Park Extension of Holidays Past 

Seeing as Sydney, Australia, has already celebrated in the New Year  (above), it is fitting I blog about the holidays of my youth in Park Extension.  The weather was colder.  The snow was taller. The Internet didn’t exist. And we enjoyed every minute of the opportunity to entrench ourselves in the festivities. 

It all started at Sinclair Laird Elementary School. Ms.Stokes,  the grade 6 teacher who also moonlighted as the music teacher and was in charge of the choir, made sure that the dozen or so of us were prepped and ready for an exemplary rendition of old Christmas carols to be given in the gym on the makeshift shift behind the curious curtains no one ever seemed to give a second thought to between January and December.  I was one of the lead carolers,  seeing as I had a high pitched voice till the age of 13,  when it all fell apart just in time for my metal days.  And what a show we gave. I had no concept of shyness back then and Ms. Stokes,  in her cockney accent, was a great motivator. The shows were always a success and the parents and guests were very happy and proud.

The above photo is not a great replica. But just imagine us higher on the stage with a full audience looking towards us. 

One of the more heartwarming moments for me every year ws buying a Christmas tree. The pine smell just made me feel great and the act of just going to Sun Youth to buy our tree seemed special.  And then helping my parents with the ornaments felt great. Yes,  I was always a metrosexual, even at a young age. There was a manger we put under the tree where there was Joseph and 3 magi waiting for Jesus to be born. I practiced my choir singing looking at this scene and internalizing it. Strange,  yet effective. 

Canadian,  more precisely French Canadian,  winter culture is well portrayed in the painting above. Kids enjoying the outdoors and being at one with nature and its elements. It was a time to build snowmen, slide down big snow banks,  play hockey, and even go to the school yard and cross country ski or snowshoe. We came home with red faces and big appetites. 

This is a typical snowfall that made us come out and hide from our parents. Remember, there was no Internet, no Xbox, no cell phones. There was less stress. Or maybe we just thought so because kids have no stress, right? 

What’s missing these days is the closeness of our neighbours, the interest and involvement of our community in the assurance of the safety of our children without being paranoid,  and the sheer enjoyment of activities without fear of funding. Why was it so easy back then? Bitter cold and a lot of snow seem to be a calamity these days because we are sheltering our youth from some unknown danger that has never really surfaced. Maybe ignorance is bliss. Or maybe there is more ignorance now than ever before. 

Park Extension is the ultimate place to enjoy the holidays when you’re young. I daresay the adults should enjoy it as well. Let yourselves go free and realise that prosperity is what you make of the definition you’ve chosen to give it. 

Click here for Auld Lang Syne.

Have a great year and empower yourselves.

 

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Gord Downie — Person of the Year 

#Gord -Downie 

I remember being in Kingston over a decade ago. Lovely city. The architecture and the university feel along with a lot of artsy places to visit make it perfect for a weekend getaway. All the while, I couldn’t get off of my mind that this was the home of all the members of The Tragically Hip, the greatest Canadian band ever and one of the most talented rock /blues /country groups I’d heard. Yes, I can hear the country riffs in the music. So perfectly disguised. The Hip were the ideal of success through hard work. They were kings, even Gods,  in Canada, yet they couldn’t get much success in the states. Nothing more than a hip indie band. They were the quintessential Canadian band for reasons I can’t get into here without veering even further off in my story. 

Canada is a great country, often the envy of the world in many respects. Yet there are things we need to make amends for. Things that can never be fixed but that can be improved and,  in the least,  recognized for a chance of reconciliation. Residential schools for indigenous youth is the ultimate attempt at genocide we as Canadians need to be ashamed of. Purposely separating children from their culture and families so that they wouldn’t be influenced by them is something that can never be forgiven. And it was systemic, which makes it everyone’s fault. The recognition of it this year by the government is sometimes that’s been a long time coming.  

It often takes someone outside the oppressed community to take the fight to a new level. Gord Downie has taken it as his life’s goal to expose and educate people to the plight of the indigenous peoples and to open the door to reconciliation with not just special interest groups,  but with Canadian society at large. Downie has been diagnosed with brain cancer and often forgets your name. He has had surgery and wakes up every day with a purpose,  no matter how sick he may feel. 

Below is the full exclusive interview with Gord on CBC conducted by Peter Mansbridge. Great and haunting to see a man talking of his physical shortcomings yet attaining his goals at the same time. Heartwarming and difficult to watch. http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/thenational/gord-downie-exclusive-interview-1.3804422

The above picture was taken during The Tragically Hip’s swan song tour this summer where Gord wanted to give a goodbye tour to his fans.  

The Secret Path – http://wp.me/p5qr5K-4To is another story from a blogger about this. 

The SecretPath is Gord’s film and album released to grow awareness of the ignorance we have to the problem faced by the indigenous people. 
To top it off,  Gord won the AFN award for his work. 

Gord Downie wins person of the year hands down because he is accepting his disease and even overcoming it by helping others. At a time where we are living precariously and trying to fight the anomie and alienation caused by the events around us, we have an example of courage and the power of the human will to make us refrain from giving up and to accept our goals as attainable. At the same time,  we can all start agreeing that the best thing to happen in a tumultuous 2016 is the acceptance and the end of our ignorance concerning the shameful chapter,  or several chapters,  in our history towards our near-destruction of the original inhabitants of this great land. 

 

Mind Over Matter

​This is from earlier this year in another blog. 

Update : The diagnosis was finally IBS,  which is well under control. 

Three Months of Psychosomatic Disorder

    

    It was in mid-March when my body started breaking down. It caught me by surprise because everything had been going well. I was launching my website and was almost at the end of my Amazon self -published mini novella. I figured starting off small was the way to go. And I still feel that baby steps are important as long as there are definite end goals and solid reasons for all the blood, sweat, and tears that may be spilled along the way. I never thought the spilling would be literal. It is through strength that I write this and share it with you on a day that I feel well in hopes of empowering the ones still in the closet. In the end, it’s about perspective and being honest with one’s self and with others. 

    

    The coming of spring apparently uncovers much of what is hidden and swept under the rug during a winter of trying to survive and our bodies and minds working overtime. Bloating through guacamole had never happened to me before. I pride myself on my fresh and organic ingredients in what is a recipe no one can match me at. Yet there I was, unable to sleep. I took something natural to ease the pain and got a few hours’ sleep. A few hot beverages the next day managed to bring the bloating down and make life good again. In the past, my stress always interfered with my digestive system. This was no different. And I’d fight it and win, as I had done in the past.

    MORE THAN A SYMPTOM AT A TIME 

    What made this harder was that I didn’t have time to battle one symptom when another showed up. I had multiple symptoms at once. Then they just disappeared. One night, I got a very swollen upper right lip and rushed to the emergency room at 8 in the evening. Of course, my turn in the queue was very low because it was a trivial condition that merited category 4 of 5 importance. After 12 hours I got seen by the urgentologist who gave me some cortisone, Zantac, and benadryl and a referral to the allergist. The allergist seemed very capable and automatically said I had no allergy and made me do a full battery of immunological tests, saying it was a protein with almost perfect certainty. The tests were negative. He was speechless. He is still waiting for me to get inflammation or hives in many places at once and goand do a blood test within 12 hours of the initial symptoms. I have had symptoms of bloating since along with ones of swelling and hives in weird places in my body. One night there was a bubble popping out on my forehead. It happened again the next night. I saw the doctor the next day and it hasn’t appeared since. Reassurance from someone you trust makes things go away. At least for a while. 

    It was at this point that I dug real deep and decided to take charge of my negative thoughts and let my brain send positive messages to my body. It was an uphill battle, no doubt. It took small moments. It took slight thoughts that made my brain and thought pattern take a leap away from the present toxic existence. These included watching something different on TV, walking and taking pics at night, thinking of and planning my next vacation,  etc.  Every time I felt a symptom, I’d try and positive think it away. 

    IT’S ALL IN OUR PERCEPTION 

    Throughout this learning, I was honest with myself and looked at the problem from many perspectives. Trying to overcome defeatism is the hardest thing in the world. Below are the typical symptoms triggered by stress and also the 3 main factors of our everyday existence that contribute to health risks. And like everything else, none of us are immune to these. Like an addict, we have periods of time that we go down the healthy path. But we are always at risk for a relapse. 

    We need to define what a virtuous path means for us and use it to build our end goal.  I’m no magician to anyone but myself. But opening that window to empowerment requires the help of friends and others. Battling our demons is strictly up to us. 

My Life with George Michael 

https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2016/dec/26/george-michael-scandal-career-revealingly-human?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress


Finding out George Michael died ruined my Christmas.  He meant so much to me,  even when he was seemingly not there and washed up. For me,  no one represented the human element behind the superstar more than George did.  He was the glamorous version of the everyman’s pop star. And he was talented. He spoke of life and victory and pain. And it all sounded so natural that I stopped being afraid to be true to myself. He represented all walks of life. All sexes. All ages. He was an aspiration for little girls and boys. Sometimes for the same reason. “George Michaal makes me feel secure in wanting to be a diva ” one gay young man said in a sociology class once. ” I love him so much because I know I’ll never think about him in a sexual way but rather in an intellectual,  heartwarming manner,” a young heterosexual lady said. Yes, he made our brains work out of the box because of his personal life.  

For me, George was there in almost all the important personal events of my adult life. And it was all through his music. He could really carry a tune. And he could speak to my heart when need be and just plain give me a happy jolt out of the blue. I loved the sensuality behind most of his songs in his early solo days. He was a hipper and more mature version of Morrissey. While Morrissey whined his way into my innermost emotions,  George made sure to reassure me that these emotions were out there in the open. While Morrissey made me understand I wasn’t a weirdo, George made it clear that he was personally working on the issue. They worked in tandem,  Steven Morrissey and George Michael.  And they’re both one of a kind. 

I remember taking a break from D.J.ing one night to dance to Careless Whisper,  a tune that lived on years later. It was something I had kept as my slow dance song.  The girls liked it and thought it made me sensitive. Thanks again George,  for making sure the night got started right. And thanks for the many ways that Faith can be sung at a karaoke party. I’m still working on my favourite song,  Cowboys and Angels. This is one of my all – time classics George. And remember,  you made an album that made a grown man cry. It made me cry, George. Please excuse my lack of creativity, but I listened without prejudice.Over and over again. It especially went well on a sensitive night with a lovely young lady during a ski weekend that I chose to play the album to instead of take advantage of. 

And thanks for the hope of Praying For Time . 

I don’t know how many peope’s lives this album saved, but it influenced me in such a positive way. It made me accept others and myself. It gave me a chance to write my mind. It made me a political candidate. A voice for the disenfranchised. A facilitator. Mostly, it made me capable of helping others empower themselves. George,  did you know how your barren landscape of an album in a Mad Max setting represents the daily lives of the powerless? Did you know how they realize they too can be helped and healed from this wasteland? You must know now, looking down upon us, in your epiphany, how important you were in so many people’s need for self  – expression. You’re up there with the best. 

Your endless influence goes beyond sexual expression and identity. It’s about people never losing hope. It’s sort of like the rain before the sun. That never – ending lament of breaking our backs for freedom coming true. That labyrinth having no tumult when we manage to found our way out of it. Sort of our own private Eden — and I’m guessing you’d believe in those things. 

Finally, thank you for empowering me through your music. True heartfelt lyrics and a remarkable voice. Time to go watch your Wembley concert. 

 

Depressed for the Holidays 

There are many reasons people get depressed during the holidays. The ideal of the pic above is just a pipe dream for many.  We may dread the holidays because we need to get out of our shell, doing things we really don’t like doing. Like small talk with uncle Pete the misogynist or aunt Mary the gossip.  We can put up with this when we are near optimal,  yet it becomes an insurmountable task when we are dealing with other problems. The holiday get togethers go from being  an unwanted distraction to a downright panic -inducing event. 

Put on your masks and good luck. 

The Beatles said that  ‘happiness is a warm gun ‘. This may be a theme for people overburdened at holiday time. They think of how inferior they are to others and are afraid to face the world.  What are they overburdened by?  Fear. As I have mentioned in other posts,  fear kills.  It consumes and puts us in a bubble of constant worry and agitation.  

A few years back,  I was told by a friend to help him volunteer delivering food to less fortunate families for Christmas. The families were grateful and it felt good making their day. What didn’t feel good was when I went to a lady’s home. She must’ve been around 70 or so and there was nobody at her home except her. I had 3 dinners. She told me she would be alone for the night. She’d been waiting to see her family and they cancelled and her friends were not able to make it. She lived alone and would listen to carols on the radio and watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life ‘ on TV. She said she’d only have 1 dinner. Give the rest to people in need, she told me. I called my friend and told him I’d be a bit. I stayed there and we started talking about her life. She was happy I took interest in her. She had mobility problems and winters just seemed longer with each passing year. At the end of the evening,  I felt I had made someone happy. That was the biggest gift I’ve gotten for Christmas. 

Volunteering goes against my basic beliefs when it profits others monetarily,  but volunteering to put a smile on someone’s face is the best thing you can do. And you don’t need a holiday as a reason to do it. The lady on top volunteered to go to an orphanage in Africa. That, for me, is what people who make a difference do. There is more respect in that than in any entrepreneurial undertaking because it is harder to accomplish. And the only thing we get out of it is satisfaction and hopefully some love. Actually,  I’m sure we’re more loved at the end. 

So you can do the whole family thing,  but you can also do whatever else you think is right. 

Ignore the warning sign and just keep on keeping on.  

Whatever side you’re in on the depressed at Christmas continuum  – and some may be on both sides – it is up to you to make it better. 

Volunteer in Park Extension  http://www.cabm.net/en/o/2691

Suicide Hotline http://suicideactionmontreal.org/index.php?page=home

United Way http://www.centraide-mtl.org/en/communities-served/parc-extension/

Just type VOLUNTEER on Google and you’ll find what suits you. 

Steve Strong,  André the Giant,  and the Asshole Named Hulk Hogan 

It was always a blast going to the Paul Sauve arena to watch professional wrestling on Monday nights. As a young teen, before Monday Night Raw,  I enjoyed the live wrestling circuit.  It was a way to be close up with your heroes, usually good guys. But the first villain,  or heel,  I fell in love with was Steve Strong , a muscle- bound goon who obliterated his opponents. 

Then there was the great André the Giant , a behemoth of a man. 

Finally, on the card that night was a young Hulk Hogan, who was actually a pretty good technician at the time.  

So you can imagine my excitement when during a mid card match I actually stumbled upon all 3 men while I was coming back from the washroom.  Strong smiled,  noticing my excitement.  He asked me if I was enjoying the show.  Maybe that would make me stop looking at his muscles. He was a big man, I thought. I gave some stupid answer and he introduced me to his friend André. André was sipping on a Labatt 50 and looked at me and pulled out his hand to shake mine.  My hand was about as big as his middle finger, or so it still seems to this day.  He smiled as I shook his finger with my hand. He seemed content, yet troubled. Strong looked at Hogan,  who was staring at the ground.  He ignored me and told Strong  “tell your idol to go back to his seat, DiSalvo.” Strong looked at me,  forcing a friendly smile and telling me it was great to see me and here’s an autograph. Hogan seemed annoyed and was practically threatening Strong to end it. André seemed to just be aloof.  “I know you have problems, Terry,  but it’s an impressionable kid, ” I heard Strong telling Hogan as I walked, shoulders shrugged, to my seat.  I looked back at a picture I’ll never forget. Steve Strong actually still looking at me and smiling,  as though he knew I’d turn around  and Hogan walking away his back to me, frustratingly trying to take Strong with him. André was alone looking at the match. 

I was glad Rick Martel beat Hogan that night. I guess what  comes around goes around,  at least in the case of Hogan having nothing but problems in his post  – wrestling life. 

 

Education Part 2 — Self – Reflection 

Did you think I forgot about what I asked you a few posts ago?  Did you set some sort of goals or ambitions? Did you let the opportunity pass you by and just put everything in the back burner,  as usual?  Do you usually do this? Do you let everyday trivialities hold you from progressing? Have you regressed since a week ago? Have you failed in something? If you learned how to succeed next time or how to veer otherwise, then I’m glad you failed. 

I assume you all gave this some hard thought in some church basement. 

Did the basement in your head look like this? Did it stay stagnant? Our goal is to fix it up. I have mine looking like this. 

I didn’t want anything fancy, just something to be comfortable with. This is my immediate goal. It is not my end goal. My end goal can only be met with a step by step progression towards it.  This is my mind being in a comfortable place as opposed to the chaos of the previous picture. 

Even if all around you is breaking down,  you need to concentrate like this guy.

Your ghetto exists only in you. He’s a little lesson in meditation

I strongly suggest you go here to help build the ambience. 

Be like these girls 

Be in any position you want,  but just disappear from the world of indentured servitude you’re in now. 

But remember, the path to doing everything the way you want has steps. And there’s steps withing each step.  So start with the links I gave you and you’ll move to your level slowly. Read up on yoga and meditation if you wish. 

Let’s get back to work and hope that you’ve done your homework over the holidays. 

I Want To Move To Park Extension 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File%3AVilleray%E2%80%93Saint-Michel%E2%80%93Parc-Extension_-_Station_Parc.jpg

It doesn’t have the most attractive name in the world, and it is one of the poorest places in Canada,  but the place where I grew up is my home forever.  I never thought wanting to move back would be so difficult.  There just aren’t enough good apartments to move into. And the water pipes burst often.  The roaches. Did I hear bedbugs? This is scary to a sensitive soul like me.  With the deterioration of infrastructure all over the city,  it’s logical Park Extension would be affected perhaps the hardest. And now I’m in a quandary of how to get around this? Even people living here tell me to not move here.  But you can’t get them out. So what gives? Do they have the only good places to live in? Are they slum lords? Or are they masochists?

Park Extension has 30.7% of its population defined as working poor. This means they work and make wages too low to live decently on.  So could it be that there’s 2 types of people here —property owners living in their buildings and people too poor to move elsewhere? Sort of like a… slum?  You wouldn’t know that by looking at the people,  at least the ones walking around when I’m there.  I remember growing up in 3 apartments in the area and 2 look seedy as I pass by them now. Maybe they’ve just gotten older or I didn’t know better or cared.  

This building on Jarry and Stuart is infested. 

This one was condemned and the slum lord fined. 

I like streets like these. Full of life. And people. And community. 

So tell me. Someone. How can I find a decent apartment in Park Extension? 

 

Upon a Distant Relative’s Funeral 

To be read listening to  the link above —- Portishead’s Half Day Closing 

Upon a Distant Relative’s Funeral 

Copyright by Ted Kouretas 

Grandma weeping in the background 

The sky opening up over her right shoulder 

Tranquility and tears sweep the air 

There was no widow to be seen
The mother and father side by side

“Take me with you ” the former cried out

The father ,  cap in hand ,  trying to flinch the tears away 

The eulogy had finished 
The shore was trying to catch up to the churchhouse 

But the graves seemed to keep it away 

It was a violent sea 

The sun finally got the courage to come out
The streets were a winter barren ,  save for the funeral attenders

The village people were either at the funeral or at home 

Their windows closed to keep the wind out 

It had been a savage winter . 
It had been a savage winter 

The tide reaching past the beach sands and into town 

And the winter had taken its victims 

This must’ve been the tenth funeral of someone not septuagenarian 

A chill went up my spine
I drove by that same barricade 

I stopped to look at the length of the fall

No more than 15 feet next to the ditch and down 

Hardly a sight of blood 

Most townsfolk thought it was deliberate 

But I had to see for myself 
Frantically ,  I drive towards the crash site 

But the wife’s brother honks at me to give him way 

He had also just left the funeral 

The rain and mist made it difficult to see 
On that day 

During the funeral 

The soullessness of the town choked me 

Not a weeper but for the immediates 

Everyone just  cuddling near their fireplaces 

But who can blame them ? 
It had been a savage winter . 

The Girl from Iqaluit 

Christina was the half sister of a university friend of my girlfriend at the time .  Her mother was white and her father Inuit .  She was visiting her sister in Montreal and we were meeting downtown on the coldest night of the year .  We were both hiding; she from her sister and I from my girlfriend .  They were both aware of her attraction to me and who was I to say no to a young girl just having turned 18 asking me to meet her to show her Montreal a bit .  She had very dark hair that sort of shone against the light .  She had very pretty eyes and was a bit short and thin .  She always smiled ,  asking silly questions .  

When we were at the outlook on Mount Royal ,  we made out in a very calm way .  It was surprising how she was flinching just enough .  She was very warm and light on me on the passenger’s seat .  She led the way .  She seemed to know what I wanted . She was very good at it and we were both satisfied as it ended when I noticed her lilting and slightly shaking .  Then came the talking . She went on about wanting to move to the city . She told me about not wanting to go back and either be an addict or have to get married and pregnant and living on government handouts .  She started crying .  I told her she can try and find a job here but that she’d eventually get sick of being poor .  

It was a formidable evening with a young lady who sensed freedom .  She gave me her contact numbers .  I went to Iqaluit that summer .  

It looked something like this .  Almost never dark . I saw a place where the people had given up on being themselves . I saw such a rich culture wasting away because of abuse followed by neglect . The people are used to their lot and see no way out . Girls in their mid teens were asking me to take them south with me . Christina decided to go study in Edmonton and come back and help her  community .  She is now an activist for indigenous and women’s rights . Iqaluit is trying to break out of its misery . The community is realizing they needn’t forgive themselves ,  for they have done nothing .  They need to forgive the past massacre by the white man .  

The more we remember negativity ,  the more we become mired in it .  The only way to progress is looking forward and sowing seeds .