Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Another Story About Life in the City

We all could use a wee distraction from the world news, so here's another in my ongoing series of quick hit stories from the downtown streets of my hometown.

The Husband and I made our way over to the local grocery store on Saturday morning. (I hope you all saw the fabulous picture of him shlepping our new bundle buggy. If not, I'll re-post it at the end of this missive so that we can all chuckle together.) I will admit that during the summer we have tended to avoid the big name stores only because the fresh produce is so much nicer at the local farmer's markets and we tend to buy the staples we require at smaller, independent stores. But this week, I needed far more than we could buy at those outlets, so we walked the three blocks up to our local Loblaw.

If you happen to live in Toronto and haven't visited the Loblaw on Queen at Bathurst, you really should. It absolutely caters to the downtown crowd, but it is also a wonderful cornucopia of fresh baked smells, cheeses, pastries, and other truly "off-limits but I wish I could indulge" items for me. It also has a small section near the front where parents who are shopping with small children can take a piece of fresh fruit like a banana or a cluster of grapes for free in order to satisfy their kids. As such, the store also attracts its share of street people in search of a bite and the store seems more than willing to help these folks out. I met up with one such woman on Saturday.

As I was searching through the dairy case for butter, this very chatty dame sauntered up to me and said in a truly concerned voice,

Her: "You must really like butter."

I will admit that the four bricks I had in my hands probably set off her alarm bells.

Me: "Not really. I just have quite a bit of baking to do this week and I need the butter."

Her: "Salted or unsalted?"

I should have walked away at that point, but I will admit that my curiousity got the better of me.

Me: "Both. It really does depend on the cookies and the recipe."

Her: (In a most unequivocal and strident manner) "Unsalted. It needs to be unsalted. You need to watch your blood pressure. If you're not careful, all that salt...you could die of a heart attack."

I thanked her for her concern and started back to rejoin The Husband when she called after me.

"Remember what I said. You need to stay healthy."

At the check-out counter, the young man helping us noticed that The Husband had purchased those very wicked and brand new caramel M&Ms. (When we have a bundle buggy to help us carry stuff, we are both far more prone to buy junk food.) This interesting dude proceeded to give me a lesson on the proper way to eat this magnificent candy.

"You need to suck them. You see there is far less shell on the outside and a much thinner layer of chocolate. Suck them and get to the caramel centre. You will not be disappointed."

I smiled, told him that's exactly how I eat them, thanked him for his help and handed him my VISA card. The look of joy on his face was priceless.

As we left the store I realized that this shopping experience was a far cry from the rudeness I used to encounter in the North Jewish Ghetto or even the shithole that is Publix on Hallandale Beach Boulevard in South Florida. These two souls were very concerned with me and my eating experience. But it also occurred to me that if anybody is ragingly pissed off at me for my last couple of posts, you can rest assured that I will probably die of a salted butter induced heart attack while blissfully sucking on caramel M&Ms.

Just like my new friends at Loblaw on Queen told me.

Check out The Husband and his rocking new bundle buggy. 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

I'm Done!

If you voted for this...

Make no mistake about it. You also voted for and gave your approval for this...

 And this...

 And this...

 And this...

 And this...

There is no middle ground here. There can be no false moral relativism that exists here between left and right; between liberal and conservative; between Democrat and Republican. This was pure evil on display and it was done with a wink and nod from the Oval Office. These people were shouting "Heil Trump." They were chanting "Blood and Soil," a fundamental ideology of the Third Reich. They used "Jews will not replace us" as their rallying cry. They yelled, “The heat here is nothing compared to what you’re going to get in the ovens.” And they did it all knowing that the man you voted for was in their corner, on their side.

When you voted for that man, you explicitly consented to his hate and racism. You purposefully went blind, deaf, and mute to his dog whistles, his bigotry, and his xenophobia. You allied yourself with birtherism, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, and racialism. You aligned yourself with the likes of David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the KKK.
By voting for that man, you trampled on and spit upon the souls of my relatives murdered at Auschwitz. By voting for that man, you mocked the memory of Dr. King. By voting for that man, you betrayed your neighbours, your fellow citizens, and perhaps even a few friends.

When you voted for that man, you weren't voting for him...

 Or him...

 Or Saint him...

 Or even them.

While you and I could debate and probably vehemently disagree about the policies or political philosophies of these men, I would never have doubted for one second that while I thought them tremendously misguided, they had the best of intentions or wanted what was best for their country and the rest of the world. I would never have called them inherently evil.

Yesterday, we witnessed evil. Three innocent people lost their lives to evil. My cousins had to temporarily leave their home in Charlottesville because evil came knocking at their front door. And the man you voted for has refused to denounce it or distance himself from that which he had fomented and wrought.

So...I'm done. I'm done with you using his Jewish daughter and grandchildren as shields. I'm done with you excusing his words and incoherence as harmless rhetoric. I'm done with you telling me about her emails and how she would have been worse. I'm done with you pretending that your hatred for the last man in that office wasn't partly about the colour of his skin.

I'm done.

Because when you voted for that man...

You voted for all that was unleashed yesterday. It's on you.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I'm Planning a Party...It Seems Like You're All Invited

I honestly thought of writing a post today filled with fear, angst, and terror, because if I'm being even a wee bit honest with you all and myself, fear, angst, and terror are what I am feeling today. But instead of wallowing in the "what ifs" and "wherefores" I decided to plan the going away party. For those of you reading and thinking "this is in extremely poor taste," I need to reassure you that I am in no way making light of what I view as an extremely serious and dangerous situation, but rather I need the distraction of anything that will keep my hands from shaking and will make the nightmares cease when I attempt to close my eyes. So instead we have...

A Party Plan for The End of The World As We Know It (With sincere apologies to R.E.M. for plagiarizing their words.)

I want my family here. All of them. I don't care where they think they need to be. They need to be here. As one. Together.

When the end comes I want cake. Not just any cake. It needs to be double-layered chocolate blackout cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Calories? Who the fuck cares! Lactose intolerance can damn well just eat me up from the inside out. I'll fart it out like there's no tomorrow...because there isn't one! And there needs to be pie. Fruit pies. Lots of them. My Lil Bro's apple pie is an absolute must. Nobody should ever plan to leave this earth unless they have experienced my brother's apple pie. It is perfection in a pan.

There will be alcohol. Lots of it. Anesthesia is a necessity from this reality. And...I really want to try pot at least once before I leave this earth. (You can debate that bit of quality information quietly amongst yourselves.)

There needs to be music. Only the best voices and the best players allowed. Nothing canned or electronic. I refuse to leave this world listening to shitty American Idol or The Voice mashups.

I will Not be wearing a bra. I will leave this world the same way I came in. Free, easy, and unconstricted.

Laughter is a must. We will have a seemingly endless stream of Marx Brothers, Danny Kaye, Robin Williams, and Mel Brooks movies on hand. Peter Sellers' Clouseau (WTF was Steve Martin thinking in trying to remake that? It's like a paint by numbers version of the Mona Lisa!) is a moral imperative as are Nora Ephron movies. I just love the way she wrote.

I really hope it happens in summer. Winter followed by a nuclear winter seems so needlessly repetitive and gauche.

I want flowers. No lilies. Too maudlin and I am highly allergic. I don't want it written somewhere in the fallout that she departed this earth covered in hives. Roses. Gerber daisies. Hydrangeas. Sunflowers. Anything to remind us of colour and light.

I want photographs. I want to be surrounded by albums. Not phone screens. Actual printed out photos. I want to see my aunt's face again. And my bubby's. And my father-in-law's. I don't tend to believe in an afterlife so I want those visuals with me one last time.

I hope that we will be granted a sunset and maybe even a rainbow. I want to remember that somewhere out there, there may be a couple of assholes who control the finale of this world, but they didn't create it. Something bigger and better did that.

And finally....With my last breath I want to scream at all of you out there who voted to put the fate of the entire planet into the hands of an amoral, sociopathic, truly unstable madman simply because you couldn't see past your own self-interest, your own hateful racism, your own misogyny, or even because of (horror of horrors) her emails.....


**Time and date of the festivities are still to be determined. Let's hope that we have to cancel.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Things I Never Thought We'd Say Until We Moved Downtown

The Husband and I are coming up to our moving anniversary. One year ago this week we made the long and arduous trek from the North Jewish Ghetto to our current digs in the city core. Those of you who have followed this space on an even semi-regular basis had front row seats to my angst, emotional trauma, and naked fear as we prepared to leave our life-long suburban confines in order to begin anew as cosmopolitan urbanites. It was a complex cocktail of emotions ranging from exhaustion to exhilaration mixed in with a healthy dose of sadness and topped off with a heaping teaspoon of excitement. There was so much that was unfamiliar and so much to learn, but we embraced our neophyte status with gusto and anticipation.

And now...after almost a year...I can confidently say that we are finally settled. I have a new pharmacy, bank machine, grocery store, and dry cleaners. I still have a few things for which I safari north, not the least of which are dear family and friends, but for the most part, we have constructed a comfortable and no longer strange daily norm for ourselves, all while exploring parts of our hometown that we really never knew existed.

As I have thought back on this year, I have compiled for you all a few memories and thoughts that I still can't believe occurred. These things really happened and the statements forthwith are as true and verifiable as they can possibly be coming from a middle-aged mind. All names have been changed to protect the guilty and supremely embarrassed. Let's just file these under the heading Things I never thought we'd say until we moved downtown.

Him: Wow. Did you hear that?
Her:  Yeah. What the fuck was that?
Him: A cannon.
Her: A what?
Him: A cannon. They use it to mark noon at Fort York. Isn't it cool?
Her: This is 2017. I think we can dispense with in-city cannon-fire and start using a clock. 

Him: I can't believe how much I like riding the streetcar
Her: Even when the passengers smell like headcheese?

Him: The sounds of the city are amazing. They have a real rhythm and a pulse.
Her: Unlike the guy who was stabbed last night across the street.

Her: Maybe I'll buy a bike helmet.
Him: Are you seriously considering riding a bike?
Her: I'm not sure yet. Do you think people will be upset if I ride on the sidewalk?
Him: You're not buying a bike helmet.

Him: I think we should go to the Ex this year.
Her: (pulling her chin off the floor) Really? We haven't been in twenty years.
Him: Yup. We can walk over. Besides you love that Food Network show Carnival Eats. We can marvel at the weird concoctions.
Her: We'll have to walk. I'm gaining weight just thinking about it.

Him: I went to buy bread at that amazing looking bakery across the street and they laughed at me when I asked them to slice it. Apparently, that just isn't done down here. It will "ruin" the elasticity. Who knew?

Him: The guy at the convenience store keeps treats under the counter for visiting dogs.
Her: That's cool. Does this mean we can get a dog?
Him: 🙄

Her: Tell me again which way Richmond and Adelaide run?
Him: We've lived here almost a year. Are you ever going to get it right?
Her: (the next day) Tell me again which way Richmond and Adelaide run?

Her: Hydroponic herb-growing is kind of awesome.
Him: Honestly, that's a phrase I never thought I'd hear from you. Ever.

Him: I just realized that you can see into our bedroom from a corner of the rooftop garden.
Her: I just realized why we have blackout blinds in there.

Her: I swear that everything in this fucking condo was designed for Andre the Giant.
Him: Not really. They just never thought it might be inhabited by the Queen of the Lollipop Guild.

Her: I think we need to buy a bundle buggy for shopping
Him: We're not doing that. Old people do that. We can carry everything we need. We'll look ridiculous.

Her: (a few months later) That cauliflower looks amazing. Let's buy it.
Him: We can't. It's too big and we can't carry it. I guess we'll have to give up purchasing the chocolate covered raisins, bags of chips, and ice cream if you have your heart set on the cauliflower.
Her: Or...we could buy a bundle buggy?
Him: Only if you're the one pulling it. I'll look like an old man.

Her: (later still) I just dropped three dozen bagels on the ground at What-a Bagel
Him: (choking back the laughter and tears) How? Whaaat?
Her: I was trying to look like a cool urbanite and not use plastic bags and the steam from the hot bagels caused the paper bags to disintegrate. I looked like a dotty old lady scurrying around on the floor trying to recover three dozen bagels.
Him: This wouldn't have happened if you had a bundle buggy. 
Her: 😠

Her: I think we've both lost weight since we moved. We are definitely exercising more and walking everywhere. That's a good thing.
Him: And our shopping habits have changed. Because we haven't bought a bundle buggy, we are more careful with our groceries. We can't carry the junk so we simply don't buy it.
Her: True. And we are carrying several kilograms of stuff every time we walk. 
Him: See...we don't need a bundle buggy.

Her: (last week) I love St. Lawrence Market on a summer Saturday.
Him: Yup. This is why we moved. I love the energy and the people.
Her: Look at the beautiful peaches just in from Niagara. A basket is only six bucks.
Him: Do you realize how heavy they are? And you made me buy that bottle of barbeque sauce for your mother and now you want me to shlep peaches? We still have a 5K walk home!!
Her: Bundle buggy?
Him: Fine!
Her: (Ordered today)

Happy urban-versary to my honey. May we have many more years like this last one.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

An Authentic Summer Moment...Gas and all.

I ate a hot dog yesterday. From a street vendor.

There is much about that collection of words that is unusual.

I really don't like hot dogs. Never have. Not even as a kid. Not even at a picnic, barbecue, or a ball game.  There is something extraordinarily distasteful to me about a casing stuffed with unknown innards roasting on a ubiquitous street cart that passes for an outdoor restaurant. And honestly, veggie hot dogs kind of define everything that is wrong with trying to turn meat dishes into vegan fare. They are tasteless, chewy, spongy, and filled with so much sodium as to mask and substitute for what they are lacking. I have often joked that I would be much happier with just a toasted hot dog bun off the cart filled with all the toppings. I really love hot dog toppings.

Hot dogs are also not what anyone would call easy on my digestive tract. Without getting into ugly descriptors of stomach ailments, if I am going to suffer the after effects, I'd rather suffer them for junk food I truly enjoy like ice cream, chocolate, or greasy french fries. Hot dogs are frankly a waste of a good calorie-binge.

So the question becomes, why did I choose to indulge in a street dog yesterday?

The Husband and I have been making a concerted effort to get to know our still-sort of-newish neighbourhood this summer. Since we moved late last August and then left for The Southern Home only a few months later, we really didn't get as much of a chance as we would have liked to explore and experience all that our new urban digs had to offer. So this summer, we have searched out the festivals, the neighbourhood farmer's markets, the walking trails, the street art, and the natural vibrancy of downtown Toronto. (When people tell me that they have never been to Toronto and want to visit, I always joke and tell them to come in the summer. Not that winter doesn't have its charms, although I personally struggle to find them, but Toronto in the summer is a fantastic place.)

None of this explains why I ate a hot dog.

Yesterday, we decided to walk over to the City Hall Art Show. This outdoor exhibition is an annual favourite of ours. We spent several hours meandering through the assortment of booths, stopping on occasion to chat with the artists and just enjoying Shabbat amidst soaking humidity and soaring temperatures. That's another thing about Toronto in the summer. There is never a perfect weather day. As we made our way back towards home, both of us noted that we were hungry. We were hoping to check out some of the new food trucks at City Hall, but as fate (or city council) would have it, there were only chip and ice cream trucks. As we approached Queen and Spadina, The Husband finally stumbled upon a street meat vendor and the die was cast. Summer in the city. Feel and taste the experience. I could feel the indigestion burbling as he grilled the thing. Tell me something, as an aside. Why does it take longer to grill a veggie dog than it does a regular dog? Is there some pretence working here that if the vendor spends longer on cooking non-meat, it might seem and taste like real meat? Are we worried more about ptomaine or e-Coli in a veggie dog than in a standard dog?

As the vendor worked at his craft, I was far more interested in the street musicians playing on the corner. These guys weren't just jamming for nickels and dimes, they were fricking amazing. Billed as The Big Smoke Brass Band, they are a collection of five wondrously talented guys who have been moving from intersection to intersection this summer in order to get heard. And heard they were. The people at Queen and Spadina literally stopped in their tracks to listen. (This video isn't mine, but you can at least get a feel for their sound. I found trying to record while holding onto a hot dog a first-world social media challenge.)

I was almost disappointed when the hot dog was ready. We stayed a bit longer to listen and then we were off on our wild new journey towards dyspepsia.

So, yes....I ate a hot dog yesterday and yes.....I am paying a huge price for it today. But I figure it was worth it. It was a small price to pay for a truly authentic Toronto summer moment. If we hadn't stopped for the hot dog, I wouldn't have been blessed with the talent of these young men. It almost makes up for my seriously messed up digestive tract.

Check out Big Smoke Brass on social media. They often list where they will be playing next. 

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Camp is For the Campers

To all parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles and other assorted adults who are currently experiencing child withdrawal because your kid is at overnight camp:

I say this with the utmost compassion and love....BACK THE HELL OFF!

Stop updating and refreshing those camp photo websites in a desperate search to find your kid. And when you do happen to find them, stop posting those pictures on social media. Cut out the daily updates. Cease and desist, parents. It's time to cut the cord.

It's fabulous that Johnny or Jenny had a great day waterskiing, sailing, or dancing. I'm so thrilled that they are settling in and enjoying their camp experience, but here's the thing....that was their day, not yours. This vicarious social media blitz really must stop.

I know. You miss them. I get it. I also get that you want them to be happy, safe, and comfortable. I get that you need to see tangible evidence of that happiness and share it with the world, but speaking from personal experience as a long-time camper, counselor, unit head, and parent of all of those aforementioned, you are doing a great disservice to both your child and yourself by peering into a world in which you absolutely DO NOT belong.

Overnight camp is about so much more than fun activities. It is the first place that many kids get to flex their independence and make choices that maybe mom and dad wouldn't necessarily make for them or even worse, disapprove of. They learn conflict resolution, how to clean up after themselves, how to deal with disappointment, success, failure, first loves, first kisses, new food choices, teamwork, self-advocating, friendships, dealing with people that can be difficult, and most importantly they are doing all of this without parents around to tell them how to do it. When you digitally spy on them (yes...I said, spy!) you are intruding on their privacy. Maybe they don't want you to see them holding hands with somebody? Maybe they had a bad day and don't want to be photographed. Maybe they are deliriously happy but they simply aren't interested in sharing it with you. I realize that might be difficult to hear, but it's true. There are things that happened at camp over forty years ago that I still haven't told my parents about, and that's as it should be.

My dear friend the camp director from my own camping days was always adamant in his mantra that "camp is for the campers." This constant obsession of parents scouring photo websites changes that dynamic. Suddenly, there are no surprises. Parents know far more than they should and kids will have less excitement to share with you when they return home.

Look. I understand that you worry. I know that there is a giant-sized hole. But trust me...if there is a major problem, the camp will contact you. Is your child homesick? Maybe. But trust the camp and their competent staff to deal with it. If it is more than they can handle, you will know. Has your child failed to write? Possibly. But that could be a good thing. When Older Son first went to camp at the tender age of 8, (by himself, on an airplane, and crossing an international border!) we didn't get a single letter, save for the introductory postcard. He was simply too busy and too happy to care.  

Use this time when your child is at camp to reconnect with your spouse or friends or yourself. My mother used to say that the only pots on the stove during the summer were flower pots and that the kitchen was closed. Have fun. Eat out a few more times and cook a few less. Sleep in on weekends. See friends. Enjoy a brief respite from parenthood and trust that your child is in good hands.

And write them letters. Campers love and need to get mail. It is fun for them and a gentle reminder of home. Tell them about the dog or what you have been up to. But seriously...stay away from those photo sites. They aren't helping either you or your kid. Content yourself with the odd picture that the camp puts up on Facebook to let you know everything is just fine and then go and let your camper enjoy his/her summer.

In my next post maybe I will tackle why Visitor's Days are a nightmare for all and should be abolished unless a camper is staying over sessions.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Moments of Me

A friend of mine who is currently recovering from knee-replacement surgery and dealing with rehabilitation therapy posted a wonderfully positive status on Facebook. With her permission, I share it here.

"This morning my husband asked me how I was feeling. I said I was feeling great. Actually feeling like me. I qualified it by saying that I have been having "Moments of Me".

In her world, those "Moments of Me" are how she is defining progress in her recovery. The pain, the struggle, the limitations, the loss of her independence, the boredom, and how very small her world has become recently, is very much outside the comfort zone for this strong, self-reliant, and wonderfully robust woman. Every moment of normality and every moment that she can point to as regular is a step forward in her recuperation and convalescence. As her friend, I was thrilled to hear that she is experiencing more and more of these moments and that she is seeing a small light at the end of a very painful tunnel.

As an addendum to her Facebook post, my friend threw down the gauntlet to her friends to try and define the term "Moments of Me" in personally creative ways. I realize that she is extraordinarily bored and is hoping that we will provide her with some much-needed entertainment. How could I deny her that? And so....friend....challenge accepted.

As I have gotten older, I have become aware of the little bits of me out there in the universe that I wish I could retrieve. Toxic bits. Unkind scraps. Moments that I wish I could have back. How would I have handled myself if I had the chance at a mulligan? Would I have better control over my temper or my tongue? Would I have been less dismissive and more compassionate? Would I have stressed less and enjoyed more? Would I have spent more time on the floor playing and less time worrying about keeping it clean? Would I have stopped more often to appreciate and record just how fleeting it all is? All of those times that I worried over narashkeit (nonsense...the small stuff) served only to diminish my strength and my power over my own world. I'm not for a minute reaching for unattainable self-perfection but rather a better understanding of my faults and foibles and how I can learn from them.

These are indeed "Moments of Me". They are certainly moments that I am embarrassed by and ashamed of, but they are a still part of me. They have been teachable moments and moments of growth and maturation. But they are only useful if they have been instructive. So how do I re-gather these negative "Moments of Me" from the ether of the universe and celebrate the "me" I would rather be?

I sing and I dance. I plug in my headphones and jam, loudly. Last week The Husband posted a rather unflattering video of me belting out "Hello, Dolly" and doing the soft-shoe in the kitchen while preparing brunch. This singing and dancing routine wasn't an isolated incident. I tend to do this a lot but in the privacy of my own space. I was blissfully unaware of his prying eyes and his gentle humour in posting the offending film until the comments came pouring in. I was slightly horrified by my image; hair pulled back, sweatpants, sweatshirt, no makeup, and singing and dancing to music only I could hear. My mortification was all-encompassing. This past weekend, my dear cousin pulled me aside and told me how much he loved the post. He told me that it was a pure Dawn moment. "It was so you", he said without a trace of mocking or irony. Only then did I stop plotting my excruciatingly painful revenge on The Husband and realize that he recorded that image not out of ridicule or malice, but rather out of love and he wanted to share that love he has for me with everybody he knew. He saw what I didn't.

I allow myself public emotional release. I squeal with childish glee at the magnificent sight of dolphins in the bay or an eagle taking flight. I shake with sustained anger at those who would excuse and allow continued poverty or injustice from their perch of privilege. I still weep at the end of Marley and Me and I have read it several times and seen the movie even more than that. I scream and cheer passionately for my favourite sports teams even when they kind of suck. (I live in Toronto. It's what we do.) I vituperate at the f***ing squirrels for all of their sins against me. I sit in stunned silence at great moments of artistic genius and appreciate godliness in them. I still laugh out loud at Danny Kaye movies and I still cry when I hear Idina Menzel hit the highest bridge notes in Defying Gravity. I swear like a sailor when I encounter profound stupidity and I am calmed by the brilliance of words. Through every single one of those things, I like to think that I am bringing balance back into my world.

I dispense with the bullshit. The Husband had a wonderful grandfather whom I absolutely adored. As he aged into his nineties, it became obvious to all who knew him that he just didn't have time any longer for pretense or bullshit. He said what he wanted to say when he wanted to say it. His lack of filter did get us into some trouble on occasion, like the time he wondered aloud at my son's elementary school why all the teachers were "so ugly". His often inappropriate musings were excused as the rantings of an aged man with no fucks left to give, but I have to admit that there existed a tremendous freedom in his demeanour. While I hope to God that I haven't yet descended to publicly insulting people, I am no longer distracted by bullshit. New-aged diets, beauty routines, must-have shit, phony celebrities, flat-earthers, science deniers, climate change rejection, paternalism, misogyny, quacks, religious fundamentalism...I'm done with all of it. All of it. I cannot and will not pretend that any of this is anything other than grade A, high-level bullshit and I will continue to call it such whenever it rears its ugly head. There is tremendous honesty in living as Zaidy did with zero fucks left to give about any of it.

There are other times when I feel me come to the surface. The contentment I feel when I sit quietly and watch The Husband solve a complex problem. The pride I experience when I see the independent adults my sons have become. The pleasure I get listening to children sing. The awe that comes with the viewing of a sunset or the ephemeral emotion contained in a rainbow. These are touchstones, markers that remind me of who I am at my core. No labels, no monikers. Just me.

I know that I can't go back and undo the bad stuff. I'm not sure that I'd even want to. I just want to come to a place, like my friend has, whereby I experience more of this authenticity. It is in those truths we find those fleeting "Moments of Me".

Monday, 22 May 2017

Another Short Tikkun Olam Story From The Streets of Toronto

Another short post about the Tikkun Olam happening every day on the streets close to my home.

This past weekend we were privileged to celebrate with good friends on the occasion of a milestone birthday. As a kibbitz, the hostess gifted us all with scratch-off lottery tickets that we played together at the dinner table. It should be noted that I am not a regular lottery ticket buyer and I have never before played a scratch-off. After some discussion as to the methodology so as not to accidentally void a possible winner, we all began scraping at our tickets with coins. A friend across the table was elated when he won $10.00, but my highlight came on the final rub of my ticket when I was stunned to find a $50.00 winner. After ascertaining from everybody at the table that I had indeed been a fortunate soul, I began to plot and plan what to do with my free money. I mean, really? How often does something like that occur?

The Husband had been talking for a couple of weeks about going to see the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Coincidentally, the cost of the tickets was exactly $50.00. We decided that since today is a holiday, we would make our way over to the AGO to view the work of one of my all-time favourite artists. 

But as it happens, my plans were slightly waylaid by a story I saw on last evening's newscast. It seems that there is a good soul of a local chef named Jagger Gordon who has set up a soup and sandwich bar in a retrofitted shipping container in a nearby neighbourhood.  It is a pay-what-you-can enterprise that is an outgrowth of his Feed It Forward program designed to collect discounted food from local sources and feed it to those less fortunate. Chef Gordon is passionate about food waste and he is even more so about making sure nobody goes hungry. I was enthralled by the story and said to The Husband that I really wanted to stop in to check out his work on our way to the AGO this morning.

Jagger is an extremely affable man. He carefully explained his project to us and when The Husband offered him some cash to offset his costs, he told us that our small donation would feed about eight other people. He made sure that we added our poker chips to the jar so that those eight would eventually have their soup and sandwiches. 

I certainly am not trying to tout our altruism. That is not at all the point of this piece. Yes, it is true that some of my free money went to support this project, but I simply want to highlight the good work going on in our neighbourhoods, sometimes right under our noses. We hear so much shit about people today that every so often it is really wonderful to remember the decency and morality of humankind. If you happen to be in the Dundas/Bathurst Street area of downtown Toronto over the next couple of months, I urge you to stop in and chat with Chef Jagger Gordon and contribute to his little bit of Tikkun Olam, the reparation of our little corner of the world. 

And...The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the AGO is absolutely worth the price of admission. A lovely way to spend a holiday Monday.

Monday, 15 May 2017

My Weekend on Broadway

Last December, The Husband gifted me with Hamilton on Broadway tickets for my birthday. As he knows his wife is a very public and self-proclaimed Broadway musical savant/nerd, his gift couldn't have been more on point or more personal. The date finally arrived this past Friday and while I have been sitting and marinating my emotions for the several intervening days from then until now, there is no question that witnessing that show was one of the most profound and emotional experiences I have ever had in the audience over decades of watching musical theatre. I don't really want to rehash what dozens of critics and theatre-goers have already written about this brilliant musical. That would truly be an unworthy exercise in mental masturbation, but I will give a few answers to some very basic queries some of you have asked about the evening.

Yes. The Husband did pay an ungodly sum for our tickets. I won't embarrass either one of us by publishing the actual number, but I do know that he felt his largesse was truly vindicated by the performance. This was the first time in over thirty years of dragging him to musicals whereby he said that he really wants to see this one again because he feels that he hasn't fully processed it. I have to admit that he stunned me with that admission.

Yes. The cast we saw was excellent. Were they as good as the original? I can't answer that because I never had the good fortune to see that award-winning group, but this cast of actors was off the charts brilliant and incredibly talented. Their voices were strong and the acting impressive as hell. This young ensemble made my Hamilton experience singular and I was engrossed from note one.

Yes. I was terribly concerned that the hype was overplayed and that I would be disappointed. The Husband kept asking me if I was excited and I kept downplaying my emotions. It seemed impossible that anything could live up to the reviews and massive media reports. I won't say that it surpassed the hype, (honestly..how could it?) but it was certainly a unique and singularly impressive theatre experience.

Yes. I believe that this show is one of those rare experiences that moves the needle for the Broadway musical. Every so often, a show comes along that changes the definition of the artform. It started way back with Show Boat by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II in 1927. Show Boat was a radical departure from the trivial burlesque and "follies" that had preceded it as it married musical spectacle with serious drama. Those watershed Broadway musicals moments are few but important. Porgy and Bess gave us the first American operetta. Oklahoma! gifted us with the book musical and fully integrated choreography into the storytelling. West Side Story allowed it's lead characters to die and not have a happy ending. Hair integrated modern themes and explored rock and roll for the first time within the confines of the musical theatre stage. Cats demonstrated that a series of independent stories strung together could act in cohesive harmony. Rent allowed for the exploration of modern alienation. And finally, Hamilton has continued the work Mr. Miranda began in In the Heights where he married the beats and rhymes of hip-hop with the elegance of jazz, r&b, and traditional Broadway belting. The simplicity of the choreography belies the complexity of the source material. The historicity he imparts to the audience is poetic and he takes great care to present his subject matter without fear or favour. Hamilton is a watershed moment in the history of Broadway musical theatre and I do believe it carries a mark of brilliance.

Yes. I do want to see it again. Like The Husband said, it is impossible to digest it all in just one sitting.

No. Hearing and memorizing the soundtrack isn't nearly enough to get the full picture of the true brilliance of this particular piece. I have had the music playing almost non-stop for close to two years and I still wasn't prepared for what I saw.

Yes. You should pony up for whatever it costs when this show comes to your city. Even if you think it isn't in your musical "wheelhouse", you should see it anyway. I do believe it is that important a work of art. It is kind of like saying that you won't see a Picasso exhibit because blue isn't your favourite colour.

***As a quick footnote to our weekend on Broadway, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other two plays we saw. Sweat is a brilliant and difficult dissertation on working class alienation. It is the winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama and is nominated for several Tony awards. And of course...there was the Divine Miss M. Never before has a role so perfectly suited an actress. Bette Midler was born to play Dolly Levi. She is "of age" and frankly her voice is showing some wear and tear, but it really worked in the part and she happily moved about the stage with the flamboyance that the role dictates. David Hyde-Pierce is her perfect foil as Horace and was every bit her equal. Hello Dolly! is an old-fashioned, rip-roaring, over-the-top Broadway crowd-pleaser and it succeeds on every level.

Broadway is my happy place but it is even more so when I get to witness history.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

My Oven Was Trying to Kill Me

Today I made hard-boiled eggs in the microwave.

I never even knew it was possible to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. I mean....why on earth would anybody, anywhere willingly choose to make hard-boiled eggs in a microwave? For me, the microwave has always been a glorified double boiler/butter melter/pizza re-heater. I simply don't cook in a microwave.

Maybe it's because of the less than appetizing food that seems to come out the microwave. Perhaps it's an unnatural fear of radiation poisoning our meals. Perhaps it's just the reality that a microwave is a cooking tool rather than a full-fledged cooking device. Whatever the reason, today, out of sheer necessity, I made hard-boiled eggs in the microwave.


Because our full-fledged cooking device has been thankfully euthanized. Our stove, which hasn't functioned properly since we moved in here, is about to become a matte-finished heap of useless scrap metal. May it forever rot into whatever hell stoves/ovens descend.

We knew when we bought this place that the oven was less than optimal. The gas burners didn't properly ignite and the gas stove, which I will admit to being fearful of and less than enthusiastic about, cooked unevenly and overheated on a regular basis. The previous owners needed to get the oven into working order and to their credit, they did just that. It was our own fault that we didn't include a "please do not incinerate our food" clause into the real estate offer. The oven consistently ran about seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit hotter than any set temperature, so it wasn't unusual for cookies to come out charred or roasted cauliflower to become a meal fit for Satan.

Repairing a seventeen-year-old oven seemed silly. We knew that a replacement would need to be found, but we also knew that we would be spending the winter south so procrastination was definitely in order. I started doing the research on new ovens while in the Southern Home and while I often hyperventilated over the cost of even the most basic of said devices, I knew that a functioning oven wasn't a luxury.

Our timeline was accelerated during my cooking preparations for Passover. When a batch of my chocolate macaroons came out flambéd after only 8 minutes at 270 degrees, we knew that we were at the end. Not only that, we started smelling gas on a regular basis. I was getting paranoid. Was our oven trying to slowly poison us or maybe a grand explosion was in the cards? When The Husband lit a Yahrzeit candle for his father on the last evening of Pesach, I hurriedly moved it to a different area of the condo for fear of us both winding up on top of the dome. Whatever the issue, we knew we were done. The Husband (thanks to the Divine Spirit for a handy husband) found the gas shut-off and we have been without a functioning stove or oven for almost a week now.

We are limited in our options. Due to the configuration of our condo kitchen, we need to have a downdraft. A hood and a fan aren't really options in an open concept design with twelve-foot ceilings. The stove would have to fit neatly into a previously designed spot which meant a 31-inch slide-in model. I really wanted to keep the gas burners but was adamant that we have an electric oven, which meant dual-fuel. When all the research was completed, we realized that we only had a choice between two models. Ruling out the Jenn-Aire was a no-brainer. We haven't had good experiences with this company in the past, and thus we were left with Kitchen-Aid. The reviews on it are positive so we ordered it.

The appliance store insisted that their installer must come out to take a look at the situation before they would even allow us to make the purchase. Sam showed up on the day of the second seder. He pulled and prodded. He hemmed and hawed and then said haltingly, "I'm not sure that it's possible."

What. The. Fuck???

Sam (who for some reason insists that we call him Mac) told us that the downdraft from the old oven is in the wrong place and he is pretty sure that the new oven won't fit. I asked him what the solution might be and he said without any trace of irony or amusement, "You might have to do a full kitchen remodel."

What. The. Absolute. Fuck????

I remained calm in the face of stupidity. "Sam/Mac," said I. "We are not remodeling the kitchen unless you are offering to do the work gratis. Obviously, we need a stove. You are basically telling us that there isn't a SINGLE model on the market today that will work? Your job is to make it work. MAKE. IT. WORK!"

Sam/Mac got back down on his hands and knees, hemmed, hawed, huffed, and puffed and lo and behold came up with a solution. A Pesach miracle. He tells us that the installation experience (?) takes three days. One day to uninstall the old piece of shit that wants to send us into the world beyond. A second day to deliver the new model and remove the old piece of shit that wants to send us into the world beyond. And finally, a third day for Sam/Mac to install my heavenly new piece of nirvana.

Day one was today.

Hopefully, we are on tap for delivery of the new machine tomorrow and we can kick this piece of crap into the gutter.

But until Sam/Mac returns on Friday, reconnects the new stove, and gives us a gas feed that isn't going to launch us into orbit when we ignite the burners, I will continue to make hard-boiled eggs in the microwave. Our very safe, possibly radioactive microwave.

I suddenly feel an overwhelming need to take a Silkwood shower.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Another Vignette of Tikkun Olam

Another quick and really nice story from the streets of urban Toronto.

I know, I know. 

I am in danger of losing my official membership card to the "Curmudgeonly Gadfly" club, but my psyche has been in desperate need of good news stories. Trust me. When baseball is no longer an escape but instead it has a compounding effect on my acid-reflux, you know that I am on a precarious perch. So when I see deeds of loving kindness up close and personal, I feel an overwhelming need to share.

Yesterday, The Husband and I had an appointment in the east end of the city that required a ride on the Queen streetcar. While waiting at the stop, we noticed a gentleman who had obviously spent the frigid night before sleeping in the bus shelter. He was amiably chatting with some other familiar locals and just trying to keep the crisp April morning air at bay.

While we continued to wait, I noticed that the Tim Horton's directly behind us was doing its usual brisk early morning business. Easter Monday is a school holiday here so the place was filled with young families as well as young urbanites who were languidly enjoying the slower pace of the day. Just before our streetcar arrived, two young women exited the shop with several orders of coffee. They approached the gentleman and explained that they had been given a free coffee and were wondering if he would like to have it. He very politely declined their offer and thanked them for their thoughtfulness but he explained that he really didn't care for coffee. However, if they were willing, he would really love to have a chocolate donut. He hoped that they weren't offended by his request. Quite the contrary, they told him that it was not a problem at all and they would be more than happy to get him his treat. They then proceeded back into Timmie's to purchase it.

After seeing so much incivility in the news lately and being constantly led by world and business leaders to believe that being an asshole gets one further in this world, these small and random acts of kindness that I have witnessed lately are helping to fuel my yetzer ha-tov, my better inclination. It certainly doesn't mean that I have lost my cynicism or that I am going to start farting rainbows and unicorns but these episodes do serve to remind me that so many people are inherently decent.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam
She-natan lanu hizdamnut l'takein et ha-olam

Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us the opportunity to mend the world. 

**With thanks to Dan Nichols and Rabbi Ron Klotz

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A Small Act of Tikkun Olam

How about a quick but really nice story?

I spent a great deal of my morning today running pre-Pesach errands up and down Bathurst Street in torrential rains. I swear that I saw raccoons and squirrels marching two by two in midtown in search of an ark, that's how bad the weather was. Drivers were in no mood to slow down and believe me, I saw more than one poor pedestrian get soaked by discourteous cars and buses. It was an all-around icky early morning.

And then I witnessed the best of this city.

As I approached Bathurst and St. Clair, I saw a cab (yes a cab!) pull over to the side of the road in order to disembark its passenger. Drivers, angry at the lane blockage, honked and gesticulated in nasty ways. The cabbie ignored it all and adamantly refused to allow his senior-citizen female passenger to open her own door. Instead, he got out of his driver's seat in the teeming rain, ran around to the curbside, opened the back passenger-side door for the woman, and walked her to her destination with an umbrella. It was a small but very distinct act of goodwill and kindness.

There are so much misery and nastiness these days that sometimes I forget that so many are just decent people at heart. We often forget that we are all responsible for each other and at times a little reminder of how acts of love and kindness can truly repair the world is really in order.

This morning, in the rains and windswept streets of Toronto, I witnessed a small gesture of Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the world. I won't soon forget it.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The Dimming of the Day

וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים | לָאוֹר יוֹם וְלַחשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה וַיְהִי ×¢ֶרֶב וַיְהִי בֹקֶר יוֹם אֶחָד

Va-yikra Elohim La-or yom v'la-chodesh kara laila, Va-y'hi erev va-y'hi boker yom echad.

And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and there was evening and there was morning, one day. (Gen 1:5)

I have recently become rather enamoured with sunsets.

I can't really explain this new-found infatuation other than to say that residency here in the Southern Home does afford the opportunity for me to gaze upon some of the most vivid and spectacular twilights. It would be easy to become complacent about the majesty, but so far I have not.

And these are just from my balcony using little to no filter. (The iPhone 7 has an amazing camera.)

Watching the sun do its daily disappearing act to the other side of the world has raised a myriad of existential questions for me, but rather than bore you all with my mid-life panic attacks and angst, I thought I might focus on just one.

Why is watching a sunset so captivating?

So, as is my habit, I turned first to my religious roots.

The highlighted verse above from Genesis is commonly used to explain why we Jews view our days as beginning at sunset rather than at sunrise.

There was evening and there was morning...

Evening comes first.

Some rabbinic scholars have used this text as a metaphor for life itself. We begin our days within the darkness of the womb and burst forward into the light. (A bit too cheesy and grade school for my liking, but what's a good religion without a few heavy-handed metaphors?)

But what if rather than secularly thinking of sunrise as the beginning of our day, we paused to consider that dusk could actually be that point in time when things renew. Perhaps my infatuation with the sunset is less about reflections on the day that has passed and rather it is a rumination on what lies ahead in the coming of the light

As I began to post some of my photos on social media, a friend shared her thoughts with me.

"I finally figured out in part what my fascination is. It has to do with seeing the beauty in transition. We are often fearful of transition in our lives but the shots remind me of just how beautiful it can be."

And then she sent me this....
Photo: Elaine P
I know...right???

I think that there is merit in her idea. We all seem to struggle with change, but the setting sun seems to reassure us that there is beauty in the struggle and excitement in the coming darkness. The new day is always filled with the possibilities.

I would also like to think that there is a modicum of hope splashing around in there somewhere. These are trying times. Each day lately seems to bring new fears, new anguish, new-found anger, new divisions, new misery. The glow of the sky in the early evening seems to suggest to me that things can get better. Even at my most pessimistic (and believe me when I say that the last few months have seen me at the depths of my cynicism) the renewal of the sunset hints at a confidence and an optimism.

I can't end this rambling without a nod to my own name. Dawn literally means beginning and it is synonymous with the first light of day. I'm am not discounting the optimism that could very surely lay in the rising of the sun nor am I dismissing the beauty of a sunrise, but I do think that both I and the time of day my name is borne from are slightly less mesmerizing than dusk. 

I will leave you all with several photos from my travels. These are all originals and were taken by either The Husband or myself. I ask that if you share them, please give due credit.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, oseh ma-aseh v'reisheet.

We praise you Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who makes the work of creation.

Key West

Sydney Australia
Ketchikan Alaska
Vancouver British Columbia
Key West

Send me your best sunset photos. I would love to see them. 

Shabbat Shalom

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Holy Work on Shabbat

I am spending Shabbat morning watching this scene from my balcony.

Why you may ask?

Well before I answer that question, a bit of backstory is in order.

This is the pool in our building in the Southern Home. Several months ago, the city found several problems with the now almost thirty-year-old structure and insisted on repairs. The condo association tried to put off the fixes for as long as possible (read: until the snowbird season was concluded) but the city would have none of it. If the repairs weren't done in a timely manner, fines would be imposed. So last week, the pool was drained and work began on the removal of tile, the reparation of cracks, lighting replacement, and various other smaller issues. We were told that the project could take several weeks and as such, those who used the pool on a regular basis would need to make alternate arrangements. Yes, there was plenty of bitching and moaning from people in the building, but sometimes there just isn't a choice. 

Given the location of the pool with respect to our condo, the Husband and I have had a front-row seat to the action. And it has been surprisingly and hypnotically entertaining. 

At times it felt as though the job would never get started let alone completed. We saw a lot of standing around by workers. While there were at least four guys here on any given day, it was rare to see more than one work at a time. Granted, we are not pool repair people and are ignorant to the craft, but it did seem that more than a few dramatic domestic issues were being played out on phone calls than actual pool repair. (Yes...we can hear conversations clearly and I really hope that whoever was on the other end of one particularly vile string of expletives was smart enough to leave the SOB.) 

That said, while the work did seem to progress at the pace of a snail racing a sponge, it did progress.  I noticed that I was starting to recognize the various craftspeople and to understand what each particular contribution was to the project as a whole. There were the tile master and the concrete pourer. There were the electrician and the apprentice. There was the one guy who was here for one day and fired the next. (We know he was fired because they talked about it...loudly.) I noticed the particular dynamics of their work environment, how it actually functioned like a well-choreographed dance. I observed how some of the guys had an obvious report and how they might ignore or playfully haze the newcomers. But mostly, I was enthralled by their music.

In the early days, we were treated to the dulcet tones of Luther Vandross and Anita Baker. R&B wafted up to our apartment and it soothed. And the men....they sang along. They sang with passion and they sang with warmth. They sang without even knowing they were singing. It came from their souls. One gentleman, in particular, has a voice that any cantor would kill for and the echoing of his deep baritone off of the empty pool walls cascaded upward like a gift from the gods.

A few days ago, their music choices inexplicably changed to gospel. There were affirmations and holy exclamations. We were witness to a revival and a collective baptism in a pool without water. They were renewed. They were cleansed. Those craftsmen brought God to this place.

This morning, on Shabbat morning, sixteen men came to work. (They are trying to speed up the project and hopefully will finish early next week.) And they came to sing. And, oh how they sing.  These men are most definitely experiencing the presence of the Divine Spirit as they inch towards the completion of their task. These men have found a measure of holiness in their labour, a sense of Kadosh, and they are sharing it with me. I can't imagine a more precious gift.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “The Sabbath is the presence of God in the world, open to the soul of man.” God is not in things of space, but in moments of time.” 

Thank you to these generous souls who gave me a glimpse of The Divine Spirit on this Shabbat.

Friday, 10 February 2017

My Genius Teacher

For those reading who only know The Husband as a kick-ass business-person/artisan distiller, he was, in a former life, one of the best and most sought after workflow developers anywhere. He was doing geek when being geeky was as far removed from Big Bang Theory-cool as one could get and Mark Zuckerberg was still a wandering thought in his parent's minds. His off-the-charts, brilliant geekiness was always one of the things that most attracted me to him but for years when people asked me what he did for a living, I'd simply smile and say "He's in computers." I was ignorantly incapable of accurately describing it any other way.

This morning, in a fit of heightened frustration during what can only charitably be described as our most recent coding lesson, I asked The Husband to describe how his own thought process works when he is in development mode. As he again attempted to educate this intellectual potato on the inner workings of JavaScript and its interfacing capabilities with HTML, (I actually sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?) he explained to me that he tends to see things more unconventionally than do most programmers. 

Why am I not surprised? Geniuses in any field tend to work differently and in manners that can only be understood by themselves. If we all could comprehend the creative process utilized by the gifted, we'd all be able to compose symphonies like Beethoven, paint like Picasso, or understand mathematics like Einstein. 

The Husband told me that rather than sketch out his ideas with pen and paper first, he tends to view his computer screen the way that my potter friend sees a lump of clay. She might have the notion that she is making a bowl, but only until that bowl starts to take shape on her wheel does she really see the edges, details, and movement of the piece. His programs develop in much the same ways. He has the basic kernel of an idea and moves outward from there, using trial and error in his coding until he gets what he wants on his screen. But (there's always a but isn't there) there does exist a logical progression to his lines of code that can only be seen in his mind's eye.

This methodology could also explain why he is such a poor teacher. How is he supposed to explain something so radical and new to others when it is only obvious to him? The only logical way forward is to show them the tangible results, the finished product. Did Beethoven ever teach beginners the piano or did Pablo ever mix colours for an introductory painting course?

And....therein lies my basic problem with this entire exercise. I actually do understand the creative process and how trial and error factors into it, much like my self-editing of these pieces as I write them. My major issues come from the thinking logically part of it. It is what used to trip me up in math classes. I could memorize formulae like they were badass irregular verb conjugations, but I could never apply them to the word problems when they were presented to me. I couldn't figure out which numbers to plug into which sides of the equations. That genetic material that seems to be so necessary for seeing numbers and symbols and translating them into language, is not only dormant in me, it is non-existent. Just like those who might be colour-blind or tone-deaf, I have a disability. I am numerically challenged.

In a conversation yesterday with my mathematically-inclined mother she actually said this:

"You know, honey. Not everybody is able to do this. Maybe you just don't have it in you." 

Gee thanks, Mom. I guess that maternal nurturing button disappears from your repertoire after your offspring turns 50?

In some fairness to her, this is the same brilliant woman who persevered through dyslexia to become a nurse at a time when special education simply did not exist. There is no doubt in my mind that had she been at school during a different generation, she would have been an outstanding doctor. (She is going to kill me for writing that, but it is high-time she knows what all who love her know.)  This is also the same woman who spent the entire summer before I entered grade four drilling me on multiplication tables. She does speak from hard experience and prior knowledge of her subject. Let's just say she has scars.

No, Mom. I'm not yet ready to quit but I will admit that I am close. I do think that I have come to the conclusion that the only reason for these lessons is to accumulate blog material and maybe that's not such a terrible reason to continue. I keep hearing Nora Ephron's oft-repeated line of her mother's that "everything is copy" constantly riffing in my head. So, here's today's copy.

The Husband decided that it was necessary to teach me some basic JavaScript programming before we ventured any further into the morass that is my new web page. To that end, we worked today on creating loops. I'm still not certain of the entirety of why loops are necessary for a blog that is basically about nothing. Who the hell wants to read the same thing over and over? But there we were creating JavaScript loops. 

I was inundated with new jargon like statements and variables and learned that there are three different types of variables...numeric, string, and boolean.

A gold star to anybody outside the computer world who knows what boolean means. Honestly, when I first heard the word I thought we would be making soup. It actually means something that is either true or false. Who knew?

Following the lesson, The Husband went back to work and I attempted to re-create and modify some of the loops. I actually had some success doing it but it all seems so very futile. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I work at this shit, and even if I do manage to someday move up the coding food chain from unqualified idiot to moronic dumbass, why bother? Beethoven's brother Kasper was a financier and Picasso's sisters didn't delve too deeply into art. They stuck to what they knew rather than treading upon the sanctity of brilliance. Maybe I should just let my resident genius do what he does best....and get him to design my new website. 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Computer Coding is a Foreign Language and I am Hopelessly Unilingual.

Welcome to today's installment of "Self-Flagellation" or "How Computer Coding has Turned Me Into a Sado/Masochist Who Could Grind Christian Grey Into Chalk Dust". 

It has been a stress-free ten days since my learned tutor and I sat down for a lesson. Various other pursuits have kept us from our appointed task and I must admit that there is a certain measure of satisfaction that comes with procrastination, especially when the task one is delaying has the ability to send one shaking and screaming from night terrors and awakening at 3:00 am in a pool of one's own sweat and drool. The only problem with such an ardent pursuit of postponement and deferment is that my middle-aged, swiss-cheesed gray matter can't retain any amount of information longer than the time it takes to watch the average beer commercial. So when I innocently asked about moving some elements around the page on my dummy (yes... I am well aware of the irony of that term) page,  The Husband looked me square in the eye this morning and said in astounding seriousness that "You already know how to do that". I gazed back at him with an expression that I am certain imitated the face of a gorilla on Prozac. Square one...here we come.

This morning, this article was on page one of the Miami Herald, right beneath the article of the Super Bowl defeat from hell. Seriously. Is there anybody outside of New England who doesn't believe that Tom Brady has sold his soul to the devil and will be languishing in the bowels of Hades alongside Donald Trump for eternity? But once again, I procrastinate and digress.

So...this article...on page one.

I will not debate the merits or inherent stupidity of this proposal, (other than saying that it is incredibly Floridian and that both skills are necessary for students in the 21st century) but I will say that after enduring a mere four lessons in coding, it is fundamentally apparent to this moronic student that coding is most definitely a foreign language and the ability to master it lies in continual and constant practice. You simply cannot become fluent in any language if all you manage to utter are hello, goodbye, and peace. Great thanks to the Divine Spirit for making Hebrew simple enough to use a single word for all three. Coding is very different, very comprehensive, very complicated, and very very very confusing.

I asked The Husband for his opinion on how he thought my web page should look. I very much value his opinion on design and I was kind of silently hoping that he might just take pity on me and simply redesign the whole fucking thing himself without the stress of imparting this coding bullshit to me. I asked him at one point, how he managed to learn all of these different computer languages that he so effortlessly uses, and he replied without a hint of glibness that  "I just woke up one morning and they were all there." The really crazy part of that statement is that I believe both of us think it is actually possible. 

I decided that I would like for the front page of the site to be the most recent blog posts so that when you all open up the URL for Dawn Ponders, the posts are the first things you see. After determining that we actually couldn't accomplish such a thing using HTML alone, The Husband very gently explained to me that we would now be diverting our attention to "real" programming as if what we had been doing before was a kind of an ersatz mess. He had this look in his eye that said "Don't worry, honey. You won't feel a thing as I push you out of the plane. It's the landing that's the real bitch."

(By the way....there is a nauseated churning that occurs within the pit of your stomach when your teacher takes your computer, spends ten minutes surfing Javascript sites to figure out why he can't solve a basic problem that he wants to convey to you, swears vociferously that it doesn't work and he doesn't know why, and then says...let's try this instead. That feeling of security is EVERYTHING!)

And so we are now in the world of JavaScript working in less than perfect synchronization with HTML. It's kind of like asking "Where's the bathroom" in Spanish and being directed to the bank in Italian. 

Here's what we managed to do.

And here are the results of over an hour's worth of laborious coding. 

See the little "Hello Dawn" under the Home tab? 


That's it. Aren't you all so very proud of me?

At this rate, I might have a new site online in time for the celebration of Canada 175...if we both manage to live that long. 

One last note. Take an expanded look at the coding photograph.

Go on.

Blow it up.

I'll wait.

Are you there? 

Now, look at the very bottom of the screen in the extreme right-hand corner. Do you see that tiny blue icon?


They have invaded every part of my life and are determined to haunt me until the end of days.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Something Frivolous Because We Need It

I went for a walk this morning along the boardwalk at Miami Beach. It is really one of my absolute favourite ways to celebrate Shabbat. There is an ease about the place that makes me feel a bit closer to The Almighty. The smell of the ocean, the gentle breeze, the palm trees swaying...the homeless people sleeping on the sand. I am so often struck by the dichotomy of a place that is obviously dripping with beauty and wealth and yet is the landing spot for so many in need.  But...I digress.

There is also a strange intersection that occurs on the beach on Shabbat. The eruv (an urban area enclosed by a wire boundary that symbolically extends the private domain of Jewish households into public areas, permitting activities within it that are normally forbidden in public on the Sabbath.) which is visible from the boardwalk serves to protect the more observant and fully clothed Shomeir-Shabbas Jews from the partially naked sunbathers and tanned exercisers who run, walk, cycle, or generally just shpatzir (saunter) their way to and from South Beach. I usually chuckle at the absurdity of the situation and this morning was no exception. About the exact same time that I was considering the goofiness of naked women on the beach abutted right up against Orthodox women practicing tzniut, (modesty) it struck me that something interesting occurs as one briefly passes by others. Only a small segment of conversations are audible and they happen so quickly in that momentary interaction, that trying to glean the true meaning of any dialogue is an impossibility. I decided to record some of those fragments I overheard this morning and put them together into one continuous chat. I have separated out the individual fragments into lines. Each line is a different conversation.

They were at a bonfire.

In California, you've got to do this crazy outdoor stuff.

One of these things I got for Christmas you had to spit in it.

Porque no?

Porque los necesito para las niñas.

I tell you this straight from the heart, not the head, the heart.

But it's amortized over five years.

I can't stand to be around him.

But we be jammin, yes?

Down boy! 

I only had a light lunch. I need more.

Oh la la. 

Do you really want to see THIS fucking flop around on the beach?

You look hot.

I'm heaving it's so humid.

Water, water.

We're gonna do it. Keep going.

 Can I go lower?

I swear that I didn't expect it to come out so 50-Shades/porn-like. I really thought that this would be an exercise in observing humanity rather than the verbal construction of a sex act. While my faith in humanity is somewhat restored (notice that not one of these snippets uses the words Trump, president, or fucking lunatic) and my Spanish is definitely improving, I am either really really bad at this eavesdropping thing or my mind is truly in the gutter. In any case, I'm pretty sure that this is how all those Harlequin romance authors got their starts.