With all my air miles I cashed in plane tickets to Southern California. With relatives spread all over the Left Coast I never paid for a hotel. Kindness lent me personal cars. Love bought me meals most days. A rainy day account allowed me to take my kids to Disneyland, my son to tour the Warner Brothers lot, my daughter to the greatest zoo in the world in San Diego. All my family, all my wife’s family, all our friends, all treated us like double platinum super stars, and we needed it. When we arrived back in Calgary the reality set in.
Unemployment in Alberta has doubled from 4% to 8%. Receiverships are at an all time high and credit extensions are maxed out. The CBC reports that Severance Packages are running out and with no one hiring, the Prime Minister has extended unemployment insurance for the Province. Local news is reporting that vacancy downtown is higher than 20%, crime is up, and for the first time in five decades, the Provincial population is declining. On top of this is Quebec saying they won’t let Alberta run a pipeline through to the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Americans won’t let another pipeline run through North Dakota, British Columbia won’t let a pipeline run through what is literally (not figuratively) the middle of no-where. Kijiji is packed with free furniture, air tools for under a hundred dollars, and tons of postings for jobs. There is so much for sale the price is now free. Transit tickets are underselling. More houses are foreclosed and the realty market is finally entering a fall…some fear a free fall…and no one knows where the bottom is.
Most people grabbed their campers and headed into the mountains for the summer. I was lucky enough to head to California where we smuggled lunches into theme parks and aboard aircraft carriers to avoid the expensive pre-cooked fare. My cousins and friends are doing well in California and I say good for them. I saw a Lamborghini drive downtown today near the Bow and while other are saying ‘fuck that guy’ I say ‘thank the cosmos it still creates guys like that…and the one thousand well paid blue collar workers in Italy that still have a job.’
Canada might be entering a depression but Alberta is approaching a state of fear. 10% inflation has not been seen in North America (outside of Mexico) since the 1970’s…but we are about to get there. Production and Pipeline companies are now so cheap that small chemical companies in the States are buying them out just to vertically integrate. Some families are illegally camping because they cannot afford rent. Defaults on loans are reaching an all time high, renovation companies have record low orders for the onset of winter…and no one seems to care. Not the Liberal government in Ottawa, not the NDP government in Alberta, certainly not anyone in the States and last on the list of who gives a shit is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In fact, the people who have the most amount of sympathy are the hard working blue and white collar people of Canada. The people you meet on the street every day, who sympathize, for real, who would gladly do anything for you if only you could swallow your pride enough to ask. O Canada! Your people are your greatest pride.
While the world capsizes all around us and I wonder if I’m going to make it another year, another month, another week, on whatever I have left, I have asked the world of my friends and families to save my children from the depression that is the summer of 2016. Take us, please, I said, and show them a good time. And they did. And it was good. And though Hollywood on its best day looks like the worst Canadian Ghetto on its worst day, we went, we saw, we amazed. We rode everything but Mr. Toad. I marveled at the teacups, Dumbo’s revolving circus, the simplicity and beauty of Peter Pan’s Adventure and simple marvelous stories of Pinocchio and Snow White. We shot forward on Space Mountain, traveled back in time on Pirates of the Caribbean, and looked across the Mark Twain to what used to be Tom Sawyer’s Island hoping one day we would return to see an Ewok village.
I am a huge fan of Tomorrowland as I am always interested in what is now the Woody vs. Buzz dialectic, but this trip I was enraptured by Fantasyland. I found myself in the shadow of the Matterhorn finding relief from the heat and on the horses-only carousel with my daughter wishing I was in not another place, but this place, with her, smiling forever. I’ve been here before, even with the kids before, but I’ve never experienced what Walt meant when he wanted to design a place to take away people’s fears and instill them with hope. He was a complicated guy, but Disneyland is a pretty simple place. For our budget, we did it on the cheap, and we will never regret it. Because for a few hours, we lived in Fantasyland. We wanted to get away, and we did. It’s the harsh reality to come back and face another year of unemployment. Another year of dead bottom expenses, another year of going without. I won’t be getting the kids new school clothes and new supplies this year. We simply can’t afford it. This at a time when the Saudis decide they can forfeit a hundred billion just to teach the Americans (and Canadians) a lesson: how dare you sell your own energy in your own market for just as much as us.
I dream of returning to Fantasyland with my kids whenever I can. It’ll be the first thing I save up for when I am re-employed. I’ll always be thankful for what I know as Fantasyland – the Southern California filled with studios, theme parks, our cousins and friends - and what they all did when we were so down, so scared, our future so uncertain.