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100 Ideas to Make Saskatoon a Better City

Lately I have been tossing around a bunch of ideas that would make Saskatoon a better city to invest, work, live, and play in.  I kept them in a Moleskine and was going to put together a website but after thinking about it, I am going to post them here starting tomorrow.  That will make them the longest series I have ever posted (or written). 

Normally I don’t really care that much about comments but if you have some, let me know as i’d love to hear your feedback on this series.

The Daily

The Daily

For years I published a photoblog on Blogger when that was a lot easier to say than it was to do.  It was a lot of fun but I got away from it and when I moved to WordPress, I deleted the subdomain and killed the blog.  Since then I have been posting selected photos here but it has never felt totally comfortable and so this weekend I decided to start posting daily images at a new site called The Daily.  You can follow along here, via RSS, or on Twitter.

We’ll see what happens with it but I am promising a new photo there every day, at least five days a week but I suspect it will be more.

If you have any thoughts or comments, let me know in the comments.  I’d love to know what you think.

La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam

On Sunday I decided to take the family along the backroads to Prince Albert.  We explored the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Ascension, Fish Creek Church, and eventually the La Colle Falls Hydroelectric Dam east of Prince Albert.  Mark shot some video footage while there which you can see below.

Wendy wrote a little more about the day on her blog.

What I Read

I get asked all of the time what I read and I thought I would toss it into a blog post.

For news, the first site of the day I check on National Newswatch.  If you aren’t checking it out everyday, you are doing your news all wrong.  I then check out the links of The Morning News and browse Metafilter.  I have had an account for years but rarely log in.  I check out the National Post, Macleans, and The Globe and Mail.  Once I get the national news I check out The Toronto Star and Calgary Herald.  While not daily reads, I do read everything that is posted to the Hill Times.

The two sites that I explore the most are Yahoo! Sports and ProFootballTalk.  I check Yahoo! Sports about 10 times a day and ProFootballTalk in the morning and then again in the evening.  It is America’s Cup season which means that I spend a lot of time on YouTube.  I generally watch the 20 minute race recap and if I have time, I watch the whole race on my TV via the PS3 app.  YouTube on your television will forever change the way you watch TV.  It is amazing.

I also follow Doug Smith’s Sports Blog where he lives and mostly dies with the Raptors.  I read it because he is a great source of Raptors news but also because he has a unique blogging style that I really like.  Once I am there, I generally find myself in The Star’s sports section where the goal is to avoid the Toronto Maple Leafs coverage.  Then it is to check out the National Post sports but more or less I am just there to see if I missed anything that Bruce Arthur wrote and I missed his tweet to it.

Sportsnet.ca is my next sports stop and that is see what Michael Grange is writing about.  Much of Sportsnet is written by television personalities and it shows but Grange is a sportswriter.

I don’t blog a lot about military technology and affairs but I do read Wired’s Danger Room daily and Tom Rick’s The Best Defence Blog.   For urban discussions I follow a lot of people on Twitter but I also check out the Direct Transfer, Streets Blog, and The Atlantic Cities.

I subscribe to The StarPhoenix and pick up a copy of Metro News.  I also read Planet S. Saskatoon Express, and Verb weekly, mostly because I know some of their writers and I respect what they do.  

For magazines, I subscribe to Spacing, The Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and Foreign Policy

For blogs like most of the free world, I read Kottke.org daily and check out Gordon Price‘s blog weekly.  I would read City Hall Notebook more but The StarPhoenix kind of let it die, although it seems to be coming back to life lately.

There are always a couple of books on the go.  I own a Kindle but don’t use it much.  Mostly because I prefer to browse Indigo and McNally Robinson.  For all of the wonderful things that Amazon.com does, browsing books is the domain of the bookstore.

What am I missing?  Suggestions?

The New (Old) Barbecue

A couple of weeks ago someone stole my brand new barbecue.  Wendy had to work that Saturday so we had the Friday off together and decided to take a trip out to Gardiner Dam.  The boys had a good time seeing the dam with the spillways open and had a nice swim in Lake Diefenbaker.

I made the mistake of ordering a quick lunch at the cafe there and it tasted bad.  Within 45 minutes I was in pain and realized that something wasn’t right.  We got home and I laid down for a nap while Wendy went grocery shopping.  There was a city crew working in the area and I never thought much of it when I heard some noise outside the house.  Little did I realize it was someone cutting the lock on the barbecue and stealing it in the middle of the afternoon.

After getting mad and then filing my police report, I had a problem.  Mainly no barbecue.  

I had an old one in the backyard which I hadn’t taken to the dump yet (thanks to my brother and his truck being busy) It was nice back in the day but had been traded into Weber who donated about 100 of them to the Salvation Army.  I bought it for $20 about 8 years ago.  We had just gutted it to fix the barbecue at the cabin so it needed some work.  Two new grills, new briquettes, a new handle, nob, and tank.  About $100 worth of repairs but cheaper than the cheap barbecues that Wal-Mart was selling and with the deep bowl, it would do a better job.  As Wendy pointed out, we do cook some things that do need some space and that factored into my decision.

My first step was to empty out the barbecue of all of the dust, grease, and briquettes pieces that were left.  I took the scraper and wire brush to the barbecue and really cleaned it out.  I will paint it next summer (perhaps a colour) with heat resistant paint but for now, I just need to get the job done.

Onward Grill Pro 92375 rw 66822 79458

After looking around, I decided to purchase GrillPro Porcelain Coated Heat Plate which converts you from briquettes to a dispersed heat plate.  It took 5 minutes to assemble and works as well as my stolen barbecue did.  It was $23 at Home Depot and in the end saved me from having to replace the bottom grill and the brickettes.

You can drill some holes in the bottom your barbecue and mount this in permanently but mine set right in and we don’t move it at all so I decided against it.  I had originally bought two of them but then after taking one of them out, I only needed one of them.

For the upper grill, I also picked up a new universal replacement grill.  It took about 30 seconds to fit and insert but it holds the heat better then the stock grill. 

I fired up the barbecue and let any of the chemicals burn off.  We then cooked a couple of beer can chickens on them and the cooking experience was fantastic compared to the briquettes (it was as good as my stolen barbecue).  If you have not moved from briquettes to one of these heat plates, you really need to.  It really is a better cooking experience and for $25, it is so cheap to do and easy to install.  Not only did I save on the briquettes but also the replacement bottom grill.  

The total cost was $45 to refurbish the barbecue with the upgraded head plate and grill which wasn’t bad.  I still had to purchase the new tank but in the end, it’s nice to be able to cook outside again.  If you have a barbecue that you don’t love nearly as much as when you bought it, consider swapping out your briquettes for a new heat plate.

My new gig

I realized the other day that I haven’t written about what I am doing now since I left The Lighthouse.  I left The Lighthouse without a Plan A or a Plan B.  When Wendy and I sat down and talked about Plan C, we actually spent a lot of time talking about selling the house and exploring options to work anywhere.

We talked a bit about moving to her home country of Guyana and I looked at some jobs in Europe.  The idea of selling everything and starting fresh was interesting and exciting to us.  We have a lot of equity in our home and benefitted from buying long before the real estate boom hit Saskatoon.  We looked at moving to Victoria, Nunuvuk, and even Newfoundland after some job offers came up.

During that time I was having conversations with companies staying in Saskatoon, including some service providers.  For some service providers, I was a good fit but I wasn’t really passionate about what they did.  Just going to work didn’t appeal to me and I wanted to do something that would continue to make a difference.

I had been talking with Tyler Stewart of Stewart Property Holdings.  Tyler is creating affordable housing suites out of old buildings  that everyone else has given up on like The 525 and 820 20th Street.  He also salvaged 340 Avenue D South which is a story that is so incredible that it needs its own documentary/horror film.

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During those times, I took some time to think about what I wanted to do and I read some good advice that said, don’t look for a job but rather look for an organization that you want to be a part of.

In talking more and more with Tyler, I realized that rejuvenating buildings and finding people quality housing is something that I care a lot about.  There is also the excitement of being part of was is essentially a start up..  His values of affordability and heritage appeal to me.

Back

The exciting thing for me is the opportunity to do something right that will be a part of the city for generations. Some of the properties are already 100 years old and this is part of their midlife rejuvenation.  Done right, they could be good housing stock for another hundred years.  That and it means staying in Saskatoon.

With new properties, it is the ability to bring in new ideas and make them fit in neighbourhoods, within budgets, and within city guidelines and regulations.  In both cases it’s seeing ideas come to light with the result being better homes for people in Saskatoon.

I am also working on the homelessness issue.  As Tim Richter, the head of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness has talked about, don’t build shelters, build housing units.  I agree and the opportunity now is to build housing units that match up with the needs of the residents.  For years I have had to make do with what we had.  For the first time I am able to work with agencies and build around the needs of people, regardless of their age, mental health issues, or their journey in life.

Anyways, my new job title is Vice President of Community Development and my email address is jordon AT stewartproperties.ca.  While I am not in the office a lot, it’s located at 500 Spadina Cres E which is right on the corner of 20th Street and Spadina Cres.

Father’s Day

Sadly I didn’t get one of these for Father’s Day.  I never quite get what I want :-)

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Wendy and the boys did get some nice stuff and my awesome wife blogs about the day here.  The day would have been perfect but the garbage hound I have for a dog got into a bag and spread it all over the house.  I had no idea Maggi had been bred with a racoon.

Joseph Abboud Brown Elastic Front Pocket Wallet

For years I have used a leather wallet with a zipper around it.  To be honest I hate dropping my wallet and cards going everywhere.  This wallet works fine for it and lasts about five years before it needs replacing.  Lately Jeff and Sean have been going on and on about their Umbra Bungee Wallets which look cool but I have never liked carrying.  They have been going on and on about how slim they are which is something that is kind of important.  No one wants to have George Costanza wallet.

George costanza wallet

Last week I lost my wallet.  I am 99% sure it is in our house but I fear that it was tossed out by Oliver or Mark while cleaning.  I was going to swallow my pride and get one of those Umbra wallets but that would mean that I value Jeff and Sean’s opinions on accessorizing.  The next you know I’ll be taking council’s advice on how many bridge lanes the city needs.  It’s a slippery slope.  I was seriously thinking of getting a Bellroy Wallet but $60 for a wallet is more than I wanted to pay.  

Instead I looked around and found a Joseph Abboud Front Pocket Wallet which as you can see, is extremely thin and compact and minimizes the bulk of most wallets.  I bought it for $8.  In case you are thinking that I have lost it and have gone off the deep end, Walmart has a large selection of front pocket wallets, which I don’t know if that helps my point or destroys it.

Joseph Aboud front pocket leather wallet

Of course it is extremely thin now as all I have in it is my temporary drivers licence and my BMO Debit Card.  I hate losing wallets.  

In case you want to slim down your wallet, Bellroy has some excellent tips but I also discovered Stocard which really what Apple’s Passport should have been.  It scans and keeps track of all of my reward cards in one place.  Here is the screenshot of what it holds (and you now know what reward programs that I belong to)

Photo

Once you enter in your member number (or let it scan in your card’s barcode) all I have to do is fire up the app and let the store scanner scan the barcode (or if that doesn’t work, touch the screen and your member number comes up right away).  Like most of you, I always have my phone on me so there is no point in carrying it and a wallet full of reward cards).  It’s free and you can get the app for iOS and Android.   I can’t recommend it enough.  That and it’s not an Umbra cardholder so we all win.

The Grey Owl’s Expedition Gear Guide

Since we are still planning to do a hike to Grey Owl’s Cabin, we have been picking up some gear for the trip.  A lot of people have been asking us what we are taking so here is the quick list of gear that is going.

Backpacks: To carry the gear, we have some frameless backpacks with hip straps.  You can spend a lot of money on these and after reading around, we think we found the right balance between comfort, durability, and price.

NORTH 49® CYCLONE BACKPACKS

If I was walking the Appalachian Trail, I would definitely have purchased a more expensive backpack but it’s only a day and we are only taking so much stuff.  I bought our bags on clearance for $30.  They are 40 litres and have the external straps I want.  They should do the job. 

Tents: Wendy and I are staying in a three man tent we bought for $16 from Wal-mart.  They had a loss leader going this winter and we got it then.  It’s light and just big enough for the two of us.   The tent opens up and hopefully we will be able to sleep under the skies rather than under the fly.  If it does look like it could rain, we’ll be fine underneath it.

Ozark Trail Tent

If I was going camping rather than backcountry hiking, we would have gotten something larger and higher quality.  Weight and size are a factor.  Also the price was insanely cheap ($16 on sale).  If it doesn’t last, no harm done but the reviews online were pretty solid.  It’s no where near as durable as a tent from the North Face but then again, it won’t be asked to do much more than keep the mosquitoes or drizzle off of us.

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Mark is staying in a one person tent from Eagle’s Camp.  It is small but it will be only him and his bag.  I don’t know how long it will last him but once he gets to big for it, it can be used by Oliver at the cabin.  Either way it is really light and since Mark will be carrying it in and out, he will appreciate the weight.  We bought some ropes to add as guy wires which opens it up a bit.  It’s small but it is light.

We did waterproof and seal the seams and upgraded the tent pegs to something lighter and more likely to stay in the ground.  If the weather is miserable, we should be okay.

Sleeping bags: Mark had a sleeping bag but Wendy and I wanted new 1.5 pound sleeping bags.  We picked up two at XS Cargo for $10 each.  We will have sleeping foams as well.   Walmart is charging $20 for their sleeping pads but we bought ours at a liquidation place for $3.  We also bought some compression straps so the sleeping bags take up as little as room as possible.

For lighting, Wendy bought me a new headlamp for my birthday and both Mark and Wendy have headlamps and lanterns  We also have a flashlight and Nite Ize LED zipper tags on our backpacks so if we wonder out in the dark, we can be seen.

For the kitchen, we have a Primus Classic Trail Stove and Primus fuel canisters.  Stoves have their own fanboy culture which I understand but for the price, it can’t be beaten.  I know this isn’t the stove to use when it’s winter but since we are doing the hike in July, we should be okay.   It also has a five star review on Amazon.com so it seems to be doing the job.

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Coleman also has a propane stove which uses their fuel.  The big advantage was that you can get the propane at almost any store while you need to get fuel for the Primus at a specialty store like Cabela’s, MEC, REI.  The disadvantage of the Coleman stove is the weight of the larger canister and the stove itself.  in the end it made more sense to go with the Primus stove which is small enough to be tucked into our cooking gear.  Of all of the things we have purchased for this hike, the Primus Classic Trail Stove is my favorite.

For backup we have a Magic Heat Stove and canisters.  I picked them up because they were cheap, good for winter travel, and lightweight.  I don’t expect to have to use them but we will take them depending on the weather forecast.  If it is going to be nice, we will leave them but if there is a chance of rain and the idea of fighting with wet wood doesn’t appeal, then we will take the backup stoves.

As for the camp kit, years ago Lee gave Wendy a great camp set.  We picked up three sparks and we are set to go.

As for water, I have talked to a lot of people who had drank right out of Kingsmere Lake with no side affects.  There are giardia warnings about the water so we will have some water filters.  It’s way cheaper using purification tablets but I am told they are disgusting.  Since we are walking along side the lake, we will be using collapsible water bottles to keep weight and volume down.

Food: Basically MRE’s.  We have been to Cabela’s weekly testing out one or two of them each time.  We will eat some snacks on the way in, have a nice dinner (well away from the campground to keep the bears away) and then a big breakfast in the morning on our way out.  Hopefully we get going in time to be back in Waskesiu for a late lunch before heading back to Saskatoon.

Clothes: I went out and invested in some decent hiking shorts and shirts this summer.  As a friend of mine told me that chafing is not something that you will want to do while on the trail.  We also went to Cabela’s and got tested by the Dr. Shoal’s machine for the kind of insoles we all need.  While the custom Dr. Shoals insoles are right there, a row over are competitor insoles designed the same way for a fraction of the cost.  They make hiking boots feel a lot more comfortable and will hopefully make the trip more pleasant.

Technology: We won’t be taking much technology along although we will have a GPS, binoculars, and some cameras.  The idea is to keep the weight down as much as possible but at the some time we want to have some photographs and video.  I don’t expect to have cell coverage on the hike but it won’t matter as our phones will be turned off.  We will have our multi-tools and a hatchet with us but I don’t know if that is considered technology or not.  In case we do get some rain, we have some gadget bags which are essentially waterproof zip lock bags for gear.  It says that you can submerse them but I’d rather not.  What they do a good job of doing is if a tent or bag does leak, your stuff will still be safe.

We bought everything local.  While MEC had a good price on some stuff, by the time we calculated shipping, it was less expensive to get something at Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports.

The problem hasn’t been getting the gear that we want, it’s the issue of realizing that everything we do take is going to have to be hauled in and hauled back out.  Let me know if you have some suggestions in the comments below.

Five Years

Oliver turning five

Oliver turned 5 today which his a fairly remarkable achievement considering his life so far.  Five years and a day ago, Wendy had been hospitalized a couple of weeks after struggling with pre-eclampsia for most of the pregnancy.  The hospital trip was a roller coaster as every day her condition was changing.  She went from being in the hospital to being in intensive care to being on the verge of being let out and sent home.  I had every expectation of bringing her home the next day.

Instead at 5:00 a.m., I got a tearful phone call from her saying that they were going to do an emergency c-section and I needed to get to the hospital right away. The nurse told me that I had a little time so I grabbed a quick shower and raced through the city to Royal University Hospital where the parking lot was closed.  I parked at metered parking with this kind of funny realization that I bet Oliver was going to be born at the time I needed to plug the meter again.

As I went up to the room, there was chaos in Wendy’s room with doctors and nurses in an out taking her vital signs.  A doctor grabbed me and said that Wendy was in better shape than another mother and child and they didn’t think they would survive if Wendy went first.  It wasn’t as if I had any say in it but I kind of said, “yeah, no problem”.  Sadly their child didn’t make it.

I sat with Wendy, called Lee, and just waited.  Wendy was unconscious for most of it and had no idea how serious her condition was.  A doctor came in and told me how bad it was for Wendy and said, “there is a good chance she is going to have a heart attack or stroke during the caesarean”.  There wasn’t much for me to say.  He asked what I did for a living and I told him.  He looked relieved and said, “I don’t think you will freak out in there but if you do, I am going to toss you out of the delivery room.”  I replied, “I seem to the only one who isn’t losing it this morning.  I’ll be fine”.  At this time it was 6:00 a.m. and I offered to do a coffee run for the nurses that had spent the night with Wendy.

The Starbucks was packed and my heart kind of stopped when a nurse came running up to me but she just had some money and was going to help me with the coffees.

We sat for hours as I just kind of sat there and held Wendy’s hand.  Her vital signs were getting worse and her blood pressure was getting higher.  Finally another doctor came in and was yelling at someone else that “this baby should have been taken days ago and the mother is going to die.”  I remember thinking, “Really? This is what medicare cuts have gotten us.  Doctor’s who don’t even realize they are in the room with the father.”  As they left, the nurse came over and said, “Fucking idiots”, told me to ignore them and then realized that it was going to be impossible.  She was mad at them for having that conversation in front of me and offered me another coffee.  I took her up on her offer.

Finally Wendy and I were taken into the delivery room.  A resuscitation team was there as was a team to take Oliver to the NICU. Everyone was just looking at me like, “What the heck is the father doing here” and the doctor would just say, “He works at the Salvation Army, he’s cool” and that seemed to satisfy people.

The caesarean section was over quick and more than Oliver, everyone was looking at Wendy’s vital signs.  The radio was playing the song that was on when Oliver came out was YMCA by the Village People.  There was a massive screen up between Wendy and I and the baby.  As Oliver came out, a nurse and doctor raced over the other side of the screen and kind of yelled, “The baby is fine!” while everyone was looking at Wendy’s blood pressure.  As the tensions left the room, one of the doctors came up to me and said, “I’d be okay with my kid being born to the YMCA.  If it was a Bette Middler tune, his life may have been meaningless”.

Wendy was taken to the recovery room while I wandered out.  I don’t know how but Lee and Mark were in the waiting room and they poked their head into the recovery room and said hi to Wendy who was too tired to know what was going on.  Wendy’s blood pressure hit dangerous levels off and on for the next week.

As I left with Mark to go to Alexander’s for lunch, of course I got a parking ticket.  I wanted to fight it on the basis that I had no other options but I just paid it.

I was able to go up and see Oliver the next day in NICU.  Mark was too young to see him but they made several exceptions for him and Lee.  Because Wendy was too weak to walk, she wasn’t able to see him for the first week which went over poorly.  A combination of fatigue and the medication had her believing that this was a conspiracy but we got over that.

Oliver Scott CooperOliver Scott Cooper

Oliver spent 23 days at RUH and we finally took him home on July 2, 2008.  Before we got home, we actually took him to the Salvation Army Community Services and then to Reimers so it was a late day before he experienced his new home.

Despite the stress of his entry into this world, there was one more obstacle and that was Maggi.  Maggi is like a bull in the China shop and I was nervous that a dog that physically assertive would not do well with a child who was two months premature.  We took him home, set him down in his car chair and a very gentle Maggi slowly approached Oliver and gave him a gentle lick.  It wasn’t until he walking and the height of a wagging tail that her protectiveness and gentleness diminished.

So now he is five.  Time flies when you repress some of those memories.

Today he woke up and excitedly opened his presents:

  • Spiderman water bottle
  • Kick scooter
  • Green Army men
  • An NFL football (from Mark of course)
  • Ninjago book (his two favourite things, Ninjas and Lego)
  • Some new shirts
  • An Angry Bird hat

He is off at A.H. Browne Park with Mark on his new kick scooter wearing a brand new shirt.  He is off to take over the world.

How to grill up the perfect steak

Over at the cabin blog, I put together a guide to grilling up the perfect steak.

Cuts of steak

I am ashamed to admit it but until an intervention at Le Beefteque in Toronto I used to order and cook my steaks until they were well done.  No marinade, no prep.  We just slapped them on the barbecue and overcooked them.  That meant that I wasn’t really a big steak fan as who likes to eat overcooked beef.  

A couple of years ago I finally got serious about how to prepare and cook a steak.  It starts with the right marinade, a Jaccard meat tenderizer, cooking it perfectly, letting it rest and so on and so on.  

This year I finally got my act together wrote it all up in one post.  Let me know in the comments if I have missed anything or have anything wrong.

The long commute home

The Long Commute Home

Sunset over Last Mountain Lake

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What’s next

So for those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I resigned from my job at The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. this week.  Of course being me, I did this without another job to go to but that happens sometimes.  Yes it is a terrifying move as working in shelters is not a profession that is bank account friendly.

It means that I am now in search of a job.  Financially we are okay because Wendy has worked at Safeway for 15 years and is still under their old collective bargaining tier which means that she makes a decent salary.  This gives me some flexibility in knowing that we can get by on minimum wage if needed although I really don’t want to do that.

Since 2005 I have been working with the homeless and hard to house and while I love it, there has been some really hard days along the way as well.  If I have an opportunity to go back into it, i will but I am always ready for a new challenge that doesn’t involve dirty needles, death threats, and the pain and suffering that I have seen day in and out over the last 8 years.

If you want to hire me, check out my LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jordoncooper.  I am proud of the work that I have done and I think that I have a lot to give but it will be somewhere else now.

If there is one thing I like about me, it’s that I have enjoyed my jobs.  I have worked retail and loved the interactions.  I have worked in very difficult situations and loved the challenges.  Not a lot of people know this but I started mopping floors at The Salvation Army and I liked that as well.   I think I am also lucky in that I am not defined by my job which makes it easier to step back.  That being said, I have a lot of experience doing what I do so there is a nice comfort zone there.

If you are hiring (we would consider moving) or know of a job, let me know at jordoncooper@gmail.com.

A better way to say goodbye

I was 12 when I first attended my first funeral.  We had a friend at a nursing home and Mr. Crawford lived next door.  We would go and visit our family friend and see him each time where he was quite nice to all of us, often giving me some money for candy and to get a coffee for my mom.

When he died, we went to the funeral chapel where his family went on at length about how horrible of human being he was and what a bad father he had been.  We just listened but I was shocked when the minister started his eulogy with, “He was a very bad man”.  

When I became a pastor, I did a lot of funerals.  Some of them were celebrations of life, others were horrible to perform and yes, I buried some really bad men over the years.  Each time I tried my best to respect the person and life that I was burying while keeping some sense of reality of the life they lived.

In the work I do now, our clients die very young.  The drugs, violence, lifestyle and alcohol takes it toll on your body.  Toss in HIV/Aids/Hep-C or cancer from the smoking and you have a really low life expectancy.  I have helped more than one mother clean out a locker in a shelter where the only thing she has left of her son was a pair of jeans, a jacket, and really nothing else.  I have always found myself hoping that there be something of value in there, a watch or a something of value for the parent to hold on to but there never is.  Many tears have been shed by family members during those times. 

In most situations I find myself boxing stuff up and realizing that for the most part, no one was going to come get it.  Months later my janitor asks me what I want him to do with the sealed box.  No one has come to get it.

Every couple of months I hear that a client that I had worked with has died.  In each and every case I fire up my computer and Google their name.  I search The StarPhoenix’s obituary website and I scour the internet to find out if it is true.  I rarely find anything.  Over the next couple of days I generally run into a member of the Saskatoon Health Region or the Saskatoon City Police and ask them. In every case I get the same reply that they have died.

They often die alone.  There is no media coverage, no obituary, no will, no assets, and to be honest, almost no one cared.  Many colleagues just block it out like it doesn’t exist.  The file is closed and they are done. Death has never bothered me, neither does the grieving process but in these cases I find myself not sure what to do.  The idea that someone has lived their entire life and there is no trace of it left seems wrong to me.

I guess as a blogger and a writer, I find myself in a situation where I write to process.  After a sleepless night last night thinking of a couple of people that I had known well that had died, I came in early to work to write something, anything about their lives as I saw them.  Of course I never know what do next.  I tweeted this morning that I was struggling with his and it resonated with people but I don’t know what to do next.  

Is the best way to mark one’s life to have a service provider eulogize them?  My first encounter with one gentleman was when he assaulted Wendy with a bottle of Listerine she wouldn’t sell him in about 1998.  Of course the other part of that story is that he would beat her at cribbage all of the time when she helped out at a drop-in centre.  Do you tell the stories of abuse, residential schools, the people that they hurt.

One of the people that recently deceased was a women that I wrote about two years ago in The StarPhoenix.  She had AIDS at the time, was pimped out by her boyfriend and was high for every single interaction that I had with her over seven years.  At the same time I appreciated every single strung out conversation we ever had and I was saddened and sickened when I would see her beaten and bruised.  It’s weird but I miss her.

They had a legacy with me and we have a bunch of stories that shaped me that are too bizarre to write here (somethings are only funny if you know the person)

The world doesn’t stop for death.  When you die, people come together, tell some stories, each some sandwiches, sing some hymns, and drink some coffee.  I am not asking the world to stop, I just think they should have some form of legacy.

In Toronto, they have a homeless memorial.  In Saskatoon we have a walk to remember those lost in the sex trade but at the end of the day they were individuals that lived and died in our city, it would be great if they are remembered as such.  The question for me to figure out, what is the best way to do that.