I have a few ideas of how I could actually work towards making this place called home a little more tolerable. But most of them involve matches and kerosene. Just kidding.
Or am I?
The longer I am here the more difficulty I am having in actually liking it here. The people, the politics, the culture, the major issues that seem to be important to people here...I'm not gonna lie: they are not too important to me. I think there are places out there in this world that I could probably thrive in. Maybe. Heaven knows I have been fortunate enough to travel more than my fair share and have seen how lives get lived in different places around the world. And right now I am reading this book that will hopefully help to give me some perspective on ways that I might learn to be happy here - especially if I never get the real opportunity to be happy anywhere else (like 99% of the rest of the world).
I have few good friends: most of them far, far away. If not, then they plan on being away soon. Friends from my past seem to have faded away all but completely. Family? Well, sure. That is important. Take care of your family. Without them, who knows who will help pay for your funeral.
Edmonton is really starting to piss me off. It seems there's always some outrageous thought or stunt or act trying to be pulled off by someone for his or her or its own benefit. The Katz Group? What gives?!?! This city hasn't seen such a dictator calling the shots since Puck dumped Gretz. Envision Edmonton? GET A LIFE!!!! There is a serious lack of cohesion or community resulting from the rampant development that our movers and shakers are all trying to become memorialized for. Rapid above ground LRT routes, Mandel? You're still such a pinhead. And then there's the Edmonton Police Service. You lost the faith of your populace in the year 2000, back when "gangs" were all the rage and we realized that you had No Freaking Clue what you were doing. In the past decade occurences of police brutality have just sky-rocketed in the city. Now the next pig in line to run the EPS is fleeing e-town to work for the RCMP in B.C. - a police body with an even worse record of corruption, bigotry, and using excessive force. The worst part of it is he's taking his wife, Lynda Steele, - one of the most admired (if not attractive) local celebrities, with him. Stupid councillors waste their time bringing Indy car races into the city and approving the use of green light cameras that don't even work. Millions of dollars later, and hundreds of shelter beds remain un-built and tens of thousands of kilometers of roads remain unpaved in the summer or uncleared from snow in the winter. Good job, boys, keep it up! Vote yourselves a raise next week!
Edmonton wasn't the murder capital of Canada in 2010. Only 27 lives taken by the means of another person. An improvement for sure. I hate the idea of living in Windsor though, where they had a grand total of 0 murders last year! To live in Windsor would mean to live in Ontario. And that just won't do. But we'll get back to that in a minute.
Since Zac has left to Vancouver, Gary to Calgary, Andrew (RIP) to Saskatoon, and Dan to...NEW ZEALAND, I have been putting more thought into where I would like to live/start living my own life. I would like to be in a place that can truly embrace the multi-cultural differences that a community is made of. Stop All This Racial Hatred! The disparity in an oil-rich city is despairing. The poor can't get too many $60 Oilers tickets (bottom price) if they begged for them. Hockey teams have highs and lows so I would never move to a place because of their hockey team (unless it was to DisneyLand) and as frustrating as it is to admit: the Oilers will always be my team. And I would like to get away from this roughneck attitude that is becoming ever more redneck and belligerent as the years "progress". I would like to be a part of a culture that takes pride in sustainable living with less diesels and more bicycles. Less BBMs and HDTVs and more canoe trips or "beach & a book" days. I would like to surround myself with people that have some degree of respect for their fellow man, plant, and animal.
Outside of city politics and cultural stereotypes, I find the idea of ever leaving this northern city in this wild west frontier to be a somewhat bitter pill to even think about swallowing. To me, ALBERTA is both a prosperous and pristine place that still has a load of un-marked landscape alongside fully developed social services (that are essential for an aging population especially). From the majestic western peaks to the unharvested coniferous forests to the north, and golden plains everywhere else, this place has some good things going on.
The province's cities (I hate Calgary) bring in most of the big events and a person never has a lack of choices for finding something to do on any given night. It's not like my family on Vancouver Island who only really have the options of: drinking Lucky/Kokanee, playing ball, and getting pregnant (usually 2 of these things go together and result in the 3rd). Although, even the Satanic Surfers played Victoria in 2002... But in my biased opinion, the city of Edmonton has one of the strongest local music scenes - from metal to folk to punk to alternative country to classical to blues. We have it all. And it is all done well. The city also has a ridiculously huge mall, a trendy south side street, 3 "professional" sports teams, and an amazing river valley with parks and trails throughout. Not a bad place at all (especially for a place stuck waaay up here on the 53rd parallel)!
Outside of the city, this whole region can be great (as long as you don't live too close to a sour gas well). The cold dry winters make snow mobiling or cross-country skiing favorite past-times. Pond hockey? "You betcha!" as that hockey mom Sarah Palin would say after fucking every member of the team in her film debut in Not A Big Mystery Alaska. That was actually filmed here in Alberta.
Some of the truly amazing country girls out there are probably what I love about living in Alberta the most. I could even see myself one day riding horses (or cowgirls) one day, living on an acreage, and listening to a little bit of (good) country music. After all, we all come from families of farmers from somewhere down the line, right?! I would like to pretend that I could live the life of a rootin' tootin' hootin' hollerin' COWBOY, if I found that 1 special cowgirl to show me just how it's done. As long as I can get to the next big punk show that comes through town too.
I think that this dry barren wasteland complete with its blue skies and bitter cold can appeal to people that thrive in extremes. I think Alberta can offer some of the best health care service in the country. But I know that the rate of unsustainable growth & urban sprawl is far beyond any responsible long-term prosperity. Breathing the exhaust from endless gas-guzzling pick-up trucks is exhausting too. The arrogance with which the way these chauvinistic sons of bitches drive their stupidly enormous trucks is uncalled for as well. But it is Albertan, and to be expected.
So what to do. Where to go?!?!?! Go where the work is? Fort McMurray? Still doubtful. As good as an environmental engineer's degree is to work towards mitigating problems or risk, the real hope is that the tarsands just stop altogether and we all just work towards something that has less devastating long-term results.
Let's run down the rest real quick:
British Columbia - This place is filled with dope fiends and tree-lover hippies. The government is always in a state of chaos and everyone is taxed to their teeth. Not to mention that the coast will likely be under water in a few years from now...
Saskatchewan - Filled with the hillbilly deluxe. If you thought the English had bad teeth, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Also, this is probably going to be the first place that is attacked by America after they realize that Sask's nuclear power plants are within soldiers' marching distance to Alberta's tar sands.
Manitoba - They have no hockey team but the boys from Propagandhi still call it home and Comeback Kid is a Winnipeg product as well. This city often has one of the highest crime rates in the country, and happens to have one of the largest Native populations in a major urban center also. Oh. And they get flooded every year. Especially with these increasingly-frequent extreme weather events.
Ontario - This is the place that true blue blood Albertans hate the most. It is filled with politicians that screw Albertans over every chance they get. They are egocentric bastards with 2 equally embarrassing hockey teams.
Quebec - The Quebecois want as much to do with Canada as Canada wants to do with Quebec. Sure, they have a few sexy French women. But I think that for the most part, our Albertan cowgirls are 1 hell of a lot funner.
The North? Really? The arctic trails have seen strange tails that would make your blood run cold! So cold. That's if you have any blood left after the moose-sized mosquitoes/horse flies are done with you. But nice in the right season - I think - maybe the Yukon could be a pretty cool place. Once. Between May and August.
The only thing left in alllll of Canada is...The Maritimes! Merry Times? Possibly. They are a very merry people who like to drink a lot of beer. But then again, the degree of racism there is more prevalent (because of the smaller amounts of visual minorities, and smaller populations in general). I had a blast when I was there 6 1/2 years ago, but if the economy is the dumps, then maybe I should just emigrate like Dan and pick some foreign country to just start completely fresh.
I guess I will have to consider some things very carefully over this next short period of time...I sure hope that things work out. Maybe Buettner's Blue Zone book will inspire me. Maybe something (or someone) will inspire me. After all: this world is nothing more than we make of it!