Boom Times in the Big Smoke


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hackers, Bobby Curtola, and The Monkees


(first published on Bob Segarini’s  “Don’t Believe A Word I Say” blog. “)

Got an urgent email this morning, informing me that 427 million MySpace passwords had been stolen, and were being offered for sale on an online hacker forum by Russian CyberHackmyspace and TomerPeace.’ I was shocked. People still use MySpace?

At any rate, it seems this hacker also got into LinkedIn and Tumblr and word has it that InstaGram is next on their list of targets.

If you’ve got accounts on any of those sites, you’re asked to log on and change your password tout suite. Even if your account is old, and you believe what you’ve left there to be obsolete, you could still land in trouble if someone uses your account to do something illegal. Kind of like when you don’t report your wallet stolen, and the thief uses your ID after being busted for trying to rob a bank – always wise to let the authorities know ahead of time.

*****

From everything I’ve read this week since the passing of Bobby Curtola, one thing is abundantly clear –  – this was a man who loved life, music, and his fans.

Hearing of his death last week came as a real shock. I was just a kid the first time I heard his early recordings, but in the last few years, I came to know him as a lovely, funny and flirtatious man. French women always find kindred bobby curtola 60ssouls in flirtatious Italian men.

But I suspect he was born the sort of fellow that loves women. He may not have written his early hits, but the songs always presented Bobby as a hopeless romantic, who yearned for the girl “three rows over,” or begged a fortune teller to tell him where and when he’d meet his special love. “Will we meet on a busy corner? Will she know that I’m the one?

Bobby Curtola touches heartOr maybe he was just a guy that fell in love with music early,  as a kid in Thunder Bay (formerly  Port Arthur, ON) through his  successes in the Canadian west, and his conquering of Las Vegas, and never stopped feeling that joy.

Susan Jacks (The Poppy Family) remembers, “When I was in high school, just before becoming a regular on the national Canadian teen TV show, Music Hop/Let’s Go, I was totally in teenage love with Bobby Curtola. He was a pioneer in the Canadian music industry. Years later I would meet him and learn what a good person he was…we’ve been friends here on Facebook for quite a while as well. Sadly, this wonderful man passed away today at the age of 73. This is a tough one for me… We’ll miss you, Bobby.“

Although he was showered with awards throughout his career, beginning with winning the Best Male Singer award from RPM Magazine in 1965, through becoming a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997, and his induction to CHIN Radio’s Italian Walk of Fame in 2011, he remained a man of the people. Our first Canadian teen idol, the Bieber of his day, had no truck with tattoos and silly stunts, but rather preferred to work with dignity, establishing the first coast-to-coast touring circuit in Canada, lobbying for Canadian content rules for radio and TV, hosting telethons in Canada and the U.S., and raising money for charities and organizations around the world,

Bobby Curtola forever.pngHad he moved to the States, like Ottawa’s Paul Anka, he might have made an even bigger splash, maybe even been recognized by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, which has yet to do so. But I don’t think any amount of fame would have spoiled Bobby Curtola. He was a good man, sometimes naïve, sometimes following his heart rather than the money, but always giving it his all.

He could never resist jumping on stage and sharing his love of music with friends. In one of his last performances, he hijacks Sam Taylor and the East End Love at the Peppery Cat, May 7, 2016.

I’m gonna miss him. My last memory will be of laughing (and flirting) with him this past May, when we connected at Canadian Music Week, where he was hanging out with friends at the Cashbox Canada booth. When he was dragged away by his chums – off to shake a few more hands, to have yet more fun wherever he found himself –  he kept blowing me kisses as he left …  I can’t think of a lovelier way to remember Bobby Curtola than to think of him exuberantly blowing kisses  to those lucky enough to have crossed his path.

*****

monkees 50th anniversary tourI fully intend to continue my lifelong obsession with The Monkees by writing about their new, 50th anniversary release, Good Times!  and upcoming tour. However I’ll need an entire column to talk about this record breaking album that’s burning up the charts, chock filled with songs written by the likes of Rivers Cuomo, Ben Gibbard, Noel Gallagher , Paul Weller, Andy Partridge and more …  for now … feast your ears on this tune …

And here’s a nifty little song that’s become an earworm for me …  “Davy Gets The Girl.” The Minus 5’s Scott McCaughey has been a fan of The Monkees since the age of 11. A few years ago, Scott gathered his like-minded Minus 5 cohorts for their latest album, Of Monkees And Men, crafting a song for each member as well as one for Boyce & Hart, the duo that wrote and produced many classic Monkees tracks.

Oh yes … there will be more Monkee repartee to come … but for now, get outside and grab yourself some of that good summer weather Toronto’s been enjoying, and make your own Good Times!

 

 

Moving The Goal Posts


malena arpeAs we get older, we move the goal posts of what we think we can accomplish. When I heard that Toronto writer/humourist Malena Arpe had died this week, I was gutted. “But she was so young! Only 50!” I said to friends.

2001 vhsOnly 50. When you’re a kid, 30 seems ancient. When you’re 30, you can’t imagine being 60. I remember a time when I wondered if I’d be around to see the turn of the century; the year 2000 was so far away, and 2001 was just a sci-fi notion.

The year I turned 40, and we released the eponymous Delta Tango CD, we were told that the music was good, but we were just too old for anyone to get excited about.delta tango frt bck 002-001 It was hard to get that CD together, at our own expense, and while we all raised families and worked demanding day jobs. We promoted the music, played showcase gigs, and had airplay across Canada and in Europe. But even with some success, the words of that A&R idiot echoed in our heads, whispering “too old,” whenever the going got tough. And eventually, we caved to that nasty voice, and gave up trying.

I think of those days when I hear about kids who found a cause and stuck to it, despite peer pressure, and despite being teenagers with raging hormones. There are multiple turning points in our lives, and how we react to them says a great deal, not only about ourselves, but about those people around us, who likely have no idea how much impact they have upon our successes and failures. Those people can be the good or bad little voices we hear when it’s hard to carry on. We can’t do it all by ourselves. And there’s strength in numbers. thumbs up successThat’s why the best way to succeed in any walk of live is to surround yourself with positive people who believe that you, and they, have the right, the voice, and the ability to make positive changes in your worlds.

Malala Yousafzai’s family ran a chain of schools in the Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan. malalaWhen she was about 11 ½, she began to write a blog for the BBC (under a pseudonym,) detailing her life under Taliban occupation. The next year, a New York Times journalist made a documentary about her life, which brought Malala to prominence, but unfortunately, also brought attention to her determination to make schooling available for Pakistani females, as it was illegal under Taliban rule.

At 15, as she boarded her school bus, a gunman shot her three times in the head. She was unconscious for three days before being airlifted to England, where she was treated, and began intensive rehabilitation. The attempted assassination caught the media’s attention, worldwide, with one German newspaper dubbing her “the most famous teenager in the world.”

Malala-YousafzaiUpon recovering, she continued her fight for women’s and children’s rights. In 2013, she spoke at the United Nations headquarters to call for worldwide access to education, In 2014, at 17, she received the Nobel Peace Prize, and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate.

But you needn’t look to the world stage to find young activists who seek to bring information and change to the planet. We have several kids right here in Canada who aren’t afraid to speak up. Kids with good parents who support their children’s need to raise their voices against what those young, clear eyes see is wrong in our civilization.

At yesterday’s March Against Monsanto, I spoke to Rachel Parent, 16, who was a featured speaker. Rachel Parent 2At 11, Rachel was plagued by allergies that interfered with her life, and rather than whine, she tried to find the cause. After reading that organic foods might help with the symptoms, she changed her diet and saw an improvement. More study on the subject made her realize that the advent of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in food coincided with a massive increase in allergies, especially in children.

Rachel began to speak on the subject of GMOs, first in her school, then in ever widening circles. At 14, she challenged Kevin O’Leary, of The Lang and O’Leary Exchange , to a debate, after he’d accused her of being a “shill” for environmentalists. As you can see, the man did not fare well in this particular exchange.

rachel parent not science experimentAs her reputation grew, so did her access to politicians, and her frustration with their vague protestations that they could do little to require companies to label GMO foods. (The U.S. and Canada are the only two world powers who will not label.) She calls this “corporate wealth over human health.” The clip below is of an interview from two days ago. To keep up with Rachel, follow her blog at KidsRightToKnow.com.

Hannah AlperAnother young activist currently making waves is Hannah Alper. At the age of 12, Hannah addresses topics like eco-friendly living, anti-bullying, wildlife conservation, and fair trade on her blog and through various initiatives. She began her blog, CallMeHannah.ca, at age nine to ”share her growing knowledge and concern for the environment.”  http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/hannah-alper/

Proud papa Eric Alper (Director of Media Relations at eOne Music Canada, and an enthusiastic blogger himself) told me about Hannah’s latest writing venture with The Huffington Post when I ran into him at an eOne event during CMW. I’m very surprised he didn’t mention this wonderful and inspiring speech she made at the TEDxDistilleryDistrictWomen event last year, on “How to find your spark.”

Both Rachel and Hannah can point to Craig Kielburger as a role model. In 1995, when he was 12 years old, he began researching child labour after reading a newspaper article about forced child labour in Pakistan. craig kielburgerHe was so angered by what he read that he took the article to his Thornhill school, and eventually gathered a group of friends of his own age to found a group he called the “Twelve-Twelve-Year-Olds.” This group evolved into “Free the Children“, an international organization that has 45 countries participating in helping the world become a better place. In 2007, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada. (Wikipedia)

At the age of 9, Severn Cullis-Suzuki (yes, the daughter of Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki) “founded the Environmental Children’s Organization (ECO), a group of children dedicated to learning and teaching other youngsters about environmental issues. severn cullis suzukiIn 1992, at age 12, Cullis-Suzuki raised money with members of ECO to attend the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Along with group members Michelle Quigg, Vanessa Suttie, and Morgan Geisler, Cullis-Suzuki presented environmental issues from a youth perspective at the summit, where she was applauded for a speech to the delegates.” 

“Today she is a Canadian environmental activist, speaker, television host and author. She has spoken around the world about environmental issues, urging listeners to define their values, act with the future in mind, and take individual responsibility.” (wikipedia)

What drove those kids to pursue their dreams of making the world a better place? What support was in place for them, and how did the people around them – their parents, their friends, their teachers – keep the spark of their passions alive?

passion MandelaWell, for starters, these young activists didn’t listen to those who told them to “just be grateful you don’t live in (insert third world country/war torn area here).” They didn’t just get mad and rant, they got off their butts and put themselves on the line. If you want change, you can’t just kick back just because no one’s bombed your house lately. We have the opportunity to improve upon what we have already, if we make enough noise. Too many people think we should just shut up and take whatever we get – from our families, our friends, and our government.

My cat will yowl at me until I give her what she wants. All I, as the stupid human, have to do is figure out what that is. She’ll sit beside my chair for ages, letting out that piercing Siamese meowl, breaking my concentration as I’m tippy typing away. What is it, Lady Jade? Food? Out? Brush? Water? Door? Until finally, I hit upon what it is that she’s requesting. “I want a treat. Now now now wow ow!”

Sweet Black CatShe doesn’t stop because she’s determined to get what she wants, and she knows that she will, if she just yells long and loud enough. Persistence comes naturally to a small black cat that is loved and respected, and thus fearless.

A lot of us get that determination beaten out of us by life, and at an early age. if you want to go fastWe can always find a reason why our dreams are just too hard to achieve. We know what it is we want to accomplish, but the barriers seem insurmountable, the couch is so comfy, and that funny show is on the telly. That’s when you most need people around you who’ll help you climb those barriers. The difference between those who fail and those who succeed is the people around us, who make us fearless, and encourage us on our journey.

be ashamed to die

(originally published May 24, 2015 at bobsegarini.wordpress.com)