Whatever Happened to the Artsy Fartsy BBS?


by Roxanne Tellier

In the nineties, I ran the Artsy Fartsy Bulletin Board System out of my home for several years. Those were the days of 2400 baud modems and the scree scraw weeeeeeeeeekkkk!!! sound of the connection soon became a part of my every waking and sleeping moment.

In those days, tens of thousands of hobbyists around the globe ran primarily text-based boards, where users could exchange messages, upload and download files, (often pirated) play games, and generally hang out with other computer geeks.

leisure suit larryThese boards were in someone’s home, and that system operator (sysop) could see what the incoming caller was doing, since their actions scrolled by on the sysop’s own monitor. Sometimes a sysop would break into your session for a one-on-one chat, which was always a little bit of a fanboy experience. The sysop controlled entry – they could disallow your admission, or give you access to the ‘secret’ files you craved, like the latest version of FileMaker Pro or the naughty Leisure Suit Larry video games. And all you knew about this person was that they were probably as cuckoo for computers as you were.

Roxanne Online We ComputeThe boards were personal, they were usually rather unprofessional, messy, and run by teenage boys, and the boards were often geared to special interests. For about three years I wrote a bbs column, Roxanne Online!, for We Compute!, a monthly paper I helped launch, describing local boards, how to access them, and how to find boards that catered to your personal needs.

(I still have all of the clippings of those columns, and someday I intend to scan them, and upload the texts to a website. Patience, padawan.)

Only the cognoscenti, the nerds like myself who used local bbs boards, could foresee that this ability to communicate, pretty much for free, with likeminded people around the world, was the future. I loved being a bbs user, and when my old friend, Iain Grant, offered to set me up a board on my own PC, I jumped at the opportunity.

I became friends with many of Toronto’s FidoNet Region 12 Net 250 sysops along the way, getting to know people like Craig Hastings, Paul Chvostek, Don O’Shaughnessy, Luke Kolin, James Korolas, and Loralie Freeman, many of whom I remain in contact with today.

Over time, and as I trawled the Net Echos for fun, I came to know and eventually spend a lot of quality online time with, some of the denizens of the FidoNet Writing Echo. Each of the writers, whether their writing was yet in print or not, had interesting details to share about their work, and publishing. Pakki Chipps, Laurie Campbell, Rocky Frisco, Dennis Havens, George Willard, Jack Lynch, Billie Sue Mosiman, Shalanna Collins, Lisa Peppan, Carl Thames, Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennet, Diane Lamoureaux, Kevin R. Tipple, Karen Rhodes, Jack Ruttan, Douglas Rhodes, Rich/Rachel Veraa, Michael Nellis, Patrick Goodman, Rebecca Bohner were just a few of the people I would never have encountered, had I not discovered this wonderful online world.

And it was a very egalitarian world. When you chatted with people, you only knew as much as they’d decide to tell you. Anyone could present as any gender, race, or sexual preference. No one was ‘The Boss.’ the horseman

While most of us used our real names, there were a few who preferred to be known by a pseudonym. George Willard, aka Mark Matthews, was an ‘animal lover’ in the carnal sense, and his book, “The Horseman,” got him and his ‘bride,’ Pixel the Pony, as guests on a Jerry Springer TV episode that was the one episode Springer never aired. It was a very long time until the episode became available at all, and then, only on some rather shady video tapes.

I met Pakki Chipps ‘in real life’ soon after my mother died. I had mentioned in an online post that I needed to go somewhere and heal, and she immediately messaged me to say she was preparing a room in which I could stay, and that her daughter Weyla was already out picking flowers for the room.

sooke bcAnd that’s how I came to stay on a reserve in Sooke, BC, where I spent a week doing nothing but relaxing on verdant hills and exploring rain forests with someone whom I had previously only known online.

Many of us were musicians as well as writers. Rocky Frisco was a true Oklahoman character, adept at many fields. He’d been a race car drive, a disc jockey, a writer, an actor, and JJ Cale’s goto keyboardist from 1957 until Cale’s death in 2013. Rocky’s Wikipedia entry is a study in just how much one man can pack into a life. I was honoured to finally meet him when he played The Phoenix with Cale in 2002.

I would often feel that this entree into the online world was slightly unreal. I’ll never forget the time we were on vacation in Florida. We drove up to a Miami medical treatment centre, where we had arranged to have coffee with Rich Veraa, a writer who was a resident there. As we pulled up to the centre, I saw two men in wheelchairs – one white and one black – and realized that I had no idea what this long time friend actually looked like. It was an ‘aha!’ moment for me; in the future, I realized, people could be whomever they wanted to be online, unconstrained by any reality. For good OR ill.

rachel veraaSomewhere along the line, Rich Veraa became Rachel Veraa, but not many of us gave it a lot of thought. People lived their lives as they pleased, and most of us didn’t care what you got up to, as long as you had something interesting to share in your writing.

Not having met most of these writers in person was no impediment to very long, very strong friendships. Although the Writing Echo is long gone, I still stay in touch with many of it’s denizens, on Facebook, and thru the Writing Tavern Google group. I get to read the exploits of Laurie Campbell, as she and her husband prepare to return to New Zealand in retirement, and Dennis Havens can be counted on to keep me in the loop of what he’s been up to in his writing, and in the music world, where his past as a life long Vegas musician and composer of many a Sousa flavoured march makes him a delightful raconteur.

billie sueThe first time I encountered one of Billie Sue Mosiman‘s horror tales (she wrote over a hundred novels, and was also a well-respected editor of horror anthologies) I was a little bit in awe of actually having this talented woman as a ‘pen pal.’ I often think about how she would describe accompanying her beloved husband Lyle, a long distance trucker, while she sat in the cab and wrote to the rhythm of the road. Billie Sue loved her man, her little dogs, and her life, all with equal passion.

wiremanTo look at her, Billie Sue looks like a typical Southern belle (born someplace like Mobile, Alabama, I think) with no more concerns than the cotillion and whether there’s enough Spanish Moss on the oak trees adorning the plantation house… okay, I’m being silly again—I know those sorts of Southern belles went out about the time the carpetbaggers invaded the Deep South after the War of Northern Aggression, as some call it. Although she lives in Texas (or Alabama, I’m never quite sure) with her husband Lyle, I don’t think they can afford a plantation or would want one if they could. And probably the cotillion would be the last thing on her mind—unless as a setting for a massacre; she’s been a full-time writer for years, and her favourite genres are (surprise!) thrillers and horror/fantasy, at least judging by what she’s been publishing lately. The first book of hers I read was called Wireman, about a singular serial killer who used piano wire to garrote his victims. And she looks so normal!” (from AmazingStories.Com/2015)

pamela dean tam linEvery time I pick up one of Pamela Dean‘s wonderful science fiction or fantasy novels, I marvel again at how lucky I’ve been to have had access to her generous sharing of writing and publishing knowledge over the last three decades.

Times were very different, pre the sort of Internet connectivity we now take for granted. You probably didn’t know what a BBS was unless someone you knew was a hobbyist. Most people were actually a little afraid of computers in general; when I applied to be the executive secretary of the CN Tower‘s food and beverage director, the job involved working on one of the only five computers in total that were in use in the executive offices at that time.

first IBM PCTimes changed pretty quickly, though. We went from, “computers! too scary!” to “How does this thing work, and why do I have a steamer trunk full of AOL starter discs?” almost overnight. Prodigy and CompuServe also got into the game, and soon the internet was so intertwined with the corporate world that any sense of the intimacy or personality of the bbs days was gone. When the internet went viral in the late nineties, it was the computer equivalent of the dinosaurs being wiped out by comets – one day BBSes were there, and the next … poof! Gone.

Though – in the beginning, none of the majors really sounded much different than they had back in the 2400 baud modem days.

 

It was right around that time that we were moving from our home in the east end of Toronto to a bungalow in Scarborough, and that seemed like a good time to shut down the Artsy Fartsy, and put the home pc to better use, making a living, working from home (which was ALSO considered an impossible ‘ask’ for the average office worker in the mid nineties. Old school bosses just didn’t believe they’d get an honest day’s work out of anyone whom they couldn’t see by a quick glance around the workplace.)

BBSes were the gateway drug that allowed many computer geeks to get involved with the Internet, well before the hordes arrived. There’d have been no eBay, PayPal, or Youtube without the hobbyists who were the first to see the potential of a worldwide connectivity.

These days, what with our dependence on smart phones, and the ubiquitous
hyper-connectedness of the internet, most of the social media sites tend to feel more like corporate-sponsored trips to the mall.

Our interactions with friends and family (and Russian trolls) are interspersed with cute animal videos and products tailored to the information big data firms glean from our conversations, enabling big corporations to better target what they’ve decided we need in our lives, all for a pretty price.

It’s slick, and professional, and very corporate, impersonal to a fault. And it’s not anywhere near as fun as the bulletin board systems of the nineties.

You just had to be there.

On Pavlovitz, Positivity, Privilege – and the Bossa Nova


by Roxanne Tellier

John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina, who has a wonderful site called, ‘Stuff That Needs To Be Said.’

john pavlovitzMost of his posts are essentially sermons that could be just as easily spoken from a pulpit as read from your tablet. Pavlovitz asks the hard questions of those who consider themselves Christian – what kind of person does the world need right now? And what are you prepared to do to help?

His views are not radical, or at least, they weren’t radical until this current administration began to mutate the basic tenets of Christian beliefs into something unrecognizable.

golden rule

Pavlovitz is a good man, and well able to put into plain words the confusion so many feel in seeking to make sense of the ugliness that suffuses so much of the United States (and Canada) in 2019.

On ‘thoughts and prayers,‘ “As a Christian and pastor I have no aversion to prayer, but in the face of injustice and suffering, prayer without behavior change or measurable movement isn’t something I’m all that interested in. Whether religious or not, heroic people move from burden to action, from heart to hand; they evolve from simply feeling empathy to tangibly expressing compassion. The people who are the difference makers don’t wait for someone else to stand up to corrupt power or oppose unjust legislation or advocate for people who are hurting so that they can join in — they stand up and oppose and advocate regardless of the cost.”

On the rush of Evangelicals to proclaim Trump and his presidency as God’s anointed, he says, “Christians need to stop passing the buck to God, and just own the compromises and sick bedfellows they’ve been willing to make for Supreme Court seats, anti-abortion legislation, weapon stockpiling, and a rapidly assembling white Evangelical theocracy. Stop namedropping God.”

In his most recent post, he responded to many of his followers who enjoy reading his heartfelt prose, but wish he could just lighten up a little. You know – insert a few gifs of playful puppies and kittens into his discussions of how best to deal with an administration hell bent on dehumanizing anyone whom they consider less than themselves, and who dismiss any sort of bipartisan pushback with vile, toxic, rebuttals that further tear their nation apart.

Been there.

It had never occurred to me that being able to dismiss anything that disturbs your little world is a privilege. But it is. If you’re the tiny snotty-nosed kid at the border, wearing dirty diapers that you’ve had on for days, sucking on a bottle that hasn’t been washed in weeks, you don’t have a lot of time to smell the roses. And if you’re a mother who has to worry every time her black skinned son leaves the house, that you may never see him again because some white cop ‘feared for his life’ and shot him for no reason … you may get a little testy when you are told to ‘smile,’ because it makes some stranger happier.

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2019/07/06/the-privilege-of-positivity/

Positive thinking is pretty easy when you’re in the In Club, when your work is appreciated, and when you make a decent or maybe even a good buck. It’s a lot harder when you feel like the whole world is against you .. because it is.

In just two years, the trump administration has managed to completely change America’s attitude towards immigrants and refugees, and in the process, to further step up what seems to be an innate fear and loathing of people of colour.

statue of liberty

While there were always a few hard liners who hated ‘foreigners,’ most people understood that there are only three kinds of Americans on American soil – colonists, immigrants, and Native Americans. Every American’s ancestors came from somewhere else, all the way back to the first settlers, who were lucky they weren’t greeted with the same hatred and cruelty that this current crop of asylum seekers is facing.

Americans used to know that. And they used to know that the people who bagged their groceries, cooked their meals, tended their kids or their gardens, and worked in the jobs that others thought below them, were just the newest wave of those who flocked to America for the chance of a better life.

They used to know that immigrants were actually less likely to commit crimes than white male domestic citizens, and that, until they were given some kind of approved and official status, immigrants could not access any social benefits.

immigrant alternative factsImmigrants are the lifeblood of America. Without the influx of striving, determined workers, America would eventually fade away, as each generation has less children than the one before. It is immigrants who make it possible for Americans to retire – it is the taxes they pay that enable the country to prosper.

In just two years, America has gone from being the ‘shining city on the hill’ to a place where immigrant babies are caged, the Attorney General acts as a personal lawyer for the president AGAINST a Supreme Court decision, and Independence  Day is co-opted as nothing but a re-election rally for a man who spits on Constitutional norm, and needs military parades to keep his ego from sagging. 

july 4 2019

This is a process called ‘normalization.’ Every day we need to tweak our definition of ‘normal’ just enough to get thru another 24 hours without screaming or running around like our hair is on fire. We are constantly normalizing, rationalizing, bringing things down to somewhere near ordinary, just so that we can accept the new status quo and live a semi regular life.

So, I must ask you – in the face of this “new normal,” what does it mean to ignore the abuses of elected officials in our meeting places, just so that we appear to be ‘positive’ and acting in a societally approved manner?

Is it being cynical to believe that those in power have only their own best interests at heart? To see that those who cannot “afford” to give immigrant children soap or toothpaste can somehow find $102 million under the couch cushions to spend on weekly golf vacations, and another $92 million to throw a parade/party to celebrate their own selves?

Or is it perhaps far more cynical to believe that the marginalized, the homeless, the asylum seekers … those who are being hurt, demonized, or treated unfairly because of their birth place, sexuality, or lack of money ….. have ‘only themselves to blame’?

Do those who victim blame really believe that the victims have done something – intentionally or not – to deserve the pain?

If a kneejerk reaction to hearing about cruelty, unfairness, inequality, and the abuse of power is to instinctively blame the victim, who is the real cynic? Is it the one who rails against brutality, or the one who believes that some people are just not born as equal or worthy as others?

ostrich syndrome

I know that the world seems brighter and happier when we all put on a happy face, but hiding our heads in the sand to avoid the reality of a world heading in a precipitously downward motion doesn’t stop the fall; it just makes the landing a lot more of a painful surprise when the ride inevitably ends.

always take sides

 

………………………………………………….

” João Gilberto Prado Pereira de Oliveira, known as João Gilberto; (10 June 1931 – 6 July 2019), was a Brazilian singer, songwriter, and guitarist. He pioneered the musical genre of bossa nova in the late 1950s, as such, he is sometimes known as the “father of bossa nova”.”

girl from ipanemaJoão Gilberto, 88, pioneered the bossa nova genre, and in so doing, brought a little bit of ‘strange’ to North America that it didn’t know it had been waiting for.

He had an extraordinary life. In 1955, after releasing his first few recordings, his father, who could not grasp his son’s style, and refusal to get a ‘real’ job, had him committed to a mental hospital. He was released after a week, but not before some memorable psychological interviews there.

“Gilberto stared out of the window and remarked “Look at the wind depilating the trees.” The psychologist replied “but trees have no hair, João”, to which Gilberto responded: “and there are people who have no poetry.”

Gilberto soon teamed up with Antonio Carlos Jobim, a composer, producer and arranger with Odeon Records. But is was with his hit single, “Girl from Ipanema,” sung by Astrud Gilberto (his wife at the time,) that he became known in America. His 1964 album Getz/Gilberto with the American saxophone player Stan Getz, sold millions of copies, won several Grammy awards and popularised bossa nova around the world.

Just this morning I read about the meaning of the word, ‘saudade.’ which can be roughly translated as, “a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia that is supposedly characteristic of the Portuguese or Brazilian temperament.”

chega de saudade

“It is a yearning for one’s childhood, when the days would merge into one another and the passing of time was of no consequence. It is the sense of being loved in a way that will never come again. It is a unique experience of abandon. It is everything that words cannot capture. “ Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop

“Gilberto began singing at 18. After moving to Rio de Janeiro, he released the record Chega de Saudade in 1959, which marked the beginning of the world-famous bossa nova music style. ” (The Guardian)

And the rest became history. Rest in Peace, Senor Gilberto.

 

Canada Day Eh! and All about Choice


by Roxanne Tellier

One amazing country

 

Let’s let some talented Youtubers do the talking …

 

Wishing everyone a very Happy Canada Day, Eh!

And now … for your Sunday Sermon …..

How critical is ‘choice‘ in how we live our lives? The last time we were looking for a place to live, I began to see how little I really understood both the concept, and the reality, of choice.

After over 30 years of home ownership, we were neophytes at this rental game, and discovered quickly that everything had changed since the days when the local newspapers (remember those?) listed page after page of places to let.

how to decideAnd that really got me thinking – not just about the frustration of trying to find a decent rental in these anxious teens, but about how essential available choices are to our daily life.

Buying a house is the biggest financial decision that most people will deal with in a lifetime. When you begin house hunting, your agent will ask you to narrow down what it is you’d like in a home. You are asked how much you can spend, but also, what areas of the city or suburbs interest you, and what sort of structure do you picture when you envision your future. Do you fancy a bungalow? Split Level? A MacMansion? Something with a lot of land, or maybe something with as little necessary upkeep as possible?

choosing the right houseBut there’s also another factor in that quest, and that is what is available at the time of your search. At any given time, there will be a finite amount of available homes from which to choose. And, depending on how much of a city explorer you have been, you may have defined a fairly narrow search area for your house hunt.

In the end, humans like to believe that they make decisions based on rational and carefully decided logic. But in fact, they are driven by the options before them, and the good salesmanship of the people that get them to choose. The ‘shit or get off the pot moment’ is when the agent says, “ok … this one? or this one?” It’s not so much about how ‘right’ this one piece of property is over the other, it’s about the choice you can make, based on what is available, right now.

Ichoice is scary have traveled all over the city, for business and pleasure, and I would consider myself fairly cognizant of what most Toronto neighbourhoods and local areas have to offer. But when I look for somewhere to live, I tend to stay within the same area that I have lived in since I first arrived here, in 1976. It’s not that I don’t LIKE other parts of the city, it’s that I’m more comfortable living in the East End. And so that is where I choose to look for accommodations.

And yet, given half a chance, would I live in an artist’s loft in the West End? You betcha. Or in a big house, up in Rosedale, with a view of the ravine? In a heartbeat. I’d enjoy any chance to see how others live and what other areas have to offer.

I just don’t immediately think of those areas when I’m looking for a place to live – because I’ve never lived there. The familiarity, the knowledge of the streets, the shops, the pubs, the people … I would have to learn all of those in order to best enjoy a new location.

Which is … again … a choice. I would have to choose to learn all about that new neighbourhood, and sometimes I feel like I’m just too old, tired, and lazy to go to all that trouble.

The sad truth is that we often think our choices only come in black or white, until someone introduces Technicolor into our lives.

Our love lives are also governed by limited choice. Whom we choose to fall in love with is often driven by our age, where we live, and how strong a sex drive one of the two in the couple have. Again, it may not be about Mr or Ms Right .. but Mr or Ms Right Now.

choo choo choose youMost of us will have to live a lifetime to understand that the person without whom you could not bear to live another minute in your teens, is not necessarily the person you would choose in your twenties, thirties, forties or really, at any other point in your life.

People change, and the people you love, or even like, at one point, may be the person you literally cannot tolerate in another phase. That silly certainty that drove Romeo and Juliet to their deaths over a glimpsed ankle? Very romantic. Very teenaged. Highly irrational.

I’m gonna bet that neither Romeo nor Juliet had met a lot of people by that point in their short lives, and, by the end of the tale, neither one was ever gonna get any more chances to do so. End of choices. Stuff happens.

Our access to money – ours or our families – plays a huge role in our choices. We can be born into it, we can earn it, or we can lose it, and each of those options determine everything from how and where we live, to whom we have the opportunity to meet and marry.

Where we are born, and what colour skin we wear, will also have an enormous impact on the choices and options available to us. Not everything is open to everyone. The father and daughter that died this week on the Mexican border had made choices, and sadly, those choices turned out to be deadly.

But those that berate these sad victims for choosing to put their lives and their children’s lives in danger forget that life is only cozy and safe for some people – many others live in places filled with violence and terrorism. The two that died in that river were just two more people who made choices, based on the only choices they had – to fight or to flee.

That family were no different to my ancestors choosing a long sea journey from France, to try and start a new life in another country, free from the prejudices, crime, and politics of their own birthplace. I’m sure my maternal grandfather’s mother would rather not have given birth on a ship somewhere between Ireland and New York City, but there was that pesky famine going on back home. My gramma walked behind a covered wagon from South Dakota to Alberta, despite the many stories of those who died from that journey in the 1800s, from wild animals, disease, the rigours of crossing the Rocky Mountains, and the perils of encountering other humans who might wish them harm.

choosing healthChoices. So many choices. What to eat, and what to drink, and what happens if you eat and drink the wrong things. Deciding to smoke, in order to fit in with your peers, and, fifty years later, being the one dying of emphysema. Opting to take drugs to temporarily numb the pain, only to find your whole life fitting easily into the plastic bag that rests beside you on the sidewalk you now call home ….

Choosing to learn how to best care for yourself and others; learning how to navigate the technology of your day; opting to reach for the stars rather than plod along like so many others who are afraid of failure if they make the wrong choice …..

Choices – and consequence. Politics; elections have consequences. When we vote, not for someone good for our country, but to punish the person who didn’t fulfill all of our needs and dreams, we will face the consequences.

When old men, intent on feeling the thrill of virility again, launch a war that will be fought by young men … are the deaths of those soldiers their own choice? Or were the soldiers only offered two choices; to fight for their country, or to be deemed unpatriotic?

choose your love. jpgWe like to think that we have all the choices in the world, but of course, the only choices you have are the ones you find in front of you, and those are based on this moment in time, and your current place in the cosmos.

We may not necessarily make the right choice, and these may not be all of the choices available to us, but each of us can always try to make the right choice for right now.

And, in the end, that’s the only choice we ever really have.

life is what happens

Roxanne Tellier, choice, choosing, real estate, romance, love, elections

The TrumpCamps


by Roxanne Tellier

” If you knew of a child who was being forced by a parent or guardian to sleep on a cold concrete floor, in overcrowded surroundings, with screaming lights always on overhead that made it hard to sleep, had limited access to a bathroom, no way to brush their teeth, no soap and no towel — would you do something? “

That’s the question NPR‘s Scott Simon asked in his latest column. For many Americans under Trump’s spell – the answer is ‘no.’

Trump has always wanted some kind of a monument to celebrate his legacy as president. He wanted a wall … a multi-billion dollar wall … that I’m sure he’d inevitably gild to better reflect what he believes is his own brilliance.

Instead, history will look upon Trump’s administration with revulsion. His sadistic cruelty will give him a singular place of dishonour in a Hall of Infamy, where his actions will place him shoulder to shoulder beside other human monsters.

concentration camp definitionAnd his legacy will be the cries of abused, mistreated babies in concentration camps. The TrumpCamps.        A place where the hopes of the downtrodden, the ‘huddled masses yearning to be free,‘ go to have their dreams beaten out of them.

Trump likes to say that he didn’t start this border policy, that he is only continuing on what President Obama had previously put into place. But, as a man who had told over 10,000 lies by the time he’d been in office for just two years, his words are .. you guessed it .. more lies.

” During the Obama administration, family separations were rare and predicated upon two conditions: whether border officials felt the parents or guardians posed a threat to the children, or whether the adults, under U.S. immigration law, had to be detained based on prior criminal convictions.” (The Los Angeles Times, Scott Martell)

” While it’s true that Obama did, during a 2014 surge in migration, implement wide-scale detention of families, Trump’s administration chose a much harsher path.. As part of a broader border crackdown, Trump instituted a “zero tolerance” policy in April 2018 that called for every illegal entry case to be prosecuted. That policy resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents before Trump walked it back two months later, amid international outcry, with an executive order. (The ACLU estimates over 700 families have been separated since then due to loopholes in a federal ruling that ordered the Trump administration to reunify separated families.)

While Obama was undoubtedly tough on immigration — his administration still holds the record for most deportations — border officials used discretion during his presidency to determine which illegal crossing cases to prosecute. On the other hand, in April 2018, the Justice Department under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions instituted a “zero tolerance” policy that called for every illegal entry case to be prosecuted. This resulted in children being separated from parents — even when the parents had done nothing more than try to cross the border.” (Vox.com/June 2019)

And, as Speaker Pelosi recently said, no migrant children died for 10 years prior, but already six are dead under the Trump regime and conditions are worsening.

So let’s address the moral loophole that so many of trump’s followers use to excuse their being complicit in the abuse of children – that the children should suffer, in order to punish the parents, and to deter others from coming to America, because they have ‘broken a law.

Well, crossing the border is actually only a misdemeanor. And asking for asylum, which is what the majority of these families are attempting to do, is a human right. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

And that’s before we even mention that the United States Constitution grants many of the same legal rights to non-citizens and citizens, as does the American legal system, which allows federal prosecutors to use their discretion when deciding whether to prosecute a crime.

But let’s say we do call their pleas for asylum and refuge a crime; at best, it is a misdemeanor. So just how far are you willing to go to punish them for this great ‘crime’?

campingAnd before you answer that … remember that there are other laws frequently broken by pretty much everyone, be they citizen, tourist, or asylum seeker. There are tons of opportunities to commit a misdemeanor in the United States, and maybe you yourself have done so at some time. Things like … buying fireworks, or pot … illegal in many states, federally illegal everywhere. Jaywalking. Cutting down your own tree for Christmas from a National forest. Trespassing on federal lands – if you like mountain biking on the Pacific Crest Trail, you better not have kids; should they choose to prosecution to the fullest extent of the law, the feds could grab them.

It’s very safe to say that the immigration laws, as put into place under Trump by Jeff Sessions, constitute a cruel and unusual interpretation and enforcement of normal border protection. Worse yet, the way they went about putting this quasi-legal abuse into place has only triggered yet more refugees intent on reaching America before the border is closed entirely. This plan has backfired spectacularly.

Perhaps there is a lesser, though just as noteworthy, part of Trump’s disgusting legacy; his perverse twisting of laws in order to thwart the nation’s freedom, rights, and democracy itself, and the gross, self-serving, monsters who rush to enforce his bidding.

Can you possibly imagine the logic used by this woman, as she attempts to argue that babies, toddlers, children, and parents really have no need for soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a towel, or even a bed? I can only believe that there are twisting worms and maggots in her skull that have replaced whatever brain she had prior to this court appearance.

Considering what private contractors are being paid to house the refugees – it’s around $750, per day, per person – it is hard to believe the contractors cannot afford to keep the children safe and sanitary.

For the private corporations driving this incarceration, the millions are rolling in, all paid for by the taxpayers. For just a little idea of what this is costing, consider that Comprehensive Health Services Inc., a private company based in Cape Canaveral, were paid $50.7 million to cover the costs of keeping 1,000 migrant kids warehoused between February 22 and July 6, 2019. Pretty sweet money for less than five months work.

And yet, government officials have blamed detention facilities lack of amenities on Congress’ not yet having passed an emergency funding package of almost $3 billion.

The sad truth is that “Money isn’t keeping guards from allowing people to access toilets,” she said. “Money isn’t causing guards to take clothing and medicine away from children.” Nope, it’s not the money that makes them sadists – they already were, and cruelty has always been the point of these camps.

just doing my jobThis lack of human kindness is a vile enough comment on the lack of compassion being shown to these refugees. It’s so vile that journalist and author Michael Scott Moore, once held captive by Somali pirates, noted that the pirates at least gave him soap and a toothbrush. Trump’s administration treats migrants more harshly than Somali pirates do their hostages.

And Trump has the nerve to call other countries ‘third world shitholes.’

Despite the continual gaslighting around the existence and conditions of these camps, we are slowly beginning to understand the depth of the perverse cruelty implicit in how they are being run.

for profit child abuse detention centresWhile the administration attempted to deny, in the beginning, that children were being separated from their families, it soon became clear that this separation was not only a key part of Sessions’ brutal orders, but that the staff and guards of the camps had no interest in the well being of the kids, nor had they any intention of ensuring that the children could at some point be reunited with their families. There were no records kept, even as the youngest of babies, just a few months old, were torn from their mothers’ breasts and put into freezing centres with no facilities to properly care for the children.

No identifying marks. No paperwork. Not even a tattoo, temporary or permanent, to ensure that these little ones would be able to see their parents again. That’s not how you treat immigrants, it’s how you treat children and adults whom you intend to enslave, or to use for sexual trafficking or as human guinea pigs. Without a paper trail, these asylum seekers were more likely to be raped or murdered by the Customs and Border Patrol than they were by the coyotes who preyed upon them on their long trek.

The horror stories of shocking neglect and incompetence by the staff that have come out in the last few weeks should be enough to break the heart of anyone not made of stone. In one case, four toddlers under the age of three … two year old babies! … were so severely neglected and sick that lawyers had to force … FORCE … the government to hospitalize the children, less they die in the camp.

“One 2-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was “completely unresponsive” and limp, according to Toby Gialluca, a Florida-based attorney.
She described seeing terror in the children’s eyes.

“It’s just a cold, fearful look that you should never see in a child of that age,” Gialluca said. “You look at them and you think, ‘What have you seen?’”

The camps are hellholes, and conditions are so unsanitary that the sites are ripe for tuberculosis, dysentery, or Durchfall, a disorder of the digestive system caused by improper and inadequate food. In fact, many babies and toddlers are already refusing food and water, as they are too frail to keep anything down.

manafort vs kids in campsWould you call the police if you knew that thousands of children were being held in cold, cramped, filthy and uncomfortable circumstances? Would you have the guts to report that the facilities where they are kept are riddled with flu and lice outbreaks, and the cells are so crowed that children and babies sleep on the floor, on a mat, beside an open toilet?

The lawyers that visited the Texas camp last week were sickened by the neglect and visibly filthy conditions, and appalled at the lack of proper adult supervision. The Associated Press report said that the site lacked adequate food, water or sanitation inside, and described teen mothers and other younger kids being asked to care for infants and toddlers on their own.

Conditions are ripe for the spread of contagious diseases like scabies, boils, rashes, and abscesses that result mostly from vitamin deficiency and infections. While some may argue that these camps are just holding places, not the death camps of World War Two, once the dominoes of illness begin to fall, death will certainly sweep through these grossly unsanitary centres.

everyone deserves kindnessI have often been accused of being too kind-hearted. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that I believe in treating every living creature with respect and kindness. I see neither of those being offered to the children of the camps.

Instead, Trump is now using the most sickening and gruesome accounts of this sadistic treatment of babies and asylum seekers as a rally point in his election stomping. He’s actively encouraging a blood lust in his fans, whipping up the worst qualities of these people who can only make themselves feel bigger by seeing others as smaller.

trump supporters crueltyTrump plays on that divisiveness. He knows that if he turns his supporters against others, he can get away with his overt sadism and racism. He knows that, no matter how bad things get because of his tax or tariff decisions for his base, and even as he steals away their health care and social security, they treasure his promises to be even crueler to immigrants and those Trump calls his enemies.

This week’s announcement that ‘millions’ of illegal immigrants would be rounded up and deported was just one more action of a leader who is completely out of control and power drunk. The point was to terrorize these families who have long been integrated into American society, but who have not yet attained citizenship, often through no fault of their own. These are your neighbours, the people that care for your children and your sick and elderly, the people who work in your gardens and fields. They are the citizens least likely to commit crimes, and most likely to be drastically underpaid, which keeps the price of goods and services low for other Americans.

Just before giving the order to begin the round up, Trump decided to postpone the show — and put it back on the road for the July 4th weekend, a weekend once dedicated to the celebration of ‘life, liberty, and the American Way.

Could there be a more fitting cap to his legacy of terror, detention, cruelty, and horrific neglect? Only he could turn America’s birthday into a day that will go down in infamy as a day filled with terror and the cries of the innocent.

When, inevitably, the pendulum swings back, and Trump has become history, I foresee a day when being called a “Republican” will have the same cachet as being called a “Nazi,” and the name “Trump” will be as reviled as that of “Hitler.”

That day cannot come soon enough.

trumpcamp

 

It’s Father’s Day – Like It or Not


by Roxanne Tellier

In North America, Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Washington in 1910, when a young Arkansan woman named Sonora Smart Dobb organized a day of praise for people like her own father, a single parent and Civil War veteran, who raised six children. It would have remained a local issue, and faded away in time, except that Dobb, after a twenty year break, decided to revisit the idea of the celebration, and to up the volume by promoting the Day at a national level.

In the 1930s, with the help of the Father’s Day Council founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, she and her supporters pumped up the commercial volume, and, by the mid-1980’s, had made Father’s Day into a Second Christmas for the men’s gift-oriented industries.
creative-fathers-day-gifts

Cue the cascade of cutesy Father’s Day gifts … ties, funky t shirts, things for the car and/or garage, and a slew of macho oriented bumpf. Not much chocolate, though, I have noticed. You never really find a “Day after Father’s Day Half Price CHOCOLATE”  sale, do you?

I’m not a big fan of the patriarchy. Wasn’t keen on growing up under it, really hated the ‘glass ceiling‘ and the way that women have to work two or three times as hard as a guy to get a seat at the table where men naturally choose to sit at it’s head, as though it is their due by birth. Never liked the preponderance of males in every position of power from the local cops to the clergy and prime ministers or presidents. Never liked men making decisions that would affect my day to day life, my voting rights, or my sex life. Just never liked it.

 

 

 

I spent nearly a year in an orphanage when I was five, so that my mum and sister could recover from a very difficult childbirth they’d endured. Although my parents would come and visit me when they could, a five year old is a walking hot bed of childhood diseases, so I was kept away from my sister, who was quite fragile.

Having actual parents, while living in an orphanage filled with kids who had no parents, made me the one eyed child in the land of the blind; I knew that I was incredibly lucky to actually have parents, even if my whole ‘family’ thing was currently on hold.

Not all parents are created equal. While I know that there are a lot of people out there who had good fathers, and lots of guys who believe that they themselves are good fathers, there’s also a lot of guys that didn’t do so good at the father game, for any number of reasons. Some times there are cultural issues at play – some families keep kids away from their fathers until the kids are old enough to interact semi-responsibly. Some fathers may struggle with how best to relate to their kids, because they themselves had a less than adequate father/child relationship. Some dads walk away from their responsibilities, maybe because they are unable to cope, or maybe because they don’t know how fast life – and youth – speeds by. And then there are those who can’t imagine taking responsibility for their part in the child’s birth and childhood.

 

Cleaver familyHow do we define a good father? No one seems to know exactly what constitutes the ideal dad. Sometimes we think we know what qualities we would have liked to have in a father, and some people actually did get a dad that really did fulfill our stated and unstated needs. It takes all kinds, and there are all kinds of dads.

I have mixed feelings about Father’s Day. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t get the Leave It To Beaver family lifestyle of the 50s. I’m glad for those of my friends who have fond memories of their dads .. but I’m not one of those people.

 

 

Every Father’s Day I smile and nod when people write about warm, loving interactions with their dads or dad figures. That was just not my experience. And the funny thing about those people who grew up having dads whom they admired or adored is how difficult it is for them to comprehend that a lot of other kids didn’t get that kind of attention, and can’t relate to the connection other fathers and kids enjoyed. Some kids lost their dad very early, to death, divorce, or disinterest. Some kids received no attention, or, worse, received the wrong kinds of attention, the kind that landed them in psychotherapy for decades.

So there are some people who are feeling a little testy today, who will be staying off social media, and avoiding the ‘highlight reels’ that a lot of people will be sharing of their childhood memories. Some might be dreading a visit to a dad who didn’t quite cut it when it came to parenting. And, whether their dads were not so good or not so bad, there will be many, many others wishing that their dads were alive so that they could share one more moment with them.

mark twain on fathersOn Father’s Day, pretty much everyone will put a happy face on their upbringing, whether or not they had a good relationship with their dads. But a lot of time, they’re not being honest, to themselves or to others. Pretending that things are fine when they most definitely are not can make people feel like they are alone, and can even make them feel like they are bad people for not having had a good dad.

Truth is, all of us on this planet – whether we are fathers or grown up kids – are human, fallible, needy, and imperfect. Whatever you are feeling today, there are many feeling the exact same way.

So – Bless them all, bless them all. Bless the good dads, the not so good dads, the happy dads and the sad dads. Bless the dads who lifted up their kids, high enough to touch the moon, and the ones who might as well have been ON the moon themselves.

Happy Father’s Day, Dads. Enjoy your day.

 

No Integrity – No Confidence in Ford’s Ontario


by Roxanne Tellier

montreal driving detoursDang it. After three fun and family filled days in Montreal, with very little social or TV media contact, I’ve come home to some crazy tales of quasi legal business ‘negotiations’ that skirt ethical decency in favour of political arm-twisting and bullying, and that will have a long and lasting depressing effect on our province’s financial future.

But before I get into that – wow, Montreal! Construction season is locked and loaded, and attempting to get anywhere by car is a crazy adventure guaranteed to take at least three times the estimated travel time and distance you expected for your jaunt. We’re talking mile long detours through much of the downtown core.

tailgating car

Which really plays havoc with the favourite pastime of Montreal drivers … tailgating. It appears that every vehicle, from motorbike to taxi to city bus feels it necessary to sniff the exhaust fumes of the vehicle directly in front of them. I spent my first ten minutes on Montreal soil clutching the armrest of the taxi I was in, as my driver came perilously close to forcibly entering the trunk of the Jaguar sedan ahead of us. (tailgatin

Returning to my old hometown as a visitor is always a jolt – time almost stands still in large chunks of the city, which means I can find not only my own past residences, but those of so many others, dating back into the early 1800s. And yet, there are swaths of downtown streets – like those that greet newcomers by bus and train – that make you feel that you could be in any large metropolis in North America. It’s a sea of franchises parked in cookie cutter glass and mirror towers, and hardly representative of the romantic, historic streets and avenues that radiate outwards from the city centre.

entertainment-districtGlobalization and commerce have a huge effect on our cities, as we seek to attain certain visual standards, and to compete for the valuable rental, retail, and corporate investments that bring in and circulate the wealth necessary to pay for yet more municipal growth.

By highlighting our best commercial policies against a glittering, metropolitan backdrop, every city, province, and nation in the civilized world hopes to attract the largest corporations and investors in order to keep moving in a forward, progressive, direction.

Which is why I was gobsmacked to read that the Ford administration is determined to summarily break a ten-year contract with Ontario’s The Beer Store, in order to fulfill a promise that has always, from the beginning, sounded like the slurred, pipe dream mumblings of a hard core, gutter inhabiting, drunk. And all meant to put a buck-a-watery-beer in every corner variety store throughout the province.

ford cuts sex-ed-protest(I understand that CAMH has some amazing programs to deal with that level of addiction – unless that funding was also part of the death by a thousand cuts Ford’s been inflicting on Toronto for the last year.)

But no matter how badly Doug, or any Ontarian, needs a beer, one thing is very clear to most of us;  a deal is a deal. You learn that on the playground dirt, and, if you are a reputable, honest person – a straight shooter – you don’t renege on your word. Then or now.

I don’t think any Ontarian taxpayer really wants to pay The Beer Store a billion dollars in order to break their “sweetheart deal” that finally loosened the stranglehold the big brewers had had on the province for the last 90 years. When the provincial crown negotiated the changes, it allowed the addition of 450 new retail locations in large supermarkets, over a transitional ten year period that expires in 2025.

the beer store

That contract added value and convenience to the locations chosen to host these new outlets, which were additions to the current availability of beer products in the already existing 450 Beer Stores, 660 LCBO locations, and 210 agency outlets.

 

As this piece in The Toronto Star explains, ” Ford’s Tories will pass a law this month cancelling a signed contract between the crown and the Beer Store’s owners — condemned as a “sweetheart deal” with foreign-owned multinationals. His Progressive Conservative government shall pass legislation for cancellation without compensation, using its supreme powers to absolve Ontario of any liability in a court of law.

 Confiscatory legislation invites litigation, so we may yet pay the price — estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. But the revolution demands sacrifices.”

The article goes on to say that Ford’s willingness to use legislative powers, rather than to honour the carefully negotiated business deal, must be seen in the light that they will appear to the eyes of current and potential new investors – as the actions of a province drunk with power, that can no longer be trusted to keep it’s word.

ford not one job lostThat means you can kiss the possibility of luring multinational corporations, like Amazon for instance, into planning a long term investment in Ontario, when there is no certainty or surety in the integrity of the elected government. That kind of deal, only good as long as it pleases the “Emperor,” gives the big players no confidence, and no reason to invest in Ontario’s future.

Ford has no problem with playing the bully, and with cherry picking the ‘promises’ made during the campaign that he’ll choose to keep. So it should come as no surprise that his ‘promises’ all seen to only contribute to the detriment of the health, welfare, and comfort of the actual tax payers of the province. Any sort of pushback is met with a steely disregard for diplomacy, and a willingness to play as dirty as the dirtiest con men, druggies, and swindlers Ford rubbed shoulders with growing up.

hwy 407But if he’s going to remove the gloves, and expose himself to the world as someone who cannot be trusted, perhaps he can do Ontario a solid, and work on  ‘fixing’ previous bad governmental sell offs, ripping them from their official owners, and returning them to the people in a display of eminent domain. He can start with overturning the 99-year lease on Highway 407, which was sold to foreign owners by the Tories in 1999  for a mere $3.1 billion. It’s now worth $28 billion, so let’s have that back, please and thank you.

Or what about the old Ontario Hydro privatization that Harris pushed through? How’s that been working for you in the last twenty years? Or the $350 billion of foreign debt previous governments, both PC and Liberal, have left us … can’t you just wave your magic wand and make those disappear as well?

Because … here’s the thing, Dougie Boy;  when the first official thing you do after taking office involves unleashing a notwithstanding clause to meddle with the members of a city’s Council whom you wish to punish, and you follow that by creating laws that allow you to break official, crown-negotiated, provincial, ten year contracts without penalty, both the tax paying citizens and all future corporate investors can only come to one conclusion – that there is absolutely no reason or manner in which they can have confidence in the integrity of your spoken or written word.

Friday January 25, 2019The Ford Government has now shown that it cannot be trusted to deal fairly with either the citizens of Ontario, or the businesses and corporations that enrich the province. I don’t know who Ford thinks will ultimately be helped by his bumbling, bullying, and braggadocio, but I do know that Ford’s actions have been repeatedly shown to most definitely not be ‘for the people’ and certainly his ballyhooed, ham-handed attempt to rebrand Ontario as ‘open for business’ has only led to a lack of confidence in the province’s fiscal future.

Now if only his Cabinet would see that, and remove him from office with a legal motion of no confidence.

That’s the only way we’re gonna get him out of power before he bankrupts the place.

 

 

Montreal, Cemeteries, and Donovans


by Roxanne Tellier

My family has a tiny burial plot on Mount Royal, in the Cotes de Neiges cemetery, and that’s where the bones and ashes of my ancestors have been interred for over a hundred years.

It’s been two months since my aunt’s passing. The clan will gather this week to bring her ashes home.

Patricia Donovan, daughter of Freda (James) Donovan and Denis Patrick Donovan, the last of her generation, died March 29, 2019 in Ottawa. Born in Montreal, Patricia lived most of her life there. She enjoyed travel, and worked for a time in Washington, D.C. She moved to Toronto and cared for her mother until her mother’s passing. 

aunts and uncles 1970 001

Patricia was a writer, painter, and sculptor who pondered life’s big questions.
Auntie Pat had fifteen nieces and nephews and enjoyed a unique relationship with each of them. She is survived by the clan, and will be missed by them.”

My family has always had an easy relationship with death; when I was young, my mother would often take my sister and I to the mountain for a picnic in the graveyard. We’d loll on the well tended grass while we ate lunch, and then wander around the tombstones and mausoleums, looking for famous names.

Michael Donovan A shamrock_in_the_snowI believe that my cousin Michael Leo Donovan, a man who loves the city of Montreal with a fervour I’ve never seen excelled, wrote a book about one of the cemetery’s denizens, the statesman Thomas D’Arcy McGee, after repeatedly seeing his tomb on family visits.

darcy mcgeeIn 1867 he became a Father of Confederation. It was said that if Sir John A. MacDonald of Ontario and Sir George Etienne Cartier of Quebec were the architects of Canada. D’Arcy McGee was its prophet. He was murdered on April 6, 1868, in Ottawa, while returning home after a session of the House.” (A Shamrock in the Snow, 1996)

Other well known Canadians resting in peace at this, and the neighbouring cemetery, include the Reverend William Squire, the first person buried in Mount Royal Cemetery, who died of cholera in 1852, after performing a religious sick visit to a local merchant; Thomas Lee Hackett, a young Irishman shot during a fight between the Catholic and Protestant Irish on July 12, 1877, the day that the Orangeman had chosen to parade on the streets of Montreal; and Sir Arthur William Currie, Commander of Canadian Troops during World War I, and Principal of McGill University from 1920-1933, whose death in 1933 drew a funeral procession with a crowd estimated at 20,000 people, consisting of politicians, diplomats, military bands and hundreds of veterans. The Cross of Sacrifice, a military monument, marks his grave.

Here you will also find David Thompson, surveyor and explorer, who died very poor with no grave marker. The grave languished for seventy years, until, in 1926, the Canadian Historical Association erected a monument to him with the epitaph, “To the memory of the greatest of geographers who for 34 years explored and mapped the main travel routes between the St Lawrence and the Pacific.”

joe beef tavernMontreal’s revered Joe Beef has a place of honour. “His real Irish name was Charles McKieman. He owned the famous “Joe Beef’s Canteen,” located near the port. His 3-storey building held a tavern, a restaurant with free food for the homeless, a dorm of 100 beds and a basement full of strange menagerie. He died in 1889 aged 54. His six sons and his wife organized a very impressive funeral for him. Every office in the business district closed for the afternoon, and there were representatives of workers from all classes in the procession.”

Several more souls were added to the site in 1912, when six victims of the Titanic‘s sinking were buried there, including Charles Melville Hays, once the president of the Grand Trunk Railway. (A further five lie in the Notre Dame de Neiges Cemetery, and one in the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery. Montreal was, sadly, well represented in the tragedy.)

laurier palace fireThere is also a section dedicated to some of the 76 small children who died in the Laurier Palace Theatre fire in 1927, an event so horrific to Montrealers that a law was summarily passed forbidding the entry of children under 16 to any theatre or cinema screenings. That law remained in effect until 1961

Calixa Lavallée, the man who, in 1880 wrote our national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was born in Verchères, Quebec in 1842, but enlisted as a musician with the 4th Rhode Island Infantry at the outbreak of the American Civil War. He died a respected composer and conductor in 1891, from tubercular laryngitis, in Boston, Massachusetts, where he was buried until 1933, when his body was brought to Montreal for reburial.

More recent interments include Celine Dion‘s husband, René Angélil; journalist and politician, Nick Auf der Maur; Gratien Gelinas, actor; hockey players Doug Harvey and Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard; Pierre Laporte, politician, who was murdered by the FLQ in 1970; Robert Bourassa, 22nd premier of Quebec; and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau, who truly made the city world class, by organizing Expo 67, along with playing host to the 1976 Olympic Games, and giving it an amazing Metro service.

Small wonder the place is considered one of the most haunted spots in Montreal. Often described as a “City of the Dead overlooking a City of the Living“, ghostly spirits are believed to roam the grounds after sundown.

Not to be forgotten, other mortal remains lie outside the cemetery boundaries. Most famously, the tomb of Simon McTavish is located in the dark forest above Peel Street. The angry Scottish fur baron died unexpectedly in 1804 while overseeing the construction of a magnificent castle on the slopes. Stories of his ghost tobogganing down Mount Royal in his own coffin terrified Montrealers during the 1800s. To make people forget, city officials demolished his abandoned castle and used the rubble to literally bury his mausoleum. Archaeological work a few years ago disturbed his tomb and now rumour has it he is haunting Mount Royal again.”

The silhouette of a warrior woman with storm clouds in the background.But the most common ghost spotted on the mountain where First Nation peoples were also known to bury their dead is that of an Algonquin warrior.

I’ll keep an eye open for that lonely fellow when I’m there.

I always look forward to visiting Montreal, the city of my youth. These are the grounds I stomped, my neighbourhoods, my restaurants, my mountain, my Canada Life Weather Beacon, first lit up in 1956, that let the city know what weather was on the way. It is and ever will be the city of my heart, no matter where I roam.

I miss my city, but it is inevitably, my family ties that pull me back when I have been too long gone. You can’t stay away from Donovans for very long.

Oh, ‘céad mile fáilte’ they’ll greet you down at Donovan’s
As cheery as the springtime, as Irish as the conovan
The wish of my heart is if ever I had anyone
That ev’ry luck that lightens life …. may light upon the Donovans”

the uncles 001Growing up, I think I always took my family a little for granted. Maybe I just assumed that all families were graced with so much talent, in so many fields. We grew up with my uncle Dennis , co-creator and writer of The Beachcombers; my uncle Leo, whose majestic land and seascapes graced our homes; my uncle John, who was possessed not only of great writing skill, but also of a deep, radio friendly baritone speaking and singing voice; my aunt Pat, a writer, painter, and woman of enormous intelligence; and my own mother, who was a superb dancer, writer, and editor.

cousins 001With that sort of heritage, it is almost a forgone conclusion that the 15 children they brought into the world also possessed many talents, not only in the arts, but in social and computing skills. We just never thought that we wouldn’t be able to do whatever we wanted to do with our lives.

daisy circusMany of us write. I mentioned Michael, above, but there’s also Kieran, the poet and singer-songwriter; and Rita, who has won multiple awards for her nine books, short stories and essays.

Michael also wrote and produced a fine video series on the origin of Montreal street names, now available on youtube. (And yes, those are his kids getting in on the act as Ms Kayleigh and Complete Stranger. )

 

 

dianne donovan beat divasWe all sing. Dianne toured with a Harry James tribute for years before settling down in Austin, Texas with her husband, where she also hosts Classical Austin on KMFA radio, produces a weekly vocal jazz show, “Voices in Jazz” for CKUA Radio in Edmonton, and has a new CD release, “A Musing,” featuring mostly original compositions. She also teaches a cooking class with her jazz trio, The Beat Divas. (dianne donovan beat divas.jpg)

aileen paintingSome of us draw, sculpt and paint. My cousin Aileen took her dad’s painting skill and crafted it into a long career as a well known animal portraitist during her years living in the North West Territories with the Inuit peoples. She now focuses mainly on past life regressions for both pets and people.

I could literally go on and on, listing the accomplishments of this talented group. I’m extremely proud of my family, with good reason.

cousins 003And I’ll get to see some, though not all of them, this week. While the occasion is solemn, visits to my city and my family are never terribly formal for more than a few minutes. We are a group that cannot be repressed for long – laughter, good humour, and our love for each other guarantees a boisterous reunion.

The passing of the last of our parent’s generation seems so final, and yet there’s a part of me that can’t believe that my cousins and I – even as we develop deeper ‘laugh lines’ and grey hair – will ever really age enough to become the ‘grumps’ of the family.

cousins 002I’ll bring that up with the clan at the wake next week, and see if anyone’s pencilled in a date for when we can get to the ‘growing up‘ part of life. With any luck, we can keep putting it off forever.

So far, so good.