A Disney World


The cats and I love spring and summer .. and even some of fall. Winter is too snowy and cold, and we’re not too keen on rain; cold rain is particularly nasty.

front porch july 2018But having so much lovely, balmy sunshine to enjoy in the warmer months … ahhh! that’s the best! By 6:30 a.m. most mornings, Lord Farlsworth, Lady Jade, and I are on the front porch, where I sip a coffee, and they survey their kingdom.

It’s a time when the world is calm and quiet. You might hear the odd dog bark off in the distance, or listen to an old clunker trying to make it up Vic Park before the muffler falls off, but overall, it is a peaceful time.

squirrel beggingAt the beginning of this summer, I began feeding a squirrel. She’s a bit of a celebrity on the street. They call her “Mama,” and you can recognize her by the fur she’s missing on her sides. Mama squirrels pull out their own fur to line their babies’ nests.

Anyway, it was probably inevitable that some of the other squirrels would want in on the peanut action. Who could blame them? Free food! And sure, they can be a pain in the butt, when they dig up my flowers to hide the nuts for leaner days, but I like to watch them enjoy their treats.

And they’re so damn cute, with their little paws and interpretive dance poses.

And a whole bag of peanuts is only .99 cents, so what the heck.

squirrel buddy closeupThe cats don’t mind too much; they’re old. Sometimes the Lord will snarl a little, if they get too close to him. But it’s all good.

I was kind of surprised the other day, though, when something new was added to our morning.

As I tossed peanuts to my adoring fans, I noticed a few tiny sparrows, heads cocked to the side, watching the action.

And then, to my enormous surprise, the little birds began to imitate the way that the squirrels moved and behaved.

The birds were mimicking the actions of the squirrels, in hopes of getting a handout. It was something to see.

cat filing nailsI had no seeds to give them, and wasn’t sure how to respond. So I went into the kitchen and found some fresh raspberries, which I washed and dissected into bird-sized pieces. And then I scattered the pieces in areas where the little ones congregate. Not too near the house, because … Lady Jade may be blind, but she’s still a cat.

So now I guess I’m gonna be feeding the birds as well.

On the plus side, I’m hoping there will soon be lots of help with the household chores!

But then again, after all these years, my cats still won’t so much as clean their own litter, the ungrateful buggers.

Dressed Cats Cleaning HouseSee, this is what happens to those of us whose early childhoods were shaped by Disney cartoons; we are very comfortable with the idea of animals deserving to be treated with respect, and being part of the family.

We whistle while we work, and know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. We believe in magic, and of an enchanted land that can be found by travelling to the ‘second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.’

We are always ready for an adventure, and would be quite happy to follow a rabbit wearing specs and a vest down a hole, or to open a tiny door at the base of a tree to see what’s inside.

door in treeWe are, it would seem, the last of the dreamers. In a cold world where it is everyone for themselves, and “I got mine, Jack,” replaces, “how can I help you?,” those of us who can’t shake off that Disney spell are ill-equipped to live in a world ruled by vengeful, egomaniacal, bigots.

We grew up when ‘men were men,’ and manly men like John Wayne were our heroes, stand up guys, who did what they said they’d do, and kept their promises. At least – that’s what we saw in the movies.

It might not all have been real, and maybe we kids of the 40s and 50s were naive and innocent of the real ways of the world.

But we did know right from wrong, and as we grew up, we learned to call out wrong when we saw it. We expected people to act honourably, even if it cost them, financially or emotionally. We took a person’s word as their vow, and believed them when they told us what they intended to do.

fool me onceWe called a liar, a liar, and blamed ourselves if we kept on believing anyone who continually lied to us. We expected consequences for misdeeds.

We kids of the 40s and 50s grew up to be the hippies of the 60s, and again, we may have been naive, and innocent of the ways of the world, but there was something beautiful and pure about that innocence.

Those days were good days. Perhaps it was inevitable that they would end, killed, as all beautiful things seem to be, by those who put money and their own desires and egos over the good of the many. Some of us even enjoyed being exploited. We really were very young, and not very wise.

woodstockBut for many of us, we will always be those Disney kids, the ones that are a little bit off kilter, and a little too blind to ugliness. The ones with good hearts, that still ‘pay it forward,’ even when they might not have enough for themselves. The ones that see an animal in the wild, and gasp in appreciation of that natural beauty, rather than reach for a gun to kill it. The ones that will still take the time to pick up after those who would mindlessly despoil the planet, unaware of their own place in the cosmos.

It was the beliefs and the strength of people like the Disney kids that pushed forward every good thing that ever happened in our lifetimes, from the programs of the New Deal, to the establishment of civil rights, and the beginnings of universal health care. Our beliefs and marches ended a war. Progress comes from those who were nurtured to BELIEVE .. to believe in the goodness of the world, and the right of all of us – human or beast – to exist harmoniously on this planet.

There will always be the bad guys, the despoilers, the ones who want to bully and control, the ones who believe that strength is power over the weak. Always have been, always will be. What they can never understand is that their power is only temporary, and as nebulous as a dandelion seed; there is always someone with a more powerful weapon, ready to take it all away from them.

Dandelion seeds blowing away in the wind.The truth is that It takes wisdom and what is called “ego strength” to actually be powerful. The part of our brain that processes threats commands us to ‘flight or fight,’ and for many, our sense of control ends there. Ego strength allows the person to tolerate feeling uncomfortable emotions for long enough to process the fear or rejection, without having to ‘discharge’ the emotions in a knee-jerk compulsion to ‘fight back. ‘

Aggressive reactivity is not strength, it’s a lack of impulse control. It is the behaviour of those who cannot see a bigger picture that is based on building alliances. They cannot recognize complexity.

darwin theoryIn a populist world, politicians who use diplomacy are often seen as weak and indecisive. However, assuming that only brute strength can protect our lands can have grave consequences, especially in a world where nuclear weapons are ubiquitous.

These days, we’re hearing that a lot of people are having second thoughts about the vote they cast for Trump. Turns out that his repressive, regressive, and bigoted ways are having actual consequences on them, and that’s not what they voted for .. they voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people.

They voted for bad things to happen to ‘other’ people. And then they were shocked when it turned out that THEY were the ‘other’ people upon whom they had wished bad things.

Karma’s a bitch.

I’ll stick with my ‘naive’ Disney ways.

 

 

 

Mid August


Mid August, and most days I feel like, this year, summer never really got started. Maybe it’s the weather, or the political climate, but something feels off-kilter. My potted veg and herbs are in shock; it’s been either torrential rain or temps in the 90s – sometimes in the same 24 hours – every day since they were planted. Sodden pots sit cheek by jowl with containers so arid they threaten to burst into flame. There won’t be much of a harvest this year.

Mid August, and the back to school sales have started. Being an eternal student at heart, I always get really excited about 3 ring binders, coloured pencils, pencil cases, and the like. Which is probably why I have about ten boxes in storage of said items. I’m a victim of stationery covetousness.

The kids playing on the block look like they’re done with summer. Perhaps they are apprehensive about returning to the restrictions of another year of school, of seeing if their old friends have changed, and of having to meet new people who may be friend or foe. Or maybe they’re just caught their parents’ malaise. Either way, the little girl that pushes the doll stroller up and down the street while wearing her mother’s high heels just doesn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for the task these days.

Mid August, when we postpone the reality of the coming chill with a two week, overheated, ExTravaganza! Yes, the CNE began on Friday, with Burton Cummings and the boys kicking it off with their usual flair.

CNE midwayThe Ex holds less appeal for me every year. I’m still mourning the loss of the Alpine Way, and my ears still keen to hear the dulcet tones of the barker demanding that we come to see the “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla GURL!”

It’s all downhill after the Gorilla Girl leaves. I can’t even be motivated by fried chicken feet.

Mid August, and news that the legendary recording studio, Le Studio, in Morin Heights (about 90 kilometres north-west of Montreal,) has been destroyed by fire, possibly arson. This, coming just a week or two after news that a successful GoFundMe project had enabled musician Richard Baxter to begin renovating the old girl with a team of volunteers.

Founded in 1974 by Quebec record producer Andre Perry, the studio and residence was once the ‘go to’ spot for Canadian and international artists, including Rush, the Police, the Bee Gees, Sting, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, April Wine, Keith Richards and the Ramones.

But not me. I never even had the pleasure of visiting the place, which was a pity, because I spent some pretty formative years in the area as a teen. I’ve always liked to tell myself that Le Studio was built on the site of the old Alpino Lodge. I neither know nor care if that is true.

In the 60’s, my friend Marianne and I would camp by the little lake that wound it’s path around and about the Alpino, babysitting her younger brother, fishing for our food, and generally waiting for the weekend to arrive and the party to start. Those were the days when it was not only possible for a couple of 14 year old girls to be abandoned in the woods for a week at a time, near a lodge that catered to the wealthy and the jaded, with only an eight year old boy as companion and protector, but for said kiddies to not only survive, but thrive, and indeed have a very merry time.

true romance magWhat did we do all day, I asked myself recently. How did we fill all of the hours when we weren’t minding the brat, fishing, picking berries, tending the smoky fire, or reading soggy comic books and True Romance magazines? Mostly we talked, for hours at a time, about our dreams, hopes, and fears. Some days, I’d make Marianne laugh so hard that she’d pee her pants. If I was in a mood, I’d keep it up until her week’s worth of undies were all strung up on nearby branches.

And we’d wait for Friday night. On Friday night, Marianne’s mother and boyfriend would arrive from Montreal, bringing supplies, and freeing us from babysitting duties. On Friday night, we’d clean ourselves up as best we could, and present our under aged selves to the Lodge, where the full spectrum of Morin Heightians, converged for an evening of dancing and drinking. No one frowned on a young woman or man dancing with an older woman or man, or even a man dancing with another man. The point was the dance, the movement sparked by the music of a local combo giving it all they’d got. And no one asked for i.d.

When the night’s entertainment packed up, the teens that had been slouching on the lodge’s porch, smoking home rolleds and doobies that they would light with a wooden match struck on a boot sole or a pant zipper, would all pile into the back of some sixteen year old guy’s pickup truck. We didn’t need no steenback of pickupking seat belts! And off we’d go, the gang of us, with maybe a dog, and a musical instrument or two for company, headlong down the steep road, high as kites, heading for the dam so that we could continue the revelry, at least until the purple micro dots wore off and/or the sun came up.

(My daughter told me recently that she’ll not allow her eight year old daughter to walk the two blocks to school by herself until Kay’s about twelve. Or maybe thirteen. And then, only if there’s a friend nearby who’ll walk with her. In the daytime. Two blocks away. Different times.)

Mid August, and many of my friends are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. I remember schoolmates who got caught up in the hoopla and abandoned the city for hippie dreams, disappearing in a puff of smoke and patchouli, heading for communal farms that put the lie to the middle class dream of suburbia and two car garages. hippies 60s communeI wonder what ever happened to Donna, the dreamy blue eyed beauty that loved the Monkees as much as I did, but chose a hardscrabble life mucking out barns instead, determined to stand by her longhaired, drug dealing, man. Is she still living in rural Canada or America, amidst macrame pot holders and peace symbols? Or did she wake up one morning and realize in a horror stricken panic that she could have been and done anything she wanted to, had she chosen differently?

Mid August, and my flabber is still ghasted when I contemplate the summer madness that allows some, in the U.S., and sadly, even in Canada, to agree with Trump that the removal of these ‘beautiful’ statues erected to honour Confederate generals would be a hardship upon those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see such ‘works of art.’

Can you hear the dog whistle in that observation?

ugly confed statueBecause, it is implied, even if the art is not Louvre-worthy, that people of colour, and the inner city poor, should at least have the opportunity to feast their eyes upon such statuary. That the monument honours a man in support of slavery and a slave trade that treated the park’s attendees ancestors as human cattle, is a mere peccadillo in their eyes.

A year ago, Zyahna, a young, African-American resident of the city of Charlottesville, petitioned for the removal of one such statue, and to have the park she and her friends frequented re-named from Robert E. Lee Park to Lee Park, saying, “I am often exposed to different forms of racism that are embedded in the history of the south and particularly this city. It makes us feel uncomfortable and it is very offensive.

When I think of Robert E. Lee I instantly think of someone fighting in favor of slavery. Thoughts of physical harm, cruelty, and disenfranchisement flood my mind. … I am offended every time I pass it. I am reminded over and over again of the pain of my ancestors and all of the fighting that they had to go through for us to be where we are now. Quite frankly I am disgusted with the selective display of history in this city. There is more to Charlottesville than just the memories of Confederate fighters. There is more to this city that makes it great.

Let’s not forget that Robert E. Lee fought for perpetual bondage of slaves and the bigotry of the South that kept most black citizens as slaves and servants for the entirety of their lives. As a result, legislatures of the south chose to ignore and turn a blind eye to the injustices of African Americans from Jim Crow and anti-black terrorism to integrated education. These are all some things that this statue stands for. It is about more than just an individual, but rather what that individual believes in and the things that he stands for.”

In 2016, the petition fell just 270 supporters short of it’s goal of 1000 in concurrence with her appeal. A year later, the city council did indeed agree with young Zyahna, putting into motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the death of one young woman, and two police officers.

bread and circusesMake no mistake; the decision to remove the statue was a democratic decision. The reasoning behind the removal was sound, fiscally conservative, and sensitive to ALL of the residents of the city, not just those who wanted it to remain.

The only ones incensed by the decision were those who continue to believe that the emotions and history of white Americans are innately superior to those of other colours. Even the sidestep, that defends the artistry of the statues while denying the inherent racism implied, revolves around the right of white Americans to continue fawning over defeated, racist and bigoted leaders over the sensibility of those who were physically, emotionally, and financially damaged by those same leaders.

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”

Will this cataclysmic rift in ideology tear the country in half, ending in a Civil War Part Deux? And, more importantly for we in the North, as we read the words of many Canadians on social media agreeing with this cockeyed rationale for racist ‘art’, is Canada moving relentlessly towards a similar, more openly racist and bigoted point of view?

Mid August, and it’s never felt so much like that black day in July, 50 years ago …

 

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!

 

Time Travelling 101 with Janis and Jan


Some people think it would be great fun to be able to travel back in time to their youth, where they could relive the golden days of radio, nickel bags, and mega concerts where tickets ran you less than the cost of a TTC token today.

hippiesAnd certainly, there were good times to be had in the 60’s and 70’s, and I have tons of fond fuzzy memories of elephant pants and go-go boots, Sassoon haircuts, and Mary Quant and Twiggy makeup tips.

But for all of the good recollections … Let me just say that, if you ever do get a chance to go back – make sure you’ve got a way to return to the present. Especially if you’re a woman, or a person of colour. Trust me on that.

Even with the Cheeto Jesus now in possession of the nuclear launch codes, this time in history is actually one of the best of all ages. And hopefully, the positive changes will not come to a screeching halt, despite the Republicans’ best efforts.

When someone opines wistfully on the `good ol`days,` and how much better life was then, they always have one corollary – they’d like to be able to go back to their early life, but as a healthy youth, and with the wisdom they’ve acquired since those callow days. Otherwise, they’d just make the some mistakes over again.

But that’s how being young works. Yes, you get the hair, and the energy, and hopefully, a nice fit body that can see and hear pretty darn well … but you also get the `stupids.`  That’s the deal.

janis-joplinOne of my favorite memories of my own misspent youth is of the first and only time I saw Janis Joplin perform live. The Montreal Forum, November 4, 1969. It was every thing I had hoped for – and more.  I was first struck dumb by her presence and energy, and when that had passed, I rushed, like the thousands of others in the audience, to the stage front, to try and capture just a hint of that glorious essence by being closer to her.

She wailed, she flailed, she spun like a dervish, laughing hysterically between songs, chugging from the ever present 26er of Southern Comfort. She held us all, willingly, in the palm of her hand.

 

I had played her album Cheap Thrills, released in  ’68 with Big Brother and the Holding Company, until the grooves wore white. I not only knew her every word and inflection, I could even whistle the solos. I was a bona fide, dyed in the wool, Janis freak.

A piece of my heart died when she did, on October 4, 1970. Just 27, she had crammed so much life into just a few years, left an indelible impression, and then … she was gone. Although many have tried to imitate her trademark sound, few have come close. That voice was powered by a wild soul that nothing could tame, and no amount of stage magic can reproduce.

Just as with all of the other wonderful artists we’ve lost, you can’t help but wonder if they would have become even more remarkable as they aged, and as time and experience tempered their spirits. What would Janis be like, were she alive today?jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-4-jan-18-17

Jan Kudelka, another lifelong Janis fan, wondered the same thing. But her ponderings went further, launching a series of performance art pieces over the years, including last week’s Janis Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash.

The Tranzac‘s theatre was transformed into the perfect setting for Joplin’s return, as the ever faithful fans gathered.  Musicians Michelle Willis (keys), Tyler Wagler (bass), Martin Worthy (drums) and David Gray (guitar), ably laid down the groove to “Combination of the Two,” working the beat while Kudelka worked the audience, before swanning onto the stage.

For the next two forty minute sets, the audience sang along, hummed along, and happily lost themselves in Kudelka’s heartfelt interpretations of Joplin’s greatest hits, interspersed with thoughts, memories, and poesies on the singer’s short but incandescent life.

jan-kudelka-janis-tranzac-2-jan-18-17And in that time, we who were actually young when Janis was young, who first heard these songs on our radios or our portable record players or were in the audience when she toured, bottle firmly in hand, and wailed her way into our hearts, were able once more to revisit a time when everything seemed possible.

 

We – and the world – were young, wild, and free. Janis Joplin was the female embodiment of the wild woman spirit of the sixties. And we’d like to think that we had just a little of that wildness back then too. That’s what we want to time travel back to – and why it’s not possible. The world changed, and so did we. We can only move forward in time. If we are given the gift of aging, we must accept it as is, even when it comes with the baggage of becoming old.

jan-kudelka-janis-joplinBut the gift that  Kudelka gave us, by channelling Joplin’s spirit and music, was a chance to go back to our adolescence in our minds, to forget momentarily that, while we may be wiser, we are also greyer, stiffer, and a lot less supple than we once were. This Janis, then, a Janis Joplin that survived, and was celebrating a 74th birthday by once again sharing her talent .. this Janis relit the candle that aging, politics, and a general societal malaise seeks to extinguish in our hearts.

And damned if all of us in the audience didn’t leave the experience walking a little taller, feeling a little lighter, with a spring in our steps and a song on our lips.

A generous gift indeed, Ms Kudelka. I look forward to next January, and Joplin’s 75th birthday bash.

 

(first published @https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/roxanne-tellier-time-travelling-101-with-janis-and-jan/ )