Saturday, 22 December 2018


Wait a Minute, Please!

The Crooked 9 does not have a dedicated walk to the front door. Consequently Ann and I are diligent about keeping the driveway clear for the duration of Edmonton’s long, dark winters. I enjoy shovelling snow. It’s similar to mowing the lawn or raking leaves in that the result is immediately pleasing and apparent. I get as much thinking done performing those tasks as I do standing still and watching the blue jays, magpies and woodpeckers flit about in the firs outside through the window in our back door.

Edmonton has always been reluctant to come to terms with its latitude. When I initially moved here nearly 30 years ago, I was stunned that the City’s entire snow removal budget was habitually drained by the end of November, the solstice still some three weeks away. This year late fall and the first couple of days of winter thus far have been mildly vexing. Months of weather have been packed into a space of days: December’s snow, January’s deep-freeze, February’s thaw, the spring breezes of March and April’s showers.

In days like these in Alberta and on the eve of an election year, it’s best not to mention the mundane commonality of weather to a stranger at the bus stop. Accelerated climate change is an anecdotal elitist hoax. Accelerated climate change is last call for a lazy, one resource provincial economy to diversify. All I know is that there’s enough sand on our driveway to host a beach volleyball tournament although conditions in Edmonton in late December are not exactly ideal for bathing suits and SPF grease.

Last week mail to the Crooked 9 came bundled in a blue elastic band. My overdue issue of The Economist was not included. I was annoyed. The unaddressed direct mail flyers were iced with a yellow sticky note reminding Ann and me to keep access to our home safe. I figured the plea was generic. The pizza man and our newspaper carrier were able to negotiate our driveway in the dark. An Amazon Prime subcontractor from the subcontinent delivered a parcel which could not go to its true destination just yet; the gentleman wore cleats and a big grin. Visiting friends had not creased their skulls on the front steps.

Ann and I were on top of the insanely spinning freeze and thaw cycle. Still, I walked the front 40 with a pail of grit and an ice chipper. Our neighbour’s self-pruning willow had laid a mesh of twigs atop the receding snow and our driveway. The public sidewalk was sure-footed. I used an old yogurt container to scatter even more traction. The next day Canada Post dropped off a postcard telling us that delivery to the Crooked 9 was too dangerous a proposition. Ann and I wondered how they managed to summon the courage to inform us.

I was outside smoking and fuming when an area supervisor from the Crown Corporation arrived. He walked up the driveway to speak to me. He himself had delivered the pre-printed scolding earlier in the afternoon. Two visits, back and forth, up and down the driveway. I thought, Isn’t it ironic? Not like the rain on my three wedding days because that’s just coincidence or maybe pathetic fallacy at the most. I said, “We’re in a winter city and the weather’s getting weird. Just what exactly do you expect me to do aside from everything I can?” I was reminded of my final performance review at my last ad agency before I quit: What the fuck else do you want from me!? Since then I’ve found some peace shovelling snow, chipping ice and scattering sand. I never expected tsk-tsk from a public service.

And so I went back to work, I re-re-did what I had already done, done, done: optics, cosmetics, appearances. My back was not pleased although my mind enjoyed the travel once it had acquiesced to the Sisyphean futility of it all.

Two days later a Canada Post van sped up and down our street, skidding to a halt everywhere else, fulfilling the company’s mandate. Ann pulled on her boots and strode down to the end of the driveway. The postal carrier said to Ann, “Your driveway looked better yesterday and so I decided to bring your mail today.” Ann replied that we certainly appreciated the service. Ann noted that the postie was wearing flat-soled sneakers, fine footwear for Edmonton in an increasingly bizarre wintertime; just as I, naturally, would wear hockey skates on a snowbird beach.

Now, Ann was not raised as a Catholic, which is to say that my baby is a pagan. Cursing to Ann is a relatively new art and I carbon date it from the ascent of Neanderthal Tweeterdumbest to the Oval Office. Ann handed me my tardy Economist. She muttered, “Can you (expletive) believe that we pay that (expletive) person’s (expletive) salary?”

I said, “Yes.”     

Copies of my latest novel The Garage Sailor are still available and ready to ship. Get aboard at

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