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.

To Panic or Not to Panic


by Roxanne Tellier

To update the old saw; whether you believe we are in the middle of a global pandemic, or not – you are right.

There is plenty of ‘evidence’ to bolster either conclusion. And that, in a nutshell, is precisely at the core of our immediate dilemma; in the face of a poorly coordinated, half-hearted, largely disrespected, lack of an honest plan for moving forward, the people are the losers.

“It’s just like a cold. More people die of the flu. It’ll be all over by the spring, when the hot weather arrives. It’ll just go away.  And besides, it’s gonna mainly just go after the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”

Man, it’s like the early days of HIV/AIDs. No one is too concerned at first, until they realize that someone they actually love is at risk. THEN it’s real.

Without strong, disciplined, bipartisan leadership, the planet is sleepwalking toward that part in the horror movie when the teenaged girls in bikinis decide that the dead of night is a great time to explore the abandoned cabin that’s perched on the cursed graveyard. No matter how much you scream ‘DON’T GO IN!” the hapless victims seem locked into their fate. 

I want people to assume that we’re overreacting because if it looks like you’re overreacting you’re probably doing the right thing.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr Anthony Fauci

The hard-won knowledge that is coming out of the worst infected areas is cautioning that only a complete commitment to social isolation can possibly flatline, or at least slightly flatten, an otherwise inevitably upward curve to confirmed cases, and sadly, the deaths of many.  

In actual fact, our governments have our social containment firmly in their grasps, should they decide to use their powers. Once a national emergency has been declared, there are sweeping, authoritarian-like powers that can lawfully separate people from their friends and families, or indeed, can legally order the containment and/or movement of anyone believed to have the virus, or have been exposed to it. Non-compliance of any of the constrictions could lead to fines and prosecution of scofflaws.

That would be your worst-case scenario. But whatever is to happen next, we must first have leaders in whom we have confidence. And we also have to make that giant leap in our own minds that there really is a boogieman out there, one that can not only take out our loved ones, but that can turn any one of us into an unwitting carrier that might well bring home the very disease we want to shield them from.

Even countries that have been goaded into rabid divisiveness need to get their act together. It’s time to think of the entire country as a tribe – not opposing teams – and work together to help each other out. It’s a lot harder when so many simply do not or can not believe in what they are hearing from their own governments, and instead have a sneaking suspicion that those meant to protect them, actually have more interest in either saving their own skins, or in using the opportunity to line their pockets at the peoples’ expense.

As if that mix isn’t toxic enough, add in one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus …. Baby boomers.  Now, I don’t want to say that we boomers have basically decided that we’re never gonna die – I’m just saying that we brought vinyl back when all the experts said that vinyl was as dead as the dodo. Baby Boomers that have gotten into a good job, in politics, big business, or the Market, have super glued themselves to their chairs, and have no intention of ever leaving, even if the virus DOES get them.

All things being equal, I’m not too terribly surprised at how many people are pooh poohing any kind of long-term social isolation, but hear me out – we’re more than halfway there already. With schools, libraries, live theatres, and so many other venues simply shutting their doors for the foreseeable future, why not bow to this enforced quarantine, and try to break the chain of infection?  

Not seizing the opportunity would be like throwing a fancy-dress party, but not specifying a date – in order for this to be effective, we need to be together, as a country, as a people. We need to MAKE it work, by committing to following the guidelines. How hard can it be?

If you’re trying to save the economy, that’s laudable. But these closings and shut downs are already in effect. There might not be another time when everything coincides to make it easiest to shut down for spring break, and then extend that break just long enough to get past the 14 day isolation period. Sure, I’m not happy that the live, daily shows that I enjoy will not be filmed or shown, but those people deserve to have their health considered as well – the stars and staff of those shows are not trained performing monkeys, they’re people with families and loved ones, maybe kids out of school for the duration, and they deserve that time off as much as anyone else does.

I don’t think it makes much sense to fight against that. This moment in time was fortuitous – it’s unlikely another will be in place before the summer. We have a chance to take control of a bad situation, and hopefully defeat the worst of what might be to come.

In terms of economic survival, the people I worry the most about are those who are part of the ‘gig’ economy – musicians, waiters, bartenders, Uber/Lyft drivers, and so many more who were clever enough to create jobs for themselves when no one would give them one. People who have thrown their lot in to entrepreneurialism are really going to suffer from a lack of a paycheck. They will need to be nimble and clever to ride it out. Sometimes it is in crisis that creative people come up with the next big evolutionary step in their art. Perhaps this is the gig economy’s ‘dinosaur, meet comet’ moment. I guess we’re about to find that out.

Then there’s the healthcare field; already overwhelmed by government’s continual nipping and tucking of their budgets. This crisis is shining a spotlight on what happens when we cut too close to the bone, and endanger not only our patients, but the very people that we need to save us when it hits the fan. First responders are also going to be an endangered species; the police, fire, EMTs, 911 operators, ambulance drivers, are all going to be working overtime to take care of those who need their services. What happens when those people have to deal with the virus in their own families? Or in themselves? Time to be very, very kind to everyone you know who stands between you and a very messy illness.

Bear in mind, as well, that while we’re trying to ramp up to help people with acute virus symptoms, that already strained health care system and lack of beds and equipment is ensuring a continuation of hall way medicine, and long, long hours in emergency rooms. Having a heart attack? A baby? We’re already hearing about women facing hard labour on a gurney – or even out in the parking lot. Triage could get brutal.

There’s so much more to consider. What happens to those people who keep going in to work, in any field, that have to worry about their kids being out of school for several weeks? Is serving your coffee, or ringing up your purchases, as important as being home to care for their children, or elderly parents? 

Truthfully, what’s really making us crazy is this crippling uncertainty. We don’t’ know how long this will go on. Do we need to look at long term unemployment? What about the kids? How long can we sustain any kind of isolation? Without a clear vision, just getting through the next few weeks may seem like too much of a hardship, personally, and for our country.

We want to know that this too will pass, but we’d be a lot more comfortable if there were clear indicators of what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next month. We want to know that there are brighter days ahead, if we can only hang in through this trying period. When we are told to expect worse to come, it doesn’t make what is happening now any easier.

In Italy right now, a country that is, granted, much more attuned to an authoritarian, militaristic governance, the people are dutifully quarantined in their homes. Some say that America is just one week ahead of where Italy is right now, pandemic wise.

This letter, from Monica Maggioni, a veteran journalist and the CEO of RaiCom, a division of Italian public television, was published in the Washington Post today, in an attempt to paint a bit of a picture of what is going on there.

For many Italians, the normal warnings about this virus were simply not enough to change behavior. Denial comes too easily, perhaps. It was more convenient to blame some foreign germ-spreader, or pretend that the news was unreal. Then came a reality check: Last Sunday, Pope Francis gave a benediction not from his normal window at the Vatican but via video, in part to avoid the crowd on St. Peter’s Square but also to send a message. That was the first strong sign to snap out of it.

Now I find myself confined in a place where time is suspended. All the shops are closed, except for groceries and pharmacies. All the bars and restaurants are shuttered. Every tiny sign of life has disappeared. The streets are totally empty; it is forbidden even to take a walk unless you carry a document that explains to authorities why you have left your house.”

Strange days, hard times. And yet – even in the sadness, the wonderful people of Italy are proving that the sharing of music can keep us from despair.

They will prevail. And so will we.

A Taste of Spring


by Roxanne Tellier

Oh, it’s gorgeous on the porch this morning! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s not cold enough to kill you! It’s all good, says I and Lord Farlsworth. Bring on the Spring!

Of course, there’s that pesky little matter of having to deal with all the clocks. I’m on record as being very anti daylight savings, and it’s NOT just because I love clocks, and have several in every room. I checked; I’ve written about the madness of continuing this practice numerous times. Based on our records, many – hundreds! –  of you have read my ideas on changing this twice-yearly assault on our modern 24/7 economy, and STILL we continue to ‘spring forward, fall back.”

It’s as though all of my high-quality, painstakingly chosen, words are but farts in the wind! Is it possible my deeply considered, research-based opinions on politics are getting the same sort of non-response? Are my deep thoughts not being conveyed to Premier Ford, and past and present prime ministers, for their perusal?  Say it ain’t so!

I’m also shocked to tell you that there’s a women’s march going on downtown, even though I distinctly remember marching in several of these in the seventies, in both Montreal AND Toronto, AND attending a bunch of fundraisers AND buying International Women’s Day buttons, both to give away, and to wear myself! 

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that we still don’t have a female president or prime minister (besides the nearly five months of Kim Campbell’s rule.) Yeah, we probably just need to wade through the turns of all those old, rich, white guys … a few gay males, maybe a trans male …  and then I’m SURE we’ll get to a woman we’ll consider ‘electable.’ Right?

Next you’ll be telling me that all of those protests, marches, petitions, and eventual 1973 decision of the US Supreme Court on Roe v Wade that decriminalized abortion nationwide is in the process of being re-litigated, and that Chief Justice Roberts has laid the groundwork to reverse that precedent!

I told you not to tell me.

Yeah, I don’t want to bring you down, on this beautiful, sunny Sunday, but seriously, now … why did we bother? Why did so many people care so deeply, work so hard, and ultimately succeed in getting a decision and Supreme Court ruling that allowed women to decide on the fate of their own bodies, if all it takes is one trump in the White House to tear it all back down, and leave American women once again to the tender mercies of back alley, coat hanger, abortions? 

Apparently there are several other, equally impactful, decisions resting on this trumpified Supreme Court, and America – I’m afraid you’re not gonna like the new look. Since Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were installed, tipping the balance to five right wing judges vs four leftish wingers, the walls are tumbling down faster than 86 year old Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and 65 year old Justice Sonia Sotomayor can prop them back up.

Your ‘swing vote’ is none other than Justice Clarence Thomas. And have you heard how his wife Gini has been spending her spare time lately? Seems she’s a huge trump fan, and so she’s opting to Big Brother her wifely role and become a key part of the conservative associates opting to send trump info so that he can weed out those not 100% loyal to His Majesty.

That just doesn’t bode well for Thomas listening to the dissents of Ginsberg and Sotomayor.

Earlier this year, the justices lifted a nationwide injunction against a sweeping policy that specifically targeted poor immigrants. The ‘public charge’ rule, put in place last August by the Department of Homeland Security, will allow officials to turn away anyone likely to become a ‘public charge’ by use of food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. This applies to immigrants wishing to enter the U.S., extend a visa, or apply for a green card.

It will also affect immigrants applying for temporary visas, even in the case of tourists, students, business travellers and skilled workers. 

Based on this rule, trump’s own mother and grandparents would not have been allowed entry. But it’s too late to close that barn door now – he’s here, and he’s not done yet.

Worse, denying entry to immigrants, and removing the right to a safe abortion, is just the New Trump Court warming up; after their summer vacation, they’re gonna rule on taking away whatever is left of the rotting corpse of Obama’s hard-won Affordable Health Care from about 20 million Americans.

And if trump gets another term, which at this point is looking like a good possibility, Americans will face very large cuts to their Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

I’ve got a question; if all we keep hearing about is what an amazing economy America has right now, of how it’s all looking up and everyone’s getting so much richer and happier under this president – none of which has been substantiated by actual fact or research – why can America no longer afford to be generous? I mean, okay, if you feel like America has been Daddy Money to the world for decades, and that it’s time others paid their ‘fair share,’ well, that’s one thing.

(“More than two hundred countries receive U.S. aid. (about $50 billion per year)  It disproportionately goes to a few, however, with the top five all receiving over $1 billion per year as of 2016: Iraq ($5.3 billion), Afghanistan ($5.1 billion), Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.2 billion), and Jordan ($1.2 billion).” Cfr.ogr)

But how can a supposedly caring, nominally Christian, country simultaneously go from what they claim is a prosperous, booming economy, to a place where its dog eat dog for those not fortunate enough to be young and healthy, or conversely, old and rich?  Why are nearly a million Americans homeless?  If the country is so wealthy, why do so many Americans have to work multiple jobs, at minimum wage, in order to barely survive? Why are even government, civil service, workers kept at the lowest possible wage, while the number of American billionaires keeps rising?

(“In 2017, 80.4 million workers age 16 and older in the United States were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.3 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 542,000 workers earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  BLS.gov)

There’s a strong streak of cruelty that’s always been part of the Republican mindset, even before trump. Despite repeated claims of fiscal responsibility, the GOP have always been more than eager to cut the taxes of the rich without cutting spending on already overly padded areas, like the military. But they just LOVE to cut anything that might help the poorest of their citizens.

Take the new rules on food stamps trump levied last year. Those cuts will hurt hundreds of thousands of children, veterans, and the disabled, while saving only tiny amounts that will be gobbled up just with the enforcement.

The GOP are so eager to be cruel that they will willfully damage their own, even when it won’t cost them a penny. Take Medicaid expansion, which, under the Affordable Care Act, was made optional, on a state by state basis. A no brainer, right? After all, it would get the federal government to pay 90 per cent… NINETY PER CENT  . of a state’s health costs, as well as producing indirect cost savings on previously uncompensated costs, and boosting a state’s economy, which raises tax revenues.

A no brainer – and yet one on which 14 Republican-controlled states, many of which claim the nation’s poorest citizens, took a hard pass. Why take care of your citizens, the ones that put you in office, when you have the option of making peoples’ lives so much worse?

It seems to me that Americans have found themselves in a very odd place in time. On the one hand, many, even previous trump voters, are determined to make him a one term, impeached memory. On the other, the fight for who will lead the Democratic party – really, the only other choice in what is essentially a two-party race – is becoming a death march to the finish for some of the oldest candidates ever to willingly seek elected office.

Two weeks ago, the will of the people seemed to be with Bernie, but just last week. it became all Biden, all the way

How do you counsel people to overcome their apathy and lack of interest in civics and politics when what they see with their own eyes confirms what they’ve sort of believed for most of their lives?

Spring – When the cats return to the trees, to sing their Spring songs!

It’s very hard to convince people that they matter, that their needs and values count, and that their vote makes a difference, when all it takes is one cretin winning the presidency to make all of their hard work seem to have been for nought.

Tough times, indeed. But today, there’s a promise of Spring in the air, and, for me, that always means it’s time for some Deanna Durbin. I can’t help singing!

Corona My House, Baby


by Roxanne Tellier

So – that was a pretty wild month, right? Even for a leap year? At this time of year, I’m usually talking about cabin fever, and writing about ‘hygge’ and how to cope when winter just won’t leave.

But not this year! This will definitely be a February to remember. We’ve had early primaries and voting that’s driven some Democrats to the edge of hysteria – James Carville may never survive the Bern. Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, so we can hope for an early spring. And Trump unveiled Kushner’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, causing the Palestinian National Authority to cut all ties with the US and Israel.

Trump’s obsequious and sycophantic GOP acquitted him, despite pretty much all of the Senators agreeing that baby’d done a bad, bad thing.  I mean … COME ON, folks… Trump’s already so narcissistic he expects presents on Mothers Day. Now he believes he is America’s King and the presumed second coming of their Lord and Savior. He is a mad king, high on his own infallibility, trying, but miserably failing, to oversee a pivotal moment in history. We can thank the spineless, power mad, Republican party for this ‘very special’ moment in American history.

And – oh yeah, we got hit with a plague.

Whether you believe history repeats or rhymes, studying what’s gone before tells us much about where we are now. People smarter than myself have warned for decades that the planet was long overdue for a global pandemic. It’s a cycle, and one which has, in the last 12,000 years, killed between 300-500 million people. We’ve had cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and of course, influenza. Heck, the Antonine Plague of 165 AD is thought to have been either smallpox or measles, something the 5 million people who died in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece and Italy had never heard of before it hit hard.

In the seven years that the Black Death decimated Europe, Africa and Asia, there was an estimated death toll of about 200 million.

Over the last two hundred years, we’ve had odd outbreaks of cholera and flu, but apart from the great flu pandemic of 1918 that killed about 50 million humans, there have been smaller death tolls, and a quicker response, saving millions of lives, through a wise and well prepared use of science and good health policies.

No matter when an epidemic appears, or where, there are two key measures necessary to halt the spread as quickly as possible, and to care for those who become infected by these diseases.  A society needs to be prepared, with prophylactic obstructions organized to routinely stop the movement of illness across borders. And once infected, a society needs to be kept informed as to how to protect themselves, how to care for those who fall to an illness, how to deal with the necessary complications of everyday life, and how to stop the spread of the illness to any vulnerable citizens.  

However, with this current epidemic, the trump administration has opted to politicize the response, and to muzzle trusted experts by insisting that they only report to VP Pence, who will, ostensibly, then bowdlerize whatever the experts say, and squeeze that through a funnel that may or may not be trump’s colon, before releasing it to an anxious nation.

The first problem with that ‘solution; is that no one believes or trusts, trump’s words. As of January 2020, he’d racked up almost 17,000 out and out disproven lies. Would you trust your life to this man?   

Pence and trump are willfully walking down exactly the same path that Iran did; when confronted with the virus, they attempted to deny the truth. And they should hope that they don’t get a similar outcome

In early February, as rumours about coronavirus cases and deaths started spreading in Iran, the Iranian regime went into full-scale denial mode and held the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Islamic Revolution. Hundreds of thousands marched on the streets, met, spent lots of time in very close proximity to each other.

And the Iranian Regime continued to deny any coronavirus cases despite being in the middle of an outbreak.

Last week, just a few days prior to their sham elections on Friday, it seems that the situation got so bad that the regime could not deny it anymore. They had to admit to numerous cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus. Nonetheless, they decided to go ahead with their sham election in the middle of an outbreak of a highly contagious virus.

The result has been that many in the Iranian Regime have been infected, including the vice deputy of health and one of the vice presidents. 6 parliamentarians have also been infected, with one of them having died already. It’s even probable that President Rouhani, who held cabinet meetings with some of the infected ministers, is also infected. It should also surprise no-one if many of the religious leaders are infected, as well.

Trump is actively making matters worse. After spending several years dismantling the government apparatuses that were set up to handle precisely this type of situation, he’s calling the epidemic a ‘hoax, ’ saying that it’s just another thing the Dems have cooked up to hobble his campaign.  

(kudos to the Dems for going all in on the hoaxing, right? I mean… talking China and North Korea into ‘faking’ their symptoms and all of those deaths, not to mention having the Iranian vice president hospitalized … that deserves a round of applause, at the very least!)

He’s made himself and his party the real victims here, claiming that the Dems are somehow complicit in ruining his re-election efforts. Doesn’t seem to register in his pea brain that the Dems are knee deep in their own election concerns, as the contenders vie for party leader in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Trump’s managed to maneuver several Republican led states into forgoing caucuses or primaries in 2020, so he essentially has no party competition between himself and a fall re-election. Nonetheless, he refuses to abandon his Nuremburg style rallies, in which both he and his faithful cult apparently seek a simultaneous climax through the mangling and ingestion of his tasty word salads.

In the face of the coronavirus, that fervor is quite likely to turn many of their gathering places into seething, simmering petri dishes of disease.   

Trump’s only interest is to protect himself, his money, his re election… the people aren’t even close to the top of his list of concerns. And that’s sad, because most of those people who follow him really love him, and they’re about to get sick, and maybe even die, as they follow his dance to the cliff’s edge. Sadder still – he just doesn’t care.

For the last three years, any laws, rules or regulations that would benefit the lower- and middle-class voters of the United States have been deregulated, cut, or have simply disappeared from the budget. Despite repeatedly swearing to his base that he would never take away their Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, all three of those are on the chopping block in the budget he and his minions are in the midst of preparing.

And, to date, he’s cut the working budgets of the CDC, National Security Council, (entire global security health unit) Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.  

Not only that, “In its latest budget proposal, the Trump administration sought to cut CDC funding by 16% — even as Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar seeks emergency spending from lawmakers to combat the coronavirus.”

The remarks come amid warnings from CDC experts that the virus’ spread in the US was “inevitable” and urged Americans to prepare. But the Trump administration has spent the last two years gutting critical positions and programs that health experts say weakened the federal government’s ability to manage a health crisis.

In 2018, the White House eliminated a position on the National Security Council tasked with coordinating a global pandemic response. The CDC that same year also axed 80% of its efforts combating disease outbreaks overseas because its funds were depleted.”

The funds we used to spend on global pandemic preparedness were not wasted money – that was the nation’s first line of defense

And now clinics and hospitals face a shortage not only of face masks, but of working testing kits that would help them to identify new victims of the virus.

There are other issues here, though, and we need to be making a plan of what to do next. American citizens lack a lot of the amenities that might have made the handling of this health crisis a lot easier. Having a proper health care plan would have been good. Instead, we’re hearing that those who seek medical aid are being hit with bills of over $300, just to determine if they have the virus. How are they expected to pay for treatment, if it turns out they are infected? 

Minimum wage earners likely haven’t got the option of taking sick days, but they are also unlikely to have any extra money lying around to get them through a period of not working. What happens when cashiers, restaurant servers, cooks, bartenders, gas station attendants, and the like just stop going to work, either because of their own illness, or to help soothe the illness of a child or spouse?

What happens when restaurants and stores close, because there’s no staff, and there aren’t enough customers to keep the doors open? What happens when the “just in time” ordering that has kept businesses financially solvent for decades, comes up against China not having the people or resources to keep the supply chain lubricated?

The stock market lost $6 trillion dollars last week. How many people will lose their jobs due to that drop?

What happens to the homeless, who are already in poor health? What about the immigrants and refugees, mostly little kids, crammed together in camps around the nation? Those camps are ripe for spreading contamination.

It’s hard to believe, but even as America begins to count its own dead, the trump administration continues to call for funds – $3.8 billion this week – to be steered from other congressionally approved budgets, like the Department of Defense, to be used to build that infernal wall, instead of using any and all available money to save their own citizens.  

The Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, called for $8.5 billion in emergency funding to help fight the coronavirus, which was three times the $2.5 billion that trump had requested be released.  

Meanwhile, the head of Homeland Security told American citizens that a vaccine was at least ten or eleven months away, but when it was available, not all citizens would be able to afford it. (Although their taxes WOULD pay for the research and distribution of the drug.)   

And White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney suggested that Americans were guilty of paying too much attention to the small amount of information media was at liberty to give them. While he admitted that their everyday lives would be fraught with school closures and public transit issues, he thought it best the average Joe “turn off your televisions for 24 hours.”  After all, anyone concerned with school closures and public transit issues is hardly likely to be someone the trump administration cares much about, after they’ve got their vote.

These are scary times, all over the world. From Australia to Africa, Russia to South Korea, we’re worrying about ourselves, and each other, and wondering what happens next. Nothing we’ve ever known in our lives has prepared us for this.

Pretty sure that whomever can figure out some way to lift that Chinese curse about living in ‘interesting times” could retire a trillionaire.

In the meantime, all I have to offer is this information from WHO on how to properly wash your hands.