Tuesday, 21 November 2017

How to Love the Art While Loathing the Artist

I have been giving some thought over the past few months about the relationship the artist has to his/her art. Or more specifically, can we look at the art of people who have abhorrent views or have done abhorrent things with any sort of critical eye? In light of the myriad of sexual abuse allegations that have flooded forward lately from all walks of life and from all sides of the ideological spectrum, I have been asking myself if it is possible to love the art while loathing the artist.

When I was a kid, our family car was a Ford LTD station wagon. You know the type? Cream-coloured with faux paneling on the doors. A truly iconic '70s suburbia ride. While my grandfather was extraordinarily vocal in his opposition to ever purchasing a German-made automobile, there was never any resistance to the very American-made Ford my dad bought. There is no doubt in my mind that zero heeds were given by my family to founder Henry Ford's well-documented and prolific anti-semitic views that informed many of Hitler's own writings and still resonate with many hate-filled and bigoted people today. That Ford station wagon was simply the right car at the right time for our family and the disturbing history of its founding father never entered into the decision making.

In high school, I fell in love with the writings of T.S. Eliot. I still think that The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is one of the most beautiful poems ever written. It wasn't until many years later that I was exposed to his rampant anti-Semitism and his unrepentant Holocaust affections. I am stuck in a quandary. Must I now view Prufrock through a different and far uglier lens? Does the same hold for The Merchant of Venice or anything Roald Dahl ever wrote? Will I be able to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to my grandchild knowing that its author probably would have hated the child it was being read to?

I offered this question on my Facebook page yesterday and the discussion was challenging and fascinating. I hope that my friends won't mind if I use a few of their thoughts.

One friend offered the following:
"Art is an extension of the artist-a magnifying glass put to some aspect of their interior world. We can't create in a vacuum - experiences colour every aspect of our lives. the positives and the negatives are inseparable parts of a whole. It is an uncomfortable experience - it creates dissonance. And it certainly makes us think about the work. It is provoking --- not a bad result for an artist."

I happen to agree with her point that art is often about making us uncomfortable. Moving past our comfort zones is what allows us to accept differing points of view and new experiences. It is the artist's job to make us think and to make us feel. Those feelings aren't always fluffy and happy. Sometimes they are ugly and challenging. But what happens when we discover an aspect of the artist that is continually reflected in the art? Woody Allen's seminal film Manhattan comes to mind.

Manhattan was the very first R-rated film I saw. My cousin who was already eighteen bought the tickets for us and I quietly snuck into the theatre. I remember thinking at the time that Mariel Hemingway's teenage Tracy was probably younger than I was and here was a forty-something and more-than lecherous Woody getting it on with a kid. It bothered me then and I was perplexed at the accolades that rained down on the movie. Neither Soon-Yi Previn nor Dylan Farrow was even a part of the conversation about Allen then, but I cannot look at this film using the same gravitas scale knowing now what I do about its director. And don't even get me started about Roman Polanski.

Another friend said this:
"I do believe that it is sometimes impossible to separate the artist from the art, depending on what the intention of the art is. E.g. Richard Wagner, the 19th century composer and consummate anti-Semite, deliberately used some of his music as anti-Jewish polemic. I do not listen to his music." 
She continued.
"On the other hand, it may be somewhat less problematic to enjoy art (visual, musical, etc.) that is not imbued with the ugliness of its creator's hateful behaviours. Woody Allen's movies come to mind, but I don't particularly want to put one cent into the pocket of haters or depraved people. I think we struggle so much with this because, over the centuries, some truly horrible people have created some truly remarkable art." 
The financial argument is an intriguing one. Enriching people who have knowingly and openly engaged in disgusting behaviour should be anathema. Has Mel Gibson ever done proper tshuvah (penance) for his anti-Semitism and his ugly treatment of women? And yet, time seems to have healed Hollywood's disdain for him. He was nominated for several Oscars last year and is currently starring in one of the hits of the holiday season. His reclamation seems complete, but what of his victims? I don't see million dollar paydays coming their way. Does the answer lie in the distance we have from the misdeeds? Will Kevin Spacey or Louis C.K. lay low enough for a few years and bounce back like Mel? Will Hollywood or the entertainment consumer afford them the opportunity because of their gifts? Can I look at a Picasso painting today with a different eye, even knowing what a shit he was to women because it all happened outside my gaze and I can in no way enrich him?

We are witnessing a revolution and in my view, it is long overdue. No longer are victims of abuse remaining silent and abusers are being called out for their behaviour. Powerful people in powerful places who have violated their positions for far too long are experiencing a reckoning. But as my lovely young cousin pointed out, what is happening now "feels weirdly specific who and what the outrage machine decides is ok or not ok." Bill Cosby will die a broken man but Johnny Depp is still out there grinding. But their art remains as tangible evidence of their talent and gifts and it cannot and should not vanish. Caravaggio was a miserable human being but his works are on display at the Louvre. Perhaps the answers to these complicated questions lie within what each of us is willing to tolerate. Where is my breaking point and how does it affect me in the here and now? Only each of us individually can answer that.

I believe that I need to hear a measure of true apology and true retribution. It can't be enough to simply say "I'm sorry without hesitation or reservation" but it is a good start. Has Woody or Roman or Mel ever tried even that much? Not to my recollection. But there needs to be more. Much more. There needs to be tangible action taken to alleviate the hurt and suffering and pain. I'm not certain what form that might take, but it certainly isn't shuffling off to rehab for a week and then back to business as usual. Maybe it comes in the form of mentoring programs for young victims who have been damaged by these people. Maybe it comes in other ways of giving back to the community. Maybe it comes with just staying out of the public eye.

I know that for me personally, there are certain individuals who will never be able to be redeemed. Their abusive behaviour is baked into their DNA and their art is forever lost to me. Some have been caught up in the tidal wave of shit hitting the fan and were negligent and behaved poorly once or twice. They may be worthy of salvaging if their future actions earn them that right and my trust.

Until then, as another friend said, "we struggle."


Monday, 13 November 2017

Ready For My Close-Up Mr. DeMille

I haven't written for awhile mostly because I have been fully and completely blocked. You, my single digits of readers, have certainly not needed me to comment on how massive the shitstorm is this fall. There are indeed crappy things going on in the world, but far better pundits than I have been far more eloquent in opining on such matters, so I have digitally kept to myself.

Until yesterday, that is.

Yesterday, my online presence ran smack dab into my real life world and it's all because of a pilot project that Toronto City Council decided to initiate right outside of my living room window.

Ready for my close up Mr. DeMille.

A bit of history and a quick primer on Toronto transit politics is in order to fully understand why a  tsunami of press people (ok. Only 4 so far.)  have filled my inbox since early Sunday morning.

King Street is a major east/west artery that runs through Downtown Toronto. The busiest three-kilometre stretch of King is home to the financial district, the entertainment district, restaurants, clubs, bars, banks, theatres, and thousands of condos. The public transportation for most commuters is the streetcar run by our transit commision the TTC. According to the TTC's own figures, upwards of 65,000 commuters use the King streetcar every day, making it the busiest transit route in the city. The TTC contrasts that with the approximately 20,000 drivers who traverse the same corridor daily. The numbers and the fact that streetcars are stationary vehicles that must remain on their tracks, often translate to traffic gridlock across King even at the best of daily travel times. Anecdotally speaking as one who uses this mode of public transport on a regular basis, it isn't unusual for this trip of three kilometres to take close to a half hour to forty-five minutes at rush hour. Most of these delays are caused by streetcars, who are carrying over one hundred passengers, having to wait for single passenger cars to turn left at various intersections. The city and the TTC realized long ago that transit on King was broken and needed to be fixed.

In the Rob Ford era of a few years ago, the "war on car" faction in the city desperately wanted to get rid of the streetcars. They viewed these people movers as anachronisms and the source of all their traffic ills that won't let them Fast and Furious their way across King Street. Financial considerations and a sane person in the mayor's office has at the very least demanded study of the route.

So, that is what Toronto City Council and the TTC initiated yesterday. Dubbed the King Street Pilot Project, the goal is to study the effects of traffic curbing measures on that very same three-kilometre stretch. The idea is that from Bathurst east through Jarvis, all cars MUST make right-hand turns at the next intersection and they CANNOT go through.

There are clearly marked and designated yellow streetcar lanes at each intersection that drivers are not permitted to use. There are also clearly marked new right-hand turn lanes at each intersection as well as signage and new right-hand turn signals at each block. A driver might miss it the first time out of habit, but only willful ignorance and arrogance or piss poor driving would cause a driver to miss all of the markers. Taxis must also adhere to the new traffic laws, but they are exempt between the hours of 10pm and 5am. Police and transit authorities will be out in force for the first week of the project in an attempt to educate drivers and by the second week they will be handing out tickets and demerit points. It's $110 and 2 points if you don't follow the law.

Drivers are understandably upset. They often feel as though their commutes should take precedence over those lowly pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. They are not happy about being diverted to streets north and south of King and many are vociferously trying to make their case to council about the possibility of simply circling for hours in the downtown core. They may have a case, but as with all things requiring study, we simply won't know until the pilot project is completed a year from now.

Which finally brings me to our Andy Warhol moment. We live at the corner of one of the intersections of the project and it just so happens that we have a bird's eye perspective of King Street from our living room. Knowing that the project was beginning yesterday, The Husband and I decided to spend a bit of time watching the new traffic patterns. Remember. It was Sunday morning and a fairly light traffic time for the downtown core. There were transit officials and Toronto Police Service personnel at the intersection as promised. What we saw were hundreds of cars flouting the new laws. Some were obviously oblivious to the new norm. Others were wilfull in their disobedience. Many were driving dangerously and many more were just plain angry. We saw one officer almost plowed over and just throw his hands up in disgust. Most cabs were in "fuck you" mode and pedestrians were caught up in a game of Frogger as they attempted to cross with their legs and arms still intact. It was mayhem.

So what would you do if you witnessed such a thing? Why start tweeting of course. I began snapping pictures of cars, cops, and people trying to make sense of the new project. You can follow along here but here are a few samples.




The best and the worst of social media started barraging my mentions. People thanked me for helping educate the public. Others told me I was stupid and had no idea what it was like to drive in the city. One genius decided to show off his masterful intelligence by quoting Henry David Thoreau at me about the art of civil disobedience. Just to be clear. I am not an advocate for nor a dissenter against this project. I was simply reporting what I was seeing. Unlike many, I am willing to give the project a chance and see how it develops.

Well...I suppose my tweets caught the attention of CBC News and one of their reporters direct messaged me asking if she could speak with us and come over to see what we were seeing. After a brief phone conversation, she and her cameraman made their way up to our place and we chatted for about a half an hour. The story led last night's local newscast. You can watch it here or read it here if your day is really boring.

I wish I could tell you that our fifteen minutes of fame is over, but it isn't. Given that today is a work day, the press and the social media trolls are working overtime. I have been quoted and featured in BlogTO this morning and The Husband is going down to do another interview this afternoon with GlobalTV. I am begging off of this one. Frankly, I am exhausted from the frenzy. 😂

People have been asking me what my opinion is on this new project. As a driver, pedestrian, and transit user I am willing to give it a try. Let's give it a shot and see what happens. King Street is a broken transit hub and I give credit to planners and politicians for at least trying to repair it. The project may very well fall flat on its ass, but we won't know that until the data comes back. That's the thing about science. It is rarely just anecdotal. Where I hope our media star-turn will help is in the education of the bastards who are so obviously flouting the law in the name of "civil disobedience." (I'm looking at you Toronto taxi drivers.) Let's at least be honest. Civil disobedience can really only be a thing when one group is being oppressed by another. Are you really going to whine about drivers being oppressed by right-hand turns? Talk about exercising one's privilege. Your "civil disobedience" might actually get some innocent person injured or killed. Is your "right" to drive through unimpeded on King really worth that hell? Follow the law until it isn't the law any longer.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about how this mess will make his drive into the city, which he deems already a nightmare, even worse. He is probably right, but he is exactly the problem that the city is trying to address. It is better and more efficient to move a hundred people at a time at the inconvenience of one. In order for Toronto to flourish and grow as a cosmopolitan centre, we need to become more reliant on other forms of transportation and yes, that will come at the expenses of the lone driver. We need to get people out of their cars and move them in a different manner. My career as a traffic reporter for the city is thankfully and rapidly drawing to a close, but I hope that this little episode will at the very least, make somebody think twice about arrogantly and wilfully flouting traffic calming measures that are there for the collective good. We are all in this together, Toronto.


Friday, 15 September 2017

Battle of the Sexes

Editor's Note:

Dawn and The Husband will be spending the next few days attending the Toronto International Film Festival, known to the locals as TIFF. As rookie attendees, they realize there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to know. They have selected a modest number of films (5) as their initiation into TIFF with hopes that perhaps this learning experience will lead to a more comprehensive schedule in future years. TIFF is also serving as a tremendous distraction from the world's ills, the impending High Holidays, and hurricanes named for Jewish uncles and aunts. The next several posts will focus on TIFF and offer very quick bullet point reviews for the movies seen. Plan your Oscar ballots appropriately.

If you are interested in the first four posts from this series, you can read them here, here, here, and here.

  • Today was our final day at TIFF and while the festival is winding down, the crowds on King Street haven't abated all that much. Maybe it is because it is Friday and there are still two more days for movie lovers to get their fix, or maybe it is because it is a stunning Friday evening in the entertainment district and the cafes and patios are packed with Torontonians aching for those last gasps of summer. Or maybe it is because of the movie shoot across the street from our building that is impeding both foot and car traffic. Whatever the reason, we have been truly impressed with our rookie season at TIFF. I have been fairly vocal in this space on previous occasions as to why we generally don't like the modern movie-going experience. While we both are cinephiles at heart, the constant chatter, eating, phone conversations, and generally rude public behaviour has pushed us towards iTunes, Netflix, and other On-Demand services. There is little of that anti-social behaviour from TIFF audiences aside from a few industry insiders who have obviously forgotten what public screenings are for. There really is nothing like viewing a movie on the big screen. It was what they were made for. I had forgotten and I am thrilled that TIFF brought us back to our roots.
  • Today's film, Battle of the Sexes is our third out of five that features a same-sex romance at its core. This is just a statement of plain fact and I can't tell you how happy it makes me at how nonplussed every single audience member was. There is an almost mainstream feel to it, as it always should have been. I remember vividly the ocean of ink spilled about big-name actors signing on to appear in Philadelphia or whether or not Brokeback Mountain was a legitimate Oscar contender due to its "mature" subject matter. The three movies we saw this year didn't really care. They just presented love as love in all its iterations and it was truly beautiful.
  • Battle of the Sexes was our filler film. I couldn't get tickets to another we wanted, so this was our fallback. It tells the story of the classic tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs that took place in front of a worldwide TV audience of over 90 million viewers. I was almost eleven years old at the time and I vividly recall watching Billie Jean kick Bobby's ass. That bit of information does not require a spoiler alert. It is historical fact and one of the great moments for the women's movement of the 1970s. Billie Jean King was already a feminist icon for her battles for Title IX and the pioneering of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) in order to bring women's tennis prize money in line with their male counterparts. She was and still remains a role model for young girls and women everywhere for her never give in mentality and her philosophy that women could do anything to which they set their minds. This movie is certainly an homage to her and to the struggles that are still facing women in the public eye today. Here's a story to illustrate my point. At the Rio Olympics last summer, a reporter interviewing tennis gold medalist Andy Murray said: “You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals. That’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” To which Mr. Murray rightly replied: "Male player. I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each." 
  • Battle of the Sexes is a very "Hollywood" film. That isn't to say it's not worthy, but rather it is merely formulaic. The acting is excellent. Emma Stone is terrific as Billie Jean King and her vulnerability is a real asset in the role. She also had to learn how to play tennis apparently, but when you have Billie Jean King as a coach I suppose you could do worse. Steve Carell is every bit the buffoon as Bobby Riggs, but he also brings a great deal of pathos to the part that almost makes the cartoonish and very narcissistic Riggs likable. The acting transcends the weaknesses in the direction and the editing and makes the film eminently enjoyable.
  • I watched Battle of the Sexes with a very jaded eye but I did enjoy it. I will admit that if we hadn't seen it at TIFF, we probably would have waited for On Demand or streaming services. It is just a bit too mainstream for my liking. I was much more in tune with the real-life throwback footage of Howard Cosell and the incredibly chauvinistic way he called the match, even going so far as to say that Billie Jean was "walking around the court like a man." I had no memory of that. I was also fascinated at the battles off the court that were won by these incredibly brave individuals who redefined women's sports. Dawn and The Husband's recommendation for this film: Two middling YUPS.
And...so ends our time at TIFF 2017. This was definitely an experience we will repeat. We learned a lot and saw some great movies. As a matter of fact, I saw more films in a theatre in this one week than I have all year. There are some who have become disenchanted or disillusioned with how corporate and slick TIFF has become and there is some merit to those criticisms, but for pure movie fun, it was a hoot.

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe and for those celebrating the upcoming Yamim Noraim, Shana Tova U'metukah. May the upcoming year be a sweet one, a healthy one, and one of peace. 


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Origin Story of All Origin Stories

Editor's Note:

Dawn and The Husband will be spending the next few days attending the Toronto International Film Festival, known to the locals as TIFF. As rookie attendees, they realize there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to know. They have selected a modest number of films (5) as their initiation into TIFF with hopes that perhaps this learning experience will lead to a more comprehensive schedule in future years. TIFF is also serving as a tremendous distraction from the world's ills, the impending High Holidays, and hurricanes named for Jewish uncles and aunts. The next several posts will focus on TIFF and offer very quick bullet point reviews for the movies seen. Plan your Oscar ballots appropriately.

If you are interested in the first three posts in this series check here, here, and here.

Winding It Down at TIFF

  • We are very aware that VISA is a major sponsor at TIFF, (their signs are all over King Street) but we had no idea that holding a VISA Infinite card could provide some very lovely perks for the film festival. As we once again stood in a queue waiting for our entrance into the world premiere of Dr. Marston and the Wonder Women, an orange-clad TIFF volunteer approached us. She asked everyone in line if they might be holding a VISA Infinite card. The Husband and I both looked at each other with the same WTF face but to his credit, he decided to dig out his wallet and check his VISA card. Who knew? Our TD Aeroplan VISA card is indeed marked "Infinite". We had absolutely no idea and still are unsure what this might mean in our everyday life, but for that moment we were winners. Our host volunteer explained to us that Infinite card holders were entitled to lounge access, free snacks, and a front row seat to the red carpet walk. So, the two of us followed her like dazed sheep into the lounge at the Princess of Wales Theatre where we were gifted with fresh popcorn, bottled water, chocolate truffles, and Luke Evans up close and personal. After almost a week of TIFFing, we still have so much to learn.
  • We had wonderful seats for this film but were located right beside an exit door. Usually, that wouldn't present much of a problem, but this particular exit was where the security people were positioned. One of the little things we have noticed is how seriously they take potential video pirates. As each film starts, a security person stands in an unobtrusive spot and with a special infrared device seeks out those shitheels who might be surreptitiously recording the film. Last night they caught somebody and were racing in and out of our exit door throughout the movie. I really understand that they were just doing their jobs, but a little stealthiness would have been nice.
  • Once again the industry people were the rudest movie-goers in the sold out crowd. Phones used by these bastards rang on three separate occasions. I think that there needs to be a TIFF code of conduct explicitly written for industry insiders.
  • One of the things that I have enjoyed more than anything else about the film festival is that I know little more than a blurb about each movie we have attended. The lack of reviews, spoilers, and cinematic trailers is so refreshing for this movie goer. I love that each film is surprising and intricate in its development. I might suggest that anybody planning on seeing any of the movies premiering here at TIFF within the next few months take a similar path. Try and stay off the internet, avoid the reviews, and eschew the trailers if at all possible. It does make for a far more exciting ride. It is why I have been purposely vague in my quick hit movie "reviews" and descriptions. Too much knowledge spoils the fun.
  • Wonder Woman is certainly having her moment in the sun. What a cinematic year this has been for the Amazonian heroine. Dr. Marston and the Wonder Women is the origin story to end all origin stories. Director Angela Robinson tells the tale of Professor William Marston, the creator of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and the very unconventional life he led with two very unconventional women, both of whom served as templates for his comic book character. (I find it very interesting that both Wonder Woman-based films this year were directed by women. Maybe it's time for Hollywood executives to get the message that women directors have much to say and that their movies can draw audiences.) The film stars Luke Evans as the very unorthodox college psychology professor, with the always severely underappreciated Rebecca Hall playing his formidable wife. Aussie actress Bella Heathcote beautifully completes the familial triangle as Olive. The three actors have sizzling chemistry, but it is the performance of Rebecca Hall that stands apart from the others. She deftly commands the screen as she hopscotches through her fears and desires. Her performance is a tour de force and I will not be surprised to see her during awards season. It is simply one of the finest performances of the year. Unfortunately, due to the death of her father, she was unable to be at the screening last night to accept the accolades. The standing ovation that the crowd gave was in large measure for her. Dr. Marston and the Wonder Women is a delight. It demonstrates that sometimes the superheroes aren't only in the comic pages. Dawn and The Husband's recommendation for this film: Two enthusiastic YUPS. Seriously. Go see this movie. (And yes...we are 4/4)

Monday, 11 September 2017

"TIFF"ing With Jewish Toronto

Editor's Note:

Dawn and The Husband will be spending the next few days attending the Toronto International Film Festival, known to the locals as TIFF. As rookie attendees, they realize there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to know. They have selected a modest number of films (5) as their initiation into TIFF with hopes that perhaps this learning experience will lead to a more comprehensive schedule in future years. TIFF is also serving as a tremendous distraction from the world's ills, the impending High Holidays, and hurricanes named for Jewish uncles and aunts. The next several posts will focus on TIFF and offer very quick bullet point reviews for the movies seen. Plan your Oscar ballots appropriately.

Another Day, Another Film at TIFF
  • The festival has proven to be a wonderful distraction for both The Husband and me. Between the never-ending shitshow that is playing out in real time south of the border, to the fretful past few days worrying about friends, family, and property who were in Aunt Irma's path, to the nauseating mayoral announcement of the nastier and more explicitly evil of the Ford brothers, to the upcoming High Holidays, the early part of this month hasn't really been a cornucopia of fun times. TIFF has allowed us to escape from some of that outside misery and to bury ourselves within the escapism of the movies. I honestly can't think of a better use for my entertainment dollars right now.
  • While many continue to hunt down and stalk celebrities, I am far more excited when a sighting just happens organically. Truth be told, I have never been starstruck. I am in awe of the talent and the art but celebrity frankly bores me. Still, it can be a wee bit thrilling when while just strolling down King Street yesterday, we happened to bump into Willem Dafoe headed into our local Starbucks for a caffeine infusion. What was even better? As we ventured further down the street, there in front of us was his six-year-old costar from The Florida Project Brooklynn Prince, all decked out in her TIFFiest finery, signing autographs. Yes...I said six years old! Hollywood. OY!
  • Today's film, Disobedience, is set in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in the London neighbourhood of Hendon.   I am usually very suspicious of Jewishly themed movies for a number of reasons but chief amongst them is that Jews like to go and see Jewish movies and act as if we somehow had a hand in creating them. I call it the "Pride of the Tribe" mentality. As a result, today's noon showing of this film felt like being dropped into the middle of a Hadassah-Wizo conclave. Half of the middle-aged Jewish women of Toronto were in the sold-out crowd. Some had dragged their less-than-enthusiastic husbands along for the ride. As we stood in the queue waiting to enter the theatre, the gentleman behind us complained to his wife that she had tricked him into attending a drama when she knows that he only likes comedies. Worse yet for this guy? There are two women as the leads. Popcorn was his only saving grace. 
  • A quick aside. How funny was it that during a rabbinic study session in the film, the yeshiva bochers (young men) were studying the first verses of Song of Songs...the very same verses that The Husband and I read aloud during Torah study this past Shabbat? We kept waiting for one of the rebbes in the scene to bring up Rashi's interpretation.
  • One other quick aside. The orthodox Jewish woman played with such surprising depth and repression by Rachel McAdams shlepped the very same bundle buggy that I purchased for The Husband. It was described in the movie as "very frum". I was almost under my seat during that scene because I was laughing so hard. The Husband was less than impressed.
  • Disobedience was a pre-festival choice of mine and The Husband came along for the ride. It is the tale of childhood friends reuniting following the death of one of their fathers. There is an acute somberness to the film that is necessary to the storyline so that when the release finally does come it is welcome and exhilarating. Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams create characters of complexity and depth, but it is Rachel McAdams' Esti that is at the heart of the film. We see her in a role unlike any she has ever played before and she is almost struggling to keep her natural radiance submerged. When both she and Esti let it go, it is almost magical. It is so refreshing to see women in a film that are not there to serve as eye-candy or to prop up the men. This is a story about two women and it is ably crafted by director Sebastian Lelio in his first English language film. Disobedience is a slow simmer, but it is a freeing delight. Dawn and The Husband's recommendation for this film: Two enthusiastic YUPS!


A quick note. We don't really like every film we see. We have just been lucky so far at 3 for 3. Hopefully, our streak will continue.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sunday at TIFF with George

Editor's Note:

Dawn and The Husband will be spending the next few days attending the Toronto International Film Festival, known to the locals as TIFF. As rookie attendees, they realize there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to know. They have selected a modest number of films (5) as their initiation into TIFF with hopes that perhaps this learning experience will lead to a more comprehensive schedule in future years. TIFF is also serving as a tremendous distraction from the world's ills, the impending High Holidays, and hurricanes named for Jewish uncles and aunts. The next several posts will focus on TIFF and offer very quick bullet point reviews for the movies seen. Plan your Oscar ballots appropriately.

A few quick hits from TIFF

  • King Street or "Festival Street" as it has been dubbed during the festival, has been a walking wall of people this weekend. The mayor has stated publicly that he wants this to be the last year that King will close on the first weekend of TIFF. I do understand the city's issues. Diverting the streetcars, asking commuters to find alternate routes into work, and moving traffic onto other arteries is a major pain in the ass. But...it is also an amazing street festival that is drawing thousands of visitors into the entertainment district and the bars and restaurants are absolutely loving it. I think that the mayor might want to chat with some of these small business owners before he makes this recommendation to council.
  • I DO NOT understand these crazy "star gazers" who are staking out areas behind theatres or camping on the street in front of restaurants to catch a glimpse of simply anybody. As we walked by the Princess of Wales theatre this morning, we noticed the huge crowds waiting with fevered anticipation. I asked one woman who they were waiting for and she answered, "I don't have a clue, but it must be someone big." Here's an example of what they see. Behind the elbow of the guy holding up his phone, you might catch a glimpse of Jake Gyllenhaal. That's me in the black jacket.
     I mean...Jake is cute and all but this wasn't even a brush with fame. It was more like a whisper. As we walked by a sandwich shop today, fifty people were waiting for Steve Carell to finish a smoothie. Honestly. This is a strange way to spend one's time.
  • As we waited on the queue for today's film, TIFF volunteers came by to collect any garbage we might have. Toronto may not be a perfect city, but we do try really hard to be a clean one. ***TIFF TIP ALERT*** Make sure that you are aware of the food and beverage policy at the individual venues. Some theatres will allow you to bring water or snacks. Other aren't so friendly.
  • Today's film was Suburbicon. I will admit that this was not a film I was eager to see and I did acquiesce to The Husband and his love of everything Coen Brothers. I have mixed feelings about the brothers and their films. I love some and hate others. But, this is TIFF and one must be open to a variety of film types. In Suburbicon, director George Clooney has taken an aging Coen script written in the early '80s, tweaked it, and created a brutal dark comedy combined with a historically accurate racially charged moment from America's checkered past. It is obvious that Clooney was eager to make a statement in this film and while there were times that I thought his attention was too divergent, the film does work on both levels. While Matt Damon and Julianne Moore are the big draws, the film is actually flat out stolen from them both by the work of young Noah Jupe and a wonderfully evil turn by Oscar Issac. 
  • Suburbicon actually surprised me. I went into the theatre ambivalent and walked out fulfilled. It is a film that will really please Coen Brother disciples and given his history and comfort with Ethan and Joel, Clooney is a good fit as director. (It was a really wonderful surprise when George came out and did a quick Q and A with the audience. That doesn't usually happen unless the movie is a premiere. He is brilliantly funny, easy-going, happy to answer questions about his work...not his personal life...we were warned, and truly charming.) Suburbicon is not for everybody but it will find a willing audience with dark comedy aficionados and those looking for a bit more depth in their film choices.  Dawn and The Husband's recommendation for this film: An enthusiastic YUP from The Husband and a YUP, GO SEE IT from Dawn. 




Friday, 8 September 2017

Lessons Learned From TIFF-Day 1

Editor's Note:

Dawn and The Husband will be spending the next few days attending the Toronto International Film Festival, known to the locals as TIFF. As rookie attendees, they realize there is a great deal to learn and a great deal to know. They have selected a modest number of films (5) as their initiation into TIFF with hopes that perhaps this learning experience will lead to a more comprehensive schedule in future years. TIFF is also serving as a tremendous distraction from the world's ills, the impending High Holidays, and hurricanes named for Jewish uncles and aunts. The next several posts will focus on TIFF and offer very quick bullet point reviews for the movies seen. Plan your Oscar ballots appropriately.

Lessons Learned From TIFF-Day 1

  • Standing in line is a fact of film festival life even when you have tickets. We arrived almost an hour and a half before our scheduled time and were still on queue halfway up Yonge Street. Worse yet, it was pouring rain and umbrellas were continually poking into eyes, ears, and necks. We became quite friendly with our linemates and picked up a few really good TIFF tips like wear comfortable shoes and clothes, pack a bag for the weather, bring snacks, and perhaps send one person to wait on line while their friends simply join as the line begins to move. If this were movie-waiting etiquette south of the 49th, I am certain we might have seen a Hamilton-like duel with pistols drawn in the middle of the street. But this is Toronto the Good and everybody just accepts it with humour and affection.
  • We found really great seats in the theatre that just happened to be in the general proximity of many industry insiders. Most seemed to be distribution company buyers and as our film On Chesil Beach is still in search of distribution, there were a lot of these guys on hand. ***TIFF tip alert.*** Try and avoid sitting near these people. They are extremely inconsiderate movie goers. Most were on their phones throughout the film and every single one was texting continually. They did everything business oriented imaginable except "take a meeting" in row R at the Wintergarden Theatre. Hopefully one of those rude bastards will offer a distribution network for this film. It is worthy.
  • On Chesil Beach was a film that both The Husband and I had on our pre-TIFF wishlists. I am a huge fan of author Ian McEwan and adored the film adaptation of one of my all-time favourite novels Atonement. I haven't yet read On Chesil Beach, but the film description had me at actress Saoirse Ronan. I will watch her in anything, even The Lovely Bones. (God...I hated that book and I hated the movie even more, but it did star Saoirse Ronan.) She is the rare actor who has successfully made the transition from child star to luminous and extraordinarily talented adult thespian. I liken her to a young Cate Blanchett. She is able to convey emotion without ever speaking a word; her face a road map of sentiment and her choice of roles has been thoughtful and wise. She does not disappoint in this film.
  • On Chesil Beach is a gut-wrenching film. It twists the audience into so many knots that it is necessary to keep the Zantac handy. The screenplay by Ian McEwan, based on his novel, is traumatic and painful, but oh so real. The roles of Florence and Edward are played with searing agony by the aforementioned Ms. Ronan and newcomer Billy Howle. (Dunkirk). There were many in the audience who found the subject matter difficult and would have preferred an easier character play and love story, but the authenticity of On Chesil Beach is what makes this film so brilliant.
  • We left the theatre spent and satisfied. On Chesil Beach isn't for the faint of heart movie goer, but rather it is a film for one who is drawn to character studies and the struggle of what goes into building a real relationship. If it gets a decent distribution deal, it could do very well into awards season, particularly for its lead actress. Dawn and The Husband's recommendation for this film: Two enthusiastic YUPS!
Our next film isn't until Sunday. Until then....Shabbat Shalom to all who observe and for those of you facing that bitchy Irma...stay safe, friends. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

A Brief Moment in Time Captured in GIFS...Part 3

Day 3 of this saga actually begins on Day 2.

Too many hours. Too much of nothing. So little progress left both The Husband and me looking and feeling much like this.



Nine months of anticipation, planning, and excitement and we are brought down by a stubborn fetus who adamantly refused all entreaties to leave its comfortable womb.



As midnight on the second day approached, we were both utterly and completely exhausted. The drugs that they had given me were wearing off and every pregnant woman who had been wheeled in after had come and gone with their new bundles of joy. Our doctor had brought in a specialist to consult who was so brash and miserable, she frankly scared the shit out of me. She actually threatened...yes I said threatened...me with a C-section. Well, I was having none of her bullshit and decided right then and there that this woman wasn't going to come within 10 metres of me and my unborn tiny human ever again.



This baby was going to be born and be born the old fashioned way, even if I had to rip it out myself.

By the way...a quick word about prenatal classes. As first-time parents, we were absolutely enrolled. There were supposed to be ten sessions. As a result of our earlier than planned delivery, we only managed to attend four. Obviously, we missed quite a bit that probably would have come in handy during our extended labour and delivery. When The Husband called our instructor to advise her that we would not be returning due to the birth of the baby, she asked if her teaching had been beneficial. The Husband answered very much like this...



Midnight of another day came and went and we were still waiting. Finally, at around 2:00 am they took me into delivery and after approximately 37 1/2 hours of labour (yes, you read that correctly!) at 2:32 am on the morning of September 3rd, 1987, out he came complete with ten toes and eleven fingers. Of course, none of us, not the doctors, nurses, The Husband, nor I noticed the genetic polydactylism until the next day. We were all simply too exhilarated to care and too exhausted to count.



They took him from me to weigh, measure, and APGAR and told me that normally they would have wheeled us both back to a room, but they really wanted me to sleep. I didn't need the coaxing. Within a half an hour I was like...



And The Husband was headed home for a nap.

As morning on the third day arose, I was completely mesmerized and totally and completely in love. I was also acutely aware that I had missed the funeral of my friend. So many people I knew were in a state of vacillation. They wept with joy for the birth of our Older Son and at the same time, they wept with sadness for the passing of a dear one.



There will always be a bit of sadness associated with that time. It honestly can't be helped. Life is indeed a strange circle. But the joy that I felt then and still feel today thirty years later, is untrammeled and limitless. The pleasure and delight I feel whenever I look into my son's face and the pride I experience whenever I admire the man he has become, is infinite. He is the reason that I am a mother. I love him more today than I did yesterday and less than I know I will tomorrow.



Today I wish him the happiest of birthdays. I know that milestones like this one are difficult for him and I won't push too much. I am stunned at the mercurial passage of thirty years, but I will simply say this to my Older Son:

You are the fiercely independent one. The one who has always been smarter and more determined than almost everybody and never been afraid to show it to anyone. You do not suffer fools and you do not do stupidity. You don't do phony and you refuse to pretend. You are incredibly moral and you live by your values even when others don't always understand you. You have been called "quirky" and "weird" and "sarcastic" and "different", but we both know that all of that is the beautiful and unique side of you. You are brilliant and funny, talented and decent. You have challenged me since that very first day thirty years ago and I have loved all of that about you and more, now and always. I love you my Older Son. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Happy new decade to both of us. Celebrate it well and never be shy about being your authentic self.





Saturday, 2 September 2017

A Brief Moment in Time Captured in GIFS...Part 2

Day 2 of this story actually begins at midnight of  Day 1.

By midnight, the doctor told us to pack up and head to the hospital. Pacing around our home had done little to move the process along, so he figured the hospital was a better place for him to keep tabs on me. So, off we went.



But the tiny human that I was marinating proved to be a stubborn cuss. Foreshadowing? Our arrival at the maternity ward did nothing to improve our progress. While the staff was lovely and caring, there was very little they could do to improve our situation, so there was a lot of this.



And for The Husband, there was plenty of this....



To this day, thirty years later, he still complains that while he absolutely acknowledges that I was doing all of the difficult work, (hence the term LABOUR!) he actually got zero sleep over those hours because of the fact that he had to sleep in a chair. My pity knows no bounds. (Does sarcasm translate through a screen?)

I will dispense with many of the gory details of this story. Birthing babies is indeed a beautiful miracle and we shall leave it at that. But...for the entirety of September 2nd, 1987 we did a lot of this...



And this...



With some of this thrown in...



And absolutely NONE of this...



And still none of this...



And all that day, family and friends were preparing to say goodbye to my friend. All my life's a circle indeed.




Part three will be up tomorrow. Stay tuned to this space for the grand finale.




Friday, 1 September 2017

A Brief Moment in Time Captured in GIFS

A brief moment in time told in GIFS over the next three days.

30 years ago today, on this exact date in history, I looked a lot like this.



I was nine months pregnant, still and always 4'11" tall (give or take half an inch), and every single step I took resembled this.



It was one of the hotter summers Toronto had endured in a very long time, so I took to spending most of July and August like this in my parent's pool.



As steamy August drifted into the first day of September, I was still a full two weeks from my due date. I was itching for the invading host to depart my body so that we could finally meet face to face. I knew that the calendar was not my friend and I was completely resigned to a Rosh Hashana baby.

But...the universe has an odd way of reminding us that we are never in control and that plans made are plans shredded.

On this particular September 1st, I received word that a very dear friend had passed away. She was a constant in my life and I had been very excited for her to meet our new tiny human. The sadness I experienced was overwhelming.



As I heaved and cried, I did what any normal and very pregnant woman would do when given absolutely horrible news. I immediately went into labour.



The Husband, being a diligent father-to-be, called the doctor and asked what he thought we should do. He told us to wait at home for a bit in order to move the process along before we headed to the hospital. So, for most of the rest of that September 1st thirty years ago, this was me.



With some of this...



Mixed in with a lot of this....



for the loss of my friend.

Keep watching this space. The best is yet to come.


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.....

FUCK YOU!

**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.