The End of the Road 2015, Time to Heal and Unite

78 Days. 11 weeks. In this time, we’ve seen our leaders rise, stumble and fall. Some had risen again. Some just stayed down.

In this time, this election had become especially nasty as American style politics came to bear. There was a ton of accusations that one leader or another would be a disaster for the country, another would be a savior and another would stay the course and bring stability and peace. All cried out that they were the strong leaders that Canada needed, and accused the others of being found wanting in one aspect or another.

Being socially liberal yet fiscally conservative, and an atheist but former Catholic, I’ve found myself torn in the middle very often as the 2 extremes both appeal to me. As such, I’ve been able to do the one thing that many of the sides couldn’t… try to see things from the other’s point of view.

Needless to say, in the end, I don’t know what to feel as this long campaign comes to an end. The fanatics on ALL sides have had their say, and I’ve actually found myself quite disgusted with them. There is NO side of the major parties that is not guilty of having members who have willingly tried to play the games of property destruction, character assassination and outright hatred for his fellow man. And many of those fanatics hug tight to their beliefs while waving their cherry picked polls, selective arguments and “truths” with the thoughts that their philosophies will win out against the forces of “evil”, without even considering that there might be some good points regardless in the other’s views. It’s a deliberate choice to ignore perspective, which leads to tunnel vision and disastrous judgement.

I’m not naive. Politics is a blood sport. My belief in respecting the people who earned their place to run will always be there, just as my disdain for those who coast on a trend by a disgruntled public who are so tired of the screaming, would do anything to end the conflict. But at least, come what may, I still try to respect the candidates. They put their names out there into what can be a thankless job. They’re asking for the opportunity to literally miss seeing their families grow for years. They’re walking out there day after day campaigning, so that once elected, they spend MORE days walking out just to keep appearances, and still do the endless job of serving their constituencies as best they can. I may disagree with a person’s beliefs and/or record, but never the actual person.

But there was a distinct lack of civility, decency and more by a minority smug and arrogant crowd (again, on ALL sides) that was far too loud that has made the whole matter distasteful. And to those who destroyed a sign, wrote “bitch” or other slurs against another candidate or more, I truly hope you eventually understand that your actions are BENEATH you, and shames us all.

As I write this, there are just 2 1/2 hours left to vote. But as of tomorrow, there will be FOUR years of whoever will be our new government (or worse 18-24 months if there’s a minority government).

We all have to live together. I ask all Canadians to join me tomorrow to put down the rhetoric. Quiet your complaints and arguments for a little bit of time to give our leaders the time to organize and try to prove their plans correct for all of us. But let’s just stop the anger from the last 11 weeks to fade as we are all Canadians.

Sure, if they screw it up, then of course let’s speak out. But give whoever it will be the CHANCE to triumph or screw up. We’re all only human, but they’re playing with much higher stakes which is the state of our union.

Canada needs us united to be strong in this climate of economic insecurity. Canada will need our leaders to know they have our mandate to act for just a little while, no matter how much we may initially disagree. But in the end, Canada, and we Canadians need to hope.

We are all the children of this young, incredible country, soon to be 150 years strong. Let’s show the world why.

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A Request for Civility this Canadian Federal Election 2015

So long as I’m working for Elections Canada, I can’t comment on anything unless it’s neutral in nature. But I have to admit… this is killing me to stay quiet. I’ve never seen so many political acts that are both inspiring and absolutely insulting to all Canadians.
So I’m only going to say this to all parties involved and those who are friends, family and even enemies of mine.
Yes, this election is important. Yes, this election has fanned a LOT of flames, where even friends are turning on each other.
But there’s ONE fundamental truth. On Tuesday, Oct. 20th, 2015, we will have a government and life goes on. Be civil. Be friendly. We are ALL Canadians. We’re supposed to be better. Prove it.
#elxn42 #Canada #Canadian #pride

The State of Terry 2014 – A Unique Year

(This is more of a personal musing on a life overly lived this past year. It may be of interest, it may not. But in the end, it’s an insight into the life of a quirky lover of Calgary.) Wow. As of Oct 15, I’ve spent 44 yrs. on this dusty ol’ planet of ours. 44 years where I got to see my waistline go from 0 to an astounding 48 and settle on 34. 44 yrs where I had to live with the knowledge of the lives I’ve saved, failed to, and outright lost through tragedy and simple fate. And 44 yrs to see my life evolve once more from someone who served a few to one who found a new path to help. Oh, and 44 yrs where I learned to write in overly sentimentalist terms. Ok, enough with the maudlin style of writing. Overly poetic and melodramatic, though the practice would help me get a job scripting the next Thor movie.

Struggling to keep the pants away... (with Kyle MacQuarrie, pic by Neil Zeller)

Struggling to keep the pants away… (with Kyle MacQuarrie, pic by Neil Zeller)

Now let’s see, I turned 44 last week. I’ve helped raise over $40K directly for charity in the last 18 months, and highlighted the Calgary food scene. I’ve left the Investigation business to become a Social Media Manager, and apparently a pretty decent food event creator as well. I’m well regarded in several social media circles, both locally and internationally, and even had a chance to highlight old media skills once more. More importantly, I did this all while wearing pants most of the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PTLKPx4kHA

In this time, I’ve come to enjoy my new position as a surrogate father to a gay son (go Terry… so proud of you) and a daughter that reminds me an awful lot of her late mom. Dragon boat paddling is still my passion in sports, though as the years go by I’ve started to see that my final years of competition are upon me as my back isn’t what it used to be. I’ve seen some great restaurants come up, and met far more interesting people.

What I have found though… – I’ve definitely become an outspoken atheist. As per my prior posts, I’ve found that the ongoing hypocrisy of organized religion is a far bigger problem than a support. I’m basically burning my political future with this statement, but I would rather be known as being true to my lack of belief than to mollify the sensitivities of theists; – I have so much to learn about being a dad of a LGBT kid. I’m trying though. I’m trying. It’s amazing what that sort of insight has done to my worldview, and I refuse to ever be quiet about their rights ever again as I was during my theist days. If anyone else wants to give me some advice, I’d love to know. – For that matter, I have so much to learn about being a dad of a 19 yr old daughter. In the almost 2 years we’ve gotten back together, she’s had 1 fiance, then a husband, was pregnant, then not, and still managed to succeed in law school. And that’s before I even get to all of the little lessons I’ve been discovering about the mindset of a girl. I always wanted a daughter of my own. Now that I do, I love and cherish her indeed, but I have to admit that it’s been a heck of a roller coaster ride.

The year to come will be a critical year in terms of special plans and personal growth. If you thought YYC Burger Week and YYC Pizza Week was impressive, keep an eye out. This is LITERALLY the start. – A year since the YYC Floods, I love my home city ever more. So where is this post going? I’m really not quite sure myself right now, as when I normally write I do have a tale in mind. Did I learn anything? Probably. Was it anything useful? Probably not. But what I can say… I’m surprised by the numbers of people who I’m proud to call my friends, my family and most importantly, the travellers who follow my path and dreams along the way. For that, I thank you all. And I’ll hopefully see you all soon. Cheers.

Cheers.

Cheers.

An Anatomy of YYC Burger Week

YYC Burger Week, the little event that could. Founded by Sabahat Naureen (First Founder), myself as @calgarydreamer (co-founder) and Chris Karaplis, the mysterious promo shy man in the shadows, we were all former Montrealers who had found our home, and our hearts here in Calgary. But as much as we did, it didn’t seem to be enough to simply just be here. We had to help, but just didn’t know how.

The YYC Burger Week Logo

The YYC Burger Week Logo

In 2012, while on a routine visit to Montreal, Sabahat had visited Montreal, and partaken in their own Burger event. It was an in-house event, dedicated to simply self-promotion of the restaurants with a competition aspect. However, as I understand it, there was no charity aspect. With that, a light bulb went off in her head, and she came back wondering about how to make this event come into fruition in Calgary. Finding that no one else was even thinking of a similar idea, she started to put out little feelers here and there to assemble a team to organize the event. Seeing a kindred spirit, and a burger lover myself, I was the first volunteer right away.

I’ve known Sabahat and Chris for almost a year by then. Sabahat and I were members of the Yelp Elite, assembled by our friend and current world traveler Wendy Peters, and Chris had attended as Sab’s date often.  I had no idea who the heck was the people I would meet at the first meeting, and was shocked to find out that it was them. That January 2013, the work began. We managed to assemble 16 restaurants and parlay what strengths we had into a city wide festival. Sabahat was always stronger in terms of openness and self-promotion, but I was the one who had the restaurant connections, and usually preferred to be the overall support as well. More importantly, I had a good working relationship with the chefs which we all ran with. Chris, ever hiding in the background and preferring anonymity, designed the back end with the initial website and voting system.

The Competitors

The Competitors

We hemmed and hawed, Sabahat ever being the most ambitious one (I believed we needed months to prepare… we actually managed to get 95% of the work done in WEEKS). We all agreed, there was no way on earth we were going to promote a chain like McDonald’s and the like, and wanted to highlight the local talent and the best that Alberta agriculture had to offer. We designed a system of 16 restaurants being voted in by the public and hoped that by making the voting a little annoying (needing a unique email per vote) that it would reduce the cheating. We contacted 8 local charities (it would have been 9 as we almost signed up 18 restaurants, but we just couldn’t wait any longer for their legals).

The 2013 Nainalicious Winning Burger

The 2013 Nainalicious Winning Burger

Despite that, we were still pretty new at this sort of game. Understandably, some restaurants had considered us to be questionable as it was the inaugural year. Some were just too busy, although even now we would LOVE to see them enter and we would gladly invite them again and again. But then there were the one or two who were actually pretty insulting. I’ve heard some rumors that a few thought they weren’t invited because I disliked them personally. Nope, if anything, there were simply too many restaurants that we sent invites in 2 waves, with a 3rd had it been necessary. Once the initial 16 spots were full, it was done. But then again, that’s the name of the game really.

The competition started, and it wasn’t without a few hiccups, but with such fantastic people as Anju’s Roy Oh (missing you this year), downtownfood’s Darren Maclean, Notable’s Michael Noble and more, it came across as a triumph. Still there were a few more problems, but it was a great week.

In the end? We raised over $6300 in a week of burger frenzy. We were a bit too ambitious in terms of charitable givings as we had tried to promote EIGHT charities at once. To try to spread the funds evenly, we partnered them with 2 restaurants each, one that we considered a heavyweight to every newbie, but it didn’t work entirely the way we wanted. Still, everyone got a lot of promo, and we had cemented ourselves as part of Calgary history, even if just for a brief blip in time. More importantly, a great story came about as little Naina’s Kitchen, the smallest and the least known of all 16 places, came out the 2013 Champion. Looking at owner Erin’s face was worth it all, and we couldn’t have been more pleased.

This year, it was much easier, but far more ambitious. We asked over 50 restaurants to join, but put in a caveat that it was a first come first serve basis. Originally we were shooting for 20, with only 2 categories in the $10 and $15, but as the names came in, we soon found that would be impossible. We ended up selecting 30 competitors, and learned from the previous year to ensure a great selection for our participants by adding the $20 category. Again, we also dared the chefs to come up with something unique, something special. It had bothered us a little that in Year One, many of the restaurants simply put up an existing burger on their menu up for the challenge. But this year? They REALLY stepped up, with so many imaginative takes on burgers made of elk, bannock, cranberries, sprouts, hemp, lobster, pork, beef of all sorts and cuts, foie gras, ramen, bao, mac n’ cheese, pepper steak, ahi tuna and more. It always surprises me by the creative energy of our chefs, and how wonderful it is to be a part of that scene in our small way. And to help promote such creativity, we created the Burger Ambassadors, comprised of some of the best food writer, personalities and bloggers in Calgary. They’ve done a great job, and their comments have help the diners choose their preferences.

Blowfish Sushi Lounge's Ramen Burger

Blowfish Sushi Lounge’s Ramen Burger

We also started looking for funding again, since we thought that it might not be as hard as last year, but was surprised that it was actually even harder as our contacts for many organizations had changed, and had to re-justify ourselves. More so, while YYC Burger Week came about, so did literally dozens of other new food festivals, and we ended up having to compete ourselves in a much bigger forum.

But as a wise man once said… the universe will listen. Things will work out somehow.

It did. We still worked on everything, and refused to compromise on our principals to promote Alberta restaurants, talent and produce. I wager that if we were willing to do so, funding would probably would have been a lot easier, but then, what would have been the point? We are CALGARY STRONG. It’s our home, and we wanted dearly to be at the heart of it all. More importantly, we found ourselves ever more in love with our city, and found inspiration in the people that united for those shining moments after the Floods. There would be NO compromise.

The team also expanded this year, with great new members joining in. Wanda Baker, noted food blogger of Baker’s Beans, came in with her knowledge and experience, and insight on how to approach matters while ensuring that the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted. Trevor Gibbons, our surprise Unofficial Judge in the Bacon Suit in 2013, also leaped in, and brought in a new energy and great ideas to promote our festival. More members with unique strengths still joined in, and now we number 11 strong. It’s a great team, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With those skills, connections and energy, and the excited inclusion of ATB Agriculture, we found our little festival now stood toe to toe with some of the best festivals in the city. To date as I write this, there has been literally THOUSANDS of tweets, and who knows how many people out there roaming the city, discovering new and old restaurants for the first time, and personally challenging themselves to try all THIRTY burgers (for those who are doing so, I recommend our next festival YYC Soup and Salad Week…). We’ve been in tv, radio, print, and online all over the city. The restaurants are being lauded, tried out and challenged creatively in a fun and unusual way. And at the heart of it all, the 3 charities chosen this year will greatly benefit from the exposure and the funds.

So that’s really that for now. YYC Burger Week is almost at it’s 1/2 way point, and we’re seeing such an incredible energy through the city as people run into the restaurants with their passports. We love it. I love it.

To Calgary, from the 3 founders and the 8 new committee members, this is our labour of love, and our gift to the city. And we can’t wait until 2015.

Bon Appetit. And don’t forget to stamp your passport and VOTE by RATING your favorite burgers!

A Brief Wakeup Call – #YYCFlood

Sorry all, there’s plenty more to write about myself, the kids and the storm that’s coming. But, this time I have to say something as my city, Calgary, starts to resume some sense of normal life after almost 2 weeks of extreme floods and loss.

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Ok Calgary. It’s been a hell of a last 10 days. Downtown has reopened. Many districts have power again. But a lot of our homes are still damaged beyond repair, some of our favorite haunts are shuttered for months, and time has simply stopped on that flood day at the Sisiska Nation and High River areas.

Most of us have lives to get back to, but if there’s any way you can spare a few hours a week to help our neighbours, I honestly implore that you do. What happened with the flood and it’s aftermath to recover is NOT a sprint, it’s a marathon. Too many of us will be feeling it for months. So as our Mayor said, when the pain really hits months from now, we have to make sure our neighbours know we are there for them.

One last point. English Poet put it best, in the line, “And They Also Serve.”  It means that there’s a place for everyone in one way or another.  Not everyone has to go tear apart drywall, slog mud out of the basements or clean away debris.  There’s the sorting stations of donations around the city, folding and processing the Hell or High Water Shirts, first aid stations, rest stations and dozens of those little things that makes the volunteer army run.

Napoleon said that an army runs on it’s stomach.  The same applies here, as how long do you think our volunteers and first responders would last at this pace without the food and water, and the simple pure generosity we’ve been inspired and aspire to.  If you can’t help directly, think how much good you’ve done just by giving a few flats of water.  But please, over the time to come, just do something.

It’s our country.  It’s our city.  It’s Home.

Rant over. Good luck and best wishes. – Terry