RANT

 

 

I remember when the news first broke some time ago that Donald Trump was seeking the Republican nomination.  Like many others, I thought it was a joke…some elaborate hoax dreamt up for popular consumption.  Maybe the Donald was trying to increase his Twitter following since his usual bickering had become stale and Cher stopped biting back, or perhaps he now hoped to launch some twisted new reality show idea (the Apprentice goes to Washington anyone?) But soon realization dawned that he was actually serious, and we watched as his terrible Trump train left the station with all its “deplorable” and “degenerate” followers hanging on tightly, as it bulldozed its way over anything and anyone in its path.  Our attention then turned to the conspiracy theories as a form of explanation.  The one I clung to most was that he’d been a friend of the Clintons once, so perhaps he was now somehow working for them in some devious, underhanded, and convoluted plan to elect our first female president by making a total asinine buffoon out of her only competition.  And what a friendship he and Bill Clinton must have made.  When the “grab her by the pussy” debacle broke, also known as Donald’s version of locker room talk, he noted how he and Bill Clinton had engaged in “worst conversations on the golf course” (please don’t let there be a recording, please don’t let there be a recording…) But then I started following the news stories and the media as they chronicled his rise to political power and “glory”.  I saw the meanness and cruelty and the hatred that seemed to underlie much of the commentary – HIS commentary – and with that look in his eyes, one of scorn mixed with contempt and a lack of awareness of just how damaging one could be, I knew he was serious.  And so I started to worry.  And then, as I watched the polls and saw how close the race seemed to be, I was scared.  And this past Tuesday…well, by then I was pretty much out of my mind.   I guess the stress clearly showed on my face, as I had stopped at a local grocery store on the way home from work and this older gentleman, a total stranger, walked up to me and shook his head, and whispered “it doesn’t look good.  It really doesn’t.  I think they’re actually going to elect that guy President”

So what went wrong?  We can spend weeks and months analyzing it.  We can blame Hillary for being unlikeable or unrelatable.  We can say that Donald stood for outright change, and that people were tired of the same old politics and feeling ignored and forsaken by their leaders.  We can lay fault with a flawed electoral process that sees the person with the popular vote lose, as was the case with Al Gore in the 2000 election.  We can hate on social media, for spreading ignorance and lies like some absolute truths, and a biased, jaded media for only reporting or questioning what they judged important and newsworthy, based on their own bloated self-interests.  We can consider all these things, but what we can’t seem to consider is what this entire experience – this nightmarish ordeal – says about all of us.  Now some would argue that we’ve become so politically correct as a society that many are afraid to express what they want to say, or challenge what they believe needs to be challenged for fear of being wrong or ostracized. And that because of that, the rise of Trump – this man that could say what no one else could say like no one else could say it – is the logical and inevitable outcome of that.   But you know what?  I say FUCK that.  I believe that is absolutely unfair and categorically untrue. Trump is a bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic, hate mongering, law breaking, politically regressive, serially lying, morally corrupted monstrous bully of a man in an ill-fitting toupee who will set, not only his country, but this entire PLANET back decades in his attempt to crush the spirits of anyone who is against him.  In the last few days we have seen what a post-Trump world will look like, and it is uglier than we likely could have ever possibly imagined.  We have seen an increase in acts of hatred, aggression, and outright violence against people of colour, immigrants, and LGBTQ communities, and I fear that’s only getting started.  You see, those that supported him – those that secretly wanted to support him – feel that Trump speaks for them, that he says what they can’t say, and with Trump in the White House, holding the biggest megaphone of all, he now gives people some self-perceived onus or privilege or freedom to act out how ever and towards whoever they see fit.  It’s a Trump World, and in it women are to be played with, abused, and discarded; gay people are immoral and the cause of many of the world problems; people of colour are criminals and misfits who do not belong in the US of A; disabled people are to be made fun of or ignored.  And the list could go on and on and on.  Trump ran and won on what’s been described as the most extreme and regressive platform in the history of the Republican Party, one that was undoubtedly tailored to match his bluster, to go to the most extreme in any conceivable way on every issue. Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and his Mexican border wall are front and center, along with his pro-life, anti-abortion stance (which will make no exceptions for rape or the mother’s health).  The platform will require the Bible to be taught in schools and make religion a central part of legal decision-making.  Trump has promised to appoint family value judges to uphold family centered values, aka anything not white and conservative, and he rejects any need for stronger gun control laws, despite the mass shooting epidemics that face his country.  And this platform makes as its centerpiece the denial of basic civil rights to gays, lesbians and transgender people. It repudiates same-sex marriage, and believes a “natural marriage” is only one that between a man and a woman.  It also defends merchants who would deny service to gay customers and legitimizes their right to discriminate.

Yet with this in mind, we’ve already seen the Donald, who campaigned on promises of everything and anything to get elected, reverse his stance on things like Obamacare and taxing China and jailing Hillary (I think the return of waterboarding still stands though).  His transition team is full of the very sort of Washington insiders and lobbyists he campaigned against, so it appears that  his “draining the swamp” of career politicians must now wait.  We’ve seen Trump name three of his children (Ivanka, Eric, and Junior….um, sorry Tiffany!) to run his global empire AND he has given them prominent roles on his transition team (because clearly there’s no conflict there?)   As for his Cabinet plan, there are rumblings of Ben Carson as a pick for either Secretary of Education or Secretary of Health and Human Services.  Now, Ben Carson is a retired physician who is a creationist and believes evolutionary biology is essentially a fairytale, and that being gay is a choice because people “go to prison straight and come out gay”.  So yeah, THAT guy could lead all education or health/human services initiatives in the country.  Then there’s talk of dear old Sarah Palin as possible Secretary of Interior, overseeing federal lands and the national park services, which means – “drill baby, drill!” – it will now become open season for oil and gas drillings on public lands.  And since Trump has already loudly proclaimed that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by “the Chinese”, what does any of that silly environmental nonsense stuff really matter?  Now as dangerous as all that really sounds, the one to really watch out for is vice president-elect Mike Pence.  He who is “a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican, in that order”.  Pence has been at the forefront of the GOP’s battles against birth control access and abortion rights for years, and cuts that led to the closure of Planned Parenthood and an unprecedented HIV outbreak in rural areas of the state where the family planning provider had been the only HIV testing center. He signed a controversial “religious freedom” bill into law that licensed discrimination against LGBTQ people, which following some significant backlash he later revised.  Most concerning of all, Pence supports conversion therapy, a contoversial “treatment” used with LGBTQ people to “turn them straight” that has incorporated electric shock treatment and chemical castration in the past. Together, he and Trump have been described as the “perfect storm of classic, out of touch, Grand Old Party extremism.”  And what’s most frightening about all of this is that, with his sort of cabinet in place, Trump may truly become the most reasonable person in the room.

But here’s the thing.  We don’t get to admire Trump for his “remarkable rise to power”.  There’s nothing to admire here.  What Trump did was tap into every dark and insidious place he could find to promote white extemism. He turned over every rock to find it’s ugly underbelly.  He fanned the flames of hatred and ignorance and intolerance and from it sprung forth an inferno that consumed the country.  And as much as we can’t admire Trump, we don’t get to blame Hillary. She didn’t lose over some corruption scandal.  She didn’t lose because she’s unlikeable, stiff or cold.  She didn’t lose because she didn’t appeal to the poor or the working class.  She was the ONLY choice. And she lost because she’s a WOMAN, a strong, opinionated, determined woman, and our patriarchal and misogynistic society could not deal with that.  And what we should have known is that these attitudes and belief systems were there all along.  We have grown complacent and soft.  We thought the great U.S. of A a country so progressive it had elected a black man for two terms, so surely there was a place at the head of the table for a woman in power.  We thought we’d achieved so many of our goals with LGBTQ rights, and we believed we were opening our hearts and minds to the plight of immigrants.   And yet there were some pretty big goddamn signs we weren’t quite there yet.  The rampant racial profiling, the abuse of black men by law enforcement, the mass shootings targeting people of colour or LGBTQ communities.  Maybe Donald’s promise of change reached out and touched those people affected by all those things we didn’t see, or didn’t acknowledge, or chose to ignore – the disenfranchised lower class and the working poor.  But in the end, we were fooled by a great con man.  The only change we will see will be a dangerous, ignorant, regressive one.  Trump is most dangerous in that he is an arrogant, selfish, small minded man who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and will be far too proud to ask for clarification.  A Trump government will strip away rights of those most marginalized and oppressed.  It will disregard serious concerns for our already fragile environment, and eliminate any policies and structures we have safeguarding wildlife and ecosystems against climate change.  It gives voice and reason to the irrational, and it will allow ignorance, intolerance, and hatred to thrive and grow virtually unchecked.

So do we just give up and say that evil has triumphed? Do we shout out platitudes like #LoveTrumpsHate or continue to tell our children that bullies never win (because clearly they do), and then call it a day?  Do we check out and check back in four years later?  Will we still be here four years later if we do?  And as a Canadian, why am I even concerned?  Well, as citizens of this planet, as someone who believes strongly in social justice, and with our neighbor the US as a daunting influence with a  looming shadow, we have a LOT to worry about.  So here’s what I’m going to suggest: When you go to social work school like I do, you spend much of your time thinking and talking about oppression, and about privilege, and about one’s social location – where they are positioned in society in terms of one’s gender, race, orientation, class – and how we manage the resulting privileges and oppressions we face day to day. As a white male living in a middle class neighborhood, I have experienced privilege.  As a queer person who grew up in a lower/working class neighborhood, I have experienced oppression.  If you’re wealthy, or have access to higher education and health coverage, you have privilege.  If you’re a woman or a person of colour in our world today, its damn sure you experience oppression.  In her book Becoming an Ally: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression (if you’ve never read it, DO!), Anne Bishop displays very simple wisdom in telling people that in order to fight oppression we must be willing to fight ALL oppression, and recognize that my oppression is not worse than yours, and so on.  It’s good advice, but there is one chilling line I remembered from this book in the days since the Trump win that that’s given me some clarity in the chaos.  Bishop said “we carry with us the blueprint of our culture’s oppressive patterns to be reproduced wherever we have influence”.  We carry it with us, the ugliness and the hatred and the ignorance we have seen.  It is generational, bred within us to the very core of our being, sometimes buried, often hidden, but in times like this given power and influence and life. But we can challenge that terrible birthright.  We can recognize that ALL oppression is bad.  We can stop caring about our rights or the rights that affect us most – women’s rights, gay rights, black lives matter, all of it – and start caring about them ALL.  We can stop thinking that there is some hierarchy to oppression because there isn’t.   OPPRESSION: IT. IS. ALL. BAD.  When we see someone being bullied or harassed, we can help.  We can side with the victim, comfort them, acknowledge that not everyone feels THAT way.  We can make certain they know that some of us are different, and that some of us are better.  We cannot let racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry become more normalized than it already has.  We cannot become more desensitized to violence and sexual exploitation than we already have.  If you witness acts against others, be sure to stay safe but at the same time don’t stand for it.  If you experience acts against yourself, reach out for safety and support, because you will find it. Seek out allies that share  your beliefs.  If someone is ignorant than challenge that ignorance with knowledge and awareness and even understanding.  You don’t know what their experiences have been.  You don’t know what dark paths they may have walked.  But you know what can and are willing to tolerate, and you know what you’re not.  Stop using Facebook and Twitter as you’re ONE source for news and information.  Start challenging our media to be less sensationalized and more inclusive in their coverage.  We have differences.  Acknowledge them.  Educate yourself if you have to.  Educate others when you can.  Be KIND to one another.  Be KIND to yourself. If we do all of that, maybe somehow we can survive what’s yet to come.

I’m up for the challenge. Are you?

Advertisements

Love VS Hate, Hate VS Love

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 1.09.52 PM

Senseless.  Tragic.  Unfathomable.

Those are the words we hear during times such as these, as sombre politicians and law makers parade before the cameras offering their sympathy and support while they ask people to pray for the victims and their families during such unimaginable grief…as if sitting somewhere in silence and praying to no one in particular is our greatest call to action.

We hear these same leaders say things like “this could have happened anywhere….but today it was our city’s turn” as though we’ve come to expect shootings such as these like we might anticipate rainfall for the weekend.  We watch as people come forward, giving exclusive interviews to the media and gaining their desperate fifteen minutes of fame as they claim some expert knowledge of the shooter.  They tell us how unhinged this person seemed for so long, how angry, violent and unpredictable was their nature.  And how they needed serious psychiatric help and no one would listen..and yet this so-called cry for help on their behalf always comes after the true horror of these events unfolds.  Never preemptively, never proactively, and almost always posthumously.

As I reflect on the past few days in Orlando, so many things run through and rattle about in my mind.  First, the staggering realization of such a profound loss of beautiful young lives, cut short in their youth and their prime, as they gathered together as a community, to laugh, to celebrate, and to dance.  To live, and to freely love.  If you’ve ever been to a gay dance club, you’ll understand, at its core, what an unabashedly joyous and fun-loving place it can be.  A place where people are free to let loose and be themselves without fear or recriminations, to let all thoughts and worries and sometimes even reason  get swept away as they lose themselves in a crowd of positive energy, flashing lights, and pumping beats.  Clubs such as these SHOULD be a safe haven for our community, and a celebration of love and acceptance for all who enter it’s doors…but early Sunday morning past it became a literal hell on earth, only our latest example of how terror and hate continue to wreak savagery in our modern world.

As a society, we’ve become desensitized to this degree of violence and mayhem.  For many, we shut it out completely and become almost numb to it, while others acknowledge it briefly before we quickly move on to our daily routines, with our Pinterest finds or the latest Game of Thrones spoiler, or some new fad diet or workout routine.  Or, for some, perhaps we truly become overwhelmed by it and are unsure of just what to do with all of our grief and our upset and our rage.  Most of all, that is where I find myself these days.

I question what I thought I knew.  I once again am left to wonder if we perhaps we haven’t come nearly as far as a society in our acceptance of LGBTQ people as I once thought we did.  With this singular terrible act, I am left with the possibility that I have only been deluding myself, convinced that the world had changed and that my rights and my beliefs, and those of my “family” of brothers and sisters,  were as valid and as important as anyone else’s.   That I was embraced and accepted by society at large, and that I was free to love whomever and however I choose.   And more than anything, I HATE that this self-doubt has come creeping back in, to take up residence in some dark, dusty corner of my mind.  Someplace I thought I’d locked away and banished forever.

So where do we assign blame for this latest tragedy?  Where do we focus our frustrations and our sadness and our anger.  There seem so many places.  I’m angry at today’s pop culture, and how we continue to glorify mayhem and violence in our TV shows and our movies, our music and our video games.  We rest easy at night thinking of the fun and the entertainment value of it all, and convince ourselves that no rational or sane person could truly be motivated or inspired to carry out some heinous act through the influence of Call of Duty or the Walking Dead.  But do we stop to consider how these games and movies and music we become so addicted to absolutely sensationalize and glorify violence,  paint unrealistic portraits of sex and incredible distortions of body image, and promote misogyny, bigotry, and homophobia?  Who truly profits from this?  When we try to justify or rationalize it to ourselves, do we stop and consider those less rational than us?  What about those significantly less rational and dangerously more radical?

I’m sick over the lack of gun control laws and the pervasive influence of the NRA on the political landscape in the US, particularly the power and influence it seems to wield, supporting the very politicians who built their careers around stomping all over the rights and freedoms of the LGBTQ community, women, and minority groups everywhere.   Consider these statistics: In the US there have been over 1200 was mass shootings (defined as incidents where 4 or more people are shot) in the past 3 years.  And in these past two weeks in June there have been 74 deaths and 125 people wounded that are attributed to gun violence.  That’s 199 people in less than two weeks!   Let that sink in for a moment.

I’m saddened for the young members of our LGBTQ community.  What does this absolutely horrific and devastating hate crime say to them?   What happens when what was once considered a safe and welcoming space becomes a literal hunting ground of terror?   And now we are forced to bear witness as the  world media avidly works to downplay the idea of this as a “hate crime” against gay people everywhere and promote it more as some insidious plot stemming from ISIS and other terror regimes, as though our response to one should outweigh the other?  Or is it because the political gain is so much greater when we can invoke the fear of terrorist attacks?  How much does it sting to hear of blood shortages but know that, because of your sexuality, you are unable to donate to your very community that so desperately needs help?  How must it feel to hear these latest reports that the shooter was gay himself, and was perhaps facing some profound and terrible internalized homophobia that led him to his actions that day?  Are we suggesting that being closeted and conflicted can therefore lead to murderous thoughts and rampages….that we as a community somehow ignored and rejected this man, and in turn created our own monster?

So are these the messages we must take away?

No.  They are decidedly NOT. But in order to make sense of the senseless, in order to find meaning in the tragedy, we HAVE to learn something.  We have to find something that makes us better and stronger and more united than before.   Once again, we are forced to look for meaning in the darkness and the chaos.

And so, the message is this:

Stop glorifying the shooter.  Don’t try to understand their motives by giving them some international spotlight they do not deserve.  Remember that often these actions are fuelled by some sick need for attention that’s gone unfulfilled,by their desire to leave some terrible mark on this world and incite others to do the same.

Do not give him – do not give anyone – that sort of power.

Stop trying to process the fact that some unhinged individual with violent tendencies and a history of spousal abuse, someone who was investigated by the FBI TWICE for possible terrorist connections, was still readily able to buy assault rifles and handguns within the span of a day or two and then use them to such terrifying ends.  There IS no logic there.

Remember and honour the victims.  Celebrate their lives and let their spirits live on by holding close the ones we love and reaching out with compassion and tolerance to those that we do not.

Accept the simple fact that gun control laws save lives.    Australia adopted stringent gun control laws in 1996 following decades of violent outbursts and has not had a single mass shooting SINCE.  Not one.  Let that be our statistic.

Stop using religion to promote hate and intolerance.  Let our religious teachings centre on love and acceptance, not some warped interpretation of some loose guidebook allegedly written hundreds or thousands of years ago.  They were meant as a reflection of that time, not ours.

Stop attacking Muslims and immigrants and refugees.  Stop vilifying people who are probably more frightened than you are. Stop equating all Islamic people with terrorist and radicals, and acknowledge and accept the fact that a small faction has  perhaps perverted the Islamic religion to their own sick and twisted ends and means.

Accept that this was undoubtedly a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, carried out by an AMERICAN citizen…a mentally ill and repressed homophobic man, radicalized by a father who appeared more concerned his son would be considered gay than his newfound infamy as a mass murderer.

Don’t let a hateful, knuckle dragging, fear mongering and all around repulsive human being such as Donald Trump actually have a chance to aspire to the “highest office in the land” by allowing him so spew venom and hate and actually use this tragedy for his own personal political gain.  It sickens me to the core that a tragedy affecting LGBTQ people could be a true catalyst to his rise to power.

Be mobilized, demand change, fight oppression and hatred in ALL its’ forms and promote peace, acceptance, and harmony.  Embrace diversity in all is beautiful forms in this world and stop marginalizing others.   Accept differences and worry less about these stupid conflicting opinions.

Realize that ALL life is precious, and that our time here is simply too damn short, and enjoy each day as some kind of blessing.  And know forever that love is love is love is love….

 

 

WRONG

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 6.16.29 PM

Sometimes I can be wrong.

I don’t admit that easily, but it’s true. I can be rash, opinionated, and vocal without truly having all the facts. I will support the good cause, champion those who are persecuted or downtrodden, and fight for action and social justice, and a big part of that is because I’ve seen so much injustice through the years. I want this world we live in to be a better place, and I truly believe it can be. So when news broke about Jian Ghomeshi and his firing from the CBC, I was angry, frustrated, and quick to rush to judgment.

And I was wrong.

Now I can’t say I’ve been an avid follower of Jian like so many others. But as a creative type, I’ve admired his creativity, and how he managed to parlay that into such an incredible career trajectory: from his indie pop beginnings with “Moxy Fruvous”, his sophisticated and hip presence as a host of “Q” on CBC radio, and the debut of his bestselling memoir 1982, there was nothing Jian couldn’t do. Like some shining star in the northern constellation, he seemed like some magnetic unstoppable force, perhaps now poised for international stardom.   When I first learned of the allegations, my mind IMMEDIATELY went to thoughts of racism: a case of that bastion of white, upper class patriarchy known as the CBC attempting to marginalize this man of colour. Then, I thought, here this same elite guard of conservative blowhards ready to dismiss him as a “pervert” and pass judgment on his “unusual bedroom antics”. It’s like the way homophobia “works” in this country. We are ready to describe what we don’t understand as disgusting or perverse or immoral. And then finally, when more people started to come forward with stories about Jian and his wicked ways, I thought, perhaps desperately, that these were people jealous of his success, looking to undermine, discredit, and somehow harm him.

No. I was wrong. And as more and more brave women come forward with their stories, forced to now share to their world some secret hidden shame, I’m angry again, this time for very different reasons. My reality check came first from another Facebook post, a column by author Chad Pelley in the Newfoundland arts and culture paper The Overcast. In it, Chad talked about “the real take away message” from this whole ordeal, and that is that women who are assaulted by men – by powerful men in particular – are now afraid to come forward due to the public persecution and shaming that THEY would most assuredly endure. He noted that while comments about the story were mostly supportive or added to the conversation, over 20% were decidedly NOT, with many of those blaming the women, minimizing the story’s impact, or excusing it by way of the BDSM lifestyle (something I admittedly don’t know much about, but what I do know tells me that bondage and discipline is more about a role play of power inequalities between equals who are players in a game involving consent. Something this clearly was not).

There exists in this country a rape culture, and its pervasiveness seems to grow year after year. We tell our young women “if you dress a certain way, if you act a certain way…you’ll draw unwanted attention”. We lecture them to “never leave your drink unattended at your party…you don’t know what might get slipped into it”. We tell them to lock their doors at night, and walk with a buddy, carry a phone for emergencies…and if they don’t do all that, well, I guess at least they have been warned. But I wonder does it ever occur to us to teach our young men what it means to treat another human being with dignity and respect? I’ve worked for many years with aggressive youth, the vast majority of them young males, and often when they are emotionally dysregulated these same youth will act out verbally. They might threaten me, or scream at me to “fuck off”, but for more female colleague the focus and intensity of their aggression is that much worse, and I’ve literally heard hundreds of variations of how to viciously belittle and degrade a woman: bitch, whore, cunt, slut…and the list, sadly, goes on and on. But little boys weren’t born with this vocabulary. This is learned behaviour. As a society, what are we teaching our little boys? What are we showing and modeling for them everyday that seems to tell them this is some accepted norm?   That this is somehow OK?

Here in Nova Scotia, we need look no further than the case of Rehteah Parsons, a young woman bullied to DEATH, and failed miserably by both our justice and mental health systems. Local police and RCMP decided, after much public pressure, to seriously follow up on her allegations of rape only after her death by suicide after months and months of cyber bullying over her assault claims, and even then chose to prosecute the accused not for rape but for making and distributing child pornography. Recently we have learned of the “always on stalker case”, a story detailed in The Coast by Hilary Beaumont of two women relentlessly harassed by a jilted ex who, among other things such as making harassing phone calls, showing up at places of work unannounced and distributing private nude photos, went as far as to actually place ads as his former girlfriend online seeking a “rape fantasy”, and sending those who responded to her door. When these women sought help, they encountered roadblocks and barriers through the police and mental health, to the degree they have no faith there even is help for women like them today. And finally, there’s the fine example of Saint Mary’s University, where a chant about rape was used (and had been used for years) as a bonding exercise during frosh week. When someone finally pointed out this is wrong, student leaders stood like deer in the media headlights glare, seemingly unaware why there was uproar over the chant and why we might expect someone to be held accountable. And all the while as this unfolded, the country’s media seemed to shake its head and do a collective “tsk tsk” about the “inappropriateness” of it all. You know, boys will be boys and all that. But rape chants aren’t “inappropriate”. Swearing in front of your grandma, talking on a cellphone in a theatre, wearing high heels on a mountain hike, and most guys in Speedos (I don’t care if you THINK you look like Channing Tatum or not – you don’t) are inappropriate. To be clear, distributing pictures of drunk girls being assaulted at parties, placing ads seeking rape fantasies on your ex’s behalf, and rape chants of ANY kind are taking inappropriate to a whole new disturbing level, and therefore requires a swift and appropriately measured response.

There are no winners in this story, only losers. The women who suffered at Ghomeshi hands get to relive their trauma all over again, some privately and others very publicly. Other victims of similar circumstances who felt they couldn’t come forward get to vicariously live through someone else’s pain, and feel those familiar stirrings of their own self-doubt.  A media giant in this country perhaps failed to protect its employees from a known predator in its mix, perhaps afraid to lose their very own “goose that laid golden eggs” as some have speculated, while writers and journalists and music industry types snickered and gossiped about rumours and innuendos for years, and yet did nothing to stop it. And young women in the media…reporters and editors, interns, assistants, and on air personalities – share talk now of their secret code: lists they share with one another, lists of powerful men to be careful around or avoid, to never get to close to or be alone with. And then there’s Ghomeshi himself, an Iranian man, a man of “colour” who for many has served undoubtedly as a symbol of cultural diversity breaking down “white barriers” in this country. It is a sad day that such a symbol is now gone.

So what can we do to make a change, as bystanders in this country, particularly as men? We can call out misogyny and sexism every time we see it…on the streets, in our beer ads, in our music videos. We can stop treating women’s issues as special interest groups in our governments. Women are more then half our country’s population, so by definition they are therefore NOT a special interest group. And with all the time and energy we invest in teaching girls how to be “safe” and “careful”, we appear to spend disproportionately less teaching our boys to be “moral” and “good”, to never violate the rights of others, to never marginalize or oppress. Again, this doesn’t come instinctually. This is learned behaviour, instilled in our young at an early age and reinforced time and time again through the thoughts, beliefs, and actions of our collective society.

Let’s teach the world a simple lesson – right from wrong.

Children need role models. Be THAT role model. Let’s show them a better way, starting today.

RANKLED! Or How to Survive a Broken Ankle

slide6

I WISH I had a better story.
I wish I’d been surfing a killer wave when I was dragged under by some vicious undertow! Or mountain climbing and I tumbled from a ledge for almost fifty feet! Or perhaps tidal boar rafting when the boat suddenly flipped over and I was smashed viciously against some rocks!

Now THAT’S the way to break some bones!

Emegency Room, Take One

Emegency Room, Take One

But no.

We went to watch some fireworks, or what will now forever be known as raining darts of hellfire. (I mean, I don’t even like fireworks, with all their loud noises and sudden popping and their big build up until they fizzle out to nothing – and that was BEFORE the incident.)

Afterwards, we slowly started back home, enjoying the warm summer night. I was walking down a hill, on a poorly lit roadway, took a misstep off the curb, fell down a small embankment, and BOOM – next thing you know I’m laid up (mostly) for six weeks with a twice fractured ankle.

Not in the cold winter, or the rainy spring, or the windy fall. But the summer. During quite possibly the sunniest, hottest, haziest summer we’ve had in years.

Now let the injustice of all THAT sink in.

Living the Dream!

Living the Dream!

Now, when most people hear those magical words escape a doctor’s lips – “looks like you’ll be off work four to six weeks” – you think “PARTY!” and “I’m the luckiest guy in the universe right NOW!” And you start to say stuff like “Work nerds! Have fun while I’m off “working” on my tan!”

But then comes the reality check.  In order for that nasty break to heal, your foot needs to be immobilized, and in order to be immobilized, it has to be  confined in a plaster cast at a 90 degree angle.  And casts, in case you don’t know, are heavy, ugly, stupid, awkward things. And despite being all hard and substantial, I came to learn they can actually break fairly easily, which then leads to multiple trips back to the hospital for multiple re-castings. You know, to that awful place where all the germs and all the sick people live.

As for “making the most of it”, racing on crutches is only fun for maybe the first day or two. Pretty much everyone else is busy working or vacationing or raising babies or dog sitting or just living life large, so you find yourself talking to your cat a lot. And rudely, he rarely ever talks back. You start to read or watch TV a lot, but then you criticize everything you see, and you grumble how you could write or act or sing an opera WAY better, and start to wonder how are you ever going to get those last 30 minutes back. And napping or just generally laying about?  Sounds fun in theory, but seriously overrated. Because then you’re awake at night, cursing the napping while everyone else is sleeping.

Anyway, with all this time to kill, I decided I needed to write more. And the first thing that came to me – the first thing I noticed was lacking – was some some handy dandy list of ways to survive a broken ankle (or broken anything for that matter) while maintaining MOST of your sanity. This may not work for everyone, but over the course of the summer I’ve found it to be pretty helpful guidelines to follow, and for the most part I’ve been able to retain most of my sanity. Note I did say mostly.
So here we go…

1) Seek out medical advice.  Sure, maybe you’re clumsy and walk into walls and glass doors and such, and maybe you’re used to falling down because you’re not looking where you’re going or you’re quite easily distracted (squirrel!)  But let’s face it, when your foot is purple and visibly throbbing and the size of an engorged watermelon, it’s time to call in the big guns.

2) Get a second opinion.  In seeking out medical help, sometimes the first doc you see will make Doogie Howser look like a senior citizen. Still, when he wraps your ankle and wisely tells you to “walk around on it,but don’t BABY it” you think “dude or not, this guy is the DOCTOR, so he must know what he’s talking about!” But when little Doogie’s panicked phone call comes the next day with the news of two fractures in your ankle he somehow missed, and he’s screaming “FOR GOD’S SAKE DON’T WEIGHT BEAR ON IT! YOU COULD CAUSE PERMANENT INJURY!!!”, you realize TV lied, and Lil’ Doogie does NOT know what he’s talking about, and that all doctors should indeed be old and wise, with thick glasses and weird facial hair and wrinkled lab coats with mysterious stains that smell vaguely of mothballs.

 

3) Accept the fact you’re new cast is one ridiculous looking appendage that just kind of hangs there and does nothing but gets in your way. Fact is, you can’t dress it up, you can’t make it prettier, you can’t make it lighter. I will refuse to cooperate, so just stop trying, and instead consider unique ways to take a selfie with it…

10364066_10154303742025136_17359432889734614_n

4) Realize that stairs are now you’re one true enemy.  Obsess over how you will hop on one foot while maneuvering crutches in a futile attempt to conquer them.  Focus on creative ways to crawl, sidestep, back pull or plain ol’ scooch yourself up and down these blasted obstacles from hell, and hope that no one’s shooting the YouTube video of same.

1526150_10153641380865136_1480339448_n

5) Kiss your dignity goodbye!  You will not only seem awkward, but you’ll look plain stupid trying to do the things you are used to doing or those simple tasks you foolishly take for granted everyday.  You will hear the words “pee bottle” and shudder and think NEVER, but before you know it you’ll quickly change your mind. Someday, you will come to think of that pee bottle as your best friend. “Pee bottle? I love you! What did I ever do before you?” Seriously, you’ll want to marry that damn pee bottle. I am speaking the TRUTH.

6) Have a good support system!  Your loved one(s) will have to do things for you that neither one of you will EVER want to speak of again (see #5 re lack of dignity)  Be kind to them, because you’re going to need them someday in ways you never imagined, and probably don’t want to ever consider. Trust me on this one.

995053_10152282316478367_1092139877180382086_n

7) Get a furry sidekick.  He might sleep on the job lots, but he knows your feeling down and will make it his mission to cheer you up! Also, you can reveal to him all the gossip you want, and he will never share it with anyone.

10500343_10154295867265136_7926332660175906314_n

8) People will STARE.  STARE BACK.  I like to stop, put my hands on my hips, and give them a good ol’ fashioned Oscar the Grouch staredown while pretending to sharpen my crutches like spear tips.  You better believe they break eye contact first.  And usually start running.

Oscar-the-Grouch---SCRAM

9) Start to realize how poorly many of our city establishments are equipped for handi-capable people as you venture out into the world, and make a mental note to increase awareness of that in the future (actually, give yourself a mental spanking for not noticing it before).  Marvel at the gaping chasms in sidewalks and street corners. Ponder the narrow stairs you must climb or clunky entrances you must pole vault over. Laugh at the sheer stupidity of people who stand in the way while two five foot wooden sticks and a boatload of plaster are swinging in their direction by someone who has no idea how to wield either…

10) Celebrate graduating to a fracture boot/walking cast, until you realize just how hot and sweaty plastic, foam, and air cushioning can be.  Then, discover you have to learn how to walk again, because “walking cast” or not, that sucker encases your foot at the same ol’ 90 degree angle – there’s no pivoting, no twisting, and just a lot of loud, massive thumping.

10469705_10154303743265136_1708692551120100463_n

11) Mourn the fallen victims of your loud, massive thumping. (Thus far, together we’ve destroyed several glasses, a few books, a lamp, and, most tragically, a pair of Rayban Wayfarers.)

Rayban

12) Start to consider what a kick ass Darth Vader Costume this will all make someday!

photo

And I suppose, most importantly of all, KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOUR about it all and just keep smiling!!

With just a week or so left, I know I can and WILL survive the experience. And soon enough I’ll get to go dancing (badly) again. And hike over some strange undiscovered hillside. And jump joyfully into the ocean for that first summertime swim.

I’ll just be sure to avoid fireworks this time! And most of all, I will always remember to look before I leap!
(Oh, who am I kidding! I’ll just hang on to the boot!)

SISSY THAT WALK!

 

Sissy That Walk!


I love RuPaul.

I  love that I live in a world where a working class  6’5′ tall gay black man in a wig, makeup and a fancy dress can grow up to become a truly iconic pop legend who now arguably stands, at the age of fifty four, at the height of an already long, enduring and impressive career.   Currently storming the Billboard charts with a new album (Born Naked) and single (Sissy that Walk) and ruling the airwaves as creator of  a truly unique “what the hell were they thinking, and yet DAMN it works!” television show called RuPaul’s Drag Race, the original Supermodel of the World appears to be, as always, an unstoppable force of nature.

If you’ve ever watched RuPaul’s Drag Race, now in its sixth glorious season (well, seventh if you count All Stars!) then you’ll know it’s one of the most endearing, funny, smart, creative, and entertaining hours of reality television around.  What you probably don’t know is that RuPaul and his/her show (pick a pronoun….Ru don’t care!) has done much to give the art of drag a new and enduring visibility and open acceptance in our modern culture.   For the uninitiated, Drag Race is a competition show centred around the search for American’s next drag superstar, starring RuPaul as both mentor (as the suited, bespectacled, and very male RuPaul Andre Charles) and host (as the utterly fabulous, beautiful, and beguiling RuPaul).   Fourteen drag queens from across the US compete, using all the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent they can muster (did you catch that?!) to bring their soccer mom, business executive, or party girl “realness to challenges that use their comedic skills, acting chops, designer sense, and runway fierceness.   As they “lip synch for their lives” to avoid extermination….I mean elimination (it’s as exciting as it sounds!), the one who outperforms gets to “shantay” (that means stay) while the other sashays away. (Side note- I swear RuPaul and these catch phrases has practically given me an entire new language!)  What’s striking about some of these colourful exits is that competitors leave, not with hard feelings and recrimination, but on an almost transformative high note, with our esteemed host singling out their strengths and unique talents before sending them off into the world where they might step into their own very special fabulousness.  In other words, no one’s flipping the bird and dropping the F bomb before they go back to being a poor loser in the real world.   (And maybe THAT little fact has something to do with why so many eliminated queens have gone on to foster some pretty fabulous careers of their own, like Willam Belli, Detox, and Shangela to name a few, while past winners like the almost otherworldly Sharon Needles, have carved out iconic careers themselves….while those seeking their fifteen minutes of fame on Survivor and Big Brother are usually both disposable and forgettable.  Like, pass the mind bleach so I CAN forget kind of forgettable!)

Sure, at times things get formulaic, with certain “characters” or archetypes showcased each season….someone inevitably “plays” the ingenue, the villain, the front-runner, or the dark horse.  But regardless, Drag Race pulls the curtain back on the great illusion by showing us the true lives of the real honest to goodness MEN that live behind the glittery makeup and the sequined gowns.  For some, it’s a passion and a calling, for others its a form of creative expression and for others still it’s  simply how they make their living, a job like any other, even if it’s unlike anything we’ll ever know.  What’s often remarkable about the show is that it finds the balance between showing the light and not taking any of this all too serious, and yet uncovering the dark corners and the earthy realness of it all.  While it pokes fun at its subjects, it never makes fun of them, and it always presents the queens in a very real, very human light.  These queens have experienced their fair share of trials and hardship, with many facing hatred, discrimination and non acceptance on an almost daily basis n their “real” lives.   Some are very forthcoming about their stories, while others more guarded….but eventually everyone tends to break down in what’s proven to be some pretty vulnerable and refreshingly unscripted moments.  Well, that and the vodka helps!

For all it’s participants, Drag Race is a study in fearlessness, strength, and resiliency .  It portrays a group of people who are true survivors –  battered but never broken – and we see an evolution for many as they discover things about themselves as yet unknown, and have the chance to form an even stronger and fiercer persona before unleashing it upon an often cruel, ignorant, and now unsuspecting world.

As impressive as it is for a fifty something gay black man to create such an iconic character as RuPaul- an achievement so staggering to me it bears repeating – it’s equally impressive that a show in theory by a man in a wig in a dress ABOUT a bunch of men in wigs and dresses can even find a place on network TV let alone carve out such a large and faithful following.   Someone took a pretty spectacular risk to make this happen, and we can all be thankful they did.   Such role models as these queens – and yes, they’re role models – could not be found when I was younger.  I grew up surrounded by Rocky and Rambo and the A Team, where men were men and guns and fists stood in for mid-life crises, receding hairlines, and erectile dysfunction.   As nostalgic as one might get for Three’s Company and Chrissy, Janet and the gang, the closest touchstone I had to “queer” personalities on television were the comedic stylings and yet so homophobic antics that went on between Jack Tripper and Mr. Roper on Three’s Company.   With that as my mirror on life, I shudder to think how unfabulous I would’ve turned out minus my sister’s Donna Summer and ABBA records!)

I didn’t always understand drag queens, or the desire to dress up (I haven’t always been this enlightened creäture before you, you know).  For one thing, these shoulders would not look pretty in anything spaghetti strapped, I can barely walk a straight line in sneakers let alone heels, and don’t think for a second you can ever tame these eyebrows.  But in all seriousness, I suppose my not understanding came from a place of fear, or perhaps some feelings centred around some  internalized homophobia once upon a time.  But not anymore.  RuPaul and Drag Race helped change that….helped change both my understanding, my perception, and my world view on what drag really means. On what being gay really means.  On what being YOURSELF really means.

In our world today, there are literally millions of school age LGBTQ children.  And among that staggering statistic live an inordinately large number of scared, helpless, hopeless children who spend their day planning – not what they’re going to wear or what team they might try out for or what movie they might like to see – but instead how to survive from being bullied, harassed and shamed for being who they are, or how to hide and suppress what they really feel inside just so they might find some peace on the outside.  They have to plan for their safety each and every day, how to look, how to talk, even how to move…and those that love them need to equally fear for the harm that might come.   How awesome is it that some weird gay kid who’s struggling to find their place in the world – that are being bullied for being too femme or too butch, that are being tortured because they were born a boy when inside they feel like a girl, or vice versa – can now turn on the TV today and see this colourful cast of admirable characters living their lives out loud, leading the charge for the rest of us as they do what we all want to do…be their own true masters of  their own true destinies.  And if you disagree with that, then I guess you’ve never felt that pain or been that scared kid…or had to worry about one.

I hope RuPaul’s new single Sissy That Walk, in all it’s success with its huge dance beats and simple yet catchy lyrics, becomes an anthem for those leading the way, for those that have walked the road already, and for those about to head down the path.   Not “just” a gay anthem, but an anthem for us all.

 

“And if I fly, or if I fall
Least I can say I gave it all
And if I fly, or if I fall
I’m on my way, I’m on my way…

Now SISSY THAT WALK”

 

Sissy that walk, butch that stroll, glam that runway.   However you do it, just be that beautiful, unique creature, unlike ANY other,  you were born to be.

THANKS for that message Mama Ru.

 

 

Sissy That Walk

 

 

Go to YouTube to watch the official Sissy That Walk video starring RuPaul and legends in the making Bianca Del Rio, Adore Delano, Courtney Act, and Darienne Lake.

 

SOCHI’S Gay: Ellen Page, Michael Sam, and a Tale of Good Timing

Rainbow Flag

There’s something to be said about good timing.

I don’t mean being ON time.  As someone who’s spent an absolute lifetime perfecting the art of chronic lateness,  I would never speak to THAT.  I mean choosing the RIGHT time….that quintessential second to raise your voice and be heard, or  that now or never moment to jump to your feet and take action. During the journey of most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, there inevitably comes THAT day.  When it comes  you either peek your head out of that figurative closet you’ve lived in and take some cautious steps out into the world,  or you cozy back up in the corner with a blanket and think “I’m just fine just hanging out in here for now, thank you very much” or you go all ninja like and attack the door, kicking and screaming until there’s nothing left but splinters and sawdust.  Now truth be told, for most of us the journey to outness isn’t that literal, and for many it often involves variations of all three of those options, sometimes during some very different stages in our lives.   Some roads on this incredible journey are dark, with fear, intimidation, and self loathing at almost every corner,  and other paths are brighter, full of hope, promise, and some hard-won feelings of acceptance and belonging.

Ellen Page’s moment came on Valentine’s Day,  as she stood, nervous but brave, on a small stage in Las Vegas,  ready to finally share her story.  Here, at the inaugural Time to Thrive conference (sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization dedicated to the betterment of the lives of LGBTQ youth everywhere), Page delivered a very eloquent, very moving, very personal speech.   She spoke of being fearful of coming out and how, as a result – now listen up, because this is important – not only her relationships but also her spirit and her mental health suffered greatly.   Page spoke of her belief  that gay people should be able to love freely, openly, and without compromise,  and that together we have suffered “too many dropouts, too much abuse, too many homeless, too many suicides” as a direct result of people being bullied, mistreated,  abused, and rejected simply because of who they are, and for living the life they were born to live.

Now the cynic might look at Ellen Page and roll their eyes and say clearly they knew about the “lesbian thing” years ago, or complain about these celebrities who feel the need to share all the intimate details of their sex lives with the world.   Just sorting through my Facebook feed alone the last few days I’m quick to discover comments like “why do these gays feel the need to come out anyway?  I didn’t come out STRAIGHT” or “it doesn’t matter to me if someone is gay or not, I just wish they’d keep quiet about it so I wouldn’t have to know”  (Alas, it will be hard to deprive myself of these little nuggets of wisdom, but somehow I sense some Facebook UNfriending soon).

As important as Ellen Page’s  coming out has been, she’s not the only one making “gay waves” in the news today.  Michael Sam, a defensive lineman from the University of Missouri, announced last week that he was gay, and is now poised, post draft season,  to become the first openly gay player in NFL history.  Sam noted his coming out was driven by concerns someone else might leak details of his private life, and he felt the need to “own” his own truth, saying “no one should tell my story but me”.  Sam’s candour has been divisive among the professional sporting world, but for the most part he’s been shown mad support and acceptance, particularly from his fellow players and coaches.

It’s ironic that these two people, heroes to many, have come forward at a time when we’re celebrating the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The controversy that surrounds Sochi has certainly affected my enjoyment of the Olympic games on a personal level.   This is disappointing because, as a guy who’s not so great at sports, the Olympics are my chance to feel like a total jock.   Or, at the very least, play armchair athlete and sit around in my underwear, drink beer, and scream at the TV “are you blind??  That was clearly just a twizzle and not a triple toe double loop, you big idiot!”

Like many other parts of this world, the rights of LGBTQ people in Russia have long faced legal and social challenges, with gay people often subject to various forms of abuse, harassment and discrimination.  What makes Russia “unique” in this respect is that just eight months before the start of the Games, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a law making the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors illegal.  The media claimed the legislation was blatantly  “anti-gay”, while LGBTQ rights activists took it one step  further by condemning the law as a return to the Middle Ages, and the government’s way of effectively banning most forms  of LGBTQ culture.  Since the passage of the anti-gay propaganda law, the media has reported the arrest of many gay rights activists, as well as an alarming increase in incidence and severity of homophobic violence, including attacks by ne0-Nazi groups against young minors.

This struggle for gay rights that has now played out on the world stage serves some very good and important purposes.   It has made  the International Olympic Commission reconsider just how hosting the games in a place like Sochi contradicts the principles of their Olympic charter regarding anti-discrimination in sport, and will likely force them to review these principles and more carefully consider proposals from future host cities.   Above all,  it has uncovered blatant human rights violations suffered by LGBTQ citizens of one of the most powerful nations in the world, and brought to light the discrimination, abuse and hardships visited upon them each and everyday.  It is a cry for justice that will not go unheard long after these Olympic Games are done.

S0 how important is the idea of movie actresses and professional athletes announcing to the world they are gay and ready to live their life out loud?  I say it’s more important than you know.  The whole process of coming out for many is a terrifying one.  A gay kid is first already burdened with this terrible knowledge that they are different from everyone else.  Their differences single them out – to be made fun of, left beaten down,  made to feel their worth as a person is somehow less.  And no matter how true it is, even when surrounded by others a gay kid often feels alone in the world… isolated, mistreated, and misunderstood.  It’s challenging enough to navigate all the wonders and mysteries and awkwardness of adolescence for anyone, but for a gay kid it becomes, for these reasons and more, so much more difficult.   So imagine, if you will, that artsy loner kid who now finds herself a kindred spirit in Ellen Page, or the basketball fan who sees in his sports hero Michael Sam a glimmer of himself.  Imagine watching these proud gay Olympians hold their head high and represent their sport and their country with dignity and grace in a place that would marginalize, reject, and condemn them.   Accepting you are gay means accepting, in many ways, that as you travel down those roads in life, your path is going to be just that much harder, with enormous obstacles and burdens along the way.  But it can also mean that life, despite it’s hardships and its compromises, will ultimately be that much more grander, richer, vital, and fulfilling.   We can say “it gets better” but we need to live by those “better” principles, or otherwise the message is meaningless.   That means standing up for what’s unfair and what’s unjust.  It means being brave and opening ourselves up to the world, being that role model that others need so that they might  grow and learn from our strengths and from our weaknesses.  It means recognizing we’ve already lost far too many beautiful lights, and taking five minutes, as Ellen so perfectly noted, to recognize each other’s beauty instead of attacking each other for our differences.  It means loving and accepting ourselves, so that we’re at a good time and in a good space to do all of these things.

That’s the kind of world I want to live in.   That’s the kind of world I plan to live in.  Won’t you join me?

Pride Flag in Halifax for Olympics 2014

Bollard House (The Great House Adventure)

 

Bollard House

Bollard House- Birthday Cake Style

 

I really need to start paying closer attention.

You see, I’ve slowly come to learn that when my partner Shawn has just the slightest idea in mind, when he gets some tiny notion in his head, that stray thought that swirls around and around and  just won’t quit….then it’s time for me to brace myself, take a deep breath, and change into some clean underwear as we prepare  for whatever fantastical journey is just up ahead.   If I was only slightly more self-aware, I’d see the signs more clearly.  When Shawn is interested or focused on something, it starts to…invade his life, and, in by a process sort of like osmosis, mine.  Take for instance when he really wanted to buy this antique Sheraton sofa he’d discovered recently online.  Suddenly, the words “Sheraton sofa” start to pop up in many of his conversations.  Then he starts to relay warm childhood stories about his memories of Sheraton sofas (because everyone has those, right?) and then he’s pointing them out in books, in movies, and in magazines.   Soon he’s googling them wildly at night and moaning about them in his sleep.   And the next thing you know, you find yourself barely awake at some god awful hour on a Sunday morning, driving down some dirt back road of some rural township you’ve never heard of, so you can precariously strap to the back of your trusty station wagon your very own Sheraton sofa (albeit one in serious need of some TLC, but never fear, because Shawn has an amazing friend named Aimee who’s a designer and upholsterer extraordinaire on call for just such an emergency.  And these emergencies can happen often!)

So with experiences like that under my belt, you’d think I’d be more prepared when he stopped talking about silver trays and pottery mushrooms and folk art and jumped right to a mysterious place called Bollard House.  I mean, a house is a lot bigger than a sofa, so that alone should’ve stopped me in my tracks.  I’m a bit embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about the history of Bollard House a few short months ago until Shawn casually mentioned it one night, but quickly he brought me up to speed.  Turns out Bollard House was built in the 1830s in the township of Halifax, so before our great city was even a city.  It was built in a Georgian style, with detailing around its doors and ceilings hearkening back to ancient greek civilization, and in 1863 a triangular addition was created, making the house six-sided in appearance.   The house is one long room deep throughout with seven flights of stairs connecting its four floors.  It is truly unique in our fair city in that it remains, after all these years, virtually unchanged and unaltered today.   It has withstood the ravages of time and stands proudly today to tell the tale.  It has had a very colourful history during its long life, including a period during the 1970s when it served as a spa for poodles (yes, you read that correctly!)   Bollard House became a registered historic property in 1985, which is approximately when Shawn actually first visited it and fell in love (because as you know, some boys fall in love with historic houses and some fall in love with Batman).  And why do I know all of this?  Because Shawn knows all of it, and life with him is kind of like having your own personal commentator from PBS and the History Channel, only one that’s much better looking, smells good, and is a great dancer.

 

Bollard House

Bollard House

 

 

IMG_2412

Shawn is a member (and former board member) of the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, an organization that fights to preserve some of the most architecturally and historically significant structures in the province, as well as promote and advocate for protective legislation with business interests and at various levels of government.  Through the Trust, he came to know this lovely lady named Janet, a champion in her own right who works hard to preserve the built heritage of our fine city.  The two hit it off well with their shared passion for preservation (as the Batman lover in the relationship, I suspect these Heritage types all have capes and spandex in their laundry that they wear to strike fear in the hearts of those evil modern developers/destroyers.  But alas, I’ve yet to find any costumes in the laundry).  Anyway, Janet had recently acquired Bollard House after it’s previous owner had passed away,  but was uncertain of her plans for the property, other than her goal of keeping its rich heritage intact.   Conversations began with Shawn, he who is ever so opinionated about just these sorts of things,  on hypothetically just what one might do with a property like Bollard House.  And rather than it involve any knocking things out or tearing things down, any demolition, deconstructing or defacing of any kind, his ideas centred around a whole lot of paint and the occasional swing of a hammer.  And before you know it, somehow THAT evolved into the idea of  our moving into the house, living their and caring for it, and bringing it back to life, so to speak, while respecting where it’s been.  When I first had a chance to tour the house, even I  could see her “good bone structure” and recognize the charm and character of the house  (it truly felt in a way you were stepping back in time when you walked through her doors), but it was clear the house was going to need a lot of time and love and careful attention.  As it were,  we were also both pretty attached to our old apartment, a heritage property itself and quite full of charm and character, but it had been obvious for a while we’d outgrow that space.  And so, with practically four floors at our disposal at Bollard House, an impressive showcase for all of Shawn’s unique and wonderful STUFF, and the challenge of breathing new life into an old property, how could we refuse such an opportunity?

And so the journey to Bollard House again (well, technically, it wasn’t much of a journey, as we’d only lived four blocks away).   From the start, the whole never enough hours in a day and the time needed to do everything that needed to be done was a bit worrisome.  I’d recently returned to school, and had made a bit of an insane decision to work full-time and take a full course load.  Since “phoning it in” isn’t in my vocabulary, and I tend to be a bit of a a high achiever,  I figured it’s all straight A’s or bust.  (And, by bust, I mean bust your face if I don’t get that A!)  Shawn has a pretty demanding job, one that’s anything but 9-5, plus he likes to dabble in….well, just about everything.  Our cat Mungo, a feisty little guy with a pretty demanding sleep schedule, was initially rather unimpressed with this decision to move.  I mean, no one bothered to consult with him that his nightly (potential) mouse patrol would now involve four floors instead of four rooms.  That’s a lot of work!

But in the end, the chance to do this was simply too good to be true, and the challenge ahead seemed fun.  We started cleaning, painting and stripping (not the Magic Mike kind) for weeks on end, often late into the night.  I already knew Shawn was as handy as he was handsome, but truth be told, I worried at first about his focus, as he tends to get a bit easily distracted  – oh look, squirrel! – and that could  potentially slow things down.  But never fear…it was clear from the start he was throwing himself  wholeheartedly into a mission to restore life to this beautiful home.  That’s not to say we didn’t face a few obstacles along the way.  The staircases are small and narrow and difficult to move furniture around.  Hence, when an old sofa refused to climb the stairs before becoming jammed, it was attacked by a very creative friend with an exacto knife and brought out in small pieces (you don’t want to get on her bad side!).  And although we were able to squeeze a small sofa and even an oversized antique linen chest upstairs, the laws of physics said that queen size box spring just wasnt going to make it, and so we spent a few weeks sleeping on the floor until we could get a replacement  And finally there was the late afternoon I took my niece Nicole on a tour, proudly showing off all the space we’d now have. When we’d reached the end and I’d shown her small dark room with the slanted roof and skylight that would be my office and writing space, she declared “um, doesn’t this room kind of remind you of the Amityville Horror?”

WELL IT DOES NOW!!

Red rum, Red rum...

Red rum, Red rum…

Alas, any reservations I had about the work we were doing was put to rest early on.  Shawn had let me in on a little secret, one I didn’t realize or know.    He said old houses aren’t like more modern, almost disposal ones.  Houses like this one just need a little paint and a little sprucing up, a little love, hard work, and attention, and before long they start to respond to what you’re doing, and slowly start to warm and come to life on their own.   And sure enough, before my very eyes, it did!  We built a man cave in the basement that’s the envy of all football loving fiends across the land (too bad it’s mainly used for Madonna and Gaga blu-rays!)  Shawn chose a colour scheme and design layout for our bedroom that makes it look like some high-end magazine photo shoot – remember that saying that your  bedroom should feel like an oasis?  Our bedroom IS an oasis, and as big as some small apartments.

IMG_0192

See, I can help too!

IMG_0371

1175067_10153143955045136_1991471727_n

Man CAVE

 

IMG_0397

 

And that Sheraton sofa?  IT is now totally rocking the living room.

I do have one minor complaint about our grand new residence.  For one, where’s the ghosts??! (True, I’m opposed to the Amityville Horror of my new office, but come on…ghosts are cool!)  I’d convinced myself when moving into an historical home that has experienced as much as this house has over the centuries, that it only made sense we’d be left with a few former inhabitants, or at least an occasional visitor or two.   I waited up most of the night Halloween, saying this would be the night.   But nope….nothing.  I even watched The Conjuring recently (mostly behind a blanket, with one eye open), figuring some ghostly apparition would say “oh yeah, so that’s how you want to play it huh?” and start slamming doors or levitating tea cups around me.  Still nothing.  (I’d say BOOOOOO but I was  hoping the damn ghost would do that!)  Regardless, I still talk to the house all the time, like it’s a person.  Just check in, see if it likes the new paint colour or the smells of supper and such.   Someday it’ll answer back, I know it, and for that reason, I want to stay on its good side!

IMG_0374

Um, what was THAT?!?!

And so you know, since no one bothered to run this rather significant life change by Mungo the Cat, he’s still decided to begrudgingly patrol the house.  However, he will NOT do so quietly.  So instead, with all the grace, dignity, and poise of a baby elephant, you can hear him slowly wander about with LOUD, sharp banging motions, climbing stairs and opening doors (because, yes, he can hook his paws underneath doors and make them move!) as he seeks out and finds new and exciting places to nap.  Also, despite the change from four rooms to four floors, and the increased exercise he’s um…gained a bit of poundage somehow (he calls it muscle)…although I suspect this could be part of is revenge plot.  In other words,  baby elephant ain’t so baby anymore, and you better believe the kitty grocery bills going to feel it!

IMG_0408

Oh, and it seems Mungo also likes to um…weigh in on decisions about the house, like paint colours.  So much so that he’s now investigated three freshly painted rooms, just so he can give it one meow or two.  You’d think with all the paw scrubbing afterwards he might be a bit deterred from being so opinionated, but nope…but then again, maybe he’s just looking for a day at the spa!

IMG_0421

IMG_0430

It wasn’t me!

And so the cat and I are having a lot of fun living here….but nowhere near as much fun as Shawn.   Shawn loves the house, and takes great joy and pride in living here.  He’s very respectful to its history, and he takes great loving care of it everyday.  And I  think for those reasons that the House has been just as lucky to have him as he’s been to have it.

IMG_0319

So here’s to the first of many more great adventures at Bollard House.   And stay tuned for many more updates, as they’ll be sure to come….I promise, I really am paying attention now!

IMG_0207

IMG_0214

For Shawn, Christmas 2013