Montreal, Cemeteries, and Donovans


by Roxanne Tellier

My family has a tiny burial plot on Mount Royal, in the Cotes de Neiges cemetery, and that’s where the bones and ashes of my ancestors have been interred for over a hundred years.

It’s been two months since my aunt’s passing. The clan will gather this week to bring her ashes home.

Patricia Donovan, daughter of Freda (James) Donovan and Denis Patrick Donovan, the last of her generation, died March 29, 2019 in Ottawa. Born in Montreal, Patricia lived most of her life there. She enjoyed travel, and worked for a time in Washington, D.C. She moved to Toronto and cared for her mother until her mother’s passing. 

aunts and uncles 1970 001

Patricia was a writer, painter, and sculptor who pondered life’s big questions.
Auntie Pat had fifteen nieces and nephews and enjoyed a unique relationship with each of them. She is survived by the clan, and will be missed by them.”

My family has always had an easy relationship with death; when I was young, my mother would often take my sister and I to the mountain for a picnic in the graveyard. We’d loll on the well tended grass while we ate lunch, and then wander around the tombstones and mausoleums, looking for famous names.

Michael Donovan A shamrock_in_the_snowI believe that my cousin Michael Leo Donovan, a man who loves the city of Montreal with a fervour I’ve never seen excelled, wrote a book about one of the cemetery’s denizens, the statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee, after repeatedly seeing his tomb on family visits.

darcy mcgeeIn 1867 he became a Father of Confederation. It was said that if Sir John A. MacDonald of Ontario and Sir George Etienne Cartier of Quebec were the architects of Canada. D’Arcy McGee was its prophet. He was murdered on April 6, 1868, in Ottawa, while returning home after a session of the House.” (A Shamrock in the Snow, 1996)

Other well known Canadians resting in peace at this, and the neighbouring cemetery, include the Reverend William Squire, the first person buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, who died of cholera in 1852, after performing a religious sick visit to a local merchant; Thomas Lee Hackett, a young Irishman shot during a fight between the Catholic and Protestant Irish on July 12, 1877, the day that the Orangeman had chosen to parade on the streets of Montreal; and Sir Arthur William Currie, Commander of Canadian Troops during World War I, and Principal of McGill University from 1920-1933, whose death in 1933 drew a funeral procession with a crowd estimated at 20,000 people, consisting of politicians, diplomats, military bands and hundreds of veterans. The Cross of Sacrifice, a military monument, marks his grave.

Here you will also find David Thompson, surveyor and explorer, who died very poor with no grave marker. The grave languished for seventy years, until, in 1926, the Canadian Historical Association erected a monument to him with the epitaph, “To the memory of the greatest of geographers who for 34 years explored and mapped the main travel routes between the St Lawrence and the Pacific.”

joe beef tavernMontreal’s revered Joe Beef has a place of honour. “His real Irish name was Charles McKieman. He owned the famous “Joe Beef’s Canteen,” located near the port. His 3-storey building held a tavern, a restaurant with free food for the homeless, a dorm of 100 beds and a basement full of strange menagerie. He died in 1889 aged 54. His six sons and his wife organized a very impressive funeral for him. Every office in the business district closed for the afternoon, and there were representatives of workers from all classes in the procession.”

Several more souls were added to the site in 1912, when six victims of the Titanic‘s sinking were buried there, including Charles Melville Hays, once the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. (A further five lie in the Notre Dame de Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Montreal was, sadly, well represented in the tragedy.)

laurier palace fireThere is also a section dedicated to some of the 76 small children who died in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire in 1927, an event so horrific to Montrealers that a law was summarily passed forbidding the entry of children under 16 to any theatre or cinema screenings. That law remained in effect until 1961

Calixa Lavallée, the man who, in 1880 wrote our national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was born in Verchères, Quebec in 1842, but enlisted as a musician with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He died a respected composer and conductor in 1891, from tubercular laryngitis, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried until 1933, when his body was brought to Montreal for reburial.

More recent interments include Celine Dion‘s husband, René Angélil; journalist and politician, Nick Auf der Maur; Gratien Gelinas, actor; hockey players Doug Harvey and Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard; Pierre Laporte, politician, who was murdered by the FLQ in 1970; Robert Bourassa, 22nd premier of Quebec; and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, who truly made the city world class, by organizing Expo 67, along with playing host to the 1976 Olympic Games, and giving it an amazing Metro service.

Small wonder the place is considered one of the most haunted spots in Montreal. Often described as a “City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living“, ghostly spirits are believed to roam the grounds after sundown.

Not to be forgotten, other mortal remains lie outside the cemetery boundaries. Most famously, the tomb of Simon McTavish is located in the dark forest above Peel Street. The angry Scottish fur baron died unexpectedly in 1804 while overseeing the construction of a magnificent castle on the slopes. Stories of his ghost tobogganing down Mount Royal in his own coffin terrified Montrealers during the 1800s. To make people forget, city officials demolished his abandoned castle and used the rubble to literally bury his mausoleum. Archaeological work a few years ago disturbed his tomb and now rumour has it he is haunting Mount Royal again.”

The silhouette of a warrior woman with storm clouds in the background.But the most common ghost spotted on the mountain where First Nation peoples were also known to bury their dead is that of an Algonquin warrior.

I’ll keep an eye open for that lonely fellow when I’m there.

I always look forward to visiting Montreal, the city of my youth. These are the grounds I stomped, my neighbourhoods, my restaurants, my mountain, my Canada Life Weather Beacon, first lit up in 1956, that let the city know what weather was on the way. It is and ever will be the city of my heart, no matter where I roam.

I miss my city, but it is inevitably, my family ties that pull me back when I have been too long gone. You can’t stay away from Donovans for very long.

Oh, ‘céad mile fáilte’ they’ll greet you down at Donovan’s
As cheery as the springtime, as Irish as the conovan
The wish of my heart is if ever I had anyone
That ev’ry luck that lightens life …. may light upon the Donovans”

the uncles 001Growing up, I think I always took my family a little for granted. Maybe I just assumed that all families were graced with so much talent, in so many fields. We grew up with my uncle Dennis , co-creator and writer of The Beachcombers; my uncle Leo, whose majestic land and seascapes graced our homes; my uncle John, who was possessed not only of great writing skill, but also of a deep, radio friendly baritone speaking and singing voice; my aunt Pat, a writer, painter, and woman of enormous intelligence; and my own mother, who was a superb dancer, writer, and editor.

cousins 001With that sort of heritage, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the 15 children they brought into the world also possessed many talents, not only in the arts, but in social and computing skills. We just never thought that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever we wanted to do with our lives.

daisy circusMany of us write. I mentioned Michael, above, but there’s also Kieran, the poet and singer-songwriter; and Rita, who has won multiple awards for her nine books, short stories and essays.

Michael also wrote and produced a fine video series on the origin of Montreal street names, now available on youtube. (And yes, those are his kids getting in on the act as Ms Kayleigh and Complete Stranger. )

 

 

dianne donovan beat divasWe all sing. Dianne toured with a Harry James tribute for years before settling down in Austin, Texas with her husband, where she also hosts Classical Austin on KMFA radio, produces a weekly vocal jazz show, “Voices in Jazz” for CKUA Radio in Edmonton, and has a new CD release, “A Musing,” featuring mostly original compositions. She also teaches a cooking class with her jazz trio, The Beat Divas. (dianne donovan beat divas.jpg)

aileen paintingSome of us draw, sculpt and paint. My cousin Aileen took her dad’s painting skill and crafted it into a long career as a well known animal portraitist during her years living in the North West Territories with the Inuit peoples. She now focuses mainly on past life regressions for both pets and people.

I could literally go on and on, listing the accomplishments of this talented group. I’m extremely proud of my family, with good reason.

cousins 003And I’ll get to see some, though not all of them, this week. While the occasion is solemn, visits to my city and my family are never terribly formal for more than a few minutes. We are a group that cannot be repressed for long – laughter, good humour, and our love for each other guarantees a boisterous reunion.

The passing of the last of our parent’s generation seems so final, and yet there’s a part of me that can’t believe that my cousins and I – even as we develop deeper ‘laugh lines’ and grey hair – will ever really age enough to become the ‘grumps’ of the family.

cousins 002I’ll bring that up with the clan at the wake next week, and see if anyone’s pencilled in a date for when we can get to the ‘growing up‘ part of life. With any luck, we can keep putting it off forever.

So far, so good.

 

 

Hiding the Mueller Report Under a Rabbit


by Roxanne Tellier

Happy Easter! Did you find any chocolate in inappropriate places today?

eostreWe’re not religious, nor do we have any little ones in the house, so we just sort of forgot about the whole thing until we tried to buy some milk, and found the grocery store closed Friday.

Christians in the West celebrate Easter somewhere between March 22 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the full moon of the vernal equinox on March 21. This timing, and the halting of capitalism for the day, is brought to you by the pagan Teutonic goddess of the dawn, fertility and spring – Eostre. If that sounds familiar, it’s because her name is the ‘root’ for words like estrogen … the female hormone necessary for fertilization and child bearing.

easter originAs cavemen, we couldn’t be 100% sure that Winter would actually end, or when. The pagan ritual of the Spring Equinox is a celebration of the change and renewed life we yearn for in this season. Early priestesses encouraged worship of Eostre as the symbol for this return.

” Today, pagans continue to celebrate spring and attribute the change of the seasons to the powers of their god and goddess – also portrayed as The Green Man and Mother Earth.”

That’s an irony indeed, since today’s pagans are greatly outnumbered by those who are intent on stripping the earth of all her wealth and beauty, in order to enrich a small number of people.

Ah well, mustn’t grumble. Let’s eat some chocolate and sing along with Deanna Durbin!

Think the timing for the official pre-wash with extra spin cycle of the Mueller Report might have had a little something to do with Easter? As in … hopefully most people will have forgotten about it by the time they get back from their holidays?

….. and how about that Barr, eh?

It seems like only yesterday that I was opining on the wisdom of the official Attorney General of the United States position being a partisan one; surely the top law enforcement office for ALL of the citizens of the United States should be one that rules from a bipartisan stance.

barr is bizarro john goodmanAnd why, oh why, by all that’s holy, does William Barr have to look like a Bizarro World John Goodman?

Following in the footsteps of a president that favours his base over the greater populace, AG Barr came down firmly on the side of Trump, donning kid gloves to handle how the Mueller Report was unveiled, and, like a mum defending her bad widdle boy, provided excuses for the despicable behavior that has irrevocably despoiled the presidential seat, ahead of the actual report outlining those behaviors.

He was shilling for the POTUS like a two bit carny trying to get the punters to buy tickets to see the Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla Grrrrrll.

watergateWorse still, his toadying ensured that the Report only deepened the public distrust of the justice department, while revealing conclusively that the Republican Party is morally and legally bankrupt.

“We have in Mueller’s report a narrative, a timeline narrative, of the cover up by the President and his actions. There’s absolutely no question that this has been a vast Presidential cover up.” says legendary Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.

trump pres worse than WatergateBernstein, a CNN analyst, cited his former Watergate colleague Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House, in which Woodward reported that former Cabinet officials believed Trump was not acting in the best interests of the United States and was a danger to national security.” (CNN)

And even the legal beagles of FOX (News) were more honest in their comments, if cautious not to bring down the full wrath of the president upon them, than the Republicans in the Senate who are still attempting to defend the indefensible.

napolitanoFox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano on Thursday noted that there were items in the report that Barr failed to mention during the pre-spin press conference on Thursday morning.

The president—the behavior of the president is immoral, deceptive, and repellent,” Napolitano exclaimed. “But it doesn’t rise to the level of criminality.”

We should be reminded that the worst of the president’s impulses, that would have lead indelibly to criminality, were generally forestalled by unelected, career administration personnel, who had to try and read his rants and determine if he was just blowing off steam, ‘joking,’ or really intended for others to commit criminal acts on his behalf. A master of deception, Trump will never put anything implicating himself in wrong doing in writing – he leaves it for his minions to divine his intent, to carry out his crimes, and then pay the legal price for their loyalty.

 

Well, his previous conduct, and the belief that a sitting president cannot be indicted might have kept him out of jail so far, but the aftermath of the Report’s release may change how he goes forward.

trumpBear in mind … the report only covered the lead up to his inauguration, and his first few months in office. What he’s gotten up to in the two years since then are blowing up the pages of American history on a daily basis.

You’d think by now we’d be inured to his constant threats and bullying. Trump is lashing out, demanding an investigation of the investigators, and causing those who testified against him to fear for their futures. He has called the investigation an illegal witch hunt, and said that “the whole episode was an illegal takedown that failed … and somebody’s going to be looking at the other side.”

mcConnel stopped obama warning about russiaDespite overwhelming evidence that the Russians did, indeed, meddle in the 2016 election to help Trump win the presidency, Trump continues to fight the ghost of his defeated opponent, Hillary Clinton, and now,-incredibly – has begun to blame his predecessor, President Obama, for not stopping the Russian interference, for some nefarious purpose that doesn’t make much sense at all … why would Obama encourage the electoral win of a Republican candidate by allowing a foreign power to influence the outcome? Do you have to be in full blown senile dementia to understand that convoluted contention?

But what now has to be determined is if the Democrats are prepared to pick up the gauntlet that the Report has thrown down.

” In its extensive discussion of the constitutional issues implicated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation, the report asserts that Congress has the authority to apply law “to all persons – including the President.” Specifically, Congress may “protect its own legislative functions against corrupt efforts designed to impede legitimate fact-gathering and lawmaking efforts.” The authority to prohibit a president’s corrupt use of power, the report finds, is essential to “our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

The report declines to reach a judgment on whether the president has committed a crime because Mueller views himself as bound by Department of Justice policy against indicting a sitting president. This does not mean that the president has not committed a crime. Indeed, Mueller’s refusal to reach a judgment is based partly on principles of fairness to the president: while people accused of a crime usually have the opportunity to give their story at trial, in this case, when no charges can be brought, the accused has no opportunity to clear his name. Mueller pointedly notes that the sitting president’s immunity, however, would not preclude prosecution “once the President’s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office” — that is, impeached.” (USAToday, 2019/4/21)

And this is where the going is gonna get rough for traditional Democrats. In the past, egregious interferences into Obama’s presidency were largely tolerated, rather than called out as the profound malfeasance McConnell practiced for eight years. This must stop .. right here, and right now … if America is to regain her fading democracy.

The time for the battle is when it presents itself, not somewhere down the road, when the contentious actions have become ‘old news’ and the battle itself appears to be nothing but hurt feelings and the re-treading of old ground.

mcconnell with garlands headThe time to stop McConnell from preventing Merrick Garland’s appointment was in 2016, when it happened. The Democrats assumed they’d win 2016, and ‘fix it in the mix,’ but that political hubris now has America dealing with a Supreme Court and minor courts stacked with Trump loyalists that will impact upon major legal decisions for decades to come.

No, now is the time for the Democrats to show some of the backbone and ‘strong man’ attitude that so many in the United States believe to be the measure of their vigour. This is not the time to ‘go high.’ It’s the time to stand up and fight.

lindsey grahamNo more delicate tippy toeing towards justice, fearful of causing upset. It’s time to roar ahead, just like the Republicans did against Clinton, when they showed that they were prepared to go to the mat over a presidential blow job, to win, no matter the cost. And it worked for them electorally, got them more seats, and moved Lindsey Graham into a position of power he could only have dreamed of before he snatched the media spotlight with his pearl clutching antics.

There has been some talk from moderate Dems that they would like to conduct a few more lengthy investigations before deciding on whether or not to consider impeachment procedures, but in my view, that has the potential of further angering the populace, who are fed up with what looks to them to be a major waste of time and tax payer dollars.

There’s also been talk that it would be smarter, this close to the next election, to focus on positive progression on the health and environmental front, but let’s face it .. ain’t nothing good coming from that as long as Trump has the bullhorn, and his gang of sycophants are blocking any forward movement from the Dems.

Although it IS possible to talk impeachment AND other concerns simultaneously.

civil warSome contrarians are advising that calls for impeachment might lead to a further division of the country, but, apart from the Civil War, it would be hard indeed to find another time in history when the country was so critically divided.

Despite the voluminous material, articles, and books – AND this Report – that have been written outlining the illegalities and corruption of the current administration, those who have drunk the Trump Kool-Aid are not going to change their minds on what they believe. Six more months, another year, of investigations, are not going to change the hearts and minds of his base.

It is up to the Congress, who are charged with oversight, to hold the president accountable for the obstruction that he has committed.

The only way the Dems are going to change the current trajectory of American history is to stop trying to be the party that always has to be perfect and correct, always taking the punishment that ensues with a gracious smile. They have to put an immediate stop to McConnell’s sneakiness, and burn it down the minute he raises his unholy turtle head. They have to stop pretending that politics is a gentleman’s game, where everyone plays fair – they have solid proof that fairness is a foreign concept to career Republicans, and that playing nice only benefits the GOP. Ignoring how dirty the Republicans play is only making the Democrats appear like weaklings.

As the Democrats wonder if they dare go after a career criminal, the GOP are already in attack mode, with a double pronged frontal attack that is determined to punish those they consider treasonous for the audaciousness of investigating the election, while also implying that a move to impeach the president would mean that the Democrats do not love their country. The banners are being printed, the catch phrases practiced, and the talking points sharpened.

In Trump, the Republicans have found their savior, and they are not afraid to use every last fibre of their beings to stand by their man, even as they abet his corruption, and help destroy the country they claim to so love. It may be a twisted, ultimately destructive, passion, but it definitely trumps the indecisiveness that the Dems are bringing to the skirmish.

impeach trumpYes, a call for impeachment has little hope of succeeding, in the face of a Republican senate and presidency. But it is what the Democrats must be seen to do, charged as they are by their elected positions to bring oversight to the most powerful position in the nation. They must be seen to be the face of all of those who decry this president, who rules from a throne of lies and corruption.

The road to impeachment has been laid out for them to follow. All they have to do is pick up the gauntlet, and fight for those who put them into power.

The Democrats have to look to 2020, and their crop of young, exciting, fresh faces with progressive ideas looking to be the next leaders of the nation.

impeach trump2All that the Republicans bring to the party is a senile old man, whose lies and corruptions will drag them down, and a bunch of long in the tooth senators content to live out their last years fighting against someone who hasn’t even held office in over eight years.

Launching an impeachment at this time will throw into sharp contrast the difference between the party of tomorrow, and the party of the old, corrupt, past.

It’s time, Democrats.

 

Exit the Idiot Whisperer


Ever have, oh, I don’t know… about 6 or 700 of ‘those days,’ where you start to wonder if it’s actually possible that you just might have woken up on another, identical, but much stupider, planet?

thanks god none of you peole are realI have spent far too many hours attempting to reason with those who adamantly refuse to see logic or sense. The sad truth is that they are happy in their interpretation of the world. And I suppose I should be happy that they are happy. It’s all working out for them.

In the past .. well, up to about a week ago .. I would have spent a great deal of time and energy attempting to change someone’s mind. But the thing is, I’m not getting any younger, and the kind of gymnastics needed to argue with a firmly committed Trump cultist is something that no longer feels like fun.

It’s more akin to wrestling a pig. The pig likes it, but I just wind up feeling dirty.

10 commandments of logicThe few diehard Trumpists that get through my anti-Trump wall tend to be friends of friends. Again, in the past, I might have opted to be gracious, rather than potentially offend someone. Now, I’m more inclined to block the one, and unfriend the other. Tiptoeing around crazy people just feels too much like work, and baby.. I’m retired.

I’m tired of being the Idiot Whisperer. I quit. Research your own damn questions yourself. Use your Google fingers to do what every other inquiring mind has to do .. look it up. Find a decent source, and if what you’re reading actually agrees TOO much with what you personally feel about a subject, check with Snopes to ensure that you’re not buying into a hoax.

How hard can that be, people? Don’t repeat stuff that’s stupid. If you are unsure if it’s true, look for another source before you pass on that article, that meme, or that obituary. And if the only reason that you’re gonna forward something is because you know it’s going to rile up people – don’t share it. Life’s hard enough without people going out of their way to be ornery.

face tat failAnd for those people who might be job hunting, it’s best to keep in mind that those checking out your resume will probably also have a gander at what you share on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, along with checking your references. You might want to go easy on the kind of uploads that get a person sent repeatedly to Facebook Jail. What you’re saying and sharing online is a pretty good measurement of how you’ll conduct yourself offline, on a social level, whether for business or pleasure. Social media is not the place to let it all ‘hang out,’ or to boast that you fooled that personnel interviewer by temporarily concealing your skin head and rad tats.

Here’s another thing we all have to stop doing ….. taking the bait of every professional AND non-professional journalist that hosts a webpage. Most stories, even those that are put up by highly reputable sources, still fall within the realm of ‘entertainment.’ It’s all about the clicks.

Yes, we agree with the 97% of climate change scientists who assure us that what we’re seeing is real. Yes, we agree with the majority of psychologists pointing out Trump’s massive mental issues and how difficult it is to deal with his deficiencies. Yes, his choices for important roles in his administration are tearing the fabric of America apart, and it may never be able to be repaired …

BUT…

Have any of our complaints and demands for change been heard or acted upon in a timely manner? Yes, Whitaker is likely an illegal, unconstitutional appointment to the role of United States Attorney General, but have any of our heated debates or stern warnings on the subject got him fired from the gig?

No, they have not. The U.S. is essentially an autocracy where things happen as decided by the autocrats, and no matter how cogent our carefully thought out arguments may sound, or of how angry we may become, our words and emotions have about as much chance of making a dent as a Nerf bat.

And our ruminations are about as important to the world as those of the Thirty Helens Who Agree on Coleslaw.

So, you may as well let a lot of those clickbait articles, and columns asking rhetorical questions, to just sail on by. The last thing any of us needs is to have a stroke over the very idea that raking up the over one million square feet of California forest would have prevented all that destruction.  (Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t have.)

Better to spend that time answering questions that may help you to figure out what historical figure you were in a past life, and if it’s true that you are a fire horse in Chinese astrology. .

Remember when going on Facebook used to be fun, and we’d connect with old friends and relatives and share cat videos and terrible jokes?

Yeah .. that all changed ’round about 2015. Now it’s more like negotiating an armistice or surviving a Civil War. No thanks, Zuckerberg. Most of us have one foot out the door, and we’re taking our advertising dollars with us when we find our next social media platform.

Now, I am not saying that I am going to turn over a new leaf, stop commenting and forwarding political columns and memes, and devote myself to some new hobby, like fly fishing. Far from it. I will definitely continue to attempt to make some sense of the political machinations exhibited daily, from both sides of the border. Someone has to keep an eye on these bastards.

novelty tea cut toiletI’m just saying that not all of us have to be on guard, all of the time. The holiday season is nearing, and a lot of the people whom we care about, really don’t care about politics. In fact, they would prefer it if your holiday gift to them this year would be a promise to not discuss politics at the dinner table. They’d rather have that than pretty much any of the novelty gifts you’ve been thinking of getting them this year … even more than that tea cup you thought would be a hoot.

I’m just saying that it might be time for us to do what the mass media and social media refuse to do – take a few days mental and physical break from the constant bombardment of stupidity, greed, corruption, whipped up paranoia, and hysteria that has become our daily diet.

idiot whispererI’m just saying that maybe it’s time to deny oxygen to the people and things that can’t survive without our steady attention. Maybe letting ‘the cheese stand alone,’ bereft of the attentiveness and arguments that are used to make him appear relevant, will help some of his most stalwart supporters to see what most of us already know – that the trump presidency and administration is a gasbag of noxious farts meant to keep us all looking in the other direction, so that the pickpockets can fleece us without our noticing.

Or maybe I really did wake up on an identical, but much stupider, planet. It’s as good a theory as any other out there.

 

Mother’s Day, CMW and This is America


mum with r and j 1960.jpg 001My mother has been gone since April of 1992 … 26 years now. There are days when it feels like we were playing a spirited game of Rummoli only yesterday, and other days when I can’t remember what it was like to have my own little family. After my mum and grandmother died just days apart in that horrible year, the tenuous link we had with Montreal was broken. While I’ve been ‘home’ a few times since then, Quebec hasn’t really drawn me back for decades.

I thought of my mum on Thursday, when I spoke with a small boy who was waiting for the bus, holding a plant pot with one pansy growing in it. He told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem written in French for her, and that he’d drawn her a card. His face lit up as he told me “she’s gonna have so many presents!

mum with r and j 1964 001There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he counted up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mother. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something that we’d made specially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out paper heart, with our shaky handwriting telling them, “I LOVE YOU,” but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.

Mums never ask for all that much, when you’re growing up. Maybe they ask you to help with the chores, or keep your room clean, but most mums know that you’re growing and learning, and that all they can try to do is to get you from the day you are born until the day you two say goodbye, with as little heart ache and heart break as possible.

Missing my mother, and wishing my two beautiful daughters a very happy Mother’s Day.

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My butt is dragging today, even after collapsing into a solid ten hours of sleep last night. I spent the last several days doing all things Canadian Music Week, including working as a ‘day host,’ expediting the conference panelists, and getting out to a few of the events under the CMW banner. I straggled home last night from a long day at the show, followed by a scrumptious buffet at the Rivoli, where Music Nova Scotia and the Dreaming Out Loud groups were presenting the annual TIKI LOUNGE extravaganza.

CMW Greg Lefsetz et all May 2018

During the conference I spent most of my time onsite in the Speaker’s Green Room. In this pic, our long time associate Greg Simpson confers with his speaker registration aides, Sue Mills and Cassandra Tari. Behind them, propping up the wall, is Steve Lillywhite, uber producer and musician whisperer of U2, the Rolling Stones, XTC, Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, the Talking Heads and a host of other worthies, as he chats with Ralph Simon, who is is acknowledged as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment & content industry, and Bob Lefsetz, music industry analyst and critic, and author of the Lefsetz Letter.

In May of 2015, the last time that Bob Lefsetz had spoken at CMW, I had asked him if we could meet, so that I might interview him for this column. Although he agreed at the time, circumstances conspired, and I missed my window of opportunity.

So when I saw him seated towards the back of the Green Room on Saturday morning, I seized the day, introduced myself, and reminded him of the last time we’d almost connected. He immediately said that he’d be happy to talk with me ‘later’ – but he’d be leaving the Conference around four p.m.

So I waited patiently, hoping for a time when he might have a minute free. But shortly after Steve Lillywhite left the room, Eric Alper flew in the door and plonked himself down for a chat. Meanwhile, my duties as Day Host kept me rather busy, and I spent a lot of time getting speakers organized and then off to their panels in a timely manner. By the time I realized I’d once again missed my interview, it was about 3:10 p.m. I’d just finished introducing legendary music journalist Larry Leblanc, who was about to begin an interview with Marcie Allen, a trailblazing entrepreneur who is known as the Queen of Brands and Bands. My duty done, I set off to try and find the elusive Mr Lefsetz.

About an hour later, I conceded defeat. Apparently, this interview was not to be.

PostScript: If you are one of the many who receive the Lefsetz Letter, then you will have received his CMW wrap-up when it arrived last night. In his p.s., he mentions that he’d spend his last half-hour on the site at …. the Larry LeBlanc/Marcie Allen seminar I’d introduced.

Wrong Way Roxanne strikes again.

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We have to talk about Donald Glover/Childish Gambino‘s new video – This is America. Firmly in the tradition of protest songs such as GrandMaster Flash‘s White Lines, the song/video demands multiple, critical, and admiring viewings.

This video is almost enough to make music videos relevant again, rife with symbolism and casual observations that nail the truth of the racist gun culture that America, as distracted as a kitten by shiny strings and dance fads, chooses to ignore.

jim crow character this is americaThe main character, stripped to the waist, pulls facial expressions and uses bodily movements that seem to be modeled on Jim Crow, a minstrel show caricature, which white actors would perform in blackface, acting out black stereotypes. His movements distract from the chaos that plays out in the background, as behind him, people on cellphones film the action while ignoring the violence and rioting going on all around.

(The Jim Crow Laws were put into place after the Civil War, and were a system of racist local and state laws to keep the ex-slaves in their place, and designed to enforce segregation and oppression in the Southern American states.) this is america imageAfter both of the shootings, the guns are treated with care and respect, and gently wrapped with red cloth. The guns are valued over human lives, as the victims are either dragged away or left lying in their own blood.

Between shootings, the exaggerated dancing seems to be a commentary on how America prefers to focus on entertainment and distraction rather than to have a discussion on gun control, while dismissing the dead with an airy assurance that they are sending “thoughts and prayers.”

this is america commentIn the background of one scene, Death, riding a pale horse, and a biblical symbol for the apocalypse, gallops by, pursued by a police car. Everyone is too caught up in dancing or in their own anarchy to focus on the bigger picture of the violence going on.

In the last scene, Gambino, surrounded by vintage cars representing America’s economic stagnation, lights up a joint, and it is then – rather than during his gun rampage  – that the police begin to chase him. In the tradition of black American history, he has to run to save his life.

This Is America is a strong, artistic statement that will stand as valid commentary on today’s Divided States of America.

 

Mid August


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you hear the dog whistle in that observation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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