Thursday, September 15, 2016

Knowing Lilacs

Needless to say, science fiction is intended as a thought experiment, not a prediction of The Future, which in this quoted book takes place about twenty years from now:
I remember Monty Harrison, who lived on my parents’ street. He’d gone on to join the Calgary Police. He said that on the first day of training the new recruits were told to “fit in or fuck off”—and they all just capitulated.
From Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer, Viking Press, 2016, page 109 (hardcover)

Lilac trees smell so nice, when they are in bloom. To me, lilacs are a part of my adulthood, as in: Getting out and about; feeling like a member of Calgary.

Lilacs were closest when I was working fulltime and living in a cool part of town. My abode was in a building that looked like a castle, with lilacs lining our back yard. Once we had a summer picnic of the people from all five suites. One of the young residents was Japanese, and, after I briefly showed him my place, he said he’d never in all his years been invited to see what the off-basement suite looked like. From him I learned that, unlike crowded Tokyo, the north Main Island, Hokkaido, is similar to Banff. We had a skylight at the top of our stairs, the bubble type which I thought was so cool. So space age. Out in the yard the fragrant lilacs blew in the wind, standing there for so many years.

I wish I could say “standing there eternally,” but the place got sold, developed into a long condo block of stupid long suites, with back ally access to underground parking. Now, the only reminder of my place is a brassy manhole cover showing a front-elevation of the castle. At least I have a watercolor of the place that was slid under my door. At first I thought it was painted by the younger Japanese man, who did interior design, but actually it was from the older custodian, who had a day job as a police constable. (I still have it) In his off hours he dressed more like a hippie than a straight-laced cop: He must have chosen his profession before he had fully developed as a person. Now he was among peers he didn’t exactly respect.

He told me the cops didn’t respect people of lower-than-them socio-economic groups, only equal and above. That matches what a colleague has said about his well-known church, where the other members are arrogant around him, as they all make more cash than he does. So sad.

Back when I grew up I never saw lilacs; I think they grow in a cityscape. In our town every May we have the Lilac Festival on Fourth Avenue. On that crowded street one can feel like a member of Calgary, walking and viewing six-foot tables for charities and non-profits and artisan things, like crafts and soaps. The rich people from church may be there, but they are not on my mind, not when the festival is more for plain folk—yes, call them folk. The sort who go to folk festivals and community events. They associate their summer memories not with ritzy holidays overseas, but with local events here in town, among the lilacs.

Sean Crawford


Sometimes I run into a fellow, who works on Parliament Hill, who tells me he’s quite pleased to be in Sawyer’s book, with speaking parts. You know that stupid standard front-page disclaimer of “any relation to persons, living or dead, et cetera?” Sawyer writes about people now living, saying… Given this is a story in part about quantum physics, if they don’t like the future portrayed here, they can rest assured that in some other quantum reality they have different fates.

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