In the Thick of Bohemian Alberta

Despite being a couple hundred kilometers from the biggest polluter on the planet (the tar sands), surrounded by young men-even nurses-who insist on driving testosterone-soaked 4 x 4 pickups, and youth who consider cocaine an after-dinner mint, I have managed to surround myself with yogaholics, caucasian Buddhists, cutting-edge experimental music enthusiasts and the only NDP-ers in a 700 km radius.

I wasn’t even trying – I suppose we Bohemians have some magnetic affinity for each other.

It all started so innocently! A ‘friend’ encouraged me to join him for better work opportunities. I initially dismissed his desperate pleas, but a quick google search at the falafel shop in Toronto informed me of a good teaching opportunity in Calgary. I sent my CV and the next day I was contacted for an interview. That never worked out, but with a couple twists of my rubber arm by the ‘friend’, Edmonton it was!

Ever the resourceful former journalist, I had a part-time job, a seat on a board of directors for a children’s music education organization, and an interview all lined up.

If you ever want to surprise a travel agent, go to their office in mid-January and tell them you want a one-way ticket to Edmonton at the end of the month.

I am honestly completely perplexed at how foreigners from places like the Philippines, Somalia, India and Toronto survive here. Public transit succeeds, but just barely. There is one LRT line with 10 stops, which has now been given a name: the Capital Line. Why it needs a name when there is only one line is beyond me. There is another line opening soon, which parallels the ‘Capital Line’ with 3 additional stops: the “Metro Line”! New York look out! Edmonton is coming up in the world!

When not working my 30 hours, which includes my practice time for the church services I play at every Sunday, I do a mean Qi Gong, I go to a meditation class (I visited 4 different Buddhist groups in Edmonton to find a good fit), I spend some time at the wonderful libraries (the Milner Public Library was voted best library in Canada, and will be publishing my first book on piano lessons-they have an Espresso Book Machine ), and I enjoy pleasant, usually solitary walks in the valley, while planning my escape and resurfacing a rich and famous European music sensation!

While walking in the valley, we can find opaque, time-warped public education plaques informing us that dinosaurs walked here over a hundred million years back! That was before they got into politics, and started the “Progressive Conservative” party. (“Progressive”, “Conservative” and “party” are three opposing words which should never appear in the same sentence, never mind rule a province for over 40 years!) One of the most recent dinosaur premiers, (King) Ralph Klein, showed up drunk at a homeless shelter on Christmas eve, and threw money at the residents, telling them to ‘get a job!’ I tell ya, this place has class!

Poverty, alcohol and substance abuse are relatively epidemic in Edmonton. Despite one of the most progressive local governments in Canada, there is a very large transient population – 60,000 arrived here last year alone. Schools are overcrowded, public transit is about 30 years behind schedule so the roads are packed with monster dumb cars, and the privatization of the liquor and beer outlets has put alcohol in hand too easily, in my opinion. (I had to call 911 twice in one day because of suspected alcohol poisoning leading to public inebriation / unconsciousness.)

Edmonton has some impressive projects coming up. They already claim to be carbon neutral regarding energy, they are planning a world-class artists’ community, and the former city central airport area is being readied for major development with environmentally friendly water treatment and energy. With our Earth teetering on the edge of failure, I suppose some lip service for the province’s complete mismanagement of natural resources for the past 20 or 30 years seems necessary. Will it be enough? Who can say.

Let’s hope our insect friends like the Monarch butterflies, which have lost over 60% of their population in the past 25 years, and the small yet essential honey bees will fare better than they have. They are our ‘canary in the coal mine’ and if they get wiped off the face of the planet, we’re screwed! Sure we will have oil to export to the greedy, immoral, Chinese slave labour conglomerate, but what about food? What about food?

Food for though and necessary action.