About BradOH

Brad OH Inc. is a thought conglomerate consisting primarily of Brad OH, who is based out of Edmonton, AB. Brad OH has a background in psychology, with a philosophy minor. This blog will feature short stories, various postings, and ultimately will debut chapters of the upcoming Brad OH Inc. novels, ‘Man Wakes Up’ and 'Edgar's Worst Sunday'. It is the goal of everyone at Brad OH Inc. to entertain and enlighten any who stumble upon this blog. Our works are written with the intention of entertaining, while drawing attention to a variety of social and interpersonal quandaries. We sincerely hope you enjoy it. -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 With such gross violations becoming a regular trend, it’s no wonder we still toil under the outdated notion that ‘big government’ needs to be held in check.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…

‘Insight and Industry’- The Tavern Photo Project

I’m sitting here drinking a Trad and looking at these black and white photos. Jesus, how did this all get started?

I guess for me, it started many years ago. One warm summer day, I set out in a frenzy, desperate to find a place to write outside my house. The place had to be just right. Coffee shops were too bright, restaurants were too busy, and most bars were too loud. The point, after all, was to get lost in my work and let the world around me do as it would.

As my regular readers will know, I settled at last upon The Tavern on Whyte as my second home, sanctuary, and personal writer’s retreat. I’ve shared the reasons for that decision on this blog before (See: ‘My Abode’ and ‘Ode to The Tavern’), so this article isn’t about The Tavern itself, it’s about the people it impacts.

An industry bar on Edmonton’s busy Whyte Avenue—The Tavern sees its share of one-offs and curious pop-ins. Early afternoons usually had a good crowd for it’s famous breakfast menu—and stellar all-around meals—but the bar would generally remain quiet enough to get some serious writing done.

Nights were a different scene—the bar crowded with familiar faces as live music blared, and cheap Jager flowed.

I’ll confess this bit suited me just fine as well.

Then, just as the world was re-opening and learning to operate under the ongoing threat of COVID-19, I was enjoying a breakfast when my friend and the owner of The Tavern, Tim, mentioned that they were changing out the photos on the wall.

I think I managed to hide it well, but I was worried. The photos—a series of black and white tableaus from days gone (along with an assortment of band flyers and other oddities)—were familiar. They had adorned the walls since I’d started writing there many years ago. I still had a VIP card in my wallet from 2014, and was reticent to endorse anything that could in any way change the place I’d come to love so much.

Then, Tim mentioned he wanted to include one picture of my novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’, which had been written by hand at table 7. This warmed me on the idea. It felt good to imagine being a part of the place forever—or at least until the next change of photos.

As things would pan out, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Behind the scenes, new ideas blossomed, and a tiny renovation project soon became a significant artistic undertaking.

The Tavern’s regulars are not a homogenous group. Its populace includes people of all persuasions: Punks, Metal heads, Karaoke singers, Muses, (one) Juggalo, Nerds, Painters, Writers, DJ’s, Musicians, VHS Connoisseurs, Horror buffs, Hippies, Industry Folk, and more. And there’s one, Owen Armstrong, who is a photographer.

Owen began taking photos when he was working as a projectionist in London, England.  An idea started resurfacing during those hours spent working alone in a dark projection booth. It was an idea that had first appeared while he worked a previous job—assessing alcohol service in bars all around the city. He wanted to take photos of bartenders, with various themes for each shoot. The concept began to take hold, and years later the idea of ‘industry’ would become a predominant theme in his work. The aim was to reveal what people looked like when, rather than primped and posed, they revealed themselves simply and honestly as who they were during so much of their day—specifically, while they were at work.

With plenty talent for the task, Owen was a natural choice for the Tim to approach about the photos he wanted. He knew the bar, the patrons, and understood the perspective needed.

At first, the intention was simple—recreate one of the original photos with some of The Tavern’s regulars.  The photo—one which sat just to the right of my head as I did much of my writing—featured seven men enjoying a drink. I’d often looked up at it as I searched for inspiration.

With Tim uninterested in appearing in the recreations, that left Owen to gather up another 6 regulars, which was an easy enough task. It took a few beers each, a couple of takes, and a good deal of cajoling, but eventually the likeness between the old and the new was undeniable. In an effort to document the process, Owen also opted to take individual portrait photos of everyone involved.

The shoot was a success, and the picture was shared around on a newly created Facebook group. If a small job was the aspiration, this may have been a crucial mistake.

It didn’t take long for interest to blossom, and the initial sprout of idea was soon a jungle of potential. The first photo was a recreation of a ‘good ole boys’ photo, so next came the challenge of recreating the image of an old social hall.

Soon the requests to take part seemed endless. Schedules dictated groups and shooting dates. For my shoot, I was asked to bring a copy of my novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’. Owen had managed to find an old typewriter, which I was set up at as Black Dog’s own Joseph Rothrock read my book at the bar. This one wasn’t based on one of the original photos—Owen was exploring a mix of candid bar shots and scripted layouts.

This approach continued with the Karaoke crowd. By popular demand, this tight-knit group was brought together to strike a pose commemorating the incredible karaoke nights the denizens of The Tavern have sorely missed this past year.

The final shoot was an eclectic gathering that captured all the remaining key faces and regulars of The Tavern interested in taking part. With this last group of familiar faces gathered around The Tavern’s largest table, Owen captured a sense of communal atmosphere. This feeling of community is not only one of the hallmarks of The Tavern, it also became one of the highlights of this project—at least for this writer.

So here I am. I’m about three Trads deep at this point, and feeling pretty good. Trad does that, of course, as does good company. It’s something more than that though—an inexplicable understanding that has been welling up ever since I was fortunate enough to be asked to take part in this incredible project.

Owen set out to capture insights into the lives of industry workers, and I believe this was a great step towards that goal. More than that however, he captured the life of one particular bar—and the interconnected lives within it.

Over the years I’ve written in The Tavern, I’d often look up at the old black and white photographs, and wonder who those people were. What did they talk about, what did they drink, where did they end up?

Now, the combined portraits of everyone that took part in The Tavern Photo Shoot are joined into a mural that will also one day hang on the wall. On close examination, you can see the weathered, joyful, and mad faces of each in turn. Stepping back though, there is a clear Gestalt effect of something more than the sum of its parts. This project was about people coming back together who had long been kept away from their chosen habitat. It was a family reunion—a consummation and confirmation of a deep-seated understanding between many—perhaps all of them—that within the red walls of this tiny bar there was a lot to be found. There was employment, there was comfort. There were connections, relationships, heartbreaks, hopes, and some damn good memories.

There is life—as complex, messy, and downright beautiful as it can get.

I can’t help but imagine that far in the future, someone may look up at the new photos and wonder who we were.

There will be new connections then—a whole new set of regulars.

Industry can be seen as a cold thing, and the bars and clubs of Whyte Avenue will go on far longer than any of their current patrons. New groups will form, and perhaps new photos will eventually go up.

For now, my last Trad is finished. I’d planned to go home once this project was completed, but I think I’ll stay a bit longer. I often do. To chat with friends, watch strangers, and enjoy the moment.

The Tavern is like a second home to many. COVID slowed things down, and even now half the tables are blocked, and bar service is halted. Still, people trickle in, bump elbows, and chat like they always have. Behind the bar, the servers smile and laugh along with the rest.

In this place, there is a sense of permanence—a feeling of community. Despite the tribulations of the year, things continue much as they always have.

I hope they always will.

To learn more about The Tavern on Whyte, please visit here.

 For more about Owen Armstrong and his ongoing photography projects, please visit:

Owen’s Website

Owen’s YouTube

Owen’s Instagram

Owen’s MixCloud

To Purchase my novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’, click here.

Cheers,

-Brad OH Inc.

An Update from Brad OH Inc.

Already, September is upon us, and just around the edge of the calendar looms October. The season of the witch, the time of the pumpkin draws near.

To anyone inclined to paint their face, or don a non-medical mask and wander the streets in their favourite guise, this is good news, and the world waits with bated breath hoping that Halloween can go down without complications.

In a year like this, that seems like a high hope indeed.

Everyone stuck at home, and not a thing to do. It’s a strange curse for a writer…to have his time at home exponentially increased, but his office cluttered with work-from-home set ups—a sanctuary sullied by hours on other tasks.

It’s been a time of adjustment, and of growth.

But such are the times, and only a fool would deny them.

As for us here at Brad OH Inc., we’ve busied ourselves as best can be, and continue to work on some exciting projects. A new anthology is on it’s way from the Edmonton Writer’s Group, with details coming soon. I’m also continuing work on two major novels, and the season finale of ‘The Gentleman Juggalo’ will be recording soon.

While business may not be ‘as usual’, it continues as we all must.

I hope my readers are well—please feel free to connect in the comments section below and let us know how you’ve been weathering this endless storm.

Kind Regards,

-Brad OH Inc.

The Bushido of Bogney, Part IV

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampBushido: (武士道) literally meaning “the way of the warrior”, is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. (Source)

Bogney: A tiny dog, wise for his years.

BogsToday, we once again combine the old and the new for a fresh perspective on life through the eyes of our classy canine friend. This is the daily living of a small dog. This is the extrapolated wisdom of the ages…This is the Bushido of Bogney.

-Click Here for Part I-

-Click Here for Part II-

-Click Here for Part III-

Lesson #1:

Recently, Bogney took a brave leap—from the top of a couch to the hard ground below. The decision was fearless, but foolish. With a torn ACL, Bogney stood in quiet repose, looking up mournfully at his horrified master.

I had never seen a sight so dreadful. My heart stopped and skin blanched. At this, Bogney became more upset, and limped over to comfort his loved one.

The greatest pain we must endure is watching a loved one suffer. This is true for all beings.

Lesson #2:

Ever since his accident, Bogney walks the same trails at the same speed—when he can get away with it. He does not fear to slip, and would happily leap again if he was allowed.

He walks on three legs for now, but acts as if nothing is different. In each moment, he finds joy just as he ever has. In this, there is wisdom.

Lesson #3:

Now, as he rests his tired muscles on the bed, I watch him at all times. I watch that he doesn’t jump, that he eats enough—I even read his face for signs of pain.

Sometimes he catches me, and smiles up, pleased with his master’s attention.

Sometimes, when I think he is comfortable, I get caught up in something else. Then, I often look back to find him watching me instead.

I smile as well.

At this point in our lessons, I’m afraid Bogney has become enchanted by the sound of the washing machine, and has gone to rest near its rhythmic hum. No doubt this too is well chosen, but for now I will let a sleeping dog lie.

He rests more these days, such is the way with healing. That too passes with time though, and Bogney will no doubt be back soon with more classic canine wisdom.

-Brad OH Inc.