Thursday, 26 January 2017

Teaching a Monkey Mozart

It has been more than a week since I gave you all an update on my ever-increasing computer prowess. Perhaps prowess is too ambitious a word. Let's call it computer incapability or maybe numerical ineptitude? However we term it, I'm still here and I'm still plugging away, a stranger in a strange land, but I did require a short sabbatical this week from the infernal machine in order to regain my ballast.

But before we made our way out of town, The Husband once again sat me down to inundate me with technobabble involving hrefs, hyperlinks, attributes, command/shifts, and divs. I am like the only Earthling amongst a gaggle of Martians. I yearn for easy language and reasonings for why items are defined the way they are, but so far all I seem to get in response is "that's just the way it is." Years of evolving as an advanced society has brought us to "that's just the way it is." An entire world dependant on the functionality of machines has led us to the remarkable conclusion of "that's just the way it is." I am feeling so less safe knowing that my entire history and financial future is being housed and handled by people who live by the motto "that's just the way it is." 

We (meaning me) decided that we would continue the probably futile work of constructing a new website for Dawn Ponders. I say futile because I am starting to realize that by the time this project reaches fruition, all independent thought locations on the web will probably be shut down in the new world order, and fancy pull down tabs, pretty charts, and new hyperlink addresses will be seen as ridiculous endeavours. But, in the name of education and science, I persevered.

I decided that I really didn't like the spacing of the title, so I asked The Husband to show me how to move it to the left of the page. He eyeballed me with a side glance and sat as mute and stoic as a teetotaller at a frat party. After I ascertained that he wasn't suffering from some form of aphasia brought on by a stroke, I asked him again. He said, "How do you expect to learn if I tell you everything?"

Seriously!! He said this.

Years ago, I had a swimming teacher who would throw kids into the deep end of the pool and expect them to start paddling furiously without the benefit of a single lesson. Most of his students sank and required rescuing. What did they learn? More often than not, they learned to fear the water. I refused to be one of those living in fear, so I paddled furiously instead. Here was my very loud and very vigorous paddled-response to The Husband.

"How the f*** do you expect me to learn anything if you sit there like f***ing Marcel Marceau?"

While I may not have been entirely genteel in my language, my goal was achieved. There seems to be a need to continually remind The Husband that this little project was his brainchild and, for better or worse, (mostly worse) he has committed himself to being my tutor. I vociferously explained to him it is impossible to learn something new without a thorough lesson. I also ranted that some children (me) require endless reiteration of previously taught facts they find difficult to absorb. Not everybody is a fucking computer genius who was building his own machines at the dawn of the fucking ice age. I tried  to give him a lesson in teaching and I explained to him in my patient, B'nai Mitzvah-tutor inside voice that all students aren't as smart as their teachers.

Not surprisingly, my little tirade brought him back to my reality and we were able to create the following. It only took us 2 hours, but hey...progress is progress.

Once again, don't get too excited. The entire code page is only 51 lines long. This creation all happened last week, and I can't for the life of me remember how we did it. (I actually had to ask him to remind me of what some of the commands were called in order to write this post.) Kids take note. That is what happens without constant repetition and refusal to do one's homework. 

I do realize that The Husband is doing his level best. I know it's like trying to get a monkey to play Mozart on a washing machine, but teaching is often more difficult than learning. I guess this process has something for both of us.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Kevin O'Leary is a Squirrel

For those of you tuning in to read the latest chapter from my computer lessons, I apologize. There was a gap in my education yesterday. I won't explicitly blame The Husband for his procrastination but...

No. In all seriousness, I do have a life away from this miserable machine and yesterday it blissfully interfered. I haven't given stayed glued to this space for updates on the continuing saga.

In the interim, I thought that I might share a quickie story. This tale is definitely for a Canadian audience, but I hope that my American readers can find something worthy.

Yesterday in a bit of a political non-story, only because he has been teasing it for so very long, Kevin O'Leary entered the race to be the next Conservative Party leader. For those unfamiliar with the man himself, he is the brash, boorish entrepreneur and Trump wannabe who helped make Dragon's Den on CBC and later Shark Tank on ABC reality show rating juggernauts. I confess that I can't stand either incarnation of the program. I don't enjoy any reality programming, but I am especially averse to the kind where some pseudo-successful "panelist" sets himself up to judge or worse yet bait, insult, and cast aspersions on people either seeking validation or advice. If that's your cuppa then have at it. I prefer other sources of entertainment.

Mr. O'Leary, according to his credentials, is a successful businessman and venture capitalist. I will not impugn his reputation in this regard except to suggest that forays into politics have a nasty habit of exculpating the dirt, so I hope he has buried the bodies well. He has many weaknesses entering the race, not the least of which is he doesn't speak French and that alone should be disqualifying in our bilingual country, but here he is and as such it is our duty as citizens to vet him carefully. That said, before this circus flies too far off its tent posts, I want to share my fleeting personal encounter with Kevin O'Leary.

Last year down here in the winter home, my parents and I decided to head down to Costco for a brief half day of self-flagellation and self-loathing. As we flashed our membership cards at the entrance, we spied a large display hocking some new wine which was directly in front of us. It was almost impossible to enter the warehouse without passing by this table. Standing behind the table, decked out in his finest suit and silk tie (the temperature was probably in the mid-80s) and proudly wearing a sommelier's necklace and key, was Kevin O'Leary. The pretentiousness of the necklace and key was inescapable at a big box store where the majority of shoppers were clothed in stretch pants, tank tops, and flip-flops while trying to maximize their grocery budgets by purchasing peanut butter and mayonnaise by the gross. The ridiculousness of this self-proclaimed but very well-known multi-billionaire standing behind a fold-up table pushing discount wine at Costco was the stuff about which memes are created.

After acknowledging that we did indeed recognize Mr. O'Leary, we quietly attempted to slink past the display unnoticed. He called us out and tried desperately to get us to come over and taste his wine. We politely (we are Canadians after all) declined and as we did he screamed (really...he screamed!) after us "Just like Canadians. They never want to drink and they never know what's good."

How he knew we were Canadian I will never know. I wasn't wearing my sign and my maple leaf tattoo had been removed that morning. His rudeness was beyond what I would ever consider acceptable behaviour from a child let alone a man trying to woo me with wine. In true Canadian fashion, we chose to ignore this boor rather than engage him and instead we went about our regularly scheduled miserable Costco day. the interest of full disclosure, I am not a Conservative and I cannot imagine ever voting for the party in any election, but I will say that there were others around me who do vacillate between parties and were totally turned off by Mr. O'Leary on that particular day. There are fourteen other candidates in the running for the leadership of the party. Some of them, not named Kellie Leitch, are decent, intelligent, qualified people who have some interesting ideas that should attract decent, intelligent, qualified Canadians to their party. I am hoping beyond hope that both Conservative voters and the Canadian media don't get too distracted by the squirrels that are Kevin O'Leary and Kellie Leitch. Canada can do better.

It was American playwright and entrepreneur Wilson Mizner who said, "Be nice to people on your way up because you'll meet them on your way down." Without even caring or knowing much about Kevin O'Leary before, he messed with a group of Canadians in an incredibly brief moment that will certainly have repercussions for him down the road, and I am certain that we were only the tip of the iceberg of those he has insulted, bullied, or denigrated on his climb to fame and fortune. Karma can really be a bitch, sir.

This interview of one O'Leary's  former Dragon's Den costars Arlene Dickinson came from CBC News yesterday. It is a bit long but very telling. 

***UPDATE*** Arlene Dickinson has just published this op-ed on CBC. So worth reading. 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

HTML Has Turned Me Into a Baboon

Day 2 of the great experiment is now in the books or as I have taken to calling it "How to Make Dawn Feel Like a  Knuckle-Dragging Cretin in 10 Easy Steps."

I had forgotten how humiliating it was to lack comprehension at a glance. I had totally blocked those feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, timidity, and vulnerability I used to have when even though my concentration level was at its peak, my understanding was at its valley. That, in a nutshell, is how I define my progress on Day 2 of this ridiculous experiment The Husband has laid out for me.

In any relationship, there is a division of duties that seem to fall naturally to one partner or the other. In ours, for example, The Husband has easily fallen into the role of money manager and tech-geek, while it has usually fallen to me to be the teacher. The exception to this rule was the aforementioned "teaching of our children to drive experience" in which I refused to partake for two simple reasons. One...I am a self-proclaimed coward behind the wheel and I knew that my anxiety (and my constant blood-curdling screams of potential death) would be detrimental to the learning process and two...I was totally convinced that I would put a gaping hole in the passenger-side floor boards from continually pressing on the imaginary brake that I so wanted to be there. (The Husband, still to this day, describes the experience as the only teachable moment in a child's life you can literally die while doing.) Taking on The Husband as my tutor for this endeavour required a great leap of faith on my part. I needed him to fully understand that I needed a logical progression in our lessons and I also required a project that made sense. I told him from the outset that he needed to explain things as if he were teaching a baboon because that's kind of how I feel when I am venturing out of my comfort zone; a clumsy and completely moronic being that without proper and careful training might end up using the computer as a cutting board. He said he understood, promised he wouldn't call me stupid,(although we have already skirted the edges of this vow) and then tried to pep-talk me with platitudes like I am one of the smartest people he knew and that I could learn anything. Does anybody else think that this is the strangest mating dance, EVER??

We decided that we would use these lessons to complete an assignment. Together we would attempt to design a new website for DawnPonders. Of course, I have visions of Ferraris and Lamborghinis dancing off of my fully interactive and elegantly designed screen, while The Husband is instead trying to show me how to build a Lada and drive standard with the hope that we manage to spell DawnPonders correctly, but I will take my successes wherever I can get them.

And so we began.

Today's lesson consisted mainly of me trying to create a header. I was ready to simply type the title of the page into our programming box and be done with it but of course, nothing in computers is that easy. We have now taken to communicating with each other through jargon. That's the techy word for bullshit. He uses words like bits, bytes, hexadecimal, and binary. He had me talking tags and attributes and modifiers. Is anybody else out there suffering from the vapours? Are you hot yet? He kept side-glancing me to make sure that I wasn't upset and when he saw that my eyes were crossed and my skin had considerably paled, he asked me if I was about to have a meltdown. Meltdown?? I was so evaporated my shoe size had shrunk. Forty-five minutes into the process we had created this.
Looks impressive, doesn't it?

But in reality, all we really managed to get accomplished was this.
I hope you like the colours because those fuckers took me forever to understand.

We had a chat with Younger Son and His B'shert last night after all of this was done. My beautiful boy is a computer whiz just like his dad and has taken it on as his calling and as his profession. Many a day has passed where both my daughter-in-law and I have exchanged glazed over expressions as our men devolve into Java-spouting cyborgs, lost in a conversation that has no discernible meaning on this planet unless you too happen to be a Java-spouting cyborg. After assuring my son that if this experiment with The Husband should fail that I wouldn't be calling on him to rescue me from this soul-sucking experience, he proceeded to tell me that this wasn't really programming but rather it was merely design work and that the real labour was still in the offing. Thanks, Son. With your positive encouragement skills I know you'll make a great dad someday.

At around midnight last night, I roused The Husband from his early REM cycle to ask him to explain the hexadecimal system to me again. (This actually does matter in the context of our programming because of a discussion we had involving colour choices using HTML.) We had previously engaged in this conversation last year while watching the movie The Martian. Remember the scene when Matt Damon is trying to converse with NASA and he needs a system that works better than simple yes/no? Of course, my fifty-something brain can't retain shit like this any longer, so I needed a refresher and for some reason, I needed it at midnight last night. He mumbled something about finding me serious medical treatment before he drifted back off to sleep. This morning, he re-engaged this baboon like it was her first time with computations. He asked me what I remembered from third grade. I can't even recall who my teacher was in third grade, let alone math from that mesozoic era. He used house diagrams (remember those?) to demonstrate to me the difference between base ten and base sixteen. Is there such a thing as a dyslexic in math. He had me multiplying 10x1 vs 16x1. Seriously. He did. I swear the baboon would have mastered it faster. And then I watched him calculate and convert an RGB (red, green, blue) number into his head!! Me? I'm still back on 10x1.

In the words of that great sage Scarlett O'Hara..."Tomorrow is another day."

Monday, 16 January 2017

A Day of Distractions

My day started as uneventfully as any other. I was sitting on the couch, pushing the refresh button on the Blue Jays homepage every two minutes or so hoping for updates on the supposed and still unconfirmed Jose Bautista signing, while alternately blocking asshole misogynist anti-Semites from my Twitter feed, when I suddenly realized that I was circling back to the same information on every news site known to the internet. I looked at The Husband and I whined:

"It's finally happened. I've hit the end of the internet."

The Husband, ever the understanding and so very patient problem solver, expressed his deep-seated and heartfelt sentiment to my plight. 

He burst into gales of laughter.

As he wiped the tears of mocking from his eyes, he actually gave me a look that elegantly crossed grave sincerity with pity and said:

"You need a new project. I think that you should learn how to program."

As I started to protest that TV network jobs were probably not going to fall out of the sky for a middle-aged Canadian woman who is a few years past the shelf life of the 18-49-year-old target demographic, it suddenly dawned on me that he actually meant computer programming.

As is my habit, I immediately grabbed my laptop, began Youtubing "How To" videos, and read everything I could find about Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak. That's right. I said Wozniak, not Jobs. We computer geeks just somehow know these things. 

Seriously?? You poor gullible bastards. Have you learned nothing about me from reading this space?

After I collected my jaw from its resting place on my boobs, I began to sort through my mental index file of why this idea ranked somewhere between skydiving and spending six months at sea working on a tuna boat on my bucket list.
  1. I have never ever ever ever taken a single computer class. Not in high school. Not in university. Not online. Not in continuing education. Not at the Apple Genius Bar. Nada. The sum total of my experience with the dreaded machines is akin to my experience with a car. I know how to turn it on and how to drive it, but I have never had any desire to repair it or understand how it runs.
  2. I still get the night sweats from any and all recollections of any course that I may have taken over my academic career that even vaguely included math and numbers. That long directory includes calculus, algebra, economics, physics, chemistry, and if I go back really deep into my history, multiplication tables.
  3. I would require a teacher. A good teacher. I adamantly refuse to sit in front of some idiotic internet vids produced by some asshole Big Bang Theory wannabe, who spends his days on Reddit, and works out of his parents' basement in outer Scarborough. In order for me to learn, I need to be able to ask questions without being made to feel like an idiot. I expressed this concern to The Husband and he immediately volunteered. Which leads me to....
  4. He kind of sucks as a teacher. Just ask my boys about their student driving experiences. He is brilliant and capable and accomplished. He also lacks patience and would often rather do himself that which he considers easy. He has absolutely no tolerance for stupid. If he was going to teach me, he would have to let me bombard him with asinine queries like "What's a server?" (Yes. I actually asked this.) I gently reminded him of the time his grandmother tried to teach me to knit. I badgered her for months with dropped stitch problems, casting on issues, and ripped purls. The poor woman actually died before I finished my sweater. I just tossed that shit into the trash before our move this past summer. I honestly couldn't imagine a scenario whereby his teaching me would work and we could still happily celebrate our thirty-second wedding anniversary in June.
  5. Do I still have any ability to retain knowledge? I have been re-learning Spanish for about a year now and while my comprehension is markedly better and my conversational skills have improved exponentially, (I am a whiz at ESPN Desportes. My high school Spanish teacher Señora Lee would be so proud if she too weren't deceased.) I have noticed that retention is a bitch. This tends to happen at a certain age. I can't even remember where I put my fucking glasses, how am I to recall computer commands?
And this is just the short list.

The Husband assured me that I could learn and learn it quickly. I asked him why he thought this was a good idea and he replied, "Because it's creative, it's fun, and you could help me with a project I'm working on." 

Really! He actually said that. This shit was all about free labour.

He asked me to give him about fifteen minutes and then we could get to work.

Three hours later....

I was still waiting. I mercilessly mocked his commitment to this project and he looked as though he should never have suggested the whole endeavour. But...we were now like a snowball running downhill and I wouldn't be waylaid.

It took him about a half an hour to figure out my computer. Yeah...I know. I couldn't believe it either. 

Once he finally had whatever downloads required, we commenced with lesson 1.

I will be beginning my education with something called HTML. Apparently, it is the language of web-design. Here's what we managed to accomplish in about 45 minutes. Are we impressed yet? If anybody out there is laughing, I curse you all and may a thousand squirrels invade your attics.

The Husband is concerned that the only reason I have consented to do this is for blog material. He is only partially correct in that assertion, although my inability to master this might prove more comical than cat videos. I have also consented because frankly, I need a diversion from the news and this project and trying to recall Spanish past tenses is helping enormously in that regard. 

May God have mercy on both of our souls and may Los Azulejos firman a José Bautista ya!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

When History Calls

When history calls, what will be your answer?

When bigotry and injustice come for your friends and your neighbours, will you cower in your basement grateful it isn't you or will you stand bravely beside them, marching arm in arm?

When misogyny and hate attack your daughters, will you berate their actions and choices or will you teach both them and your sons to beat back the tide of inequality and suppression?

When religious intolerance masks itself in political opportunism, will you echo the enmity or remember the love of The Divine Spirit?

When poverty, pain, and suffering afflict those who are least able to help themselves, will you turn a blind eye and a deaf ear or will you offer sanctuary, warmth, healing, and nurturing?

When ignorance infects our schools and our public discourse, will you perpetuate the falsehoods or will you rise in the name of truth?

When corporate interests assault and lay false claim to our natural resources, will you invest in their plunder or will you work to protect our planet?

When false prophets arise, will you blindly follow or will you refuse to revel in the dishonesty?

When demagoguery is normalized, will you protect your own self-interests, or will you bravely face down the tyrant?

History is calling. 

What say you?

"Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. It is a silent justification affording evil acceptability in society."~Abraham Joshua Heschel

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Calm After the Storm

I had a fascinating conversation with a friend last week about a new project in which she is engaging. While it is still in its infancy and certainly not mine to discuss, it did open up a dialogue as to how we view art and more specifically, the artist in our very fractured world.

Since that dialogue, I have been extraordinarily fascinated not only by the process of artistic inspiration and creation but also by the role the audience plays in the methodology. What obligation does the artist owe her audience and by extension, what obligation does she owe herself?

Three separate experiences this week have tweaked my consciousness in this regard.

This past weekend The Husband and I embarked on our annual pilgrimage to The Las Olas Art Show. Small in stature compared to others we attend, this exposition tends to involve a more local artist colony with a few notable exceptions. Because of its size, there is a more intimate feel to the displays, the artists are less inundated with crowds, and they are far more interested in chatting with interested onlookers. It isn't at all unusual for us to see repeat vendors, some of which we have been fortunate enough to patronize before and to now check out their latest pieces. Sometimes, we are simply excited to reacquaint ourselves with artisans to whom we have given long looks in the past, but for some reason or other hadn't yet added to our collection. Such was the case on Sunday.

We had seen Daniel Lai's work before at previous shows. His use of recycled books and soft paper materials that he elegantly transforms into quiet and almost zen-like three-dimensional sculptures was an immediate magnet for me. There is quiet beauty in his work and I can almost imagine myself in his head as he transforms his journal thoughts into physical iterations. As we made our way through his small booth, we were fortunate enough to have an extended conversation with him. He was as soft-spoken as his work conveys, but there exists a powerful and obvious fierceness within him as he passionately described his pieces to us. His artist statement is telling.
I often write my experiences in a journal but find it inadequate to convey how I truly feel. As a result, I translate these paragraphs to a visual form that is three-dimensional, simplistic, and often relatable to many. My sculpture series is a three-dimensional journal that conveys snippets of my emotions and feelings toward life; the themes of this series often touch upon knowledge and contemplation. I call these sculptures "three-dimensional hieroglyphs of my experiences." Often times, the true meaning of text and words are just beneath that thin layer of their lexical meaning. In other words, we live in a metaphorical world. Three-dimensional representation of my experience transcends the boundary of words.
He had me at hello.

We purchased a small piece from his Reader series. and I am not exaggerating when I say that I have spent hours since just gazing and losing myself in its grace and peacefulness.

A small final anecdote about Daniel the artist. As we were finalizing our purchase, he asked us some very pointed questions about how we intended to transport the piece. Was it being shipped? Would we be taking it on an airplane? Where would it be in our car and how would we mount it? I promised him that I would take special care with it and then he said...and I will never forget the determination in his eyes as he said it..."Thank you. These are my babies, you know." While it was incredibly important for Daniel to share his work with a wider audience, he made it known to us that while we would be providing a new forever home for his work, it was still his and it was merely on loan to us. I suppose that is the true measure of art. We can enjoy it, revel in it, even purchase it...but we can never truly own it. That is the exclusive purvey of the artist.

So what does the artist owe her audience? Well, over the past ten days I have been privileged to join with a few thousand others in a new private group on Facebook called Harmony in Unison devoted to sharing live Jewish music concerts by the musician/songwriters themselves. The brainchild of Beth Schafer and Stacy Beyer, the idea is to provide a virtual stage for these musicians and to share songs, stories, and experiences across the magical platform of Facebook Live. While there have been a few initial glitches with copyrights and technical issues, the early evening interactive serenades have been nothing short of soul-reviving. The generosity of these artists to freely offer their time and their music to a most willing audience has been nothing short of jaw-dropping. These are people who make their living doing this work, and for them to provide it free of charge is a gift for which every single member of the audience is grateful. Their music has been a tonic for me in these tumultuous times. Over the past few years, I have distanced myself from much of it, but this music is a part of my soul and I am grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with it and with the community. These Jewish music artists inherently understand that their songs carry a spirit that can only be properly served by the continual sharing of it with a welcoming and participating audience. We are the necessary reflection of their prayers and we are the echoes of their soulful voices. If you are interested in joining Harmony in Unison, please add yourself to the group. I am happy to approve your request. You will be glad you did.

Finally, there is the debate about Meryl Streep. I will admit that I didn't see her speech live as I am averse to award shows in general and openly hostile to the Golden Globes in particular. (Subject for a different post.) That said, it was difficult to avoid the viral sensation that Ms. Streep became the following day (I caught her remarks in their entirety on YouTube) and the debate that she has re-ignited as to whether or not performers, sports stars, and other artists have a right to espouse contentious beliefs from their very public platforms.

I was impressed (as I usually am by Meryl Streep) with her poise, dignity, and passion. She never once mentioned the new president by name but she also never once hid her intentions. She was simply espousing a common belief that perhaps bullying and anger were not traits that the people needed nor wanted in their leaders and perhaps the country would be better served if these foibles were controlled. To suggest that the greatest actor of her generation, with more awards to her name than she probably has space to display them, is overrated is a fallacy at worst and folly at best. It's kind of like saying that Picasso designed colouring books. But, that really isn't the issue. Does the actress Meryl Streep pretend that the person Meryl Streep doesn't exist for the sake of the paying audience? Was it correct to yell at the Dixie Chicks to simply "Shut up and Sing" when they had the audacity, in the minds of some, to criticize George W. Bush?

There is no question that the performing artist takes a risk by speaking her mind publicly on contentious issues. Some people can and will look at her with a different lens and it will probably cost her a few fans. (Just ask the Chicks about their falling album sales and aborted concert tours. And fair or unfair, to this day, I can't watch any Mel Gibson movie.) I happen to think Ms. Streep was brave. She is the best of the best and she spoke her mind with a grace and passion that I believe is sorely lacking today. If the artist can't be true to herself, she cannot be true to her audience. She owes her audience her performance on the stage or the screen. She owes the truth of her convictions to herself.

Since the horrors of last Friday and the misery I have found myself surrounded by down here since the election, I have cocooned within the passion and beauty of these magnificent artists. My friend and I discussed the idea of spirals in her work as opposed to circles. I said to her that we tend to think of spirals as a downward trend but what if instead, we were to examine spirals as moving out from something rather than into the depths. Each one of the artistic experiences I had this week has made me believe that we can find joy in the misery and comfort in the tumult. There is hope somewhere in those spirals.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Storm Before the Calm

Today's post is the first in a two-parter. The second half will follow later this week, but I felt the need to explain the genesis of part two in this introductory missive.

Our family has been coming down to the South Florida region for almost as long as I have walked the earth. This area plays prominently in my admittedly sepia-coloured childhood memories. When money was tight and family vacations were done on the cheap, it wasn't unusual for all of my parents to pile all of us kids into my mom's 70-something Ford station wagon and head south on I75. (My sister-in-law, keeper of the family archives, recently sent me several very embarrassing photos from that era. If you really need to see them, contact me offline.) As we grew older and my parents began wintering down here, visits with my kids became the norm, and now The Husband and I are fortunate enough to have our own winter misery-escape hatch in the North Miami area. In many ways, South Florida feels like a second home. Admittedly, there are some things about being here that I will never truly understand and will never fully reconcile, but I have been able to rationalize it as quirky variances in the Canadian/American dynamic. This is in no way America bashing, nor is it in any way a demonstration of our vaunted Canadian pomposity. It is simply a statement that while we live close to one another, we are different.

And...sad to family has not been totally immune to the violence that seems to be more random here than at home. A dear friend of my parents was shot and killed as part of an aborted robbery while he parked his car at a neighbourhood restaurant. He had less than $50.00 cash in his wallet. His murderer was caught while shopping at Walmart with his bounty. A few years back, a Toronto couple, well-known in the Jewish community, was murdered while in their condo just down the street from us. Their killings remain unsolved.

And yet...we keep returning. The snowbird flight plan is deeply ingrained. Canadian winters are wretched and as we age, we tolerate them less well. And...we tend to view these incidents merely as random acts of violence.

But last Friday felt different. The killings at the Fort Lauderdale airport hit me right in my sweet spot.  It was oh so close and oh so personal. Every single day, we know people going through Terminal 2 at FLL. This is the terminal that services all of Air Canada's flights. Torontonians, Montrealers, and Ottawans fly in and out many times a day from this place. I have been there hundreds of times, both as a shuttle service and as a passenger. My children have stood in the exact spot where people died. A friend had exited the airport with her thirteen-year-old son a mere hour before the horror. My cousin's parents were in the upper concourse waiting for her aunt as the shots rang out. They are thankfully fine.

We count ourselves, all of us, amongst the fortunate. A different day, a different week, a different time.....

And while I am fully aware that these horrific events nauseatingly occur on a daily basis in the United States, I have never before experienced the kinship I felt Friday. I felt an even more intense loathing and disgust than I ever had before for those milquetoast politicians who offered thoughts and prayers on Twitter while having zero intention of dealing with a gun problem so cancerous and rampant that even those suffering from acute mental illness have access to them. I detected a bilious taste when I listened to loathsome shills for the NRA talk falsely about "good guys with guns." I vented on Facebook about the false stories about the murderer coming from Canada. I ridiculously felt a need to defend my country from the Pandora's box of absurdity that has been unleashed down here. And most of all, I was discomfited by how easily and how quickly people here moved on from the tragedy. The ordinariness of it was profoundly disturbing. There were questions about flights being delayed, luggage lost, traffic around the airport, and how all of it would impact the daily lives of citizens. I've been waiting for news of memorials. It hasn't come yet. I can tell you how to retrieve a lost cell phone, but not the location of a vigil. In short...I felt and still do feel miserably depressed. I am exhausted and I am sad. This place of interlude and respite has become like a dystopian teen novel, and the really really sad part of it all is that I see it getting worse, not better over the coming years.

Since Friday, I have needed to find a way to revive and renew. I have taken refuge in the arts. I have listened to music, watched some very fine films, read a terrific novel, and chatted with some amazing visual artists at a weekend show. There is healing in creativity and I have sought out the oasis.

There are days when it feels as though the world around us has simply imploded. How we cope with those times defines us and illuminates a path forward in a profoundly aberrant environment. It is my belief that we are living in an era that is deviant and extreme. But we can regain the upper hand on the chaos by reveling in the beauty and the imagination of our most creative souls. All of this will be further fleshed out in part two of this post.

Zichronam Livracha...May their memories always be for blessing.