Friday, 24 January 2014

My Personal Olympic Boycott

Every four years the world is reintroduced to obscure winter sports that seem to emerge from hibernation solely for the Olympics. Of course that isn't true. Of course there are untold hours of training and scores of competitions that occur in the intervening years, but let's be honest. How many of us can truly claim to have watched the World Cup of Skeleton or Biathlon in non-Olympic years?

The lack of visibility for these athletes should neither diminish their commitment nor their sacrifice to  the pursuit of excellence. The Olympic Games are their Mt. Everest. They doggedly and tenaciously chase their dreams. Most will never experience the thrill of a medal or of a flag being raised. Their Games are won in the simple joy of competition.

I admire these athletes. I applaud them and their goals. Which makes what I have to say even more painful.

I have decided that I will not be watching the Winter Olympics this year taking place in Sochi Russia. I will not be parked in front of my TV or computer to cheer while Hayley Wickenheiser (one of the most deserving Canadian Olympians in history) proudly carries my country's flag into the stadium. I will not yell "Hurry hard" at my beloved red and white clad curlers, nor will I scream obscenities at full-time Toronto Maple Leaf forward and temporary American winger Phil Kessel as he skates rings around Sidney Crosby. I wish them all well, but I will not be in attendance.

I have decided to stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters. Russia's oppressive laws concerning homosexuality cannot go unchallenged in this Olympic year. As a Jew, I only wish in hindsight that people had the gumption and courage to speak out for the German Jewish and Roma athletes who were not allowed to participate in the Berlin Games of 1936 due to the passage of the Nuremberg Laws a year earlier. Russia has found willing and wilfully blind partners to its bigotry and injustice in the International Olympic Committee and all of the corporate sponsors who are silently giving their assent to the host country's treatment of its own citizens. It is treatment I cannot abide.

I am not gay. Neither are my children. I am simply a social-justice seeking human being who desires equal opportunity for all people. The Olympics are the biggest global public relations platform available to host countries in the history of mankind. In my mind it is simply and unequivocally wrong to pat Russia (and McDonalds, VISA, GE and the rest) on the back on every interactive worldwide media platform.

I know that my personal boycott will accomplish absolutely nothing. Nobody cares one whit what I do or think. And believe me when I say, I did not come to this conclusion lightly. I love sports and I love being a sports fan. I love the drama of competition and I value the athletes' commitment to both their events and their countries. But I value my integrity more.

So during this Olympic fortnight I will be reading a good book, watching reruns of Castle, or maybe taking in a movie or two. Patrick Chan will just have to go for the gold without me.

Tzedek Tzedek tirdof. Justice, Justice shall you pursue. Deut:16:20

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


These are the types of things that break my heart and mend it all at the same time. A true contradiction. 

While beginning the painful process of going through some of Other Mother's things down here in the Southern Home, I came across this.

This messed up, wrinkled, water-stained, greasy piece of paper is the doctored recipe for her famous rogelach. Her hand-written notes and alterations to the original cookbook formula are legible in the margins. I grabbed this and several other printed recipes, all containing her penmanship and comments.

The crazy part of all of this is that I have her recipe in my computer....and on my iPad...and on my iPhone. All of her variations and modifications are permanently imprinted into my longterm memory. I stood with her many times over the years in many kitchens as she attempted to teach the clumsy teenage (and not so teenage) me how to roll out the dough and cut it into perfect triangles. This recipe is unforgettable, a part of my heritage.

And yet....

This piece of faded paper means more to me than I could ever hope to convey. There is something comforting about seeing her familiar block printing. I smile at the memories. And I am starting to smile again when I think of her. Mixed with tears to be sure, but definite smiles.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Seeds In My Teeth

I haven't blogged much recently. There are many reasons for my absence but truth be told I really haven't felt much like doing anything. Such is the nature of grief. The energy expended toward getting out of bed in the morning and going about one's customary routine seems to exhaust the daily allowance.

I also haven't blogged in a while simply because I have been attempting to temper my inner curmudgeon. One cannot live by criticism and pithiness alone. But the explosion has been percolating just below the surface since New Year's and I simply cannot hold it in any longer. So, I herewith present an early 2014 list of "The Seeds in my Teeth". (You know the feeling. The irritating bits that you just can't seem to dislodge no matter how hard you try.)

From the world of politics:
  1. The Chris Christie bridge story is certainly worth noting for the massive abuse of power and corruption that it encompasses, but this crap has overshadowed a much more important and, frankly life-threatening story. The people of Charleston West Virginia and its surrounding areas have been without safe and clean tap water for over a week due to a massive chemical spill. Water! The well-spring of all life and these poor people have been forced to truck in bottles in order to survive. The cause is still under investigation, but suffice it to say that a company that has profited from deregulation and hasn't been inspected in over twenty years should have a lot to answer for. The environmental damage will take years to assess, but....where is the outrage from the press? With a fat man on the GWB.
  2. I do not care one whit about the attempted rehabilitation of Rob Ford. I am happy that he has "found God" and taken responsibility for his own health and well-being, but honestly unless the forty pounds he dropped came from the shit firmly and squarely planted in his brain, this attempt to look good for the election has absolutely no bearing on my opinion of the man. He is still an incompetent lummox who deserves to be turfed come October.
  3. And just in case you thought that I am only bashing on the right, the left has earned my wrath as well. I reside in Thornhill, one of the two byelection ridings recently called by Premier Kathleen Wynne. Have you ever heard of two more useless and money-wasting elections than those scheduled for February 13th? Firstly, the victorious candidates will probably only serve for about three months before a general election is foisted upon the citizens of Ontario by the opposition parties. Secondly, how many citizens of these two ridings are just like me and will have to cast absentee ballots due to being away on winter vacations that so many Canadians like to take in February? It is just plain aggravating.
From the world of entertainment:
  1. Once again the Golden Globes have proven their obsolescence in award season. The Oscar voters have shown that they are nowhere near in line with the 93 voting members of the Hollywood Foreign Press. Saving Mr Banks, anyone? 
  2. Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell and Blackfish are my biggest snubs from the Oscar noms. Documentaries are the best film experiences out there right now, bar none. 
  3. Harry Connick Jr. I can't tell you how disappointed I am that you are giving American Idol credibility. Still not convinced that this is anything more than Tiny Talent Time for the new millennium.

From the world of sports:
  1. Listening to the crap spewed from this IOC member about the "openly gay delegation" being sent by the US to Sochi makes me wonder why we still care about the Games. Saying that "politics should not interfere with the Olympics" is like saying nudity shouldn't be a part of porn. Politics has ALWAYS been a part of the Games. Think Berlin 1936, Mexico City 1968, Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980, Los Angeles 1984....shall I go on? If the IOC were intent on removing politics from the scene, perhaps they should allow the athletes to compete as individuals and not as representatives from their countries.
From the world of social media:
  1. Ok. This one is really starting to bug me a lot. If you post on Facebook or Twitter, and the posts or quotes are not your original thoughts, please please please give proper attribution. Plagiarism is theft. Intellectual theft. There is nothing worse than passing off somebody else's ideas as your own. And honestly...we can tell. Most of us simply aren't that clever. At least say something like..."I took this from a Twitter follower" or "This gem was sent to me by a friend". It has become a true pet peeve of mine. 
So there you have it. I will try to curb the inclination to rag on the world, but sometimes...I just gotta do it.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


I have started and restarted this post more times than I can count. Words are so inadequate. Tears are copious and yet provide little catharsis. Emotions cannot be neatly shunted into a corner and cordoned off. Another feeble attempt.

I can't remember a time when it wasn't so.

Maybe not perfect. There is little in life that is. But balanced. Synergistic. Special.

Four parents. Four children. A family of eight that defied explanation or definition. A complete octet that moved and functioned as one. My Parents and my Other Parents. My sibling and my Cousin/Siblings. There was comfort in the normalcy of its complete eccentricity.

People marvelled at our closeness. "It must be that twin thing", so many mused. But it was as much a testament to our fathers as it was to our mothers. The acceptance was unconditional. The love for all never questioned.

I never felt the need to clarify the relationship. These people were my family. My nuclear family. It wasn't until I was much older that I even realized how different we were, how odd we must have looked to everybody else. To just was.

As a kid it was all about love and comfort. I never worried about who would be there for me "just in case". I always knew. I had four parents and they all had four children. I didn't live with a sister, but she was a mere ten minutes away. I had a big brother whom I idolized, who taught me how to throw a football and shoot a puck. We travelled together, went to synagogue together, went to camp together, applauded each other's success and comforted each other's failures.

And through it all, our parents were there. They stood like four pillars. Constant. Sturdy. Four limbs on the same body that worked together in a harmonious union. They were our greatest cheerleaders and our toughest critics. Honest to a fault and loving without qualification.

But feels as though one of my limbs as been amputated. There is a phantom pain that aches for restoration of the whole. The desolation is overwhelming and the sadness visceral. She wasn't merely my aunt. She truly was my Other Mother. She taught me about acceptance and grace; about beauty and about family unity. She was the emotional one who wore her heart on her sleeve, and was never  embarrassed by her feelings. She could talk your ear off about almost anything, but she had an incredible ability to listen and understand exactly what was needed. Modest to a fault, she never thought that she was great at anything, but she was accomplished at so much. I will never be able to watch a Cary Grant movie again without her voice ringing in my head telling me "how marvellous" he was, eat some poor imitation of a rugelach without a direct comparison to hers, or hear the name Charlie without imagining her snuggling a Schnauzer puppy. She was my shopping companion, my co-conspirator indulging our shared bizarre love for country music, my lending library, my recipe source, and my reference for all foods lactose laden. I already deeply miss her opinions, her sense of style, her taste, and her love. The legacy that she has left me is a debt that I simply can never repay.

The fissure in my soul is irreparable. We move on because we have to, but I can't help but feel anger at the fact that she won't be here to dance at my son's wedding. I can't help but feel sorrow that I didn't get the chance to tell her how much I loved her or even to say goodbye. I can't help it....but I move forward because she would insist that I do.

I can't remember a time when it wasn't so. 

Now I can't imagine the future without her.

**For Aunty Marlene. A part of my lifeblood now and always.