Friday, 26 February 2010

The day a childhood landmark burned.

The Fort Hotel, built in 1913, was a major landmark in the city of Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. I felt saddened and shocked when I learned that it had burned to the ground on January nineteenth of this year. The fire reportedly started by the VLT machines at the south end of the main floor. As I watched video of flames shooting through the structure's windows and firefighters valiantly fighting the blaze, I recalled all the times I had passed by it as a youth. Being painted orange, I could easily identify the building even with my poor vision. My parents took my siblings and me to eat supper a few times in its restaurant too. Though we once ate all the sugar cubes while waiting for our orders to arrive and Mom apologized to the waitress, we enjoyed the outing.

Not all my memories of the hotel were pleasant. I spent many hours behind it in Dad's Volkswagen as he drank with his buddies in the bar. Back in the early sixties, parents weren't all that concerned about paedophiles snatching or molesting unattended children. There was only one time when somebody bothered me. As I waited for Dad one evening, a scruffy, grey-haired man stopped by the open passenger side window and kept urging, "Come on, son, show me your pee pee." I felt terrified, having been sternly admonished never to unzip my pants in public. I hesitated and almost complied with his wishes. "I can't do that," I said as I held onto my zipper. "I'm not supposed to." The stranger suddenly fled, doubtless frightened off by some noise or passing pedestrian. I never told my parents about the incident as Mom often panicked whenever I informed her of any problems I had.

One evening, after friends held a party at the hotel for my parents to celebrate my mom's return from hospital, my siblings and I were left in the Volkswagen for a few hours. When Dad finally staggered out the back door and climbed into the driver's seat, he promptly slumped across the steering wheel.. "Wake up, Dad," I repeated as I shook his shoulders. He just mumbled and fell back asleep. Having had enough of waiting, and it being a warm summer night, I decided to walk home. A man spotted me passing in front of the hotel entrance and, because it was two hours past the curfew, hauled me into the lobby. An RCMP constable drove us children home while Mom and Dad had to answer to a judge. Regrettably, this didn't end their practice of leaving us in the car for hours at a stretch.

Most of those times when we waited for Dad were uneventful. My brother, Roy, and my sister, Diane, often kept me company while he indulged himself. Having no toys to play with, it was only natural that we became bored. One afternoon, Roy released the emergency break, causing the robin's egg Blue "beetle" to roll backwards into a low wooden barrier. Diane and I received a tongue-lashing from Mom for letting our little brother do that.

The Fort Hotel wasn't exactly what one would call a "classy" establishment. One summer morning, Roy and I wandered upstairs and woke a prostitute. Being preschoolers, we had no idea of what this aboriginal woman did for a living or why she had no clothes on. She ushered us back onto the fire escape and told us to go home. I never mentioned that to Mom either as it seemed unimportant.

Several years later, Mom's boyfriend, Ralf, treated her and us to dinner at the cafe in the hotel. We enjoyed the food but all five of us agreed that the tables were too close together. After the meal, Mom said, "Let's walk by the wall so we don't disturb other people." As the room was crowded, it sounded like a reasonable suggestion. As I squeezed against the wood panelling, my head struck a protruding coat rack support. all activity in the restaurant ground to a halt as everybody stared. I felt totally humiliated, especially since I sustained no serious injury. Had I received a visible wound, it would have justified all the fuss people made over me.

After spending six years at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, I boarded with two families in Edmonton. I attended a public school with disability counsellors to help me with reading assignments and tests. Instead of coming home only at Christmas and summer vacation, I visited my family each weekend. Two years later, my parents paid the rent for a room of my own in the city. After graduating high school, I entertained the notion of revisiting Fort Saskatchewan for a sentimental journey. Regrettably, work and other concerns continually postponed that plan. If I ever do return to the place that was once my home town, there will be one less landmark to view. Losing such a memorable part of my childhood has given me a small taste of what the citizens of New York City felt when the World Trade towers were destroyed. No matter what sort of structure replaces the Fort Hotel, I'll always remember what used to be there.

In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I recount many stories of what it was like to grow up with partial sight in the sixties. Though the book contains plenty of gritty reality, it also has some side-splitting stories of childhood mischief. To learn more about this memoir, as well as my debut book called When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), please visit the Inscribe Writers Group web page.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Book review: Should the Church Teach Tithing?

Dr. Russell Earl Kelly's book, Should the Church Teach tithing?, thoroughly examines this contentious doctrine and conclusively proves that it has never applied to Christians. Along with the ceremonies of the Old Testament law, this author irrefutably demonstrates from Scripture that tithing was fulfilled and abolished when the Levitical priesthood ended at the cross. Dr. Kelly points out that imposing tithing on Christians oppresses the poor, turns donating into an obligation rather than a charitable act, and defeats the purpose of compassionate, cheerful giving.

While reading the book, I learned many fascinating facts about tithing. They were of great help in writing and editing How I Was Razed, a memoir of my years in a cult church and later discovery of genuine Christianity. This book is the revised product of Dr. Kelly's dissertation for his Ph.D in Religion from Covington Theological Seminary in Rossville, Georgia, which he received in August of 2000. The text may be considered by some to be dry and academic but I found that this book contains a wealth of information about Middle Eastern civilizations and biblical history. I wouldn't recommend Should the Church Teach Tithing to novice Christians but it's an excellent tome for those who want to delve deeply into scripture. It certainly held me spell-bound with its well-crafted and logically-laid-out argument.

Dr. Kelly is also the author of Exposing Seventh-day Adventism and From Gethsemane to Ascension. Visit his book page for a wealth of articles, essays, and a free PDF download of his book on tithing. iUniverse and Amazon also distribute his books.

Gideon: 1997-2005.

The sixteenth of February used to be just another day for me. Five years ago, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. From my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) memoir, here is the sad story of how I had to end the suffering of my beloved long-eared friend.


Eight days later, he wasn't any better and I was getting fed
up with the lack of success in treating him. The poor animal still
ground his teeth periodically and it made me wince just to hear
it. As another friend was kind enough to give Gideon and me a
ride, off we went to the vet again.

When Colleen and I arrived with Gideon in his carrier, the
clinic was running behind. Several people crowded the waiting
room with their large canines, including a man who had a huge
dog with a hurt paw.

"Why don't you leave Gideon here?" my friend suggested.
?We can wait at my place."

At her farm, Colleen warmed up some leftovers and we
passed a couple of hours watching TV. Then we went back to the
clinic to find out how my fur sir was doing.

Dr. Mechor examined Gideon that time. Along with more
antibiotics, he prescribed some ointment for him. Instead of an
infection, as the first doctor had diagnosed, Gideon had a
prolapsed rectum. No wonder he was in so much agony.

Colleen held Gideon on her left shoulder as I paid my bill
with the drastic plastic.

"He's so soft," she remarked.

Then she placed him back in the carrier as I made another
appointment for a week later.

"I'll be happy to give you a ride next week," Colleen
volunteered as she drove me home.

I gratefully accepted her offer.

The next week, I took Gideon out of his cage and put him in
his old purple carrier. He struggled more than ever and my
heart ached because there was nothing much I could do to ease
his confusion. As I waited for Colleen on the basement steps, I
spoke to Gideon through the carrier door. He was pacing and
pushing the rags around, clearly agitated. Though my little
prince seemed active, I knew he wasn't at all happy with life.

Since my ride was late and I hated wasting time, I took some
video of Gideon. I had a horrible feeling that my beloved bunny
might not be coming back home again.

When Colleen finally arrived, I loaded Gideon into the car.

"I was at the drug store earlier and some woman fainted on
me," Colleen explained. "When she started falling, I grabbed her
around the waist and let her fall backwards on top of me to
break her fall. Then I was downtown at the bank and I suddenly
remembered I had to pick you up."

She felt so guilty that she apologized all the way to the clinic.

Dr. Mechor was at the vet clinic when we arrived. A tech
ushered Gideon and I into the examination room and we had a
bit of a struggle getting him out of the carrier. Then the vet
examined my rabbit, noting that he'd lost a lot of muscle tone. I
had noticed Gideon's hipbones distinctly when I picked him up
to administer his medication each day.

The doctor's prognosis made my heart sink.

Gideon's health had steadily worsened and my beloved
bunny boy had an enlarged liver, jaundice and his prolapsed
rectum hadn't diminished.

No wonder he grunted each time I held him.

The decision I dreaded had come. It would be cruel to keep
trying different medications on Gideon without knowing if
they'd help him. As he was only getting worse, I knew what had
to be done. The kindest thing I could do for my companion of
seven and a half years was to let him go peacefully. It would be
cruel to keep him alive in such agony and he'd lived too long
that way already.

With a heavy heart, I gave the vet permission to euthanize
my dear bunny. When I was asked if I wanted to watch and hold
Gideon as he passed on, I declined. I was afraid I would burst
into tears as I held him.

One last time, I stroked Gideon's soft head and silky,
chocolate ice-cream ears; the ones I loved so much.

"Would you like to take his body home or have him
cremated?" the vet tech asked.

I allowed them to deal with Gideon's remains.

Then I walked to the waiting room and let the professionals
do their work. I felt numb as I sat and stared absent-mindedly
through the front windows of the clinic. It seemed inconceivable
that my sock-hurling bunny would soon be gone.

When the assistant showed up with Gideon's file, I walked
reluctantly to the front desk. Signing the papers brought home
the finality of Gideon's death and I nearly lost my composure.

Colleen tried to comfort me as she drove me home and I
appreciated her efforts. Still, knowing that I was returning with
an empty pet carrier felt deeply depressing. We didn't talk much
during the fifteen-minute drive, as I was too lost in thought. The
cold cloud-covered scenery outside the car window matched my
mood perfectly.


Though this is a sad anniversary for me, I fondly recall the many hours when Gideon frolicked happily in my home. I learned much about rabbits by letting him be his inimitable self and giving him the freedom of my house. In my above-mentioned memoir, available through The Inscribe Writers group page, I wrote about the many things I learned as well as the hilarious mischief he got into. In the nearly four years that the book has been in print, I've received many complements from satisfied readers.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Sorry for my absence on February 6th.

A trojan trashed I.E. 8 on my Windows XP machine on Feb. 6 and I couldn't fix it. I'm using my old computer with Windows 98 to send this. I hope to post a new blog on Friday, provided this old Windows 98 machine doesn't crash while my new PC is being reformatted. I learned my lesson. Internet Explorer 8 is not to be trusted.