we would wave to her,having no idea of why we were really leaving her at this building.At that time I don't recall much of what the surrounding area looked like.Later,though,we stopped near the sanatorium for a picnic.The building had been closed for some time then and did not seem in the least imposing.In fact I was impressed by its seeming smallness.Nearby,a lovely small stream flows through some trees and I thought what a pastoral,beautiful setting it was.

Meanwhile,at home,we must have been exposed to the possibility of tuberculosis as well.My mother must have been exposed to some extent at work,as well as from the times she visited her aunt in the sanatorium.Later,I remember,we had skin tests and a chest x-ray for tuberculosis,though nothing ever came of it.And still.nobody ever talked of any of those things.



memoir writers homework-lost keys

I was  in a big rush when I got home from school on Monday afternoon,school being Grant McEwan Community College in Edmonton,Alberta.That's because I volunteered at a local hospital on Monday evenings.I had just enough time to grab something out of the refrigerator for dinner and gulp it down as I was running through the shower.So,when I came in,I put my keys on top of the refrigerator and opened up the door looking for something appetizing,or at least edible.And I heard a dull sort of a plop,thinking"that was my keys."I was hardly new to the experience of losing keys.My refrigerator was an older model with just the one door.The small freezer was inside.At first,it occurred to me that my keys must have fallen on the floor,either in front of or beside the fridge.I couldn't find them in front,so I grabbed a flashlight and looked beside the fridge,between it and the stove.Again,no keys.So I pulled the fridge out from the wall,because there was really only one other place they could be,and that would be behind the fridge.Not the easiest place to get at,especially when I was in a hurry,and I had a tiny galley kitchen.Looking down behind the fridge,an action which required me to partly straddle the stove,I made a discovery.That discovery was that while most people have an impressive collection of dust bunnies behind their fridge and stove,I had dust kangaroos.What I did not discover,to my intense dismay was my keys.So I left my place unlocked and went to the hospital.When I returned,I spent two more hours looking for my keys to no avail.I covered all the ground I had before I left,a number of times,then decided they must be in the fridge.I looked on each shelf and in the crisper.I discovered a couple of interesting science projects,but again,no keys.Now this was no real disaster as I kept an extra set in my locker at school,as well as at a close friends house.But it did mean I would have to leave the apartment unlocked until I came home the next day.When I did,there had been no break and enter and nothing was out of place.Not so much luck,because I lived in a very good building.But my keys were still missing.And I'd searched every inch of the kitchen over and over.I had no idea as to where they might be found.

On Thursday morning as I was getting my breakfast of grapefruit sausage and milk,I poured the last of a two liter milk container into my glass.I also poured my keys into the glass.They had fallen from the top of the refrigerator directly into the open spout of the milk container,which on Monday had been almost full.Over the years,both before and since I've lost my keys many times.I'm a walking disaster with a set of keys,and always have been.But I've never been able to top that milk carton as a place to hide keys from myself.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

memoir writers homework-hidden fear.

There really is no better reason for my hidden fear than falling from a roof top.You see,I was paying more attention to something on the ground than to the new shingles I was trying to nail down.And I backed up,far to close to the edgeand started to fall straight back.It seemed as though I had a lot of timeto think about things on the way down,and to develop a brand new phobia.My father had said hewas going to visit the neighbor,about a half mile away.But did he say he was walking or takeing the car?Because if he was walking,the car was about to have a me shaped sunroof installed,as soon as I hit bottom.And of course,there was the wood pile along the side of the cottage.I must,at all costs avoid that I thought,imagining what a sizeable pile if maple and birch logs would do to me.So when I tipped over the edge,I pushed out with my feet and hoped it was enough.when I landed,after what seemed like a very long time it was on our grassy driveway,in a huge puddle.It felt kind of spongy,but my tail bone still ached once I got uo.My back and legs were sore too.But no one had seen me and I would be damned if I was going to tell anyone what I had done all for the view of  that girl in her bright orange bikini..And I managed to conceal the truth,not just from my parents,who wondered about how I had aquired a limp for a few days,but from everyone else including myself as well.

Then came the day I hired on to disassemble a whole warehouse full of shelving,some of it about sixty feet from the floor.And I simply had not given the past it's due.I used to enjoy being in some place where I could look down on the world.But not any more.Climbing up those shelves so I could take them apart was complete hell.I would get dizzy when I first climbed up and would have to sit there for some time to become accostomed to the height.And working up there with anyone else around me was out of the question.But,by breathing deeply,praying to God and keeping focused on what was directly in front of me I got through the two months that it took to tear down all those shelves and rebuild them in a different warehouse.But the worst part of the whole thing was coming back down at the end of the day.Once I crawled up to where I was working,I would only ever come down if the work made it unavoidable,or,preferably,once,at the end of the day.I dreaded that trip back down to the floor,because I actually had to look down.And I tried very hard to convince myself that my fear was irrational and that I could do the job.And,more than anything else,I didn't want anyone to know what was really going on in my mind.