On The Streets of Red Deer…
We welcome stories from our readers. Here’s a thought-provoking submission from local writer Tim Lasiuta
On The Streets of Red Deer…
By Tim Lasiuta
The streets of Red Deer are teeming with life…
There are the sounds of children running with their parents to school and activities. Parents and grandparents’ homes echo with the joy that can only come with the sounds of a newborns first cry, first roll over, first steps and first words.
Gathering places resound with the sometime deafening volumes of cheers for athletic contests, the sounds of applause as the musicians among us gift us their talent, there are sounds of silence as we mourn the lost among us at funerals and remembrances of life. Songs of praise fill local places of worship as well as words of truth.
Our administrative houses can be filled with discussions on greater good, or lesser evils.
However, the streets of our city, or any city, can often be places of deadly silence! Cries for help echo through the streets and can be read in the eyes and heard in the voices of our lost youth and homeless.
With the legalization of marijuana products such as vape, pot sales and edibles and the establishment of ‘safe injection clinics’ for harder drugs, our society has acknowledged the problem that has existed for decades. Yet in that admission of a problem, we often deal with the symptom of a greater issue.
Close to 50 years ago, comic book writer Denny O’Neil and artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano (above) dealt with the issue of drug addiction as did Stan Lee and Gil Kane (below). No other panel of comic book art expresses the sorrow of social issues better than the cover of issue 86…and a corresponding panel from another classic issue.
The truth is that while our streets and homes often do reflect the sounds of joy, they often do not and with that the dark side of our society’s obsession with pleasure and selfishness hides a moral issue that is at the core of addiction that leads to destruction at so many levels.
There is no moral high ground in our pursuit of pleasure. We are all guilty of selfish behaviours; some call it sin and a relationship with God is the answer, while others accept our weakness as part of who we are and dance on the edge of the sharp sword hoping we do not fall across the blade that can separate bone from marrow. Some escape from their self imposed hell yet may never experience true freedom without seeing death first hand.
The result of addictions are many. If we are addicted to food, we gain weight. If we are addicted to alcohol, we live unhealthy lives with major health complications and damaged personal lives. If we are addicted to smoking, we may often experience respiratory issues. Addiction to pornography will destroy personal relationships relentlessly. Drug addiction at any level, as well documented leads to fractured lives that may include homelessness, criminal activities, broken family relationships and sometimes ‘accidental’ death.
The cost to society is incalculable.
What is the value of a human being? What is the value of a positive future in present day dollars? What is the price of joy and fulfillment? What is the cost of the criminal activities perpetrated by addicts in pursuit of their fix to their victims in terms of insurance increases and peace of mind?
Why do we allow ‘entertainment’ into our lives that glorifies the very behaviours we know to be destructive to healthy lives? Why do we accept behaviours in our own lives, often justifying it with utterances that decry responsibility for our poor choices?
There are so many variables that a simple solution is never available, save one…
They are never easy, but the more you make good decisions consistently, the easier the positive path becomes.
If you make a bad choice, next time, make a good one…
Every time we make a decision to go left, or to go right, there are consequences. If we decide to take that first drink, cigarette, or toke or hit of acid, engage in sex or sex related activities in a dangerous environment, crystal meth or fentanyl we set ourselves on a path that may lead to where we don’t want to go. Often, all it takes is ONE bad decision to end our lives or to start a downward spiral that drags our families down with us.
No good decision is ever regretted while poor decisions compound very quickly. Every decision we make impacts everyone around us; our present and future families, those we work with, those we interact with as we drive to and from our activities, team-mates. There is no such thing as a decision that affects no-one else.
We are all human and born with a selfish heart.
As a society, we cannot expect roses from a Caragana bush so we should not expect good results from allowing and legalizing substances that are proven to lead down a path marked with damaged and dying users.
However, once the garden path is made, we often cannot go back and re-do our past. We must pursue personal choices and government policies that reward the better road that may or may not include those sewn with desperation in the past. Making decisions based on economic factors for behaviours with human consequences is not a sound process. You can only solve economic problems with economic solutions, spiritual problems require divine intervention and human problems demand human solutions no matter the cost.
Decide well, the future is waiting…Your choice which one.
Tim Lasiuta is a local writer with interests in history preservation, from environmental to pre-contact native archaeology, faith and telling stories that matter in Central Alberta. His work has appeared in Canadian Cowboy Country, True West Magazine, Mad Magazine, Alberta Venture, in published anthologies and Comic Buyers Guide.
You can contact Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is another of Tim’s recent stories:
Join Gerry for a wild ride through the Slums of Mumbai Pt. 3 of a 4 part series
This is the third in a four-part series on India
The Slums of Mumbai
It was in the rooftop restaurant of the Intercontinental Hotel in Mumbai, that we first encountered Joe Tourist. He was at the other end of the open-air bistro, ordering sushi. “Hey,” he shouted across the floor at the flustered waiter, “make that four tuna belly and throw in an extra order of unagi.”
Ordering sushi in India is ill-advised – for a couple of reasons. First, there is a near-zero probability that you will actually receive what you ordered and second, in the days following, you will almost certainly regret your decision to consume raw fish netted from the Bay of Bengal.
While events unfolded on the far side of the restaurant, we sat quietly enjoying a soft Indian evening and a delicious appetizer of aloo gobi and paneer fried in onion gravy. On the street far below the honking traffic crawled while pedestrians strolled Mumbai’s broad malecon, which serpentines along Marine Drive.
We overheard Joe Tourist ask for the bill, “La cuenta por favor.” (He must have mistaken Mumbai for the Mayan Riviera.) The waiter, barely able to comprehend English, stared blankly, mystified by Joe T.’s garbled Spanish.
Minutes later, as if on cue, a tsunami arose from Mr. Tourist’s table over the fishy tab. Ignoring the commotion, we dug into our delightful entree of tandoori chicken and bhindi masala, served with a side of steaming garlic naan. But serendipity had a cruel fate in store for us. This was not to be the last time we would cross paths with Joe Tourist during our adventure in India. (Part IV next month).
Mumbai (formerly Bombay) is the fourth largest city in the world. India’s business capital is undergoing the greatest construction boom in the country’s history. Everywhere huge apartment buildings are being erected, scraping the sky. Yet just meters from these multi-million-dollar luxury condominiums lie Mumbai’s vast slums. Eighty percent of Mumbai’s twenty million residents live in these jumbled shantytowns.
In the movie Slumdog Millionaire the protagonist, an 18-year-old orphan from the Dharavi slum, relies on his street smarts to answer a series of obscure questions – and collects the grand prize of 20,000,000 rupees. In true Bollywood fashion there is also an elaborate dance scene – and of course in the end he gets the girl. 22 year-old Nic is also from Dharavi. He picked us up at the hotel for a tour through the slum he calls home. But first he showed us the sights of colonial Mumbai: Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Railway Station), the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai Harbour and, across the street, the opulent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.
On November 26, 2008 Pakistani militants stormed the hotel, setting off explosives and killing 31 guests. Nic was in the plaza across from the Taj when the terrorists began strafing the crowd with automatic rifle fire. “When the firing started, I broke away on my own,” he told us matter-of-factly. “Shooters are more likely to fire at a group than one person.” Duly noted.
We weren’t permitted to take pictures in the Dharavi slum. But what I saw is forever seared into my memory: a group of women crouched on haunches in a dimly-lit room, separating an endless mountain of used plastic utensils; two young lads – without the benefit of eye, ear or lung protection – shoving broken toys into a gas-powered chipper. I stuck my head in that forsaken room for a few seconds before the deafening noise and smell of churning plastic drove me out.
From the ‘plastic’ district, Nic led us past open sewers, under precariously dangling electrical wires and through narrow twisting passages to a quarter where the planet’s discarded leather coats are re-tanned. The gutter ran ochre with chemical sludge. Then, holding our breath, we entered a smoky neighbourhood where bricks are re-kilned. Finally we toured an area where dirty paint cans from around the globe are emptied, cleaned and banged back into shape. The gutter here ran all colours of the rainbow.
And every Dharavi rooftop billowed to overflowing with stuff the world has long-since discarded.
Amidst all this commotion folks lived, cooked, cleaned, ate. Children played, old men smoked, teenagers flirted, mothers nursed, babies slept. In this single square kilometre of squalid, stifling slum, a million people go about the daily business of survival. But to street-smart Nic, Dharavi is just home, the place where he rests his head each night.
If you visit India, you may wish to bring an attractive blonde along. Your group will be popular. We couldn’t walk down the street without someone requesting a selfie with our cute friend from Saskatoon. In Mumbai’s main square locals surrounded her like paparazzi hounding a celebrity. Thus began our symbiotic photo relationship with India. Locals took shots of our ‘BB Ji’ while we, demanding a reciprocal favour, photographed them photographing her.
Last evening in Mumbai. Returning to the Intercontinental from a late-night stroll along the Malecon, I was pooped, ready for bed. A motorcycle pulled up to the curb. “Jump on.” It was Nic. Fueled by a couple of Kingfisher beers and disregarding all common sense rules mother may have laid down, I climbed aboard for a death-defying, adrenaline-stoked roar down Marine Drive. Nic laughed and joked as we weaved at break-neck speed through cars, trucks, rickshaws, pedestrians – and other insane motorcyclists. I hung on for dear life. Eventually he returned me, unscathed, to the hotel door. “That was fun,” I said, shaking. He waved, shouted “Alvida,” and sped off into the bedlam.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night. Despite utter exhaustion, I lay awake listening to the incessant, unrelenting, honking traffic – and thinking of the millions of souls eking out an existence in the slums of Mumbai.
In the morning we left chaotic Mumbai for the relative calm of Kerala, on India’s extreme southwestern tip. The ‘land of coconuts’ is a tropical paradise dense with rain forest, wild elephants, monkeys, tea plantations – and spices. Kerala is home to a wonder of zesty flavours: pepper, cinnamon, licorice, chili, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, turmeric. For centuries the colonial powers fought, won and lost wars over the exotic spice trade.
And from these amazing seeds and roots comes India’s great contribution to world cuisine: curry.
Next time: the spices of Kerala.
Thanks to Rod Kennedy and Kennedy Wealth Management and Ing and McKee Insurance for helping to make this series possible. Please support them.
If you go: Explore India from Vancouver B.C. (www.exploreindia.ca) capably and professionally handled all aspects of our private month-long tour – air and land travel, hotels, meals, guides, drivers, entrance fees and activities – for one all-inclusive price.
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