Post 132
to Father Patrick (though we haven't yet met)

Welcome (to Your New) Home: Reflections on Edmonton

I have heard that many people who have vacated Fort McMurray are currently in Edmonton.

Edmonton is a very nice city. It has a university and many other post-secondary institutions, and even a seminary. This is very good.

After all, it’s good when young people can live at home with their parents and siblings for that in-between not-married-yet time. And I certainly don’t think students should go off to far-away schools if the same program is offered nearby. What is the point of that? Bragging rights?

I once knew a young man who could have gone to the University of Alberta Law School but who chose instead to go to Harvard Law School.

He joined their Law Review too.

He later got a high-paying job defending tobacco companies from class action law suits.

This proves that:

1. The young man went to Harvard Law School.
2. He joined the Law Review too.
3. He later got a high-paying job.
4. This work involved defending tobacco companies from class-action law suits.

The End.

So, what was the point exactly?

I sometimes visited him and I hung out with some of those people on the Harvard Law Review. For those of you who don’t know this, these people are considered the ‘cream of the crop’ – the best of the best, the brightest of the bright.

I hung out with them, sometimes for hours at a time. I thought their conversation was self-satisfied and dull, and that their jokes were boring (sex jokes usually are) and certainly not nearly as funny as the ones I had laughed at on the University of Alberta campus.

My point is that fun people are everywhere. As a matter of fact, you’ll laugh more when you’re with regular folks than with snooty kids whose parents choose to send them to the Very Best Schools in the Land.

Chesterton made the same kind of comment. He said please don’t think that Rich Folks have a monopoly on wit or on humour. They just don’t. As a matter of fact, by the time most rich people are rich, all the humour has been squeezed out of them by their fixation on money, status and prestige. (Nothing kills a personality quite like competition.) Nah, these people were funnier when they were poor, when they used to wear socks with holes in them and when they ate peanut butter and jam sandwiches all the time because that’s all they knew how to cook.

For that matter, it’s a well-known fact that some of the broke-beyond-broke saints were the ones who played the very best practical jokes and who laughed the loudest. Right now, the priests in the Edmonton Archdiocese are meeting for a week, and I’ll guarantee you that the good priests are having the belly laughs while the grumpy holier-than-thou priests look miserable and very severe indeed.

Turn back the clock to Jesus’ day and you’ll see those silly and often-clueless apostles tumbling over each other and laughing and joking, crying and complaining and arguing like little children while the Pharisees look perfectly composed, calculating and Dignified. And take St. Francis: he was able to laugh and be free because he wasn’t worried about possessions or his reputation or doing everything Absolutely Spotlessly Perfectly Right. He talked to the birds and complained to the bees.

He was busy being happy and being a fool in love with the Lord. Some people thought he was nuts. He didn’t really mind. He’d probably agree and then laugh his head off. (St. Thomas More actually joked with the executioner who cut his off. Good Thomas said please don’t mess with the beard; it committed no crime – so the story goes.)

But anyway, speaking of Edmonton, it’s a good city. I hope that you stay, former citizens of Fort McMurray.

Let me continue to speak of the benefits of this place. (I love it here.)

It is quite beautiful and will later be even better. One day, as a matter of fact, I expect it will be known as the loveliest city in the whole world.

But one step at a time. First, they’ll have to remove all these signs cluttering the city-owned land.

Do we citizens really need an ugly sign saying “BIG TICKET EVENT” (A ‘humorous’ threat that if you don’t drive more slowly the city police will issue you a speeding ticket)? I don’t think so. Do we citizens really need a sign saying “LOCK GARAGE AND CARS”? I don’t think so. We lock if we want. Do we really need a sign saying “REPORT CRIME ONLINE”? I don’t think so. After all, if a crime has been committed against me, that’s exactly when I DON’T want to run to Daddy Google. That’s when I want to be able to go to the police station and meet a hero in uniform who is a compassionate listener, unafraid to take action if needed.

[And for that matter, when I call the local police station, emergency or not, I want to speak to a living breathing human being and not a voice recording. Currently, the EPS non-emergency number has the most complicated yet incomplete maze of choices. It’s a Chinese menu offering everything except the thing that you were looking for. By the time you’ve tried four or five choices, you’d be relieved to be connected with someone in India, but it’s not going to give you even that. (I have nothing against India nor its people who go to work in the middle of the night to help people half the world away, but I’d prefer if places called TD Canada Trust hired people from places called CANADA, and speaking of TD Canada Trust could someone tell me why their phone menu includes Cantonese? The people in Canada who are from China or Hong Kong can speak English just fine – thank you very much – most don’t need this ‘favour.’ As for the others who can’t yet, are they actually surprised that English and French are the official languages here?) Pathetic. So I gave up and went to the police station in person. The constable I met in the parking lot admitted that he knew the phone menu was a disaster. I asked him how it could be fixed. He suggested that I contact my city councilor. Sigh. I don’t think Bryan Anderson particularly wants to hear from me again after that little chat we had about the triceratops and I’m in no mood to go through it again either. Complaining via blog is more fun and probably more likely to get results.]

But back to Edmonton, it’s got everything you’d want in a city. Trees, sidewalks, grass, lamp posts. Hospitals too, if you like that kind of thing. An airport too, if you like those. Lots of blue sky, most days. Nice clouds too, most days. And hey – no extra fees for garbage collection (beat that, St. Albert).

[You can ditch your lego and your yoga ‘pants’ for free here. You can rip through your old photo stash (I just did) and remove photos that prove that even you – even you – Could Look Really Bad. That super-tight dress or shorty-short-shorts seemed just fine in the mirror but I guess, um, well, let’s just ditch the evidence. If you have children, let them have a say during the photo cull. Their opinions matter too; if they’re not okay with that pose and that expression on their face, then look away while they put it on the Discard Pile. It’s only fair. Just because you took the photo, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a say. Who do you love more? Your kids or the photos of your kids? But anyway, use the garbage without worrying about extra fees or specialty tags.]

Edmonton also has roads – a lot of roads going in and a lot of roads going through it and a lot of roads going out of it. It also has quite a few bridges. This is a good thing. Having a lot of choices is a good thing when it comes to transportation. Ask anyone who has spent hours trapped on the ONE Road going in and out of a place.

But my very favorite thing about Edmonton is that the people are here because they have family and they have friends. They’re connected, and that’s why they’re staying. They aren’t here for the weather (it used to be cold here with a never-ending winter) and they aren’t here because TripAdvisor has rated its scenery and given it some touristy stars. They’re not here because it’s supposed to be ‘cool.’ As a matter of fact, most of ’em don’t care what anyone says about Edmonton, or about how it’s been heckled in the past by whatever crappy newspaper or whatever. They are here for each other. They’re here because it’s where they grew up and it’s where the family is and over there is where they went to school and just there is the church that they got married in and so on and so forth.

It’s called having roots. Roots are a good thing. Don’t underestimate them. You put them down and then you grow from there. It’s a wholesome, psychologically well-rounded way to be a person.

You get married, you buy a place (Edmonton has a good range of choices in a decent range of prices) with your spouse. Then you have some kids. Mind you, sometimes the children arrive before you’ve actually bought – that’s fine too. It will all work out.

Have children. Have a good time making them and have a good time laughing with them when they come along – their jokes are going to make you pee your pants faster than any you’ll ever hear at any office water-cooler or Too Good For You Self-Righteous Campus. (And just so you know, all children don’t need a room of their own. Who told you they did? It’s not necessary. As for ‘time-outs’ – those are destructive and not even right for the animals at a zoo, who are still wondering what their crime was.)

So, you put the roots down and then you stick around. You don’t need to leave town chasing Opportunity X Y and Z. Opportunities will come to find YOU if your motives are good. That’s how it works. By this, I mean that you should choose your career based on how you think you would best enjoy making a contribution to society, and not based on how you think you would best enjoy making a contribution to Glorious You.)

Growing up, discerning your vocation without ego and without desire for fame and for glory, staying close to home if you can – it’s a good system. Children welcomed if they are part of the package. Chocolate-chip cookies. Popsicles from the freezer. Dog licking up the milk and cereal that spilled on the floor. A little chaos. It’s okay. Laughing and crying. Mass on Sunday followed by a meal at home or restaurant (in my imagination, restaurants are open on Sundays but the other stores – except grocery – are closed, and those who need to work on Sundays have shifts of four hours or less). Walks. Picnics. Sports for fun, gardening for fun. Doing your best at work but going home on time. Doing your best at school but taking a nap if you’re exhausted. Ordinary joys. Life.

Come to think of it, it’s what we used to do, as a country and as a race.

Let’s play that game again.

It was a good one.

(Welcome, new friend, to Edmonton

City of champions.)