Category: Uncategorized

Roof-Ready Regina – Round 2

The following was presented at the Alternative Housing Summit Press Conference on Tuesday, October 21, 2014 in Regina, Saskatchewan to put pressure on the City of Regina to take serious steps to improve the affordable housing crisis in Regina.

Right now the City and developers are upstairs patting themselves on the back for a year of inaction and bare minimums. They’re talking about purportedly innovative housing starts in the city that won’t even put a dent in the affordable housing crisis that still exists in our city. Since the Mayor’s Housing Summit last year, the City has been paying developers to build normal, everyday, market rental units. Because of pressure from the community through Roof-Ready Regina project, they have recently changed their subsidy program and now use the CMHC definition of affordable housing, that is 30% of an individual’s income.

This past year developers built more market rental units and sucked up as much of the municipal subsidy as they could before the unsustainable, nonsensical program inevitably changed. Housing starts were up, the vacancy rate went up, but more importantly rental costs continue to soar; that is what they’re here celebrating.

Locally and provincially no firm plan has been created to address homelessness when similar cities in the country have set specific goals and measures to ensure the end of homelessness within ten years. Instead the city has gone as far as to subsidize and entirely rely on the market to do what is the government’s job. The municipal government repeatedly claims that housing isn’t their fiscal responsibility, however this doesn’t absolve the city from being a proactive player in ending homelessness.

Several small steps could be made to keep developers accountable and to improve the housing situation of the most marginalized in our city.

  1. Requiring developers to build a certain percentage of their units as affordable housing, or requiring them to pay into an affordable housing fund would be a progressive step to ensure adequate amounts of affordable housing was created, and to make a sustainable housing program run by the city.
  2. Forming true partnerships with the provincial government to align programs and funding is the logical step for the city to move forward. Creating an Action Plan with solid, measured, and attainable goals in affordable housing is the responsible thing for the City to do, with the help from the provincial and federal government

In working with community I have seen dozens of people living in substandard housing that they can still barely afford because of rental costs in the city, and for many, the idea of living in a safe, healthy, and affordable place of their own is a pipe dream. It takes a responsible community and more importantly a responsible, just, and moral government to ensure that housing is accessible to all.

Decisions of policy makers have not been made in the public interest but in the interest of private developers and in the interest of garnering votes. Focusing on low-income seniors and single-parent families is incredibly important, but is often done to sway the public interest and not to truly cover the marginalized in our society. The municipal government has the opportunity to be a proactive player in developing policy to ensure that adequate amounts of affordable housing is developed in our community, and they have the responsibility to partner with all levels of government to do so. We call on the City to develop proactive and concrete plan to improve housing for everyone, not just everyone who can pay for it.

Dear Mouse,

Dear Mouse,

You probably don’t remember me, and I don’t blame you. We likely never had a full conversation, except that time on Christmas Day that I picked you and Leon up at the bus stop and drove you to turkey dinner at the Marian Centre. But even then I didn’t know what you said when I asked you your name. I thought you said Leonard. Although I didn’t know you as well as I would’ve liked, I can say that I think of you often. I hung your name on my bedroom wall.

I can also say, however, that there was a time that I forgot you. I forgot your name and your face and how you talked. I forgot how you died and I forgot what reserve you were from. I forgot who your family was. I forgot your real name. Linden. All I remembered was this faint vision of a man I knew that had died last winter, and that was about it. When your name, ‘Mouse’ finally surfaced in my brain I wrote it on a sticky note and have kept it since. A pathetic monument, to be sure, but better than the alternative of me permanently forgetting.

That is what was supposed to happen. You were to die and your case file was to close and the $459 that the ministry gave you would be swallowed back into general funds and used to finance interest free/tax free rental developments and that was that. Your home at Detox would fill your bed in a matter of hours and after a week they’d neglect to mention your name ever again. All levels of government would continue to stage press conferences with scummy developers to show their commitment to you, although they deny your existence outright, even aloud to the media. Community organizations would trod along in their busy, busted down buildings and wait for the next death to sombre things up. You’d be forgotten by the world except by the family who would feed you while you’re on the other side.  

There are campaigns for your sisters and aunts and grandmothers and daughters who have gone missing or were murdered, and the spirit of these rallies and vigils also reaches to you. Because although you’re a male, and although we know where and how you died, you’ve been brushed aside and purposely forgotten by a brutal system of murder and assimilation. 

We’re all eventually forgotten, Mouse, that much is certain. In 100 years no one will know my name or remember that I can’t make a decision to save my goddamn life. But I’ll be forgotten simply because time has passed. They won’t remember you and how you said, ‘Softly,’ with a grin when you put out your closed hand for a fist pump. But you’d be forgotten because multi-million dollar government policy was designed for your culture to be destroyed and your life to be ripped apart. What I can try to do, in some way, even as simple and degrading as a sticky note on my bedroom wall, is to ensure that in 100 years, you’ll still have family on this earth that will at least have the chance to remember you and their other ancestors. 

The government’s denial of your existence isn’t a slip of the tongue, it is long-standing, ingrained belief. Because to acknowledge your existence is to acknowledge that you deserve to be remembered. I won’t forget you and I’ll do my best make sure no one else does either. Because once we forget you, the system is winning and the people are losing. Eventually, the people always win. And we’ll win remembering your life.

It was a pleasure, my friend.


Nic from Carmichael

Moreland to Spring Valley

Moreland IMG_4793 IMG_4811 IMG_4833 IMG_4865 IMG_4889 IMG_4904 IMG_4923

How to become a monkey-of-an-uncle.

I’ve never been legally married before. But in my head—since the age of ten when I listened to sappy songs about girls and attributed them to specific crushes and fantasized about sitting next to them, marrying them, then growing old with them—in my head I’ve been married a dozen times or so. I hope to never be married again.

I quit my job. It is hard to be married without an adequate job to sustain you, I’d imagine, so maybe now, with no job and zero prospects, my hope to be never married again will stay true. But even without an adequate job to sustain you, your mind can get married as many times as it wants. I may have finally unconditioned myself to the concept of marriage, a terrifying prospect, but my mind still creates its own relationships to the point of me truly wondering what is reality and what isn’t. What happened and what was fabrication.

Quitting was like getting a divorce from a young spouse of several years, I assume. Your interests are solely based on those of the other person for two years, because that is what love is, right? Then you start to hyperventilate and feel the weight on your chest about how little you actually know about yourself and then you drift away, mentally threatening, then verbally threatening, to leave. Then one day, after swimming in a chlorinated pool, you come to the peaceful realization that although you were meant for each other for a while, you weren’t meant for each other forever. Who gets the house? Who gets the years of irreparable anxiety? And then when you realize that you have no backup, no consolation to make you feel better about yourself, you panic that you made the wrong decision and hope to hell that they’ll take you back.

My father recently retired, and my mother for the second time. Just over fifty-five. The fearless soon-to-be grandparents. And in envy I quit my job to travel simultaneously and thus I’ll end up being the monkey-of-an-uncle that still feels eighteen years old when he hits fifty-five. My sister’s child will be born with more natural social instinct and maturity than his uncle, truly demonstrating who the monkey is in the relationship.

The Ignorance of Idealism

We couldn’t count to eight. The consumed beverages we attempted to count inhibit most mathematical abilities, so it makes sense. It made the following morning’s cash deposit at the bank a bit more taxing than it normally would have been. It seemed that the irresponsibility of inebriation seeped from my pores with such potency that the bank teller just knew I needed the guidance of the branch’s Relationship Manager. Relationship Manager requirements: divorcee with three estranged children, an addiction for buying high heels, 45-year mortgage. I was being shanghaied. After three minutes of portfolios and mutual funds and MER%, I realized that she wasn’t just switching my bank account over to the new no-fee account (which I still don’t trust). She clicked around and looked down her nose at my banking information, took a short survey of my current life situation and she told me what I already knew: that I need to start saving for when I get old.

Invest. She told me. Invest in one of these three packages so that you get richer. She said.You get richer, I get richer, my company gets richer. This, she didn’t say. But in my understanding of history and of capitalism, as one party gets returns on their investment, another party gets returned to the ghetto with less than they had before. Prosperity for all is a harsh myth. Sask-a-boom is a shoe in the face of those without investment plans.

She dismissed me as a clairvoyant dismisses a non-believing truth-seeker, knowing I will come crawling back once I experience the real life of a wife or child or house or car and hand my convictions in with my loneliness. Only she won’t be the lucky Relationship Manager to sell me a package of ‘Ethical Funds’ that will give me a 10% return.

I am 25. I’d rather work until I die—to let work be my life and my death—than to participate in the death of millions of others. The weight on my chest multiplies. This, my friends, is what they call idealism.

I am 65. All my peers are retiring and relaxing on large boats. Sitting in the staffroom at work, I rub my stubbled face with my ugly hand, reading this passage on some archaic form of screen, shaking my head. I curse the fact that I was too stupid to understand the energy sector or financial firms, or investing and commoditizing ‘Consumer Staples’. My self-disappointment is inevitable, like one of those commercials where the 65-year-old couple realizes that they didn’t save enough to retire and end up spending the best years of their life selling groceries to 20-year-olds with retirement plans. The difference is that I neglected to start saving for retirement not because I didn’t think about it at all, but rather because I thought about it far too much.

I am generally ignorant about the things in which I claim to root my convictions. Ignorant as the people I have grown to believe are selfish and stupid, only allowing a different sect of intellectuals to sway me a different direction. I have the ignorance of idealism—I am holding on so tightly to an ignorance that I call morality. More recently I have attempted the opposite, the ignorance of realism—accepting life as it is, and using purposeful ignorance as an act of self-preservation.

And now, as step one is complete, as I walk into purposeful ignorance in the name of personal sanity, I wonder when step two will finally become reality. When I will cast my convictions aside and assume my rightful place as a another investor in this wonderful system of economic exploitation. For the comfort of my golden years, I pray that this day is soon.

Winter 2014

The Housesitter

The couple’s great aunt’s cat is at the vet for depression treatment so she just won’t be able to make it this week. The couple’s trip can’t be postponed. They try to think of anyone, anyone at all, who might be free and able to water their plants, feed their dogs, shovel their walk, get their mail. They’ve heard from a friend of a friend about a professional housesitter that does it for nothing more than their week-old groceries.

(Queue quirky music, video clips of a man using a blender with no lid, dogs eating chocolate and shitting on the new couch, the door wide open at 2am at night, the security alarm blaring at noon on a Tuesday.)

You’ll never want to leave the house again, for fear of THE HOUSESITTER.

Despite the horrific nature of that tagline, this film would be a comedy, not unlike the 1992 film featuring Steve Martin and the lovely Goldie Hawn, except when I walk around topless in the movie I don’t excite a nation of men. Or perhaps I do, who knows.

For reasons that I can only hypothesize, I have become the city’s most reliable housesitter. I’ve looked after peoples’ dogs  and cats, spider plants and snowy driveways, sump pumps and furnances for a better part of the past year, and though I am a responsible young man, I believe I am the primary choice because I am the only single person left in this town. Being twenty-five in a conservative location means your peers have been married since before you started your first real relationship, one at which you failed miserably. It means that when you crave to go for a beer on a Monday night to engage in social activity and to vent about the health inspector at work and about how demoralizing it is routinely dealing with rejection, you drink one alone while thinking about your one true love; your job. It means a pathetic existence.

My housesitting record allows for a psychologists dream, something out of another horror movie, where the housesitter walks around and pretends to live the lives of the vacant homeowners; happy and in love, with several dogs and nice things. Dressing up in the homeowners’ clothing and reenacting family suppers. It allows for me to get out of the muck and mire of single living to pretend I am a contributing member of society and not just an angry hypocrite. Mostly it allows me convenient and unending connection to the internet.

I’ve been housesitting for a day and already set off the security system. Today got a call from a friend out of town. He needs a place to stay. Last time he needed a place to stay, I was housesitting somewhere else. For the same reasons that I have become Regina’s Goldie Hawn, I become the default host for out-of-town guests. Though it may be denied by most married folk, something changes when they have a permanent, sexually-intimate, bound-by-law roommate; you just can’t crash there on a random weekend anymore. You can’t just drop in unannounced. The couch, now immaculately set and freshly scented, just isn’t for wayward, unshowered guests anymore, unless of course, those guests are housesitting for you. 

I could easily start a business of this. My entreprenurial side is just twitching with ideas, and these ideas do not stop at a professional and licensed housesitting service. Selling security codes and keys to local organized robbers. Publishing embarrassing information about people in the form of a coffee-table-book, like how long they’ve had cottage cheese in their freezer (over a year!). Selling used, and dirty, undergarments on the internet (there is a market for this). Sub-letting rooms for events such as Grey Cup. Selling pets to underground foreign food-markets and telling the owners that they ran away. Using their internet to download and record bootlegged versions of 1980’s movies, such as HouseSitter, and selling them out of the back alley garage. The possibilities are endless.

I love both hosting and housesitting but I am beginning to feel like I’m getting played. I live a pathetic life on purpose, for the most part, and housesitting is only making my pitiful existence wildly evident, and thusly, painful. This post, if anything, will scare the dozens of polite folk who have had me into their home into never asking me to look after their things again, despite my exceptional record and responsible demeanour. 

They just don’t like it if you talk about their undergarments.

Cold Weather Strategy

“Do you prefer summer, or shit weather like this?” the Brazilian man asked me on McIntyre Street with his eyes peeping out from a burly knit scarf.
I told him, and he coughed a laugh and called me a liar.

“Then what do most Canadians prefer, do you think, summer, or this minus-forty stuff?”
“Most Canadians likely prefer summer. Most of my friends left—”
“And went elsewhere. Yeah,” he interrupted me. He and I, likely making up one-third of the city’s total pedestrians of the day, stopped on the street and talked about mutual misery, or at least that is what he thought we would be talking about. I told him that I loved it. I just finished a bike ride to the outdoor rink where I played hockey on the only three-metre by three-metre patch of ice that didn’t still have grass growing through it. He told me that he liked the weather in Brazil, “one-thousand percent more than this,” and I don’t blame him.

One of my few optimisms is in that which causes everyone else’s negativity. I heard on the radio that this is a sign of sociopathy. One way or another I have become a person that instinctively finds the actions of the majority as absurd, whether or not this feeling is justified. I like the winter, but I like it more because it causes misery to a large percentage of the population. Though it merits conversation because of its indomitable power, it is not worth the endless crying chatter, the talk of thriving in a different province, the several trips to shitty resorts in developing countries. It is not worth the complaining. Nothing is. Peoples’ inability to deal with a climate that they have lived in for their entire lives is a side effect of having everything they’ve ever wanted since they were old enough to slurp on a nipple. It is unattractive. These are the people with homes and vehicles with command-start and $1000 jackets filled with the plume of geese and the ability to go inside a mall without getting kicked out. They truly, without a doubt in my mind, have nothing to complain about.

The winter does not threaten my survival—I don’t make a living where I could die, and I don’t have a living situation or addiction that may cause me to end up freezing to death outside. But those who do with whom I interact go about their daily business without much fuss. Because dwelling on it makes it significantly worse. And because it makes my days worse listening to it.

My friend from Brazil and all migrant companions have grounds for disapproval of the weather. They are here putting up with frostbite and chaffing thighs potentially for people elsewhere. They weren’t born into it. And though being born into a climate is not enough reason to love it, it is enough experience to know how to get through it without whining like the moronic family dog.

While biking to work in December, I waited at a stop light in the middle of the lane. A black Dodge Neon slid to a halt six inches from my right handlebar. The man fumed, rolled down his window, and yelled at me for holding him up for one block. I proceeded to call him a degenerate asshole. He asked me,
“So why are you even riding your goddamn bike in the winter?” to which I answered by stating my masculine supremecy over him and his teenage-girl car. But the question bewildered me in its ignorance and raw stupidity. If you are going to hate anything about this place, anything at all, please don’t pick on the mother nature, who we have abused and mistreated to the point of her trying to exterminate us with extreme weather. Please take note of the general small-town mindnedness of the general populace who surround us. This is something worth griping over, because somehow, in someway, it might be able to be changed.

See you on the ice-covered, snow-packed, gravel-sprinkled, 50-centimeter-rutted road, you annoying, lazy, degenerate prick.

I love winter.

Safe drives.

November 11, 2013

“This is just a question, but do you consider yourself at fault in the accident?” This was what the apologetic SGI car insurance employee asked me over the phone as I sat in the Frontier Gas Station/Greyhound depot in Revelstoke, BC. I said no, although I should have been driving slower, I should have gotten more sleep the night before, I should have put it in four-wheel drive, I should not have tapped the brakes in panicky instinct. The totalled Nissan Titan, the Rider Pride Truck of 2007, lay on the back of a tow truck in the Classic Towing yard. It is worse crashing a truck when it isn’t yours. When I was certain that the passengers were not affected by the crash, I cleaned pieces of the plastic bumper off the middle of the highway, throwing them into the forest in a stewing rage. After the testosterone-sweating police officer took our information and the tow-truck drove us to town, I left my brother and his girlfriend sitting with a garbage bag of their belongings waiting for the 3pm bus while I stood on the side of the road and stuck my thumb out.

The words of the pleasant German girl that I sat next to on the eleven-hour gauntlet Greyhound made sense in reflecting on the crash. “You experience more in life when you’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Inside of new experience is the place where one is able to improve.

Near death, if you want to exaggerate the crash to that degree, has been heralded to change peoples’ lives. I’ll always wear a seatbelt from now on, one would potentially resolve. I’ll finally ask out this girl because life is too short, I thought. If life is lived properly, near death should not change anything. It may cause new thought or appreciation. A person should not be scared into living the life they’ve always wanted to.

Individuals can be personally responsible for their faults. But are they at fault for the patch of ice that brought them spinning off a cliff? Our experiences can cause our faults, but dwelling on our faults, stewing in them, is regression. Once people realize their faults and wish to work on them, there must be proper supports in place; this is a responsible society. From an insurance standpoint, who was at fault is important to establish. But in working on the well-being of a human, who was at fault is unimportant. It is the asking for help that needs to be noticed.


November 6th, 2013

In response to November 5th, 2013:

I am the romanticizer, the unenviable fool. I am a manipulator of words. I turn several years of running away from my problems and write a book about it, glorifying it into an admirable form of ‘roaming’ and ‘wandering.’ I romanticize my gloomy, smug, withdrawn nature as intellectualism and progress. I idealize my lifestyle of work and creation; a prideful and pretentious idolatry. I am likely the only one that strains to see through it all.

What all who serve an idol fear is death, what Paul calls, “the last enemy.” It is fear of eventual obliteration. It is the fear that death, like life, means nothing. It is a fear we rarely name but which hovers over us. The compulsiveness that drives us to consume too much, drink too much, take drugs or work too hard are bred from this fear of death, the fear that we will no longer exist, the fear that no matter what we do or say or accomplish our life will be meaningless, an insignificant blip on the screen.

-Hedges, Losing Moses on the Freeway, Chapter 2, p51