Still Blinded by Straight White Privilege

I was about the write off the recent attacks as an isolated event, another crazy person with access to weaponry he shouldn’t have. The attacks were an issue with American guns laws. I told everyone this would happen again, it might be a school, like the Sandy Hook murders, it could happen in a movie theatre, like it did in Aurora. I wanted to pin this on something other than hate against a marginalized community. I started reading a bunch of hateful Twitter posts about retribution from God, and I wrote it off. I heard second hand of a local Christian man who’s decided to side with the shooter on this one, and I put it aside. I didn’t really think of the fact that the streets were being painted at the crosswalk in rainbow, and that Pride was happening locally soon. And it wasn’t until I sat down and read through the comments of my last blog, when it hit me; every single person that commented on it was a straight white male.

The attacks that took place were an attack against the LGBTQ community, and I made the mistake of trying to appropriate that elsewhere. To write it off as anything else was arrogant of me. To think that such a close knit community wouldn’t be reeling after a tragedy like this was ignorant. For that I apologize.

Anyone with a heart and a conscience has got to be feeling something these last few days, and everyone seems to be reacting differently. Some people are mourning, some are angry, some are frustrated. Some are also joyful, thinking this brutal act of hate is justified, that somehow the love between two people is more of an affront to humanity than the ending of a human life. And that’s what the LGBTQ community stands for, love and the right to love. It’s sickening to think there’s a vocal group of people who would rather see bloodshed than two men kiss.

In my haste, like many others, I was looking for a reason to why this happened, and I chose gun control. Other’s picked terrorism, some chose mental illness. There was a lot of things we could point to, to take our minds off the idea that the queer community is still vulnerable and still under threat. I wanted to think we were past that, the old guard who held that banner of homophobia was dying and that things were progressing. I still think things are getting better, and progress is being made, but after thinking about it long and hard, I had the sober realization we still have a long way to go as a society. The shooter was three years younger than I am. To think the old guard hasn’t left an impression on new generations was an naïve ideal.

It wasn’t long ago that being gay was a crime in this part of the world, where the treatment was rehabilitation, therapy. People were rehabilitated violently, and were subjected to chemical therapy. Love between two people was outlawed and met with violence and death. And it’s still illegal in much of the world, still outlawed, still met with vicious confrontation and murder. It seems so mind boggling backwards that love is not only looked down upon, but endures homicidal fury.

While debating whether owning a gun was a right or a privilege, I forgot that the opportunity to love someone else is a privilege, not a right in this world. That I have the privilege of being able to walk down the street without having the word faggot or dyke lobbed in my direction. That I have the privilege of being able to say “I love you” to someone I care about without having to look over my shoulder or mutter under my breath. That I have the privilege not to be a target because of my sexuality. These are privileges I take for granted. After the recent attacks, maybe I shouldn’t be so callous to give my opinion on a privilege that not everyone has access to.

All around the world, people are holding sigils to honour the dead and remember lose who have lost their lives to this tragedy. Maybe tomorrow, instead of getting on my soapbox to give out my opinion and ask hard question, I’ll try listening to someone else’s opinion and questions instead.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m still going to write something tomorrow, but goddamnit, I’m going to pick something that isn’t a tragedy.

p.s.s. All kinds of hugs to people out there. I’m hoping tomorrow is a sunnier day.


When Your Appendix Attacks!

A friend of mine is getting out of surgery for appendicitis today. Everything is okay, but it did leave me wondering what the hell appendicitis is. Now, I’m no doctor, but I do have an internet connection and an hour to kill, so as far as I’m concerned, that puts me half way there.

First off, what exactly is the appendix? It’s an organ, in your body, like your brain or your heart. Unlike the brain or the heart, however, you can live without your appendix. For a long time, doctors and researchers thought the appendix was vestigial, which is a fancy word for pretty much useless. I’ll be frank, the appendix ain’t really pulling its weight in the whole ‘being a part of the body and contributing something’.

But, apparently it has a couple of uses, although certainly not vital. Back in 2007, some researchers at Duke University proposed the appendix might be a safe haven of sorts for the good bacteria in your body. See, your body runs on autopilot. You’re made up of billions of cells, all working together like some sort of kickass Power Ranger to pilot your body around so you can watch Game of Thrones and touch yourself inappropriately. Now, your body can’t always tell the good guys from the bad guys, and the bad guys can’t always differentiate between the locals and the tourists. Viruses and bad bacteria will attack good bacteria. If your body is being invaded by bad guys, then your white blood cells go nuts and start killing anything that isn’t part of you (sometimes those trigger happy white blood cells even start wacking your own body, then sprinkling crack on the victims). Basically, you body is an episode of ‘The Wire’, and the appendix is a safe house where good bacteria can lay low and play cards while the rest of your meat body wages war.

There was an even more recent discovery, where it was found the appendix was part of the lymphatic system. Due to my incredibly limited knowledge of biology and the human body, what I gathered was the appendix acts like traffic cop, making sure that waste gets disposed of properly. It also acts as a early warning system for disease, making sure the body’s defenses are coordinated properly. Even though this isn’t necessary, it’s handy to have.

But still, to continue to use the police analogy, the appendix is an old cop, who specialized in prohibition era law. Unfortunately, it’s not really needed anymore. The appendix hasn’t taken this news well, as occasionally it blocks up and explodes in your body.

Yes, you read that right. If your appendix becomes inflamed enough, it will actually burst, spewing pus and bile and whole bunch of other nasty stuff into your body. An appendectomy is a fairly common practice these days, but a hundred or so years ago, appendicitis could have easily been a death sentence.

Why would someone’s body decide to wage war against them? Your appendix gets a little fussy, then decides to lob a grenade in your direction. I have a theory. All the people I know who’ve had their appendix removed are pretty healthy people. They abstain from heavy alcohol use, they don’t smoke, they eat well, and get plenty of sleep. I, on the other hand, spent my twenties treating my body like a temple that I was constantly defacing. I smoked cigarettes and cigars, drank whiskey and beer, ate cheese stuffed with more cheese, and rarely slept. My appendix is terrified of me. It wouldn’t dare try to fuck with Mr. Charlton. My whole body wouldn’t even think twice about going against me. Sure, one day they might call in some heavy hitters, like cancers or a stroke, but it knows that I might just decide to dose myself in kerosene and start my birthday early.


I don’t know, body, do you feel lucky today?

The people who get appendicitis are reasonable people. My body knows that it’s dealing with an unstable maniac. So if you want to stay healthy, make your body afraid. Hold your appendix hostage and wave a gun in its face. Tell your pancreas that if it even thinks about giving you cancer, you’ll throw a wrench in the plans by drinking bleach and committing seppuku. Don’t take any shit from your body, and trust me, you’ll soon find you can terrorize your body into behaving.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I treat my body a lot better these days. It now suffers from Stockholm syndrome.

p.s.s. Images taken from Wiki Commons


Happy Mother’s Day

My mom was born on on a day, somewhere in the Vancouver area. At least, I’m pretty sure of the location. She was the youngest out of five children, and grew up in Surrey, BC. Back then, Surrey wasn’t the sprawling suburb of Vancouver it is today. Back then, it was a much smaller place. She’s told me and my brothers about growing up with four older siblings, how my grandfather brewed root beer and put it in real beer bottles so it looked like they were all punks, the time one of my uncle’s set her leg on fire, the infamous ‘Bleach smells amazing story’. A bunch of laughs, funny moments and inside jokes from her childhood

Here’s the strange thing. Even though my mother has told me a ton of stories about her past, how she met my father, moving from Surrey, to Kamploops, to Revelstoke, and then finally to Golden, I never really knew my mother. I’m not sure many people do. If you were like me, then once you left the nest, you might only see your mother a few times a year, mostly at holidays. Even though you’re an adult now, you’re still the kid and she’s still the mom. And that the way it was, for over a decade after I left home. Until recently.

I quit my job last year, decided to hang up my scales and give up the drafting game for good. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do, but the first plan was to go back to Golden, stay a month or two, wait for a couple of final checks, then go traveling. I ended up staying four months.

First, the checks rolling in were taking their sweet time in getting to me. That was definitely one of the bigger reasons for sticking around. There was another big life change. My mother, within the first week or so of my arrival, put the house up for sale. The house I grew up in. The house that my parents had purchased back in 1991. A house that accumulated 25 years of stuff you normally accumulate after owning a house for 25 years. The house ended up selling within a couple of weeks.

When she told me the house was going up for sale, I honestly didn’t think much of it. House can take months, if not years to sell. Selling a house is a pain in the ass, mind you. The place needs to be spotless every time a potential buyer stops by to have a look. Which means that every time you have someone looking at the house, you end up having to clean the floors, wash the walls, vacuum, dust, and do the washrooms. Every. Single. Time. But we made it happen.

When she told me the house had sold and we need to start packing, I was stunned. Here I was, on a bit of a vacation, and now I was put in charge of packing, selling and moving a massive house. Five bedrooms, two living rooms, and a large workshop needed to be bagged, tagged and shipped to a new place. At this point, I still hadn’t really dealt with my father’s death, and packing up his stuff hit me pretty hard. There were a number of moments where I started welling up and had to go for a walk to regain my composure. But we made it happen.

The place we were renting was also up for sale, but we didn’t think much of it, as it had been on the market for a year and a half. After being in the new place, we found out it had sold. We were both pretty sick of moving at this point, so my mother threw caution to the wind and bought another place, a much smaller place, and we ended up moving again.

Through all of this, after two moves and three months of living together, my mom stopped being my mom all the time and was now more like my roommate Kathy. This may sound weird, but I actually got to meet Kathy for the first time. Truth be told, my mother is one of the best roommates I have ever had. She doesn’t party all that much, cleans up after herself, and all her friends seem pretty chill.

Jokes aside, I love my mother. But last year I got to find out that I actually like my mother. My mom is a cool person to hang out with. If she gave me a phone call and said she had two tickets to Europe, I’d go with her in a heart beat. Even at my age, that still seems rare that you know your mom as something other than mom. So maybe I’m luckier than most.

If you have the opportunity to give your mother a phone call or, even better, a hug, go do that. Life’s too short as it is. Not everyone is lucky to have their mom still around, and some peoples relationship with their mother is estranged. I count my good fortune that my mom is still around to talk to. Not only that, but my mom is someone I can go have a patio beer with on a hot summer’s day and we can both find ourselves laughing our asses off.

Cheers Mom. Love you tons!


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yes mom, if you haven’t noticed, the language on this blog is a lot cleaner than the last one. Everybody has to grow up eventually.

p.s.s. I finish SpaceX tomorrow!

p.s.s.s. Post was edited to remove the day and location of my mom’s birth. Can’t have scammers stealing identities!


Fort McMurray

If you were to look at the oil and gas industry in Alberta as a body, Calgary would be the brain. It’s where the head offices are, and consulting firms for Shell, Imperial, Suncor and other oil and gas companies do most of the engineering and design work. Edmonton would be the muscle, providing the manpower and the logistics. If Calgary’s the brains, and Edmonton is the brawn, Fort McMurray is the heart.

If you live in Canada, you’ve probably heard of Fort Mac. The largest tarsands operations are in Fort McMurray, or close to it. Anyone who’s worked in the oil and gas field lives up there, has worked up there, or at the very least have designed or planned something in the area. It’s the little city that never sleeps. It’s a lot smaller than Edmonton or Calgary, but it’s just as well known. Working up there usually means twelve hour days, for stretches up to three weeks. For a long time, Fort Mac represented one of the last places you could get a solid job without a degree, where the working class person could get not only a job, but build a dream. That dream is going up in smoke. Literally.

An out-of-control fire has ravaged over 10,000 hectares and destroyed over 1,600 homes and buildings. For the 80,000 people who evacuated, many won’t have a dwelling to come home to. That’s what was speculated five hours before writing this, and the numbers are sure to go up when the final tally is taken and the fires are put out.

Right now there is a huge amount of love and support from around the country. People are donating money, and most importantly, their time. There’s also people soaking up some schadenfreude, saying the fires are the cause of climate change, snidely pointing and laughing at the misfortunes of other. There are those who are pointing out that, due to the mass layoffs in the oilpatch, it’s convenient this fire stuck a town mired in debt and foreclosure, that this could be a blessing in disguise for those who have lost their jobs. Insurance money will roll in, they assure, and those who were in a bind will have their shackles broken.

One meme in particular has been floating around, the picture of the oilfield truck blazing down the highway, with the caption “Don’t worry, Fort Mac! We are coming with tools, trucks, our trades. And we will rebuild!”. The sentiment is nice, but the logistics of this should be something to consider.

Compared to the Slave Lake fires of 2011, the Fort Mac fires are twice the size and have destroyed close to four times the number of buildings. Compared to the Calgary floods of 2013, the city of Calgary is situated in the middle of Alberta, along both the TransCanada and the Queen Elizabeth, while Fort Mac is five and a half hours from the nearest major city. When the numbers come back and the fires extinguished, how much of Fort McMurray will be left to rebuild?

Rebuilding takes money. Even though the the city, the province, and the country are strapped for cash, you can be certain the money will be found somewhere. Rebuilding takes people. There are a lot of people with the skills and the knowledge to make that happen. More importantly though, rebuilding takes time. The hard truth is the reconstruction of Fort Mac will take a lot more time than Slave Lake or Calgary. Simply due to the scope of the area impacted, and the location of the area itself.

If you want to help, the best way to do that is through donations. Right now you can text REDCROSS to 30333 to donate $5, or you can text REDCROSS to 45678 to donate $10. If you are thinking about donating clothing, furniture, or household items, refrain from doing so. Too many items are often shipped, and often cause havoc for those organizing the fundraising.

To those throwing the political gauntlets, this isn’t the time to do it. Whether you’re trumpeting the governments’ success or their failures, we can judge them down the line. There’s still three years for both the federal and provincial governments, whether you like it or not. You’ll have plenty of time to place judgement regarding their handling of this crisis.

To those laughing at the irony regarding the possibility of Fort McMurray destruction due to climate change, just remember this; Climate change affects us all. It would be like deriding your foot for having cancer.

To those of you saying that this will be a huge payout from the insurance companies, I only have this to say to you; You have obviously never dealt with an insurance company.

To those witch hunting the former NDP candidate who tweeted the fire was ‘Karmic’, please stop. What he said was ignorant and childish, and trying to burn the man in effigy is equally ignorant and childish. Venting your anger and frustrations by trying to ‘get’ a man who said something stupid on a platform called ‘Twitter’ is a reminder of exactly what terrifies me about social media.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Yes, I do have my own site now.

p.s.s. I have a friend up in Firebag, working at camp. Says it’s weird to have children running around and dogs barking in his wing.