What to Do in Toronto Before Going Into Labour (Day)


by Roxanne Tellier

It’s June of 1968, and Marymount High School has only recently gone co-ed. Before that, the girls wore kilts and giggled in the west end of the building, overseen by nuns, while in the east end of the building, the boys wore ties and had chalk thrown at them by priests or lay teachers whenever they acted up.

It’s sweltering, and there’s no air conditioning. Most of us are trying to catch a whiff of summer through the huge windows that have been cracked around the room. A friend covertly palms me a lyric sheet .. it’s from the new Crosby Stills and Nash album. “Wooden ships, on the water, very free and easy!” And another “ Guinevere  had green eyes.. like yours, lady like yours.”  

My eyes are brown. My lip curls.

There’s this long haired guy in some of my classes who has a vibe midway between Jim Morrison and Charles Manson, and he’s got a ‘following’ because he’s the coolest guy in Montreal and he’s always got access to the best pot. His name is Gerry. One of the hangers on to his crue is a guy who eventually becomes a drummer for a rather famous Montreal band.

(The three of us get busted on the next April Fool’s Day for performing a half-assed attempt at a Black Mass, complete with virgin and stolen communion wafers. But that’s a story for another day.)

And Gerry hands me a poem he wrote, that is terrible even by 1968 standards, and then intones, from his perch in the back of the class … “Summer’s almost gone… “

Flash forward ….. it’s 2019, and it’s been 50 years since Woodstock and my school days. I look at the calendar and realize that summer IS indeed almost gone, and for people of my age, that means the dread of six to a hundred months of snow and ice.

But for most Torontonians, the start of the Canadian National Exhibition – aka The Ex – is the shock that tells them that another year is drawing to a close. Soon the kids will be back at school, and before you know it, we’ll be choosing costumes for Halloween, and making our Christmas lists. The funny thing about a year is how quickly the back end runs away from us.

My grandson is involved with something that has to do with watching other people play video games in one of the buildings at the Ex. I’m not sure I will go this year. I don’t like walking the miles necessary to get from one side of the site to the other, trying to find my friends who scored a nice paying gig at one of the little band shells. I don’t gamble, so the Casino is out. And I’m pretty much over the need to score a .99 cent bowl of spaghetti, if that even still is a ‘thing.’

But – you should go! If you have kids, and if going to the Ex is the way you mark the parameters of your life, you should go! Because the Ex is whatever it means to you, whatever ritual you need to do to put a comma in the summer of this year before trotting on to the Fall. Go. Shoot an air rifle at a booth manned by fast talking carnies! Play your birthday at the Birthday Game tent, or toss a ring over a glass and win a doll. Eat a corn dog or something that should never have been covered in chocolate before being fried. You’d never eat it if it wasn’t ‘just this once!’ Do it! Do it NOW.

I’ll soon be making my own little tour of places that won’t be as much fun in a month or two. I want to join some friends who regularly loll at Sugar Beach, which is down at the foot of Lower Jarvis Street adjacent to the Redpath Sugar Factory, for an afternoon of music and margaritas. I want to enjoy the park’s brightly coloured pink beach umbrellas and candy-striped rocks. It’s part of Toronto’s waterfront, and .. it’s free!

One of my fave things to do in summer is to jet down to the easternmost end of the Beach, past the Balmy Beach club, where a lot of the locals gather to exercise their dogs. I miss my dogs, and this is a nice way for me to get a little sun, and to try to steal a little affection from some of the dogs who race across the sand, and throw themselves madly into the water to fetch the sticks or balls their owners toss in for their entertainment.

I’m a water baby.. I need to be near water. But sometimes I need a little more excitement than that caused by the  passive eyeing of the hind ends of dogs and the Lake Ontario horizon. That’s how I found myself one afternoon drifting through the harbour on a one hour tour of the Islands.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be a tourist in your own city, there’s a ton of ways to explore. I recently took to Groupon to find the cheapest tickets to a few attractions.

The boat tour I mentioned was only one of a half a dozen different ways to sail off, at any time of the day. The boat I chose was a bit low end, but at $12, was what I needed at the time. There’s also a ‘pirate’ ship you can book, a Great Lakes schooner, and lots of ‘party’ boats with music and booze. Maybe you and your main squeeze could take an evening cruise, and sail off into the sunset together!

Feeling a little more adventurous? Why not try a two hour tandem kayak down the Humber River! You can give that a try during the week for as little as $23 dollars.

Or how about indulging your inner child, with a game of mini putt golf! There’s a new  entertainment complex that just sprang up downtown that combines food, booze and nine holes out of a choice of three different courses of 27 unique themed holes. Fulfill your dream of golfing drunk!

For $43, you can sign up for 10 salsa & bachata classes at Steps Dance Studio in Rosedale. Spice it up with a little hot sauce! 

“At her studio, Jennifer aims to make Latin dance accessible to all people, even those who have no previous dance experience. Beginning with basic step patterns and technique, lessons progress through more advanced skills such as partner turns, syncopations, styling, and more complex turn pattern combinations. To add a little variation to the mix, Steps Dance Studio also runs monthly workshops and studio parties.”

Who knows? there may be a  Latin lover in your future!

When it comes to music, we Torontonians are really spoiled. Through the week there are jams at the Black Swan, Grossmans, The Tranzac, and so many other locations.

But Saturday afternoon is when you can hear some of the finest jazz, by some of the finest musicians, that I’ve ever heard  – at The Pilot, on Cumberland, just west of Bloor. From 2:30 to 5:30, you’ll be blown away by the chops of the likes of Chris Wallace, Dave Hutchinson, Steve Koven, Aaron Davis, Bernie Senensky, Nick Morgan, and Jeff King. The last time I was there, I was completely knocked out by drummer Mark  Micklethwaite. Watching him play is like auditing  a master class. Awesome sauce!

Outriggers Saturday matinee, 3:30-6pm

Or maybe you’re in the mood for a trendy Beach brunch while being serenaded by Toronto R&B and soul vocal icon, Johnnie Wright at Outriggers, on Queen at Beech, across from the venerable Garden Gate Restaurant, aka The Goof. Johnny has had a regular Saturday afternoon matinee gig there forever, accompanied by master keyboardist Michael Fonfara, and the ever-entertaining, versatile Robbie Rox on congas. Can you think of a better way to while away a summer’s day from 3:30 to 6pm?

In my east end hood, August is when the Danforth Village BIA takes over Stephenson Park (between Westlake and Main St, one street south of the Danforth) every Wednesday night, from 6 pm to 9 pm. There’s bands, food, a beer tent, and lots of run around room for the kids.

I missed the first two Wednesdays, but hope to catch at least one of the next two scheduled. On August 21,  Little Magic Sam aka Sam Taylor will hold court, and on August 28, The Stephen Stanley Band will rock the joint..

There’s only two more Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays left as well. On the last Sunday of the summer months, the streets are given over to the people. Enjoy music, local vendors and art on streets that are closed to traffic from noon to 7 pm. Always a great place to people watch!

So now you have several ways to have fun with the last two weeks of August, beyond the venerable CNE, and at prices ranging from zero dollars to ‘the sky’s the limit!’

YOLO, babes. Enjoy!

The Journeys of Grace and Frankie


Grace and Frankie is brilliant. Imagine! A series based on the real life, non-medical, issues that 60-70 year olds deal with! Who’d have thought we’d ever get that open minded?

Grace and Frankie NetflixThe Netflix offering stars Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) as the wives of husbands, Sam Waterston (Sol) and Martin Sheen (Robert) who have recently come out to their wives as long time lovers … of each other. Legal business partners for four decades, they’ve been concealing their affection for each other for twenty years, in an attempt to shield their families from pain and scandal.

What happens when a 40 year marriage collapses? How do you face the rest of your live? Will you be alone until you die? The series looks at the reality of women suddenly divorced against their wills and expectations.

So many issues are ‘outed’ in these thirteen perfect episodes, so many suppositions tested. Right off the top, we’re somehow supposed to be kinder to the two men who break up their long time marriages because of how they have suffered, hiding their love for each other. Because, you know, socially enlightened.

But what if the hidden love had been between the couples? If Frankie had fancied Robert, and Grace, Sol, would society look on as approvingly when the split occurred? If either of the men had broken up their marriages over a twenty year affair with a woman, we would be incensed. The fact that they have hidden their affair with each other from their spouses should be just as reprehensible. But we can’t say that, because “gay is the new black.”

So the men, two very successful lawyers, essentially walk away with their lives intact, even improved. The wives, however, receive no sympathy, although thGrace and Frankie on beachey do receive their share of the marital finances. The fact remains that the two women are discarded, left behind with no warning, to begin new lives at the age of 70.

Speaking of finances, one episode revolves around the two men, who are divorce lawyers, beginning the usual tactics advised in a break up; they cancel their wives credit cards without notice. It is left to the Grace character to remind her husband that he is behaving as though she is his opponent, rather than acknowledging their long, and supposedly loving, history.

Grace and Frankie w SolWhich is another factor, a continuing plot line; Frankie and Sol were best friends for forty years. They were genuinely in love, and created a life together that encompassed their hobbies and habits. That longevity was a comfort that both have trouble leaving behind.

Frankie, an aging hippie, is not much interested in finding another partner. But Grace, an uptight and upright retired business woman, who is accustomed to success and male admiration, needs someone to be with, in part sexually, but also because she feels more comfortable being in a relationship.

Grace and Frankie no braHang on, did I just say sexually? Why yes, I did. These two women are sexually interested and active, despite being at an age long past being considered viable. Regardless of age and aging bodies, they continue to have normal sex drives, and have no intention of contenting themselves with cats or crocheting.

Grace does have a problem, though, with continuing a lifetime habit of acquiescing to her partner’s needs. She hates golf, hated it throughout her marriage, but golfed because her husband enjoyed the game. With her new partner, she continues the charade until Frankie forces Grace to realize that she’s not being honest to herself or her new man, and in the long run, neither will be happy if they’re living a lie that favours one partner’s happiness over the other’s.

The grown children of both families are well-developed characters as well. Frankie’s two sons are adopted; one is African American, the other a recovering addict. Grace’s two daughters are upper middle class blondes, with outwardly perfect lives, but inward torment. The children are not comfortable with their fathers’ change of partners, but can’t really say what they feel in a society that is desperately pretending to embrace alternate lifestyles.

This is a wonderful series. I binge watched it over a day and a half. Like potato chips, I couldn’t eat just one episode.

There are truths to be found in every half hour. Women have it worse than men after a divorce, and aging women have even more to deal with post-marriage. We assume a great deal when we are in a privileged situation. To be married and comfortable financially are the goals many people have. What happens when the goal posts are moved is what makes this series so new and refreshing.

Grace and Frankie w costarsThe twist in the tale: it was recently revealed that Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the titular Grace and Frankie, discovered that they were being paid the same as their supporting cast, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. Apparently Hollywood has as big of a gender pay gap as the rest of the working world.

http://www.themarysue.com/grace-and-frankie-pay-gap-wtf-netflix/

At a Nexflix press event, Fonda admitted that she and Tomlin are not happy with the pay scale. Tomlin added, “No. The show is not ‘Sol and Robert’—it’s Grace and Frankie.”

So, on the one hand, Netflix produced a show starring two interesting older women, a rarity indeed, but on the other hand, didn’t see fit to compensate them beyond an even level of pay to their male co-stars. That’s a sad commentary indeed on pay equity.

I sincerely hope that the pay issue is settled, because I loved the adventures of Frankie and Grace, and the final episode left me hanging. I want more!

Whatever happened to the Angry Young Men?


Angry young men inspired the beatniks of the 50’s, and the hippies of the 60’s. Sadly, we then devolved into the disco bunnies of the 70s, but everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey.
When I googled the origins of the phrase, here’s what I googged:

angry young men, term applied to a group of English writers of the 1950s whose heroes share certain rebellious and critical attitudes toward society. This phrase, which was originally taken from the title of Leslie Allen Paul’s autobiography, Angry Young Man (1951), became current with the production of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger (1956). The word angry is probably inappropriate; dissentient or disgruntled perhaps is more accurate. The group not only expressed discontent with the staid, hypocritical institutions of English society—the so-called Establishment—but betrayed disillusionment with itself and with its own achievements. Included among the angry young men were the playwrights John Osborne and Arnold Wesker and the novelists Kingsley Amis, John Braine, John Wain, and Alan Sillitoe. In the 1960s these writers turned to more individualized themes and were no longer considered a group. (source:The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia®.)

Born in the 50s, I claim those men as my heritage. Their ‘anger’ allowed my generation to express their frustration at a world mired in tradition, social stigmas, and suppositions. Champing at the bit to change the world we had inherited, we burned our bras, sat in for peace, started communes, and created more art and music than you could shake a joint at. We thought we had invented sex, drugs, and the Age of Aquarius. Then we all grew up, got married, had kids, and changed into slightly weirder versions of our parents. A lot of us died far too young, many from self-inflicted life choices.

But here we remain, the largest population group in history, the Baby Boomers, the enormous bulge in the tummy of society’s snake, all of us getting older, some of us getting wiser.

January 1, 2011 officially begins the era of the “Golden” Baby Boomer, those Boomers who are about to retire from a career or profession. That’s not me on both levels; I’m not retirement age, and, due to my own choices, will never properly ‘retire’, as I never stayed in any career or profession long enough to build a retirement fund. Most of the people I know are in the same boat – musicians, artists, writers who didn’t get the brass ring or the gold watch.
And just as Boomers have affected every other decade through their sheer numbers, we are about to impact society with our physical and mental health needs, leisure choices, and economics. Those of us who didn’t ‘die before we got old’ are going to get older, sicker and poorer. Society will have to deal with our issues – hopefully not in a ‘Soylent Green’ fashion – and our kids will likely have to bear the cost of our retirement and health care. (note to self: be nicer to the kids.)

But on the bright side, most of us also benefited from decent schooling, and inherited the backbone and street smarts of parents and grandparents, who lived in simpler times, but managed to live through two World Wars, the Great Depression, and, ultimately, us. And we’ve lived long enough to have a fairly good overview of life’s ups and downs. We’re neither as cynical nor gullible as we once were. We’ve realized that yes, Life’s a Bitch, but so are we, when provoked.

And that’s why I have started this blog. I know that, for many of us, the last couple of years have been tough, with problems coming at us like a swarm of flies. We’re the Sandwich Generation of caregivers now, as well, with kids still at home, but parents still hanging in. Fish are dropping out of the sky, Haiti’s still a mess, and now Japan has been sucker punched. Crazies are lining up to see Charlie Sheen’s meltdown up close and personal. If you hate your job, tough, ‘cause there aren’t any others out there for you. Today’s music, overall, just can’t beat the music of our youth. And if you want to get out to a club to hear a band and maybe meet someone, you can’t soothe your nerves with cigarettes, and you better stick to one drink or you could get busted driving home.

WE are the new ‘angry young men’, those of us who still give a damn. With the perspective of age, we look back on what worked and what didn’t, and look forward to an increasingly litigious, PC, over controlled world. That, my friends, is frustration.
Frustrated Boomers unite!