Farewell Mr.Klein

klein

When I was in later elementary school, Mayor Ralph Klein came to visit my school’s Pioneer Days.   That was my first memory of him.  I don’t remember many details about Pioneer Days, nor anything about what he said that evening, but I certainly remember Mr. Klein.  As one might expect, the Mayor made an address to the full gymnasium of families.  Being in grade school, full of energy, and most interested in all things play, I  never took note that after the event, Mr. Klein patiently stayed to interact one-on-one with the oodles of parents.   On the way home that evening, my own parents remarked to each other how Mr. Klein had opted to meet and greet instead of bowing to his handlers’ wishes for him to depart for their next appointment.  My parents’ observation left an impression upon me.  Ralph Klein was a man of the people, and if the people wanted to talk, he was there to listen.

In early High School, a casual friend named Chris Burnie bragged about how he was chastised by the actual mayor, Ralph Klein, for making out with his girlfriend on the steps of City Hall.

A couple years later, a girl I was dating happened to live a couple doors down from the Klein’s home in Calgary’s Lakeview Community.  That relationship didn’t last, and sadly we never ran into the Kleins while walking her neighborhood during those warm summer nights.

The first time I ever voted in a provincial election, Ralph Klein became Premier.  Friends, out of the country during the election, came back stunned to discover that King Ralph now ruled Alberta.

Other friends I made while working in Halifax remarked to me about how offended they had been at Ralph Klein’s statement about how those “eastern bums could freeze!”  It turns out that he wrongly gets credit for saying it, but actually never did say it (as reported here in Macleans).  Never the less, it does indeed sound like something Ralph Klein might say;  he was a fellow who spoke his mind and seldom worried about being politically correct.

I was fortunate to be an Albertan when Premier Klein sent out those infamous Ralph Bucks.  I can’t recall how I spent my $400 prosperity cheque, but it sure made my friends and me smile.  I still smile when I think about it.

My Uncle, who retired and moved back from Japan a few years ago, has facial features that remind me of Ralph Klein.  I appreciate both my Uncle Les and Former Premier Ralph Klein, and for different reasons.  Strangely, whenever I look at one of them, I’m often reminded of the other.

In Ralph Klein’s later years, things seemed to catch up with him.  I remember when in 2004 the news reported about his plagiarism in essay writing.  Disappointing as it was to hear, this wasn’t a surprise to me.  If Ralph had been my a friend or relative,  he definitely would have been the last person to ask about citing references on a paper.  I was also never surprised when Klein’s alcoholism occasionally reared its ugly head in the media.   Did we honestly expect differently from a fellow who ran his first shoe-string mayoral campaign out of St. Louis Hotel & Bar?  Along with the good also came the bad.  Flawed like one of us, once again, he was indeed a man of the people.

I’m saddened to hear that Ralph Klein passed on.  He wasn’t a typical politician, and not even a typical guy, but he was good for Alberta.  I doubt any parents are pointing to Ralph Klein as a role model for their children, but while he was alive, he reminded me that even average fellows can do amazing things.

I earnestly hope that Ralph knew Jesus.  I think eternity would be more interesting with a fellow like him around.

ralph_klein_park
Ralph Klein Park
Image by http://www.carlosamat.ca
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I Can’t Really Take the Credit…

awarded

Today, I was recognized. I didn’t even stop to bask in my momentary success and recognition. My mind was immediately fixed upon writing an appropriate un-awkward reply (thanks for the thanks?  I think it ended up awkward).  Pondering it all, it occurs to me that I didn’t even tell my wife (sorry my love… it slipped my mind… and you weren’t home for supper. Next time I’ll send an email right away, hopefully, maybe? Who am I kidding?).

So tonight I was articulating ideas that I’ve been itching to type. Initially it didn’t even occur that I should Press my momentary success from today. My natural tendency is to shrug off the glory, but even the smallest victories should be celebrated (if only for a few brief sentences). So in the spirit of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 “…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” this is my moment to shine (but really to reflect more than shine).

Here’s the note with my own [amendments] to protect the innocent.

recognized

Perhaps the most satisfying part of getting recognized by this particular fellow was knowing that he had driven an outsourcing of my job (and others like mine) only two years before. Just like life, things change, companies change, and leaders’ minds do too.  So for me, despite a couple years of mourning, tearing down, and weeping (really more disappointment than all-out weeping), and swapping relative certainty for the unfamiliar, today I feel a wee bit built up, with reasons to laugh, and even reason to dance a little jig (if only to myself, and with a few friends reading along–thanks for being here too).

All this to say, I can’t really take any credit. It’s all about shining and reflection. I might show up to work each day, but it’s Christ in me that brings out the best in me. If there’s goodness to be found in me, it’s not me, but rather a reflection of Him. And if I’m honest with myself, anything I do above and beyond the call of duty, I do for my Love of Him.  In my weakness, He remains strong.  So today, I really owe my thanks to Christ working in me, and how He makes me look good.  Thanks be to Him!

Slaves [and IT guys too], obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

And it just occurs to me… at the end of my acceptance spiel, just like every other major celebrity at an award show, I end this off by offering thanks to God.  Go figure.  That wasn’t planned.  Really.

Does this place Smell Like Teen Spirit?

My oldest child started Jr. High this fall.  I hadn’t anticipated it, but ended up a bit edgy for both her and us old folks (a.k.a the parents).  For Jana, a few tears were shed under the pressure of everything new, unknown, and uncertain.  Recalling those uneasy feelings from our own school days, Karen and I found ourselves at a loss for those perfect words to ease our daughter’s worry.

That was a few days ago.  Everything went just fine.  Insert collective sigh of relief here.  Most fears quickly deflated, and everyone seems excited by the new year.

As our daughter has entered the adolescent years, I’m reminded of how teenagers can sweat, and how those developing sweat glans can… er… what’s the word? Stink.  A couple of days ago we visited Jana’s school for a parental orientation.  The school board seems to have adopted a sparing usage of the air conditioning.  Despite it being September, at the end of the day, the place was stifling and reminded me of the Sahara Dessert.

One of the teachers joked about the place being hot, and the importance of making sure our kids took a daily shower (more for her benefit than the kids).  Later, as we walked down the hallways to our next class meeting I caught a whiff of something.  The school, nearly 30 years old, had a unique odor… maybe even a funk… and then a Kurt Cobain song title popped into mind… Smells Like Teen Spirit.  Maybe that’s what he meant?

Nope.  After I Googling it,  I determined that Cobain meant something completely different, but  in the end the song title ironically did make reference to an odor.  More specifically, fighting odors of the armpit kind….

Teen Spirit was first released by Mennen early in 1991, and with heavy advertising campaigns, it had soon “established a market niche” with teen girls.[3] However, one of its biggest boosts came from the grunge band Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song that was inspired by a friend of lead singer Kurt Cobain, Kathleen Hanna (lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill at the time), spray painting “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” on his wall (because Tobi Vail, Hanna’s band mate and Kurt’s then-girlfriend, wore Teen Spirit). At the time the song was released, Cobain had no idea that the brand even existed; when he did find out, he was rather upset that the song had apparently been named after a line of deodorant.[4]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teen_Spirit_(deodorant)

Thinking back to the stink…  When I was in Jr. High, grade eight I think, white leather Reebok shoes were all the rage.  Pretty much every kid had them, or wanted them.  And when I got mine, I was just happy to be in style.    A month later, sitting on the floor in a Phys. Ed class, I remember thinking, “What stinks?”  I sniffed closer to my shoes…  I took my shoe off.  Blah!  Sure enough, my feet were sweating up a storm in my leather shoes.  Together, my feet and the shoes were creating this horrid aroma.  Those shoes might have been trendy, but in a second, I vowed I’d never wear them again (at least at school).  I figured it was far better to be known for lack of fashion than to be known to have smelly feet.

Growing up in the eighties, most guys I knew went through the ever-popular BMX years.  And along with BMX-ing came Vans shoes from California.  Nearly every kid riding a BMX bike had a pair of those checkered Vans.  The black & white pattern was most common and early imports were of the slip-on variety.  Eventually different colored checkers and tie-up versions also made it to Canada.  Despite being popular and therefore deemed cool, these shoes were pretty much useless.  Skateboarders (or should I say skaters) might argue differently, but the rubber bottoms were crappy for running and the canvas tops didn’t breath (ah, yes, more stinky feet for me).  Since the shoes were slip-ons, it meant they also easily slipped off, often at unexpected and inopportune times.  It wasn’t uncommon to end up bare foot (or in stocking feet) while running a fast football play on the field.

Most the time, I proudly wore my Vans while riding my bike, but on two occations my prized shoes got shredded by the Bear-Claw BMX pedals on my Factory Kuwahara (for the lay person, that was the brand name of my BMX bike).  Never the less, my friends and I persisted and wore them anyways–all in the name of popular fashion.  Well, actually, we just wanted to be cool.

Below are some pictures of my bike that took me way… way back.  I had a KZ-02 model that was nearly identical bicycle pictured below (except my seat post was metallic blue, and I only had a one piece crank).  The last paragraph sparked my curiosity.  Here’s what I found online…

Below is a picture of an IRC BMX tire that came with my Kuwahara.  It only took about 2 months and I had to replace the back tire (as a kid, skids and power slides were extremely fun).

Laughter at inappropriate moments…

Decades ago, when advertising before movies was just new (not to be confused with movie previews–they’d been around a lot longer than me), I recall going to see a show and the above commerical playing before hand.  It had me in stitches and to this day, while the ad plays fresh in my mind, I can’t recall the movie that followed it.

I showed commercial to a couple co-workers… they didn’t quite get it.  Sure, an eager young fellow seems to be having a lot of fun driving “some big ass boat of a car,” to quote my co-worker.  They both seemed to miss the fact that the music-loving driver is in a herse leading the funeral procession.  Once I pointed that out, then came the inevitable “aha” moment (not to be confused with the band, A-ha).  Then it seemed funnier, if not amusing.

The flipant irreverance and portrayed disconnect from the seriousness of the moment is probably what strikes a cord with me.  That, and most peoples’ feet start tapping to the sound of Another One Bites The Dust.  It’s kind of like getting the giggles in church.  Some things just seem their funniest a the most imappropriate moments.

It Was The Day Blue Died

And not the color blue.  Blue, the Dog, died last Monday.

I’m huddled away in my man cave, inspired by a fresh night’s sleep to write my cousin.  A fresh cup of coffee in my hand.  Justin followed me down the stairs, curious to see what I’m doing.  So while I glance at my emails, Justin notices a wrapper for Cadbury Mini Eggs–the ones that were on sale after Easter.  He says, “Hey, Mini Eggs!” with a tone to imply I’d been holding out on him.  I respond, “The same ones I left you and your Sister for an after-school snack earlier this week.”  Justin pauses for a second.  Looking contemplative he says, “Yes, the ones we ate on the day that Blue died.”

Blue was my Brother-in-law’s dog.  He died this last week, and while I was at work, my Wife, Daughter, and Son had gone to the Vet-Hospital where Blue spent his last day.  Justin’s Uncle had invited the family to come down and say goodbye.  It was an emotional thing for my kids, more than I had realized.  For years the kids had helped take care of Blue when my Brother-in-Law and family were away.  During that time, I hadn’t noted the bond that developed between my kids and Blue.

It makes me wonder at how things that get linked up in our memory.  It’s like we spend all these energies to create an big events or important days, and yet the stories that we remember in our lives end up getting connected to the things we don’t expect.  Often these things are trivial, secondary, or seemingly insignificant.  Maybe a song, or a scent, or some article of clothing.  Today, it was Eggs.

So in my mind, I anticipate that next Easter, Cadbury MiniEggs will remind me about Justin’s sadness towards Blue’s death.