Thursday, January 11, 2018

When anger died

Wise people will say that alcohol causes more pregnancies and divorces than anything else and I admit, that while I never got pregnant while drunk, it did cause more than one relationship to end; usually in a gigantic ball of rage and determined rightness, broken things, third party interventions and the like.  Not everyone who drinks suffered this fate as often as I did, some people have allergies and break out in spots, my allergy to alcohol used to make me break out in handcuffs.

Oh, the wonderful boundless energy of the alcoholic mind, the delusions, grand designs, dreams and skirts to chase. Me, I spent most of my time being delusional and chasing skirts, I had designs and dreams too but mostly of the unattainable kind  because I let life interfere. Being sober when you are an alcoholic is BORING, dealing with the job, the cable bill and a relationship are just too much to bear, so drinking, either to enhance the dreams, performance or to sedate become the norm.

There is a  point at which alcohol enhances performance and a point at which the desire increases but performance decreases.   Nothing wrong with either thing really and I'm not here to get all preachy about what's right and what's wrong. I think being a drunk is fascinating  and, honestly, I'm not the least bit ashamed of it. No more than I would if I had prostate cancer.  I don't brag about it, but I recognize that a simple chemical can so completely fuck up my perfect life. 

I don't miss it. Almost eight months without a drink, lots of opportunity to drink, but I don't. The reason I don't is very simple, I quit drinking, I quit being mad.

So really I quit two things: being mad and being drunk. I was never one of those happy black out drinkers, even when drinking alone, which was most of the time, I'd find some excuse to be angry at SOMEONE! Somebody had done me harm and God Damn it I was going to show them.  When I quit the booze, and eventually stopped being an asshole a whole brand new world emerged. 

I found Karma.  Nothing in the spiritual world, and the difference between spiritual and religion is: Religious people are trying to avoid hell, spiritual people have already been there,  has ever been a better relation for me than this concept, which, in my case comes from the teachings of Tibetan Buddhists as translated and interpreted by Koshok Lobsang here in Edmonton and by the writings of Thubten Chodron, a Buddhist monk in Washington state. I did not have to go to Tibet to find an answer that made sense, I went to  the Gaden Samten Ling (GSL) Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Society, I took a course from my old friend Kushok on how to meditate. It was awesome.
When I was in politics I helped GSL get some money to build the center, a quarter million dollars if I recall and I honestly think it was the reason I was elected. I didn't know it then but recently when a friend asked me why I would run again in 2019, as in, what was my motivation? I meditated on the question in class one night and realized in a flash of insight that GSL was the reason I ran in 2008 and maybe there was no reason yet shown to run in 2019.

This aside from the problem of what party I would run for, since the UCP and NDP don't  appeal to me, I said publically that I'd only run if I could be in opposition and it would be very cool to be speaker, but these are not enough reasons to run, so I'm probably not going to. 

Now Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)  believes that one has to turn their life over to God, as you conceive him to be,  if they are to be successful staying sober and Buddhists believe there is no single God as we Catholics know him, rather they believe  consciousness is eternal and much like how the bible doesn't talk about what Jesus did in retirement, the concept of "eternal" is  a mystery.   Like all good mysteries, belief is an adequate substitute for data. 

So in my AA journey, I turned my life over to God and in turn have morphed into turning my life over to consciousness and  the Buddhist precepts. Now some of the precepts are pretty basic: show compassion for all, don't kill, don't steal, don't drink, stay celibate, etc.. If I were getting graded on killing bugs or celibacy, for example, let's just say "I'm not a monk".

What I like about Buddhism, like all faiths, is that it is subject to scorn and oppression, check with the Chinese government on this if you have any questions, which says to me that if the people in power are afraid of it,  something good must be going on. 

AA is not aligned with anything; no religion, politic or philosophy beyond the importance of sobriety and the ide that while drinking was the public manifestation of a problem, the real issues are much deeper and if I am going to stay sober I have to go there too.

So, about not being mad anymore: 

AA has a prayer, called the Serenity Prayer and we have all heard it:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

I say it, sometimes a hundred times a day, it helps me deal with the people who are not conforming to my world view, despite the fact it is obviously what is best for them.  I found the prayer lacking because, while I do have to accept certain things as being the way they are, I do not like to see people suffer, standing idly by has never been the hallmark of an old volunteer fireman.  We tend to rush into things whether we are in harms way or not. Its a hard habit to break, but break it I must if I am to achieve anything like a calm inner demeanor.

This is where I think the Buddhist philosophy came to the rescue.  I still have all my hair and I don't wear robes or shun worldly possessions, these things I leave for the more devout, but there are some great ways, in meditation to deal with anger and the concepts of compassion, the following quotes sum it up real well:

"Rather than going to the extreme of despair over the state of the world, we generate compassion for all sentient beings thinking "How wonderful if they were free from all unsatisfactory circumstances and their causes."" (1) 

This is another reason  why running for public office might be off the table, this does not appear to be the platform of any party, quite the opposite actually. Maybe I could change that from inside, but what I know of caucus discipline, I doubt it. 

Compassion is a very cool thing, very cool indeed. Service to others with little or no regard for reward is enlightening. There is nothing more enlightening than thinking "I can help this person" helping them and then getting shit for it. It's enlightening because it says more about me than them. It's a tough nut to crack. 

Make no mistake, we are all self centered, and the more people say they aren't, they are.  My favourite Weird Al song line, from the song Amish is "I am way more humble than though are" kind of says it all. 

Being self-centered is ok to some extent, If you are actually conscious of it, alcoholics aren't usually conscious of much, let alone being the center of the universe, but any decent alcoholic or addict does have one trait: The sole concern of their next drink or high, it is a completely self-centered disease.

Until I recognize a pattern, it will continue.  The use of depressants or stimulants to counter deeper psychological problems is the study of masters.  The masks I wore either while drunk or looking to get drunk, or to justify being drunk, where phenomenal in their scale. I mean really fucking outlandish and the damage I caused to so many people, myself included forced me to take a completely different path. 

Human beings are nothing if not resilient, changing a way of life, thought or deed is possible and very useful.  I first recognized there was something wrong with the old way. If I don't think I have a problem, then no early power is going to convince me otherwise. 

So yes like everyone I have problems, but I wake up now and am happy that I am doing so, there are still elements of my life that need compassion, but none so much as before, because now I can see the reality of my own limitations and I am not afraid of them.  I am. for example, no longer frustrated that I will never be a jockey. 

None of this is easy, but things that are worthwhile seldom are:  let forth the light that shines within you, that you might take the darkness from others. 

(1) Good Karma, Thubten Chodron, 2016 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

I don't care who stole the little library, I'm just going to replace it.

A family in the west of Edmonton had their little library stolen:  a nice little box designed to hold books that people could exchange, borrow, read and pass along. I like books and I like libraries. I don't own a kindle, I don't listen to on line video streaming, I read, so when it was reported that the little library was stolen, and presumably not for it's cash value, it pissed me off, because as the news article stated, the Dad built it and the kids decorated and designed it.  

I will not bother to analyze the motives of the thief, I don't care, what I will do is replace the stolen library and if possible build a few more that we can spread around the town. Dar and I are going to put one on our lawn here on Ada and I imagine I'll find a home for one or two others, don't care if we build a hundred if people enjoy them for what they are, which is not firewood.

Years ago, my partners and I built two inner city rooming houses out of concrete block because we knew that durability was more important than expecting people to change their behaviours, our motives in 1991 were to build durable structures that would look good, be cheap to maintain and stand the test of time. If you drive by 9526-103 Avenue today, it's still the best-looking building on the street and has housed 16 residents for over 25 years. 

As my own career morphed from Consultant to Politician to HR VP, I admit that I never did feel the sense of pride or permanence as I did when Pam Barret, Jim Spinelli and I cut the ribbon on that first building.  Today, as the Handy Kinda Guy, my business model is based on permanence and what Stewart Brand would call the "Long Now". I fix things, and in this case, I am going to use my skill and fix the obvious problem of a stolen little library.

I spent a lot of my life chasing exactly the wrong things, many of them pretty blondes and now that I am out of that habit, I am at liberty to focus on what makes me feel good about life. 

We all have our struggles about which others know nothing, indeed, no matter what the demon we face, be it booze, dysfunctional relationships, fear, loathing, or in my case all the above, change happens if we admit a couple of things:

a)    We admit we are powerless over our problem

b)    We realize that no human intervention is really going to fix it

c)    We accept that God can and will if he is sought

This is about as religious as I am ever going to get in my blog, mostly because, while God has lost some public popularity, how people interpret, like, hate or ignore it is an entirely personal thing so if you don’t like my motivation or opinion, don’t hire me to work for you, if you do like it, then feel free to call me for a price or advice.

In either case, I am absolutely confident that I will make a good living, providing a needed service that is also work I love to do. 

In reality, it goes way beyond that, it’s fun. Oh, I get that we might define this differently, you might not think dealing with smelly old rotten things as fun, but it’s a real challenge sometimes to solve a problem, to be the big guy with the big truck and the long ladder, who says, “sure we can fix it”

I hope only that everyone is at sometime, as blessed as I am to realize that life will humble you, but in humility comes an almost unlimited amount of strength, I can’t fix the whole world, but I can certainly work on my own little corner of it.   

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


What an interesting week in Alberta politics:  

Normally summer for politicians means weight gain at barbecues, sneaking out of town for vacation and such things. Now that we have a United Conservative Party to replace the PC and Wild Rose parties, politics in July suddenly matters.

The new party is causing  a lot of butt hurt amongst the NDP and the Alberta party trying hard to expand itself and make up the difference.

I have done several media interviews on the future, and since my crystal ball isn't any better than anyone else's, I'm going to prognosticate about the future as I see it.

The Liberals:
Who leads this party? Are they still registered, have they recovered from Doctor Dreamy?

The NDP:
They have some great people and some really bad ones, in particular the MLA for Stony Plain, a barista by trade, this kid was a placeholder and found himself a sitting MLA.  Recently I asked him if his governments hard line on coal would be detrimental to his constituents and if so, was he prepared to tell the government that the policy on coal was bad?  Now admittedly I set the kid up, because there is no way a back bench public transit riding MLA was going to do anything other than support the philosophical agenda he was given, and true to form, he did not answer the question.

One of my favourite NDP MLA's is  Deputy Premier, Sarah Hoffman. My bottom line belief is Sarah is not to be underestimated in her tenacity and ability to attack sewer rats or to take so much as a second breath before she launches into an attack on the new party. She say many  entertaining things and has the ability to fake sincerity down to a science.

The Premier herself, has to be worried by the lack of vote splitting on the right and with the reenergized Alberta Party occupying that hallowed middle ground, they are likely to siphon off support from the NDP, particularly as people realize how badly the recession hurt and how badly the government handled the carbon tax issue.  I see third party status in the offing.

The Alberta Party:
Former Edmonton Mayor Steven Mandell has been observed at a number of events supporting the middle of the road Alberta Party. I sense a leadership bid in the offing here. Mandell who is rumoured to fancy himself as the Bernie Saunders of Alberta, will undoubtedly use his charisma, charm and the wisdom of his 74 years on the planet to engage the youth in voting for fiscal responsibility and social progression. How a guy who has been collecting Canada Pension for nine years can expect to do this I don't know, especially when Thomas Lukaszuk, the younger and more fashionable politician is probably seeking the same job.  Mandell is probably bored being at home full time and doesn't have any good hobbies other than running a trailer park. 
Lukaszuk, has tried and failed several times to hitch his wagon to the shining star and hopefully realizes that hitching your wagon to a star requires very long reigns and a horse would be a better choice.
Greg Clark the current leader, is a hard working guy, has great staff and generally very likeable, I'm worried that he does not have Mandel's  war chest or Lukaszuk's charisma and his tenure might he short lived as a result. The Alberta party is collecting an interesting association of former PC MLA's in addition to Mandel and Lukaszuk. Dave Quest, the man who sold former Premier Ed Stelmach his last Oldsmobile, has resoundingly rejected the UCP in favour, apparently, of the Alberta Party. Official opposition status.

The UCP:
The word "United" makes me very nervous, while I agree that unity is necessary the top down structure of the party, preferred by both front running leadership candidates Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, suggests that there will be a lot of internal control to prevent, incidents, like the Hunsberger Lake of Fire or any bozo eruptions on twitter. Personally, my own 2009 debacle is enough to keep me from running for anything, or being asked to I suspect. Google it if you are interested. 

I have no clear idea as to who is going to win the leadership, although since the whole unity thing is really Jason Kenney's vision, I suspect he might, even if Brian Jean does look more credible in a hard hat and has sense enough not to drive a  gas  Dodge pick up.  Jason would have done much better credibility wise had he opted for a Cummins diesel 3/4 ton quad cab, instead of the  half ton, which is the kind of truck one buys if the heaviest thing they expect to haul is a few bags of mulch from Home Depot. .

The challenge in unity is that this requires more than consensus or singleness of purpose and this is where the party will need to be VERY CAREFUL with internal discipline moving forward to prevent getting labelled as  demagoguery. Appealing to fears is popular in politics and they ALL do it, as it is human nature to vote against something rather than for something. Which explains the NDP government we have now.

There are many former PC MLA's who have hitch their wagon to the UCP and who, in turn, hope to alter their status from former to current, which is great, the shakedown will happen when it comes time to declare support for one leadership candidate over another.
Those particularly committed to self preservation will have to think carefully and tread softly, lest they back the wrong horse and wind up with nothing good to show. The safest course of action for those lacking in principle will be to work at polling stations and have selfies taken with all candidates, thereby showing their commitment to party principles at the expense of personal agenda.  The UCP  will win the next election with a narrow majority or  a possible minority.

My guess for 2019:
UCP 46 seats
Alberta: 22
NDP: 19
Liberal: 0

I think the Alberta party is going to pick up support in places like Stony Plain, Sherwood Park and other constituencies where champagne socialism is popular, the Alberta Party will  be the urban upper middle class party and the NDP will keep their strongholds of tired huddled masses. Liberal's in Alberta will return their status of being extinct as even Mandell and Lukaszuk sense the toxicity of the brand name, even if it is their rightful home.

Make Alberta Great Again.

Friday, June 9, 2017

I renamed this blog.

This used to be called "the insiders guide to how things are" and I realized that in a very limited scope this was a good an accurate title. I am pleased however today to announce that I have expanded my view and am no longer all that interested in my own opinions.  

I am very pleased to announce that to capture the big picture I have plagiarized the work of my hero Douglass Addams and just renamed this: The blog at the end of the Universe, in honor of his great hitchhikers book: The Restaurant at the end of the Universe.  those of you who are familiar with Addams work will get this, those who are not, probably won't. Let's all enjoy the ride as I am off in a totally new direction of appreciation, recognition and gratitude.

Time to take a big picture view and not get so hung up on the actions of small minds in big jobs, politicians or anything else that has not evolved since the dinosaurs.  My new blog will feature inspirational quotes, predictions for the future of garbage eating bacteria and why my truck is going to come out on top of any accident between it and an autonomous electric vehicle, Otherwise known as a Johnny Cab, if you are a fan of Arnold and Total Recall.

I am going to ask you to support causes and think about things that cause ill in our society. We are blessed in North America to live in palaces, drive huge machines and make more money in a week than many in other places do all year.

I think there is no excuse for homelessness or untreated mental illness in this country. Every person has potential and those of us, who have done so well being self centered and narcissistic need to realize our fortunes can be fleeting and it is impossible to give away more of anything than you get back.

I have had a phenomenal life, of self importance and instant gratification, my goal now is not to criticize anyone for how they are, because I do not know their story.

Feel blessed, because you are.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Falling off the pedestal I made for myself might be the best thing that ever happened

We all do it I think, place ourselves on pedestals where our issues are so unique or special that there cannot possibly be anyone who has a similar fate. We place ourselves on pedestals  and just enjoy the view of the misery.  I've had a lot of self inflicted grief in my life, so unique I thought, so special, until I met some people with exactly the same life experiences and I realized that my pedestal was a more prison than monument.

Last week was awful, worse in a long time and so unique, or so I thought.  But then I met a group of people who were experts in having awful weeks and I realized that, in comparison, which one should never do, my awful was kind of tame, or so it made me feel. 

It has caused me to look at people in a whole new light: We see the Facebook clichés that say things like "don't judge because everyone has their own struggles" and such, and like most people I took it not to heart at all.  I have grown an appreciation for people, the drunk who is begging for money at a stop light is not, likely performing his life's work. He did not wake up one day and say "I should drink Listerine and beg for loonies". His addiction is not his alone, it belongs to us all because  we are all people.

Some of us are luckier than others, we have nice homes, nice cars and good jobs. We don't think about where to sleep or how to steal food from a dumpster. We have our shite together and that is mostly good luck with a mix of planning.

Many people don't know how to plan, or foresee the consequences of behaviour, they never learned. They get themselves in shitty situations that everyone else could foresee  I am a sudden big proponent of dignity, that each person deserves to be treated as we, ourselves, would like to be treated.  That our luck, or planning or upbringing should not isolate us from those who are not so fortunate

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The more I mind my own business, the better it is for me.

Leading researchers have concluded that minding your own business is the key to happiness.

I cannot count the number of times I was annoyed, surprised or stressed by information, that would have on close examination been determined to be none of my business.  Which poses two questions:

1) Why do I react if it's none of my business? 

2) Why don't I say it's none of my business?

This is kind of my new strategy for life answering these questions. We all know the scenario. The drama starts and we get involved, either because we are told something or because we think some injustice might have been done so we help. The first rule of a good narcissist is to not take responsibility for anything, and by involving me in some drama of some sort, and I responding, I am giving control to the narcissist. I give the bastard an out. I give him, or her a way to keep themselves being the center of attention a little longer. My new adage is "not my circus, not my monkeys"

We don't say  things like "If it don't have my name on it, it's not my mail" very often because as good people we don't want to offend the other one. We are helpers by nature and design, our lives are typically fuller when dedicated to service of others. So we help and saying no is not a natural reaction as it is counter intuitive.  It takes will power to say "not my circus, not my monkeys" The narcissist will think you are trying to withhold something and they will try harder to get it. Until they give up, and if you   capitulate, they win. And they love to win.

So, "not my circus, not my monkeys" is a very useful tool for cutting the legs out from under potentially dramatic situations. My new goal is to  just sit back and wonder how naïve some people can be. Including some stories people tell themselves that could be  on an episode of Family Guy. 

So rather than spend my days trying to protect stupid people from themselves, and as a result encouraging more stupid people to try and book appointments, I have decided to mind my own business.

You have three choices for my involvement in your drama:
1) You can take my advice and I will back you 100%.
2) You can tell me what you are going to do, then do and I will back you 100%.
3) If you say you are going to take my advice, or don't bother to do what you said you were going to do and come running to me when it goes to shite. My answer to you will be: "Not my circus, not my monkeys"

If experience is any sort of teacher, my work with some people just got a whole lot easier.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Momzilla: funny stuff that happens at weddings

I pride myself on my dark and twisted sense of humour. I also think that no matter what feedback the "pays the same"  this is especially true at weddings. With the nuclear family having been made into the real weapon of mass destruction a lot of people are opting for alternatives to traditional marriage. People my age have given far too much money to lawyers and you can only get married in some religions once.  It's good business for me and my secular commissioner colleagues since non-secular church weddings often involve regularly attending  church before hand and this does not seem to be quite as popular as it used to be.  

There is an advantage to a church wedding however; seldom does anyone get all grumpy with the priest or rabbi about how the service is to be conducted. Normally the priest is using some hour hundred year old sacramental ritual that doesn't have a lot of flexibility, so you know what you are getting. There is a lot of sign of the cross making: spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet. Some Latin: my father plays dominos better than your father (say that out loud real fast, you'll get it) and  icon worship that nobody really understands anymore.  But all in all it's peaceful, lovely and pipe organs kick ass.

When getting married in an alternative venue, be it a community hall, an old barn or on the veranda of the Magrath Mansion, which is just down the street from my house. Often a new dynamic kicks it and it is: Momzilla.

This needs further definition: usually, but not always,  Momzilla is the mother of the groom, she has really nothing to do on her sons wedding day, whereas the brides Mom is busy with pins and curling irons and generally fussing over her little girl. Worse,  for a lot of groom Mom's  she is divorced,  somewhat bitter, single and the grooms Dad shows up with a date who is  younger, hotter and despised by everyone. In extreme cases Dads  date will look like she was selected off a foreign wives website, because, often this is true.

In one notable example; the date  was smoking hot and just off the plane from Russia. It was obvious she already had her sights on something better than Dad. She was working the room. The grooms Mom was a very nice lady who had strong opinions after her third glass of wine.

The person who gets to tame these circus lionesses, is of course, the marriage commissioner aka me.  I have had many a groom mom offer me suggestions at the last minute, as her son is busy doing vodka shots with the groomsmen and there isn't really anyone else  for her to talk to. I've had them change the script, which I promptly ignored, or suggest that the sunlight will be in the brides eyes and maybe we should rethink where everyone stands I nod my head and I promptly ignore.

Mother of the bride is only ever a huge problem if she is someone of wealth and feels that in paying for this event she should get a major role in how it comes together.  I have had Momzilla's attend the pre-meeting, the rehearsal and of course the ceremony. Often there are several pre-meetings and much fussing about what colour of tie I will wear. My new policy is if you are getting married in a venue that charges $1,000.00 or more just for the space, I'm not your guy, I only own four ties, A Guggenheim and three Gerry Garcia's. I also don't wear a tux.

Momzilla may not realize she is overcompensating, sometimes she just wants a simple and perfect day for her kids and other times she is so crazed with trivial details that she needs to find someone's balls to break, she's been doing it to Dad for a long time and he's already into the scotch. 

Sometimes though it is very good:  recently I had an nice experience with a Mom, the kids had a little girl three weeks old and Mom wanted to be at the front with me, so I cut her into the program and let her say the non-legal bits while she held her first grandbaby.  She was  happy, which worked out all around.

This is an interesting ethical  dilemma: lots of Moms are my age, single, attractive and professional standards are a bit of a grey area.  But like they say, if I have to have a problem, this is the one to have.

How to avoid all this drama:

1) It's your wedding  do what you want.  I did a biker wedding where everyone wore their colours including the bride and groom.  I have also performed house weddings where the TV was on, of this I am not proud.
2) Figure out how to deal with Dad and his child bride from Thailand ahead of time, like maybe just elope, or tell him to leave her at home. He will get it.
3) Give the commissioner a heads up if you know of some unmanaged family dynamic and is likely to rear it's head.  
4) Nobody can stop your wedding: When I ask the question if anyone knows a reason why you can't be married, the list is pretty short;  not getting married in your parents church is not one of them.  I have on occasion, spoken to Mom and Dadzilla and asked if is this is how they want their daughter to remember  her wedding day?  I am like a baseball umpire on this one, it ain't nothing till I say it's something and you can't argue with the ump. So don't sweat it we know the rules.
5) If you are on a budget, buy your rings at a pawn shop, come over to my house with two witnesses and we'll do it right here in front of the fireplace. 
6) Unlike priests, the commissioner generally does not attend the reception, I may have a glass of wine at a house wedding, but the expected standard is to perform the service, get paid and go.

Being a marriage commissioner is a lot of fun, since I also do house inspections, I had one couple that I married call me for the inspection, she was pregnant and asked if I was a Doula too?  Fortunately  she was kidding. They had a good simple wedding, bought a good simple house and had a nice baby. A great way to start life together.

Second marriages are generally a lot simpler, most because everyone is older and has a "been there done that" attitude, which can make for an awesome party.