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Good Times Gone

Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day, Alberta Legislature, 24 September 2023

I had occasion to be in Edmonton in September.

While there, I was fortunate to meet several members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The Alberta UCC President, Orysia Boychuk, had just returned from Ottawa to welcome Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for his second diplomatic address to Canadian Parliament. Another tireless UCC volunteer, Cynthia Fedor, whose son is an RCMP officer, invited me that Sunday afternoon to the police and peace officers’ memorial ceremony taking place at the Alberta Legislature grounds.

Normally, honouring cops is not in my purview. I’m more like Hunter S. Thompson at a cop conference than anything approaching Jack Webb. My personal experience has been more ducking and running from cops than saluting them. But as time passes, and as violent incidents increase, I have come around to the police. I certainly have always respected their sacrifice to apply some semblance of order to a chaotic society. Not all cops are bastards.

In Zelensky’s speech to Parliament, he noted several times the need for what’s being called a “rules-based order,” upon which the world must function. We need rules. We need order. Order produces peace, on a local and global scale.

There’s no peace in a world where violence is more or less legal in this or that country, or where it is fine to exploit children in this or that region, or where nobody really pays any attention to what’s going on for an entire portion of the planet.

It’s one planet, it’s one-of-a-kind, and we need to start recognizing it as such. We have to begin to behave as if planet Earth is the irreplicable and irreplaceable home of life as we know it. Still for now, that’s what it is.

Everly Lux, Is It True?

Justice is incommensurate with capitalism because justice is inherently monopolistic. If we lived under true capitalism, someone would have come along long ago to deliver a fairer form of justice. Cheaper, too.

Catherine Lamb, Curvo Totalitas (2016), La Sala Rossa 2 October 2023

I missed Pop Montreal in its entirety this year. Not by choice, but by necessity. I’m still kicking myself. Happily, I was able to attend No Hay Banda’s season premiere, a more niche poptimism.

Valérie Blass, This Is Not a Metaphor, Darling Foundry, 8 September – 22 October 2023

Valérie Blass, This Is Not a Metaphor, photographed for NicheMTL.

Doubtless, the West is decadent. We’ve been decaying since the Enlightenment. Whether this is a permanent decline or just the low end of a sine wave that will arch back upwards at some point remains to be seen. Probably not in our lifetimes.

But there is no political or cultural alternative to decadence; only corruption of a different order, exploitation under another name. Putin is sleazier than Trump. Xi Jinping is sleazier than Putin. Kim Jong Un is sleazier than Xi Jinping. And the eye in the sky is sleazier than them all.

In the film Superpower, Sean Penn’s documentary about Zelensky, someone — a Ukrainian — says something like, “so long as there is corruption, there is justice.” Nowhere is that truer than in this great city, a rhapsody of virtue and vice, depravity and integrity.

To decadence.

Wu-Tang Clan

A common axiom goes, don’t meet your heroes. The implication is that our heroes will inevitably disappoint us because they could never live up to our heroic expectations. But there are two ways to cheat this. 1: Don’t have any expectations of your heroes; and 2: try to meet them when you’re least expecting it. Surprise them, too; don’t meet them where they’re normally met.

On Tuesday morning, I was walking along Rue de la Montagne with a colleague after a press conference at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. We had passed the entrance of the Four Seasons Hotel in front of which was parked a long, black tour bus. A tattooed and bearded and good-natured dude stood in front of the door, waiting.

I asked him who the bus was for, and he said, mysteriously, “my boss.” So I gently pressed him on who his boss was, and he said, RZA. I paused and confirmed that this bus was for the Wu-Tang Clan and he nodded with pride and told me that he was the RZA’s tour bus driver. He also told me that he would be right down and I might be able to say hello.

Moments later, there he was — the RZA, standing right in front of me. He had on his signature Carreras and looked fresh in a black velour track suit. I had nothing for him to autograph, and I didn’t much think to take a photo. I just introduced myself and said, ‘Mr. RZA, thank you for your music, and thank you for the teachings, which have changed — and possibly saved — my life.’

Mr. RZA responded with kindness and grace, thanking me for sharing the sentiment. He looked me in the eyes and called me by my name and bumped my fist. I’ve met many movie stars and musicians and wealthy people before, but none whose greatness was so immediately palpable, whose energy was so generous, whose aura was so contagious. I felt greater in his presence.

I still can’t believe that I was just walking downtown in Montreal on a Tuesday morning and almost tripped over one of Hip-Hop’s most brilliant and influential artists. I wasn’t lying. The Wu might be bigger than The Beatles. And they were bigger than Jesus. You can do the math.

And just as quickly, the boys were piling onto the bus, shuffling off to Buffalo for their next tour stop. So I wished them Godspeed and waved goodbye — and I might have accidentally slapped a NicheMTL sticker onto the back of their trailer as they pulled out and beyond the black horizon.◼︎