Thursday, August 21, 2014

IT'S LIKE FINDING A LONG-LOST FRIEND

Have you ever heard a band and desperately wanted their music, yet no store stocked their albums? That's how I felt back in 1984 when a friend introduced me to a Los Angeles group called Daniel Amos. This Christian band didn't play the usual insipid music which my fellow church members offered me but real rock.

Back when I was a teenager, rock music was considered to be from the pit of hell. Some concerned Christians even warned me that the beat attracted demons and I might become possessed. How refreshing it was therefore when I discovered Larry Norman's music at the Edmonton Public Library in 1978. He wrote and sang genuine rock songs, not like the usual novelty attempts made by other bands to ride the religious pop gravy train. Larry was a committed Christian who put his complete trust in Jesus Christ.

Six years after that discovery, a preacher's son named Paul Morris introduced me to two wonderful Daniel Amos records. Not only did he play their Horrendous Disc and ¡Alarma! albums but he invited me to their concert while they were in Edmonton. I felt absolutely blown away at how fantastic the group's music was.

Though Paul made me a cassette copy of both albums, I still wished I owned the vinyl versions. Whenever I was at a Christian record store, I would enquire about Daniel Amos and get only blank stares from the clerks. As the years passed, my hope of finding even a used copy of Horrendous Disc or ¡Alarma! faded.

Only lately was I able to find the CD version of ¡Alarma! on Amazon and purchase it. To my delight, there was a second disc in the CD package containing unreleased tracks as well as alternate takes of the songs. Now I'm enjoying those memories of the summer of 1984 which the tunes bring to mind.

Since I know how to find even obscure artists on Amazon, I'm eager to buy all those albums which I taped or were given to me on cassette by friends. I've already bought many albums of German rock bands from the seventies and I hope to fill my shelves with many more memory-evoking recordings.

My love of obscure rock music and groups, considered wrongly as satanic, permeates my three memoirs. The first two are available from the Bruce Atchison's books page. How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity is stocked by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's Books, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NINE DOLLARS WAS MORE THAN I WAS WORTH

Forgiveness is an idea which people interpret in different ways. Some assume forgiving a person means condoning their actions. I used to be one who believed that. Now I know that forgiveness means writing off a debt. It doesn't mean that whoever created that debt didn't sin against somebody in doing what they did.

If I still held to my former position on forgiveness, I would still be burdened with what my Mom did on a blisteringly-hot August day in 1970. After visiting Edmonton's Storyland Valley Zoo, as it was called then, Mom made Diane, Linda, and me walk through a wealthy neighbourhood called Rio Terrace. "Look at all these rich people's houses," Mom enthused. "Wouldn't it be wonderful to live in one of those."

I didn't care at all about those homes. All I wanted to do was get out of the heat. "Why can't we take a bus downtown instead of walking?" I complained as the sun beat down on us. "I'm so hot and tired."

"I want you to see these houses," she explained. "Your friend Randy lives in one of those. His dad's a lawyer, you know."

I felt better once we were in the bus depot, out of the ninety-degree heat. For our supper, Mom bought us each a hot dog and a bottle of pop from the cafe. After she purchased our tickets, we waited next to the Greyhound bus for the driver to collect our tickets.

As I stood with the rest of the family, the Diesel fumes made me feel queasy. Dizziness suddenly came over me and I saw what looked like ashes floating around in front of my face. I staggered around, knocking over somebody's suitcase as I fell to my knees. I heard cries of alarm from nearby passengers as Mom demanded to know what I thought I was doing.

Somebody from the security office helped me into a room and let me throw up in a waste bin. By the time I felt well enough to stand, our bus had left. Mom reluctantly hired a taxi to take the four of us to Fort Saskatchewan, about 20 miles away.

I went straight to our basement bedroom and lay down once we arrived home. As I rested, Mom stormed down the stairs and into our room. "You damn little shit," she yelled. "Why the hell did you have to get sick for? You cost me nine dollars you know. Damn that makes me mad. You had to be so stupid and embarrass me in front of all those people too." Then she stormed back upstairs.

Though I forgave my mother for being so hard on me when I was ill, the memory of her anger over the loss of nine dollars still hurts me but not so much as it used to. The same is true of others who unfairly condemned me. Read about how I was able to let go of past hurts in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. It's available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

THE CURSE OF LOOSE CATS

I wrote last month about loose dogsand the trouble they cause people, especially the blind. One friend suggested that cats are also a nuisance when their owners let them roam the neighbourhood. This got me thinking about why it's a bad, and even cruel, idea to let cats wander outdoors.

People seem to have the notion that cats need to roam outside. While they generally enjoy themselves, felines cause a variety of folks problems.

One nuisance is when cats defecate in flower beds and gardens. Not only is this disgusting to come across when gardening but it's unsanitary. Cats also uproot tender plants by their digging.

Another problem wandering cats cause is the killing of songbirds. Most of these creatures are beneficial due to their diet of insects and seeds. Their songs are also a delight to hear. Unfortunately for bird lovers, cats kill and sometimes bring home their catches.

Cats which aren't spayed and neutered cause animal shelters to become overcrowded, just as dogs do. Feckless owners put off operations on their felines until it's too late. Some owners don't bother to have their pets done at all. Cats, like other domestic pets, are better off being spayed and neutered.

Then there's the problem of cat fights. I heard a radio program about cats and the guest said they're healthier indoors. Cats can pick up diseases outdoors and become badly hurt by fighting with each other. Even the noise of these fights is irritating to neighbours trying to sleep.

In the hamlet where I live, the cat population attracted coyotes which ate them. Their owners didn't seem to get the message and have procured even more felines. This makes no sense to me. If they loved their cats, they ought to care for them. It does become difficult to keep cats indoors when they run between your legs out the door but I've learned how to slide through the quarter-opened entrance, preventing cats from escaping.

I've also had personal experience with the loss of a beloved pussy. Cocoa, pictured above, was killed by a dog when she escaped in the autumn of 1980. I don't know if somebody let her out or if she slipped through some one's feet. I felt angry when I heard how Cocoa's life was cut short but there was nothing I could do about it.

Though I've made many mistakes with animals, I attempted to learn from my errors and never let them happen again. When A Man Loves a Rabbit shows how I learned from my fur-clad friends and the blunders I made.

I also wrote about my spiritual blunders and how the heavenly Father providentially corrected my thinking in How I Was Razed. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A BOY'S LOVE FOR HIS FATHER

Little boys have a natural affinity for their fathers and I was no exception. I vividly remember desperately wanting to see where my dad worked and what he did there that was so top secret that I couldn't go along with him. Finally, I came up with a brilliant plan to solve this intriguing mystery once and for all.

On a clear and hot July day, I set out for the Sherrit Gordon plant, located less than a mile east of Fort Saskatchewan. Though I had some idea of where the plant was, and how to get there, I had no concept of how hot I'd get and how long of a walk it would be.

The glaring sun beat down on my head and made the recently poured tar on the highway stick to my feet. I persevered, keeping the goal of reaching that mysterious place called "work" in my mind.

After what seemed like hours, I arrived at the main gate of the plant. A man in a toll booth sort of thing asked where I was going. "To see my dad," I innocently said. I was told that I  couldn't and, after I begged him to let me in, he told me to wait until he called his boss about it.

I was escorted by one of the workers to his house while the booth attendant tried to find where my father worked in that large industrial complex. While I waited for my father, the man's wife washed the hardened tar and dirt from my tired feet and gave me some orange juice to drink. Later they took me to the police station for my dad to collect.

I felt quite fascinated, and a little frightened, as I sat on a chair by the desk officer. Having never seen a real police station before, I asked him a bunch of questions about prisoners and what the jail looked like inside. Thankfully the officer resisted the temptation to lock me in there.

Dad finally arrived, gave me a well-deserved swat on my bottom, and sent me to the car as he apologized for the inconvenience which I caused. I was heartbroken. I knew I'd done something wrong and yet I couldn't reconcile that with my desire to visit my father at work.

Once my dad got in the car and backed out of the police parking lot, I asked him, "We're still pals aren't we?" He chuckled and said, "Yes, we're still pals but I didn't like what you did." He then explained how dangerous such an industrial work place, such as his, was and that he couldn't get much work done if I was there. Though I couldn't understand much of what he told me, I was reassured that he still cared for me.

That cheered me up until we arrived home. Then I had to face the wrath of my mom who was highly displeased with my running off without telling her.

I'm hoping to write a memoir of those early years of my life for my family members and anybody else interested. The years I spent in a distant school for the blind are chronicled in Deliverance from Jericho: Six Years in a Blind School. Visit the Bruce Atchison's books page to read more about it.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

RESCUING FRUIT?

I've heard of animals such as dogs, cats, and rabbits being rescued but never have I heard about anybody rescuing fruit. This sounds strange but it makes sense once you know the story behind what I discovered at Edmonton's K-Days exhibition last month.

As I strolled among the various booths in the exhibition hall, I noticed a young woman and an elderly man behind two tables laden with jars. When I asked what was in those, the woman said they were jams made from fruit which was abandoned on the trees of urban lots.

The woman explained to me about how she saw fruit going to waste in her Edmonton neighbourhood of Sherbrooke and decided to organize ways to get it to people who would appreciate it.

Fruits of Sherbrooke also teaches courses on how to preserve fruit for winter. To the poor, these lessons are offered for free while they charge a small fee for other interested groups.


Additionally, fruit which is wormy or not up to the standards of human consumption is given to farmers as animal feed. This helps eliminate needless waste of good food and reuses spoiled fruit.

If you'd like to learn more about this unique project, visit the Fruits of Sherbrooke web site. You also may call them at 1-780-244-0129. I'm sure you'll be amazed at the amount and variety of fruit reclaimed by these industrious people.

It's too bad nobody was doing this in 1978 when I was desperately poor. During that spring, my unemployment insurance had become messed up due to bad advice I took from a church friend. I had to go begging bread from Hope Mission and receiving meals from them until I found a job a month later. Had I been able to have some fresh jam to put on the bread, instead of twenty-one-year-old mystery jam which the church gave me, I would have appreciated that even more.

I wrote about that house church and how God straightened out my beliefs afterward in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please visit Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers for more info on this testimony of the heavenly Father's providential guidence.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

THE CURSE OF CENTRALIZATION

Back when I was young and naive, I believed the Marxist notion that capitalism was evil and that the government was fair. It seemed to make sense that some profit-oriented rich person would only care about making money while oppressing the workers. I was taught by three socialist teachers in high school that Keynesian economics was a much fairer system as it would supply people's needs and tax the greedy.

It's obvious to me now that those men misled me with their enticing philosophy. Looking dispassionately at the results of socialism and free market capitalism, I plainly see that the former stultifies economic growth while the latter amplifies it. Furthermore, top-down government control is inefficient. Bureaucrats thousands of miles away have no understanding or empathy for local situations.

One recent example of governmental mismanagement was the amalgamation of Alberta's nine regional health boards into one "superboard." This resulted in millions of dollars wasted and massive confusion. Furthermore, bureaucrats in Edmonton thought they could plan for local conditions better than the people who lived hundreds of miles away from the capital.

A dramatic example of this was the meal-planning SNAFU in hospice facilities across the province. Before the boards were collectivized, local people cooked appetizing and nutritious meals for their residents. The word came down from on high that meals would be pre-packaged and sent out to the various facilities. These were bland and unappetizing. Additionally, senior-unfriendly foods like tacos were included in the packages. You can imagine how difficult eating one would be if your hands were arthritic.

Thanks to public pressure stirred up by the Wildrose Party, local cooks are again providing delicious meals to their charges. The Wildrose Party is also pressuring the government to give better care to seniors, including common sense ideas like home care and adaptive aids.

Local charities are likewise better equipped to care for their needy neighbours. A bureaucrat in an air-conditioned office can't relate to an elderly pensioner living in an over-heated apartment in summer. Likewise, distant government employees aren't face to face with those people who need help as local charity workers are. These entities are also dependent on the good will of their donors, causing them to be cautious about mismanagement of funds. Governments, on the other hand, mismanage money all the time and people have grown used to that sort of criminality.

In my own case, I've been helped by local charities and friends while having been harassed in 2003 by my pension case worker. I wrote about how it happened in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Please check it out at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Virtual Bookworm Publishers.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION


What a foolishly confident city Edmonton was before 1987. "We never get tornados here," people often boasted. Small twisters had torn up farmers' fields and buildings from time to time but Edmonton had never had a tornado. All that changed on July 31, 1987.

Throughout July, we had thunder storms and muggy weather each evening. The temperature was unusually warm as well. To me, the gathering storm clouds on the last day of the month seemed like the herald of just another thunder storm.

The office staff and I began to realize this was no ordinary weather when the thunder kept rolling without a break. Usually, we would hear a thunder clap and than the rain for half a minute before the next lightning bolt hit. On that day, there were no breaks in the rumble of thunder. One lady, who emigrated from Hong Kong, said it reminded her of the typhoon weather she experienced as a child.

Somebody ran into our office at about three o'clock and announced that the industrial park had been struck by a tornado. We all thought it was just an overgrown dust devil until we heard reports of the damage.

Though we were allowed to go home early, I spent two hours trying to get home on the bus. The trip usually took ten minutes. I immediately turned on the radio when I arrived at my rented suite to get news of the tornado. It had torn up a trailer park by that time and an unspecified number of people had died.

The mood of Edmontonians the next morning was as grim as the overcast sky. The reality check of a category five tornado hitting the city had now sunk in. People suddenly realized that we weren't immune to tornados after all.

Pride makes us do all sorts of stupid things. I know because it kept me in a rogue house church for fifteen years. I wrote the compelling testimony of how God rescued me in How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity. Read more about it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Virtual Bookworm Publishers.