A Taste of Spring


by Roxanne Tellier

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

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

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

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

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

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

I told you not to tell me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tribe Has Spoken


by Roxanne Tellier

The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and if you didn’t look at the calendar, you’d think that Spring had sprung.

Except for in Nevada, where the Bernie Sanders romp to victory last night has half of America’s pundits tearing their hair out in despair, and the other half still picking their jaws up off the ground.

Bob Lefsetz nailed it in his Lefsetz Letter when he wrote, “Bernie Sanders wins handily in Nevada and the lead story in the “Times” is how his road forward is fraught with difficulties. That’s like focusing on LeBron’s theoretical injuries in the future as opposed to how well he is playing for the Lakers today.”

Political pundit Chris Matthews put his foot in it last night, when he claimed on his show Hardball that the GOP had oppo research on Sanders that would blow him out of the water, should he become the Democratic presidential nominee. As the Bernie votes rose, Matthews then compared Sanders’ Nevada victory to Hitler’s invasion of France.

Sanders Is a 78 year old man who lost family in the Holocaust, and is on track to be America’s first Jewish president.

Shouldn’t be too surprising that both terrestrial and social media exploded this morning with demands that Matthews resign, if not immediately commit ceremonial seppuku, to expiate his sin of having an unpopular opinion.   

Hey, I’ve had my issues with all of the delegates, including Bernie. There’s not one ‘great’ candidate on display. But in such a limited field, I can get behind Bernie, and not just in an ‘anyone but trump’ position.

I get a little peeved that Bernie can’t seem to consistently and properly describe and explain that it’s not democratic socialism, it’s social democracy. Yeah, yeah… he’s been working this side of the street forever, and I can believe he’s tired of saying the same thing over and over, but that’s how this stuff is done now, in a world where people DO have to be beaten over the head before they embrace a new thought.

(Is it the water down there? It’s gotta be the water, right?)   

In fact, Bernie would be smarter to use a term that Republicans could really get behind, and would have no real reason to undermine …  “Rooseveltism.”  In one swell foop the word evokes that cherished time when the ‘greatest generation’ worshipped FDR for ‘saving’ America.  

On January the 1st of this year, the Atlantic ran an article that said that, no matter what happens in this election, Americans will almost certainly elect the oldest president, the youngest president, or the only president to ever win re-election following impeachment. In no part of the article did it even hint that Americans would be electing a great president.

We’re in full blown BizarroWorld now.    

It’s odd, this place that both the Democratic and Republican party have come to. We’re not in Kansas anymore. The Republican party is a shell of it’s former self, having abandoned everything they ever stood for in blind loyalty to a mad man determined to suck the American treasury dry for his own gratification, before setting the place on fire and walking away. The Democratic party is beating itself up on debate stages while the Democratic National Committee is in danger of repeating it’s horrific 2016 choice to shove their preferred candidate into position, regardless of what the people profess to want.

Didn’t work then. Won’t work now. But it could spell the end of the DNC, should they try that tactic again.

And of course, all of this very expensive campaigning and jockeying for position assumes that the November elections will actually be ‘free and fair.’ That’s debatable right there. Although Congress made available over $425 million to be used to ensure election security, pretty much nothing has been done, or spent, on working towards that goal.

And every single time the House puts forward bills meant to ensure the fairness and security of the election, the Republicans in the Senate veto the bills, without offering any suggestions of their own about security.

Just from that truth, you have to see that it’s extremely unlikely that the November 3rd elections will have much to do with democracy. It’s pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will be the antithesis of fair and free.

And that’s a real pity, because I think that Americans who are watching this unfettered POTUS post acquittal are too skittish to do what they probably should be doing right this minute – rising up en masse to protest and force him out of office and into a straightjacket. 

I think that the average voter is instead saying, let’s be sensible. Let’s push this down the road. We’ll deal with it in November, when we can legally and properly vote him out of office.

And hey! I really hope that works for them. I just don’t think there’s gonna be much left of America worth voting for, nine months from now.  Not the way the madness is accelerating out of control. Trump has picked up the pace on the crazy, and turned up the fascism burner to stun.

Am I lucky or cursed, to be able to spend so much time following the news? You really couldn’t be any more jacked in to the trump administration’s insanity than I am, and I still can’t process all of the horrors that this barbaric juggernaut lays down every day. I am one person – they are an administration dedicated to only one thing – the complete annihilation of America’s institutions and foundations.

This morning I read that Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent to a recent decision made by the Court, which is now little more than a rubber stamp for Trumpian requests.  

“Claiming one emergency after another, the Government has recently sought stays in an unprecedented number of cases, demanding immediate attention and consuming limited Court resources in each. And with each successive application, of course, its cries of urgency ring increasingly hollow.”

While I understand her overall anger and frustration with the Court, the particular case she chose to present as proof was more than a little troubling. This request was to pursue something so vile and so un-American that I had originally assumed the issue would never even come to court.

The application pending litigation, the case that trump’s administration considered an emergency, was an update of the “public charge” rule. This rule is meant to help officials decide if an immigrant should be allowed to apply for citizenship and/or a green card, in consideration of whether that immigrant can prove self-sufficiency, and whether or not they might at some point in their lives become a burden on the state, by requiring any government benefits, from welfare, to health care, or social security at retirement. 

In a five to four decision, trump’s horribly xenophobic request, a condition that his own parents couldn’t have passed, passed in his favour.

I guess it’s time to melt that Statue of Liberty down, and make it into a big T for TrumpLandia to be put in its place. Underneath that, instead of the beautiful poem that offers respite and welcome to immigrants, they should place a sign that says, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. “

Every now and again I wonder if America (and the world, for that matter) is being punked. Surely these last three years of horrific assaults on common decency, made by an unprincipled, unbridled, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, senile, doddering old fool will at some point be broken by a maniacally grinning Mitch McConnell, dressed as The Joker, popping up and yelling “GOTCHA”

As it stands, all we can hope for is that this ongoing reality series has a huge blindside in the works, that will knock out our least favorite player, and send him off the island. The tribe has spoken.

Life’s Been Good To Me So Far …


Life’s been pretty good, overall, since I shook the dust of Scarborough off my shoes, and returned to my old Danforth stomping grounds. danforth ave signIt’s such a treat to just walk up the street to a good restaurant, or to pop into a local bar to hear friends playing. I no longer have to pack my purse with overnight supplies before heading out to do groceries, or to visit my chums in the downtown core.

This retirement stuff seems to be working out just fine! I am totally down for the ‘Live, Love, Laugh” groove.

One aspect to the whole getting older/taking better care of one’s fragile corporeal self has been a downer … who knew all these bits and pieces needed maintenance or they would wear out? Sit down, keener nerdling, yeah, you knew, but I had more fun on the ride.

Bodies wear out, minds get warped, it’s all in the game. Some cope better than others; some win the genetic lottery. The rest seek relief at the hands of professionals, and even some gifted amateurs.

Shelley Marshall is a talented, award winning, comedienne, actress, keynote speaker and producer. She’s also the doyenne of The Mental Wellness Living Loft, mental wellness lofta comfy place for those who’ve been bruised by life to relax, meet other people of like minds, or to simply sit quietly, knitting or colouring, without fear of being asked to ‘move along.’

Tuesdays and Thursdays, between 2pm and 6pm, Shelley and her husband Jason welcome all to their home loft in Leslieville. Shelley suffers from what her doctor has called complex post traumatic stress disorder caused by childhood trauma. She’s known many people who are unable to cope with modern day life, and who struggle with mental health issues. When a bout of agoraphobia kept Shelley away from being with friends, she realized that she could have her friends come to her, and make everyone happy.

And she certainly has succeeded in her quest. If you are interested in attending, please call 416-821-1754.

https://video.vice.com/en_ca/video/the-comedian-who-turned-her-home-into-a-mental-wellness-drop-in-centre/58dc34e31cdb89ac6dbbdcf7

Laughter might be the best medicine, but music is a close second, in my case, and I was lucky to get a double dose of the good stuff when our fearless editor and modest rockstar Bob Segarini was persuaded to reunite the Alzeimer Appreciation Orchestra and Chorus for a good cause – we all needed a night out and a hang.

alzeimer orch Mar 2017Musical Director Peter Kashur brought together Bob, Drew Winters, and a motley crew of Kid Carson, Craig Riddock, Connor Walsh, Annette Shaffer and myself for a rollicking 45 minute set that grew, like Topsy, into an hour and a half of bluster and blather.

Despite the terrible weatheriness of the weather, we had a solid crowd of family and friends, and a good time was had by all.

Video courtesy of Jean E. Trivett, aka JeanDaGnu or GnuJet.

Last night was the March 17th Birthday Boy‘s final treat – a Nature Boy salon featuring Jane Siberry, with special guests Mary Margaret O’Hara and Geneviève Marentette.

siberry ohara and genevieveThe singers, ably accompanied by pianist Michael Shand, performed for an appreciative crowd in a private home in the Annex. These salons are a wonderful way for musicians to make a living, performing in a comfortable setting, where the attendees are fans, grateful for a chance to capture an intimate moment in time with their musical icons, and even have a conversation with them after their show at the reception.

Ms Siberry did not disappoint, as she wove her musical web over the rapt audience, performing several songs off her new CD, “Angels Bend Closer,” as well as takes on classic tunes such as “Nature Boy” and “The Girl From Ipanema.”

On this evening, Jane was the headliner, but on Friday night, it was Geneviève Marentette’s night to shine, and I’m very sorry to have missed that. I was not familiar with her work, but was impressed with her vocal additions when the three vocalists harmonized. I’m even more impressed since listening to her recent CD “Gigi” and watching her collaborations with luminaries such as David Clayton-Thomas and the much missed Don Francks.

Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Sunday night (tonight) show sold out immediately, and a second show has been added for Monday – but that’s sold out as well. Mary Margaret kept the crowd in stitches throughout the evening, with her trademark yips and sounds. O’Hara’s 1988 release, Miss America, is still regarded as a seminal recording, and the singer has been described as “a force of nature, a remarkable singer and composer whose crystal-clear soprano acrobatics and hypnotic songs defy accepted conventions

Today the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and it’s supposed to get up to 15 C/59 F today. Time to see if I can still ride the old bicycle without breaking a hip. Yeah, I could get used to this groove, especially living in Toronto, with all that’s offered.

Wave if you see me cycling by!

 

Weather or Not We’re Together


I don’t want to startle anyone … but there’s been quite a lot of blue in the sky lately, and there’s this big yellowy orange ‘ball’ up there as well ….  and it’s been getting kind of warmer, too. Should I worry?

Oh lawdy .. could Spring be nearing? It’s felt like years since looking out the window promised anything but snow and a hulking grey sky crouched like a monstrous beast over the rooftops. I have seen the hazy shade of winter, and I’m well  and truly over it.

Hey … it’s true … we had a mere 48.8 hours of sunlight in January. Even the seasonal average of 85 hours for the month of January sucks, but we got almost half of that! Now that we’re sneaking up to March, these warmer and sunnier days are feeling like a trailer for what’s to come.

The weather has always had an enormous affect on our psyches. It’s why we want to run away to somewhere tropical during the winter, or why some of us develop Seasonal Affective Disorder that is helped only by artificial sunlight. It’s a real thing.  The lizard brain craves sun and warmth.

Don’t take my word for it; Terry Jacks told us years ago that to have joy and fun, we needed seasons in the sun. Were you not paying attention? Did you not believe Terry Jacks?!?!?

human_fingerprints_450Now, I’m not gonna go off on a rant here, about global warming, and whether or not it’s caused by human activity. For one thing, it’s too nice a day to argue. It was 11 degrees yesterday, and it’s nearly 10 degrees today already; seriously, not wasting my time on deniers. Mama wants to gambol where flowers will soon be.

And anyone who’s still hanging on to their denial ..well, they’re probably too far gone to reach anyway.

But you do have to wonder if part of the refutation of climate change stems from our unconscious knowledge of weather’s effect on our psyches. The uncertainty, the rapid changes that have occurred to the planet as we heat it up – all this troubles our equilibrium, that has learned, by observation and over time, what to expect at given periods of the year. If it’s January in Toronto, there should be snow and cold. If, in February, some dude shows up to a bar looking comfortable in shorts and a wife-beater tee, you’re going to do a double take.

Remember the good old days, when 2014 was the hottest year on record? Then 2015 took first spot? Well, now 2016 has that distinction. And as we get closer to the summer of 2017, it might be prudent to be worried about what heights we’ll hit this year.

Australia‘s already in summer – and it is scary down there. The temps are way out of control, reaching highs in the mid 40s (mid 110s in Fahrenheit) in some places. Australia’s DailyTelegraph.com recently did an in-depth special news feature proving how much hotter the continent has gotten, and speculating on what further heights were in the future.  Will Canada have that to look forward to as well?

I can’t think about that now; life is short, and so am I. All I know is that spring is coming, which means I can finally ditch the thermal socks and long johns. I don’t care how cute and colourful they make flannel pyjamas, those pjs are never gonna inspire anything but sneezles and wheezles. A girl .. shoot, even an old lady! … wants to feel wild and free, not bound by heavy down-stuffed coats and sensible slippers.

Bring on the sun, and crank up the tunes, baby!

No matter our age, we need that good, good sunshine to make us feel alive. I could go into all the benefits of sensible sun-seeking, with multiple annotated reminders to wear sunscreen, but .. hell no. I want me some sun, and I want it now!

I am more than ready to pack away the sweaters and boots and let t-shirts and strappy sandals back into my life. I know, I have to wait a few months more before warm becomes norm … but I’m good with that, as long as dreamy summer nights and patios are in my future. I want to sip a smart cocktail in 75 degree weather, face gently kissed by the sun, as I sit and watch the world go by. Is that so much to ask? Would you deny me that?

Spring is around the corner, and those lazy, hazy days of summer will be upon us in good time. Here’s hoping that the promise of blue skies, and hot fun in the summertime, keeps us relatively unscathed through the next few turbulent months. I’m jonesing to morph my obsession with politics into a passion for maintaining good tan lines and the taking of long walks on the beach when the moon is in the seventh house …

But for now … let the sun shine in!