Wild and Wacky Weathering


In June 2012, Amazon picked The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker as one of the month’s best reads. A combination coming-of-age story and apocalyptic page turner, the novel focused on how people would react to a changed world, where “the Earth’s rotation slows, gradually stretching out days and nights and subtly affecting the planet’s gravity. ”     
age of miracles
The book outlines how a young girl, along with her family and friends, cope with this adjustment, as the planet wobbles off to it’s slow demise.  Meanwhile, the best laid plans and schemes from governments fail to make much difference in how the Earth’s denizens cope with the disaster.

And that’s kind of where we’re at these days, isn’t it? We’re in a vague malaise, unable to confidently say what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, while hapless governments, even if they agree that there is a problem, struggle to find bandaid solutions to  the earths’ sores that have been left to fester for too long.
trump alone at G20

Except this guy .. this guy thinks he knows better than anyone on the planet, be they incredibly educated scientists or those who have spent their lives dedicated to studying the effect of climate change on people. This guy is an asshat.

It must really be pointed out how completely insanely and selfishly Trump and his band of reverse Robin Hood Merry Men are behaving. They’re hooting and hollering like ignorant hillbillies as they seal the environmental fate of those fools who voted for them to make life altering decisions, in the name of ‘economic change.’ These corporate raiders of the environment are convinced that money and power will save them from dying from a lack of clean air and water. But just them. The rest of us? Dream on. We’re all going down with this ship.

Remember when the first rumblings about a change in the planet’s clime began to hit the middle class consciousness? Those who could see the bigger picture were worried about how even a slight shift in warming could damage our environment, the least of our worries being an increase in natural disasters, as melting polar ice caps brought about flooding, and extreme weather swings were tempered with more frequent and deadlier droughts.

Others smiled at the thought of palm trees growing down the main streets of large northern cities. With a thorough lack of understanding of the fragility and interweaving of climate and landmass, some hoped this warming would bring about new tropical beaches in heretofore frigid areas. These foolish humans thought they could somehow control where and when climate change would happen, and bend it to their wishes.

All of their fantasies depended upon where they were located, and hinged upon a lack of empathy for those who would see the opposite of these desires. In order to have the tropics brought to your front yard, many countries would have to be completely displaced or disappear from their current sites. In order to have Floridian temperatures in Boston, New York or Toronto, you first have to lose Florida.

But, of course, they were attempting to take a world problem, and make it into a personal triumph.  Still, Man proposes, god and the environment disposes. You’ve only to look locally, to the disastrous flooding on the Toronto Islands and the economic battering Toronto is taking on this matter alone, to see that we have no control whatsoever when Mother Nature gets pissed off. Instead of a tropical beach, you have land masses swept away, along with coastal areas being eroded, possibly never to be returned in our lifetimes.

I wonder what Trump will think when his precious Mar-a-Lago is swallowed up by the sea? It will happen, and I can only hope it will happen sooner than predicted. Right about now works for me.

elephant left to rotAnd when I think about those who continue to claim that our actions are too miniscule to have any sort of immediate impact upon the planet, I’m struck dumb by the hubris, and the inability of some to look at the damage we all regularly inflict upon the planet, and not see how integral each and every living creature’s actions are to maintaining this delicate balance.  Where once we knew, instinctively and intuitively, that the lowliest butterfly snatched from our timeline could have an impact upon the food chain, we now struggle to throw off responsibility for the most damaging of indignities and raping of natural resources ever seen in human history.

But don’t we love to talk about the weather! Talking about it, singing about it, trying to forecast what might be on the horizon, and molding our protective coatings around what we hold precious … this is what we have always done, since caveman days. Through the centuries we learned more about how the planet moved through it’s cycles, and how the sun and moon determined how best we could use the land and waters around us.

We learned to measure how precipitation complicated the times when seeds could be planted, in order to feed our populations. We began to understand that chemicals, seeded into the lifeblood of the planet, the very earth and air, could and would damage the reproductive cycles of all living creatures. We learned how to forecast what the weather might be in coming days, and when we would need to protect our bodies with clothing that would keep us warm, or sunscreen that would fend off the increasingly irradiating rays of the sun, which were no longer impeded by the thick coating of ozone we had taken for granted.

All of these things we learned over time, through observation of the repetition of the seasons, we now blithely toss aside in favour of commercializing and exploitation of resources, an exploitation that seems less inclined to profit humanity, but certainly enriches corporations with no concern for the actual ‘owners’ of the lands they rape.

We looked to the seasons as metaphor for our lives. The cycles of the seasons echoed the natural order of life. Spring reflected our callow youth, and Summer mirrored the fullness of being an adult. We understood that the fall indicated a slowing of days, and winter … dark, cold, unforgiving winter … symbolized a time of aging, and eventual death. The days have the same length, but there are fewer of them.

When the natural order of the seasons is displaced, when you can no longer count on April showers bringing May flowers, our human minds have difficulty grasping that which we’ve always taken for granted – the flow of time reflected in our environment.

The impact of climate change doesn’t end with the physical damage that’s being inflicted on the world. Now, those who study our psyches are beginning to see a change in how humans respond emotionally to the trauma and shock of weather events. Even if we try to avoid focusing on the earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, floods and landslides which now occur more frequently, our minds are aware of these catastrophes, and our ability to absorb these disasters is lessened. Our empathy is impacted, leading to a rationalization of isolation, and of a need to protect what we have from those displaced by events beyond their control.

We are, in effect, living in a state of post traumatic stress and shock. Some might feel a low grade sense of depression and anxiety, while others, perhaps more sensitive to this imbalance, may have behavioural issues, ranging from substance abuse, to interpersonal and job-related difficulties. Other symptoms can include a heightening of violence and aggression towards others. It is no accident that the rate of suicide has risen in the last decade, as some decide that there’s simply no reason to carry on, in a world so out of balance.

Climate change on our planet will eventually impact every one of us, wherever we live. In recent studies (Bryant et al., 2014,) (Simpson et al., 2011,) it was noted that,
Changes in climate affect agriculture, infrastructure and liveability, which in turn affect occupations and quality of life and can force people to migrate. These effects may lead to loss of personal and professional identity, loss of social support structures, loss of a sense of control and autonomy and other mental health impacts such as feelings of helplessness, fear  and fatalism.

Extreme temperatures in their own right have a unique influence on behavior and wellbeing. As research by Craig Anderson (2001) and Simister & Cooper (2005) has shown, aggression increases as temperatures rise. Thus as summers get hotter, so might our tempers — likely due, the researchers explain, “to the impacts of heat on arousal, which results in decreases in attention and self-regulation, as well as an increase in the availability of negative and hostile thoughts.” Heat can also impact our ability to think clearly, they add, “which may reduce the ability to resolve a conflict without violence (Pilcher, Nadler, & Busch, 2002).” Higher temperatures have also been found in other research to increase the risk of suicide (Lee et al., 2006).

ecoanxiety
Add to this mounting fear and anxiety derived from watching the world around us change in irreversible ways — coupled with the helplessness of feeling as if we cannot stop or reverse global warming— and you have another effect of climate change on mental health:

“Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010),” the authors write. “Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).”

While it may be expedient and profitable for climate change deniers to continue on the path to ecological destruction, those who deny what is happening to their own psyches are impeding any kind of healing for the rest of us.  Seasons change, and we must change with them. But more gently.

Putting the ‘Wow’ in Pow Wow


2017PW-PosterThe Na-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence) lucked out with the weather for the annual traditional Pow Wow held Saturday, June 24th, at the Fort York historical site. The day was sunny, yet breezy, and very well attended.

Barbette Kensington and I were early to this celebration of song, dance and ceremony. From the impressive Grand Entry, through an entire day filled with the pounding heartbeat of the drums competing to be heard over the cheerful chatter and laughter, the old Fort was a sea of smiling faces of all shapes and colours

Powwows honour Native tradition, and I was grateful to our emcees, Steve Teekens and Jay Lomax, who outlined the elaborate etiquette and protocol that is integral to understanding the rituals and colourful regalia.

The Grand Entry, for instance, is not to be photographed nor videotaped, since this is a sacred moment during which the members of the procession may be praying for loved ones or members of the community. The regalia, often the work of many hands over a long period of time, represent the totems of the wearers, with the colours reflecting their spirits. No one may touch any part of a dancer’s regalia without first asking permission. rox at pow wow June 2017 with dancer

” The moment you take on the role of an initiated dancer, a great deal of pressure is put on you by the people, not only to perform, but to be a role model, to be honorable. When you put on regalia, you take on the essence of the sacred animal, honor culture, tradition and the Creator.

“Being humble should be the number one priority for any dancer, thankful that you are allowed to dance with the animals you wear, your sweat and suffering are for the people, making people proud of who you are, showing your respect, because you represent them,” said Elder Antoine Littlewolf.

One of the unwritten rules of powwow is that no one should touch another’s regalia without first being given permission by the maker or owner.

Eagle feathers, which traditionally are earned, and all feathers, for that matter, should be treated with special care. It’s necessary to be humble and respectful to each feather being worn. The spirits of all animals being worn must be respected above all else.

Care and respect of the sacred circle extends, not only to respecting the arbor, sacred objects and other dancers, but to the whole atmosphere, the ground themselves, mother earth.”     http://ammsa.com/publications/windspeaker/powwow-etiquette-dictates-respect-tradition-0)

Arena Director Earl Oegema handily kept the dancers in line in accordance with all of the tradition and protocol. “Powwow etiquette and tradition dictates that the Grass dancers be the first to enter the arbor, symbolically stomping down the grass to provide a flattened circle for the rest of the dancers to follow. They enter the arbor from the south entrance and go clockwise with the drum, following the wheeling movement of the sun, moon and stars.”

The Grand Entry is next, followed by songs and prayers, during which the attendees are asked to stand as a sign of respect. The beauty, colours, and the dignified spirituality on display before us brought tears to my eyes.

Bill and Vicki Wood PowWow June 2017We’d run into Vicki and Bill Wood (the Woodies, Eye Eye) on our way in to the Pow Wow, and spent some time chatting with them. Now it was time to begin our walkabout through the 50 craft vendor and information booths on site, chatting with old and new friends.

We were on a mission to find the Anishnawbe Health Toronto booth, as Barbette had some questions for the staff. On the way, we flirted and chatted with some of Toronto’s finest, part of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit, established in September 1992 , the first major urban police service in Canada to establish a unit to deal specifically with the issues faced by the Aboriginal community.

pow wow at pow wow June 2017With lunch on our minds, we were happy to see our friend Shawn Adler‘s Pow Wow Cafe was represented with a food booth on site. From the moment the Cafe opened, the foodies were lined up for blocks; the food IS that good. So we were lucky to see the multitalented artists, Annalee Orr and Nancy Beiman, close to the head of the very long line up for his Indian Tacos. They asked us to join them, and with little persuasion, and some apologies to those we’d line cut, we did, and soon had our plates of bannock smothered in beef, vegetables, salad and sour cream clutched in our hands.

Annalee and son Daniel had established a little ‘camp’ under the one tree in the Fort, and there we quickly polished off the tacos. Bellies full, it was time to visit the vendor booths.

Barbette knows many of the craftspeople and vendors from Native Centre encounters, so we made a very slow promenade, admiring the jewellery and artwork, being inspired by the craftworks, and chatting with some of the artists.

dancers pow wow June 2017Dancers in full regalia drifted through the crowds, brilliant visions of colour and sound as the jingles attached to heels rang.

We were delighted to run into Leslie Saunders, former manager of The Meeting Place, a community drop in centre for those in need in the Bathurst/Queen area. Nearly half of the centre’s participants are First Nations people.

rox barbette david de poe Pow Wow June 2017And it is always a joy to encounter David DePoe, community activist, retired teacher, and Kensington Marketeer, best-known for his activities in the late 1960s as an unofficial leader of the Yorkville hippies, and founder of the Diggers movement in Yorkville.

What a pleasure it was to be introduced to the legendary, multi-disciplinary, artist, Stella Walker. The woman’s energy is breathtaking! She’s a singer, writer, actor, producer, comedian and painter, and in the middle of producing a new musical comedy that includes content from award winning Newfoundland writer, actor and comedian Andy Jones, and will be directed by John Mitchell. Barbette appears in one of Stella’s many videos – Under the B .. Busted.

As the day wore on, my energy was starting to flag, and we made our way out of the Fort, stopping briefly to watch the talented hoop dancers and inter-tribal dance exhibitions. If we had stayed, we would have been welcome to join in the Feast, and to enjoy the evenings musical offerings, which included Crystal Shawanda, the award winning country music artist.

aboriginal celebration June 2017

If you’ve got Pow Wow envy, you’ll have another chance to join the fun on Wednesday, June 28th, when the 8th Annual Aboriginal History Month Celebration at Yonge & Dundas Square begins at noon.

There’s a great line-up of entertainers, including Amanda Rheaume performing at 7 pm, along with an all day Kid’s Arts & Crafts Tent, craft vendors, and Indigenous agencies showcasing what’s available in the community. Hope to see you there!

 

The move that would not die …


I’ve been pretty much off the ‘net and the grid for the better part of a month. Call it ‘interesting times,’ but dang, I’ve been keeping busy!

Farley on chair March 2017When we sold the house last fall and moved into a suite of rooms, it was with the fervent hope that we could stay put for a while. But it was not to be … a girl needs her kitchen and her ‘things’ around her, and my poor cats were traumatized by the presence of another cat in the residence. It was all too much.

So, come spring, we were once again looking for a ‘soft place to fall,’ with limited success at first. (see https://bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/11/13/mrs-parker-and-the-9th-circle-of-hell/)

It took a lot of shoe leather, a lot of inspections of possible living spaces, an incredible amount of rejection, and finally some canny wheeling and dealing to secure a place for June 1st. With several weeks to go before the move, we set to packing up and preparing for the move.

Ha! As if! No, once again, life insisted on getting in the way, and suddenly I was in the middle of not one, but two, musical opportunities, both of which had to be rehearsed and ready to go right around the time of the move.

hair flyer May 2017And with all of the stress around packing and moving, rehearsing a reunion of the cast of the musical “Hair,” and the putting together of the Segarini Riddock Band to debut today (Sunday June 11th) for a dear friend’s memorial/wake, my health decided to take a left turn, requiring a stream of doctor’s appointments. With rehearsals literally every second day, I was a tad pressed for time, but I handled it all with grace and … oh, who am I kidding?

Much sweat, fear, pain, exhaustion, and pressure to perform, while juggling all of the stress and strain leading up to the move.

I was a mess.

Hair ensemble in song May 25 2017On the plus side, the Hair gig was a joy on the day. The original Toronto production of the musical Hair began in 1969, and ran for a sold out 52 week run. The Tribe, which included original cast members Paul Ryan, Clint Ryan, Kid Carson, Frank Moore, Jim Peters, John Stainton, Harriet Teear, Amber Wendelborg James, and Shelley Somers, was filled out with vocalist Debbie Fleming and myself for this incarnation.

The Tribe are amongst the finest people you could ever meet – good hearted, fun, and generous with their time and their talents. Under the excellent creative direction of Dylan Bell, we rehearsed an acappella arrangement of some of the most famous songs from the musical, aided and abetted by the vocal group, Retrocity. We had a rocky start to the exercise, and lost a few of the cast along the way, but by the time 8 pm on May 25th rolled around, the Tribe was ready and raring to go.

And so, I found myself on stage with nine of the original cast members of the Toronto production of ‘Hair” at the Jane Mallett Theatre in the St Lawrence Centre, in front of an audience of 450 happy hippies. You can see the entire production here:

With that production under my belt, it was time to crack down and prepare for the move. No, I’m kidding again. Now it was time to see more doctors for more fun with pointed instruments. (Spoiler alert: I’m fine. No worries) THEN it was time for the move.

We’d downsized radically prior to leaving the house in the fall, but now we were going to have to divest of even more ‘stuff’ if we were going to fit into a tiny, two bedroom, bungalow in the Upper Beaches.

By now, you know I’m kidding if I say we got that all taken care of before it was time to load the van.

It was madness.

242 Bingham move june 2017Everything was everywhere, and on top of that, whatever boxes I’d carefully set aside to be safely brought to the new place by car, somehow wound up on the truck and under hundreds of other heavy boxes.. And so I spent another week in flip flops, unable to find my shoes … or my orange clogs … or my hair dryer …

We had intended to lay carpeting before moving in the boxes and furniture, so as not to scuff the floors. The best laid plans, however, resulted in the carpets being laid willy nilly through the house, nowhere near their permanent destination, and promptly buried under heavy cartons and furniture. To free the carpets meant moving hundreds of boxes, over and over again and a tad to the left, as rugs were found, taken outside to be soundly beaten for having been led astray, and then dragged back in to the house, where the same hundreds of boxes were then moved, over and over and a tad to the right, so that the carpeting could be laid properly.

242 Bingham walk thru June 11 2017It is Day Eleven of the move that will not die, and we are still tracing a crooked path through an obstacle course to get from the front to the back door.

It will be okay. We will sort things, move things, toss things and donate things. It will be okay.

242 Bingham desk June 11 2017But right now, it’s a rat’s nest. Here’s my view from my desk chair.

Could be worse. Was last week. But for now, I must get dressed and ready to join Bob Segarini, Craig Riddock, Peter Kashur, Bruce Chapman, Kid Carson, Kevin Jeffrey and Annette Shaffer, for today’s remembrance of Super Roadie Dave Bailey.

bailey wake June 11 2017Please join us if you can – it will be a rockin’ sendoff to a good guy gone too soon.

 

Don’t Bogart That Joint My Friend – Monetize It.


The O’Cannabiz Conference and Expo held at the Sheraton Centre this past April 21-23 conveniently allowed those celebrating 4/20 to have their pot, and eat it too.  ocannabiz 2017

The history of hemp and cannabis, that mixture of dried, shredded flowers and leaves that comes from the hemp plant, has, so far, been written by the victors –  those who fought to prohibit use and access to the plant. That they did so for their own, often muddled, generally financially rapacious,  reasons, impacts us to this day.

from Vice: “ How did that (criminalization) happen?

When Harry Anslinger, who was leading a federal agency that would later become the Drug Enforcement Agency, was confronted with the end of prohibition in 1933, he panicked because he and his man were charged with enforcing prohibition… He was worried that he didn’t have a mission in life, that he and his men would be out of a job. That’s when he began to lead the crusade against marijuana. They very deliberately, systematically chose marijuana as their new whipping boy.

When Anslinger was participating in federal hearings that would eventually culminate in the passage of the Marijuana Stamp Act in 1937, which essentially made marijuana illegal, the arguments against marijuana use were not at all grounded in scientific evidence. They were grounded in hearsay and stereotypes: That this was a drug black men used to seduce white women. That it was a drug that led Mexicans to murder their white neighbors. ” reefer madness.gif

So dangerous was it deemed that even today, with a supposedly more enlightened people, and science as advanced as we’ve ever seen it, trained professionals continue to ignore current studies, preferring to rely on what they’ve been told. Only 8% of Canadian doctors are open to prescribing cannabis medically, regardless of new information. Clinical studies have been made even more difficult to conduct due to North American legislation that forbids study of prohibited substances. I kid you not. The legislators are like children with their fingers in their ears, going “nyah nyah nyah, I’m not listening,” while the people carry on toking.

Marijuana-FactsAs the tidal wave of inevitable legalization sweeps over North America, it’s illuminating to watch the different factions argue over how this potential cash crop can be best exploited. For sheer capitalistic greed, look to legislators who foresee that shaking this particular money tree will fill not just tax coffers, but their own pockets, and focus solely on how they`ll spend those yummy new tax dollars.

Shares in marijuana stocks have ballooned over the last few months, as high as 5000 times over first purchase price. And many of those who bought early, and at the lowest rates, were family members of politicians who saw which way the wind was blowing several years ago.

Pure activists tend to lean on the medical aspects of legalization, and that is a very good thing indeed. While further studies will allow researchers to help sufferers ease pain, I’m already watching friends soothe their nerves without toxic side effects, having happily dumped costly pharmaceutical antidepressants and sleeping pills, in favour of edibles.

Jodie-Emery-and-Bill-Blair.jpgTo my mind, appointing Bill Blair,  the ex-Toronto police chief who’s tasked with shaping the legislation  as the Chairman of the Committee, was a giant mistake. It’s inevitable that a man who spent his entire life and career policing drug offences is going to have a different spin on legalization. His mere presence at the table draws a pall of doom and gloom over the very idea. And his dour focus on law enforcement over potential benefits reinforces social and racial biases over who exactly gets to indulge, or profit commercially from sales and distribution.

His presence hearkens back to the days when pot was a cheap pacifier for slaves in the Caribbean and the cotton fields, and reflects current times, when prison populations boom with low end drug offenders, serving sentences that have a long term negative impact on the futures of those prisoners and their families.

But there are literally countless avenues of commerce about to open in Canada, based on this proposed legalization. At the Expo, I learned exactly how clueless most  Canadians, including myself, are about the economic possibilities and future of this upcoming advance.

If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you likely remember the joy and awe of trying your first ‘reefer.’ That’s when $5.00 bought you a nickel bag – one ounce – of pot. Or a big bag of oregano, if you were a first timer and gullible. These days, it’s a lot more expensive, and my oh my how the hit has changed!

big bambu cheech chong.jpgResearch, mostly conducted at street  (grass roots) level, and over many years of advanced cultivation by dedicated growers, has not only produced more effective highs, but highs that can be calibrated as efficiently as high end pharmaceuticals. Not having kept up on my cannabis education, I had no idea that the both the homegrown  and imported versions now came in different grades and strengths.

When I thought about legalization, my mind threw back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs.  Edibles, peace, love and groovy. Strolling down the first aisle of the Expo disabused me of those hippie limitations.

Booth after booth of exhibitors offered brochures that explained and extolled their particular fields of interest, from medical research, to how to better cultivate strains to meet advanced criteria, to an entire industry devoted to improving green house and solar powered growing. Several companies offered natural insect control products to protect the quality of medical or recreational cannabis.

There were accounting, financial, and banking experts available – it is currently illegal to bank money made from selling a controlled substance. These experts will lead the way in changing those regulations.

cannabis-industry-jobs-599x435There were schools offering accredited course programs in Quality Assurance for Medical Marijuana,  and Management Quality and Laboratory Certificates.

There were high end research labs working on 21st Century scientific techniques meant to improve the ability to pinpoint specific illnesses and to create medical marijuana solutions to ease pain and diseases.

There were companies who’ve specialized in the distribution of, and means of ingesting, product, for both medical and recreational pot.

ancillarybusinesses cannabisAnd yes, there were a few exhibitors who rocked the old hippie spirit, focusing on rolling papers, hookahs, black lights and groovy accessories.

But it was the middle aged business person that was the focus and main attendee of this Expo, the former middle and upper management types that either were forced into redundancy during the recession of a decade ago, or who simply had the foresight and imagination to realize that this legalization could create the largest, across the board, economic boom Canada has seen in decades.

The conference and seminar aspect of O’Cannabiz brought in spokespeople as varied as Gold Medal Olympic snowboarding champion,  Ross Rebagliati, and music legend, Melissa Etheridge,  to expand on their personal experiences with cannabis, and how regular usage has improved their lives. The Green Chefs, Mike Morgan and Guy Kramer, specializing in culinary preparations of edible marijuana, had suggestions for those who would rather eat, than smoke, their meds.

pets and pot.pngAnd on the Sunday, seminars discussed everything from pet-proofing your stash and avoiding possible risks and hazards to household pets, to the growing essentials of good cannabis cultivation , and the medical effectiveness of cannabis in treating veterans for PTSD.

Ms Etheridge has often said, “I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally.” (Or as duo Fraser/Daley puts it .. “all marijuana, is medical marijuana.”)

I had my eyes opened to a brave new world in Canada, if the process of legalization is not hampered with outdated and prohibition type thinking as the process rolls out. The future is truly up to forward thinking Canadians, and literally anything is possible economically if we can leave the “Reefer Madness”  prejudices behind and embrace the possibilities of this beneficial plant.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can benefit and possibly profit from the legalization of cannabis in Canada, there’s another conference coming to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre this month, May 25-27. Info on that can be found here … http://liftexpo.ca/

Smoke ’em if you got ’em!

With No Direction Home


When we first sold our house, worrying about finding a space that would be safe, affordable, and have amenities nearby didn’t seem like such a big deal. Really, we reasoned, how hard could it be?  I, for one, thought that our biggest problem would be agreeing on location.

Wrong.

welcome to the jungleSince our search for housing has begun, I have passed through all the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I now accept that my entire life is on hold, and that I will be a quivering mass of anxiety and frustrated tears until this home hunting issue is resolved. Or one of us kills the other.

I had no idea that so many of the baby boomers who had dutifully bought their suburban homes during good times would all be taking advantage of a seller’s market, with an idea of moving back into the city where they could enjoy their golden years. The hive mind’s plan was to sell before the real estate bubble burst, find a little place to squat until the madness calmed down, and then decide what to do next, secure in our gains and pensions.

Our lovely little bungalow was snapped up, and flipped again within the month. A friend just sent over a photo of it being demolished. East Ave demo Apr 2017As glad as I am that we are now ‘Former Scarberians, ‘ I did feel a pang at the sight of the rubble.

What we did not fully comprehend was that as the price of real estate rose, so did the greedy little hearts of landlords seeking to cash in on square footage. We’ve had rent control in Toronto for decades, but that only covers units built (or occupied) before 1991. The easing of rental controls was meant to encourage new rental units to be built, but was not acted upon – in the decade between 1996 and 2006, 95% of all new housing built was private residential ownership.

But having committed to the house sale, we established an east end home base, with an eye to sorting ourselves out before finding a ‘forever home.’ Unfortunately, when your stuff is in boxes, in storage spaces, and scattered to the winds, a sort of inability to move forward takes over … when you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t see any road ahead. Easier to lie back in the poppies like Dorothy than to sort through hundreds of cryptically labelled boxes to find the potato masher.

Toronto subway systemWe made up a wish list of what we could and couldn’t accept in housing. Accessibility to amenities, shopping, libraries, etc was priority number one, since I don’t drive. So this palace had to be close to the subway line, and roughly west of  Woodbine station, and east of Ossington station.

High rises were just out, right off the bat, after hearing countless horror stories about tenants battling cockroaches and bed bugs. Low rises were a low priority – still so much noise and too many neighbours!

A three bedroom would be best, a large two bedroom acceptable IF there were separate dining and living rooms. Parking would be great, street permit parking would be considered. A little back yard for the cats, or at the least, an enclosed balcony, was also on the list.

We established a maximum monthly rental cost  that we could comfortably afford, with the knowledge that rental costs would inevitably increase yearly. If we needed to include utilities in the costs, electrical heating could not considered if we were to be able to afford both heating and eating.

Oh, how the Gods laugh, when humans list what they will and will not accept!

housingOur first forays into the rental world were fun and interesting. Thirty years of home ownership had us lulled into a false confidence. Hours were spent burning out corneas, sifting through Kijiji, Craigslist, ViewIt, and countless other rental sites. We were ready and willing to explore what was out there.

Preliminary research done, it was time to inspect what was available. We saw apartments, condos, tiny houses, and lofts. We looked above stores, under stores, and at underground parking.

And every time we’d find something that was either ‘just perfect!‘ or ‘close enough to be almost perfect!’ we’d be scooped by some other renter frantically trying to avoid homelessness. Everything, it would seem, was fair in apartment hunting … lies, bribery, tantrums …

evil landlordLandlords today are the Gods of the past. They can drive a grown man to tears, never mind a small French girl. They are merciless. They can not only demand more private and confidential information from you than your doctor will, they can gleefully skip over rental/tenants agreements willy nilly, banning everything from smoking, to small pets, and cooking smells. They can demand thousands of dollars in certified cheques be handed over, before they’ve even looked at your 11 page rental application.

It is to weep.

Over and over, we’ve been told, despite having responded to an ad only two hours old, that there were several people who’d seen and applied for occupancy before us. Our impeccable credit ratings meant nothing, if another applicant fanned a wad of cash in front of the landlord, and agreed to pay hundreds more than the stated rental price. It is back to the dark old days of ‘key money,’ and laws and legalities be damned.

living in a boxI no longer look forward to viewing living spaces, nor do I mentally dress them in my mind. I have no reason to expect that finding anything more than four walls and, hopefully, a roof, await me. To quote an old Monty Python sketch, I’m beginning to realize that I may soon be living in a cardboard box in the middle of a busy street. In the game of apartment hunting, I have had my tenant heart broken.

When the hunt for a home resembles the worst of the Wild West, it’s a lose/lose game for both the renter and the rentee,. Those who finally win a place to live at any price feel no joy in the victory, no loyalty to the landlord, and no need to be a responsible tenant, if that success has come at a cost that will prevent them from enjoying the rest of their lives.

10 worst tenantsNor does the temporary flush of money, money, money help the landlord when he discovers that he’s rented to someone willing to cough up the extra dough so that the space can be turned into a grow op or a crash pad for six other friends. Good luck evicting bad tenants .. that’s one place where the law not only comes down heavily on the side of the resident, it’s actually followed to a fair thee well. Your squatter may be around for a very long time.

Setting aside the morality and ethics of rental wars, there’s an impact on society at large.

demoralizedAnyone who falls through the cracks, economically, is hopelessly disenfranchised in this battle. Kids in college, or right out of college coping with short term employment contracts, or gawd forbid, unpaid ‘internships,’ are right out of luck, along with the disabled, the elderly, the vulnerable, and those who don’t pass the scrutiny and whims of landlords. Demoralization and often, homelessness, loom in their futures.

When greed rules the markets, lawlessness runs rampant. We cannot balance a Trumpian  ‘smart business practices’ fallacy with a failure to acknowledge that Toronto‘s historically low vacancy rate of 1.3% will have a negative impact upon the social and economic success of the city. Short term gain is never the equivalent of what can be achieved by long term, responsible, financial planning that takes into account the needs of all of a city’s inhabitants.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear if we have been chosen for an apartment that, while not ideal, ticks a few of our wish list boxes. But I’m also getting ready for yet another ‘go see’ of a space that could be made into a cozy space for two to curl up in.

We’re lucky – we have options, although it often seems that our options keep narrowing, and the lines we drew around what is habitable keep getting redrawn. How those without those options will cope is beyond me.

Wish me luck.

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.

 

That Was Sixteen. Going on Seventeen


2016 is gone. Moving on isn’t the slightest bit difficult. 2017 is going to be … interesting, oh yes it will. Doesn’t seem any other option than to muddle our way through whatever’s this way coming. Fingers crossed it’s not too wicked.

supermoon-imageFor me, this year has begun differently than many I’ve experienced in the past. Selling the house and moving into the city has brought a lot more freedom into my life. That light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be not an oncoming train, but rather a beautiful fat moon, always just out of reach, but wonderful to see.

Happiness doesn’t require that you have a lot of anything. In fact, I think if you have too much, you’re more concerned with keeping what you’ve got or of striving to get more, than enjoying what you have. No. “Enough” is what you want. Enough for freedom from want, enough to bMicrosoft Word - n2342-recycling.doce able to relax into your life and appreciate what you’ve got. Enough to be in control of your own life, but not so much that you seek to control others.

So in the first two weeks of this new year, I’ve seen more bands than I did in all of 2016, had several lovely brunches with good friends, and discovered that quitting smoking was the best gift I’d ever given myself. There’s been more laughter, and less tears. More singing and less coughing.

As much as I fear for what is in store for our neighbours to the South in the coming months, I also have relinquished the belief that anything I say or do will make the slightest bit of difference. It won’t. I can’t. So, although I’ll keep passing along jabs at the Orange Jayzus,  I’m handing over the burden of fear to those poor benighted Americans.

dead mans switch Outer Limits.jpgBut I do have a sneaking suspicion that many in government are not who or what they seem. Remember that Outer Limits episode, Dead Man’s Switch, where a lowly soldier mans the button  that controls activation of a final revenge weapon that will wipe out the earth should invading aliens turn out to be hostile? The final scene reveals that aliens are indeed parasites controlling the actions of those in charge, while the earth lies in ruin.

I’m not saying that TeeRump has an alien tucked under those oversized jackets, but there’s no denying that that makeup and spray tan can be seen from space.

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Here in Toronto, it would seem that Mayor Tory’s vision of a Music City‘ is more of a pipe dream. You can’t ask the venues to supercharge the city’s revenues, while simultaneously squeezing them for more taxes, charges and rents. Petty limitations and fines will not inspire club owners to new heights.

The venerable Hugh’s Room was the most recent victim of circumstance, abruptly closing it’s doors in the midst of financial struggle.  It does seem like there’s hope for the venue re-opening though, as a committee has been formed to focus on restructuring and reopening, and changing the club’s ownership structure to a non-profit, board-run model. I do hope so .. this is a prime venue, with so much well deserved good will and respect, that it would be a pity to just let it die on the vine.

One of the acts that was displaced due to the closure is Jan Kudelka‘s one woman tribute to Janis Joplin. She is bringing her celebration of Joplin’s 74th Birthday Bash to the Tranzac instead, this Wednesday the 18th, at 8:30.

“The Queen of Psychedelic Soul is back for one night only! After smashing sold-out shows in 2015 and 2016, singer and performer Jan Kudelka conjures and celebrates the beloved blues/rock trailblazer Janis Joplin with a 74th birthday bash on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at the TRANZAC CLUB backed by her stellar band! Do not miss this intimate journey into the epic voice and tender heart of the Janis Joplin legend.”

jan-kudelka-janis-joplin-tranzac-poster

The Tranzac is a fascinating place. There’s the big room, where Jan will have her show, and then a smaller lounge, just as you enter, where the music never seems to end. The range of sound and ideas is astonishing, and you’re as likely to find yourself listening to jazz as alternative, or rock, or folk, or an evening of ukulele appreciation.  Seriously. Check out their calendar of events to have your mind boggled.

http://www.tranzac.org/simplecalendar/

I like the idea of venues offering music at earlier hours, especially as the weekend nears. My days of starting the night at ten p.m. are long gone –  my cats are cruel masters who demand feeding at 6 a.m., so I’m usually tucked up and snoring just as most bands karang their first chord. And so are a lot of my contemporaries, and those who have to go to work or school the next day. happyhourIt seems odd to me that bars and restaurants are content to open around eight p.m. ish, or be open during the day, but empty, until some mythical magic time when bands appear out of the mist. There’s money to be made in the feeding and entertaining of people who start the day early, and are ready to rock by dinner time.

And with the plethora of talented, experienced players who are available for gigs, it would certainly be easy for many venues to fill in the gap, and keep musicians and music lovers alike happy.

This past Friday, for example, I enjoyed Don Naduriak‘s extraordinary quintet at a little restaurant on the Danforth called Hirut. This is a regular gig for them. On the second Friday of each month, beginning at 8 p.m., E = and Don Naduriak Music “explore compositions by Don Naduriak with various of Toronto’s best musicians. The compositions draw on Jazz, Afro-Cuban and Brazilian influences. don-naduriak-band-hirut-jan-2017

This month the band features Bill McBirnie/Flute, Russ Little/ Trombone, George Koller/Bass and Joaquin Hidalgo/Drums-Percussion, as well as Don Naduriak on Keyboard.”

If you’re a long-time music fan, you’ll know that Don’s group contains some of Toronto’s musical cream. The room was packed with jazz lovers, drinking and eating and making money for both the venue and the band. Which is the way it used to be, and still should be, but somewhere along the line, the train went off the rails.

There’s something going on nearly every night at Hirut, everything from comedy nights to Ernest Lee‘s classic blues,  as well as a folkie style jam on Sunday afternoons run by Nicola Vaughan, starting at 3 p.m.

Rooms that are taking advantage of earlier gig start times, and of expanding their offerings to include more than music, are reaping the benefits all over the city. As with any industry, those who give the customers what they want will always be respected and rewarded.

feed-meThere’s a lot of room at the table, and a place for everyone, regardless of what time they want to listen, or what flavour they want to feast upon. Toronto’s got the musical munchies .. feed it!

2017 can be the year we come together, despite those who’d profit from a people divided. There’s no better time to listen .. or to be heard!