July 21, 2016

I was going to write more, write more every day but I felt like I needed to have a specific topic, which was an excuse to avoid it altogether. It’s better just to write on what I’ve thought about during the day rather than to save it all up for a themed post. I also feel if I start writing I will never stop.

I finished reading Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson. It is a good book. There isn’t an extra word in it, and it slips into you so quick and quiet like a filleting knife, you don’t notice that you’re cut till there’s blood. It’s both of Canada and older than Canada, spare, light, and dark.

I am full of resentment. July is hot and long. August will be worse. The bus schedules have changed, but not for me. I can’t tell if our neighbourhood is insignificant or underserved. I am not cycling either, and the tang of hot car permeates my days. We have to replace it, cumbersome thing. Another chore to add to the weekends. The brake caliper is sticking, a several hundred dollar fix on a car worth at most twenty-five hundred. Math we know too well. The faint shoofing of the brake pads against the rotor grind my nerves every time I drive. I hate when things are broken.

I cannot leave the city, and in this car-mad province there are few options. It is the inverse of my teenage life, stuck at the farm with no way to get into the city. It helps with perspective. There are many ways of living in the city, though. My sister purchased a Saskatoon Canoe Club membership for me as a birthday present, and we sign out kayaks to slip up and down the river. I pretend my house is a cabin, and we cook burgers on the smoker. I buy flip-flops and swim at the pool. Evenings I sit outside with a light beer and play games on my phone. There isn’t any wifi at the lake. I don’t work hard enough to be a lake person, anyway.












House of Pain remix feat. the Hub City

For reference:

Pack it up, pack it in
Let us begin
The city’s cavin’ in
Our future’s lookin’ grim

Tear the cul-de-sac up,
City trucks you’d better back up
Try and fill the hole and the whole street’ll act up

Get up, stand up, come on throw your hands up
If you feel like screamin’ come to the city meetin’
Council’s a funk fest, they’re always talkin’ junk
Yo we’ll bust them in the eye and then we’ll vote the punks out

1-800-junking, avenues all sunken
And we’ve got more crimes than there’s cops at a drunken
Top of the Hops, yeah we got props
From Caswell kids on the Hill
And their mom and their pops

Riverbank’s going down, riverbank’s going down
Pull down some trees and slump around
Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump

City says it’s not them, it’s glacial till and backflow
If your shit starts to slip, hire a tractor backhoe
Word from your moms, don’t trust city comms
We’ve got more fault lines than the city’s got qualms

And just like old man Dayday, it’s returned
Water down below but up top we get burned
Baking like a flake on your fake grass in the hot sun
Finish up your mansion cause we want one

We’re all fools cause they’ll duel till they’re half deaf
While the inner city don’t care, all we have’s debt
They’ve got to chill, can’t just drill
Into the side of a shifting river bank hill

Riverbank’s going down, riverbank’s going down
Uproot some trees and slump around
Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump

It’s the talk of the shop when the slope flops
Who’s left holding the bill when the bank drops
Don’t know who’s a prevaricator, like conspiracy city haters
Tryna block us all out like we’re downtown skater mayors

But we’re not going out like no drunk bridge
4 spans gone but we’ve still got one which
Reminds you of what’s gone and what’s yet to come
Put it out of your head the city downtown plan is dead

We’re coming to get ya, coming to get ya
Fill your prescription and city cops will arrest, yeah
Riverbank’s coming down, it’s all coming down
So light up some trees and slump around

Slump around, slump up and slide down
Slump around, slump around
Slump up and slide down
Slump up, slump up and slide down
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump
Slump, slump, slump

on swimming and systems.

A thing I think about a lot is the amount of invisible infrastructure needed to support our highly specific lives. Like tonight, I went swimming. It’s a very simple act that requires a highly technical and complicated system of chemistry, physics, math, mechanical engineering, and a huge amount of oil and coal to manufacture and run it all. The bus that takes me there and runs back, on asphalt roads, rubber and tires and a diesel-electric hybrid engine, with focus-grouped patterned seats in an indestructible fabric woven out of plastic. The pH balance of the pool, the chemical composition of the grout holding the tiles together, metal halide lamps, the polyester spandex blend of your suit, the little grippy patches along the pool lip to hold on to while you discuss with your swimming partner the news of the day. Who could invent all this by themselves, given a blank slate and all the materials? Tiny inventions, one by one, building upon each other like coral, and we take it for granted. Just so I can get some uninterrupted thinking time and exhaust myself deliciously before bed.

We grew up swimming in lakes and occasionally dams. Water, mud, sky, plants, fauna. Don a suit (or not) and wade in: algae, leeches, slimy muck engulfing your toes, seaweed groping your legs, and in one case, a rusty nail in a 2×4 that made my vacation rather more exciting than scheduled. I can’t say it’s any more fun, but then I don’t swim for fun anymore, other than the enjoyment of having exercised. (I am telling myself that I enjoy exercising; having utterly resisted all attempts at gamification, my brain is easily fooled by the simple expedient of telling it what it likes or doesn’t like.) So the complicated city swimming uncomplicates outcomes; and the simple country swimming ends up in a trip to the ER on the weekend of your grandparents’ 50th anniversary, an ER that may or may not still exist out Canora way. More examples of infrastructure humming away under the edges of your life, HVAC systems and healthcare scheduling and sterile bandages catching you, propping you up, sending you back out.

on cranking things out.

I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately. I hate it. I also like it. I hate that I like it. You know why I like it? It’s easier. I can lock all my stuff in the trunk. I usually can find a place to park. (Yes, even downtown.) Impulse purchases fit in it. I have air conditioning. Of a sort, the car is 17 years old. The infrastructure is made for it. It’s easy to drive, it’s easy to park in this city.  I don’t have to plan routes going around spots where other people may try to kill me. I’m not really afraid of other motorists hitting me, unless they’re in an oversize vehicle. (Again, it is 17 years old. You want to trade paint, go right ahead, I have nothing to lose.) I can wear what I want and not be sweaty when I get somewhere. I can carry my gym clothes, I can go to the mall, I can go for lunch all in one trip and not have to carry everything with me. Also, I fit in. I am sure most of us can identify times when you’ve stepped even fractionally outside cultural norms and felt an immense weight on the back of your neck. I don’t think I know anyone who bikes regularly in this city who hasn’t been met with a diatribe or defensiveness from ordinary drivers.

I hate it. Hot car smell is the worst. I have to go back and move it whenever I meet someone there and we want to go to a second location. It costs a lot of money to maintain. I feel like a lump when I get home, a road-raged lump who hasn’t stretched their legs. You know how you get, when you are avoiding doing a thing that you must do, and you get irritable and bitey and mutinous and you Do Not Want To Do It but at the same time you know you’ll feel better once you’ve done it? (I was brought up with a strong Protestant ethic which wars continually with my strong procrastination ethic.) Anyway, this is me, driving. I hate that it’s easy and I hate that I’m doing a lot of it. If you want to ask me why I’m killing the planet etc. etc. and voice out loud the thousands of criticisms I am already replaying on a loop in my head, please do so on Twitter so I can tell you publicly it’s for health reasons, health reasons that are sadly aggravated by cycling at this juncture.

However. I have lived in this city since 2002. In that time my transportation profile has morphed wildly. Mode choice is not inevitable; it is not fate; and it is subject to change. There were several cycling summers where we used the car maybe once a week between April and October (the year we got the cargo bike was especially gratifying.) I had two years where I roller-bladed almost everywhere, and in my spare time between classes. In first year university I didn’t start taking the bus until well into my first year here, my previous experiences with buses being the large yellow rural kind that have only one route.

I know enough about bikes now to intimidate some people, but I can assure you I didn’t express the faintest interest in getting to know bicycles from 2002 to about 2008. I had an old, entirely too large mountain bike that I oiled with chainsaw oil and locked up with a $15 cable lock. I rode it on the sidewalk with grocery bags hanging off the handlebars, despite having a very good rear rack. I did this for six years! Six years. I had other priorities (boys, mostly, and Smirnoff Ice, although if my parents are reading this, school.)

People would ask me how I biked to work every day. It was quite easy, I didn’t decide every morning. When I wake up and start to negotiate with myself things like how I am going to work, or even if  I am going to work, I have already lost. I get up and I go. This is how I started biking to work regularly. I missed the bus and was late. So I got on my bike and went. Then I just kept doing it. This also applies to things like going to the gym or flossing my teeth. I negotiate, and all is lost. I skipped an awful lot of class in university (hi Mom) by not realizing this about myself. Deciding every time whether I have to do a routine thing exhausts my willpower. So I make it non-negotiable, which frees up decision-making bandwidth for whether I should get sour jujubes or peanut M&M’s.

I really would like to live to see the day where you can just bike somewhere here and nobody comments on it. Sometimes when I cycle or take the bus to meet someone I’ll gloss politely over the fact of how I got there, because I am tired of the pessimistic bromides. In the end it doesn’t really matter what I am using, I am just a person trying to get somewhere. In a reasonably non-sweaty fashion.




On a year without craft beer.

Yesterday was a little heavy. Let’s lighten up a bit.

I didn’t plan for 2016 to be the Year Without Craft Beer. It just happened. January I embraced an ascetic lifestyle – OK, a more ascetic lifestyle, let’s be frank – and I discovered I wasn’t really missing my hefeweizens or stouts. I won’t say I didn’t like them — but I didn’t miss them when they weren’t around. You could say they weren’t sparking joy in my life, aside from the usual joy alcohol brings for a brief time.

It’s also very freeing to not be constantly up on something – the latest glassware, or brewery, or chasing a Trappist ale through the vagaries of a provincial liquor board system. Some people really enjoy that, and I can’t fault them. I mean, I read city reports in my spare time. It was just becoming a chore. As I get older, I find myself less inclined to prove myself, to explain myself all the time.  It’s exhausting! Besides, as a supertaster, most IPAs are wasted on me. Ales are right out. I can tell some wheat beers apart in close proximity, but I discovered at the end of the day I want something cold, not too sweet, and affordable. (Reader, I drink GW Light.)

I don’t mean for this to be a snooty thinkpiece, one you write after you ascend to a higher plane. I do enough of that elsewhere, and I know how perversely enjoyable being superior is, a smugness shot through with tiny little barbs in your soul. Rather it’s about the maturity that springs from, or caused by, when you decide a thing isn’t for you. “Oh, it’s not really my thing” – what freedom these words give you! You’ve had a look at it, you’ve tested it from all angles, and it’s not really fitting in with what you want or need, so you set it aside and thank it. I’m not worried I’m closing myself off. My interests are as varied as ever. It’s just — it doesn’t apply to me anymore. And knowing when things don’t apply to you is the real key here.

On getting out.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about getting out, how people decide when it’s time to leave, whether it’s your house, your career, or your city. We like to pretend it’s rational. I don’t think that’s always the case.

Watching the residents of Fort McMurray  throwing random things into their trucks and inching through a cinder-flaked choking haze, I thought smugly: I would leave first, before the mandatory evacuation. Waiting around is for chumps. It’s better to be the first to leave, the first to be laid off, the first to move. Before the jobs dry up, the opportunity dries up, before the very air dries up and your house burns to the ground. It’s better to get out. And by how vociferous I am about this, I know deep down I am worried, because I would stay. This time it’s different, I would think. Maybe the fire won’t get this far. I just have to hold out a bit longer and it will be OK. Then things will go back to normal. I know this because I am still in Saskatchewan, and the budget drops tomorrow. I don’t know what the budget will be like, but I can guess that it will not be good. It may be very bad. I know that the first wave to get out has passed, the second wave is passing and may already be gone. I know this is also me being prone to dramatics. You get through this or you don’t. You move or you don’t. You make up a billion-dollar resource revenue shortfall, or you don’t. You diversify your economy, or you don’t. You plan for the future, or you don’t. I can’t be the only one wondering whether opportunity really lies in other provinces with increasing GDP, or whether it’s better to double down on my sunk costs and stay here. (There’s a KFC joke, if you like.)

I cannot point my finger at suffering communities and say, Why don’t you just leave? It would be hypocritical of me to do so. It is difficult, to leave all you know. I’ve done it once, partially, to move away to university here. That was jarring enough, even with relatives living here already and being somewhat familiar with the city from family visits. It was an exceptionally soft transition, which tells you how little I have had to leave a place, and how unprepared I am to do so again.

It’s easy to get caught up in the minute-to-minute life, looking ahead to the evening, to Friday, to a long weekend, to a glass of wine, and ignoring the mounting smoke plume in the distance. I don’t know what other opportunities are elsewhere, but I’ve scraped a bit together, and what’s more, I know how to live here. It’s not so bad, I guess, and every so often I have a long weekend or a glass of wine. Maybe it’s not that I don’t know when to leave, it’s that through a series of imperceptible decisions, I am choosing to stay.



I’m not much for introductions.

Many of you know me from Twitter and that’s still the forum I prefer for interactions – I don’t have the patience to edit comments here so if you’re peeved at me you should sign up for Twitter. It’s quite fun to be peevish on Twitter, I find.

This is a space where I can reside unedited (mostly) and collect all of the things I am interested in. You’re going to see some awful photography, some hackneyed art, and some terrible puns. Also a lot of adverbs but I’m working on those. You’re also going to see a lot of politics stuff, I think, especially in the run up to the elections in 2015 and 2016. I don’t care if you don’t like politics because one of the secrets I’ve learned about politics is that it’s just gossip that controls the city, and who doesn’t like gossip? Even Paul cannot resist a bit of gossip. Maybe you can, in which case I cordially invite you to skip the politics post. Alas, what you will not see here are any of my celebrated analyses of letters to city council, as the city clerk’s office has seen fit to not include these in the new city council agendas. Truly a great loss for society, and newshounds, as often times you could get at least one or two stories out of them. I will find and post my great transcription of the mayor’s snow-clearing rant, which is a thing of beauty and a joy to read for ever. But enough about me. How about you? Oh wait, I’ve not enabled comments on this page. Guess I’ll see you on Twitter.