First Time Summer

With winter upon us, I thought it would be a good time to wrap up the fall with a story which I am sure will give you as much pleasure reading as it gave me being apart of. I am talking about a story of a summer wrought with pleasure. The kind of pleasure which I believe our Father had hoped to see as he strolled through His garden, such pleasures as to cause a child to spill over in laughter and delight, where awe and adventure suddenly springs up out of the day to day. The sort of pleasure He may have purposed in the first place upon creation.
Let us reflect for a moment…
think back to a time when you’ve witnessed a small child, a toddler, or baby perhaps. They may be enjoying the spectacle of dad acting like an idiot, or just discovering they are finally able to reach mom’s cell phone on the kitchen table and is racing around the house with her in hot pursuit. Now take in the echoes of joyous laughter emitting out from between little chubby cheeks… can you recall the look on th face with eyes gleaming glossy, the pinkish tint about the skin from blood vigorously pumping into tiny corpuscles due to the excitement? Tell me now looking back, how it made you feel watching the child play. Just imagine if you will how the child felt interacting with a world so new and wondrous. Those of you with great memories may even recall such times as a child.  
Although I personally prefer a child’s perspective, one doesn’t have to go back so far in order to remember a first time experience. A memory that hopefully causes a consideration of the wonderful thing that life is. Perhaps it was seeing the ocean for the first time, or rockin’ out at your first concert. Maybe it was something you’ve wanted to do for a good part of your life, or a particular activity you just don’t do enough of anymore. In any case, I am sure that each and every person reading this has some pleasant memory of the kind. I would ask that you hold on to that attitude of the new, and not lose touch with the things that put a smile upon your face.
I have lost a great deal of years not following such an attitude. This past year though has been something of a pleasant change that’s for sure. I mentioned on facebook in the beginning of the year about a feeling I had that this year would be different than most others, and it has been. It didn’t turn out as I thought it might or had hoped but perhaps it was and is even more blessed than I know. I would love to elaborate more but this story shall remain restricted to a summer I won’t soon forget. It has been a summer of firsts and all the thanks and glory goes to God as well as the Bissell Center of Edmonton’s recreation program.
You may have read my very first post on this site about the program entitled “To Whoever May Listen”. Well, this story is not about that… heh- heh, suckers… no this is about the fun and eye opening activities I attended with some great and wonderful people. A couple of those people, who I mentioned in that early post will be in my heart and prayers for a long time to come. There are others as well but I would particularly like to mention Braden and Abra, they were the two who conducted most of these outings for us. Braden was lots of fun to get along with and liked to share about God which I enjoyed. He may have been a little na├»ve about some things but his heart is true and pure which I loved most about him. Abra, well what can I say about her other than the fact that she is extremely pretty and I’m sure that if you’d see her you’d go wow as well. I did have a teeny bit of a crush on her but what man wouldn’t. I mean that in the most respectful way so please don’t feel uncomfortable girl if you’re reading this…I respected her position, her as a person and most of all I respected the fact that I’m just a silly old homeless geezer in comparison…lol. The fact is we all had some memorable times together.  
I should also mention this great woman Leanne who has a heart of gold and volunteers her time to this program and the people. She’s also the founder of a new food bank for pets program here in Edmonton which is getting quite the acclaim and notice. Not to mention that she too is quite the fox. What is it anyway with these places, why are most of the women they hire so beautiful, at the Bissell Center… the Mustard Seed, especially the Mustard seed… the list goes on. Wherever there are volunteers there is beauty, but one has to wonder. Could it be a psychological ploy to pacify the beast in many a lonely hobo… maybe it’s so we say to ourselves that if we were to keep our shit together, we too could find a good woman (a.k.a. hottie). Perhaps the folks who run the HR departments are just as lonely and have good taste? Hmmm… think about it. Anyway the other two were just hired for the summer but Leanne is still doing her thang, God bless her heart. 
Enough of that though, let’s get to the reason we’re here… which is to have fun!  Firstly I would like to mention an absolute work of art… no, I am not talking about Abra hahaha… although… ok, now stop that. My apologies Abra, I needed a sub plot and I guess your it, lol. No, I’m speaking of a painting which I created in about 2 sessions and 3 hours, it’s posted as my cover photo on facebook. I probably may not have posted it there if not for all the kudos received. Even as I painted it during a crafts afternoon at the Bissell, a lot of my peers would stand behind me to see it. This was the very first oil painting I’ve ever done and am pleasantly surprised. I don’t think it’s as good as some people say but hey, who am I to argue. Abra even said that she’d like to keep it herself but I figured if I were to give it to anybody it would have to be one of my kids or at the very least a girlfriend, (choke…cough). A buddy, Mark who was painting next to me, seemed a little upset that mine was better than his. He asked where I learned to paint and I told him I had watched some episodes of “The Joy of Oil Painting” and that I used to do some sketches as a teen. Then for a while as we cross paths on the street he‘ll yell out FRAUD…Arteeest! We have fun with it, he’s a nice guy and you know the roll Brad Pit played on “12 monkeys”. Mark reminds me of that guy, lol… I like him.
Another little piece of art which I created through the Bissell for the first time was a small dream catcher which also turned out very well. It’s a part of native beliefs which the dreamcatcher can trap nightmares in its web at night then filters them down into the feathers to be burned away, never to return. Now I may not believe in such things since my faith lies in our Christ and also the fact the culture was starved & beaten out of my family by whitey, lol... No grudges here…lol. But I think they make nice hangings. I placed three streams of different color feathers hanging from the bottom, as well as three dissimilar beads in its web to represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
I had given it to a friend for her birthday but without telling me, for she didn’t want to hurt my feelings, she threw it out. She too is Christian and felt that it being a native spiritual belief symbol, she shouldn’t have it. Well she could have just told me how she felt about and not accept it but again, she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Now, I understand all of this and forgive her but it I wish my hard work and effort did not just get tossed into the trash. I love Jesus too and would not put my faith in the spiritual things that are not of God, but it was just a nice piece of art made with love and attention to my thinking. But go ahead folks and ogle at your store bought paintings, hang your wind chimes, adorn yourselves with nice jewellery and guard over your gold wedding rings and belongings. Watch your television sets and wash, pamper & pimp those rides you followers Christ. I understand, really I do… lol.
Enough of that though, lets move on to something which I had wanted to do for a long time, experience the IMAX Theater at the Space Science Center. We went to see a film entitled Amazon.com which I enjoyed a great deal except for the fact that there were shadows of all kinds of debris on the screen. There was one particular something which looked to be the silhouette of a dirty diaper clinging to lower right center area of the screen, lol, no really. Every time a character of the movie focused in that area,
I’d either be annoyed… or have to hold back my laughter along with a variety of comments to the entire theater. But I did make one friend of mine laugh a great deal, on a lot of these trips. She was a close friend who I enjoyed paling around with on most of these outings, we had lots of fun. We’re still friends but we don’t pal around like we used to.
You know, I always did try to have as much fun as possible on these little excursions. Experiencing new things is an adventure, and in my opinion stretching that experience to it’s fullest is more of a responsibility than a choice. Why would anyone “choose” to minimalize an adventure? I’ll tell you why… because of some life circumstance which has nothing to do with the event at hand, interferes with ones willingness to give in to the moment fully. So for some instances in other words, some people just feel that they are too cool for school. Sort of something like I wrote about in “Folkfest”, another first for me. Good times people.
The IMAX really was enjoyable but it was not as I anticipated. I expected … well… more. Something I did find as much fun as hoped was rock climbing. Vertically Inclined is an indoor rock wall climbing facility on the south side where we fell repeatedly. We’d get back on the wall only to fall once again into the novice hands of our climbing partner. There were lucky times where we just missed seconds falling while the safety line was ill prepared for it, whew. The floor is padded though but if you fell near the top and your partner was not prepared to properly hold you… well it might sting a little.
Being paired up with Braden… well, naturally we had to try one of the harder walls to climb first. And this 47 year old fart just kicked Mr. 23’s ass all up in da joint! Oooya. After climbing a few walls though the arms become spaghetti, both of us wished we’d started with an easier wall.
Then there was the Segwaying-ing trip and wow, what a blast. I could see getting one of those and man are they so cool to ride! After one’s past the safety video and instruction portion it’s alright. Although most of the riding was with the instructor guiding us on smooth operations, we received a licence of sorts so that we don’t have to go through it again. Plus it’s like if you ride with them 5 or 6 times you get the next ride for free which would help for it was $45 for an hour… ya, I know. Gotta tell you though… great time.
The Aviation museum was something a little special for me. You see… as a young lad, I figured jets were the coolest thing ever and wanted to join the Royal Canadian Air force. So after high school I applied and passed the test by one percent but needed upgrading in a few courses. Then night school… and there was a particular fem fatal there…mm, she was very pretty and drove this dark auburn Camaro Berlinetta. While a group of us were discussing what brought us back to school one evening at lunch, she asked me what career interested me. When I told them an air force pilot she asked me to marry her… could hardly believe my ears. I was ecstatic, then blushed and said yes, lol. Just kiddin’… I just blushed.
Anyway, one stupid morning after walking home from a party during winter, I thought I’d warm up in somebody’s garage after helping myself to a pair of vice grips which my toolbox lacked out of the back of a truck down the block. They didn’t appear to be using them. But the police figured it was a bad move, and there went the Air Force. Now at 47 I’ve never been up in the air… so after a quick walkthrough with friends, I needed to be a lone with the planes and military jets. It was a hard thing to be there…
Riverbend Gardens is an organization affiliated with some family owned land known as The Visser Farms just north east and within city limits. Doug Visser owns a very special part of that land which he then donates a portion, along with seed, to the less fortunate people of Edmonton. With partner Kelly Mills, they lovingly tend and care for the corn, potatoes, beans, peas, carrots and tomatoes… I mean the list goes on. A few organizations such as the Food Bank, the Mustard Seed and Hope Mission each have their own section, and because both rec. depts. work in conjunction, the Bissell and Boyle Street Co-op share another section Volunteers of workers as well as clients then visit once a week to aide with weeding and harvesting. Although a lot of the food and work in the sections goes to its respective groups, much just gets shuffled around to where there is a need. Now that’s love baby… thank you and God bless Doug and Kelly
We were able to keep some of the produce for ourselves that we picked and also had picnics, plus they have some trails which were available if we felt like going for a stroll in the woods. I also ran 4 kilometers from the farm to nearly the main highway, somthing else I've never done before. Most importantly though, I was able to live out a childhood dream of mine, and that was running through a corn field. Ya, I know… it was so cool. It was’t exactly a cornfield per say, but more of a corn strip. It was the length of a small field and just 8-9 rows in width though I’m sure the effect was the same. I especially liked when I’d come back to the field, stand at the end of the strip ready for another run and it was as though the corn awaited my return. Winds would be calm but as I approached, stalks would begin to sway, husks and leaves rustle as if to say “Come Johnny, don’t make us wait. We yearn to feel the joy in your heart, to hear your laughter among our own. Spread wide your arms, caressing us with your touch. Do not worry, you can’t harm us, you only bring us life before life’s purpose is served.”  
Ya, they said that… honest. And then when I’d go and dig up some spuds, they’d scream “Put us back under you damn fool! It’s friggin’ hot out here in this blasted sun”, lol. Hey… each to their own right. Just like that Shakespeare dude I mentioned in “Tough Enough 2”. He too enjoyed creating off the beaten path type art… you’re right, kinda like me (giggle, snort). Bill’s a pretty cool writer in his own right and penned a few stories himself. “A Mid Summer Nights Dream” happens to be one of them which we attended at “Shakespeare in the Park”. It’s a venue in Hawrelak Park where various plays of his are performed and while it was entertaining, it was also… well… kinda weird if you ask me. I‘m not entirely certain if it was purposely done as a comedy or not but… it was weird. I mean, I understood most of what they were saying but the plot, characters and costumes was just all too… too wierd.
 I only stayed until the intermission but that was also due to other factors as well, which I told you about in my first post I mentioned earlier on. Regardless of the outcome the experience was nice, plus I had a chance to watch and speak with an artist who worked on some beautiful paintings in the park. I just love doing things that, walking up to total strangers and connecting like we were long time friends or something. I believe our Lord smiles every time people connect in such a manner. I said it before and I’ll say it again, that’s love baby! No not baby love… not puppy love… not even that crazy muskrat love. I’m talkin’ Agape man, Godly Love straight up.
Well that just about covers all activities with the Bissell program which I’ve never done before. There are a couple other things I’ve done this past summer for the first time but we’ll get to those in a minute. Right now I’d like to go through a few things we did that I’ve done before but not for some time. Like camping, canoeing, horseback riding, berry picking, going out to the Lac St. Anne pilgrimage and Fort Edmonton Park which has changed quite a bit since I’d been there as a kid. Then there was swimming at various facilities around the city including WEM’s World Water Park. Now that was a good time and although I did enjoy playing in the artificially generated waves, the multitude of crazy slides is what occupied most of my time. I especially liked the extreme slides which had this vertical capsule you’d step into and then when a countdown reached zero… well, the bottom would drop out from beneath sending you shooting like a bullet through a plastic chamber of exhilaration and H20. 
We seriously have to hand it to the Bissell & Boyle Street in regards to Braden, Abra and Leanne for bringing such life into what would possibly have been an otherwise dreary summer. And although starting out volunteering at Riverbend Gardens with the Bissell, I later helped to tend the awaiting veggies via The Mustard Seed. So, kudos would also be thrown out, along with my appreciation, to a few people who also took groups to the farm. Rebecca, who is no longer with the Seed, and Chantelle (remember what I said about beautiful women.). As well as a handsome young gent named Eric, a.k.a. Skippy. He really did not like that nickname but it was given to him with nothing but the utmost love and respect. This fellow I tell you… he is so full of life and enthusiasm, a true child of God and one of my favorites.
   I would also like to give a mention to Ryland, he’s with the Boyle Street Co-op Rec. dept. along with Leanne and he’s responsible for getting me the information about those free internet courses, the writing as well as the web design courses I’ve been telling you about. I suppose we could say that he may have helped me more than any other this year. It’s kind of like that parable coined by Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie (1837–1919) in her novel, Mrs. Dymond (1885) “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. My hats off to you sir, thank you brother.
Now there are a couple activities done apart from the rec. programs that I’ve never done before and that’s attending the art gallery, and singing a Creed song at the Seed on karaoke night. I could only get up and sing though with the help of a nice young man from the States, Oklahoma to be precise (sorry I cannot remember his name). He came on mission a trip of sorts with a church group for which I wrote about another member in “I met an Angel”. The Art Gallery is really something to behold and it has a free admissions night every last Thurs. of the month from 6-9 pm. The first floor was alright, but nearing the end of that little tour I thought to myself… that’s it? You’ve got to be kidding me, is this the best Edmonton can do? Then I saw some people coming down from the second floor... Ya I know, it may seem like it at times but I am not a glue sniffer, well... not until they come out with something that smells like lasagna, then it's bye bye brain cells! I must say though… I was thoroughly impressed. The second floor was mind blowing, out of this world I can’t believe human beings could create such things kinda stuff. You should check it out.
In conclusion, much of this year will be carried with me on this journey for which I have been blessed. I could have spent the summer chasing after that elusive dollar but instead chose to float about and enjoy the season with some really great people. Experienced new things I’ve always wanted to do and made a lot of friends. I’ve joined a singing group called the Inner Voice, another first. Then, had my hopes raised and dashed upon those rocky shores of love with a little online romance which turned out to be a farce (sniffle sniffle). Not to worry though, I had always suspected but played along. I began to believe at times and developed hopes, a guy can always hope right? My daughter and friends also encouraged it in light of the fact this woman knew I was homeless and everything else. I mean… think about it… What kind of twisted metal, slack conscience dipstick would try to scam a homeless bum. Naturally though in the end, it was too good to be true. Funny thing is, much of the decisions I made this year were a result of love, even about becoming homeless but that’s another story.
This has been the longest I have ever been homeless. It’s nearly Dec. and I’ve been without a place of my own since last Nov. and on the streets since mid-April.  It’s really starting to wear on me but this is the life I chose and it not all that bad, there are still days I truly am thankful to the Father for. I’ve never been much to care about the material things. I much more love the experiences and the freedom, I love our family…for the most part lol, and hopefully I’ll have a place soon enough. How do I know what our Lord has in store for me? We all have our own stories to tell, paths we need to walk and our own crosses to bear.
I get caught up in the distraction just as much as anyone. Have my share of faults and own way of doing things, but every so often the Father shakes and then wakes us to the fact that there is more to this life than taking care of business, more than the nine to five and comfortable little existences we build for ourselves in the belief that we’re the center of our universe and everyone else is just background noise. There are people out there that need us… they need us to share a cup of coffee with them. People who need not to be lied to, to believe that someone cares and that they’ll listen to our story. People, you and me, they… we all need to get out there and share our lives with everyone else now and then. Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee so clear your schedule, get up out of that chair and put on your jacket, now go warm up your car and come get me… I’m bored.
                                                johnnyluv





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