Putting the ‘Wow’ in Pow Wow


2017PW-PosterThe Na-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence) lucked out with the weather for the annual traditional Pow Wow held Saturday, June 24th, at the Fort York historical site. The day was sunny, yet breezy, and very well attended.

Barbette Kensington and I were early to this celebration of song, dance and ceremony. From the impressive Grand Entry, through an entire day filled with the pounding heartbeat of the drums competing to be heard over the cheerful chatter and laughter, the old Fort was a sea of smiling faces of all shapes and colours

Powwows honour Native tradition, and I was grateful to our emcees, Steve Teekens and Jay Lomax, who outlined the elaborate etiquette and protocol that is integral to understanding the rituals and colourful regalia.

The Grand Entry, for instance, is not to be photographed nor videotaped, since this is a sacred moment during which the members of the procession may be praying for loved ones or members of the community. The regalia, often the work of many hands over a long period of time, represent the totems of the wearers, with the colours reflecting their spirits. No one may touch any part of a dancer’s regalia without first asking permission. rox at pow wow June 2017 with dancer

” The moment you take on the role of an initiated dancer, a great deal of pressure is put on you by the people, not only to perform, but to be a role model, to be honorable. When you put on regalia, you take on the essence of the sacred animal, honor culture, tradition and the Creator.

“Being humble should be the number one priority for any dancer, thankful that you are allowed to dance with the animals you wear, your sweat and suffering are for the people, making people proud of who you are, showing your respect, because you represent them,” said Elder Antoine Littlewolf.

One of the unwritten rules of powwow is that no one should touch another’s regalia without first being given permission by the maker or owner.

Eagle feathers, which traditionally are earned, and all feathers, for that matter, should be treated with special care. It’s necessary to be humble and respectful to each feather being worn. The spirits of all animals being worn must be respected above all else.

Care and respect of the sacred circle extends, not only to respecting the arbor, sacred objects and other dancers, but to the whole atmosphere, the ground themselves, mother earth.”     http://ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/powwow-etiquette-dictates-respect-tradition-0)

Arena Director Earl Oegema handily kept the dancers in line in accordance with all of the tradition and protocol. “Powwow etiquette and tradition dictates that the Grass dancers be the first to enter the arbor, symbolically stomping down the grass to provide a flattened circle for the rest of the dancers to follow. They enter the arbor from the south entrance and go clockwise with the drum, following the wheeling movement of the sun, moon and stars.”

The Grand Entry is next, followed by songs and prayers, during which the attendees are asked to stand as a sign of respect. The beauty, colours, and the dignified spirituality on display before us brought tears to my eyes.

Bill and Vicki Wood PowWow June 2017We’d run into Vicki and Bill Wood (the Woodies, Eye Eye) on our way in to the Pow Wow, and spent some time chatting with them. Now it was time to begin our walkabout through the 50 craft vendor and information booths on site, chatting with old and new friends.

We were on a mission to find the Anishnawbe Health Toronto booth, as Barbette had some questions for the staff. On the way, we flirted and chatted with some of Toronto’s finest, part of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit, established in September 1992 , the first major urban police service in Canada to establish a unit to deal specifically with the issues faced by the Aboriginal community.

pow wow at pow wow June 2017With lunch on our minds, we were happy to see our friend Shawn Adler‘s Pow Wow Cafe was represented with a food booth on site. From the moment the Cafe opened, the foodies were lined up for blocks; the food IS that good. So we were lucky to see the multitalented artists, Annalee Orr and Nancy Beiman, close to the head of the very long line up for his Indian Tacos. They asked us to join them, and with little persuasion, and some apologies to those we’d line cut, we did, and soon had our plates of bannock smothered in beef, vegetables, salad and sour cream clutched in our hands.

Annalee and son Daniel had established a little ‘camp’ under the one tree in the Fort, and there we quickly polished off the tacos. Bellies full, it was time to visit the vendor booths.

Barbette knows many of the craftspeople and vendors from Native Centre encounters, so we made a very slow promenade, admiring the jewellery and artwork, being inspired by the craftworks, and chatting with some of the artists.

dancers pow wow June 2017Dancers in full regalia drifted through the crowds, brilliant visions of colour and sound as the jingles attached to heels rang.

We were delighted to run into Leslie Saunders, former manager of The Meeting Place, a community drop in centre for those in need in the Bathurst/Queen area. Nearly half of the centre’s participants are First Nations people.

rox barbette david de poe Pow Wow June 2017And it is always a joy to encounter David DePoe, community activist, retired teacher, and Kensington Marketeer, best-known for his activities in the late 1960s as an unofficial leader of the Yorkville hippies, and founder of the Diggers movement in Yorkville.

What a pleasure it was to be introduced to the legendary, multi-disciplinary, artist, Stella Walker. The woman’s energy is breathtaking! She’s a singer, writer, actor, producer, comedian and painter, and in the middle of producing a new musical comedy that includes content from award winning Newfoundland writer, actor and comedian Andy Jones, and will be directed by John Mitchell. Barbette appears in one of Stella’s many videos – Under the B .. Busted.

As the day wore on, my energy was starting to flag, and we made our way out of the Fort, stopping briefly to watch the talented hoop dancers and inter-tribal dance exhibitions. If we had stayed, we would have been welcome to join in the Feast, and to enjoy the evenings musical offerings, which included Crystal Shawanda, the award winning country music artist.

aboriginal celebration June 2017

If you’ve got Pow Wow envy, you’ll have another chance to join the fun on Wednesday, June 28th, when the 8th Annual Aboriginal History Month Celebration at Yonge & Dundas Square begins at noon.

There’s a great line-up of entertainers, including Amanda Rheaume performing at 7 pm, along with an all day Kid’s Arts & Crafts Tent, craft vendors, and Indigenous agencies showcasing what’s available in the community. Hope to see you there!

 

The 24 News Cycle Will Kill You


My name is Roxanne and I am a political news junkie. There. I’ve said it. And it’s the truth.

The 24 hour news cycle is like heroin – it’s a daily hit. At first you’re just chipping. You walk by the TV set and catch the end of some political atrocity that the talking heads are dicing into increasingly small, indigestible bits, and you sniff at the silliness. Maybe you suck your teeth at some inanity uttered by an obviously biased and paid hack.

But the next time you pass that same TV, you realize you’re beginning to recognize the lead characters in this drama, those with the weird names like Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. Before you know it, you’re wondering when Mika and Joe Scarborough will set a date for their wedding, and you’re even starting to know the bit players.

As you sink deeper into the drama that political news has become, your ‘event TV‘ viewing starts to largely consist of the big names, like Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell, and Sunday is definitely broken into a Face The Nation morning and a Last Week with John Oliver night.newsjunkie get your fix

Comic relief soon consists only of the monologues from the late night hosts riding the Orange Wave; Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. And Samantha Bee is your new girlcrush.

Nothing else can hold your attention. Your regularly scheduled relaxation television viewing has been supplanted by the need to be constantly on guard and aware of what the politicians are trying to slide past the people. Your love/hate relationship with current events has you so tied up in knots that you’d throw your television out the window, but then you wouldn’t be able to punch the screen!

Your background music now consists of CNNLive, and listening to the broadcasted testimony of Jeff Sessions, and the hours of posturing that follow as the anchors play good cop/back cop trying to uncover what just happened … and you realize …

you’re in deep. No longer content with news clips from as long as a week ago, nope, last week can’t give the hit of a clip from the night before .. or the hour before.

twittereffect1You’re as addicted as any junkie jonesing for a fix. You’re hooked on news, man, shucking and jiving and slapping your arm to pop up a vein.

The intensity of the last few months has left many breathless – the constant tweeting, the ridiculous and unenforceable edicts, the Executive Orders carving great swaths of America into more caviar for the 1% while taking the very bread out of the mouths of children – our noses are being constantly rubbed into the most shameless and flagrant abuse of power seen on our shores, in our lifetime.

We have front row tickets to the unraveling of democracy. You can look away, but it’s like that car crash on the highway … you know you’re gonna slow down and take a peek at the carnage, just like every other looky loo.

CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Headline News and all the little brother and sister cable and internet networks know that they have a willing and captive audience slavering for that next news hit. And they have 24 hours of airwaves to fill. When the cravings kick in, it’s a match made in hell.

the rich build networks and the poor watch themYou want to hear more, more, more – but there’s a danger in this addiction. Networks have their own politics, and trying to keep viewers tuning in is their quest. Regardless of how ‘fair and balanced’ these behemoths purport to be, their real bias is to finding what angle will bring in the most viewers, and pump in those yummy advertising dollars. Rachel Maddow may love her cheap blazers, but the execs are wearing much more expensive apparel, and that’s just the way they like it.

While it is indeed wonderful to have this banquet of 24/7 information at our fingertips, there’s a real risk in letting the drip drip drip of what can be mere speculation and innuendo turn us into armchair quarterbacks, pseudo-intellectuals, prisoners of little bubble fortresses where all within think alike and talk alike, who can neither hear nor understand those in all the other bubble fortresses who don’t think and talk exactly like us.

The divisiveness that has become our new and violent normal has it’s seeds in the lengths networks will go to, to shape their viewers points of view.

maddow-fox-newsThe 24 hour news cycle presumes that every issue has only two sides to it, and only one side is right. Of course, that’s neither true nor tenable. You are allowed, and even encouraged, as part of your civic duty, to understand the issues that preoccupy your nation and government. A news network, supposedly neutral, does not have the right to impose it’s own morality and biases upon it’s viewers. Your choice of network should not also be the source of your ethics and morality.

And yet – the networks often do exactly that. The networks act as the ‘dealers’ selling hits of outrage to the news junkies.

In the hands of the partisan network, the viewer learns little hard information, nor is there much depth to any argument. The ‘panels,’ made up of ‘experts’ chosen to imply that all sides of an issue are covered, are often little more than a group of people paid to whip up alarm, outrage, and frenzied fear.

And yes – that’s true of both the right and the left leaning media.

Yes, we need to be aware of the issues of the day, in our own country and in those countries where decisions made by their leadership can have an impact on the safety and governance of our own.

But I think it’s time to sort out the wheat from the chaff; the journalism from the junk food. Time to reward the solid writers and broadcasters who attempt, within their network, to work to actual fair and balanced standards. Time to turn the channel from those who depend on an atmosphere of fear and uncertainly, to those measured voices who seek to inform and explain what many of us may know instinctively, but have been counseled to ignore by those who profit from this destabilized and increasingly fractured populace.

I quitBut this is all too much. It’s deadly. We’ve go to get off this treadmill of constant political madness. We have to ignore the tweets and calls to action that are destabilizing not only America, but most of the world.

In the past, addiction was a personal thing.. being hooked on this political madness hurts too many people around us. I gotta stop letting this run my mind and my life.

I have to get a grip on this news addiction. I’ve gotta get off this apple sauce. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to have to go cold turkey, and stay off the politics needle until there’s something I can actually do to impact the injustices I condemn.

Ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant. A little, biased, knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And turning the people against each other only profits those who market civil unrest and war.

Resist. But resist wisely, and from a place of common ground and a desire to work together, not tear each other apart.

 

The move that would not die …


I’ve been pretty much off the ‘net and the grid for the better part of a month. Call it ‘interesting times,’ but dang, I’ve been keeping busy!

Farley on chair March 2017When we sold the house last fall and moved into a suite of rooms, it was with the fervent hope that we could stay put for a while. But it was not to be … a girl needs her kitchen and her ‘things’ around her, and my poor cats were traumatized by the presence of another cat in the residence. It was all too much.

So, come spring, we were once again looking for a ‘soft place to fall,’ with limited success at first. (see https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/mrs-parker-and-the-9th-circle-of-hell/)

It took a lot of shoe leather, a lot of inspections of possible living spaces, an incredible amount of rejection, and finally some canny wheeling and dealing to secure a place for June 1st. With several weeks to go before the move, we set to packing up and preparing for the move.

Ha! As if! No, once again, life insisted on getting in the way, and suddenly I was in the middle of not one, but two, musical opportunities, both of which had to be rehearsed and ready to go right around the time of the move.

hair flyer May 2017And with all of the stress around packing and moving, rehearsing a reunion of the cast of the musical “Hair,” and the putting together of the Segarini Riddock Band to debut today (Sunday June 11th) for a dear friend’s memorial/wake, my health decided to take a left turn, requiring a stream of doctor’s appointments. With rehearsals literally every second day, I was a tad pressed for time, but I handled it all with grace and … oh, who am I kidding?

Much sweat, fear, pain, exhaustion, and pressure to perform, while juggling all of the stress and strain leading up to the move.

I was a mess.

Hair ensemble in song May 25 2017On the plus side, the Hair gig was a joy on the day. The original Toronto production of the musical Hair began in 1969, and ran for a sold out 52 week run. The Tribe, which included original cast members Paul Ryan, Clint Ryan, Kid Carson, Frank Moore, Jim Peters, John Stainton, Harriet Teear, Amber Wendelborg James, and Shelley Somers, was filled out with vocalist Debbie Fleming and myself for this incarnation.

The Tribe are amongst the finest people you could ever meet – good hearted, fun, and generous with their time and their talents. Under the excellent creative direction of Dylan Bell, we rehearsed an acappella arrangement of some of the most famous songs from the musical, aided and abetted by the vocal group, Retrocity. We had a rocky start to the exercise, and lost a few of the cast along the way, but by the time 8 pm on May 25th rolled around, the Tribe was ready and raring to go.

And so, I found myself on stage with nine of the original cast members of the Toronto production of ‘Hair” at the Jane Mallett Theatre in the St Lawrence Centre, in front of an audience of 450 happy hippies. You can see the entire production here:

With that production under my belt, it was time to crack down and prepare for the move. No, I’m kidding again. Now it was time to see more doctors for more fun with pointed instruments. (Spoiler alert: I’m fine. No worries) THEN it was time for the move.

We’d downsized radically prior to leaving the house in the fall, but now we were going to have to divest of even more ‘stuff’ if we were going to fit into a tiny, two bedroom, bungalow in the Upper Beaches.

By now, you know I’m kidding if I say we got that all taken care of before it was time to load the van.

It was madness.

242 Bingham move june 2017Everything was everywhere, and on top of that, whatever boxes I’d carefully set aside to be safely brought to the new place by car, somehow wound up on the truck and under hundreds of other heavy boxes.. And so I spent another week in flip flops, unable to find my shoes … or my orange clogs … or my hair dryer …

We had intended to lay carpeting before moving in the boxes and furniture, so as not to scuff the floors. The best laid plans, however, resulted in the carpets being laid willy nilly through the house, nowhere near their permanent destination, and promptly buried under heavy cartons and furniture. To free the carpets meant moving hundreds of boxes, over and over again and a tad to the left, as rugs were found, taken outside to be soundly beaten for having been led astray, and then dragged back in to the house, where the same hundreds of boxes were then moved, over and over and a tad to the right, so that the carpeting could be laid properly.

242 Bingham walk thru June 11 2017It is Day Eleven of the move that will not die, and we are still tracing a crooked path through an obstacle course to get from the front to the back door.

It will be okay. We will sort things, move things, toss things and donate things. It will be okay.

242 Bingham desk June 11 2017But right now, it’s a rat’s nest. Here’s my view from my desk chair.

Could be worse. Was last week. But for now, I must get dressed and ready to join Bob Segarini, Craig Riddock, Peter Kashur, Bruce Chapman, Kid Carson, Kevin Jeffrey and Annette Shaffer, for today’s remembrance of Super Roadie Dave Bailey.

bailey wake June 11 2017Please join us if you can – it will be a rockin’ sendoff to a good guy gone too soon.

 

Don’t Bogart That Joint My Friend – Monetize It.


The O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo held at the Sheraton Centre this past April 21-23 conveniently allowed those celebrating 4/20 to have their pot, and eat it too.  ocannabiz 2017

The history of hemp and cannabis, that mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant, has, so far, been written by the victors –  those who fought to prohibit use and access to the plant. That they did so for their own, often muddled, generally financially rapacious,  reasons, impacts us to this day.

from Vice: “ How did that (criminalization) happen?

When Harry Anslinger, who was leading a federal agency that would later become the Drug Enforcement Agency, was confronted with the end of prohibition in 1933, he panicked because he and his man were charged with enforcing prohibition… He was worried that he didn’t have a mission in life, that he and his men would be out of a job. That’s when he began to lead the crusade against marijuana. They very deliberately, systematically chose marijuana as their new whipping boy.

When Anslinger was participating in federal hearings that would eventually culminate in the passage of the Marijuana Stamp Act in 1937, which essentially made marijuana illegal, the arguments against marijuana use were not at all grounded in scientific evidence. They were grounded in hearsay and stereotypes: That this was a drug black men used to seduce white women. That it was a drug that led Mexicans to murder their white neighbors. ” reefer madness.gif

So dangerous was it deemed that even today, with a supposedly more enlightened people, and science as advanced as we’ve ever seen it, trained professionals continue to ignore current studies, preferring to rely on what they’ve been told. Only 8% of Canadian doctors are open to prescribing cannabis medically, regardless of new information. Clinical studies have been made even more difficult to conduct due to North American legislation that forbids study of prohibited substances. I kid you not. The legislators are like children with their fingers in their ears, going “nyah nyah nyah, I’m not listening,” while the people carry on toking.

Marijuana-FactsAs the tidal wave of inevitable legalization sweeps over North America, it’s illuminating to watch the different factions argue over how this potential cash crop can be best exploited. For sheer capitalistic greed, look to legislators who foresee that shaking this particular money tree will fill not just tax coffers, but their own pockets, and focus solely on how they`ll spend those yummy new tax dollars.

Shares in marijuana stocks have ballooned over the last few months, as high as 5000 times over first purchase price. And many of those who bought early, and at the lowest rates, were family members of politicians who saw which way the wind was blowing several years ago.

Pure activists tend to lean on the medical aspects of legalization, and that is a very good thing indeed. While further studies will allow researchers to help sufferers ease pain, I’m already watching friends soothe their nerves without toxic side effects, having happily dumped costly pharmaceutical antidepressants and sleeping pills, in favour of edibles.

Jodie-Emery-and-Bill-Blair.jpgTo my mind, appointing Bill Blair,  the ex-Toronto police chief who’s tasked with shaping the legislation  as the Chairman of the Committee, was a giant mistake. It’s inevitable that a man who spent his entire life and career policing drug offences is going to have a different spin on legalization. His mere presence at the table draws a pall of doom and gloom over the very idea. And his dour focus on law enforcement over potential benefits reinforces social and racial biases over who exactly gets to indulge, or profit commercially from sales and distribution.

His presence hearkens back to the days when pot was a cheap pacifier for slaves in the Caribbean and the cotton fields, and reflects current times, when prison populations boom with low end drug offenders, serving sentences that have a long term negative impact on the futures of those prisoners and their families.

But there are literally countless avenues of commerce about to open in Canada, based on this proposed legalization. At the Expo, I learned exactly how clueless most  Canadians, including myself, are about the economic possibilities and future of this upcoming advance.

If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you likely remember the joy and awe of trying your first ‘reefer.’ That’s when $5.00 bought you a nickel bag – one ounce – of pot. Or a big bag of oregano, if you were a first timer and gullible. These days, it’s a lot more expensive, and my oh my how the hit has changed!

big bambu cheech chong.jpgResearch, mostly conducted at street  (grass roots) level, and over many years of advanced cultivation by dedicated growers, has not only produced more effective highs, but highs that can be calibrated as efficiently as high end pharmaceuticals. Not having kept up on my cannabis education, I had no idea that the both the homegrown  and imported versions now came in different grades and strengths.

When I thought about legalization, my mind threw back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs.  Edibles, peace, love and groovy. Strolling down the first aisle of the Expo disabused me of those hippie limitations.

Booth after booth of exhibitors offered brochures that explained and extolled their particular fields of interest, from medical research, to how to better cultivate strains to meet advanced criteria, to an entire industry devoted to improving green house and solar powered growing. Several companies offered natural insect control products to protect the quality of medical or recreational cannabis.

There were accounting, financial, and banking experts available – it is currently illegal to bank money made from selling a controlled substance. These experts will lead the way in changing those regulations.

cannabis-industry-jobs-599x435There were schools offering accredited course programs in Quality Assurance for Medical Marijuana,  and Management Quality and Laboratory Certificates.

There were high end research labs working on 21st Century scientific techniques meant to improve the ability to pinpoint specific illnesses and to create medical marijuana solutions to ease pain and diseases.

There were companies who’ve specialized in the distribution of, and means of ingesting, product, for both medical and recreational pot.

ancillarybusinesses cannabisAnd yes, there were a few exhibitors who rocked the old hippie spirit, focusing on rolling papers, hookahs, black lights and groovy accessories.

But it was the middle aged business person that was the focus and main attendee of this Expo, the former middle and upper management types that either were forced into redundancy during the recession of a decade ago, or who simply had the foresight and imagination to realize that this legalization could create the largest, across the board, economic boom Canada has seen in decades.

The conference and seminar aspect of O’Cannabiz brought in spokespeople as varied as Gold Medal Olympic snowboarding champion,  Ross Rebagliati, and music legend, Melissa Etheridge,  to expand on their personal experiences with cannabis, and how regular usage has improved their lives. The Green Chefs, Mike Morgan and Guy Kramer, specializing in culinary preparations of edible marijuana, had suggestions for those who would rather eat, than smoke, their meds.

pets and pot.pngAnd on the Sunday, seminars discussed everything from pet-proofing your stash and avoiding possible risks and hazards to household pets, to the growing essentials of good cannabis cultivation , and the medical effectiveness of cannabis in treating veterans for PTSD.

Ms Etheridge has often said, “I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally.” (Or as duo Fraser/Daley puts it .. “all marijuana, is medical marijuana.”)

I had my eyes opened to a brave new world in Canada, if the process of legalization is not hampered with outdated and prohibition type thinking as the process rolls out. The future is truly up to forward thinking Canadians, and literally anything is possible economically if we can leave the “Reefer Madness”  prejudices behind and embrace the possibilities of this beneficial plant.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit and possibly profit from the legalization of cannabis in Canada, there’s another conference coming to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this month, May 25-27. Info on that can be found here … http://liftexpo.ca/

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

With No Direction Home


When we first sold our house, worrying about finding a space that would be safe, affordable, and have amenities nearby didn’t seem like such a big deal. Really, we reasoned, how hard could it be?  I, for one, thought that our biggest problem would be agreeing on location.

Wrong.

welcome to the jungleSince our search for housing has begun, I have passed through all the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I now accept that my entire life is on hold, and that I will be a quivering mass of anxiety and frustrated tears until this home hunting issue is resolved. Or one of us kills the other.

I had no idea that so many of the baby boomers who had dutifully bought their suburban homes during good times would all be taking advantage of a seller’s market, with an idea of moving back into the city where they could enjoy their golden years. The hive mind’s plan was to sell before the real estate bubble burst, find a little place to squat until the madness calmed down, and then decide what to do next, secure in our gains and pensions.

Our lovely little bungalow was snapped up, and flipped again within the month. A friend just sent over a photo of it being demolished. East Ave demo Apr 2017As glad as I am that we are now ‘Former Scarberians, ‘ I did feel a pang at the sight of the rubble.

What we did not fully comprehend was that as the price of real estate rose, so did the greedy little hearts of landlords seeking to cash in on square footage. We’ve had rent control in Toronto for decades, but that only covers units built (or occupied) before 1991. The easing of rental controls was meant to encourage new rental units to be built, but was not acted upon – in the decade between 1996 and 2006, 95% of all new housing built was private residential ownership.

But having committed to the house sale, we established an east end home base, with an eye to sorting ourselves out before finding a ‘forever home.’ Unfortunately, when your stuff is in boxes, in storage spaces, and scattered to the winds, a sort of inability to move forward takes over … when you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t see any road ahead. Easier to lie back in the poppies like Dorothy than to sort through hundreds of cryptically labelled boxes to find the potato masher.

Toronto subway systemWe made up a wish list of what we could and couldn’t accept in housing. Accessibility to amenities, shopping, libraries, etc was priority number one, since I don’t drive. So this palace had to be close to the subway line, and roughly west of  Woodbine station, and east of Ossington station.

High rises were just out, right off the bat, after hearing countless horror stories about tenants battling cockroaches and bed bugs. Low rises were a low priority – still so much noise and too many neighbours!

A three bedroom would be best, a large two bedroom acceptable IF there were separate dining and living rooms. Parking would be great, street permit parking would be considered. A little back yard for the cats, or at the least, an enclosed balcony, was also on the list.

We established a maximum monthly rental cost  that we could comfortably afford, with the knowledge that rental costs would inevitably increase yearly. If we needed to include utilities in the costs, electrical heating could not considered if we were to be able to afford both heating and eating.

Oh, how the Gods laugh, when humans list what they will and will not accept!

housingOur first forays into the rental world were fun and interesting. Thirty years of home ownership had us lulled into a false confidence. Hours were spent burning out corneas, sifting through Kijiji, Craigslist, ViewIt, and countless other rental sites. We were ready and willing to explore what was out there.

Preliminary research done, it was time to inspect what was available. We saw apartments, condos, tiny houses, and lofts. We looked above stores, under stores, and at underground parking.

And every time we’d find something that was either ‘just perfect!‘ or ‘close enough to be almost perfect!’ we’d be scooped by some other renter frantically trying to avoid homelessness. Everything, it would seem, was fair in apartment hunting … lies, bribery, tantrums …

evil landlordLandlords today are the Gods of the past. They can drive a grown man to tears, never mind a small French girl. They are merciless. They can not only demand more private and confidential information from you than your doctor will, they can gleefully skip over rental/tenants agreements willy nilly, banning everything from smoking, to small pets, and cooking smells. They can demand thousands of dollars in certified cheques be handed over, before they’ve even looked at your 11 page rental application.

It is to weep.

Over and over, we’ve been told, despite having responded to an ad only two hours old, that there were several people who’d seen and applied for occupancy before us. Our impeccable credit ratings meant nothing, if another applicant fanned a wad of cash in front of the landlord, and agreed to pay hundreds more than the stated rental price. It is back to the dark old days of ‘key money,’ and laws and legalities be damned.

living in a boxI no longer look forward to viewing living spaces, nor do I mentally dress them in my mind. I have no reason to expect that finding anything more than four walls and, hopefully, a roof, await me. To quote an old Monty Python sketch, I’m beginning to realize that I may soon be living in a cardboard box in the middle of a busy street. In the game of apartment hunting, I have had my tenant heart broken.

When the hunt for a home resembles the worst of the Wild West, it’s a lose/lose game for both the renter and the rentee,. Those who finally win a place to live at any price feel no joy in the victory, no loyalty to the landlord, and no need to be a responsible tenant, if that success has come at a cost that will prevent them from enjoying the rest of their lives.

10 worst tenantsNor does the temporary flush of money, money, money help the landlord when he discovers that he’s rented to someone willing to cough up the extra dough so that the space can be turned into a grow op or a crash pad for six other friends. Good luck evicting bad tenants .. that’s one place where the law not only comes down heavily on the side of the resident, it’s actually followed to a fair thee well. Your squatter may be around for a very long time.

Setting aside the morality and ethics of rental wars, there’s an impact on society at large.

demoralizedAnyone who falls through the cracks, economically, is hopelessly disenfranchised in this battle. Kids in college, or right out of college coping with short term employment contracts, or gawd forbid, unpaid ‘internships,’ are right out of luck, along with the disabled, the elderly, the vulnerable, and those who don’t pass the scrutiny and whims of landlords. Demoralization and often, homelessness, loom in their futures.

When greed rules the markets, lawlessness runs rampant. We cannot balance a Trumpian  ‘smart business practices’ fallacy with a failure to acknowledge that Toronto‘s historically low vacancy rate of 1.3% will have a negative impact upon the social and economic success of the city. Short term gain is never the equivalent of what can be achieved by long term, responsible, financial planning that takes into account the needs of all of a city’s inhabitants.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear if we have been chosen for an apartment that, while not ideal, ticks a few of our wish list boxes. But I’m also getting ready for yet another ‘go see’ of a space that could be made into a cozy space for two to curl up in.

We’re lucky – we have options, although it often seems that our options keep narrowing, and the lines we drew around what is habitable keep getting redrawn. How those without those options will cope is beyond me.

Wish me luck.

Life’s Been Good To Me So Far …


Life’s been pretty good, overall, since I shook the dust of Scarborough off my shoes, and returned to my old Danforth stomping grounds. danforth ave signIt’s such a treat to just walk up the street to a good restaurant, or to pop into a local bar to hear friends playing. I no longer have to pack my purse with overnight supplies before heading out to do groceries, or to visit my chums in the downtown core.

This retirement stuff seems to be working out just fine! I am totally down for the ‘Live, Love, Laugh” groove.

One aspect to the whole getting older/taking better care of one’s fragile corporeal self has been a downer … who knew all these bits and pieces needed maintenance or they would wear out? Sit down, keener nerdling, yeah, you knew, but I had more fun on the ride.

Bodies wear out, minds get warped, it’s all in the game. Some cope better than others; some win the genetic lottery. The rest seek relief at the hands of professionals, and even some gifted amateurs.

Shelley Marshall is a talented, award winning, comedienne, actress, keynote speaker and producer. She’s also the doyenne of The Mental Wellness Living Loft, mental wellness lofta comfy place for those who’ve been bruised by life to relax, meet other people of like minds, or to simply sit quietly, knitting or colouring, without fear of being asked to ‘move along.’

Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 2pm and 6pm, Shelley and her husband Jason welcome all to their home loft in Leslieville. Shelley suffers from what her doctor has called complex post traumatic stress disorder caused by childhood trauma. She’s known many people who are unable to cope with modern day life, and who struggle with mental health issues. When a bout of agoraphobia kept Shelley away from being with friends, she realized that she could have her friends come to her, and make everyone happy.

And she certainly has succeeded in her quest. If you are interested in attending, please call 416-821-1754.

https://video.vice.com/en_ca/video/the-comedian-who-turned-her-home-into-a-mental-wellness-drop-in-centre/58dc34e31cdb89ac6dbbdcf7

Laughter might be the best medicine, but music is a close second, in my case, and I was lucky to get a double dose of the good stuff when our fearless editor and modest rockstar Bob Segarini was persuaded to reunite the Alzeimer Appreciation Orchestra and Chorus for a good cause – we all needed a night out and a hang.

alzeimer orch Mar 2017Musical Director Peter Kashur brought together Bob, Drew Winters, and a motley crew of Kid Carson, Craig Riddock, Connor Walsh, Annette Shaffer and myself for a rollicking 45 minute set that grew, like Topsy, into an hour and a half of bluster and blather.

Despite the terrible weatheriness of the weather, we had a solid crowd of family and friends, and a good time was had by all.

Video courtesy of Jean E. Trivett, aka JeanDaGnu or GnuJet.

Last night was the March 17th Birthday Boy‘s final treat – a Nature Boy salon featuring Jane Siberry, with special guests Mary Margaret O’Hara and Geneviève Marentette.

siberry ohara and genevieveThe singers, ably accompanied by pianist Michael Shand, performed for an appreciative crowd in a private home in the Annex. These salons are a wonderful way for musicians to make a living, performing in a comfortable setting, where the attendees are fans, grateful for a chance to capture an intimate moment in time with their musical icons, and even have a conversation with them after their show at the reception.

Ms Siberry did not disappoint, as she wove her musical web over the rapt audience, performing several songs off her new CD, “Angels Bend Closer,” as well as takes on classic tunes such as “Nature Boy” and “The Girl From Ipanema.”

On this evening, Jane was the headliner, but on Friday night, it was Geneviève Marentette’s night to shine, and I’m very sorry to have missed that. I was not familiar with her work, but was impressed with her vocal additions when the three vocalists harmonized. I’m even more impressed since listening to her recent CD “Gigi” and watching her collaborations with luminaries such as David Clayton-Thomas and the much missed Don Francks.

Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Sunday night (tonight) show sold out immediately, and a second show has been added for Monday – but that’s sold out as well. Mary Margaret kept the crowd in stitches throughout the evening, with her trademark yips and sounds. O’Hara’s 1988 release, Miss America, is still regarded as a seminal recording, and the singer has been described as “a force of nature, a remarkable singer and composer whose crystal-clear soprano acrobatics and hypnotic songs defy accepted conventions

Today the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it’s supposed to get up to 15 C/59 F today. Time to see if I can still ride the old bicycle without breaking a hip. Yeah, I could get used to this groove, especially living in Toronto, with all that’s offered.

Wave if you see me cycling by!

 

Shock the Monkey


It’s been nearly four months, and still, several times a day, it feels like a rat is trying to gnaw it’s way out of my belly. I’m still craving the instant hit of nicotine that was my constant companion for nearly 50 years. smoke_smoke

I remember precisely when I first inhaled a Benson and Hedges menthol cigarette … I was 13 years old.

A friend had come in from Edmonton to enjoy the wonders of Montreal and Expo 67, and she brought me the habit. I’ve never forgotten that day. french inhaleWe giggled even as we gagged, and blew the smoke out of my bedroom window. I felt very grown up, as she showed me how to ‘french inhale.’

She also turned me on to shoplifting, but I was such a terrible thief that my first attempt in the downtown Woolworths found me nabbed and ‘barred for life’ from the store.

But back to cigarettes.  My grandparents smoked into their nineties, and both of my parents smoked, as did most peoples’ parents back in the sixties. People smoked, and they smoked EVERYWHERE. At the local Steinbergs, a large grocery chain store, there were ashtrays affixed to the shopping carts, so that you need never go without your nic fix as you weighed your bananas.

We smoked in offices, in hospitals, in church basements, in stores, on elevators, in restaurants, on the street, on airplanes, in our cars, and in our homes. MPs smoked in Parliament. Talking heads smoked during television interviewers. Doctors recommended brands in print and TV ads. Even cartoon characters smoked.

We smoked indoors and outdoors, and few, if any, ever waved a hand to shift the smoke from their faces, or the faces of their children.

cig pack in sleeveAt that time, 50% of Canadians over the age of 15 smoked. I’m guessing it was closer to 80% in Quebec, where no macho, hockey playing, swaggering boy would be seen without a fag hanging from his lip, and a deck tucked up inside his white t-shirt’s sleeve.

Cigarettes were quite inexpensive, less than fifty cents a pack, and were even cheaper in the States. The top tobacco brands competed fiercely for market share, in both Canada and the U.S., but the magazines that came from America almost always included coupons for free packets of ciggies.

effects of smoking.pngBut there had been rumours coming from the United Kingdom (where 80% of males smoked) as early as 1950, that a Dr Richard Doll had discovered a link between smoking and cancer, while pursuing a possible link between the tar in road construction and patients with lung, stomach, colon, or rectal cancer. Over a period of several years, he interviewed patients, and over 40,000 British physicians, and came to the inevitable conclusion that smoking was a main factor in lung disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Since no one wanted to believe that our delicious smoking habit could possibly be bad for us, most people thought it was just some nonsense brought up by do-gooders who had a hate on for smokers and drinkers. After all, 9 out of 10 docdoctors smoke camelstors said Camel cigarettes were ‘toastier,’  while  dentists recommended Viceroys!  Clearly your health and safety concerns were just a question of finding the right brand.

But the evidence was mounting. In 1963, Canada’s federal health minister, Judy LaMarsh, warned that smoking contributed to lung cancer, prompting the Canadian Medical Association to urge doctors to stop smoking, at least while attending their patients.

And despite the 1964 report from the U.S. Surgeon General that linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer in men, and possibly in women, despite that same report citing smoking as the most important cause of chronic bronchitis,  and despite the fact that I was studying voice and music, and considering a career as a vocalist …  I took up smoking in 1967 and didn’t look back for decades.

In 1972, the first ‘warning’ messages began to appear on the side of cigarette packages, and by 1989, it was made mandatory for packets to have a health warning . By 2001, Canada mandated picture warnings that covered 50 per cent of the boxes.

Like most conscientious, quasi-hippies of the sixties, I quit smoking and drinking while pregnant with my daughter, and stayed off cigarettes for a few years after her birth. But nicotine is highly addictive, so by 1976, I was back on the demon weed, despite now pursuing full time singing gigs. I was young, healthy, and I couldn’t feel any side effects from my habit, so why not?

For a few years I’d continue on an on-again/off-again pattern, quitting sometimes for years at a time. But despite trying every trick in the book, from acupuncture to hypnotism to counselling and medication, nothing worked permanently. I was always just an excuse away from sliding back into the addiction.

CAMH STOP_programAnd then, about four years ago, I heard about a paid research study on nicotine addiction being done by CAMH, (the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Care,) and decided to give it a go. They’d pay me to be in a double blind study that focused on the use of Zyban, a nicotine replacement medication. AND they’d give me the medication for free. Only thing was, I wouldn’t know if I was on the actual drug or a placebo. Still, I was game to give it a whirl.

Beyond the medication, the study focused on mindfulness, and an understanding of what part our addiction played in our day to day lives. The study required that I make a note of every cigarette I smoked during the day, and any emotion I was feeling when I felt the urge to smoke.  Since I had been using an old fashioned cigarette making machine with tobacco and tubes for my daily fix, I hadn’t any idea that my cigarette intake had risen to 40 cigarettes a day.

I also discovered that I had certain attitudes about smoking. Years of social conditioning had convinced me that I could neither relax nor concentrate without a smoke, and that I certainly couldn’t write without a cigarette smouldering away in the full ashtray beside me.

woman smokingWhen I’d talk to other smokers, the males would commonly exhibit bravado about continuing to smoke, despite health concerns, while most of the women would agree that sneaking a cigarette break really meant allowing themselves to stop the world and it’s unending demands for a minute. Even though we intuitively knew that we were doing physical damage to our bodies by smoking, we still had a “this I do for me” attitude about the habit.

When the study concluded, I was nervous about keeping off the ciggies on my own, so I was referred to the CAMH Nicotine Independence Clinic, where I would have access to outpatient treatments, assessment, medical consultation, group counseling and medications to quit/reduce smoking.

I’m so glad that I lucked into that clinic. From my first visit, I was welcomed by their friendly staff, and treated by top notch doctors and nurses that encouraged me to fight towards nicotine independence. Month after month I’d have to face those professionals and explain why I, an intelligent, motivated, woman, could not seem to get the nicotine monkey off my back.

The first surprise was that I had spent three months on the placebo, rather than the medication. And when I was prescribed the actual Zyban, I discovered that I couldn’t tolerate the drug; I wasn’t smoking, but only because I couldn’t stop vomiting.

nic replacementsHowever, with the clinic’s support, and a constant supply of free nicotine replacement treatments, (patches, lozenges, gums, inhalers) I struggled through the next four years, promising myself and my mentors that I would indeed quit .. soon. Just not today.

During a particularly harsh Harper budget year, the rules for the clinic were changed; patients could now only receive the nicotine replacements for six months at a time, although they could continue receiving medical consultations and counselling. After a further six months, patients could again receive replacements. Those six months on/six months off made it very hard for many to stay nicotine free.

beer smoking treadmillWhen I returned to the clinic last fall to begin yet another six months of treatment, I desperately wanted to get off the addiction treadmill. I was sick of being sick, of seeing the effects of years of nicotine use etched on my face, and in it’s detrimental effects on my health. It had almost become a joke that I had been attending the Clinic for longer than some of their staff.

I waved a breezy ‘hello’ to Natalie, the receptionist. But it was the sight of a woman patiently waiting to see the doctor that really gave me pause. The woman was chipper and in good spirits, despite being hooked up to oxygen tanks, and needing a walker to get around. She happily told me that she was certain she could finally quit smoking, although it was too late to do much more than halt the progress of the COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) that she’d acquired through her years of smoking. The woman confided that she was a decade younger than me.

When it was my turn to talk to the doctor, I told him that I could deal with aging, but I couldn’t deal with being a sick old lady. I wanted to bang away at this nicotine monkey with everything I had, and that they could give me. The doc loaded me up with patches, gum, lozenges and inhalers, and wished me good luck.

because you're worth it.jpgFor all my good intentions, however, and even while wearing nicotine patches that added up to 63 milligrams of nicotine replacement to my blood, I still found myself smoking to ease tensions and relax. I could tell myself that the stress of selling the house and moving gave me an ‘out.’ I DESERVED  the occasional cigarette, dammit!

And the story might have ended there, in an endless loop of me going to the clinic, getting medical help, and still smoking, except for a bad thing that turned out to be a good thing.

November and December were tough months, what with the move, the weather, and all of the physical changes in my life, which culminated in a bunch of health issues, including a cold that turned into bronchitis and then into a nagging cough that just wouldn’t go away. I coughed 24/7, even in my sleep. I coughed so constantly and theatrically that I finally had to find a new doctor that might be able to help me stop coughing, and allow everyone to get a decent night’s sleep.

This doctor listened patiently to my story, and then produced a medication. “The good news, ” he said, “is that this medication will stop the cough. The bad news is that, if this medication works, you likely have COPD.  We’ll have to do testing to find out if that is the case.”

In that moment, time stood still.

Although I’d have to wait a week for the tests to be done and assessed, I knew that I had finally passed the threshold I’d always dreaded; I had done terrible damage to my lungs, and now I’d have to pay the price.

Dont just dontI stopped smoking that day, nearly four months ago, and haven’t had a cigarette since. The tests came back, and although I’d done a lot of damage to my lungs with the smoking and the coughing, I did not have COPD.  With care, and time, the damage would repair itself. All I had to do was not smoke.

So I didn’t. And I won’t. Even when the craving is so intense that I feel like screaming, my mind flashes back to that moment in the doctor’s office, and I don’t light up. I dodged a bullet – no way will I put myself back in it’s path again.

I’m still wearing the nicotine patches, although with time, I’ll wean myself off them. And I have nicotine replacement inhalers in every pocket, purse and room of the house. I have the support of my family, friends, and doctors, all of whom remain cautiously optimistic that I’ll keep on the straight and narrow.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nor am I throwing myself a ticker tape parade, but I’m very grateful for the help and support I’ve received, and quietly confidant that I’m too sensible to let my addiction wiggle it’s way back into my life.

I smell better. My clothes and my house smell better. I no longer have to worry if my smoking will harm other people, nor do I have to fear long periods of time in places where you can’t smoke. I don’t have to leave an event and traipse out into the cold or rain to have a ciggie.  I don’t look up at a gratefuldarkening sky and wonder if I have enough cigarettes to last through a snow storm. I don’t have to calculate the cost of cigarettes into my budget.

I no longer have to justify a habit that took the lives of my father and mother, amongst other millions of smokers.

I am a non-smoker.

 

(first published bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/03/26/roxanne-tellier-shock-the-monkey/)