Come The Revolution


Work Or RetireA friend of mine is looking forward to retirement, after being with the same company for nearly 40 years. She’s been there through the formative years, and the technological shifts that overtook them in the past three decades. Since she’s in Human Resources, she’s privy to information that was never committed to either paper or computer files.

This year, her work colleagues are basically downloading all of the insider information that only she can divulge, siphoning off her knowledge and memories of the people and actions that created the agency she’s helped to build and maintain.

And therein lies the difference between being a cog in the machine, or one of the main wheels. What she contributed to the agency, through connection, trust, and patience, cannot be duplicated, only recorded.

Do any students today even consider a gold watch after a lifetime career in a company, never mind a field or trade? The loyalty once prized by workers and bosses alike is a thing of the past, broken under the wheels of corporate capitalism, overwhelming greed, and a complete lack of empathy for the workers that make companies great.

While my friend is excited about the opportunities retirement will bring, there’s always a bit of a sadness in leaving behind the ‘real’ world that has shaped our environment. The restrictions we’ve chafed against were the frames – physical, emotional, and in the very days and hours we were expected to be resident – that shaped our lives.

As the Baby Boomers near and attain retirement age, we’re seeing an enormous sea change in North American society, a major shakeup of the status quo, and a repudiation of a tendency to believe that our social attitudes are set in stone, are ‘just the way things are’ and can’t be changed.

florida students nine daysCould there have been a #MeToo movement before 2017? The Womens March?  A #BoycottNRA? What has changed?

We Boomers had a good run – possibly the best run of any previous generation. And many of us became leaders, politically, or in the business or entertainment world. We have changed the way the world worked since we came of age in the sixties, and have kept our thumbs on the scale to keep it going, the way we insisted upon in our youths. Or – in some semblance, some blurry nostalgia, of what we thought we wanted in our youths.

And for those who have wielded power, the prospect of being powerless has no appeal.

Trouble is – there’s another wave coming up behind us, and they need the world to reflect their interests and concerns. It’s not that the next generation is demanding that we ‘leave the premises immediately,’ it’s that an awful lot of very powerful people are hanging in, with their outdated ideas, and in doing so, are holding back the fresh air this new wave will bring to society.

The way we did things in the past has to change, because new and often improved systems have come into being. We went from paper to digital, from the rotary phone to the handsfree and then smart phones. We can change. We just often balk at changes to our environment, and can be slow to embrace new systems – mainly because we are afraid we’ll fail to excel at the new tasks.

The fear and paranoia that propelled Trump to the American presidency came from the older and middle class voters, who were, essentially, out of ideas. The head of steam that the young bring to the planet was largely absent.

But we need to acknowledge and face the truth – the kids are here now. They are determined, opinionated, internet and media savvy, way stronger, more dogged, and less tired and jaded than we are … and they are gonna outlive us. They are the ‘WE’ we used to be, full of ginger and moxie and ready to take on THEIR world.

Which might be one reason why they’re so pissed at the mess we’re leaving behind. Most of us wouldn’t even leave an overnight stay in a cheesy motel in the disastrous shambles we’ll leave the planet.

Does Don Cherry speak for millennial hockey fans? The recently departed Billy Graham, or his son, Franklin, a political hack busily rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system ruled by fear of Muslims and homophobia? Any of the heads of state in any country, who give lip service to rights for everyone, but consistently fail to keep their promises once in power?

A media that constantly brays about ‘breaking news!’ that is rarely, if ever, acted upon in a reasonable length of time, and relies on controversy over substance? The daily newspapers that contain more advertisements than actual news? A housing market and stock market reaching astronomical heights that few, if any, millennials will ever get near?

Seriously .. subscribe to the NewsBroke channel on Youtube .. you will be glad you did.

This week, the NRA, once an institution that advocated gun safety and control, now run by the delusional Wayne LaPierre, lashed out at the kids who survived the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for daring to criticize and protest the NRA’s chokehold on policy and politicians. In an ironic and sickening twist, the survivors are now receiving death threats from NRA members.

But the kids are fighting back, and holding their own, disputing the NRA’s nonsensical claims and extremism, and Trump’s ridiculous notion of arming teachers rather than addressing the core problem – a plethora of deadly weapons, and the very real risk children run of being killed in a school shooting. (Since 2000, there have been 188 mass shootings in American schools and universities. So it’s getting to be, not a question of IF your kid will get shot at school, but when.)

thoughts and prayers cartoonI’ll admit that I greeted the latest shooting in Florida with grief, anger and cynicism. These murders, combined with the mealy mouthed offerings of ‘thoughts and prayers‘ rather than actually taking action to prevent further murders, drove me to despair.

But this time around, it seems that the victims themselves have opted to ‘be the change they want to see happen.’ Rather than wait for the next massacre, they are demanding that the authorities take responsibility, and work to prevent another slaughter in their halls of education.

And the adults, many of whom have sat quietly by, cowed by the bile spewed by the NRA and their rabid fans, are getting an infusion of energy from these students, with many even developing a spine from the shattered vertebrae of their previous compliance.

boycottNRACompanies that have now severed ties to the NRA under the #BoycottNRA hashtag, include the nation’s largest privately owned bank, First National Bank of Omaha, which will no longer offer an NRA branded Visa card. Other companies, including car rental firms Hertz, Entreprise, Alama, Avis, Budget and National, soon followed suit, while the Allied and North American Van lines pulled their perks as well. Software giant Symantec, MetLife Auto & Home, home security company SimpliSafe, Teladoc, Chubb, HotelPlanner.com, United and Delta Airlines, and even Vinesse wines, which operates the “official wine club of the NRA,” have joined in the protest.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. The NRA overplayed their hand – and it’s bust time for the ammosexuals. In order to prevent the complete demise of his association, LaPierre will have to choose which master the NRA will serve in the future – the powerful and wealthy weapons manufacturers or the right of the American people to live in safety and peace.

every great institution Emerson quote. jpg

Our children are watching as all of our time honoured institutions, those collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings, the venerable systems we could look to for protection and security are being attacked, denigrated and abused. Every day we get closer to the day that these institutions will be weakened to the point of collapse, and once that happens, the very character and quality of democracy will fall with it.

So – can you really blame the kids for being pissed at the status quo? What exactly are they meant to inherit from us, except massive debt, chronically unstable employment, and the ruin of a planet we couldn’t be bothered to clean up after we’d used up all of the good things it once had to offer?

the future is hereAll of life is a flow of non-linear changes, threads in a tapestry that is ever changing and unpredictable. Our challenge must be to learn how to confront and respond to new life transitions, no matter how unpredictable they may be.

The world is changing, as the world always does, and it will continue to turn long after our time has come and gone. Mark Twain reputedly once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

For many in power, the time has come to step aside, and let the future unfold, just as it always has. Step aside, and let the new kids in town take their turn at centre stage. They certainly can’t do any worse than we did.

no man ever steps in the same river twice

 

 

 

If Aging is Inevitable …


It really is unfortunate that Trump decided to pause his retirement to be a part time president.  He’s happier golfing, or lying in bed eating cheeseburgers, and I think we all would be delighted to see him go back to those pastimes full time. trump in bed w chzburgers

That being said, being aware of the declining thought processes of a 71 year old person who insists on being the center of attention 24/7 has, for good or ill, has shone a spotlight on how to age disgracefully.

Trump embodies much of the fears, confused thinking, and self indulgence associated with declining mental health.

One of the first and most important signs of this psychological decline is what is called ‘doom thinking,” or thought processes becoming instantly hostile, stressed or sad. With this mindset, anything that doesn’t resemble the familiar is perceived as threatening.

Another sign is extreme mood swings, with periods of elation, anger, depression or even rage. Disorganized speech, evasive answers to even the simplest questions, and a tendency to wander mentally while responding are also warnings.

Cognition EqualsPaying attention to our own physical and mental needs as we age should be a top priority for everyone – not just for our own good, but out of respect for those who will share those senior years with us.

I recently entered a study that focuses on the impact of aging on memory. I’d noticed myself having more difficulty memorizing song lyrics; I could remember the words to songs I’d sung 40 years ago, but was struggling to remember new lyrics at rehearsal. I also found myself having a tough time coming up with just the right word to use, whether in writing a column, or in discussion with others.

accept responsibilityBut it wasn’t until I began the interview process of  the study that I realized how many workarounds I’d unconsciously adapted, in order to conceal the normal mental decline we all face during the aging process. I also began to notice how often I blamed circumstances or other people when I made an error, rather than recognizing that the error was my own fault.

Our brains are wonderful things; they are extraordinarily adept at finding the least difficult way to do things.  And that is great, during our youth and middle age, when we’re negotiating our way through school, a career, relationships and all the matters that we have to contend with in the full throes of life.

But as we approach and enter retirement, a lot of the distractions have faded away, and we have less worries to occupy our thoughts. That’s when we may discover that we’ve lost some of our mental agility, along with the supple physicality of our youths.

brain stimThe study that I’m a part of requires confidentiality on the specifics, but I can say that it involves electrical and cognitive brain stimulation on a daily basis, and includes cognitive remediation (computer games) for an eight week period.

It also includes daily discussions on known methods of combating mental decline. Most of these have been around for quite some time, but so many of us fail to plan for a time when we no longer have to answer to anyone but ourselves.

Everyone approaches retirement differently, and how we hope to spend our days is often based on how we have spent our time in the previous four decades. Some are looking forward to afternoon naps and endless NetFlix, while others want to get into volunteerism, cookery, or further education.

If one’s daily work kept the wolf from the door, but didn’t fulfill an artistic urge, this might be the first chance some will have to finally pursue their ambitions.

The most important thing is to HAVE a plan. Drifting into retirement without any idea of where you’re going next, will ensure you go nowhere of interest  Time will pass; whether or not you enjoy that time is up to you.

retire happy(A good book on planning for retirement is one I read a few years back, by Canadian Ernie J. ZelinskyHow to Retire Happy, Wild and Free. It’s a great follow up to his previous book … The Joy of Not Working: 21st Century Edition – A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked. The focus of both books is on enjoying life and both encourage physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and improvements.)

So, what are a few things that anyone can put into practice to build new brain cells, and alleviate mental decline?

Cognitive impairment is not inevitable. You can really reduce the risk of age-related memory loss by keeping mentally stimulated, through activities that stimulate new connections between nerve cells. To develop neurological ‘plasticity’, indulge in mentally stimulating activities, like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and crafts like drawing and painting, that require manual dexterity as well as mental effort.

healthy eating. jpgIt is tempting to ease up on our diets as we age, but it’s probably more important  to be nutritionally wise as you age, than it is during the more physically active years. It’s not just about how much or little you eat, as it is what you’re eating. Reducing consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from animal sources and of trans-fatty acids from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, along with a concentration of foods high in the B vitamins can help lower your homocysteine levels, which are often linked to an increased risk of dementia. Eat your greens, and enjoy more grains.

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which is designed to reduce blood pressure, but could also protect against dementia.

The ten foods considered healthy are:

    •    green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale 
    •    other vegetables, such as red peppers, squash, carrots and broccoli 
    •    nuts 
    •    berries, including blueberries and strawberries 
    •    beans, lentils and soybeans 
    •    wholegrains 
    •    seafood 
    •    poultry 
    •    olive oil 
    •    wine (in moderation)

Five foods considered unhealthy include red meat, butter and stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried or fast foods. So .. all the fun stuff. <le sigh>

 Beyond staying lean, it’s particularly important to keep a stern eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Diabetes is not a given as you age.

Although you may not want to hear it, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake are pretty much essential. Some say up to two alcoholic drinks a day is safe for men, with slightly less being ideal for women. Excessive drinking is a major risk factor for dementia.

Good, refreshing sleep is probably the greatest gift you can give your brain cells. A deep, REM sleep of from six to eight hours a night replenishes the brain, and allows ‘janitor cells’ to clear away dead cells and make room for the new. There is some evidence that sleeping on your left side makes that process easier for your body.

https://dailyhealthpost.com/6-hidden-health-benefits-of-sleeping-on-your-left-side-that-you-should-know-about/

Anxious, depressed, sleep-deprived, or exhausted people are at an increased risk of cognitive decline in old age. Keeping control of our emotions will help. Having a circle of friends and acquaintances with whom you enjoy interacting is also very important for keeping a positive attitude.

Despite the aches and pains often associated with aging, older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain.

MDS LogoExercise is known for promoting both body and mind, with the elderly seeing especially great improvements. But it is not known which type of exercise is best for the elderly. To help address this, the traditional fitness group conducted mainly repetitive exercises like cycling or Nordic walking, while the dance group was challenged with something new each week.

Consistently changes in dance routines of different genres were implemented. These included the likes of jazz, square, Latin-American, and line dancing. To help keep the dances more challenging, speed and rhythms were changed every week to simulate the learning process as the seniors learned new routines.

Both groups were found to have increases in their hippocampus regions of the brain – an important area prone to age-related decline and affected by neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s. the hippocampus is also known for playing key roles in memory, learning, and even balance.

 “Exercise has the beneficial effect of slowing down or even counteracting age-related decline in mental and physical capacity. In this study, we show that two different types of physical exercise (dancing and endurance training) both increase the area of the brain that declines with age. In comparison, it was only dancing that lead to noticeable behavioral changes in terms of improved balance,” says Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld, lead author of the study, based at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany.”

Aging is not for sissies .. or the lazy. But with mindfulness, self love, and an open mind, it can be the best time of your life. Live! Love! Dance!

admire kind people

For more information on the paid study on aging and memory:

http://www.camh.ca/en/research/research_areas/studies_and_recruitment/study-websites/Pages/PACt-MD.aspx

 

Boom Times in the Big Smoke


It’s Boom Town for realtors in Toronto these days. 243,400 houses were sold last year, and as of April of this year, the average residence in the city had a starting price tag of a cool $921,000.

378 East Sept 2016My old house in Scarborough, which we sold last July, was re-sold twice more by speculators before the year ended, each time jumping another $100K or so in price. It’s now been demolished and rebuilt as a monster home. I wouldn’t recognize the place, they tell me.

Fine by me. We sold, we moved, and I can barely remember the person I was when I lived in my big, old bungalow. Turns out it’s great not to have the onus of house maintenance, and the constant waiting for the next expense to drop. Renting, after 30 years of owning, may not lend the same sense of autonomy, but it also comes with a lot less responsibility and chores.

Taxes can be a burden on the home owner as well, since your residential tax is based on current value, not what you paid for the place at the time of purchase. If you lucked out in the eighties and bought your dream home for around $100,000, you might be considering a second job just to keep the taxes paid and the utilities flowing.

hawkstone-manorGood ol’ Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins has his big estate, Hawkstone Manor, up for sale. Again. He tried to sell it for $14.9 million back in 2013, and failed. But it’s up again, this time listed at $4.3 million. If it goes to a bidding war, which is not out of the question, he could still get closer to the $10 million mark.

From the Toronto Star, April 2013:
“It’s a $100 house on a million-dollar property.”

The nine-bedroom, five-bathroom home is really only notable for the lifetime of memories that line its orange living room walls. A buyer would likely bring in a bulldozer.

But the house sits atop a rare piece of prime Kawarthas real estate — 165 acres gently sloping down to almost 4,000 feet of waterfront that, on these sought-after shores of the Trent-Severn Waterway, can go for $5,000 a foot.”

The Order of Canada recipient is 82, and not in the best of health. Whatever the final price, he and his wife will be able to cash out big and find somewhere a lot cosier to shelter them in their golden years.

sold over asking. jpgAnd that’s the ideal situation to be in, in the market right now. If you’re selling and have to purchase another place in the city – good luck to you. They want ridiculous money for so much as a garage, without a house attached. It’s madness. Tiny bungalows, like the one I’m renting, list for $800K and sell for over a million.

And when the interest rates rise in a bit, it’s gonna be even crazier. How can the average person buy so much as an entry home in the city, without a family income somewhere in the $300K a year range? It’s nuts. Rock, meet hard place. Rock musicians … move to Hamilton.

Funny thing, though, about this real estate madness – with hundreds of thousands of properties changing hands in the last two years, there have never been more paper millionaires minted in the city than it’s likely seen in it’s history. scrooge_mcduck

Not just millionaires – multi-millionaires. If you’re one of those lucky enough to have pretty much retired the mortgage, and are ready for retirement yourself, you could be walking away with more money than you ever dreamed you’d have. (Not me, I hasten to add – we did alright but didn’t hit Scrooge McDuck status. We’re barely McDucklings. We’re Ova McDuck, if anything.)

Barring a lotto win, which is unlikely, since I keep forgetting to buy a ticket, I’ll probably spend the rest of my days in rental properties, of decreasing proportions. Part of me would love to be a home owner again, but the rational, sensible part of my brain is quite comfortable with letting someone else worry about the roof, the septic tank, and the tyranny of ‘keeping up with the Jones.

I’m liking this downsizing, says the unrepentant hoarder. I’m liking trying to fit everything that once overflowed a 4000 square foot sprawler into this teensy tiny, less than 1000 square foot bungalow. It’s given me the chance to actually sift through all of these souvenirs and memories, and sort the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. I’m culling the hoard. It’s great to tear willy nilly through the detritus, and toss out the junk. It’s fun to put boxes of odds and ends on the lawn, under a big sign that says ‘Free!’ and watch cars screech to a halt, their drivers eager to find some little treasure to haul home.

1 800 got junkIt’s really heartening to go through all of the boxes of clothing, shoes, books, craft items, and linens, choose what can be redistributed within our family and friends, and then pass on the overflow to people who will appreciate what we’ve donated. There are so many who have so little, while others have three of everything. Distributing some of my bounty to those who can use it liberates my home AND my heart.

I didn’t need three apple corers. In fact, I have never even used one of them, not even once. Ditto the cherry pitter.

For the first time in my life, I’m no longer buying stuff ‘just in case,’ or with a view to some future purpose, because my future is now, and I want to be present.

I’m happy for those who are selling their properties for a tidy profit. I’m happy for those who are finding their dream homes. I worry about Torontonians who missed the real estate roundabout, and are now trying to find something affordable to rent. But this is all going on around me, and like you, I have very little say in what the Toronto of tomorrow will resemble.

Owning a home is not for everyone. It’s a very nice thing, and can certainly be wise and profitable in midlife. But when it comes time for retirement, home ownership is more like an anchor around your neck, keeping your proverbial boat stuck in one place. To enter new waters, you’ve got to haul up that anchor, and unfurl the sails, letting the fresh breeze take you somewhere new and exciting.

Avast, me hearties … I’m bound for uncharted shores!

 

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.

 

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!

 

Epiphany – Life Changes


We sold our house a month and a half ago … got a good price, and a long lead time, so we’re pretty happy about that. My husband is retiring in December, and I won’t be that far behind him. And this is a fairly large property, that feels too big for he and I to care for. Well, we probably could. We just don’t care to.

Big changes in life are like earthquakes; all that was simmering below the surface is suddenly revealed in the upheaval.

The last six weeks have been traumatic. At first, the relief of selling, along with the funds that will follow, made me giddy with excitement. And then, after the thrill wore off, ugly reality set in. I’ve been a home owner for almost thirty years, and a hoarder for at least the last ten. Faced with the need to evaluate what I value, and what is valuable – two very different things – it was time to finally decide the direction my life will take for the next chapter.

I sank into a paralysis of indecision, tortured by what I would be giving up … my large back yard, and gardens; this beautiful street; the lake at the bottom of the hill. The house, I realized, had never really mattered, but being an owner of a house did. If I decided I wanted to put up shelves, paint a wall, even put a nail in a cupboard to hold my measuring spoons, those were MY decisions, and the consequences mine to answer for.

Renting will be very different. I will have to ask ‘permission’ to do so many things, including keeping a pet. I understand that. Owning property is a big deal. Making sure that property retains value is a big deal. I can’t expect to freely treat a rental unit as I would a home in which I have a financial stake.

However, losing that autonomy is also a big deal. In many ways it feels like a surrender, like going home to the parents after making a stab at liberation. I’m an independent cuss, so that doesn’t feel very good at all.

It also smacks of the other end of life, of the surrendering of independence in pursuit of once more being taken care of by others.

So I am simultaneously feeling like a young bird, leaving the nest, and an old dog, hoping its owners will still appreciate and comfort it as it ages.

 

life-changes-oprah-quote