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.

A Guide to the Finer Points of Every Gay Man’s Life

I recently found this 90s essay on my hard drive while browsing for inspiration and ideas for new blog posts. I’m not sure where the piece came from and it dates quite badly, but what the heck… here it is anyway.

By a certain age, you should:

Know the three meanings of the word “chicken”.

Know something about Anita Bryant, Pierre Trudeau, Harvey Milk, and Svend Robinson.

Have danced all night and shared a sunrise with someone you never want to see again.

Have had a one night stand you really regret, and haven’t confessed it to your therapist.

Have tried on some women’s clothing and hummed a drag number.

Have tried a designer drug and had a really bad trip.

Have been to fifteen pride days in four different cities.

Know what Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, and Mae West have in common.

Be gracious enough to offer a trick breakfast in the morning.

Know the significance of Stonewall, Bill 167, bathhouse raids and Bill 7.

Know when to hold him, when to walk away, and when to run.

Have stopped giving attitude and being self-absorbed.

Own a piece of original art (not including something given to you by a boyfriend).

Know who Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde and Armistead Maupin are.

Be able to name twelve famous gay people, and fantasize about sleeping with two of them.

Have been to the Gay Games, or the March on Washington, or ten circuit parties.

Have stopped dressing like some sort of clone.

Have tried makeup to cover a skin blemish.

Be able to go out on the town with a skin blemish.

Be able to fix an unplugged drain or be able to afford someone who can.

Have worn pearls or a “pearl necklace”.

Know the difference between a “Prince Albert”, a cock ring and a guichet.

Know the difference between a Warhol, a Haring and a Lichtenstein.

Have spent a night in one of the following places: police station, park, bus station, casino or hotel lobby.

Know a trick which always gets a laugh from a nephew or friend’s kid.

Have become proficient in something other than in your field, excluding card games.

Have participated in a political demonstration and have been roughed up by the police, or lost a shoe.

Have had sex 2,345 times.

And 23 different partners.

Know a short verse or prayer to say in a moment of sadness.

Be able to visit your parents without cutting up the place by pointing out all the tacky things.

Be able to spend a day alone with a parent or sibling and actually enjoy it.

Have stopped pursuing unrequited love.

Have tasted some exotic meat and not commented “it tastes like chicken”.

Have made up a toast that rhymes and used it at various parties.

Have experienced a supernatural phenomenon, not including deja vu or losing a sock in the dryer.

Be able to turn on a man without touching him.

Be able to cook one dish you are proud of.

Have stopped saying you spent the night in a bathhouse because you needed a place to sleep.

Have said things to both a partner and a boss that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.

Know what the words “shrimping,” “spooning” and “rimming” mean.

Have gone home with someone who has a fetish that you sort of enjoyed but are ashamed of.

Be able to catch a mouse and get rid of it.

Have stayed with a friend at a critical moment in life or death.

Have been a good Samaritan without expecting anything in return.

Have been in the newspaper or on the TV or radio.

Have gotten rid of all clothing you owned before you were twenty.

Collect something that you enjoy (other than boyfriends).

Have given up getting drunk and stumbling around, but have four nights in which you can’t remember what happened.

Know what the words “bump,” “buffed” and “bear” mean.

Be able to admit you enjoy being a bottom without giggling.

Have stopped saying you’re versatile when you’re not.

Be comfortable about arriving at events or parties alone.

Have lied about your age to pick up.

Have stopped lying about your age to pick up.

Know everything there is to know about safer sex and have told it to a younger friend.

Have stopped voguing on the dance floor.

Know what the words “trade,” “troll” and “trick” mean.

Have shaved off all your body hair for fun.

Have had crabs.

Have a straight friend whom you spend time with on a regular basis, whose company you actually enjoy.

Have said at least once: “I understand, but I’m just not ready for a relationship”.

Have said at least once: “I can’t understand, why are you not ready for a relationship?”

Have deep regrets that that you don’t play an instrument.

Have no furniture made of pressboard, crates or bricks.

Have been to Provincetown, Saugatuck, or Fire Island.

Have gone to a movie not intending to pick someone up.

Have picked someone up at a movie.

Have traveled in Europe (not with a tour group).

Have had your heart broken.

Have moved from the city where you were born.

And most importantly,

Come out, come out wherever you are.

Prairie Sunrise

This is such a peaceful shot.

I captured this sunrise image while traveling southbound along Highway 2 in Alberta, en route to the Calgary International Airport to catch my plane back to Toronto.

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Farm off Highway 2, somewhere between Red Deer and Calgary, Alberta
November 17, 2012

I had an early flight out from Calgary that morning which meant, naturally, an early departure. Even though it was about 8:00AM when I took this shot, it still felt awfully early to me. The sun rises slightly later in western Canada, and it didn’t help that it was late November; winter was just around the corner.

Highway 2 (a.k.a. Queen Elizabeth II Highway) runs between Calgary and Edmonton and is normally a very busy route. There didn’t seem to be much traffic on the highway that morning, hence the solitary feeling the image projects. The farm in the distance is very typical of a prairie farm, with its silos, barb wire fence, cluster of wind-breaking trees, farmhouse and out-buildings.

The shot was originally taken in colour but was very orange and not all that interesting. In Lightroom I converted it to black and white, which somehow added a whole different mood and feel compared to the original. To me, the image now feels calm, moody and slightly lonely.

Yorkville Mini-Photo Walk

It was a rainy, wet, cold and generally miserable day yesterday. During my usual Saturday errand-running I took a few shots with my phone of the journey home via Yorkville and Avenue Road:

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I was *horrified* to see these in the window of Structube on Avenue Road. Please tell me crappy plastic flowers with cheap pots on flimsy tripod stands are *NOT* making a comeback! I had enough of those in the ’70s, thanks. Sooooooo tacky…
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I saw these just outside the Galerie de Bellefeuille at 87 Avenue Road. Interesting…

… And, I saw these little guys in the window of Galerie de Bellefeuille. Very, very cute.

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I passed the Gardiner Museum near Queen’s Park as the sun was going down…

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Before getting on the subway at the Museum stop I grabbed this image. I really love what the TTC has done with this subway platform. It’s incredibly innovative and brilliant, quite unlike anything one would expect from the TTC…
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Outside Queen’s Park subway station. Not to exploit the homeless here, but I thought this guy’s sign was brilliant. I admire chutzpah in the face of adversity.

Desert Island Songs

What is a desert island song?

A desert island song is a special song. It makes you feel the sheer joy of living. It brings you to tears of joy or heartache with a minute of the start, sending goosebumps to your arms.

A desert island song infuses you with a feeling of power, energy and well-being. It transports you intensely and succinctly back to a time and place in your life that was moving, important or meaningful.

A desert island song makes you feel totally centred and existing in the moment; it gives you an overwhelming feeling that all is well.

Music has always been my refuge – it’s there when there’s nothing else. Through all the difficult times and crap that life can deal out, music has always been my sanctuary and strength.

The following songs are part of my life’s soundtrack. If I were given advance notice I were to be marooned on a desert island, this is the music I would bring with me:

Perfect Day – Lou Reed

The Ghost In You – Psychedelic Furs

Golden Brown – The Stranglers

Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again – The Fortunes

True To Life – Roxy Music

Whistle Down The Wind – Nick Heyward

Reasons For Waiting – Jethro Tull

I Want To Wake Up (Breakdown Mix) – Pet Shop Boys

Don’t Leave Me This Way – Thelma Houston

Lovers In A Dangerous Time – Bruce Cockburn (I’ll accept the Barenaked Ladies version in a pinch)

This Time I Know It’s For Real – Donna Summer

Never Can Say Goodbye – Jimmy Somerville

I Will Go With You (Con Te Partiro) – Donna Summer

Nightswimming – R.E.M.

Sukiyaki – Kyu Sakamoto

Adagio For Strings – Samuel Barber (comp.)

Only You – Virgin

Getting Away With It – Electronic

Under The Milky Way – The Church

Only The Lonely – The Motels

Cry For Help – Rick Astley

When Love Takes Over – David Guetta (feat. Kelly Rowland)

Strong – London Grammar

King’s Cross – Pet Shop Boys

Born This Way – Lady Gaga

Rescue Me – Fontella Bass

Downtown – Petula Clark

Heroes – Icehouse/Iva Davies

Crazy (Midnight Mix) – Icehouse

Iva Davies

Passing through my bedroom the other day (where SomaFM’s Underground 80s channel is frequently playing), I heard Icehouse’s Electric Blue. This caused me – inescapably – to think of Iva Davies.

Iva Davies (born Ivor Arthur Davies) is an Australian singer, songwriter, composer, musician and record producer. Most importantly (in my world at least), Iva is known for his distinctive singing voice… Oh God – that voice, that incredible, beautiful, emotive voice…

If you’re not familiar with Iva Davies, just take a listen to any of the old Icehouse albums and singles. There, you will find that remarkable voice, haunting you. His music career spans more than 40 years, and he’s also made music for TV series and films, most recently composing the soundtrack for the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Some of his most recent, and best, tracks are on the soundtrack album The Berlin Tapes with Icehouse.

Icehouse Videos

Check out some of Icehouse’s videos – once you get past the bad mullets and 80s fashions and focus on the voice, these are great songs:

The Berlin Tapes

If you’ve made it this far, you must listen to Iva’s version of David Bowie’s Heroes on The Berlin Tapes album to fully appreciate this man’s voice. Goosebumps are guaranteed. This is my absolute favourite track of Iva Davies/Icehouse and is on my list of Desert Island Songs.

Gay Wedding Etiquette

This is soooooo early 90s and it dates badly but it’s still kinda amusing:

Gay wedding cake

1) On the day of a gay wedding, it’s bad luck for the two grooms to see each other at the gym.

2) Superstition suggests that for good luck the couple should have: Something bold, something flirty, something trashy, something dirty.

3) It’s customary at gay and lesbian nuptials for the parents to have an open bar during the entire ceremony.

4) Gay wedding tradition dictates that both grooms refrain from eating any of the wedding cake because it’s all carbs and sugar.

5) It’s considered bad luck for either of the grooms to have dated the priest.

6) During the first dance, it’s considered unlucky to use glowsticks, flags, whistles or hand held lasers.

7) For good luck at the union of a drag queen, the bouquet is always thrown in the face of a hated rival.

8) The reception hall must have a disco ball and at least 1 go-go dancer.

9) The wedding singer is not allowed to play/sing “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”, “It’s Raining Men” or “I Will Survive”.

10) The father of the Bottom pays for everything!

Jabberwocky

I’ve always enjoyed Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and have studied it a couple of times during my education. For me, it conjures up images of monsters and an upside-down, inverted world, such as Alice finds when she passes through the looking glass:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!800px-Jabberwocky
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

– Lewis Carroll
from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

Lights At Pearson

Earlier this year I headed to the UK for a photo tour of Cornwall (which was amazing, but that’s another story for another time). I had a lot of time to kill prior to my flight’s departure at Toronto’s Pearson International, so I walked around the terminal a bit. I saw these cool lights which caught my eye due to their dramatic shapes:

Cool Light Fixtures

Cool Light Fixture

New Year’s Eve Party?

So, a couple of years ago, on December 31st, I was heading home along Carlton Street. As I passed St. Peter’s Anglican Church at the corner of Carlton and Bleecker, I read their display board out front, then doubled over with helpless laughter:

New Year's Eve Party?

If you’re going to creatively arrange the letters on a church’s notice board, you might as well go all the way.

It must have been some party that night…

The Road Not Taken

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

Being Boring

One of my absolute favourite songs from the Pet Shop Boys. It’s a wistful look back at times past and the friends and lovers who have passed through our lives. There’s a lot going on in these lyrics; this is pop music at its most brilliant:

 

I came across a cache of old photos
and invitations to teenage parties
“Dress in white” one said with quotations
from someone’s wife, a famous writer
in the nineteen-twenties
When you’re young you find inspiration
in anyone who’s ever gone
and opened up a closing door
She said we were never feeling bored

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end

When I went I left from the station
with a haversack and some trepidation
Someone said if you’re not careful
you’ll have nothing left and nothing to care for
in the nineteen-seventies
But I sat back and looking forward
my shoes were high and I had scored
I’d bolted through a closing door
and I would never find myself feeling bored

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
you could always rely on a friend

Now I sit with different faces
in rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing
some are here and some are missing
in the nineteen-nineties
I never dreamt that I would get to be
the creature that I always meant to be
but I thought in spite of dreams
you’d be sitting somewhere here with me

’cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
and we were never being boring
We dressed up and fought then thought make amends
And we were never holding back or worried that
time would come to an end
We were always hoping that, looking back
you could always rely on a friend

– Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe

Never Forget

Today is Remembrance Day, and I’d like to pay tribute to my uncle George Quartly (my mother’s brother), killed in World War II. I never knew my uncle George as he died many years before I was born, but I had heard a lot about him over the years. I understand he was quite young when he was sent overseas to fight in the war.

George Quartly photo in uniform
George Clifford Quartly

George was in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), R.C.I.C., Company C. He was killed near Monte Cassino, Italy (probably in the valley of the Liri River) on May 23, 1944, during the Battle of Monte Cassino. Uncle George had been carrying a Bangalore Torpedo up to the front line wire entanglement where he was to throw it at the Germans. The Germans opened fire and he lost his life at the age of 21.

George Clifford Quartly gravestone in Cassino War Cemetary
George Quartly is buried in Cassino War Cemetery, Cassino, Italy, Plot 9, A20.

Growing up, I remember being told that my grandmother never got over losing one of her young sons to the war; she mourned George for the rest of her life.

Uncle George was one of the thousands of great heroes who gave their lives so we could be free.

Leaf Blowers

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During my walk today I had to fend off more than one idiot with a leaf blower. I suddenly realized how intensely I LOATHE these bloody things!!!

I fail to see the point of them, quite frankly. Outside of producing excessive noise pollution what is the point of a leaf blower? All it does is relocate a mess from one place to another, polluting the air and environment along the way. The leaves eventually have to be picked up by… someone.

Growing up, I used a really cool device called a rake. With me as operator, it gathered the leafs into a pile and then I used an accompanying invention called a bag to gather up the leaves and remove them entirely from the site… what a concept.

Grrrrrrr……

My Favourite Quotes

These are quotes I enjoy. They originate from songs, movies, TV, and various other pop culture sources. Some quotes are profound, some silly, some hilarious, some fun, and some are near and dear to my heart. Several of these quotes have permanently worked their way into the daily lexicon at our house over the years.

This post is a work in progress and I’ll be adding more quotes here as time goes on.


Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight / Got to kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

– Bruce Cockburn, Lovers In A Dangerous Time


Do it now! Do it Edna, or forever wish you had!!

– Wilbur Turnblad, Hairspray (1988)


Ain’t that a kick in the rubber parts?

– Arnold Beckoff (Harvey Fierstein), Torch Song Trilogy


They say travel broadens the mind / So I went over the falls in a barrel / I found the North Pole / In a field of ice / And in the land of dreams / I found you

– Thomas Dolby, I Live In A Suitcase


Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy…

– Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars, Episode IV – A New Hope


Oh for goodness sake. Look at yourself Mitz.  How many times have I told you? Green is not your color!

– Felicia Jollygoodfellow, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert


Every old sock meets an old shoe

– Kate Bush, Moments Of Pleasure


I never dreamt that I would get to be / the creature that I always meant to be

– Pet Shop Boys, Being Boring


I like that Wookiee

– Maz Kanata, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens


I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It’s my biggest problem because I’ve never been young and beautiful. Oh, I’ve been beautiful, and God knows I’ve been young, but never the twain have met.

– Arnold Beckoff (Harvey Fierstein), Torch Song Trilogy


I need that wedding. I need some beauty and some music and some placecards before I die. It’s like heroin.

– Bernice Brackett (Debbie Reynolds), In & Out


What we need is a few good taters.
What’s taters, precious?
PO-TAY-TOES! Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew…

– Samwise Gamgee & Gollum, Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Oh yes!! Yes Mr. Cobb!! Call me your cheap slut sex poodle!!!!

– Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant) to Roger Cobb (Steve Martin), All Of Me


Wait! Wait for Sugar!!

– Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe), Some Like It Hot


Well… La-di-da, la-di-da, la la

– Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), Annie Hall


…could we have everything louder than everything else?…

– Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Made In Japan


Don’t it always seem to go / That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone

– Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi


 

Let The Ramblings Begin

Thanks for joining me and welcome to my blog. This is my first attempt at a dedicated blog so it will be a learning experience for me.

I’m going to try to discuss things on my mind that I feel worthy of a post, so here goes…!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

arizona asphalt beautiful blue sky