Mid August


Mid August, and most days I feel like, this year, summer never really got started. Maybe it’s the weather, or the political climate, but something feels off-kilter. My potted veg and herbs are in shock; it’s been either torrential rain or temps in the 90s – sometimes in the same 24 hours – every day since they were planted. Sodden pots sit cheek by jowl with containers so arid they threaten to burst into flame. There won’t be much of a harvest this year.

Mid August, and the back to school sales have started. Being an eternal student at heart, I always get really excited about 3 ring binders, coloured pencils, pencil cases, and the like. Which is probably why I have about ten boxes in storage of said items. I’m a victim of stationery covetousness.

The kids playing on the block look like they’re done with summer. Perhaps they are apprehensive about returning to the restrictions of another year of school, of seeing if their old friends have changed, and of having to meet new people who may be friend or foe. Or maybe they’re just caught their parents’ malaise. Either way, the little girl that pushes the doll stroller up and down the street while wearing her mother’s high heels just doesn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for the task these days.

Mid August, when we postpone the reality of the coming chill with a two week, overheated, ExTravaganza! Yes, the CNE began on Friday, with Burton Cummings and the boys kicking it off with their usual flair.

CNE midwayThe Ex holds less appeal for me every year. I’m still mourning the loss of the Alpine Way, and my ears still keen to hear the dulcet tones of the barker demanding that we come to see the “Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla GURL!”

It’s all downhill after the Gorilla Girl leaves. I can’t even be motivated by fried chicken feet.

Mid August, and news that the legendary recording studio, Le Studio, in Morin Heights (about 90 kilometres north-west of Montreal,) has been destroyed by fire, possibly arson. This, coming just a week or two after news that a successful GoFundMe project had enabled musician Richard Baxter to begin renovating the old girl with a team of volunteers.

Founded in 1974 by Quebec record producer Andre Perry, the studio and residence was once the ‘go to’ spot for Canadian and international artists, including Rush, the Police, the Bee Gees, Sting, Roberta Flack, Cat Stevens, David Bowie, April Wine, Keith Richards and the Ramones.

But not me. I never even had the pleasure of visiting the place, which was a pity, because I spent some pretty formative years in the area as a teen. I’ve always liked to tell myself that Le Studio was built on the site of the old Alpino Lodge. I neither know nor care if that is true.

In the 60’s, my friend Marianne and I would camp by the little lake that wound it’s path around and about the Alpino, babysitting her younger brother, fishing for our food, and generally waiting for the weekend to arrive and the party to start. Those were the days when it was not only possible for a couple of 14 year old girls to be abandoned in the woods for a week at a time, near a lodge that catered to the wealthy and the jaded, with only an eight year old boy as companion and protector, but for said kiddies to not only survive, but thrive, and indeed have a very merry time.

true romance magWhat did we do all day, I asked myself recently. How did we fill all of the hours when we weren’t minding the brat, fishing, picking berries, tending the smoky fire, or reading soggy comic books and True Romance magazines? Mostly we talked, for hours at a time, about our dreams, hopes, and fears. Some days, I’d make Marianne laugh so hard that she’d pee her pants. If I was in a mood, I’d keep it up until her week’s worth of undies were all strung up on nearby branches.

And we’d wait for Friday night. On Friday night, Marianne’s mother and boyfriend would arrive from Montreal, bringing supplies, and freeing us from babysitting duties. On Friday night, we’d clean ourselves up as best we could, and present our under aged selves to the Lodge, where the full spectrum of Morin Heightians, converged for an evening of dancing and drinking. No one frowned on a young woman or man dancing with an older woman or man, or even a man dancing with another man. The point was the dance, the movement sparked by the music of a local combo giving it all they’d got. And no one asked for i.d.

When the night’s entertainment packed up, the teens that had been slouching on the lodge’s porch, smoking home rolleds and doobies that they would light with a wooden match struck on a boot sole or a pant zipper, would all pile into the back of some sixteen year old guy’s pickup truck. We didn’t need no steenback of pickupking seat belts! And off we’d go, the gang of us, with maybe a dog, and a musical instrument or two for company, headlong down the steep road, high as kites, heading for the dam so that we could continue the revelry, at least until the purple micro dots wore off and/or the sun came up.

(My daughter told me recently that she’ll not allow her eight year old daughter to walk the two blocks to school by herself until Kay’s about twelve. Or maybe thirteen. And then, only if there’s a friend nearby who’ll walk with her. In the daytime. Two blocks away. Different times.)

Mid August, and many of my friends are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. I remember schoolmates who got caught up in the hoopla and abandoned the city for hippie dreams, disappearing in a puff of smoke and patchouli, heading for communal farms that put the lie to the middle class dream of suburbia and two car garages. hippies 60s communeI wonder what ever happened to Donna, the dreamy blue eyed beauty that loved the Monkees as much as I did, but chose a hardscrabble life mucking out barns instead, determined to stand by her longhaired, drug dealing, man. Is she still living in rural Canada or America, amidst macrame pot holders and peace symbols? Or did she wake up one morning and realize in a horror stricken panic that she could have been and done anything she wanted to, had she chosen differently?

Mid August, and my flabber is still ghasted when I contemplate the summer madness that allows some, in the U.S., and sadly, even in Canada, to agree with Trump that the removal of these ‘beautiful’ statues erected to honour Confederate generals would be a hardship upon those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to see such ‘works of art.’

Can you hear the dog whistle in that observation?

ugly confed statueBecause, it is implied, even if the art is not Louvre-worthy, that people of colour, and the inner city poor, should at least have the opportunity to feast their eyes upon such statuary. That the monument honours a man in support of slavery and a slave trade that treated the park’s attendees ancestors as human cattle, is a mere peccadillo in their eyes.

A year ago, Zyahna, a young, African-American resident of the city of Charlottesville, petitioned for the removal of one such statue, and to have the park she and her friends frequented re-named from Robert E. Lee Park to Lee Park, saying, “I am often exposed to different forms of racism that are embedded in the history of the south and particularly this city. It makes us feel uncomfortable and it is very offensive.

When I think of Robert E. Lee I instantly think of someone fighting in favor of slavery. Thoughts of physical harm, cruelty, and disenfranchisement flood my mind. … I am offended every time I pass it. I am reminded over and over again of the pain of my ancestors and all of the fighting that they had to go through for us to be where we are now. Quite frankly I am disgusted with the selective display of history in this city. There is more to Charlottesville than just the memories of Confederate fighters. There is more to this city that makes it great.

Let’s not forget that Robert E. Lee fought for perpetual bondage of slaves and the bigotry of the South that kept most black citizens as slaves and servants for the entirety of their lives. As a result, legislatures of the south chose to ignore and turn a blind eye to the injustices of African Americans from Jim Crow and anti-black terrorism to integrated education. These are all some things that this statue stands for. It is about more than just an individual, but rather what that individual believes in and the things that he stands for.”

In 2016, the petition fell just 270 supporters short of it’s goal of 1000 in concurrence with her appeal. A year later, the city council did indeed agree with young Zyahna, putting into motion a series of events that would ultimately lead to the death of one young woman, and two police officers.

bread and circusesMake no mistake; the decision to remove the statue was a democratic decision. The reasoning behind the removal was sound, fiscally conservative, and sensitive to ALL of the residents of the city, not just those who wanted it to remain.

The only ones incensed by the decision were those who continue to believe that the emotions and history of white Americans are innately superior to those of other colours. Even the sidestep, that defends the artistry of the statues while denying the inherent racism implied, revolves around the right of white Americans to continue fawning over defeated, racist and bigoted leaders over the sensibility of those who were physically, emotionally, and financially damaged by those same leaders.

“Two things only the people anxiously desire — bread and circuses.”

Will this cataclysmic rift in ideology tear the country in half, ending in a Civil War Part Deux? And, more importantly for we in the North, as we read the words of many Canadians on social media agreeing with this cockeyed rationale for racist ‘art’, is Canada moving relentlessly towards a similar, more openly racist and bigoted point of view?

Mid August, and it’s never felt so much like that black day in July, 50 years ago …

 

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!

 

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.