Re-Share: Are Humans Really Great Apes?

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI originally published this article in May of 2016. Little did I know how my argument would be made stronger by time.

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Scientific taxonomy classifies human beings within the family of hominidae, more commonly known as the ‘Great Apes’. We share this taxonomic family with three other genera, members of which include the orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees—all fine and majestic animals to be sure (Link).

Each of these creatures have found their niche within their local eco-systems, and have lived in a relatively balanced natural state for generations uncounted. They consume the resources available, and are consumed by the predators which are capable of doing so. They live within their means, and display a general civility to one another aside from occasional competitions over mates and territory. Meanwhile, the homo sapiens, or ‘humans’, have for the entirety of recorded history been putting on a childish display of wanton consumption and heedless destruction. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that this begs a pretty important question: are Humans really ‘Great’ apes?

All things considered, we’ve had our fair share of positive moments. We’ve built some incredible structures, and solved puzzles that would leave the rest of the apes scratching their furry little skulls in abject bewilderment. We’ve spread our population far and wide, and survived countless changes to the world we live in. At the very least then, we may certainly be considered alright apes.

Of course, most of the cataclysmic challenges through which we have persevered have been our own doing. We have an incredible and unparalleled ability to intellectualize our world and use ration to consider the effects of our actions. Still, we have managed to destroy much of our ecosystem, and of the many wonders we have achieved, few have been able to endure. So in truth, perhaps we are really just ok apes.

It’s true that if we really want to compare ourselves to the other members of the hominidae family, we should take a serious look at their lives as well. Doing this, we find them knuckling along the filthy earth, hurling feces and screaming unintelligibly at one another. This might often be followed up by a good chest-pounding, or perhaps even an old fashioned beat-down. Needless to say, humans are little different. Despite our marvelous intellect and incredible capacity for empathy, we resort to terrible violence no less often—nor is feces-throwing ever completely out of the question. All things considered, we might really be quite ordinary apes.

The thing about this, however, is that we are so perfectly equipped to do better. It’s a matter of achieving one’s potential—the old, ubiquitous notion that one must be compelled not to do better than all the rest, but rather to simply do one’s personal best. Our cerebral-capacity alone affords us the potential to accomplish so much more than the others, and to shift beyond this base-violence into a far more gracious and well-mannered state of being. The promise we have is unbounded by anything save our imaginations, and this has been shown time and again—as numerous societies have risen to show the glory of mankind’s innate potential. But for every rise, there has been a fall, and we have proven consistently unable to maintain any serious ascension into the epoch of equality and dignity for which we are so well qualified. We may build great cathedrals, but we inevitably use them for the spread of greed and power rather than grace and mercy. We may write of utopian ideals or great societies, but we fall ever short of realizing them as we capitulate to the temptations of wealth and fame. Perhaps then, we may best be described as under-achieving apes.

Much of this question comes down to potential. There can be little doubt that we as humans have the theoretical potential to be the most inspiring and beautiful creatures to ever grace this earth. Our capacity for reason and problem-solving could allow us to truly be the promised stewards of the earth—watching over our hominidae brethren and all the other creatures with whom we share this wonderful planet. But where we may have spread equity and joy, we have sown only despair and intolerance. Where we may have acted as guides and care-takers to the planet we have left it barren and unstable. Finally, where we may have been exemplars of decency and righteousness, we have fallen ever to our own doubts and greed—wallowing in misery as we toil ceaselessly for more of what we want at the expense of what we really need. In truth, the homindae family and the world in general may have been far better off if humans had never climbed out of the trees from whence they came. In the end, I suppose, we really are pretty disappointing apes.

-Brad OH Inc.

Celebrating the Completion of ‘Meaning Less’!

Today, I’m happy to share with all my readers that on Wednesday, March 24th, I completed my new novel, ‘Meaning Less’.

The final passages of ‘Meaning Less’ could only be completed at the Tavern on Whyte.

There’s still plenty of work to do. I’ll be giving it a quick round of revisions, then it will be off to my dear colleagues, The Drinklings, for beta reviews.

We’ll keep you updated throughout the process, and will share more about ‘Meaning Less’ as we get closer to release.

Celebrations with Janine back at Brad OH Inc. headquarters.

Until then, raise a glass with us to these exciting new days.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: A Brief Ode to Baseball

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampWith a fresh–albeit truncated–season of Baseball fast approaching, we thought it was due time to re-share this classic article: a poetic profession of our love for Baseball.

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Bases and bunts and broken bats,

Bullpens and secret tips of the hat.

Backstops and breaking balls,

And charging the mound after dubious calls.

Check swings, switching up, and clutch hits,

Cut offs, steals, and foul tips.

Dugouts, cleats, and walk-off hits,

Grand slams, tag ups and catcher’s mitts.

Diving grabs and 3-run shots,

Home plate and the batter’s box.

Pitching duels and pennant races,

Pinch runners and shifting places.

Mounds and moonshots and make-up calls,

Money pitches or base on balls.

Errors and bloopers and hard line drives,

Breaking up plays with illegal slides.

Cutters and sliders and throwing the heat,

South paws and road trips and records to beat.

Strikeouts and tag-ups and tough one hoppers,

Infield rookies racing for choppers.

Aces and shutouts and defending the title,

Manufacturing runs and hitting the cycle.

Pitching relief, close or starter,

Young boys with posters of Joe Carter.

Pick off throws and Double plays,

And crowds all chanting ‘Let’s go Jays’.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: On the Fear of Big Government

purelyspeculationToday, we share an old but still relevant reminder that Government is not–and must not–be our enemy…

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Last week on Brad OH Inc., we explored the issue of government infringements into personal data. This is a serious concern to a great many people—and the striping away of civil liberties such as privacy is a trend which continues to show the detached relationship government has with its citizenry. With such gross violations becoming a regular trend, it’s no wonder we still toil under the outdated notion that ‘big government’ needs to be held in check.

But make no mistake about it people, this is no reason to hate big government; just bad government. In the 1980 presidential race against Jimmy Carter, it was the infernal idiot Ronald Reagan who promised to “get government off our backs” (Source). After taking office, Reagan followed through dutifully on his promise—shattering the government’s role in protecting families, citizens, and the environment. Business, of course, flourished.

This push by Reagan to reduce the size of government was founded on claims of a fictional ‘welfare queen’ getting rich off the tax dollars of the electorate, and the general claim—as off-putting now as it was then for a man seeking public office—that “Government is not a solution to our problem. Government is the problem” (Source).

This toxic line of thinking heralded in an era of anti-government dialogue which effectively allowed rights to shrink away as powers were handed off to the corporations. Social programs were cut, and people suffered. The fictional ‘welfare queens’ theorized by Reagan have been fully realized in the decades since, as corporations are given increasingly large portions of the communal pie: receiving corporate tax breaks, bailouts in place of bankruptcy, and taking eagerly the keys of governance from the discredited and disenfranchised democratic system.

Ever since then, people have been treating government like it’s a dirty word—perhaps because it so often acts like several of them. But fear of government is irrationally motivated, and exercised for all the wrong reasons. It serves only to allow government abuse of citizens. People must remember that proper governance is there to protect them, from exactly the sort of threats which corporate governance has become. We should not fear government; we should utilize and control it to our own empowerment.

Of course, the government has to remember this as well.

The very notion of democratic government is anchored firmly in the concept of representation for the people—and this includes all people, not merely the drivers of the economy. In this era of ever growing population and incredible scientific potential, the ‘free’ market has proven itself a failed notion. But let’s hope that from this mistake we’ve learned at least not to store the meat with the dogs for safe keeping.

It’s the government’s job to put these lessons into action: protecting and promoting the healthy growth of society. This is the primary and most fundamental function of any government which has a legitimate claim to authority, but the vilification of big government started with Reagan has led to a very different objective for government institutions.

By reducing government programs, the general citizenry has been left out of the conversation, while political control has been corralled into the realm of economic growth. The corporations which now run the economic and social systems are malignant automatons. For all the time humans have piddled away fearing robots or advanced and indignant AI’s, they miss that they have not only created such in the corporate human, but also given it the keys to the driver’s seat of our society.

If such a threat came from metal clad robots or from outer space, the entire world would be clamoring for government intervention. Instead, it is claimed to be ‘capitalist’ and a product of the ‘free’ market, and the electorate has bowed their heads in well-rehearsed reverence for their reckless and self-serving overlords.

The point cannot be stressed enough: it is the function of government–elected by and representative of the people—to reign in these brutes, to protect natural resources that rightly belong to all, and to ensure that whether or not commercial entities deign to send our jobs overseas (leaving all save the CEO’s destitute), the people of this and all other countries are provided for from the resulting bounty.

These are the needs of a society, and the job of the government. To fear such is the sole result of misinformed and malicious propaganda. What we have now is not a democratic government, and this needs to change. If we are to find our way out of these difficult times, it must be faith in government—true government—which is the light on our path. This is our salvation—for to fear all government is to leave ourselves alone in the dark, looking to the wolves for solace.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Ground Between the Poles

It’s been a long while since we here at Brad OH Inc. have written anything under our political category—Purely Speculation. As we discussed in our article ‘What Can Be Said?’, satirical political writing is difficult in an age where even the wildest ideas for dystopian futures play out daily on our news channels.

With Trump our of office and a deadly insurrection put down for now, the world watches cautiously as steps to prevent the repeat of these heinous acts flirt with curbing rights essential to a functioning democracy.

In the coming years, it will be imperative to weed out the radical right-wing conspirators who have shaken the nation to its core, and de-platform the purveyors of lies and fear.

Even as this happens, we must remain vigilant that the right to self-expression is not trampled in the mire of national defense.

It’s a dangerous position, and recent victories do nothing to assure us that future disasters can be prevented. In fact, despite the overwhelming number of voters who turned out to end the national nightmare, many also voted to continue it, and on the whole, America seems to have learned little.

So, even as the political divide grows into a gaping chasm, there appears one key issue that seems to bring unity between even the staunchest supporters of both political extremes.

In late January 2021, the good people of Reddit set out on a crusade to wreak havoc on the stock market—and make a little scratch while they were at it. By rallying supporters to invest heavily in the shorted GameStop stock, users caused a tremendous increase in the stock price. Many saw their shares grow immensely in value, while the hedge fund billionaires saw terrible losses due to these unexpected events.

While this casino-like approach of market manipulation is an everyday practice for Wall Street moguls, it became an immediate concern when ordinary people began to take part. In short order, the low-cost investment apps (such as Robin Hood) froze purchases on GameStop stock, ostensibly allowing their wealthy overlords (and owners) to repair their portfolios free of the little man’s interference.

In a move that surprised nobody, media rallied n support of Wall Street—some comparing the Redditors behaviour to Trumpism, others to the machinations of the so-called radical Left. What was a surprise was the support of politicians—on both sides of the aisle—for the Redditors rights to take part in the stock market.

Both Conservative and Liberal politicians criticized the move to freeze out the retail traders—calling it everything from illegal market manipulation, to a conspiracy by the rich to keep the poor out of their dirty games.

What everyone seems to agree on is that regardless of political creed, the impoverished majority of the nation are reaching the end of their patience with the stacked deck of the elite.

The political poles could not be further apart these days, but it turns out that the ground between then is bountiful with common ground—that of suffocating poverty, resentment of the elite, and an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and loss.

This in-between ground is no small thing—the entire planet seems to agree that enough is enough, and the time is overdue that people take back their power.

No longer will Wall Street simply be occupied. The takeover has begun, and the rich elites have been put on notice.

If the left and right can unite on this issue, they may soon realize that they have more in common—both in their desires and their fears—than they had ever imagined possible. What’s more important, they may soon see that the true polarity is not between left and right, but rich and poor.

The scales are tipping…

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

Featured Article on the Edmonton Writer’s Group Blog

The Edmonton Writer’s Group was recently kind enough to ask me to respond to a prompt for a series of blog articles they are publishing.

They asked, ‘What inspires you to write?’.

My article is now up on the site, and can be read by clicking here.

Also, remember that ‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology by the Edmonton Writer’s Group is available for purchase now! You can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

Kind Regards,

-Brad OH Inc.

Reminder- ‘All Mapped Out’ is Available Now

‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology by the Edmonton Writer’s Group is available for purchase now! You can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

All Mapped Out’ is the newest collection of stories from The Edmonton Writers’ Group. One of Edmonton’s longest-running writing groups. The stories in this book showcase the talents of a group authors from throughout the area. Previous EWG collections like Between the Shelves and Edmonton: Unbound both revolved around a central theme. All Mapped Out follows that same format.

Our authors write in a variety of genres, including romance, science fiction, mystery, crime fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction, and many write stories that revolve around world-building.

Having a central theme helped challenge the creativity of each member who submitted a story. If you think All Mapped Out is a geography book, you would be letting your mind wander in the wrong direction. Each of the fifteen stories are about the journey each author takes you on. Some will make you laugh, or bring a tear to your eye, and others will take you to a magical or futuristic destination. Whatever the final destination our stories take, we hope getting to the end is half the fun.

Whatever emotions these tales evoke from you, The Edmonton Writers’ Group hopes you enjoy your travels with our authors.

My story in this anthology is called ‘The Great River’. This is a story I’d meant to write for a while, and the theme of the anthology seemed like the perfect place for it. It’s really a simple hero’s journey, but the idea of the protagonist’s slow-dawning realization, and the wandering journey of self-discovery through a post-apocalyptic future really hooked me.

As a life-long devotee of Professor Tolkien, I had always imagined I would never venture into writing fantasy, as to my mind, it had already been done far better than I could ever dream. ‘The Great River’ is most likely the closest I will ever venture to that genre — its simplicity and singularity keeping it sufficiently distant from the richness of Middle-earth.

Remember, you can pick up the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

-Brad OH Inc.

Happy Holidays

It’s that time of year again, even if it doesn’t fee like it. Maybe you are together with your loved ones, and maybe not. Distance, restrictions, or even time itself may lie between you. Still, in this holiday season, we here at Brad OH Inc. hope that each of our readers has something to hold dear, something to look forward too, and something to keenly remember during the cold days to come.

With Love,

-Brad OH Inc.

Launch of ‘All Mapped Out’ and the Conclusion of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’

Today, we are happy to provide new information about ‘All Mapped Out’, the fourth anthology from the Edmonton Writer’s Group. ‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

‘All Mapped Out’ is available now! You can purchase the paperback here, the e-book here, or contact this writer by clicking here to purchase a signed physical copy!

Finally, as promised last post, today we’re also sharing the second part of ‘A Good Place for a Miller’—our story from our previous anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

The first part of the story can be found here.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part II):

… “So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.”

… “So,” said Slick, “what’s this festival you wanted to go to anyway? Must be something, if losing it’s worth losing all the rest.”

“Yeah, well I think so. But it’s not just about that, it’s about having the ability to choose something for myself. I’ve been listening to this band for a long time, and they really speak to me. So, I wanted to finally go to this festival they have—the ‘Gathering of the Juggalos’—and meet some of the other fans from around the world.

“You know, they’re a sort of community themselves, the Juggalos. They’re united by their role as outcasts, their love of the music and even a special bond with each other. Outside of my house, I’ve never had anything like that and…”

“Boy, I feel like I’ve had it easy hearing all this tragedy,” Lucky joked.

“Go on kid, you’re alright,” said Slick.

“Well,” Jeremy continued, somewhat less sure of himself now, “It would have been nice to feel like a part of something, you know. I don’t know why they couldn’t just let me have that.”

“Ain’t their choice,” said Slick. “If you wanna go to the damn thing, then go. Hell, I left my home, such as it was, long before your age. Look at me now, got all the ‘community’ I need, just like you say.” Slick grinned and slapped Lucky on the back. Jeremy felt his stomach drop.

Mill Creek Ravine was a long, wooded section of the city which followed naturally the curve of the tiny creek. Dirt foot-paths and off-leash trails were the primary function of the park, weaving through trees and alongside the creek-bed where the thin trickle of water which had long ago burrowed the ravine from the hard earth tickled the polished stones of its bed.

Walking a long stretch bordered tightly by trees on both sides, Jeremy heard footsteps approaching. From around the corner came a man, woman, and young Golden Retriever pup, all jogging peaceably—the last vestiges of civilization draining from the park along with the day’s light.

“Hello,” Jeremy smiled and nodded, a custom long ingrained by the rigidly enforced politeness of his upbringing. Much to his surprise, he was met only by distant avoidance, and the couple hurried past with no greeting and as little eye-contact as they could manage.

Jeremy heard Slick chuckling to himself, and felt the chill of night begin to gnaw at his exposed flesh. “It’s weird how little time I’ve spent down here, living so close and all. It really is pretty this time of evening,” Jeremy said.

“You go where you need to be I guess. Not much need of a cold forest for a guy like you. Not most of the time, least of ways,” said Slick.

“I only go where my needs are,” said Lucky, crushing another empty beer can into his bag as he grabbed a fresh can from the sack on Slick’s shoulder.

As the trio moved, the trees parted, affording a panoramic view of the valley, and up to Whyte Avenue. A short hill rose to their right, and Jeremy noticed a picnic table and fire pit which he initially took for the group’s campsite. But they kept walking, past the bench, and back down into the woods, crossing a wooden bridge as they went. Finally, the pair slipped off the path and knelt by the stream to fill their canteens. “What’s that for?” asked Jeremy.

Slick rolled his eyes and chuckled loudly. “For drinking, what the hell do you think? It’s not all beer all the time down here you know. A man needs real water now and again.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m fine with beer,” said Lucky.

“That’s half your problem,” said Slick, and Jeremy allowed himself a laugh of his own.

Taking a knee on the bank, Jeremy cupped his hands and filled his mouth with water, swishing it around in his cheeks to rid himself of the beer’s stale aftertaste. The water was dirty and tasted odd, leaving a gritty feeling in his mouth even after he’d swallowed. Jeremy remembered fighting with his parents many times over being told to settle for a cup of cold tap water in place of a soda, and felt a hot flush steal over him.

“So, how long have you guys been out here?” he asked.

Slick gazed upward, as if loosing himself in the riddle. “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve been out and about, on and off different streets most of my life. Bounced between cities, occasionally found spells of work. I just go where I see fit, find what I can. Same for Lucky. Same for most of us, I guess.”

“So,” Jeremy continued, feeling emboldened and connected to these two strange men, “is there anything that would ever make you stop wandering? Where would you want to stay, if given the chance?”

This brought a pause from both men, and a long, terminal silence. Finally, it was once again Slick who broke the tension. “Stay, huh? Well that’s just it I guess, ain’t it? I stay where I can, where people will have me. Like I said kid, you ought to go where you’re wanted, and make it fit as best you can. Running around trying to find a place to rest is no kind of life, after all. What the hell is it you think you’re looking to find out here anyway?” Slick sealed up his canteen as he spoke, and motioned the others back onto the trail.

Jeremy thought about the warmth of his room, and the lock on his door. He remembered the porch light left on when he arrived home late from work, and the judgmental glare of his father waiting in the porch when he arrived home late from anyplace else. “Well, I guess I don’t know what I want to find exactly. But I still want to have the chance to search for it, you know? Didn’t you ever want more freedom—the chance to make decisions for yourself, to seek your own destiny and see what you’re truly made of?”

Slick gazed intently for a moment at his dry and cracking, discoloured hands, and Jeremy felt his own—soft and sweaty, fidgeting in his clean jacket pockets. “Can’t be much help on that point, I’m afraid. Never had any shortage of freedom,” said Slick. “No family, no commitments. Free as a bird, like they say. But don’t you worry, someone at camp might be able to point you in the right direction. It’s not far now.”

Together, Jeremy and the two men continued, crossing another short wooden footbridge, winding again through the trees until finally, at Slick’s cue, they turned off the dirt path and traipsed deeper into the woods. Jeremy felt his stomach growling, and a queer feeling welling up in his chest. He swallowed back a sudden lump in his throat, and fell in line behind Lucky.

Not far in there was a break in the trees, and at a bend in the creek, a small campfire burned in a hole dug in the earth. A bedraggled man and woman clung to each other near the flames. Further out, sitting cross-legged on the rocks by the water, was an older man with a somber look on his red, weathered face.

Slick and Lucky offered some brief greetings, and took their seats by the fire. “These are Grace and Riley,” said Slick, pointing to the couple near the fire, “and that one we just call ‘The Old Man’. He comes by this way now and then. This is Jeremy, he’s with us for now.”

“Hi,” Jeremy knew his greeting was muted and sheepish, and was relieved when it drew nothing but a brief nod from the couple, and an inquisitive, bemused stare from the Old Man. He settled in front of the fire beside Slick, still nursing his now warm beer.

“You’re a lucky bunch tonight,” said Slick, passing around his bag of beer.

“I’m lucky!” said Lucky, taking one eagerly.

“So, Jeremy here’s feeling lost—looking to figure out how he fits in, and thought he might find it down in these parts,” Slick explained to the uninterested crowd.

“He’ll find something,” said Grace. Jeremy squirmed.

“I just,” he began once more, and took a swig of stale beer to bolster his courage, “I just want to do things on my own for once. I want to know how far I can go without anyone else taking the wheel from me.”

From across the fire, the Old Man stirred. He stretched his back, then leaned forward, a deep and ancient sounding rumble welling up from his chest which slowly grew into articulated words. “We all want control of our lives at some point,” he said. “And that’s just fine. But it’s not the times we’re in control which define who we are, boy.”

An uncomfortable silence hung in the cool night air. The rest of the vagrants eyed one another and sipped on their beers, waiting for Jeremy’s response.

Taking a pull from his own diminishing can, Jeremy considered his words carefully. ‘Control of our lives,’ he reflected in his head. He could remember his parents setting his clothes out as a child, pulling him from parties when his behaviour was not acceptable. He recalled his awards for academic excellence and the raise he’d recently been given at work. “But I’m not out of control right now. I’m doing pretty well, honestly. I just want a bit more freedom.”

“Don’t we all,” the Old Man replied, “but when we fight most desperately for control, we often lose what we’d look to gain.”

Jeremy was confused. He knew he’d learned a lot at home, and was merely eager to put that into use. He felt ready, and resented any implication to the contrary. He wished that he could speak as freely to his parents as he could to these bedraggled strangers—to tell them how important the Gathering was to him, and what it would mean to him if he could only go.

The Old Man leaned forward, “What are you thinking about right now?”

Jeremy’s beer can was empty. He crushed it up and tossed it into a pile of other discards. ‘Home’, he knew.

All week when he was there, Jeremy had dreamt of freedom and independence. Tonight, in the cold, with beer and liberty and everything up to him, he found himself looking back to the comfort of home, and family.

The Old Man smiled, and Jeremy understood.

Soon, he would speak to his parents about what he needed, and the value of the trip he was now determined to take one way or another. It was something he needed, and that was a good thing to know. But more important still, Jeremy now realized that ‘community’ was not a tangible thing, but a function served—it was the people one could rely on when they needed more than themselves. Through happenstance or fate, the men and women at the fire tonight had found it by necessity. Jeremy knew now that he needed to return to his, and to understand that independence was not about being alone, it was more about knowing when you shouldn’t be.

“I should be going,” he said. The small gathering gave him a content nod, and returned to their own affairs.

In front of Jeremy, the way home stretched out mysterious and still. The night was dark and the path was long, but Jeremy knew he could face it on his own for the simple fact that in the end, he would not have to.

Coming Soon… ‘All Mapped Out’

Today, we here at Brad OH Inc. are happy to announce that the Edmonton Writer’s Group will soon be releasing our fourth anthology, ‘All Mapped Out’.

‘All Mapped Out’ is a collection of stories by Edmonton writers, and each story is connected by the theme of maps. With approaches as varied as the writers themselves, stories cover arrivals, departures, and other life journeys.

Like our previous anthologies, all profits from ‘All Mapped Out’ will be donated to the Edmonton Public Library.

In order to celebrate this exciting new release, we will be releasing—tor the first time online—the story from our most recent anthology, ‘Edmonton: Unbound’.

This story, ‘A Good Place for a Miller’, was written specifically for the anthology, and touches on some topics that are unusually personal for my writing. It’s an anomaly of sorts, and I enjoy it for that very reason.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ will be released in two parts. The first will be found just below, and the second will be released soon, along with updated information about where to pick up your copy of ‘All Mapped Out’.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘A Good Place for a Miller’ (Part I):

Jeremy Miller was 17 years old the only time he ever ran away from home. Slipping out the back door late in the evening, he’d passed the Youth Emergency Shelter, and loped out onto the grassy incline which fell away from the cracked sidewalk and sloped down into the cool green hills of Mill Creek Ravine. Jeremy had walked this little strip on his way to work and back many times in his short life, and had more than once contemplated taking the small step off the sidewalk and down into the valley below.

Today, he had finally decided to make that idea a reality—and not just as a detour on his way to work. Jeremy wanted to escape, to find himself, and more importantly, to find out if there was anyone else in the world feeling as desperate to get started on life as he was.

“Might not be what you’d call living exactly, but it’s half true at least, I guess.” The old man with the dirty toque scratched at his beard, and ran his index finger along a scar on his cheek.

Jeremy didn’t understand. “What do you mean? You live here, or you don’t.”

“Sometimes we sleep here, sometimes we sleep other places. Living means something different to each of us kid,” Dirty Toque spoke from the side of his mouth.

“That’s just the kind of thing I was hoping you’d say,” said Jeremy. “That’s why I came here today, to find out what life really means to other people.”

“I’ve got all I need to live right here,” said a younger man with dry, red skin and a stained plaid jacket. He held up a can of beer and burst into a chorus of dry, staccato laughter.

Jeremy had to bite his lip to avoid letting loose a sarcastic quip he might regret. Self-talk was a long-standing habit of Jeremy’s—perhaps a relic of his being an only child of two very busy parents, or perhaps more so the result of his self-imposed isolation and natural introversion. In truth, it was some combination of those, and no doubt other, more implicit reasons as well.

The older man inched his way forward—a nervous, perhaps predatory approach that made Jeremy squirm beneath his new jacket, which was admittedly too heavy for the meager, early spring weather.

“You have plenty more than you need to live by the looks of it kid,” he pulled at the sleeve of the jacket, “what are you doing down here anyways? ‘Find out what life really means’…what the hell is that about?”

Jeremy tugged away instinctively, feeling guilty about his sudden apprehension, yet unable to shake it. “I don’t live very far from here,” he explained, “but I’ve never really spent much time down in these valleys. All my life I’ve heard about the people down here, whole communities, who know and trust each other. They survive because of their connections, not despite them. You’d think that sort of thing would be more abundant out of the valley than in it,” he finished, and a shadow blew across his face even as the chill of night began to deepen.

It was true. Jeremy had often heard tales of this coven of the lost; a significant community of Edmonton’s homeless who set up makeshift shelters down in the woods of Edmonton’s River Valley—a series of park lands forming one of the continent’s largest city parks.

These gypsy-esque men and women often partied long into the night, despite their desperate circumstances. That kind of resilience had often struck a young Jeremy as brave…inspiring even. If any of it was true.

These tales had come to Jeremy through the complaints of his chagrined neighbours, whispers from children whose parents were police officers or probation workers, and the often-elaborated speculations of his rather distant academic peers—speaking of things they’d seen, or rumours they’d heard as if the River Valley was some far off and inaccessible source of fear and legend.

Mill Creek Ravine, though not a part of the River Valley proper, was close to Jeremy’s house, and he had determined it would be a good starting place.

“Yeah, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” mumbled the younger man. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Jeremy Miller, and I’d like to join you for a while, maybe have a talk. I hope it doesn’t seem rude or creepy,” this statement drew a series of inquisitive, raised eyebrows from the two men before him, “I just want to know what people live like when all is truly equal.”

“Can’t get more equal than nothing for everyone,” said the first man, with a chuckle.

“Miller, eh?” asked the second, “that’s a bit fancy for these parts, ain’t it?”

Jeremy scrunched up his face, but again held his tongue. “It’s just a joke, son,” the man with the toque cut in, “‘Miller’ is a beer, but a bit pricey for us. I’m Slick, and that there’s Lucky. Guess where he gets his name,” he finished, reaching into a bag at his side and passing Jeremy an unopened can: ‘Lucky Lager’.

It was cold in Jeremy’s hand, and heavy. “Thanks,” he said.

“So, just what is it brings you to a place like this anyway?” asked Slick.

Jeremy considered this for a moment. How could he take his whole life’s experience and present state, and sum it up for a stranger in the cold? He held tightly onto the can of beer, and pushed his finger under the tab. It popped open with a sharp crack and impotent hiss.

‘Why am I here?’ he ran the question through his head once…twice. It was a big one. Jeremy sighed, and brought the cool lip of the can up to his mouth. It tasted awful—thin and watery, with a strange, bitter flavour. He forced it down, and the aftertaste somehow brought to mind the smell of his mother’s fresh bread baking on cold winter mornings. Jeremy forced this down as well.

“I guess it’s been coming for a while now…I just needed to get out of there. I’m tired of having no control over my own life, and no ability to change anything around me.”

Slick grinned. Lucky took a long pull of beer from his own can.

Jeremy tugged on the sleeves of his jacket, self-conscious now as he gazed upon the crusty and tattered garments of his new friends. “Maybe it seems silly to you guys, I don’t know. I do everything right…I get the best grades I can, hold a job, try to be respectful around the house, but my folks still always think they know better. I wanted to go down to the States for a music festival this summer…I thought it would be a chance to figure out my place, and to experience a sense of community built around something other than common location. I’ll be on my own soon, and by then I’ll need to know how to build my own life, but I’ll never be able to do that with my parents constantly worrying about me and holding me back.”

“Doubt you’ve done much to solve that worrying bit tonight,” said Slick.

“You’ve got that right,” Jeremy agreed. “Still, I’ve never had to struggle for anything, I’ve never even known anyone who has! I don’t know how to trust strangers, or judge intentions, or what it takes to rely on anyone outside of my immediate family. In less than a year, I’m meant to be a man, and it’s high time I started acting like one!”

“So, you ran away to freeze under a bridge? Not many men I know choose that.” Slick rubbed at his scar.

“Why are you here then?” asked Jeremy.

“Not to prove a point. ‘Least ways not anymore.”

“It’s not about proving a point, it’s about being prepared,” Jeremy stared off towards the bright lights of downtown Jasper Ave, and spoke as if to himself. “When I’m out on my own, I want to be able to make a difference. I want to be able to walk amongst and understand all kinds of people, and I’ll need to do that if I want to change anything in this world. I know perfectly well that I have it easy, but that will only make it harder for me to have any real impact. I need to understand and experience all levels of society before I head out into it…how else can I know my place?”

Lucky chuckled at this, “I tried to find my place once too…ended up same place as you started. Funny, ain’t it?”

“Well,” said Jeremy, braving another sip of beer, “how did you guys end up here? Is it really like they say, is there really a whole community down in these valleys?”

Slick sighed. “Community is just any folks that can’t make do without one another kid. If I were you, I’d go back home to yours now. Be warm and happy—the choice don’t always last.”

“Go home, watch TV…be happy.” This time, Jeremy took a bigger swig of beer. He didn’t notice the taste. “What kind of happiness is it when you don’t ever know anything else? It’s placation, not peace! I want to know everything life has to offer Slick; how else can I ever know where I fit in?”

The men shook their heads vacantly, then nodded to one another. In an eerily unified motion, they tossed their empty beer cans on the ground, crunched them flat under their feet, and tucked them into a grimy plastic bag held by Lucky.

Jeremy gazed silently down to the creek below. On the far side of the little trickle of water which made up the creek was a dirty grey concrete wall—the dual struts of the bridge which shortly turned into Whyte Avenue proper. Whyte was another legendary Edmonton locale—but one which his lack of a fake ID prevented Jeremy from resorting to in his current moment of doubt.

Slick reached into his bag, tossed a beer to Lucky, picked one out for himself, then glanced up at Jeremy, who nursed his current one self-consciously. Slick smiled, and swung the bag up onto his shoulder.

“Better get moving.”

“Where are we going?” Jeremy asked.

“I’m heading to camp, I expect Lucky is as well,” said Slick. “Where you’re going, that’s up to you.”

Jeremy scrambled to his feet, nearly spilling his still near-full beer in the process. “But…can’t I come along?” he whimpered.

“Like I said,” Slick spoke over his shoulder as he walked, already turning left onto the path running beneath the bridge they’d been stationed under when Jeremy had slipped off the street and into the valley to find them, “that’s up to you.”

“So,” Jeremy rejoined, sidling up alongside the duo, “do you camp here every night?”

“Some nights I camp here, some nights I camp other places,” said Lucky.

“Different folks all got their own spots. Right now, we’ve got a lil place up by the bend in the creek. Not a whole lot, but it works,” said Slick.

“So, there are others there too?” asked Jeremy, surprised by the speed the men travelled at, and doing his utmost to keep up without seeming like he was trying to.

“Should be a few,” Slick said.

“And…they won’t mind either, if I join?”

“Not if you don’t cause trouble. The way you drink beer, you should be just fine, kid.”

“Yeah,” Lucky agreed, “leaves more for me! Haha.” …

To be continued…