SARStock / Toronto Rocks

There were two memorable events in Toronto during the summer of 2003: one was the massive power blackout covering most of northeast North America and the other was SARStock.

Crowd shot

Held on July 30, 2003 at Downsview Park (previously a former military air base in the north end of the city), the event was a gigantic, marathon rock concert to benefit Toronto’s economy and help it recover from the SARS epidemic. The concert was organized in about a month upon the suggestion of concert headliners The Rolling Stones. The Stones, by the way, love Toronto – they have played in our city many times and, utilizing small clubs like the Phoenix or the Palais Royale, they frequently practice and perform here prior to setting off on their major tours. Toronto has some not-so-fond memories, though, for Keith Richards; this is where he got busted, tried and sentenced for heroin possession way back in early 1977.

This massive concert in Downsview Park went by many names – Toronto Rocks, Stars 4 SARSMolson Canadian Rocks for Toronto, SARSfest, SARS-a-palooza, the SARS concertThe Rolling Stones SARS Benefit Concert – but I affectionately call it SARSstock as it seems the most apropos. The Rolling Stones donated 50 percent of the proceeds (an estimated $1.3 million) from their merchandise sales to two relief funds set up for the event, and $1 per ticket was also donated towards the funds. The net proceeds of official merchandise was also donated towards the relief funds.

Official crowd estimates put the number at 500,000 people attending the concert, but it felt (and looked) like far, far more than that. The unofficial crowd estimate was over a million people so I don’t know who to believe. Regardless, SARStock made the record books as the largest outdoor ticketed event in Canadian history, and one of the largest in North American history.

It was an all-Canadian event: vendors sold Alberta beef in support of the Canadian beef industry, which had recently suffered because of a case of mad cow disease. In gentle, polite, mannerly, well-behaved Canadian style, there were no major security incidents that day, which was amazing given the crowd size.

Co-hosted by Canada’s own Dan Ackroyd and Mike Bullard the band lineup was a mish-mash of Canadian (English & French), American and English talent, mostly retro acts but good retro acts if you know what I mean. The day’s lineup was:

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Sam Roberts
Kathleen EdwardsPlaybill
La Chicane
The Tea Party
Blue Rodeo
Sass Jordan
The Flaming Lips
The Isley Brothers
Justin Timberlake
The Guess Who
Rush
AC/DC
The Rolling Stones

And all of this for only $21.50.

Each band (full concert setlist below) performed for about 15 to 20 minutes but stage/equipment teardown and setup for each act seemed to take forever. There was a lot of people scenery between acts, however, to keep anyone occupied. The Stones and AC/DC sets each took over 90 minutes, so you could certainly tell who the headliners of this gig were.

This was one of the best and most fun days of my life. My memories of that day are:

THE CROWD

In my entire life, I’ve never been in a crowd this large – that in itself was an experience. You can imagine the chaos of over a half-million people sprawled pell-mell on the grass with no organization whatsoever. If you had to leave your group for whatever reason, the only point of reference for your return were the numbered speaker stacks in the audience. If you failed to notice the number on your speaker stack there was little chance you’d ever find your group again. I remember it taking me over an hour just to get to the water and toilets – I missed Justin Timberlake’s set entirely (oh noooooo!) while I was gone, so I failed to witness firsthand the legendary water bottle-throwing incident (more on that, below).

Crowd shot

THE WEATHER

It was one of those rare summer days in Toronto where, instead of haze and humidity, the sky was absolutely clear and deep blue, not a cloud in sight, and it was HOT, very hot!

THE VIBE

Party. Absolute, sheer party. Period.

MY FRIENDS

I spent this day with my good friends Janice, Richard and his son Pete. What a great time we had. I’ll never forget Janice smuggling in her bottle of vodka. The security line we were in at the entrance gates was conducting frisk-searches, so Janice hopped over one line and – as luck would have it – they bypassed her for a frisk search. Happy days.

Here we are as we stepped out of Downsview subway station to make our way to the concert grounds:

our gang arriving at sarstock - july 30, 2003
Some of the Molson crew were taking Polaroid pictures of people arriving from the subway and we happened to get our mugs shot as we made our way to the concert grounds.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

Justin Timberlake was booed by the crowd, who were anticipating the harder-rocking second half of the concert. Throughout his performance he had to dodge water bottles, toilet paper, muffins, and other items thrown by the audience. This was definitely a hard rock/classic rock crowd and Timberlake was the odd man out with his lightweight pop styling. He later returned to duet with Mick Jagger on Miss You; at that time the crowd was scolded by a visibly pissed off Keith Richards for their earlier treatment of Timberlake.

THE GUESS WHO

Guess Who
Randy Bachman, Garry Peterson, Burton Cummings

So awesome to see the original lineup back, if even for a precious few numbers. To me, the Guess Who is synonymous with growing up in the early 70s on the Canadian prairies – their music was everywhere and was entrenched in our culture. My older brother was a big influence in my memories and impressions of the Guess Who; he had a few of their earlier records and played them often around the house (strains of Albert Flasher, No Time and New Mother Nature drift through my mind when I think of those days).

THE FLAMING LIPS

The Flaming Lips invited artists from backstage to dance on stage with them dressed in fuzzy animal costumes. I, for one, was never a Flaming Lips fan… I just don’t get them…

AC/DC

I am not an AC/DC fan by any stretch of the imagination (OK, OK, I owned a copy of Back In Black as a teenager… who didn’t?), but they put on a show like the city has never seen; they absolutely stole the entire concert. AC/DC played a balls-to-the-wall (as they used to say in the ’70s) 70-minute set. Most of the crowd were there expressly to see ACDC & crowdAC/DC and didn’t really care so much about the previous acts. AC/DC were onstage just before the headlining Rolling Stones, but the AC/DC set absolutely blew away the crowd, driving them into a frenzy. I’ll never forget Angus Young dropping his pants and mooning the audience with an enormous Canadian maple leaf emblazoned on his shiny boxer shorts.

When the Stones finally did take the stage it was anticlimactic, almost bordering on disappointing, compared to the live bolts of lightning that was AC/DC. It was truly an odd thing: a huge amount of people began to leave during the Stones set (sorry, I can never get this thing of leaving in the middle of a performance to beat the traffic home – such an annoying Toronto thing).

Here’s a YouTube that shows the intensity of AC/DC as they played for the massive audience that day:

CLOSING OF CONCERT & THE JOURNEY HOME

As you can imagine, it takes quite a while for a crowd of half a million or more people to disperse. People were slowly drifting away halfway through the Stones’ performance but Richard and I stayed until the very bitter end to see the last cannon fired, so to speak. I believe it was somewhere around 1:00AM when we made our way out in the departing wave of humanity (Janice and Pete had left earlier in the evening, long before this mass exodus). It was absolutely impossible to get back on the subway at nearby Downsview station, so we walked all the way across Sheppard Avenue West from Downsview Park to Yonge Street where we somehow were able to get on the Yonge line with tens of thousands of other people heading home.

I’ll never forget that walk Richard and I took across Sheppard Avenue with so many of the other concertgoers who also decided to walk to Yonge Street. It was a crowd tens of thousands strong, and there was such a crazy party vibe in the air – absolute jubilation, with everyone still on a high from the heat and music of the day. When we did finally reach Sheppard station on the Yonge line it was jammed beyond comprehension, so we waited in queue for about another hour until we could stuff ourselves on one of the trains (the TTC had arranged to run all night that night in order to get everybody home). We finally got out of the packed subway at Yonge and Bloor and made our way home across Bloor Street East. All told, it was about 3:00AM when I stumbled through my front door. Luckily Richard and I both had the next day off work, which was a Friday.

SARS-Relief

CONCERT SETLIST

Here then, for posterity’s sake, is the setlist for the entire day. I’ve tried to be as complete as possible but there may be one or two songs missing here and there. I compiled the setlist from my own DVD copy of the concert and several miscellaneous Internet sources, so there could be some inconsistency. For the most part, though, the day’s music ran as follows:

The Have Love Will Travel Revue (Dan Ackroyd, Jim Belushi & supporting band)
Intro With Skybox Ballroom Pump

Sam Roberts
Don’t Walk Away Eileen
Brother Down
Where Have All The Good People Gone?

Kathleen Edwards
One More Song The Radio Won’t Like
Mercury
6 O’clock News

La Chicane
Viens Donc M’voir
Le Yâb De St. Nitouche
Le Fil

The Tea Party
Temptation
Sister Awake
Heaven Coming Down

Blue Rodeo
Trust Yourself
Hasn’t Hit Me Yet
Lost Together

Sass Jordan
High Road Easy
You Don’t Have To Remind Me
Brand New Day
Make You A Believer (with Jeff Healy)

The Flaming Lips
Race For The Prize
Do You Realize?

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
I’m Gonna Dig Myself a Hole

The Isley Brothers
Fight the Power
I Want to Take You Higher
It’s Your Thing
Put Yourself In My Place
Who’s That Lady
Summer Breeze
Shout

Justin Timberlake
Señorita
Cry Me a River

The Have Love Will Travel Revue
Time Won’t Let Me

The Guess Who
Hand Me Down World
No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Takin’ Care of Business (BTO cover)
American Woman
No Time

Rush
Tom Sawyer
Limelight
Dreamline
YYZ
Freewill
Closer to the Heart
Paint It Black
The Spirit Of Radio

AC/DC
Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
Back in Black
Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
Thunderstruck
If You Want Blood (You’ve Got It)
Hells Bells
The Jack
T.N.T.
You Shook Me All Night Long
Whole Lotta Rosie
Let There Be Rock
Encore: Highway to Hell

Rolling Stones
Start Me Up
Brown Sugar
You Got Me Rocking
Tumbling Dice
Don’t Stop
Ruby Tuesday
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
Miss You (with Justin Timberlake)
The Nearness of You (Keith Richards, lead vocals)
Happy (Keith Richards, lead vocals)
Sympathy for the Devil
Rock Me Baby (with Malcolm & Angus Young from AC/DC)
Honky Tonk Women
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
Encore: Jumpin’ Jack Flash

A DVD of the day’s concert was released later in 2003, although it has omitted quite a few of the original tracks. I assume this is to fit the concert on a 2-disc DVD release. That’s a pity, as I’d like to relive the concert as a whole, regardless of how many physical discs are required. The DVD is probably no longer produced and marketed, so it remains a keepsake item for me.

Toronto Rocks DVD cover
SARSTock Concert DVD

There has never been a crowd and concert like this in Toronto, before or since. It was truly a unique experience and I’m so very glad I was a part of it. I’ll never forget that hot, cloudless, wonderful day in Downsview Park.

Boxing Day

For any American or European readers not familiar with some of Canada’s holidays, we celebrate Boxing Day in our country.

Boxing Day is a federal statutory holiday which always falls on the day after Christmas. All banks, government agencies, etc. are closed on this day. Boxing Day originated in the UK and is celebrated in the countries that, at one time, were part ofBoxing2 the British Empire (Canada remains one of the Commonwealth nations of Britain).

It seems no one is absolutely certain about the origins of Boxing Day. The popular theory is that the tradition originated in Britain in the early 19th century. The day after Christmas was set aside for those in service occupations (postmen, errand boys, servants) who would receive a “Christmas Box” for their good service throughout the year. According to Wikipedia, this custom is linked to an even older British tradition: since servants had to wait on their wealthy masters on Christmas Day, the servants were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food. These days, if you don’t see your friends and family on Christmas, then Boxing Day is the time to get together.

In a retail/shopping sense, Boxing Day to Canadians is what Black Friday is to Americans. Boxing day concept background, realistic styleOn Boxing Day (these days expanded to “Boxing Week”), one can find the best deals of the year on almost anything, but the really deep discounts are usually on electronics such as TVs, mobile phones, stereos, etc. Many retailers open very early (5:00AM or earlier) and offer door-crasher deals to draw people to their stores. Long lines form early in the morning of December 26, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales; this especially holds true for the big-box electronic stores (Best Buy et al). Shoppers’ behaviour can become very “un-Canadian” in the stores during the retail madness of Boxing Day, as it can be “kill or be killed” in some retail outlets. Many stores have their most profitable day of the year on Boxing Day.

Personally, I love Boxing Day – it’s another chance to eat Christmas leftovers!

Boxing3

Christmas Windows

I’d been meaning to capture The Bay’s Christmas window displays at night for quite a while now so I took a little spin down to Yonge and Queen last night to see this year’s offerings.

The windows are quite good this year but, sadly, not nearly as extensive as they were prior to the merger of Saks Fifth Avenue in the same building. Prior to Saks, the Christmas windows continued all along Queen Street East and rounded the corner on to Yonge Street. Nevertheless, it was fun to shoot these charming displays:

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Land’s End, U.K.

Land’s End is literally the end of the land in England, the very south-west tip. There is no more land west of here until you hit Newfoundland. The scenery here is quite dramatic, to say the least.

I took these shots on September 28, 2018, during my photo tour of Cornwall in the U.K.

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Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

On PrEP

For much of this year I’d been seeing posters in the subway platforms and cars depicting a healthy-looking, hot guy (or guys) staring dreamily into the camera with captions reading I’m on PrEP, or Ask your doctor about PrEP or some such verbiage involving something called “PrEP”.

I had no idea exactly what PrEP is, other than it obviously being a product strategically aimed at a gay male audience, so a little Googling was in order.

I found out that PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Using the brand name Truvada, it is a drug to prevent the contraction of HIV in people who have not yet been exposed to the virus. Taken daily, it is a medication which reportedly reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 92% (ideally, for total prevention against HIV transmission, PrEP should be accompanied with the use of condoms). So, basically, the miracle of modern medicine has given us protection from something as horrific as HIV/AIDS in pill form – at last.

Please don’t misunderstand the intentions of this post – I am neither for or against PrEP; to be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. On the one hand, I marvel how the advances of modern science can at last give us protection against the dreaded disease that has wreaked such devastation on the world. On the other hand, I’m a little shocked at how the advertising/media world imply that if we take PrEP we should throw all caution to the wind and go at it like mad bunnies.

I confess the whole thing makes me slightly uneasy because I remember the past very well. I can’t help thinking of those early, awful, fearful, devastating years of AIDS my generation witnessed and lived through. We were the next generation of potential AIDS patients after the initial onslaught claimed men from the fallout of late 70s and early 80s sexual hedonism. My age group became very used to seeing the miles of obituaries – in our bi-weekly Toronto gay rag, Xtra! – of the beautiful, young men we’d see in the Village, taken from us far too early in life. We’d wonder who’s next? as we checked ourselves, yet again, for swollen lymph nodes, weight loss or any fresh and mysterious spots on our skin. I remember very well the Act Up! demonstrations and “die-ins” during the Toronto Pride Parades of the 80s and early 90s, the AIDS candlelight vigils and memorials in Cawthra Park (now Barbara Hall Park) just off Church Street, the protest marches and gatherings at Queen’s Park where everyone shouted for more AIDS research funding. Over the years I’ve seen acquaintances and work colleagues succumb to this horrible disease and have felt the fear and loss.

I guess I’m simply old school and still have contagion issues and fears, remembering how history unfolded over the past 30 or so years. I don’t know – I guess time will tell how effective these new meds are. If proven effective over the long term, they truly are a marvel of modern science and will change our lives.

Capote Quotes: In Cold Blood & Music For Chameleons

I’m on a Truman Capote binge lately. I’ve been re-reading a couple of his novels as well as discovering some of the ones new to me. The more of Capote’s work I read, the more I appreciate this man’s incredible writing. He truly was a literary genius but a tortured one in his private life, at least in the last few years of his life.

I’ve just finished re-reading In Cold Blood and am now working on Music For Chameleons. I’ve lifted a few notable Capote quotes from these two brilliant books:

But I’m not a saint yet. I’m an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict. I’m homosexual. I’m a genius.

Music for Chameleons


The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call “out there”.

In Cold Blood


Then starting home, he walked toward the trees, and under them, leaving behind him the big sky, the whisper of wind voices in the wind-bent wheat.

In Cold Blood


It is no shame to have a dirty face- the shame comes when you keep it dirty.

In Cold Blood


Strange where our passions carry us, floggingly pursue us, forcing upon us unwanted dreams, unwelcome destinies.

Music for Chameleons


Just remember: If one bird carried every grain of sand, grain by grain, across the ocean, by the time he got them all on the other side, that would only be the beginning of eternity.

In Cold Blood


Imagination, of course, can open any door – turn the key and let terror walk right in.

In Cold Blood


We all, sometimes, leave each other there under the skies, and we never understand why.

Music for Chameleons


Some cities, like wrapped boxes under Christmas trees, conceal unexpected gifts, secret delights. Some cities will always remain wrapped boxes, containers of riddles never to be solved, nor even to be seen by vacationing visitors, or, for that matter, the most inquisitive, persistent travelers.

Music for Chameleons


It is easy to ignore the rain if you have a raincoat.

In Cold Blood

An Old Safe

I was running some errands downtown last weekend and had to make a stop in 80 Spadina Avenue (above King St.). This building at one point in time was an old Toronto warehouse which has been converted into artist spaces, studios and photo reproduction companies, among other things. I spotted an old-fashioned, decommissioned safe in the building’s hallway and found it interesting; I have a penchant for historic items such as this.

I love the not-too-subtle message about employees caught tampering with the combination…

img_1170img_1171

My “B-List” Songs

I hesitate to call these tracks the “B-list” of my favourite music, as the term is slightly derogatory. These are all special songs to me and remain some of my favourites, but they don’t quite merit a place on my Desert Island Songs list. Like my other lists, this one remains a work in progress.

Here then, is more of my life’s soundtrack:

Moments Of Pleasure – Kate Bush
Only You – Yaz
Boy – Book Of Love
Il Mio Cuore Va – Sarah Brightman
Minuet in G Major – J.S. Bach (comp.)
Suddenly Last Summer – The Motels
I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
Safe And Sound – Capital Cities
Lady Marmalade – Labelle
Nothing But A Heartache – Freemasons (feat. Sylvia Mason-James)
The Sailor Song – Autoheart
Hello In There – Bette Midler
Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers (with Coldplay)
Unfinished Business – Boy George
The Last Song – Elton John
The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
No Promises – Icehouse
Breaking Us In Two – Joe Jackson
Shadow Man – David Bowie
Pavane – Gabriel Fauré (comp.)
It Couldn’t Happen Here – Pet Shop Boys
Man On The Moon – R.E.M.
Crying Out Loud For Love – The Box
Canon In D – J. Pachelbel (comp.)
Life On Mars? – David Bowie
Half-Light (Day Version) – George Fitzgerald feat. Tracey Thorn
Every Bit Of Love – Ken Tobias
Be My Number Two – Joe Jackson
Old Money – Lana Del Rey
Caroline – Concrete Blonde

A Danforth Photowalk

On August 18th of this year I took a photowalk along Danforth Avenue. I started at Broadview Ave. and finished at Greenwood Ave., at which point I crossed the street and returned to Broadview, snapping all the way.

Here’s a few shots from that day:

Entering Greektown
Mopeds In The Window
Alexander The Great Parkette
Alexander The Great Parkette
Abandoned Store Near Greenwood Avenue
Madinah Masjid Islamic Centre
Chalk Artist Outside Carrot Common
Holy Name RC Church
Love Gone To Seed
Patios
Church Of The Holy Name

Ulysses (excerpt)

This small excerpt is the last few lines of Tennyson’s Ulysses. It is significant to me because I included it in the eulogy I delivered at my Dad’s funeral. I feel this segment of the poem is all about looking back over a life of hard work and even though it’s now time to rest, we must keep going and keep seeking as the will remains strong.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“Vicious”

By way of Matt Baume’s fascinating YouTube channel, where he takes a light-hearted look at issues affecting and involving the LGBT community, we recently discovered the British TV comedy series Vicious.

Vicious_(TV_series)

The primary stars of Vicious are Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi. With a core cast like that, how can you lose? There’s not a lot of characters throughout the episodes; the regular cast never goes beyond six members. There are the two central characters Freddie Thornhill (Ian McKellen) and Stuart Bixby (Derek Jacobi), their friend Violet Crosby (brilliantly played by Frances de la Tour) and younger upstairs friend/neighbour Ash Weston (Iwan Rheon). Occasionally we see the mostly-senile but lovable, long-time family friend Penelope (Marcia Warren), and Mason (Philip Voss) as Freddie’s acid-tongued brother who is also gay but disapproves of Freddie and Stuart’s relationship.

Vicious is very British with its sly insult-humour, a genre the English do especially well. The plot centres around the love-hate relationship of gay male couple Freddie and Stuart (played by our two aforementioned knighted actors) who have been together just shy of fifty years. Each episode’s plot also includes their circle of friends – Violet, Ash, Penelope and Mason – each generating their own form of lunacy. The two seasons weave the characters in and out of various hilarious predicaments, ending in The 2 knightsFreddie and Stuart’s wedding (after fifty years of being together) in the final episode of the second season. This wedding episode is not to be missed.

Only two seasons of Vicious plus a Finale were shot and each season has only six or seven episodes, which is very typical of a British television series. The series premiered in April 2013 but was cancelled by ITV in the U.K. in 2016, with the Finale special airing in December of that year. The series was panned by British critics but, nevertheless, did well during its run. PBS in North America carried the show in 2014 but I’m not sure what the success rate was on this side of the Atlantic. The humour in Vicious does not appeal to everyone, and you have to approach the series with an appreciation of camp, gay humour, comedic put-downs, dark humour and a general love/appreciation of British comedy (which is interpreted somewhat differently by our North American sensibilities).

The series was twice nominated for the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, while the finale was nominated for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series.

If you do find the series somewhere online (i.e. streaming services, YouTube, etc.) and begin watching, my advice is to stick with it through the first season. I found the first two episodes of the first season, especially, just plain mean-spirited and cruel, and I felt quite the 2uncomfortable watching them; I just about gave up on the series at that point but I’m so glad I stayed with it. The script, characters and tone does soften, however, and the series becomes much more enjoyable and hilarious with each episode. By the end of Season One I was howling with laughter! I read somewhere that Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi had a hand in rewriting some of the script and making the dialog a little “softer” and the characters more empathic.

The opening and closing theme is an abridged version of The Communards version of Never Can Say Goodbye (which is on my list of Desert Island Songs by the way); this scored big points with me.

You may love Vicious or you may hate it – everyone’s mileage will vary. I’ll leave you with a clip of Season One’s “Best Of”:

Rowley, Alberta

Rowley is a hamlet located in east-central Alberta, north of Drumheller. The official census lists the population of Rowley at 8!

Rowley dates from the early 1910s, when the railway came through. After the trains ceased to run through Rowley it more or less became a ghost town as people began to move away. Sometime in the mid-1970s the remaining locals came up with an idea to lure tourist dollars by promoting Rowley as an old “wild west” ghost town, and for the next 25 years they restored old homes and businesses. Soon visitors were attracted from all parts of Alberta, Canada and the U.S.

The grain elevators in these shots have been completely renovated and restored for tourism and heritage purposes. Part of Rowley’s charm is that while locals have spent thousands of dollars fixing up many of the old community’s homes and buildings to reflect the hamlet’s pioneer days, there are still many others left abandoned.

I took these shots on April 11, 2018.

Grain Elevators
Grain Elevators
"Yesteryear Artifacts Museum" Railway Car
“Yesteryear Artifacts Museum” Railway Car
Rowley Sights
Prairie School & Grain Elevators
Abandoned Buildings
Abandoned Farm Buildings
The Old Barn
The Old Barn
The Old Barn
Wagon
Old Harvesting Equipment
The Old Tractor
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
Signs On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Rowley United Church On Main Street
Rowley United Church On Main Street
The Old Hospital On Main Street
The Old Hospital On Main Street

Rick’s 65th Birthday

The Sunshine Boy Turns 65!!

Yes, it was Rick’s big day, and a number of people got together to throw him a party for the occasion. We had a lot of fun with the “photo booth”, in which people were photographed holding signs of some of Rick’s famous (and infamous) sayings. It was a great party! 🙂

June 9, 2018

Do’s and Don’ts When Encountering Service Dogs

For a while now I’ve had it in mind to create a post talking about the “do’s and don’ts” when we see a service/working dog in our daily travels. I have a personal connection with this topic as my very good friend is visually impaired and has used service dogs for most of her life. A service dog is a lifeline to a blind or disabled person; I can attest to this as I see my friend’s challenges almost every single day as we make our way through busy downtown Toronto.

Despite the best efforts of programs to educate the general public, there are still many people who just simply don’t “get” the issue of service dogs and don’t know how to respond around them. Hopefully I can throw a little light on some of the “do’s and don’ts” for those who are not familiar.

Never Distract A Service Dog

This is probably the most important thing to mention. Even though a service dog may not “look like” it’s doing its job, she is always working. Service dogs typically wear some sort of vest or harness and are easily identifiable as such. To distract a working service dog can have serious or dangerous consequences for the dog and handler team. A service dog needs all her attention to safely guide her handler through traffic and many other obstacles; to be distracted from that job is dangerous or even fatal for the dog/handler team, especially in big city traffic.

Never pet or touch a service dog or make distracting sounds to get their attention – for example, making “kissy” or clicking sounds, calling to them or talking to them. The best practice is to politely ignore the dog.

No Need To “Feel Sorry” For The Dog

Service dogs are dearly loved by their owner/handler. They are well adjusted, socialized and highly trained to be working much of the time. Service dogs are just like other dogs – they get plenty of time off duty to run, play, get treats and just be a “regular dog”. No need to “feel sorry” for a service dog; they are very happy doing their duty. Dogs love a routine and like to work, especially many breeds of bigger dogs.

Be Patient

Be patient when you see a service dog and handler team executing a climb up/down stairs, getting on/off public transit or any similar situation. The dog needs to work out the safest method for herself and the handler to negotiate the challenge. As a team they will usually successfully work it out, but in the rare case a handler needs assistance to navigate a problematic situation they will call out or ask for assistance if it is required.

Never grab a blind person by the arm and pull them across the street, etc. in an attempt to navigate them – this is probably one of the most confusing and frightening things a blind person can experience as it totally disorients them within their surroundings. If you do want to help, politely ask them if they require any assistance with whatever it is they’re navigating and proceed from there. It will be appreciated.

It’s Personal

Although people may mean well, it’s inappropriate to ask a service dog handler: “What happened to you? How did you go blind (or become disabled, etc.)”, or “How do you deal with it?”. Please understand this is personal information and the handler most likely does not wish to discuss this with anyone.

Don’t Discriminate – It’s The Law

The law protects service dogs and their handlers. Service dogs are not pets. They are allowed in all food stores, restaurants, food outlets and other public spaces. This is the law: both the Ontario and federal Human Rights Codes prohibit discrimination based on disability, and rejecting a service animal definitely fits that category.

Rejecting a service dog also violates the Ontario Blind Person’s Rights Act. If there is a rejection of the service dog, the service dog handler can file a human rights complaint with the appropriate tribunal, either Ontario or federal, and can pursue charges under the Blind Person’s Right Act, which fines any offender a maximum of $5,000 if convicted.

I hope this helps. I’ve also included a couple of relevant links below if you’d like to learn more about service dogs, their handlers, and the challenges they face:

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Blind Not Alone

Service dogs save lives

George FitzGerald’s “Half-Light (Day Version)”, feat. Tracey Thorn

A new artist I’ve just started to follow is George FitzGerald. At the moment I don’t know too much about Mr. FitzGerald other than he’s an English Dance/Electronic musician, producer and DJ. Initially he resided in Berlin, Germany to cut his teeth in the electronic music scene there but has since returned to England. Electronic music critics are heralding him as the up and coming one to watch.

Apparently George has been active in the electronic music scene since the early 2010s and has released several EPs and extended mixes during that time. It looks like he’s also been on tour through North America lately and did a Toronto gig in early October this year. George FitzGerald released his first full-length album (Fading Love) in 2015. He also has albums Update and All That Must Be under his belt. His latest album is All That George-FitzGeraldMust Be (Remixes), and this is the one that grabbed my attention.

I stumbled across George’s single Half-Light (Day Version) and was instantly blown away by the texture and dreamy, hypnotic quality of his sound. Leading me to this George FitzGerald track was the fact that vocalist, musician and personal Goddess Tracey Thorn is featured on the vocals. Where Tracey goes I follow willingly – she’s an amazingly talented woman with an incredible, heavenly, haunting voice.  Ah, those lovely soaring notes of Miss Tracey… always a treat:

Half-Light (Day Version), feat. Tracey Thorn

If you’re not familiar with Tracey Thorn, she was one half of the duo Everything But The Girl. Along with her husband Ben Watt they had enormous success as singers, musicians and songwriters in Everything But The Girl, first in Europe then in North tracey-thorn-by-edward-bishop-aug-2012-ref_mg_5212_hiAmerica, from the mid-1980s to 2000. It was their monster hit Missing that finally broke them in the North American mainstream market and propelled them forward over here; great commercial success followed for them after that hit. Since disbanding after an impressive group career Ben and Tracey have each gone on to many successful solo projects. Ben produces other groups in the studio and has a successful career as a musician, singer, songwriter, author, DJ and radio presenter. Tracey has released several excellent solo albums and written an autobiography called Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up & Tried To Be A Pop Star (love that title). In 2015 she published her second book, Naked at the Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing, and her third book, Another Planet: A Teenager In Suburbia is scheduled for release on February 7, 2019, followed by a UK book release tour. Tracey also writes a regular column for the New Statesman, which is a British political and cultural magazine. Tracey took a few years of respite from the music scene in the early 2000s, during which time she and Ben had three children. This is one busy woman!

I hope to do a future post on Tracey Thorn & Ben Watt, aka Everything But The Girl, so stay tuned for that.

Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss and… Falco

In September 2015 we journeyed to Vienna, Austria. That city is simply too amazing to describe in this short space, but I’d like to share a few shots I took when we toured Der Wiener Zentralfriedhof (or, in English, The Vienna Central Cemetery).

It might be somewhat crass to call this part of the cemetery the “famous dead composer” section, but… well, it is:

Beethoven's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Beethoven’s grave
Brahms's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Brahms’s grave
Franz Schubert's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
The grave of Franz Schubert
Johann Strauss's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Johann Strauss’s grave

BUT…

The grave I really wanted to visit was none other than that of the beloved Falco. Yes, Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the final resting place of that famous Austrian pop star Falco, real name Hans Holzel. His grave marker is kind of hard to see in these shots as it’s made of curved, clear glass with etchings:

Falco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the Zentralfriedhof

Thank you for the beautiful music, gentlemen.

Good Songs Covered By Extremely Inappropriate Artists

Culled from my own music collection, Spotify and Rolling Stone “worst of” lists, here is my compilation of songs that have been covered by a completely inappropriate artist or are simply a bad cover of the song.

Some of these covers are funny, some are marginally bearable, some are nauseating and some are so abjectly, abysmally awful they make you lose your will to live.

What were these people thinking??!!


Life On Mars? – Barbra Streisand
Help! – Diana Ross & The Supremes
I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Britney Spears
Might Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) – Julie London
Happy Together – Mel Torme
When A Man Loves A Woman – Michael Bolton
A Hard Day’s Night – Peggy Lee
Respect Yourself – Bruce Willis
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – William Shatner
American Pie – Madonna
Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird – Will To Power
Mrs. Robinson – Guy Lombardo
Funky Town – Pseudo Echo
I Am The Walrus – Jim Carrey
All By Myself – Celine Dion
Sugar, Sugar – Kurt Russell
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? – Tiny Tim
It’s My Life – No Doubt
Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Wayne Newton
Stairway to Heaven – Dolly Parton
Ring of Fire – Olivia Newton John
Piece of My Heart – Faith Hill
Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows & Vanessa Carlton
Everyday People – Peggy Lee
Live and Let Die – Guns N’ Roses
Cat’s In The Cradle – Ugly Kid Joe
More Than This – 10,000 Maniacs

Sadly, this list has a lot of growth potential…

Two Fat Ladies

Score! This past weekend I was thrilled to find a used DVD box set of the entire Two Fat Ladies TV series in mint condition at the always-amazing Sonic Boom on Spadina Avenue. For years Vince and I have looked at all the various online and streaming sources for the Ladies but no one carries the entire series, at least not at a reasonable price, and it remains out of print as far as I can see.

So, what more could possibly be written about the phenomenon that was Two Fat Ladies?

TFL1In case you were living under a rock in the 1990s, Two Fat Ladies were a British cooking duo consisting of Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, who showcased their talents in a massively popular TV show. The TV show was later followed by their cookbooks, videos, autobiographies and other marketing paraphernalia. The TFL show was wildly popular in the U.K. and also really caught on in North America, which was surprising.

Many will probably think we’re weird for loving such an uncool, cheesy, old-fashioned show, but the episodes were glorious! The Ladies were refreshingly non-PC and such a breath of fresh air; TWL - sidecarthey really didn’t care about conventions or what other people thought of them or their cooking methods. Yes, they cooked with lard and butter – lots and lots of it. These two unconventional cooks travelled the British countryside in a sidecar-equipped motorcycle and prepared traditional dishes with an emphasis on strong flavours, fresh ingredients, and more than just a pat of butter. While their high-calorie meal selections were probably not the healthiest thing to eat, they looked utterly delicious and must have tasted fantastic.

Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright took a lot of criticism for their style of unhealthy cooking. Optomen Television in the UK, though, had this to say in the Ladies defense:

The Ladies are cooks not chefs – they reject the pretensions and elaborations of haute cuisine and are aggressively unfashionable, delighting in such ingredients as clotted cream, lard and fatty meats.

The Two Fat Ladies have now both passed on, gone but certainly not forgotten, at least not by me. Jennifer Paterson died of lung cancer on August 10, 1999, one month after diagnosis, and Clarissa Dickson Wright died of pneumonia March 15, 2014.

Thank you Ladies – you were awesome.

“…The Serious Moonlight”

What a night…

Without a doubt, the best live concert I’ve ever attended in my entire life was David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight, here in Toronto on a hot, humid September night waaaaaay back in 1983 at the good old CNE Stadium, (remember that place?). Although I also went to his Glass Spider tour in 1987, it didn’t quite have the electrical spark that Serious Moonlight did. There was just something indescribable about that night, that performer, and the super-charged audience that sent Serious Moonlight over the edge and into Toronto concert history (folklore, even?).

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For some reason or other, the memories of that concert came into my mind the other day and I thought – hey! – what a great post this would make for the blog. I won’t, though, attempt to write a review for the Serious Moonlight concert; rather, I’m going to simply reminisce about it. All these years later I still cannot put into words what that concert meant to me; the intensity of the crowd, concert and performer all fused together to create a magical night.

I went digging in my memorabilia and found the concert program, carefully and lovingly preserved, from that night lo these many years ago. As is my way, I had meticulously scotch-taped my original ticket to the inside front cover of the program for safekeeping. The critical details of the ticket read:

David Bowie – The Serious Moonlight Tour
September 3, 1983, 8:30PM
CNE Stadium
General Admission (floors), $22.50

Wow! – “General Admission” seating! Who could ever forget that mad dash across the playing field to the front of the stage as soon as the gates would swing open. I believe “General Admission” seating has long been abolished in concert-going as, to be honest, it was kind of dangerous (it’s that old fear of being crushed to death in the rush of 10,000 rabid fans all trying to reach the front of the stage at the same time).

There were two Serious Moonlight shows in Toronto that year – Saturday, September 3rd and Sunday, September 4th – and they were both sold out with 60,000 fans in attendance each night. The opening act was Rough Trade, and I remember Carole Pope and Kevan Staples absolutely blowing the crowd away with their performance. I still remember how dynamic they were that night, with Carole Pope strategically grabbing and working her crotch during that key lyrical moment in Highschool Confidential (if you’re Canadian and were even slightly plugged in to music during the late 70s/early 80s, you know exactly what I’m talking about here).

When I went searching on the Internet for a little more info on the Serious Moonlight concert tour in Toronto, I was shocked at how much these two shows have been discussed and documented over the years by other Torontonians. Several bloggers I found in my search have documented extremely in-depth reviews and impressions of those two nights. Apparently the show on the following night (September 4, 1983) had a surprise appearance and performance by Mick Ronson, Bowie’s longstanding collaborator from the early days. By all accounts I’ve read, the crowd went absolutely ballistic when Ronson came onstage and joined the band for some numbers.

Crowd shot

In her autobiography Anti Diva, Rough Trade’s Carole Pope talks about their opening for Bowie at this concert:

When Bowie hit the stage, I stood riveted in the wings… David stood at the lip of the stage singing ‘Modern Love’ shaking one leg like Elvis. The show was an amalgamation of music and theatre. While performing ‘Cracked Actor’, Bowie was seated in a director’s chair, wearing dark glasses; like a new wave Hamlet, he sang a soliloquy to a skull… Bowie grossed $2.3 million from that show.

Bowie with skull

It has been 35 years since that concert so only parts of it remain sticking to my brain cells. I recall, though, certain “snapshots” and short segments of that incredible powerhouse show. I remember, quite vividly, Bowie hovering over the crowd on an elevated cherry picker machine singing Space Oddity, and I remember the Cracked Actor segment (pic above) with Bowie singing to a skull. He also did a great job on Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, and tore the place up when he kicked into Rebel Rebel. It took two encores before the crowd would let him leave the stage for the night.

This is the concert setlist for the Serious Moonlight concert tour. It was the same setlist for both nights of the Toronto shows, as well as for other Canadian dates:

Look Back in Anger
Heroes
What in the World
Golden Years
Fashion
Let’s Dance
Breaking Glass
Life on Mars?
Sorrow
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
China Girl
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Rebel Rebel
White Light/White Heat
Station to Station
Cracked Actor
Ashes to Ashes
Space Oddity
Young Americans
Fame
TVC 15

Encore 1:
Star
Stay
The Jean Genie

Encore 2:
Modern Love

The performers that night were:

David Bowie – lead vocals, guitar, saxophone
Earl Slick – guitar
Carlos Alomar – guitar, backing vocals, music director
Carmine Rojas – bass guitar
Tony Thompson – drums, percussion
Dave Lebolt – keyboards, synthesizers
Steve Elson – saxophones
Stan Harrison – saxophones, woodwinds
Lenny Pickett – saxophones, woodwinds
George Simms – backing vocals
Frank Simms – backing vocals

David Bowie On Serious Moonlight Tour

Here is the original Toronto Star article and concert review by Peter Goddard (who, if memory serves, covered just about every Toronto concert of any importance in the 80s and beyond):

60,000 berserk over Bowie

60,000 go wild for Bowie - Peter Goddard concert review

Sadly, Mr. Bowie left us a couple of years ago, but what a legacy he left behind! It is staggering. Over the course of 40 years, possibly more, he changed music and pop culture as we know it.

I am so grateful I was there in that 60,000-strong audience on that hot, humid night in 1983-Toronto. Years from now, when I’m sitting in my rocking chair swaddled in an electric blanket or some such heat-producing device, I hope I will still retain some of the special memories of that incredible night.

Today Is World AIDS Day

Created in 1988, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st of each year. The Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Colours

I like this shot. There’s something interesting about the colours, shades and textures of the dresses in the picture.

I took this shot at the Cabbagetown Festival this past September.

5DM40207

My Grandparents

This is a special post. Today I’d like to write about the grandparents I never knew: my paternal grandparents, John and Christina Job, who both died before I was born. When they immigrated to Canada, they brought with them a rich heritage.

My grandparents were some of the “Germans from Russia”. Prior to a unified Germany, countless Germans were demoralized by years of religious strife, political chaos and economic hardship. In 1762, they received an enticing offer from the Russian Czarina Catherine the Great, a former German princess. She promised Germans autonomy and farm land in Russia should they choose to emigrate there. Catherine believed these highly skilled farmers and tradesmen would promote progress leading to a more modern Russia. In 1804, Germans colonized the southern Ukraine (the Black Sea Germans).

In the 19th century an enormous increase in population with a resulting price increase of farming land was observed in Russia. This began to drive the Germans from Russia out of their adopted land (a large majority of Germans in Russia were farmers). Impoverishment, taking up land in Siberia or immigration to North America became alternatives for many of them. Many Germans from Russia settled in the American Midwest and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. My paternal grandparents were two of those immigrants.

My grandfather was John Job. John was born on January 18, 1880 in Neudorf, Odessa, Kherson, South Russia (now Ukraine). He married Christina Hohenecker (born November 4, 1885 in Bessarabia, Russia) on October 10, 1906 in Bessarabia, Russia (now Moldova and Ukraine). Along with two other families (consisting of John’s brother Jacob and wife Christina; John’s sister Barbara and husband Henry Kaupp), John and Christina left Russia by ship on October 23, 1911 to seek a better life in Canada. The name of the ship the Jobs’ crossed on was the Abrahart.

Exactly when and where they arrived in North America has been lost to history. At best, all I could find were some conflicting notes about them arriving in New York City on November 25, 1909 on a ship named Hanover, but this can’t be correct as they didn’t arrive in Canada until 1911. At any rate, the Jobs’ arrived in southern Alberta and lived in an old shack at Irvine (a hamlet 22 miles east of Medicine Hat) that winter of 1911. In the spring of 1912 they moved to the Sandy Point area where they built and lived in sod houses for shelter.

Here, my grandfather John worked for farmers in the area the first year and, with the help of other homesteaders, broke forty acres of sod to farm the next year. My grandparents never learned English nor spoke it. In the family home the kids were required to speak Mennonite Low German (Plautdietsch). Growing up, my Dad and his siblings acquired their English from friends, neighbours and school chums.

After many years of farming the land and raising their seven children, John and Christina retired to Medicine Hat, Alberta in 1938. Grandfather John died on April 3, 1946, and Grandmother Christina died on December 8, 1964.

Grandma & Grandpa Job, Medicine Hat, 1938
John & Christina Job, Medicine Hat, Alberta, 1938

I occasionally think of these grandparents I never knew, and particularly of their emigration struggles from Russia to Canada. It must have been an incredible, lengthy, exhausting journey; I can’t even imagine it. These days, when we can fly to the other side of the world in a matter of hours, a long journey by sea is totally alien to us. It must have taken them weeks to cross the oceans from Russia. Sometimes I’ll look at a Google map and trace the route that I can only imagine they took – I believe the ship left from Odessa (then in Russia, now in the Ukraine) on the Black Sea. Their ship most likely then passed through the Turkish Straits, through the Aegean Sea, across the Mediterranean Sea, past Tunisia into the Balearic Sea, through the Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain, then all the way across the North Atlantic Ocean to North America. I’ve probably missed much of the route in my estimation, but we will never know for sure.

When I think of the life my grandparents must have had, I am humbled and remain very respectful. Creating a new life from nothing is an astounding thing. To raise seven children in the “new world”, speak no English, have no money, live in shacks and sod houses, and break the dry land with bare hands for very little profit – what a contrast to my life of a high-rise condo and comfortable living with practically every convenience. I’m not sure what my grandparents would think of our modern living: Twitter, Facebook, flat-screen TVs, modern medicine, computers, jet airplanes, fast cars…. you name it. It is an embarrassment of riches compared to what they had and what they must have lived through.

I will always remain extremely respectful of my grandparents and their struggles to create their new lives in Canada. It is unfortunate that I never met them – without them I wouldn’t be here today, and I have much to thank them for.