June 19, 2019. Empress, Alberta, population 135 in 2016, has the That's Empressive Gallery, and Gift Emporium. Also, it’s a tea shop, and bistro and, well, you really need to go there. It’s all about Pat and Ross, the proprietors. I went in for a coffee, and spent a good couple hours in conversation with them about their lives, and the town. It’s certainly off the regular highway, but worth the effort. The area is breathtaking.
Are you in love?
“Am I in love? Yes. Okay, now, I’ve got to respond to that because there are many aspects to love. One of them is that you have this passionate urge for a member of the…a fellow member of humanity, and uhm, certainly that is so. What happens over time is that the passions change in focus and they become more mellow. But the…the love of life, the love of adventure…hearing myself talk–is always there! Yes! Next question!”
Who has been the most influential person in your life?
“Uhm, I can only have one, is that right? Because of course there–there are a number of people. Okay, ‘cause the way the world works is that you arrive on the planet and you make up a story, or an explanation of the way life is. And, that story comes out of, generally, the people that you bump into, and…so the people that influence that story become the very foundation for the way you think the world is. And, yeah.
So! The first most important person was probably the publisher of the magazine in Montreal that I worked for, where Pat (his wife) and I met. Uhm, he was very influential. Uh, the assistant publisher was another part of him, but so that was very important. Uhm, when I met Pat…Pat has been, is always the most profound influence in my life. Uh, there’s no one that I argue with more fiercely, uh, than Pat. Certainly, I think that she is the number one.
And then I had a third that came up as you asked the question. (He thinks and lets go a deep breath) Better stop at two. Woodward and Pat. Woodward was the publisher–Daniel Woodward. You know how some people are not singularities?
Uhm, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis…so we didn’t think of one as being separate from the other, and then, so…Woodward and Dope were–Jack Dope, Dan Woodward were very important to me. It was called, Canada Month, a political magazine with a right-wing persuasion…yeah, it was just an eye-opener onto the world that I was available to hear, you know, ‘cause sometimes you can have conversations going on around you in which they just disappear because you’re not available–can’t hear it. But I was able to at that time. I don’t think I could have got on with Pat without the two of them. Next question.”
How do you feel about the future?
“How do I feel about it? The one word explanation of it would be, optimistic. But there’s more to it than that.
So, uh, so…sometimes, depending about the story you’re inside of, uhm, you look at the way the world is and see changes taking place, and you say, ‘this change is better, or different than this one back here.
And I think that as a species, we are improving. Whether or not we will improve quickly enough before we destroy the planet is another question, but I think that we’re well on the way.
Now, inside of all this I can see the folly of being human, and uhm, it’s always best to see the folly inside yourself, so at an earlier time, when Canada was proposing a flag change–this was in Mike Pearson’s time period–the opponent was John Diefenbaker, and for a flag we had the Red Ensign which was the Canadian version of the British flag. Yeah, and…and there was lots of history behind that, and so, the conservative concept that Diefenbaker spoke, said, ‘Hang onto that!’ And Pearson said, ‘It’s time for something new,’ –and I couldn’t see that.
I used to drive around Montreal in my car with a Canadian Red Ensign hanging out my window and that’s how I viewed myself in the world at that time. And then the world went on, and we got our flag. And I remember watching the Canadian Olympic Team come out in the ’76 Olympics–not sure when it was, probably ’76, and we had our new flag. And it looked great. (He becomes emotional here) I’m moved as I remember that experience, and…I wasn’t aware then that it was the right thing because we had all this history, but it was the right move to make. And so those kind of things catch you by surprise.
Now, in the same way, I see our human species, our fellow human being–growing, becoming more gentle, and I heard it expressed this way–that at an earlier time, it was sort of a ‘you–or –me’ kind of concept. So either I would get it, or you would get it. There wasn’t enough there for both of us to get it at the same time. And now, I’m able to see a ‘you–AND–me.’ And it just allows for a different kind of world. So there it is!”