Easterish


by Roxanne Tellier

My mother loved holidays – any and all celebratable occasions. She was the Holiday Fairy, sprinkling her magic dust on us, and making special days even more memorable with her joy and enthusiasm.

A talented poet, she made our childhood Easter mornings into a treasure hunt. My sister and I would wake to riddles, clues that hinted to where our candy and chocolate had been left by the Easter Bunny.

We didn’t have a lot of money, and chocolate was a luxury we rarely enjoyed. Easter and Halloween were occasions of great joy for sugar loving kids like my sister and I. 

One year my godmother sent me an enormous chocolate bunny that was taller than I was! We ate chocolate until we could eat no more, and then mum said it would be kind to share what was left with our neighbours.  I went up and down the street with a bowl filled with broken chocolate pieces, doling out the goodies, and veering between feeling like Lady Bountiful and a kid having qualms about the giving away of her precious chocolate.

Those were the days when everyone dressed up for special occasions, and thankfully, mum was a genius on the sewing machine. Although I could be counted on to appear in public bandbox neat and clean, I have to admit I wasn’t the happiest of campers when mum regularly made Jodi and I wear matchy matchy outfits.  

Having a sister younger by five years meant that I spent a lot of time pretending to believe in things like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy andthe Easter Bunny. (Both the TF and the EB, by the way, have been officially declared ‘essential businesses’ during this Covid 19 plague.)

In Edmonton, I went to Academie Assomption, a Catholic, all girl school run by nuns. From grade three until grade six, when we left for Montreal, I learned how to survive the forty days of Lent. We would have to give up the things that gave us ‘pleasures of the flesh,’ and we had to do it with good grace and a willing heart, or – like a birthday wish spoken aloud – our sacrifice would be null and void. Forty days without candy! Forty days without teasing your siblings! Forty days of obeying your parents without talking back! Oh it was hellish, suffering such deprivation, and the days passed so slowly. But eventually, yes! We were paroled Easter Sunday morning, and got to enjoy a rare sugar overdose.

Along with the forty days of jonesing for sugar, my school classes would practice the hymns that we would be singing in church on the Big Day. “He is Risen!”  we chorused, our sweet voices rising with Him to the heavens.  

In Montreal I continued singing those hymns, first in Latin, later in English and eventually, in folk music form. I was part of that folk mass crew that tried to make going to church ‘groovy’ in the sixties. Actually, it was in the sixties that some of the best ‘Religious Rock’ was written and enjoyed.

Due to some – ahem – infractions I had been caught committing, my teenaged butt had been severely grounded in 1969. I had the choice of staying in my room ‘for the rest of your life!’ or joining our church’s youth group, which met regularly in the church basement.  

It was in that basement that I learned how to play pool, and where I danced with a male for the first time; with Father Sauvé, to Cream’s White Room. It was there that I became a part of the group that performed at the Sunday folk masses, and eventually, through some of the people that I met in those days, formed my first folk rock group, with a convenient venue already in place for our performances.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, there were many songs that crossed from the radio to the pews.  It wasn’t just songs like Ocean’s Put Your Hand in the Hand that kept our folk masses humming; we were about to enter a time when religious rock would go mainstream.

Easter of 1970, the church group had bought into a new fad – fasting for a cause. The kids from my school and church decided we’d do a sponsored fast for 24 hours, and donate any money raised to the church. Soon, all of us were camped out in the church basement with our sleeping bags, stuffed animals, and guitars.

(As we all hunker down in our bunkers, riding out this virus and keeping our social distances, I’m so often grateful that I’m not a 15-year-old kid, high on life, and bursting with hormones. I’m even more grateful that I’m not a parent having to deal with that kid while trying to avoid getting ill. There aren’t all that many benefits of aging – but knowing how to keep oneself busy while in isolation is surely one of them.)

But – back to the fast.  

So, twenty-four hours without food. An unimaginable torture to a bunch of kids ranging in age from 14 to 21. After flirting with each other for the first five or six hours, we started to get antsy. Some of us were crying, lonesome for our families. All of us could hear our bellies crying out for sustenance. And into this sea of overexcited teenagers waded Father Sauvé… with a big brown box filled with 33 1/3 records.

The basement, which was also the church’s rec centre and Saturday night dance hall, was set up for the playing of recorded music. When Father Sauvé dropped the needle on side one of the new rock musical, “Jesus Christ Superstar,” we all quieted and listened to the overture of what would become the first and most successful, religious rock opera.

I thrill, even as I listen to this overture this morning. At 15, and as a young woman who desperately wanted to be a professional vocalist, I was completely and utterly gobsmacked. 

50 years later, I still know every note and every word to every song of the entire opus.

I’m not the only one who felt that way; I remember reading in 2010 that another Canadian singer had had the same sort of fascination with the musical, but that she had actually done something about her lifelong obsession.

Peaches, the diminutive dynamo of raunchy electronic rock, was singing the entire libretto alone, just as she will in her one-woman show, “Peaches Christ Superstar,” which was to begin its North American tour on Friday in Boston.

As she sang her way from the Last Supper to Jesus’ trial before Pilate, Peaches cycled through nearly every character from the Gospels, embodying them in her voice and face: a dainty, mocking Herod; a guttural Caiaphas, the high priest; and a bruised Judas hurling insults at Jesus so heatedly that it raised the veins in Peaches’ ruddy face.” The New York Times, December 2010

I don’t think about Easter much these days. Time and events have left me irreligious and agnostic. And we’re so oblivious of the days during Covid that we even forgot to buy milk yesterday, when the stores were open between the Good Friday/Easter Sunday sandwich of shutdowns.   

But still – this Easter, and as I have done every Easter for fifty years, I will search out my copy of Norman Jewison’s wonderful version of the musical, and once again relive how the music made me feel, all those years ago.

Hey! Here’s some good news! If you missed the live 2018 version featuring John Legend – or if you just enjoyed it so much, you’d like to see it again … you’re in luck!

“NBC just announced that they will air an encore presentation of the 2018 production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert this Sunday — Easter Sunday — April 12, 2020. The performance will air from 7:00-9:30 PM (ET/PT) on the NBC channel, as well as on select streaming services that offer live television, e.g. Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.”

Enjoy!

And … Happy Easter to YOU!

P.S. – Via my cousin Rita Donovan … food for thought .. the other side of isolation ….

But Enough About Me


by Roxanne Tellier

Okay, I’m tired of the pandemic game now … can we play something else for a while?

I’ll tell you, I thought I’d be just fine with ‘social distancing.’ I’m not great with staying up late; social distancing is how I basically spend most Saturday nights.

And as the daughter of a hoarder, I was weeks ahead of most when the penny dropped, and people got into panic buying. Way ahead of you guys! I panic when I can see bare shelf in my pantry; I like to have at least six tins or packages of our favorite foods tucked away ‘just in case.’ 

I really thought the libraries being closed would be the straw that broke my spirit, but even there, I’m pretty much covered. Books, DVDs, CDs … I’m better than good.   On top of that, there are all sorts of musical and theatrical libraries that have flung open their virtual doors to allow the locked down citizens to wallow in unfettered streams. (And yes – that includes Pornhub …)

Never been big on greeting people with hugs and kisses. The Real Housewives or Kardashian-style easy kisses gross me out. Hey, I don’t know where those lips have been! Like the Georgia Satellites, I’m good when you “keep your hands to yourself.”

With my flotilla of medications on hand, and being currently addiction free, I am, strictly speaking, good to go, as long as Shawn gets out to the shops to bring home some milk and fresh fruit and veg occasionally.

So I really should have no reason to worry. But guess what? I do. I’m worried about YOU. 

How are you coping? Are you having problems being isolated, or are you enjoying the quiet? Do you feel like you’re going to be okay for as long as this goes on? Do you have someone you can count on to help you out when you need something – or when you just need to tell someone you’re afraid, and do they think this cough sounds serious?

And what do you miss the most?

Some people are frantic that they can’t get together with their friends and family. It can be painful not to have the comfort of our loved ones when we’re also dealing with so much uncertainty, and fear of the unknown. On the other hand, not everyone has a happy family. I wonder how those families are coping with so much enforced togetherness; are they enjoying a reprieve from the morning madness rush to get everyone up and out, or have they just substituted another kind of busy-ness?

Those who enjoy watching or playing sports, even pickup games, are finding it hard to have an enforced cessation of that diversion.  And a lot of kids, who just a month ago were looking forward to summer vacation, are now discovering, to their surprise, how rich their school and social life was before lockdown.   

Others wish that the music and theatrical venues would reopen. Three events that I was looking forward to have been cancelled, and won’t be rescheduled this year, which is maddening, but hardly fatal. I’m far more concerned about how those in the entertainment business are going to keep themselves fed and housed without an income. There will be benefits for those hit hardest by unemployment, but when you’re already spending most of your life behind the economic eight ball, things start tight and get really constricted very quickly.

I worry about those on fixed incomes as well; relying on a pension or a disability benefit is a tightrope walk for many, especially if anything disrupts the carefully laid plans of those who know there is just so much money coming in, and bills to be paid, crisis or not.

It was just last October that, following several economic studies, millennials were told that they need to prioritize putting at least 40% of their weekly income aside now, in order to have any kind of pension security when they’re seniors. Tell that to the kid who’s living in a corner of someone else’s basement, and frantically trying to find any kind of job that will allow them to pay for that AND their food.

The stats say that 44% of US residents could not cover an unexpected $400 expense. I’m not sure that there are that many less Canadians who could either, at least based on what I’ve heard people say in the past.

So yeah – I’m worrying about you. I’m hoping that people are coping without accidentally harming themselves or others. Keeping my fingers crossed that those who are healthy and able are sparing a thought for those that could really use a hand in getting through the crisis. 

These are difficult times for everyone. We’re not used to this uncertainty in our lives, with no idea of how long it will last, or what changes will come as our dance with COVID 19 goes on. I know I’m going a little stir crazy, and I’m becoming prone to inappropriate laughter and/or tears, though my husband might disagree with that having had a sudden onset.

And though I utterly, thoroughly, completely abhor wearing any kind of face mask, it looks like masks will be in our public future for the foreseeable future, so we may as well get on that.

The plain truth is that we’re in this for however long it takes. We are helpless to change what’s going on in our countries, and must trust in our leaders. We can only control ourselves in this time. We know that many of us will get ill, many will recover, and some will not. But there’s little we can do at this point but wait and see.

Eventually the world will ‘re-open for business’ and, like Queen Elizabeth said in her special speech to the world today, “we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when.”

We have an opportunity to use this time to move from a reaction of fear, to a period of learning and into societal growth. I hope it’s an opportunity we choose to take.

Character


by Roxanne Tellier

Maybe it’s from a lack of fresh air, but I have found myself getting a little giddy lately, here in O’SheaWorld.  Also, I have had an epiphany. Turns out that the reason that I don’t do a lot of the things expected of me isn’t because there isn’t enough time, but because I’m lazy.   

Shawn and I have already done our 14-day isolation, but there’s really nowhere to go, beyond strictly controlled and policed grocery shopping. My baser instincts want me to run wild and free through the aisles of non-essential goods, but sadly, this is frowned upon in this age of plague.  

I’m sure that there are other people who have taken the quarantine as seriously as we have, but trusting others to have been vigilant takes on a whole different flavour when it’s your life you’re betting on.  

So we continue to maintain a strict protective stance, keeping our hands and the items around us as clean and as non-contaminated as possible. 

I read a lot, research a bunch, and write a little. Lately we mainly keep ourselves amused by sharing some of the best quips we read in our emails and social media. Well, mostly we just yell punchlines at each other, he from his perch in the living room to me, and my chair in the office area.

I get a massive kick out of some of the clever memes, cartoons, and songs coming out of a planet trying to come to grips with social distancing. Art will always survive. This is how we cope, laugh, learn, and search for common emotional ground.

Does this guy sum it up, or what?

And there’s no shortage of the obvious “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” parodies out there.

We chafe because it’s not ‘normal’ for our mobile society to be dealing with this crisis, each in our own little cells. Capitalism, consumerism – we are constantly reminded that our duty is to get out there and buy things, and to then compare those things to our friends and neighbours’ things, which will then drive us into a frenzy to make more money so we can buy even more things that will make our friends and neighbours jealous. It’s kind of like a game, except that nobody ever really wins, which is why we keep going to jobs, even when we don’t like the job or the people we work with. Our societal constructs keep the workers running like hamsters in an exercise wheel, right up until the day we cannot run any more.  

But now, the wheel has suddenly stopped, and many of us have fallen off.

I’ve worked in bars, owned businesses, and worked in demanding occupations, and I’m well aware that a sudden stoppage of the activities we’ve done, religiously, and with our whole heart and soul, whether we loved our jobs or not, is like hitting a brick wall at 90 miles an hour. That’s gonna leave a mark.

When it happens to others, it’s the way the world works. When it happens to us, it’s a disaster.

These are challenging times. No one is exempt from a pandemic, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful you may be. A virus doesn’t care how much you earn, though, sadly, what you earn can certainly determine how well you are treated in an American hospital.  

Often, we have run so fast, and for so long, that we’ve stopped thinking clearly. Everything is ‘just in time,’ and ‘good enough.’ We pretend that there will be more time, somehow, someday, when we will go back and fix those half-done tasks, but tomorrow never comes, and the next day’s output is as faulty as yesterdays. 

How people behave when the world is running down says so much more about them than what they say about themselves. It’s a lot like that old line about dating – how your date treats the waitstaff will tell you all you need to know about their real character.

Character. An old-fashioned word, to many, and yet it says everything about a person’s true self. It’s so easy to be a good person when things are going well. It’s another thing entirely to be composed, thoughtful, kind, and empathetic when the chips are down.

Someone who can be trusted, counted on, is solid, a mensch, a good soul, a stand-up person. We know them when we see them because their reputation for doing what’s right – not expedient – precedes them.

When you know someone who has a good, strong character, you know that they won’t flake in the crunch. They won’t turn away when you need a hard favour, they’re the first to share what ever they have, no matter how little, and they’re going to stand beside you and take your side when the rest of the world can find only fault. They might kid you when you screw up, but they won’t be in the kicking party when you’re down.

If there is someone like that in your life, cherish them. They are as rare and as precious as gold. 

Hard times make us rethink the things that we slough off in the short run. In our careers we’ll often put up with bullies, sneaks, lunch stealers, and coworkers with attitude larger than their talent, just because it’s easier to work around them than to trade up to better colleagues. Plus – a pay cheque is a pay cheque, and keeping a job – even a bad one – is easier than finding another one.

And while we might, in normal times, endure unhappy romantic relationships for fear that this bad actor is the best we can do, when the shit hits the fan, we realize that life is too short to ‘settle’ for mediocrity.   

It’s the same when we ourselves chose – even for just a moment – to abandon our own principles, to be selfish, to be a bully, or to act on an impulse that would be foreign to us when we’re feeling content and comfortable. In hard times, we have to fight the impulse to be morally lethargic, and instead, take the opportunity to bench press those principles. If our principles can be abandoned in hard times, then they were never our principles, they were only the stage dressing of our lives.

Tough times don’t last – tough people do. I am hoping that this spoke in the wheels of the world economy will slow us down for long enough to remember that character, and the maintaining of solid, honest principles, are the characteristics of those people we’d take to the end of the world, at the end of the world.

Meanwhile, the skies are bluer, the waters are cleaner, and the birds are coming home from their southern nests. Spring will come, and this too will pass.

And, while you may have the time to listen to all 16:56 minutes of the new Bob Dylan song – if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Life is good ….

Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.