Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Closing the Door   11 comments

There was no denying that there was something seriously wrong with me. chumir

I’ll just say this about it: there was black blood in the bowl when I looked back down. I’ve become an expert over the years at avoiding the little aches and pains. I can sit here and write this because I have never had a symptom that didn’t resolve itself, often with no help from me. But some things just can’t be denied, and so I knew had to go to urgent care.

Black blood portends nothing good. I felt like a lifetime of neglect and excess was now oozing out of me, demanding that I pay attention. Could it be fatal? I didn’t know. Do the reading on Google, as I did. It’s not encouraging, to say the least.

And so, I had to take stock. I looked around my apartment and wondered if I would ever see it again. Or if I would, when? And if when, who would have been in there in the meanwhile? Friends? My daughter? I had no idea. I wasn’t well enough to clean it properly on any account. There was no time to write a will, to leave instructions. Suddenly, there was no time. Just like that, I wondered if I was out of time, finally.

I may have talked myself out of leaving, but the trips to the toilet were becoming more urgent, more frequent, more painful. I packed some books and notebooks, some extra ink in my bag, put on my coat and shoes and left my apartment. I locked the deadbolt. I stopped and took what may have been one last look at my door, the umber 507. I was not certain that I would ever see it again.

This may seem a little over-the-top and melodramatic to some of you. But when you reach a certain age, as I have, and you live alone, as I do, then you have to at least account for the worst case scenario. Once you do, it’s not hard to spiral down and go to the bad place. To put it mildly, it was an emotional leave taking from my place. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so alone or vulnerable in my life.

After being poked and prodded and even entered (as it were), and having had my blood pressure taken scores of times, I was examined by a gastroscope-wielding specialist whose name I didn’t quite get. This involved sliding the instrument into my stomach by way of my mouth, a procedure that the doctor and nurse and others in the room sneakily knocked me out for. (Which I am so thankful for.) In their examination, they found a small vein that was “actively bleeding,” I think was how my doctor put it.

This they cauterized and in so doing, solved my problem. No more bleeding. Good thing, because my hemoglobin count was down a full third from all the blood I lost. They wanted to keep me in the hospital for three days to monitor me, but I checked myself out the next morning. I knew what we were all looking for; I told them I could monitor myself at home.

I had an AFA grant to apply for. I had an important rehearsal to attend for a collective play I am shepherding into existence. My doctor said sarcastically that it was too bad my healing was getting in the way of my busy schedule. I told him I am a person of the theatre and that there was nothing I could do about it.

So after all that, home and back in a little over 24 hours. I have no complaints about our health care system in Alberta, let me tell you. I was treated with consummate professionalism ever step of the way.

It took a little out of me. I’d already lost 25 pounds in 2016 and I lost another 5 throughout this ordeal. I’m a little weak still, probably from the loss of blood. But I was never so glad to get back to my place, to my own personal mess, the books that never manage to find their way onto shelf, the laundry that never gets put away, and to my very own bed.

And yet, something lingers . . . that dread that I felt when I closed my door and walked down the stairs of my apartment to the street and on to urgent care, that sudden awareness that we can delay the inevitable but we can’t cheat death, it will find us all. Never had I felt it more intensely before. The chill lingers, even though it looks like it missed me. This time.

I’m glad to be here. I really am. I don’t really care that I had a rotten night’s sleep. I don’t mind that it’s cold outside again, because I can go outside, again. I have a play to get into production. I have a book to finish. I still have things to do. I’m thankful to be here.

If you are reading these words, I suggest you look around and give thanks for what you have, in your own way.

For all it’s problems, it’s still a beautiful world after all.

Posted February 4, 2017 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

A Surprise Birthday Party — For Myself!   1 comment


In front of my grandma’s apartment in Regina when I was a tad younger.

Ten years ago I was facing what seemed then the rather grim prospect of turning 50. 50?! That seemed like a gigantic number when I was 49. How had I gotten to be so old? Surely there was a mistake! Was I done? Was my race run? Was I spent and washed out, through, finished, caput?

The prospect was daunting and depressing. Making matters worse, ten years ago I found myself without a “partner” (of any shape or form), so I was going to have to go it alone. Yet I knew if I were to celebrate such an auspicious birthday alone in my apartment in my soiled underwear that I would become very depressed indeed. And so without a significant other to do it for me, I threw a surprise birthday party for myself. Well, guess what?! It turned out to be one of the best nights of my life. What I can remember of it.

Well, here we are, ten years later, and other than the enormity of the number (WHICH WE SHALL NOT NAME) nothing much has changed. Still getting older, some new scars and aches and pains accumulated in the last decade, still alone in the world, still afraid of ringing in the next decade all alone in my underwear, so now is the time to invite you to a surprise birthday party for myself.

This year’s (decade’s) extravaganza will take place on Saturday, September 24 which will be in fact my 60th birthday. (There, I said the number, not so bad.) Guests are asked to assemble and congregate and muster and comingle around 5:00 PM. The birthday boy himself is scheduled to arrive around 6:00 PM, with the idea that as I enter, guests will jump out from their hiding places and scream “Surprise!” and give me a near heart attack in the manner of surprise parties from time immemorial.

The location for this great event is my new local in the beltline, The Blind Monk Pub, which is located at 918 12th Ave SW, across from the Board of Ed building and Barb Scott Park. If you can’t be there before 6, no worries, come anytime, it would be nice to see you.

Presents. This is a big concern. You might be thinking to yourself, Eugene hardly seems like the type to want a present. In this, you would be wrong. Of course I want a present. How could you even think of showing up without something for me? Come on, get with the program, it’s my freaking birthday. (Just kidding, kind of.)

The last time we did this is was at the old Auburn Saloon. I told Jesse (the owner) that there might be 100 people there, or it might just be him and me playing cribbage. Mercifully we had a great turn out and I was able to catch up a lot of old friends.

This year, I’ve told Spyder at the Blind Monk the same thing. Of course, there’s no way of knowing numbers because it’s a surprise party. But I hope you will come by and hoist a drink with me.

Remember, if you see me between now and then, don’t mention the party to me. It’s supposed to be a surprise!

Thanks for reading.


Factotum   1 comment

Going into the next month or so, late August to late September, I find myself in a rather unique position, breathing some rare air, as they say.traveling

I have just returned from Wells, BC and a stint with the Sunset Theatre, a real gem and ray of hope in the Canadian theatre cosmology. I was there as a dramaturge, helping worry Michaela Jeffery’s new play, Hardscrabble Road, into production and into the world.

At the same time, I was working with the truly gifted cellist, Morag Northey, helping her create a one woman show for herself and her cello. We got a good start on that and hope to premier the play back in Wells next summer.

It felt good to work in the theatre again — it’s been a while as I took a detour the last few years into the world of the novel with the writing of my own novel, The Piano Teacher.

It’s been a wonderful ride, so wonderful in fact I wonder why I didn’t think of it before. This week I will be taking part in a reading at Shelf Life Books on Tuesday, August 16 in conjunction with the W.O. Mitchell Award. This is an award given by the Writers Guild of Alberta and the City of Calgary to honour what was felt to be the finest book written in the city in the last year.

I am a finalist this year for The Piano Teacher, along with Sharon Butala and Will Ferguson. The three of us will be reading from our books on Tuesday.

Maybe it sounds trite, yet it’s true, I respect both of these writers tremendously and will be honoured to be in their company – win or lose, this nomination means a lot. They will announce the recipient on September 28 – more on that at a later date.

At the same time, I have been occupied with a new venture, a volume of poems that I have written through the years, titled Nocturnal Emissions. And so another book of poetry comes into the world. In some ways it is difficult to get excited about a book of poems, and yet I am encouraged by the words of the poet William Carlos Williams:

It is difficult the get the news from poems

Yet men die miserably everyday for lack of what is found there.

I find there has been too much news in the world of late. Maybe a book of poems is needed more than ever.

I suppose for me this book is really a labour of love. It’s a way for me to celebrate my upcoming birthday, as I endeavour not to go gentle into that good night!

Nocturnal Emissions will be launched on September 22 at Shelf Life Books, and then relaunched and christened with beer on my birthday, September 24 at a surprise birthday party I’m throwing for myself (I know, I know) at the Blond Monk pub on 12th Ave.

Here’s one of the poems from the collection:



The colour drains

The spirit wanes

I hardly know

What to make of it

It was a day like this

When jazz first got blown

Or Bell talked into his phone

Or Einstein bent a ray of light

Or Leonardo dreamed of flight


Not to be alone

Anything to discover a reason why

And so I write, deep into the night

There are better ways than this

I suppose





Making out with a stranger in a basement suite

While a big dog scratches at the door

I struck on this

A hundred years

Ago so

Here I sit

Doing it



I called this post Factotum, which, as I understand the word, means someone who does a lot of different jobs, which in the writing world seems true of me. I’ve always enjoyed this sense of versatility, being able to express myself artistically in a number of different forms and genres. Seems they are all converging these days which is really quite magical.

All in all, I have to say the next six weeks are so are shaping up to be very exciting in the world of Eugenius. I hope you can help me celebrate my birthday by attending any or all of these events and of course, buying the books.

Thanks for reading!







A Little Update   Leave a comment




It’s been a while, I know, since I spilled any electronic ink here on my blog.I hardly know myself where I’ve been. I could add I’ve been through one of those times when I feel I hardly know myself, period. Well, it happens. Life happens. Until it doesn’t. Anyway, I’m still here.

For those who want to know, I have been teaching a lot of late. I finished yet another term working with foreign-educated doctors and other professionals at Alberta Business and Educational Services. It’s always rewarding, but I’m a little exhausted after 12 weeks, as it’s 6 hours a day in front of a class. That’s a lot, by anyone’s standards.

Over the winter, I taught a writing workshop for interested people in the community. Twelve of us gathered every Monday evening at the Opera Centre on 7th Street and by and large the enthusiasm of the group and the quality of the work produced was gratifying and rewarding. I’ll probably do another of these even as early as the fall – I’ll put a notice of the next workshop on Facebook.

Finally, I taught a spring session prose writing class at St. Mary’s University here in Calgary. There were some really wonderful writers in that class, young and old, and the six weeks went by so quickly, in the blink of an eye it was all over.

My novel The Piano Teacher keeps creeping back onto the Calgary Herald best sellers list which is truly amazing – it’s been over a year since I launched it. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell me how much they enjoyed it, either in person or on Facebook. Writing that novel when I did was once of the best things I’ve done for myself in recent memory.

And yet for all that, the last several months have been all bout poetry for me. The sudden reappearance of my muse a few months ago (and regrettably, her subsequent disappearance) inspired me to finally put together a volume of my poetry. I’ve been meaning to do this for years and now it’s finally happening.

The name of the book is Nocturnal Emissions. I will be launching it at Shelf Life Books in Calgary on September 22. I was originally going to call it 60 because its publication is part of my planned events around the celebration of my 60th birthday. I know, I know. I’m trying to get my head around that number, it’s seems enormous and it simply sounds old to me. But as I hope I’m not jinxing anything in saying I’ll still be kicking around in September, one has to think it’s better than the alternative, of not turning 60.  But the fact of the matter remains that I am up to 69 poems (and counting) and I also think Nocturnal Emissions is a damned good title for a volume of poetry.

As was the case with The Piano Teacher, I will be having a second launch of the book at the Blind Monk Pub on 12th Avenue on Saturday, September 24, which is my actual birthday. I am actually planning a surprise birthday party for myself that evening, but more on that later.

The Nocturnal Emissions document is open so with little effort, I can offer a sneak preview of one of the poems:


There is a scent of aloneness

That blows through in autumn

It remains aloof from you even as

You remain aloof from yourself


The shadows of former lovers lengthen

As the days grow short and cold

Till all that’s left is a faint

Indentation on your bed where once –


And now you spend your days

And dreams alone

Wound up and falling apart

Into the creeping hours of the endless night


Aloof, all of it

Distant and detached

You can only watch

In silent disbelief


As the purpose of your life

Slips by, gliding

Like a great dark river

Flowing through the dead of night.


Well, there’s a little update. And to leave you with something a little more uplifting, here’s one of my favourite songs ever. Maybe part of my problem is that I still think I’m one of the young dudes . . .


Thanks for reading!



Posted June 19, 2016 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

RIP, David Bowie   1 comment

BowieFrom time to time, I type out what I’ve written in my daily journal. This is from today, January 11, 2016.

RIP David Bowie

I woke up early again, too early. 4:30-ish. (Once upon a time, that’s when I went to bed. Whatever happened?) I looked on Facebook on my iPad (with a coffee in my sleepless bed) and read that David Bowie had passed away yesterday. I think I saw it first from my daughter Hanna who lives in Europe and posted something before anyone in North America would have seen it.

I got up and put on a You Tube compilation of his songs. So many songs that have always been a part of my life, somehow. Ashes to Ashes is likely my favourite. But then there’s Space Oddity (the original appearance of Major Tom). Maybe I like it more. Changes. Heroes. Wild is the Wind. So many great songs, no point trying to enumerate them all.

I feel very sad today, which I find a little surprising. I mean, people die every day. I didn’t feel any particular strong bond to David Bowie. Or at least I didn’t know I had. Obviously he meant more to me than I had realized.

I mentioned this to one of the young women who works at Caffe Beano and she reminded me to look at the bright side, that he had an amazing life, he was old, he had cancer, etc. etc. I know she’s right. Of course she is, and it was good of her to try to cheer me up. But when you get to a certain age yourself, though, when someone who has always been there, a part of your life, suddenly dies (or even not so suddenly) you are reminded of your own mortality, and just how quickly our lives pass by. And that’s enough to make a person sad.

Looking back, I remember buying the album Scary Monsters when I moved to Toronto from Regina in the fall of 1980 to go to York University. I was twenty-four. I was suddenly exposed to the music (and art, generally) that my fellow students from across Canada were into. (I remember getting into the Talking Heads at the same time and buying their album, Remain in Light. 1980 was a good year in music.)

My new friend Janine definitely turned me on to Bowie. Of course, I knew his music before then, but she ramped it up significantly. It was very cool to identify with Bowie, and even dress in the new wave fashion – skinny Edwin jeans, black leather jacket, white running shoes and a hair cut that now could only be described as a mullet.

I damn near wore that Scary Monsters album out, I played it so many times. (Btw, we’re talking vinyl here. I didn’t get a CD player until the late ‘80s.) I was open to pop music again after a foray into the classical world that had lasted for about ten years while I seriously studied the piano.

Whoever Major Tom is, and whether that song is about drugs or just the general alienation and otherness that we all feel from time to time – whatever it means, exactly, Space Oddity has always been helpful, giving words to our experience and a balm to our alienation and in this way it could be said to be an anthem for a generation.

(There are others from around the same time – notably Stairway to Heaven, Hey Jude, Born to Run, and some earlier ones like The Sounds of Silence, Heart of Gold and Big Yellow Taxi. To name but a few . . . )

I seem to have a memory from back in the day (and I say that I seem to because I’m not 100% certain that it really happened). I was driving along an empty stretch of highway in Saskatchewan on a warm summer’s night. The sun roof was open, the great canopy of stars was vibrating above in the inky blackness. I had smoked a fatty and was listening to Space Oddity full blast – floating in a most peculiar away . . . sitting in a tin can . . . far above the world . . .

It comes back to me now as a moment of perfect contentment, one of those rare moments in a lifetime. It’s a nice memory, even if it never happened.

The world feels a little emptier today, the silence a little louder.

Thanks for reading.

RIP, David.

And then there’s this . . . .

Posted January 11, 2016 by Eugene Stickland in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Shop Locally This Christmas (Please!)   2 comments

As many of you know, I wrote a novel earlier this year titled

Display of notebooks and pencil at Reid's Stationers

Display of notebooks and pencil at Reid’s Stationers

The Piano Teacher.

Now that it’s Christmas, I hope that you will consider putting it on your shopping list, either for yourself or someone special who likes Canadian Literature. (Not to mention your kid’s piano teacher!)

I know many people who seem to value my friendship on the strength of the fact that I’m a well-known writer. (You know, on top of my good looks and engaging personality.)

Yet, I think it’s entirely possible that some have never seen a play of mine, or ever read my column in The Calgary Herald (too late for that now!) or heard me read my poetry or anything else, for that matter, other than my occasional witty Facebook status updates.

Well, now’s your big chance to change that, and all it will only cost you $20.00.

As you may know, I’m a big fan of shopping locally and supporting locally owned businesses. So, other than online, here’s a list of places where you can find my book in Calgary.

To begin with, it’s for sale at Shelf Life Books (4th Street and 13th Ave. SW) and on Saturday, December 12 from 3:00 to 5:00 PM I will be at Shelf Life to sign copies for you. (I’ll likely head over the The Blind Monk Pub on 12th Ave just west of 8th Street after that, so if you can’t get to Shelf Life, you will likely find me there. I’ll have some books with me. And we could have an eggnog together!)

Other books stores in Calgary that are carrying the book are Owl’s Nest in Britannia Village and Pages in Kensington.

After a recent feature on the CBC on Caffe Beano, where I wrote most of the novel you can once again buy the book at the café (on 9th Street, 10 steps north of 17th Ave. SW). If you buy it there, you might see me hanging out, and I would be happy to sign it for you.

You can also buy the book at Reid’s Stationers on 17th Ave. across from Western Canada High School. The folks at Reid’s have even put together a little museum-like display (pictured above) of the notebooks I wrote it in and the pencil I used to write all 70,000 words.

Finally, if you are not in Calgary, you can buy a copy of the book (not an e-book, but an actual book) through Here’s the link:

The creation and maintenance of a culture only works if the works of art created in a community are experienced by members of that community. As you can imagine, I feel the same as I feel about my book as I do about other elements of our culture, from fellow authors and their books, to live music, (and there are many wonderful venues in Calgary), to live theatre, to art galleries – you name it. There are many opportunities to support local artists, especially at Christmastime.

Whatever our medium, that’s why we do it — to share it. If it costs a few dollars to acquire it, well that only goes back into the pot so we can keep creating more. And hopefully, on it goes.

I hope you have a good holiday season. In your search for the perfect present for the loved ones in your life, please don’t forget to support the people who are your friends and neighbours. Including me!

Merry Christmas.

Here’s a new take on an old Christmas song I heard the other day . . .

Helping The People Who Help The People Who Write The Plays   2 comments


This came in the form of an email from my old friend and brother in arms in the playwriting game, Neil Fleming, who is the current President of the Alberta Playwrights Network:

I’m wondering if we can hit upon your goodwill as an APN member playwright to participate in an event we have coming up on November 28th.

APN is turning 30 this year and we are trying to raise $30K in 30 days by asking for 1000 donations of $30.
On day 30, we are hosting a Birthday Bash with a playwright version of TV’s Chopped.
Chopped pits 4 chefs against each other. Each round they are given mystery ingredients and have to make a dish. Each round is judged, and one of the chefs is “chopped” from the competition until there’s a winner.

We plan to do “Turg-ed” where each donation of $30 allows you to buy a word (ingredient) for the four playwrights to make something out of. $300 for curse-words
Playwrights would have 30 minutes to incorporate things the best they can, and then they’re work would be read out loud.
One writer would be cut from each round until there’s a winner – but each “turged” writer would then become a ‘turge and join the judges.
There will be one event in Calgary and one in Edmonton.

We’d love you to be one of our Calgary Writers if you’re willing (and available on November 28th)

What could I say? I’m a sucker for punishment and the type of public humiliation that playwrights know probably better than anyone else. (Maybe other than goalies and placekickers?) I am also past president of the APN and so I am aware first hand of the great role this organization plays in helping Alberta playwrights get their work from page to stage.  Without their support, for example, my play Queen Lear would likely still be lying in ruins instead of being currently produced in Russia of all places. (I’m big in Russia, what can I say?)

It should be fun. If you check out the trailer below you will get a better idea of what’s in store Saturday evening. (Honestly, I’m still trying to get my head around it myself.) Clearly, I am the grey beard in this group, but I’ve been training hard and hope to be the last writer standing. Or sitting. Or drinking. Or whatever.

Should you be reading this and have no chance of making it to the event, don’t be afraid to go to the APN website and make a donation. 30 bucks sounds about right. It’s an investment in the future of theatre in Alberta, that is, the theatre that is created in Alberta, by Albertans, for Albertans and maybe even for audiences far away. That’s got to be worth 30 bucks, right?

The event takes place Saturday, November 28 at the APN offices WHICH HAVE MOVED — they are now at #208 – 331 41st Ave. NE. Doors open at 7:00, the writing commences at 8:00. There will be a silent auction. And a DJ. And there will be a bar.  At least there bloody well better be a bar!

For further info here’s the APN website:

There’s an online auction here:

And finally, just below, the trailer.

Thanks for reading!


I Had A Dream . . .   2 comments

I had a dream that seemed so real. Let me see if I can recount it.IMG_1084

I was to give a reading, presumably from my novel The Piano Teacher, though I don’t know if that was ever confirmed. It was to happen at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, which is a big venue so this was not small potatoes.

It was all arranged by a woman whom I seemed to know more from Facebook than anywhere else. I don’t believe I ever knew her name and I certainly didn’t have her phone number.

I’m not the sort of person who is ever late for anything, ever. I boarded a bus with plenty of time to get to the hall, even though I easily could have walked there or ridden my bike in only a few minutes.

The minute I got on the bus, things started to go wrong. At no point did we go down any streets that were at all familiar to me at all. At first it was all right as I had plenty of time. (For some reason the reading was to take place at 6:30 PM. When does anything ever start at 6:30???)

And so the bus made its way down unfamiliar streets. But before you knew it, we were waiting at the entrance of a Mr. Lube shop – worse, even, the driver backed up to the doors so we were going to back up into the service bay.

Once the doors opened, the bus shot right through the bay into the back which was mostly a sea of mud and rusting hulks of old cars and various pieces of machinery lying around. It didn’t seem possible we could get through the mud but the driver gunned it and before long we had come out onto another street which was totally unfamiliar to me.

That street led onto a freeway and soon the bus was out on the freeway, going at a good clip, taking me further and further away from anything that was familiar to me. I checked my watch and it was slightly after 6, but I had no way of contacting the woman who had arranged the reading to tell her I might be late.

There was still time. We were running out of time, but there was still time.

When we finally turned off the freeway, the bus deposited me in a very bad neighbourhood which seemed decidedly more like new York or Chicago than Calgary. On leaving the bus, I was shaken down by two serious dudes, one with his face painted mint green. I told them I had no time for their bullshit, I was on my way to a reading, a hall full of people was waiting for me, I couldn’t let them down, they didn’t want to be a party to all those people being let down, so the two thugs led me to a bodega/lunch counter where it was thought I could get directions back downtown.

There was a swarthy man behind the cash register and a slim blonde waitress who wore nothing under her tiny apron. She wasn’t immediately attractive to me, but she soon grew on me. I bought a pack of Camel Lights and got directions to the subway.

Their directions took me into the bowels of a large theatre complex. The stairs took me into an actual theatre. Patrons were waiting for a play to begin. I had to jump over people waiting for the play to begin to make any progress to where I thought I could catch a train back to more familiar terrain.

I finally found an elevator but it wouldn’t go anywhere. I pushed the buttons but nothing happened. At first I was alone, but suddenly the elevator was packed. There was a tall blond Norwegian guy who didn’t speak any English standing in front of the control panel. I felt incredible rage towards him.

It turned out that we had to go up but I had been trying to go down. To activate the elevator, a special chip was needed and everyone but me had one, including the Norwegian guy.

Finally we got to the street and then all of us who had been in the elevator ended up in the cab, about ten of us. We were driving though a town I didn’t recognize. I checked my watch: 6:25. There was still time, but hope was fading fast.

I asked where we had been because it seemed like a funky part of town that I would like to visit again. Someone said it was Indian Road and that it was chaotic because Indiana had won the big game today. And that’s why everyone was dressed in red. (Though I hadn’t realized everyone was dressed in red.)

The lady beside me in the cab said, “You know, if you ever decide to write a novel, I can get you a good book deal.”


Then I realized I didn’t even have a copy of the book and that I would have to go home before I could go to the hall, making me ever later. I checked my watch: 6:35. I imagined the Jack full of people waiting for me, but me nowhere to be seen. If only I could have called that woman whose name I never knew!

Looking out the window of the cab, I saw we were now on a street called Quebec Avenue and I realized that we were in Montreal, even though I knew this street didn’t exist in Montreal or anywhere else, still the architecture was interesting.

And then I woke up all in a panic. I realized I was in my bed and breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a dream. I wouldn’t be late for my reading after all.

And then I realized that I have no reading to do tonight.

That was my dream.

Thanks for reading.


Siberian Tigers, Dentistry, Free Stuff and Other Considerations   4 comments


Go ahead, put your hand in his mouth!

Go ahead, put your hand in his mouth!

Standing outside Caffe Beano the other morning, I was approached by an elderly gentleman (even by my standards) who wanted to give me a free coffee card. I don’t know what it is about me, people seem to like to give me things.

They say more serotonin is released when we give than when we receive, giving physiological proof to the old adage. Maybe I’m some kind of trigger, something about my face that screams out “Give this guy something! Give him a coffee card! Give him the shirt off your back!” Whatever.

(There is a DONATE button on the left side of the page if you want to FEEL GOOD RIGHT NOW.)

On any account, the gentleman who gave me the card gave me something far more valuable and enduring – he gave me a story. A good one too!

In his career, he was a dental surgeon, and in his free time he belonged to the Board of the Calgary Zoo. These two pursuits came together one day when he became the first oral surgeon to operate on a “big animal” (at least not of the domestic variety) in all of Canada. That animal was a Siberian tiger and he took two broken teeth out of its mouth, obviously while the tiger was under anesthetic.

They had laid the tiger on its side on the operating table and put shackles around its paws. As he was extracting one of the teeth, the tiger’s two front paws, which were not far from its head, raised a little off the table and then one by one its claws shot out from their sheaths. Of course, our good surgeon has his hands in the tiger’s mouth as this was happening.

As calmly as he could, he said “I think we might need a little more anesthetic here.”

Do ya think??

Anyway, he obviously survived and the tiger was relieved of its suffering and on a street corner years hence on a chilly autumn morning, I was given that story along with a free coffee card.

It got me thinking that there a lot of fascinating people walking around out there with stories that sadly enough may never get shared. A few years ago, I wrote a series of profiles for The Calgary Beacon called The Eugenius Questionnaire on people I know and admire, mostly from the Calgary arts scene. When I stopped writing for The Beacon, that idea died, but yesterday’s encounter with my new dentist friend rekindled my desire to create profiles on people by way of the questionnaire who have an interesting story to tell.

I think I ought to start it up again, and if he calls me (I gave him my card) I’ll start with my dentist friend and his story about being an oral surgeon to the big animals. Then you can hear it right from the horse’s – or the tiger’s – mouth. So to speak.

If you can think of a likely subject for this enterprise, why not let me know? There’s a comment button down below, so it’s easy enough to get in touch with me. (There’s also a donation button on the left . . . )

And by the way, if you’d be interested in doing something like this yourself, check out Dave Isay’s wonder Ted Talk on his project, StoryCorps. With their convenient App, you could be out gathering stories of your own in no time. I’ve shared it below. (Or at least tried to.)

Thanks for reading!




Some Thoughts on Kent Hehr and Calgary Centre   Leave a comment


Kent at this year's Pride Parade

Kent at this year’s Pride Parade

For those of you not familiar with the riding of Calgary Centre, or if you are suffering from political amnesia, here are a few thoughts about the riding in advance of Monday’s federal election.

This riding was for many years held by Lee Richardson who came to it by way of the old Progressive Conservative Party, which bears little resemblance to today’s Conservative Party of Canada which is actually the old Reform Party, or Alliance Party, in disguise. In fact, it is one of those ridings that has long been considered a “fortress” of the Conservatives, whatever they are calling themselves.

Mr. Richardson vacated the seat back in 2012 and a by-election was called. I really became aware of it when I heard from some of my Progressive Conservative friends in the riding who were disillusioned and even disgusted with the CPC handling of the nomination for a candidate for the by-election. In fact there was no real nomination. The Prime Minister’s Office, aka Stephen Harper, told them they were to support his choice, Joan Crockatt. End of discussion. Case closed.

My friends were moved to do, for them, the unthinkable – to support the Liberal candidate in the by-election, Harvey Locke. Harvey was a great choice for the riding. He’s a lawyer, but don’t hold that against him. He’s also a conservationist and art curator, totally bilingual. It wasn’t hard to get behind him and a lot of us did. It looked for a while like the fortress might crumble and the long Conservative hold on this riding might finally come to an end.

But for one thing: the unlikely rise of Chris Turner and the Green Party. Young and hip, it seemed to me that Mr. Turner brought together the disenfranchised young and hip constituents of this riding. He ran a wildly successful campaign along the lines of Naheed Nenshi’s campaign when he became Mayor of Calgary.

I like Chris Turner and I like Harvey Locke. But that situation was a disaster waiting to happen in terms of the left vote splitting itself. That’s exactly what happened, allowing Ms. Crockatt to sneak in to office.

These were the final numbers:

Crockatt: 10,191

Locke: 9,033

Turner: 7,090

Don Meade from the NDP picked up another 1,000 votes or so.

Clearly, Locke and Turner weren’t trying to defeat each other. They were both trying to defeat Crockatt. A meeting should have been called. Late night, downtown somewhere. Straws should have been drawn, or a coin flipped. One should have withdrawn and supported the other. But it never happened.

As a result, for the last three years we in Calgary Centre have been represented by a woman whom Frank Magazine crowned “the most useless MP on the Hill.” But not entirely useless, perhaps. In her recent newsletter to the people she represents, she made it clear that she herself could arrange to get a photo of the Queen for our hall.

Useless. And not even popular with many of her own Conservative constituents.

While all this madness was going on, in the provincial riding of Calgary Buffalo which covers much the same area as the federal riding of Calgary Centre, we were well represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. Despite the doom and gloom prophecies of the 2012 election, Kent won handily for his second term. He is a vibrant and accessible politician, known and I would even say loved by many of the people who live in this part of Calgary.

One could say that while the Turner-Locke travesty was unfolding, Kent was keeping an eye on things, biding his time, waiting for the right moment to jump from provincial to federal politics. Given the orange tide that swept the province this year, he probably did well to make the change when he did.

Now, he has emerged as a very strong candidate for the Liberals in Monday’s election in a showdown that is primarily between him and “the most useless MP on the Hill.” I have seen Kent at least a dozen times during this election campaign, from the pride Parade (where I took the above photo) to breakfasts for the homeless on Olympic Plaza to just hanging out by the 8th Street underpass greeting people on their way to work. He’s there. He’s here. He’s one of us and he’s known and admired. He is the logical choice to represent us in Ottawa.

He may even be able to arrange to get pictures of the Queen for all of us, who knows?

Please, friends, don’t take this election lightly. Ignore it at your peril. Canada is shifting to a place that many of us are no longer comfortable with. Every seat we can take from the ruling party is critical towards bring some much-needed change to the country we all love. A vote for Kent is a small step towards creating this change.

By the way, now that I have you here . . . A year or so I wrote a blog post about the teaching I do at Abes College in North Calgary. It’s titled “This Is What My Country Looks Like” and you can find it by using the Search function on the left side of this page. It’s one “old stock” person’s take on some of the immigrant students I have had over the years.

We’re not all racists and we’re not all afraid of immigrants in this country. In fact, my life has been enriched by my association with the students I have met in my program. Please check it out and feel free to share it. Really, we need to stop this race-bating madness before it goes any further.

Eugenius supports Liberal candidate Kent Hehr in Calgary Centre.

Please get out and vote on October 19th, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for reading!



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