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 …

 

The Luck of the Irish


If you didn’t get your chance to get your Irish on on Friday, March 17th, Torontonians will get another chance to do so today, when the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade starts at noon. The route begins on the corner of Bloor and St George, heads east on Bloor, south on Yonge, and west on Queen St, before finishing up at the parade reviewing stand at Nathan Phillips Square.

The parade is still a big deal for many of Irish descent .. and there are a lot of us! As of 2006’s census, the Irish were the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada, with 4,354,000 Canadians (or 15% of us all,) have full or partial Irish descent. And more than two million Irish Canadians are in Ontario!

st patricks day queenI haven’t been to the parade in years, though I did get to be one of the rabbit stole wearing girls waving from the back seat of a convertible many years ago as the “Miss Irish St Augustines,’ in Montreal.

When I was a teen growing up in Montreal, St Paddy’s was always a big day. My grandfather, whom I’d never met as he’d died before I was born, was literally “a man without a country.” His own parents had fled Ireland’s economic woes, and he was born, mid Atlantic, before they docked in New York‘s harbour. They stayed briefly in the United States, before moving to Montreal.

My family loved their Irish heritage. A musical lot, they were the sort to gather ’round the piano to play and sing the songs of the ‘ould country.’ I was brought up listening to a mix of classic Irish tenors, as well as the rebel songs, and of course, the  lighter ‘stage Irish’ fun songs peddled in theatre and film.

There were two sides to the Irish connection, in my world. On the one hand, I loved the singalongs, the funny accents, and the camaraderie, especially on the holiday itself, when I could be guaranteed a fine old time. On the other hand, and always present, were the realities of a divided Ireland and ‘the Troubles.’

My mother’s family were not prone to arguing over politics, which was a good thing, considering that my grandmother was British, and my uncle Dennis had married a Dubliner.  Hard-line rebel songs were strongly discouraged, but we’d always be in for a‘cead mile failte.’

There are some that look down upon the ‘stage Irish’ of the Irish Rovers, or even der Bingle’s portrayals of kindly Irish priests, but it must be remembered that the Irish faced a great deal of discrimination on their first arrival in North America.  Early Irish entertainers and newcomers could rely on getting a rise from a hostile audience by sending up their own people as friendly, ginger, alcoholics, quick with a joke and a laugh.

“Irish men and women both had a hard time finding skilled work in the U.S. due to the stigmas of being both IrishNo Irish need apply sign as well as Catholic. Prejudices ran deep in the north and could be seen in newspaper cartoons depicting Irish men as drunkards and Irish women as prostitutes. Many businesses hung signs out front of their shops that read “No Irish Need Apply“, or “NINA” for short. The initial backlash the Irish received in America lead to their self-imposed seclusion, making assimilation into society a long and painful process.”  

But the Irish played a significant role in American society, especially in teaching and policing occupations. Eight of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Irish descent. Irish Catholics have served in all layers of American government, in every capacity, from mayors to Presidents.

Ontario is rife with towns named after the places and last names of Ireland, including Donnybrook, Dundalk and Dublin, Enniskillen and Galway. and Tara and Waterford.

Canada has had our share of notable Irish-Canadians, in every field, from the arts, to sports, and politics. Writers like Morley Callaghan and W.P. Kinsella have explored the many facets of Canadian lives, as have my cousins Rita Donovan and Michael Donovan, while Stompin’ Tom Connors and Denny Doherty have shaped how we sound. Add to that list my husband, musician Shawn O’Shea, also of Irish descent, who’s even born on March 17th! (In a bizarre coincidence, two other members of the heymacs, Kid Carson and Carlyle Walpola, were also born on March 17th.)

I can’t picture Canadian comedy without the stylings of Mary Walsh, our Amazon Warrior. And what would the world of show biz be without Mack Sennett,  producer, director, writer, actor and founder of Keystone Studios?

Politically, Irish Canadians have been integral to the country since the days of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Confederation, while Louis St. Laurent, Sir John Thompson, Paul Martin and Brian Mulroney have all served as Prime Ministers.

In world entertainment, the Irish have always had a strong presence, and there’s no shortage of musical talent exported from the Emerald Isle, with memorable stylings and poetic imagery flowing from U2, Enya, Gilbert O`Sullivan, Sinead O`Connor, the Cranberries, Van Morrison  and Thin Lizzy.

The Irish in North America have come a long way from the days when thirish_blessing_cottageey stumbled off the boats, fleeing famine and political strife. Many of those marching in St Patrick`s Day Parades today have no interest or stake in the politics of modern day Ireland, but the urge to celebrate their heritage remains strong.

And the rest of us, in our green wigs, and drinking green beer, just wish we could have a little of that fabled Irish luck and good humour, if just for one day.

 

Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past


My mum embodied the Spirit of Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday, and she made every one of my childhood Christmas’ as merry and bright as she could.

She’d grown up in the depression – she knew Christmas wasn’t about money. When times were tough, she’d tell us it would be a “Hoodoo McFiggin” year – that meant the only presents would be things she had to buy us anyway, just to keep us clothed and fed – underwear, socks, boots. Presents were lGrinch xmas means a little moreovely, but some years, presents could wait. Christmas was about gathering with family, and sharing what we did have, and what we had to spare was love.

She just had so damn much joy and childlike belief in the season that it all came naturally through her to us … the breathless lead up that began months before, when she’d start asking my sister and I what we were going to ask to receive from Santa, and the admonition that we must be very sure of what we’d tell the Big Man when the day came … this was serious business! We were to name only one important item we really, really wanted. If there were other gifts, they would be of Santa’s choosing. We’d spend hours arguing over what toys were best, what we really wanted, and we’d change our minds a zillion times before our visit to Santa’s Kingdom.

cindy lou whoNor were the needs of others to be forgotten. We’d be given a small amount of money, and a list of those we needed to delight with thoughtful gifts. It’s extraordinary how far $5.00 could go back in the sixties. We would have been mortified to not have a gift to give to any of the family who had brought a gift for us. Some years would find us digging through our own stash of precious things, in order to find something we could wrap quickly and present to an unexpected guest.

In the run up to the Day itself, we’d drag out the boxes of carefully packaged ornaments that Mum had collected through the years. She’d linger over the battered aluminum stars made from pie plates, reminding me that she and I had made those together, one year when I was very young, and recovering from the mumps. She’d carefully unwrap the fragile glass ornaments she’d had since she and dad first married, each colourful globe a warm memory. soap bubble ornamentAnd she’d always linger over a set of orbs, some round, some tear-shaped, so transparent they reflected rainbows, so precious and delicate, “they’re like soap bubbles , Roxanne! Aren’t they beautiful?!”   

We had to have a real tree. She felt there was no point in having a tree if it didn’t come with that delicious smell, and the scratchy feel of pine needles under foot. The tree would find a place of honour in the dining room, and strict instructions about its care and watering were delivered. After the tree was set into the metal holder, she’d draw a bright red and sparkly cloth gently around the base, and then add puffs of ‘angel hair’ to make the tree look like it was floating on a cloud.

xmas tree old timeyShe’d drape the tree’s branches with long strands of tiny glass beads, the beads a little more worn every year, but shining nonetheless. The box of tinsel was precious too; after Christmas we’d gather as many of the used strands as we could and save them for the following year. We had two special toppers for the tree – one, a paper plate collage of an angel adorned with cotton batting that I’d made in first grade, the other , a plastic doll dressed as an angel, it’s halo tipped jauntily to the left, a scratch of pen ink faintly visible on it’s cheek.

Christmas songs would be playing on the little record player, and we’d all sing along as we decorated. Jodi and I liked to make up new and naughty words to some of the classics, just to make mum laugh, before she’d chide us to “Behave! Santa hears and sees everything you do!”

Once the tree was up and decorated, we went into a two week hiatus, where the other 50 weeks of naughtiness were replaced by determined niceness. We’d wait brearankin bass productionsthlessly for the Christmas specials to appear on the TV; without video or DVD, you had to be home to see “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” or one of the other animated delights, most of which seemed to be Rankin Bass productions.

As my sister and I got older, we began to appreciate more adult offerings; Jodi loved “It’s A Wonderful Life.” My favorite was “Holiday Inn,” with the moment I waited for being when the heroine posed in silhouette against a giant red paper heart, before dancing through it … and breaking poor old Bing Crosby’s heart.

 

 

And of course no Christmas was complete without the scary, but ultimately uplifting, black and white classic … Alastair Sim in “A Christmas Carol.” God bless us, everyone!christmas-carol-1951

There was also one special box that contained nothing but photos, recipes, newspaper clippings, song lyrics, and a few very treasured books. Our favourite to read and to have read to us was Erwin L. Hess’ Christmas and Snowbound in the Treasured Past,” a large full coloured collection of holiday poems, stories, artwork and photos, from 1961.

xmas and snowbound n the treasured past

We remember our best Christmas.  A flashback appears and this favourite Christmas plays on a very special screen in a picture of color, and we see the scenes we remember so well.  Immediately our story we’ll begin to tell…It snowed early that year.  In those days the holiday spirit was in the air with the first fall of snow.  Sleigh bells jingled and that meant Christmas was near!” 

We loved that book; it epitomized an ideal Christmas, one that we’d never had, nor likely ever would. But it held a promise, so much so that the phrase, “Christmas and snowbound in the treasured past” became our family code for how we imagined paradise to be.

First_Snow Jay MaiselWere winters colder then? Not always … one memorable Montreal Christmas Eve, the family toddled off to church in summer dresses and sandals, only to emerge into a starlit night made brighter by soft, fat flakes of snow gently falling onto the sidewalks. But that was an aberration; most Christmas Eves were ‘see your breath’ cold, brightened by our new knit hats and mittens that Gram had made to keep us warm.

Cold, colder and coldest was more often the weather on Christmas day. During my teen years, the habit was to gather at one of the uncles’ house to carve the roast beast. The best parties were at Uncle John’s big house in Chambly, as there was plenty of room for the kids to play, and even a special room where we could have our own holiday meal, manners and decorum cast aside, while the adults ate, smoked, clinked glasses and laughed about adult matters. We felt a little sorry for them – they didn’t even get to watch TV while they ate!  50s kids watcing tv

No matter where the party was held, in time the celebrations would wind down, and we’d gather our outdoor clothing, say goodbye to the umpteen cousins, and kiss all the ‘grumps,’ (grown ups) before piling into the car for the long ride home, across snowy roads and an ice-laced Pont Cartier, and then along Sherbrooke Street for miles, our bellies full and heads nodding, and inevitably slipping into sleep just before the car drew into the driveway. If we were small enough, we’d even get carried to our beds, where our new pjs and slippers awaited us.

It was a very different time, and, as with every generation that comes along, we were creating our own version of what Christmas should look and feel like. My mother’s memories were precious, but no more precious than the one’s she created for my sister and me.

Times change, and families are usually smaller than they used to be, and often times, a great deal more complicated. The name we give to that wonderful time of year when we get together to eat and sing and laugh and pray may be Christmas, or Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or even Festivus. Heck, call it “Christmahanakwanzika“ if you want to.

What we call the holiday doesn’t matter – what matters is that we take the time to find that small, still place in our hearts, where peace and goodwill live. We gather with our families and friends to join our hearts and hands, to share what we have, and to give thanks that we … together … made it through another year, and are ready to enter another year, whatever it may bring … together.

coexist xmas

 

 

Hoodoo McFiggin’s Christmas: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZm0WoTl1wU

 

(first published Dec, 2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/roxanne-tellier-christmas-and-snowbound-in-the-treasured-past/)

 

Canadian ThanksGiving 2015


Canadian thanksgivingI love that our Canadian Thanksgiving is in October, a cold, clear breathing space before the run up to winter and it’s festivities.

I hate that companies like Sears try to ramp up their sales by aping America, calling upon a “Canadian Black Friday” to stimulate shoppers, and oh, by the way … Christmas is coming! Start spending now!

My stars … I haven’t even ignored Halloween yet!

Speaking of scary stuff, this holiday weekend marks the beginning of advanced voting for our October 19th election. The turnout has been fantastic; Friday’s advanced polls were up 26% over normal. It took a lot for Canadians to get off their duffs and care about who will steer Canada through the next four years. But it’s happened, and no matter which party is chosen, it’s great to see our nation galvanized.

I’m grateful for a lot of things, including those people who have raised their voices, be it in song or print, to help everyone understand the issues our country is facing. Not all voices or writers are equal in talent, but everyone who’s spoken their mind speaks from the heart.

(I also find it a little odd that no songs seem to have emerged savaging Trudeau or Mulcair. Hmmmm …)

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/nsfw-more-anti-harper-songs-from-canadian-musicians

i want a CanadaI hate that I’ve seen and heard, on Facebook and in person, some of the most vicious and racist rhetoric I’ve ever encountered, during discussions on the niqab, and its apparent potential to obliterate Canadian democracy. I’m not gonna insult anyone by pretending that we’re afraid of that little bit of cloth. Of course, it’s the fear that, under that cloth, there is an ISIS warrior with a gun or a bomb, or some way to hurt our fragile flesh. But it’s never happened here. And it sure as hell is happening over there, which is why the refugees are running to safety. Making it all about the niqab has given the government license to sweep our compassion under the rug, and made it permissible for us to cast aside that image of 3 year old Alan, the little boy whose crumpled body washed up on a beach, in favour of demonizing those fleeing bombs and torture.

family reunion aug 2015I’m grateful for my family, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones (and we have our share, thank heavens!) I like that we encourage each other, touch base for no reason, and somehow manage to stay connected, despite the miles that separate us. I’m grateful for the many ways we can keep in touch, be it by phone, post, or internet.

I hate that miles separate us. Growing up in Montreal, my extended family would gather each week at one of the family’s homes, and we’d share a meal and good times together. Today, we’re all scattered across this great land, and seem to only physically reconvene in times of stress. But our loyalty, formed by years of forced conviviality … I’m kidding! I love you all!

crazy minion friendsI’m grateful for my friends, all of ‘em, even the crazy ones … maybe especially the crazy ones. Some I’ve known for decades, some I’ve met only recently, but with each encounter, my capacity to know and love the goodness that lies within people grows.

I hate that I’ve lost family and friends along the way, some to death, but many more to differing views on life. I’ve always believed that we don’t really change as we age – we just become more adamant about our beliefs. What we’ve lived through shapes us, for good or ill. Some maintain the child in their heart, others let her die.

its okay to change your opinionI am grateful that I’m still able to appreciate art, both new and old. I hope I never close my mind to ‘what the kids are up to,’ in any sphere, be it artistic, technical or social. Getting older causes some people to fear youth … something about their energy and vigor can feel threatening and dangerous. But the kids are our future.

I hate that so many in business, politics, and yes, the arts, cling to out-dated, outmoded, and obsolete business practices and theories, despite advances made and being made in every field. I’m not saying, “jump on every bandwagon,” but I am saying that continuing to sell buggy whips long after the horse is gone says more about you than your customers/voters.

I am grateful for the growing number of commercial, big buck comedy/news shows available. There are those who say, “I’d never get my news from a comedy show.” But you are, dear .. it’s called FOX News. Meanwhile, the Daily Show continues with new host Trevor Noah, I’m becoming increasingly respectful of Larry Wilmore’s work on The Nightly, and the best reason to watch the Tonight Show is the rapier wit of Stephen Colbert. And if you are not watching the incredibly well researched and up to the minute investigative journalism cut fine by humour of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is available free of charge every Monday on YouTube … shame on you.

I hate that the conservative mind seems unable to understand humour, or at least seems unable to express humour in a way that lacks pomposity. There’s no self-awareness. Oh, you’ve got your Larry the Cable Guy, and Jeff Foxworthy, but guys like that tend to poke fun at people like themselves, not social issues or politics. Their humour begins and ends in easy targets. Maybe the answer lies in the reality that choosing any artistic pursuit puts you squarely against the principles most conservatives hold dear; you’ll probably work harder and yet make less money than your friends who chose a more conventional life course. Who knows? I just know that a preponderance of fart, racist, and sexist jokes, with an emphasis on crudeness and personal entitlement, doesn’t turn my or most liberal’s crank.

free speech conditions applyI am grateful that I can speak my mind, in person or on social media, and, at least for now, do so freely.

I hate that our world grows ever more fearful, causing those who DO know what’s going on, to be silenced by commercial interests.

(please note: the clip below is definitely not safe for work (NSFW.)

http://anonhq.com/british-reporter-absolutely-loses-his-temper-and-tells-us-the-real-news/

stupid famous peopleBut most of all, I am so grateful I’m not a Kardasian, even an honorary one, despite my long, black hair.

And I hate that we’ve put a lot of unworthy people on social pedestals for very little reason.

Get your turkey on, fellow babies! Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian peeps!

canadian-thanksgiving-meme-2

first published Oct 11/2015: https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/roxanne-tellier-love-ithate-it-thanks-giving-2015/

Toronto Gets It’s Summer On. Hilarity Ensues


weird-al-yankovic-mandatory-funI know that Weird Al Yankovic is on tour, which presumably means he’s kind of busy, but hopefully someone’s been keeping him updated on the wacky goings on in Toronto this week. Hard to believe he wouldn’t want to opine on recent events during his July 18th Casino Rama gig.

In one day, the hashtag #DeadRaccoonTO had nearly three times the number of tweets compared to #TO2015, the official hashtag for the 2015 Pan Am Games.

Image by Steve Kearns

tumblr_Pan Am Toronto RaccoonOh, Toronto. You never cease to amaze and amuse me. On a hot Thursday morning, Jason Wagar spotted a dead raccoon lying on the curb at Yonge and Church. He immediately notified #311Toronto to report the poor creature, and with that customary diligence and alacrity we’ve come to expect from our public servants, they sprang into action … 14 hours later.

Within a few hours of Wagar’s tweet, local residents had created a makeshift memorial around Conrad the Raccoon’s body, complete with flowers, a framed photo of a raccoon, and written tributes to a life well lived. Someone even inserted a cigarette into the stilled paw.

deadraccooonTOCity Councillor Norm Kelly, perhaps hip to the negative scrutiny being given to the City’s employees, on this the day before the official opening of the Pan Am games, added his Twitter voice, requesting that there be an immediate pickup of the corpse, which had by now been lying on a major city intersection in the unrelenting heat for at least six hours.

But Kelly, an old hand on Twitter, having done his job, now began contributing to the fun, at one point even asking that residents leave their recycling bins open overnight, to honour the phenom.

normKelly raccoon tweet

The city finally responded at 11 p.m., with a blasé city employee noting, “geeze .. it’s just a dead raccoon.”

And Norm’s final word on the matter? “Damn … life’s so short.”

newscut Toronto RacoonThe story went viral, of course, with varying voices weighing in. One commentator mentioned how good Toronto had it … in Edmonton, he said, “when a corroded lamp post succumbs to age and collapses dead on the street; the city has a standard practice of at least a three day viewing which I think is a bit much given the number of lamp post deaths; really how much grief and remorse can one handle.”   

Of course, there were some who wanted to take the opportunity to rant on governance and the traditionally lackadaisical attitude of many public servants. But summer fun will out, and as the story travelled around the globe, even wilder speculating began. Who killed Conrad Raccoon?

A makeshift crime scene is set up on Church Street, where a dead raccoon was found and left for over 13 hours before being picked up by a city worker in Toronto on Friday, July 10, 2015. width=

“Is no-one going to investigate this? I mean how did he die? I feel like this should have been a mission in L.A. Noire.“ Followed by the assurance that “Investigations are ongoing.”

Really, we needed something to take the attention off the Pan Am Games, and the ridiculousness caused by bureaucrats who take themselves and their duties far too seriously.

Everyone’s weighing in on the HOV lanes, and the insanity of overtaxing an already past-capacity highway system, where the GTA’s rush hour is now all day, every day. (HOV (high occupancy vehicles) lanes are the new express lanes meant to speed athletes and officials to competitions on time, but are also open to vehicles having three or more occupants.)

peeling HOVThe lanes didn’t get off to a good start, when torrential rains in June actually began to peel away chunks of the recently placed diamond-shaped lane markers, and had to be replaced.

Although the lanes were supposed to be limited to the actual Games period, from July 10 to 26th, the city threw commuters a fast one when the new rules of the HOV road went into effect on June 29th.

HOV lanes emptyToronto police are heavily enforcing the rules for temporary (HOV) lanes, with fines of $110 for illegal HOV use on provincial highways (plus 3 demerit points,) and of $85 fines on city highways (Gardiner and Don Valley.)

Toronto police reported that “We didn’t start off on a great note. There were higher than normal collisions and we didn’t have the compliance numbers we were hoping.”

Indeed.

Some fuming commuters are saying the lanes are doubling and tripling their travel times. Former Toronto mayor Rob Ford admitted to driving alone in the lanes, breaking the law as he moves in and out of the lanes.

Rob Ford HOV“Go in and out, obviously,” Ford said. “You gotta watch the cops over your shoulder… I have to get to where I have to go.” He added that he sees a lot of other people doing the same thing, so that must make it alright, right?

But Toronto … you’ll never be as wacky as Montreal. Here’s how they handle their summer commuting difficulties … MontrealSuperSlide

http://www.mtlblog.com/2015/07/its-official-montreal-will-be-transformed-into-a-1000-foot-slip-n-slide-this-summer/#

And then there’s our official Pan Am Games internet site, toronto2015.org, which seems to have failed to understood exactly how the Internet works, stating ,

“Links to this Site are not permitted except with the written consent of TO2015™. If you wish to link to the Site, you must submit a written request to TO2015™ to do so. Requests for written consent can be sent to branduse@toronto2015.org. TO2015™ reserves the right to withhold its consent to link, such right to be exercised in its sole and unfettered discretion.”

Pan Am pachiticketsThe website’s terms of use, written in incomprehensible gibberish by the Pan Am Games lawyers, has not used any technical method to stop search engines from indexing and linking to the site, so they are effectively forcing search engines such as Google to break their rules.

The Register (theregister.co.uk) sent the following message to the site.

We would like to seek permission to link to your website for a story we are writing about how ludicrous it is that you are requesting people to ask permission to link to your site. It is only fair that we warn you the article is likely to be critical of yourselves and contain a good degree of mockery.

We should also note that we will link to your site regardless of your response. But all the same, it’s nice to have permission. And before you ask: there’s no need to ask us for permission to link to the story when it’s up. It happens all the time.

The response to their email perfectly summed up the situation:

Delivery to the following recipient failed permanently: branduse@toronto2015.org. Technical details of permanent failure…

And we haven’t even hit the dog days of summer yet … I can’t wait to see what happens next!

pug swimming

(first published at Bob Segarini’s Don’t Believe A Word I Say, July 12/2015)

The Mondrian on Coxwell Avenue


Coxwell 157 2012A few years ago I was walking down Coxwell Avenue, below Gerrard, and saw an amazing house. Snuggled between two very ordinary residences, 157 Coxwell was a jewel shining amidst trash, an exotic bird in four story flight. I stopped dead in my tracks to contemplate how this beauty came about in a city more known for uniformity than individuality.

And of course, I had neither my camera nor my phone with me to capture the sight. So I carried on my way, but often found myself thinking about the house. Mondrian with a hint of Mandelbrot, I thought.

fractal-mondrianI’m not one of those who search out architecture. The grandeur of most contemporary mansions featured in glossy magazines only prompts a sigh for the waste of money and the egotism of those who build shrines to their own wealth and positions. But I do appreciate individualism, and that’s something we sorely lack in Ontario.

Our older homes tend to reflect our British backgrounds. Our colour palettes generally run to beiges and greys with the occasional red brick. On the plus side, that same craving for “over ‘ome” means that we rely heavily on gardens, trees and legally protected parklands, often the only bit of colour to be found for miles.

Cut to yesterday, when I once again found myself at the corner of Coxwell and Gerrard. The bus was taking forever, it was a lovely day, and I was wearing my favourite sneakers. So I decided to walk towards Queen, and once again have a look at that extraordinary house.

Coxwell 157 May 2015As I approached, I saw two men excitedly talking and gesturing towards the structure, which seemed to have undergone some reconstructuring. The back of the house had been extended, and there were eight new foundational supports visible. Plywood covered some of the colour blocks.

Coxwell 157 May 2015 fullThis time, I had my camera ready. I snapped a shot of the side addition, and then moved to get a full shot of the front, smiling and nodding at the two men. They asked me why I wanted photos of the construction, and I told them of my interest in the house’s appearance.  

As I explained, one of the men laughed, and introduced himself as  Rohan Walters, the original architect. His friend was another prominent architect, Daniel Karpinski. They were there to see what changes were being made to the structure, as it had been sold, and the new owner wanted to put her own stamp on her residence. Changes included an elevator installation, and of course, a great deal of additional floor space.

Rohan WaltersI asked Rohan if it was hard for him to see changes made to his design. He admitted that he was worried about changes to the overall composition of the building. He’d spent a great deal of time in first imagining how the original structure would look. Here’s some of his thought process:

Then it happened. I’m sitting amongst ‘The Group of Seven’ paintings. Being amongst paintings, particularly these paintings are healing for me. With my face in my hands, I looked broken. I raised my eyes to the paintings and then it hit me: the colours of the sky, the flora and fauna. The various hues, depths, tones, intensities and responses over the day and seasons. That is what I had been missing. True colour is never alone; it is a tapestry of ever changing and yet knowable themes.”

st johns newf housesDaniel, Rohan and I continued to chat about the importance of colour in residential construction. We agreed that Toronto tended to conform to neutral palettes, with rare exceptions, and that other cities, like those in St. John’s, Newfoundland had a more joyous and welcoming appearance. In fact, St. John’s is amongst the eight most colourful cities in the world.

http://enpundit.com/8-most-colorful-cities-on-earth/

We continued to talk about the importance of an infusion of colour into cities. Daniel told me that the citizens of the Soviet held East Berlin were so depressed by the grey, bleak architecture of the time that they would covertly throw hollowed eggs filled with paint at the buildings. A colourless city is a joyless place.

coxwell-kitchenI was sorry to have to leave the conversation, but Rohan gave me his contact info, (SpacesBy Rohan.com) and sent me a package of interior and exterior photos of his creation.

At home, I researched the history of the project, and found several informative articles, including a four part blog Rohan wrote for “Reading Toronto,” in 2005. Some of the innovations Rohan brought to the construction, begun in 2002, seem tremendously rational, but had not been previously considered in construction codes.

“This Coxwell house is, arguably, the first house built since the 1997 edition of the OBC not requiring a heat recovery ventilation system. I pitched the head mechanical engineer at the city. I showed him my calculations for the house’s natural air infiltration and ex-filtration in concordance with non-combusting appliances such as the ‘direct vent’ furnace, condensing dryer, warm floors and single air volume that did not combust any internal air. As such the air exchange rate met the facts and intent of the code. “

His own home, “Triangle House,” possibly the smallest triangular building lot in the city of Toronto at the time, was built in 2005 for himself and his children, and carried on the colour blocking theme, and utilized such nuances as

Triangle House night“A combined heating and domestic hot water system, orchestrated electrical and plumbing designed with baseboard and pilasters, comparing the vibrations and sound of this frame home with that of a masonry home because of the concrete topping on top of the joists and limiting the building footprint with pier construction, the concrete positioned to act as a ‘thermo mass’ assisting in heating and cooling depending on season, and so on…. a teaching tool for myself: the possible from the improbable.”

I thought about our unlikely and stimulating conversation as I continued to walk towards Queen Street, cutting through parks and side streets. The Beaches has always been a desirable area, not only for the beach access, but for the sense of community and family nurtured by the residents.

lakehouse buildingIn pursuit of well-heeled buyers who want to piggyback on that charm, a lot of the older homes and buildings are being torn down, and replaced with cookie-cutter townhouses and condos. Where once a three or four story building was considered an eyesore and impedance to lake views, new constructions feature heights that will effectively distance the long-time residents from the nouveau.

montreal winter outdoor-staircases-Cities have a life of their own, which derives from the cultures they encompass. Consider the square greyness of the uptight and politically choke-held Ottawa, the slightly askew streets and impractical outside staircases of Montreal, or the exuberance of Calgary’s newest buildings, which appear overnight from the ashes of the Cowtown’s foundations.

ethnic enclave TorontoToronto, once so proudly W.A.S.P., now teems with diversity. The areas where new immigrants congregate to create ethnic enclaves may not be to your taste, but display individuality in the face of the conformity seemingly endlessly churned out in bland suburbia.

We need more visionaries re-imagining urban Toronto. Duly and safely freshening your beige home exterior is a bore. This year, try pink. Or turquoise. Or emerald green. You never liked your neighbours anyway.

Snu


Can’t complain – the weather was worse in November than December. I didn’t miss the snow at all on Christmas. And the first thing I did on New Year’s Day was look out the window, and cry out for joy at the lack of whiteness.

But all good things must come to an end, and today, alas … there is a smattering, a dusting even, of powder. New Snow. Snu.    light snowI lived in Alberta as a child, and 12 foot drifts of snow were not uncommon. I trotted off to school in below zero weather wearing knee socks. It was a ‘dry cold,” they said.Neige_Montreal

As a mini skirted teen in Montreal, my thighs were perpetually red and chapped from the damp snow and winds. We slogged thru the slush and dug our toys and pets and cars out of the billowy white blanket of snow, snow and more snow.

One of the draws that brought me to Toronto in 1976 was the fabled meagre toronto snow1976snowfall. It seemed every photo of Toronto in winter featured a parade of jacketless men and women delicately high stepping through barely an inch of the white stuff. Could it be? Did people in Toronto not even own snow boots? Lured by that promise, I started a new life in the Big Smoke.

shorts in Toronto winter

And for a decade or two, it did seem that Toronto was the Promised Land for a winter hater like myself. Proportionately, there was definitely less snow than in Quebec, and the people pretended politely that the snow was of no consequence. Many fellows affected long shorts throughout the year, whatever the temperature. Toronto snubbed its nose at winter; if you pretended it wasn’t happening, maybe it would go away.

But, alas – all good things come to an end. The late 90’s and early 2000’s held a wintry nip in the air, and in 2013, we had an Ice Sicestorm 2013torm of epic proportions that brought the city to its knees for nearly a week. It had begun. My winter days in Toronto were numbered. Climate change will chase me out of Ontario.

Where to next? How far can this delicate flower run to escape the winter blues? I’m waiting for a gentle breeze to waft me away from this land of snu … Bermuda beach