Friday, 31 October 2014


It is now 9:45 PM on Friday, October 31, 2014. I live in an apartment building where there are very few children so - during the 18 years that I have lived here - I have never had a 'Treat or Trickster' come to my door. However - my mind is full of memories of when I was young when Alda and I (accompanied by Mom or Dad) went around the neighborhood wearing costumes and masks, approaching doors, and calling out 'Trick or Treat!' and hoping for yummy items to be placed in the sacks which we carried.

Mom always had a cache of 'Hallowe'en candies' to give to the children who came to our door so - naturally - we expected the same to be given to us at the doors which we approached. I have only a vague memory of Hallowe'en in Ruskin but I believe that we visited a few houses when we lived on River Road across from the Ruskin Public School.

When we moved to Dawes Hill in Coquitlam we found ourselves in a more populous neighborhood and - therefore - a bigger 'haul'. Also - I remember a situation where we children were actually 'two-faced' in the fact we were rather disdainful of the Dolbec family but - because Mme Dolbec always made incredible fudge - we made sure that we stopped there.

The sacks which we carried were pillow cases and we always returned home with a nice haul of sweets and fruit like apples. As that was in a mild, wet climate our costumes, masks and 'gooddies sack' were quite damp by the time that we made it back home.

I do not recall what the  costumes were (that we wore) but it was always something that Mom could put together at home. However, the masks came from one of the '5 and 10 cent' stores in New Westminster and - by the time we returned home - mine was always damp around my lips, smelled strongly of the material that had gone into the manufacture and - sometimes - the coloring in the design had leached and stained our faces. We did not have a shower in the house in those days so that meant a good scrubbing by Mom as each of us leaned over the kitchen sink.

Not all the goodies which we received were candies/sweets but did sometimes include other 'practical' items. This was nearing the end of World War II and some of the neighbors purchased 'tickets' which we could exchange for small toys or candies at the special UNICEF gathering at the arena in town. Of all of the neighbors which we had only one lady bought these 'tickets' which became her donation to our sacks instead of candies or fruit. As an adult I appreciate the need for supporting this charity but - as a child - I (and most of my buddies) felt cheated by finding them in the sack instead of candy, fruit or coins!  

As an adult I do not recall having attended a costume party of any sort - in honor of Hallowe'en - while still a child. I am not sure if I would have enjoyed it anyway!

Of all the costume material around Hallowe'en I remember the masks best. As I said near the beginning of this blog, when I arrived back home my mask smelled of chemicals and whatever had been used in the coloring leached somewhat.

Hallowe'en was fun - except for the masks! Of course - this is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion of anybody else!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Farmer's Market

The day before yesterday I walked down University Avenue to an office supply business in order to purchase a packet of labels. My walk took me past the Toronto General Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children ('Sick Kids') which has a curved driveway with an entrance to the north at Gerrard Street and the exit to the south at the corner of University Avenue and Elm Street. The arc created by that driveway was lined with booths set up by farmers on which they were displaying the produce from their properties.

A few blocks further along University is City Hall and the enormous Nathan Phillip Square the east side of which is yet another Farmers' Market area. The supermarkets near there have their own display of fruit and vegetables but the 'authentic farm displays' seem to be more popular.
New Westminster, B.C. is the hub for those living in neighboring municipalities - including farmers out in the Fraser Valley and south of New West in the municipalities of Langley, Surrey and Delta. Therefore there is a Farmer's Market in New Westminster. The main business street for the city is Columbia and the secondary route down along the north bank of the Fraser River is Front Street. As  one proceeds east along Columbia the street rises and - four blocks later - it is along a bank high above the river. Many many years ago the Framers Market was built along the side of that 'cliff' with public access being down along Front Street.

Much earlier in these blogs I mentioned the eccentric bachelor - Harold Escott - who lived in a shack in the forest and who had permission to pick flowers from Harold Crewdson's flower gardens. These he took to that market every Friday where he earned some pocket money by selling them.

As we did not own an automobile in those days we relied upon the General Store in Maillardville  (and later upon a man who owned a truck which was specially outfitted for the transport of groceries, produce and fresh meat) so we did not patronize the Farmers' Market in New Westminster for our supplies. It wasn't until I was in my teens that I finally got to go to that market.

Since then I have been in others - including the one here in Toronto - but rarely patronize it - the supermarket across the street from here is much handier! Although I am very much attracted to the baked goods and the preserves at these markets which I am too lazy to make myself!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in the month of October. Our American neighbors (being further to the south and - therefore - warmer) celebrate the holiday on the fourth Thursday in November.

At the Metropolitan Community Church here in Toronto we celebrate Thanksgiving (as well as Christmas) with a huge 'potluck' dinner in our cavernous Social Hall. Recently the church board hired a new Assistant Pastor ( the Rev. Kevin Downer - an American and a delightful man). As a newcomer to us - and to Canada - he is prone to making gaffes at which we laugh heartily.

As the Rev Dr Brent Hawkes -  our Senior Pastor - had other commitments it was left to Kevin to be our 'host'. When it came time for speeches he got up on the stage and took over. He tried to give a history of our Canadian Thanksgiving but committed some errors much to the amusement of the rest of us.

In the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star there was an article about the history of our Canadian celebration of Thanksgiving. Whereas our American cousins know that the initial Thanksgiving was celebrated at Plymouth Rock (in Massachusetts?) where the pilgrims were thanking God for a safe passage across the Atlantic Ocean.

The article in the Toronto Star enumerated a number of events in Canadian history that could have given rise to our autumnal celebration. However - it is understood that the initial celebration was arranged by Captain John Frobisher who explored much of the Arctic Ocean including an inlet found along the southern shore of Baffin Island which is now named Frobisher Sound. This is quite a lengthy inlet bounded on both sides by high banks - cliffs? - where it would be easy for a small vessel to become trapped by a sudden deep freeze so Frobisher was grateful for a safe voyage.

Kevin is a delightful man and - as he is a relatively newcomer among us - he does get local (and historical) information wrong. He was not accurate in relating the details of Frobisher's exploration and got the facts mixed up much to the amusement of the rest of us.

I am adding a photo taken in the Social Hall yesterday afternoon. The huge crowd shown is only a part of the throng which came with their offerings of food and there was more than enough to go around.

The Social Hall at MCCT yesterday afternoon (October 13, 2014).  You will note the woman - Jan - seated in the motorized wheelchair to the right of the tables and - if you look into the crowd in the direction of Jan's gaze - I am the second person from that end of the row. This is merely a portion of the crowd as people kept arriving right up until the end of the event and extra tables were set up where ever there was space for one.

Naturally - there was turkey on the menu (with cranberry sauce), mashed potatoes, vegetables and stuffing and gravy. This was followed by a wide assortment of dessert items. While I did not notice any pumpkin pies I am sure that there were some.

I did not linger long after I had consumed my meal but returned home on the transit to be greeted by Toby who is always thankful to see me return.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Water Mains, Parking Driveway and New Windows

Nobody ever said that living in a growing city is a quiet and peaceful place to be!

Out front of here is the busy intersection of Bay Street and Charles Street West. Travel east another block is Yonge Street Toronto's main north/south thoroughfare - and one more block brings you to Church Street and the Gay Village.

I am guessing that all of the major streets have water mains buried beneath them. A number of months ago the water main buried beneath Church Street sprang a leak just south of the Church/Wellesley intersection and early on Sunday morning, Water coursed down the thoroughfare flooding all the businesses on that side of the street which included a few restaurants that are normally very busy during the brunch hours on Saturday and Sunday (including the one which I usually patronize). What a mess!

Church Street south of Wellesley. The flooded restaurants extended from the shorter of the two buildings south of Welesley Street.

City workers came to shut off the flow and to patch up the damage. This spring I noticed equipment had arrived and I assumed that the repairs/replacement would occur before World Pride at the end of June.

Not so! Early this summer I began to see pipes and other equipment left at the curb. Finally - a couple of weeks ago - work began. Only the water main down Church Street was not the only one prepared for repairs - there is a water main below Charles Street too and it is being replaced all the way west to Queens Park (a long block west of here). Naturally this led to short detours and temporary 'bridges' along that route. When it came to bringing the new water main across Bay Street that was done during a night. I like sleeping with the patio sliding doors open so fresh air can come in - but not that night!

The two buildings in this complex. The ramp down to the underground garage is from the north with the exit on St Mary Street (this side). At present the St Mary Street ramp serves as both the entry and the exit.  Also - the windows being changed are in the taller of the two towers.

The intersection of Bay Street at Charles Street West. The new water main came across there.

Beneath these two buildings (this one and the neighboring tower) is a three level underground garage to which the ramp is being replaced. The entry ramp is off of Charles Street at the other end of this building. Jackhammers were  used to break up the original concrete and the noise was deafening. Toby loves to go out onto the balcony but he flatly refused to go there while the racket was continuing! I don't blame him - and I am grateful for the double glass doors which helped me to keep most of the racket outside.

The building in which I am living is 20 stories high and it is a long one with thirteen apartments on each floor. The second building - which sits slightly southeast of this one - is more than 30 stories high with no more than five or six units per floor.

While both of these buildings were erected by the same contractor they are owned by separate consortiums (rumor has it that the units in the other building are being converted to condominiums one unit at a time - there are only five or six on each floor). Commencing a number of months ago the management of the other building decided to replace all of the windows. In order to do so a modern 'forklift' is being used and there are two rather unpleasant characteristics to this piece of equipment.

It is parked just across the walkway from my apartment so - when the ignition is turned on in the morning - I am awakened by the roar and before I need to arise. Also, the machine is run on diesel fuel so there is a stench in the air.

The joys of living in a 'nice and quiet' area of the city! 

Saturday, 4 October 2014


As I have mentioned before, a friend has two tickets for every production of the Canadian Opera Company and also - as a season ticket holder - he has the privilege of exchanging tickets whenever another commitment interferes with his attending a specific performance. Last evening was the opening night for Verdi's "Falstaff" and - as Ian has another commitment on the his usual opera night - our seats were not the usual ones.

Ian's regular seats are in the front row of the second tier. I have been accompanying him to the opera for a number of years now and he has had to change the seats on other occasions. Usually the seats that were offered to him were on the right hand side of that tier - a little further from the stage  but not at all awkward. The seats last evening were awkward - at least for me they were!

The balcony tiers extend on each side right up to the stage curtain and that was where these seats were located. Nor did we sit side-by-side but he in front and my seat initially was behind a light pole. I could see past that pole and had a view of all of the stage but not in a direct line. If there was any action to the extreme right I would have to lean to my left to see around the pole which - from my perspective - meant that I would have to lean over some of the other patrons who were seated on the main floor and below me. That was well outside my comfort level. However - as the curtain was rising - Ian reappeared to say that the person whose seat was in front of his (on the other side of the light pole)  was a 'no show' so I would be able to occupy that seat. I was greatly relieved!

The first ten or so seats out from the curtain were singles so - instead of sitting beside Ian I was seated in front of him. In front of me was a young married couple (the husband first and then the wife) and I could tell by her outfit that they were Muslims. As the vast majority of the patrons seen at the opera are Caucasian, Black or Oriental this surprised me. Did they enjoy the madcap performance? They most certainly did - as did we and all the other patrons seated near us.

black is a member of the Canadian Opera Company so he has permission to take his guests into the Members Lounge before the performance and during the intermissions. A few times in the past I have encountered people whom I knew in that lounge - a former neighbor, other people whom I know about the city - as well as the hematologist that I had to see regularly over a number of months. That man has a delightful sense of humor and his wife is a delight as well. Since it is the Opera I always wear my suit and tie but black always wears leather pants, a leather vest with a black t-shirt underneath and knee high black riding boots. To say that he receives startled looks from other patrons is an understatement!

Both of us are conversationalists so we enjoy each others company - especially while we are enjoying our dinner in a Jewish 'deli' which is located in the neighboring hotel.

Always I have been an inveterate 'people watcher' so I notice many of the other patrons. Occasionally  I see somebody I know but - usually - everybody else is a complete stranger to me.

For any uninitiated readers,  "Falstaff" is a 'take off' on Shakespeare's "Merry Wives of Windsor"  and it is a hoot! Many people who are alive today consider the 21st Century as a time of 'loose morals' but society today cannot hold a candle to Shakespeare's time with wife swapping (husband swapping too!) and all sorts of other 'immoral shenanigans' occurring. One laugh followed upon the heels of another!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Food For Thought

I make a trip down to the laundry facilities (in this building) every two weeks. The laundromat consists of two rooms - the first one inside the hall door has washers only while the second one contains the dryers as well as four or five more washers. For a couple of years there was a tall bookcase just inside the door leading to the dryers. The bookcase was available to anybody and contained books which neighbors had read and wanted to pass on.

I have 'borrowed' some of those books and - as I live in a 'bachelor' unit - I  do not have space for a large bookcase so I return any that I have borrowed to those shelves and add to them some books which I have purchased and do not believe would be of any interest to my sister.

A year or two ago the laundry facility was updated and the bookcase was removed (much to my regret!)

However, when I went down there to tend to my laundry a couple of weeks ago I saw a pile of books sitting on the 'folding table' in the middle of the room. Books are like magnets to me and I cannot ignore them so I scanned the titles. All but one of them were of little interest to me but that one - near the bottom of the pile - intrigued me so I brought it up here and have read it.  

It is a small book titled "In Search of the Seven Colors" and it was written by Anil Giga (an author whom I had never heard of before). The story begins here in Toronto, Ontario and quickly moves to the area of the Indian subcontinent not far from Mount Everest. Once there the narrator sets out to locate a friend who was traveling in that region.

Travel in that part of the world is not easy - no super highways and (seemingly) not all that reliable railway service - so it took the author a while before he reached his friend. In the meantime he interacted with other people along the way and his understanding of the culture and the thinking was expanded. Also - on that trek - were a couple of other people who were followers of the local faith systems and they shared them with Giga.

The meaning of the book title is that the 'hero' will find seven items along the way that match each of the seven colors of the rainbow. - and each color has a specific significance. They are:-

                                                        Green - Meditation
                                                        Red    - Relinquish Pride
                                                        Orange - Non-judgment
                                                        Yellow - Generosity
                                                        Blue - Express Your Higher Self
                                                        Violet - Life is a Lesson
                                                        Indigo - Discover Your Plan

I have been a Christian ever since some Mennonite people taught Sunday School in the Community Hall in Ruskin, B.C. Since then I have studied Theology, interacted with folk of many religions and denominations, have been the pastor of a few congregations and I have prayed and pondered. One conclusion that I have arrived at is that I am suspicious of those who claim that they have discovered 'the one true religion' and that all the other paths are wrong and misleading. This is especially true of some of the minor sects and - so it seems to me - to the followers of Islam. How can one group - be it small or large - claim that they have found the 'Real Truth' and that everybody else is wrong?

No - it is extremely unlikely that I will convert to the Jehovah Witness faith, Christian Science nor Scientology (three of the groups who claim that they are the exclusive discovers of the 'true faith'). I agree more with those who say, "There are many paths to God and Christianity is but one of them".

I am glad that I stumbled upon this book (maybe it would be truer to say that it was placed where I would discover it?). It has given me much to ponder and - if you should stumble upon this same book - pick it up, read it, and ponder as well!

What am I going to do with my copy? My oldest sister lives in the small Cariboo town of 100 Mile House, B.C. She is an avid reader but has to travel many miles to towns with bookstores so I send on to her most of the books that I pick up here in Toronto. After reading them she - in turn - sends them on to daughters and grandchildren who love to read as well.



Wednesday, 13 August 2014


At the Memoir Writing Group this past Monday, one of the cards pulled from the coffee can was the title of this blog. After writing for up to 20 minutes or so, each of us read what she/he had written to the rest of the group. When I read my submission one of the members suggested that I should post it to my blog site - so here goes!

There is one facet of life which does bug me. Some  people seem to think that they (being of a certain race or religion or whatever) have a claim upon perceived entitlements. Whoa there!

My maternal grandmother was the oldest daughter of a man who claimed to be Irish -  his surname was DeLacey/Hollis - but that sounds French to me. A while back I read an article about the reign of King Henry II of England who tried to conquer Ireland but had to settle for placing some of his knights in various parts of the country. I understand that my ancestor gained a fiefdom (probably along the West Coast somewhere) at that time.

My great-grandmother was a concert pianist who traveled around Europe giving recitals and Grandma got to travel with her some of the time. The family was wealthy - possibly of the 'landed gentry' - so Grandma grew up in the 'lap of luxury'.

However, she was very headstrong and - as she was beautiful - she did not lack for beaux. Somewhere she met a soldier who was a Cockney, married him and (when his regiment was posted to Hong Kong) she went there too. While there she became pregnant with Mom and - shortly after that - her husband was killed during a cricket match (he was hit on the head by a bat!).

Grandma had no other option but to return to London where she went to her parent's home only to have the door slammed in her face! She had met her sister-in-law before leaving London so she went there looking for assistance. The sister-in-law was a Cockney (probably Granddad was as well!) and her address ended with 'Bow E3' which indicates that neighborhood.

The nearby hospital was St Batholomew ('St. Bart's') and that was where Mom was born. As Grandma was a beautiful young woman who had to support herself and her infant, she became a dancer in a chorus line.

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the man whom I knew as my 'Granddad' Ernie Brown joined the Canadian army, his unit was sent to Belgium and - while in a church - they were gassed by the Germans. Being sent back to London to recuperate, he took in a performance of the London hit 'Chou Chin Chow' and was smitten by one of the chorus girls - the woman whom I knew as 'Grandma'.

By the time that the Browns returned to Canada many of Granddad's siblings had migrated west to B.C. and were settled in North Vancouver. Grandma and her infant (Mom) sailed from England to Halifax and then rode the train to Granddad's hometown of Theodore, Saskatchewan from where Granddad took them on to B.C.

Upon arriving there, Granddad went looking for a suitable property to purchase and he settled upon the abandoned homestead which lay at the foot of Iron Mountain in Ruskin.

Thus Grandma went from a life of relative luxury to living in the forest in very rural Ruskin! Mom grew up there and attended the Ruskin Public School. As Mom was an outgoing woman, she made lifelong friends both in North Vancouver (where Granddad had a cousin) and in Ruskin.

Grandma belonged to a community women's group and she attended their meetings. When she returned home Granddad would be sitting in the living room reading. Upon entering Grandma would begin a tirade about something that one of the women may have said or how a certain woman looked and so on. Granddad would continue with his reading until he had had enough and then he would put down the reading material, look at Grandma - and exclaim, "Shut up woman!"

Except for a number of Japanese, Ruskin was largely a Caucasian community. However, this included a number of people who were NOT British and these were the folk whom Grandma took exception to when it came to social interaction.  Granddad - on the other hand - got along well with everybody and was not in the least concerned about a neighbor's ethnicity.

Granddad often regaled we children with stories of growing up in the farming village of Theodore, Saskatchewan. By that time the pogroms in rural  Russia caused many of those people to migrate and - as the Prairies are similar territories to the Russian steppes - many settled there.

Granddad was a very outgoing man so - while he and his buddies did play pranks upon these people  - he came to respect and then to like them.

Dad had traveled across Canada during the Great Depression by riding in boxcars in freight trains. His life experiences before that and the experiences then led him to be open and accepting as well.

Grandma left her family on bad terms but she still clung to the idea of 'privilege' and that led her to be suspicious of all who were not British. Of course insult was added to injury by her only child marrying a 'Damn Frenchman!' - but I did hear Grandma comment to a friend, "Gladys and Dan do have such lovely children!" 

A few blogs back I wrote about the parties held in our home and upon Grandma's request. All of those friends were Brits (some Scots and the rest English).

The head woman in the 'Chou Chin Chow' chorus also married a Canadian serviceman and he brought her to his family home in Victoria, B.C. She and Grandma stayed in touch so Grandma would go over to the Island for a visit and I remember being on one of our vacations at our grandparent's home when - just before we were to leave to catch a bus home - this friend arrived and Alda and I were introduced. That was the only time that I saw her (Daisy).

As I said earlier in this blog - Grandma did not trust anybody who was NOT British!


Friday, 8 August 2014


One day (when I was about five years old) Dad had a medical appointment at a doctor's office in Mission and Mom needed to do some shopping so all of us went. At that time there was a passenger train that came out from Vancouver on the Canadian Pacific Railway line each morning, went up the valley to Mission, and then returned. Also, there was the fledgeling Pacific Stage Lines bus which covered the same route.

Dad and Mom decided that we would take the train into Mission and back and I was so excited! We went to the railway station in Ruskin and waited and waited and waited - but no train! There was no other option but that we take the bus. I was so disappointed that I was sobbing - and I have never had the opportunity to ride on a train in the Fraser Valley - nor did I get to ride on any train until I was in my late teens.

Alda and Leo had met each other, fallen in love, were married and moved to Forest Grove in the Cariboo country. I was an articled student at a chartered accountant's office in New Westminster by that time and was earning a salary so - when my vacation time arrived - I decided to spend part of it with Alda and Leo at Forest Grove.

I had heard that a railway connecting Vancouver and Prince George was being planned by the B.C. Provincial Government and that it had been completed. As the train stopped at Exeter (the railway station for the 100 Mile House area) I decided to take the train and ride in more comfort than a seat on a Greyhound bus! As the entire trip from end to end could be accomplished in one day, the train consisted of an engine, a baggage car and a passenger coach. It left the 'home' station in North Vancouver at 8:00 AM and arrived at  Exeter in mid afternoon (a railway employee came through the car with sandwiches and drinks so there were refreshments).

The line was brand new and - for most of the route - the scenery was spectacular! After passing through the suburban areas of North and West Vancouver the railway hugged the eastern side of Howe Sound (which actually is a fjord) stopping at Britannia Beach and Woodfibre on the way to Squamish which is at the head of the sound. Leaving Squamish the railway climbed up to what is now the resort area around Whistler and on to the Pemberton Valley.

                                                    The Pemberton Valley

Thanks to Michael W. of Vancouver for giving me permission to use two of his photos.

Leaving Pemberton the railway passes along the shore of two mountain lakes - Anderson and Seton. I am not sure if the following photo was taken along the shore of either of them but this will give you an idea of the scenery.

                                    This photo is also through the generosity of Michael W.

Leaving the lakes the railway descends to the bank of the Fraser River and the historic town of Lillooet and then wends its way up onto the interior plateau known locally as 'Cariboo Country'.

I never rode on the railway beyond Exeter - my travels further north were always by driving up the Cariboo Highway (or riding the Greyhound bus through Williams Lake and Quesnel to Prince George).

In Australia I rode on trains to Alice Springs and back - which were memorable rides described in my blogs about living there - from Kalgoorlie to Melbourne (mentioned in my blogs about traveling around that continent) - around the State of Victoria and from Brisbane north to Gladstone and back  while journeying to and from Heron Island.

On a trip to visit me a few years ago, Ric had his itinerary disrupted by sudden changes to flights on American Airlines so had to return to his home via Amtrak. He was so impressed by that experience he has promised me that we will do that same trip together.

I am looking forward to that!  

Sunday, 3 August 2014


For a reason which I cannot understand, always I have disliked thunderstorms! It is not the lightning which bugs me but the crashing BOOMS of the thunder.

Thunderstorms are - of course - natural to nature and (when I was a child) I thought that they were solely a summer phenomena. NO! Sometimes they occur during the other seasons of the year as well.

Growing up on the West Coast of Canada I witnessed - and heard - many. If that happened after I had gone to bed I would hide under the covers making sure that the blanket and sheet covered me completely so I would not see the lightning.

I remember one spring or summer when we experienced an inordinate number of those storms and there were reports of severe damage as well as injuries and deaths. That scared me.

Australia is almost an entirely subtropical continent so the Brisbane area did experience numerous storms. Christmas and New Year are summer festivals down there and I remember one New Year Eve when we were sent home early to enjoy the holiday.

About half a mile from the boardinghouse was the center of the suburb of Strathfield. Although the skies were threatening I felt that I had to buy a certain item so I walked down to the business section in order to make a purchase.  While on my way back home the  heavens opened and there was a tremendous downpour of rain and hail which was accompanied by a big flash of lightning and a deafening crash of thunder. In the newspaper the next day there was an item about that storm and the news that the marquee on the movie house - about a mile ahead of me in the direction that I was walking - had been hit. That was the reason that the crash seemed to be extra loud.

That is the closest that I have ever come to a lightning strike.

In a previous blog I wrote about Dad, Alda, I and a couple of Alda's in-laws being in a row boat out on Canim Lake (near 100 Mile House in the B.C. Cariboo Country) when a thunderstorm blew over.  It also was a loud one and suddenly we could not see where we were heading because of the heavy rain and the waves on the lake being whipped up by the strong wind. We made it safely to shore but I do not want to be out on a body of water during a storm and while in a rowboat ever again! I am just not that adventurous!

Here in Ontario often there are summer thunder showers and - occasionally - accompanied by a tornado. Personally, I have not encountered one of the latter - nor do I want to!

Those of you who enjoy thunderstorms are welcome to do so - just do not bother inviting me to come along!

By the way - I appreciate the interest shown towards my blogs but please wait until I have finished writing and editing before you read them! *GRIN*  

Monday, 21 July 2014

Amerind Peoples

By no means am I an anthropologist nor an expert on ethnicity. I am merely a person who likes people and, therefore, a person who notices others - and I become upset when I witness incidents of bias.

I am the son of a man who was a 'hard worker' and who provided for his family as best as he could. However, there was one point upon which I disagreed with him - he thought that the local band of native people were lazy and shiftless because they continued to live in shacks along the river bank and always looked dirty and squalid.

I loved my Dad but I disagreed with him there. In all fairness, I had the good fortune to live close to First Nations people for a summer or two thereby getting a very different perspective.

When I was young I learned a jingle which went something like this:-

                 "In 1492
                  Christopher Columbus
                  Sailed the ocean blue..... and so on".

As we all know from our history lessons, the Geno-an citizen did sail from Spain across the Atlantic and finally sighted land in what is now known as the Caribbean Islands. There he was greeted by dark-skinned people and - since he knew that the people who lived around the Indian Ocean were dark-skinned - he assumed that the greeters were 'Indians'!

No - they were not. They were people of other nations with no known connection to the people of the Indian subcontinent. While being known as 'Indians' the people native to this continent have many different backgrounds. As we Caucasian people like to generalize we - unfortunately - look upon the first settlers of this continent as a homogeneous grouping. Actually - they most definitely were not!

Yes - at school - there were a few children who were 'Indians' but from the Asiatic sub-continent. Nor should they have been referred to as 'Indians' as some were Sikhs and the others Hindus. Now there are Tamils here as well which is yet another distinct grouping.

Growing up during the 1940s and '50s I saw many motion pictures in which 'Indians' were the bad guys - another error. When our Caucasian ancestors began to populate this land they encountered other people who were living here already. Naturally, there was conflict which became a bonanza for Hollywood - 'White Guys' (looked upon as the 'good people') in conflict with those who lived here before which became fodder for the Saturday afternoon matinees - the Indians ('the 'Bad Guys').

Anyway, I am digressing. I planned to write about the 'First Nation' people whom I have encountered and not digress into a historical rant on a topic about which I am merely an observer.

I remember one Saturday afternoon when I was about 13 or 14 years old. Dad liked to fish and - as we were a relatively impoverished family - he was hoping to provide some food for the table. We walked down to the Colony Farm (the Provincial Agricultural Station which was on the 'flats' below Essondale - the Provincial Mental Hospital). The eastern boundary of the farm is the small Coquitlam River. Along the bank of the stream was a tiny reservation for the Coquitlam First Nation  and we went there to rent a rowboat. That was the only time that I was there and, while I was still relatively young, I was appalled by the sight of the group of squalid huts in which a number of people seemed to be living. I understand that, when our Caucasian ancestors first settled the area, the Coquitlam people lived in shelters created from the wood available in the forest plus the hides of animals which had been slaughtered for food. Not shacks!

Also I remember the matriarch of that local community coming by our - and our neighbor's - homes asking for hand-me-down clothes for her people to wear. We were poor ourselves but Mom always had something to give.

About a half mile upstream from that tiny Indian community is Red Bridge which crosses the Coquitlam River. On the bank of the river below the bridge was a sandbank where we went for a swim on warm summer days. What we did not realize at that time was that the newest building in the  mental hospital complex (which had been erected on the west bank of the river) had its sewer overflow go directly into that little river. Therefore - those of us who were at 'Red Bridge' for a swim - as well as the inhabitants in the tiny Indian settlement - were in peril of contracting diseases! That danger has now been corrected - thank God!

Movies gave us a false image of our First Nation people as well. In the majority of the Hollywood movies the 'Noble Redskin' was usually the 'Bad Guy' with no attention being paid to their side of the story. Of course - the history of 'White' interaction with the Indians usually make the latter the 'Bad Guys' instead of showing them as the encroached upon. The first Caucasian settlers arrived on the East Coast from where they journeyed up the rivers and settled upon land belonging to those who were here first. The 'French/Indian' wars were the first and - when the French and the English settlers were at odds - the natives (Iroquois, Algonquin, Huron and numerous other groupings) were used as fodder for the guns of their enemies.

And - as Europeans settled further west - the 'bad guys' became the Cherokee, the Arapahoe and many other First Nations who objected to their lands and their hunting grounds being encroached upon by the 'Pale Face' settlers. Unfairly have they become the 'bad guys' while our Caucasian ancestors are looked upon as the heroes.

Up until I was in university my contact with Amerind people was mainly restricted to the Coquitlam - as well as the First Nation people who were seen lolling on the streets of Mission - who my elders described as being 'lazy and shiftless' and not being viewed as people who were forced off of their territories and forced to live in a way that was foreign to them. One summer between university years my 'summer job' was at a fish cannery up the B.C. Coast north of Vancouver Island. Most of the  employees at that cannery were First Nation people - mainly (but not exclusively) of the Bella Bella Nation. I wrote about living among them in the blog titled "Namu".

Since then I have met many people who are 'First Nation' and - except for the big bruiser of a drunk on the street - I have found them to be wonderful people. Believe you me - I have shared many a laugh with my First Nation brethren!

Now I look upon them with a great deal of respect and I hope that - when we encounter each other - they look upon me the same way.

Friday, 4 July 2014


I walked over to a florist shop on Church Street the other day looking for some fresh cat grass for Toby. On the sidewalk in front of the florist were three tables which were covered by books for sale. Obviously  the local library branch was culling its stacks!

I glanced at the books displayed and grabbed one that was in the back row. It is "The Last Tsar" (The Life and Death of Nicholas II) by Edvard Radzinsky. As I enjoy reading histories and biographies - and I am intrigued by what happened in Russia during the change of regimes near the end of World War I - I took it for the 'big sum' of $.50!

I understand that a number of biographies have been written about that family but I have never read one. I have read about 100 pages (of this book) so far and find the story to be fascinating (for instance, the chapter that I read last evening covered the involvement of Rasputin - a person who has long intrigued me).

As I put down the book and turned off the bed lamp I got to reminiscing about books and the importance of them in the life of my family.

If you have read my earliest blogs you will recall that we lived in the rural community of Ruskin until I was seven years old. During that time the Public Library in Mission had a bookmobile which was driven to the smaller communities and one of the stops was at the Ruskin General Store. Mom met it at every visit. Mom's love of reading - combined with her natural curiosity - led the librarian to set aside all of the new books so that Mom could read them and then give her 'report' before they were put on the shelves to be borrowed by other people.

Mom loved to read and did so all of her life - even after she lost her sight and had to rely upon 'talking books'. Then I would drive out to where she lived, sit at the kitchen table and read to her the blurbs sent out by the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) describing the 'talking books' which were available to be borrowed.

Dad was less well educated than Mom was but he loved to read too. His favorite genre was novels set in the Old West - and especially the books written by Zane Grey.

When we had learned how to read, Alda and I joined Mom and Dad in that activity.

It is funny how incidents remain in ones mind seemingly forever! World War II ended in August, 1945 and there was a celebration in the arena in New Westminster. Mom and Dad decided to attend so they engaged the services of a local young woman to be in the house while they were away. Alda and I were upstairs in bed and - while I have no idea how Alda was spending her time - I was reading. The book that I was reading then was the last few chapters of "Huckleberry Finn". I find it odd that that little incident is inscribed so indelibly in my memory!  

Since then I have read many books and of most genres. However - I do not enjoy science fiction nor stories of the occult.

At one time I had a fairly extensive library but - when I left Victoria, B.C. in my little Honda Civic wagon - I had no room in the vehicle for my books so I sold them to some of the book dealers there. Here in Toronto I 'grew' another library but - being confined in a little apartment - I had to get rid of them as well. However - I kept the Harry Potter books. Instead of book lined shelves I now have 
shelves full of movies on DVD.

In the meantime Alda married and raised a family, Her  husband died in 2005 and she lives in an apartment in 100 Mile House, B.C. While she does get to go down to Kamloops where there is a branch of a national bookstore chain, she does not have access to many books. However - I live across the street from the 'flagship' store of that chain. I go over there to browse and to pick up some reading material. As soon as I have finished reading it I go to the sub-post office in the same building and send the book on to Alda.

Movies are great - but give me the book upon which the storyline in the film is based and I will read it!

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

World Pride

As more and more countries/societies come to accept - and to acknowledge - sexual minorities, Gay Pride Festivals are cropping up in more and more communities (at least they are in Europe and North America). Now there are international celebrations in various cities. This year - 2014 - Toronto, Canada was chosen to be the host of World Pride and our local media carried/printed reports about the preparations.

The first official event each year is the raising of the Rainbow flag at City Hall. Usually there is a gathering of a few hundred people up by the flag pole which is on a raised level above the plaza  known as Nathan Phillip Square. Because of it being World Pride the ceremony was moved down to the square and thousands of people showed up to watch the ceremony (the crowd was so big that huge TV screens were mounted so that everybody present could watch and listen to the ceremony) It began with some of the Port Credit Indian Band ('First Nation') doing celebratory dances on a platform which was placed on top of the reflecting pool which lies near Queen Street on the south side of the plaza. So that all could watch, those of us away from the pool looked up at the huge TV monitors. Thanks to a summer spent in a First Nation community - on the B.C. coast and described in the blog titled 'Namu' - I am always moved while watching our First Nations peoples involved in their dances.    

During the following two weeks until Gay Pride Day I noticed more and more 'strangers' on Church Street in the 'Gay Village' celebrating with the rest of us. As Canada is one of the first nations to have legalized same gender marriages - while many other jurisdictions have not - couples who wished to be married to their partners registered and the mass wedding ceremony was carried out at Casa Loma (a castle like structure - which was erected during the 19th century - on the hillside northwest of the downtown area) on Thursday evening.

By Friday evening motor vehicle traffic along Church Street was blocked off and that route became a seven or eight block stroll. Some booths were already erected with the balance being raised on Saturday. Not only were these booths erected along Church but along all of the side streets - between  Church and Yonge Street (Toronto's main north/south thoroughfare) - as well.

The 'Gay Village' ends at Carlton Street. There are businesses on Carlton with a fair sized parking lot behind those near the northeast corner of Church and Carlton. In that parking lot a stage was erected and that is where the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto had the Sunday morning service which was well attended. I am posting a photo of myself - which was taken by a Jamaican friend - at that spot.


After the service there was a scramble for some brunch (at which a 'stranger' approached me while speaking my name - he had lived in Vancouver for a short while in the 1980s and attended the Sunday service at MCC Vancouver where I was the Pastor).  Indeed it is a 'small world'!

Now for the Parade!

Again I walked with PFLAG (Parents/Friends of Lesbians and Gays) covering the shirt which you see in the above photo with another which is dark purple in color and has the PFLAG/Toronto logo on the front).

The Parade was HUGE and took a few hours to pass by. The PFLAG unit was towards the back. The walk must have been about two miles (from Bloor Street East at Jarvis Street down to the Dundas Square which is across the street from the Eaton Center). There were thousands and thousands of spectators along the route. One of the women who walked with us had purchased bags and bags of candies - all wrapped in paper like toffees are - and I had some in my hands to pass out to some of the many many people who were watching us. Many of the folk watching us pass by gave the candies to children who were standing nearby but there were some greedy folk in the crowd who aggressively held out their hands over the heads of children and did not share but pocketed  the sweets. That always bugs me!  

As usual I was exhausted at the end of the parade but had to retrace nearly all of that distance to reach my home. I did stop at my favorite coffee shop while on my way and had a 'cup of java' as a 'pick-me-up'.

Tired but thrilled by the experience - as I am always!

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Shall We Go Out For Ice Cream?

May 24th is the date on which Queen Victoria celebrated her birthday. For years we Canadians celebrated that monarch's birthday on the 24th and then (about 50 years ago) the Canadian Parliament legislated that the holiday would be celebrated on the Monday closest to that date. This year it will be on Monday, May 19 - two days following this writing.

If you have read my earlier blogs you will know that - in the Lower Mainland of B.C. - an ancient English ritual is celebrated each year with various school districts electing a 'Queen of the May' with a celebration (including dancing on the lawn in parks) on a Friday near to May 24.

I can remember some weekends in May being a complete washout with torrential rains - however, more often than not - the days of celebration were days of warm sunshine.

Today I am thinking of a May Day in the late 1940s - we were living in the 'Picton house' on Pitt River Road and the May Day holiday was hot and sunny.

About half a mile east of where we lived a side road - Matheson -  left the highway and went up the hill to the 'back gate' to Essondale (the Provincial Mental Hospital). Just past where Matheson left the highway was an abandoned cafe. Some enterprising people received ownership of that building, refurbished it - and opened a delightful luncheon place which they named 'Top Hat'.

The menu in that cafe was a simple one but it included various ice cream dishes including milk shakes. I remember one particularly warm 24th of May when Mom, Dad. Alda, Babs and I walked from our house to there just for some ice cream. My choice from the menu? A chocolate milkshake.

Yes - I do have warm memories of the May Day celebrations in Blue Mountain Park but an even warmer memory of  our family walk to there followed by the wonderful chocolate milkshake!

Did all of us have a milkshake? No - not Mom - she enjoyed a dish of vanilla ice cream!

For all of those who live in the British Commonwealth of Nations - have a wonderful day while creating great memories for the years to come!    

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Family Visits

I understand that - when Dad left the East - his family had no idea where he went nor what happened to him. He traveled west looking for work and even 'rode the rails' which became a common practice during the Great Depression. Dad did give us an outline of that period in his life - but not the details. We know that he found himself in Matsqui (across the Fraser River from the town of Mission) and worked in the harvesting of peas for a farmer in that area.

Also we know that he lived for a while with a trapper who had a shack on the bank of the Fraser River at Mission (that was when Dad learned how to make pancakes, donuts and bread - years later it was always Dad who made pancakes when they were on the menu for Sunday breakfast - on other Sunday mornings Mom prepared the usual eggs, bacon and toast).

Dad was quite a raconteur but could be sparse with the details at times. Eventually Mom persuaded him to provide her with the addresses of his family and it was she who informed them as to Dad's whereabouts and his well-being. Thanks to that connection we were visited by two cousins who had enlisted and who then passed through B.C. while on their way to military service in and across the Pacific.

The first to drop by was Gerrard (Gerry) Brule who was the oldest son of Dad's half-sister, Berenice and her husband  Edgar. He was in the Army Signal Corps and was being sent to Australia to serve with the Australian army.

After Gerry left we had a second visitor - Raymond Cadieux - who was the oldest son of Dad's half-brother Georges Cadieux. I do not recall which branch of the military Raymond belonged to nor where he was going.

Years later - after we had moved to the 'Finnegan house' Raymond reappeared and he was accompanied by Violette. Dad knew that Violette was NOT his wife so he expressed to Raymond his discomfort at having someone living in our home who was not legally married to his companion. Raymond's response was that Dad couldn't talk as - since he and Mom had been married by a United Church of Canada minister instead of a priest - he wasn't "legally married" either! Naturally, this conversation was conducted out of earshot of we kids so I do not know what Dad said next - but Raymond and Violette did stay with us - and in the room that was behind the kitchen stove.

One thing that Raymond and Violette had in common with Mom and Dad was a love of card games so  many an evening (as well as weekend afternoons) were spent in playing those games.

If you have read the blog that precedes this one, you are aware of the neighbors - the Ricord family. They also loved card games so they would come over and join in.

In that family there were two boys who were entering their teenage years and who were becoming very aware of the attractiveness of females.

Violette was a large buxom woman who was fond of colorful clothing. She was very well endowed in the area of her bosom and she wore tight fitting dresses with the neckline quite low.  Archie and Donald would come over to watch the games being played and would stand behind Violette's chair so they could 'see down in the valley' - especially when Violette had to reach for another card from the deck which was in the middle of the table. 

While I was in Ottawa I was able to visit with the Brule family a number of times. By then Gerrard (Gerry) was married and living in the Toronto area suburb of Pickering with his wife and two daughters. When Mom visited me in Ottawa in the summer of 1975 we visited that family.

In the meantime Raymond and Violette moved to a house in the community of Ladner which is situated on the south bank of the Fraser River and near where it flows into the Strait of Georgia. Violette had cancer and passed away. It was only after that sad event that I saw Raymond again - when I became the Pastor of MCCVancouver he heard of that somehow and began attending our Sunday evening service.

After I moved to Victoria I never saw - nor heard of - him again.   

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Party Time!

One of the titles drawn from the coffee can at the 'Memoir Writing Group' yesterday afternoon was 'A Party' which gave me ideas for this blog.

I have never liked parties very much although - when invited - I usually attend.

In 1951 or '52 Dad was able to rent - and then purchase - the Finnegan House which was at the corner of Kaptey Avenue and  Finnegan Street back up on Dawes Hill.

At that time our maternal grandparents were still living in the house near the Ruskin Dam which Granddad had built after his previous home had been destroyed by a fire. When Granddad passed away a bungalow a block away from our house - at the corner of Montgomery and Kaptey Avenues - came on the market and Grandma used the equity from the former house in order to purchase it.

Our new house was a lot more commodious than any of the houses in which we had lived. There were 8 rooms (living, dining and kitchen - as well as  the 'spare room' which was off of the kitchen - and four bedrooms on the upper floor). A few years after we moved into there Dad decided upon some renovations. The 'spare bedroom' on the main floor was awkward - actually, it was right behind the stove so, if there was a fire, there would be little chance for any occupants to escape from it. In consultation with a contractor it was decided to close the wall behind the stove and then to remove the west wall of that room which made what was a small living room into a larger 'L-shaped' room. The TV was placed in front of the refurbished east wall and then to move the piano from the southeast corner to where it backed onto the stairwell which led up to the bedrooms.

In the meantime Grandma made new friends - mainly from the Women's Auxiliary at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch in New Westminster. Soon she asked Mom and Dad if she could host a party for her Legion buddies in the increased space of our reconfigured living room.

These new friends were widows of World War I veterans. Most of these women were British - Grandma did not like to associate with any people who were NOT British! - and two of them were originally from Scotland. How these 'Old Girls' loved to party!

We had a telephone but the next door neighbors did not so members of that family were often over at our house so they could make telephone calls (or we would run next door for one of them to answer an incoming call). They were a musical family so they fit right in with our family and Grandma's guests.

I was in my late teens by this time and Alda was already dating 'Happy' Crandell so the three of us were there as well.  'Happy' was his nickname and it suited his personality very well. At the party he was wearing a shirt that glittered in the lamplight - also, he was wearing a pair of 'leopard' briefs under his slacks which one of these old gals spotted - and then the chase was on.

More than one of the older ladies wanted to wear the shirt and to have a good look at those briefs so he ran with them chasing him (he was afraid of what could happen if one of these 'Old Girls' actually caught him!). It was hilarious. The only neighbors who would have been disturbed by the raucous laughter were the Ricords and most of them were already with us.

I know that there were other social gatherings which were held at our house but this party - and one or two others which followed - are the only ones which I remember.

I don't believe that I have a photograph of that living room but - if I find one - I will scan it and place it here.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Out Late

I attended a small film showing on this past Friday (it was a 'mini Film Festival') and the title which I have given this blog was the title of one of the films which was screened. 'Out Late' refers to older LGBT people who did not 'come out' until later in life.

As two gay men - friends of mine - are one of the featured couples, they invited me to attend. They knew that the screening would be followed by a 'Question and Answer' period with the questions coming from the audience. As they were not sure as to the reception the film - and its content - would have, they wanted some folk present who had seen the film previously and were supportive. I have seen the film about their relationship a few times already but another showing proved interesting - and 'No!' there were not any negative comments.

As I was present already I sat and watched a second film in which an acquaintance from Jamaica is featured quite prominently.

I have heard of the vicious homophobic reactions laid upon LGBT people in the Caribbean nations and this film - 'An Abominable Crime' - overtly shows this (the same type of reaction is being encountered in African nations like Uganda and Nigeria). In the United States of America and in Canada we are very aware of negative feelings expressed by fellow citizens who do not understand who and why we exist. Fortunately, the laws in Canada and the US do not tolerate negative - and dangerous - reaction so - while we may encounter incidents of homophobia - we do not seem to be in the same danger as that expressed towards  LGBT people in the Caribbean and in Africa. However, the film has made me more aware of potential danger and - therefore - the need to be more alert.

Yes, I have met 'homophobes' here but we have not witnessed the atrocities committed in the Caribbean and in Africa. The question that I have been silently asking myself is "Why not?". The film gave me the answer.

While I am aware of TV evangelists and their hateful dogma I have never felt threatened by it. In Jamaica and in Africa the threat is very real!

This pains me no end.

I refuse to watch these TV evangelists and - if I encounter one while walking down the street - I am prepared to answer their slurs and their misinformation.

The narrator in the film "An Abominable Crime" quite clearly states the source of the problem in Jamaica and in the other Caribbean and African countries - it is due to the hateful bile of these preachers from afar.

Today is Sunday and I was in my church this  morning and listened to a sermon that was positive and uplifting - not one that was full of hate.

I believe that this is what the God of us all intends - not the negativity which tries to deny the natural lives of others who live differently because that is who they/we are!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Walking In A Winter Wonderland

I began to work on this blog a few hours ago. However, my fingers slipped on the keys and what I had typed disappeared - even to the draft! So I will try to be more careful this time!

Eastern Canada can be subjected to harsh winter storms and cold weather but this winter of 2013/14 is the coldest and harshest that I have experienced since moving here in 1989 - nor did I experience anything like this while I lived in Prince George, B.C.; Bell Island, Newfoundland; nor Ottawa, Ontario.

Not once but twice we have been beset by an Arctic Vortex - something that I had not encountered before! What is an 'Arctic Vortex'? I have heard two explanations.  The first was that more than one storm system developed and then merged over the north pole and then came south. The first of these systems was the coldest and it was felt as far south as Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. The second - while still cold - was not as harsh as was the first one.

The second explanation was that - instead of moving along the usual route from west to east, the system  (actually, in the end, there were at least three of them) formed in Siberia and then came over the North Pole and down upon us.

It doesn't matter which explanation is the correct one - they were all very cold!  

On Sunday morning a few weeks back  there was an ice storm too. This disrupted the street car service (the ice clung to the overhead wires) so I had to look for an alternative route to get myself to church. I decided upon the ride on the east/west subway to Pape Station and then to take a transit bus down to near Gerrard Street East. However - I forgot one salient point - the bus route traveled down a small valley and the streets leading to the church were all uphill.

I chose the busiest street but still the sidewalks were treacherous. I slipped and fell once and the walk took me at least twenty minutes which is twice as long as it should have taken! The attendance at the service was diminished by the weather conditions but it was still an uplifting experience. After church I returned downtown on the bus that had been put into service to compensate for the lack of streetcars. That vehicle got me to Church Street and brunch without mishap.

Some years ago city council passed an ordinance telling property owners and managers to clear sidewalks of snow and ice. The city owns a large fleet of plows for the roadways and smaller vehicles to clear the sidewalks. However - while the snow is pushed into banks along the side of the walkway, the same thing is not true for the ice underneath. It is still cold outside and - when I go for my daily walks - there are areas where I have to be very careful - there is ice there.

The picture postcard of snow scenes always show pristine white piles of the stuff. In the city the reality is that there is a mixture of salt and sand that is spread in an attempt to clear ice which makes the snowbanks look like piles of granulated brown sugar! 

I have no photos of the view outside during this month of January but I will post a few from other years. It looks pretty - but it is C-O-L-D!!!!

St Mary Street on the south side of this building looking west to Victoria University/College

                                           The courtyard on the south side of this building.

                    The statue of King Edward VII on horseback in the middle of Queens Park 

Michael in Vancouver - look what you are missing, my friend!

One of the romantic poets wrote the following, "When winter comes - can spring be far behind?" Some comic responded with this short phrase, "You bet it can!'


Sunday, 9 February 2014


I love the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Cats' which I watched again the other evening - and, especially, the singing by Geraldine Page of "Memory". This particular piece of music always resonates with me.

When "Cats" first began a 'run' at the Queen Elizabeth Theater in Vancouver, some of the songs - and especially "Memory" - were on the hit parade. One evening my flatmate and I visited a friend and, while we were there, another friend of our host appeared. This man could play the piano and sing and the song that I remember him playing was "Memory".

As the end of the run of "Cats" approached a special performance was scheduled for a Sunday evening which was a fund raiser for the AIDS Committee of Vancouver. As my  roommate was HIV positive, he was given tickets for that performance.

It was great watching the production and recognizing the various characters as they appeared on stage. I do not recall who played the role of Ghrizzabella(?) - the elderly cat who sings "Memory" in the show - but she was great.

At the end of the performance many of us went to a dance bar some blocks from the theater for the 'After Hours Party' where we had the fun of discovering which actor/actress played which part. Only one of the cast members was easy to identify - the older (and large) black man who was 'Old Deuteronomy' in the play - he was the only black in the cast!

The pitiable job that I had at that time was as a door-to-door salesman. The day after the performance - Monday - I was sent to South Surrey. At one of the doors I met the housewife and could not help but notice the cats which were around the place. I mentioned to the lady that I had seen the production of "Cats" the previous evening and the lady responded by saying that she and her family had gone into Vancouver to see a performance a week or so before I had.

Instead of me trying to promote whatever product it was that I was supposed to be selling - all we talked about was "Cats" - both the stage performance as well as the four legged variety that she and I both had as pets!


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Meet Me At Timmie's!

I have posted blogs about restaurants, fast food in Food Courts and the like. However, I have not written about coffee shops in particular which have become my favorite place to head to when I get the mid-afternoon "munchies". Here in Toronto and - I believe - in most if not all North American cities - are coffee shops catering to the need for a beverage and a quick snack and in Toronto there are chains of coffee shops. The most commonly encountered are Tim Horton's.

In the 1940s and '50s Tim Horton was a star player with the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team and - when he retired from playing hockey - he opened a Tim Horton's Coffee and Doughnut Shop. It was so successful that he opened others  here in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario. Now the franchise can be found in every Canadian province and in many of the US border states.

A few years ago more than one person thought up the idea of driving across Canada stopping for refreshment only at a Tim Horton's and that became the idea for TV advertisements sponsored by the chain.

The complex in which I am living faces onto Bay Street. About 2/3 of a block north of here is a large Tim Horton's and - three blocks south - can be found another (albeit smaller) franchise. Both are open 24 hours a day and are almost always busy.

What do I order when I visit? A coffee and a doughnut and - sometimes - either a sandwich or a bagel with cream cheese filling. I take these items to a table from where I will have a view of most of the eatery and people watch.

A few days ago  a good sized group of Oriental girls came in, were lucky to find a fairly large table which was not occupied, gathered there and - as more and more friends arrived - began moving empty chairs to the chosen table. There are no items on the menu that can be classified as 'Oriental food' so they each ordered what many of the rest of us were consuming, sat and began chattering with each other - as all young people can chatter - while consuming their chosen items.

Occasionally I will get the 'late night munchies' and walk up there for a snack and - even at that late hour - I am not alone. What do I order? Usually either the plain bagel with cream cheese or the 'turkey/bacon/club' sandwich, a medium coffee and a 'chocolate dipped' donut. Up until a year or so ago egg salad sandwiches were also on the menu but they - along with chicken salad - were dropped. I suspect that it was due to more danger from food poisoning from those ingredients than from the usual fare like turkey/bacon/club, grilled cheese and the like.

The Tim Horton outlet down the street is very near the Provincial Government offices so the lineups at the serving counters during the lunch hour are daunting.

The chain with a similar name are the 'Timothy's World Coffees' shops. They are franchised and the owners of one franchise are friends of mine so I walk over to there on many an afternoon. Along with a wide range of different types of coffee, there is tea, cakes, cookies, squares and - yes - even sandwiches to order (I like the egg salad and the feta cheese ones).

While at Tim Horton's the other customers usually are strangers to me while - at Timothy's World Coffees - often I know other patrons so visit while enjoying the coffee and whatever munchies I have chosen for that day. Of late fresh made soups have been added to the menu at Timothy's and I love two of them - Cream of Potato soup with bacon bits and Split Pea soup with ham.

Yes - those coffee outings are rather hard on a tight budget but the upside is that I am not becoming a hermit but am socializing with others.

Friday, 10 January 2014

What's In A Name?

Always I have been fascinated by names of people and their ethnic backgrounds, Living in Canada one is surrounded by people who are - practically - from everywhere. My ancestors - and the ancestors of  most of my friends - are Caucasian. However - I am happy to say - there are more and more friends and acquaintances from every background imaginable.

My first name is Ernest which was the name of my maternal grandfather while my middle name - Charles - was the given name of my paternal grandfather. Alda's first name - Laura - is the same as her maternal great grandmother while her middle name (Alda) is that of her paternal grandmother. Always she has been known as Alda and - as that name is unusual - she has met very few women who have the same name.

The third of we siblings is Babs. Her given names are Gladys Jean - the first name is the same as our mother's and - like Mom - she was born during the Christmas season. I have no idea what induced Dad to name her 'Jean' as well as there are/were no other 'Jeans' in our family. 

The fourth to come along was our late brother Daniel George who was named after Dad (Daniel) and after Dad's half-brother (George). Always Dad was known as 'Dan' while our kid brother was 'Danny' which enabled us to be clear as to whom we were speaking to and/or about.

Our family name has always intrigued me - what is/was the derivation?

During my teen years  I took piano lessons from a Miss Lacasse who - as far as we could tell - was not a close relative to our branch of the family. However, she had conducted some research and told me that three brothers had immigrated to Canada from France during the early days of settlement. Two of the brothers died while the third one sired a family. All of us in Canada with the 'Lacasse' (or de la Casse) surname are descendants from that one man.

Who he was and where he lived (Quebec or New Brunswick?) are unknown.

The family which Alda married into is sur-named Poirier. As the French word for 'pear' (the fruit) is 'poire' I assumed that the name referred to the fruit. After moving to Toronto I met a man whose surname was also 'Poirier'. He had undertaken some research and discovered the answer.

Many many centuries ago a young man had traveled from Great Britain to Normandy where he met and fell in love with a young woman whose father owned land upon which was an orchard including some pear trees. In those days a young man with no dowry would not be allowed to marry into a family who had 'landed' status. The owner of the orchard liked the young man so he thought up a way for him to be an eligible suitor for the daughter - he ceded to him a part of the orchard which contained some of the pear trees. Thus the name 'Poirier'!

I have no idea as to whether this explanation is valid or not but it is certainly romantic!

Neither I - nor my late brother - have direct descendants while both of my sisters do. One of them has a daughter - Teri - who married Paul Denis and gave birth to Nicholas and then Leah and it is the last name to which I wish to refer.

My maternal grandmother's mother was Jewish and - I believe - one of her names was Leah. One member of the family - who belongs to one of the Christian sects - did object to the Jewishness of the name but was overruled. Leah is mentioned in the Old Testament and it is a beautiful story so - as far as most of us are concerned - and as this grandniece is beautiful too - we are proud of her and firmly believe that she was well-named.