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Monday, February 4, 2013

Acts of God, and Acts of Human Kindness

Dear Madonna,

I missed Beyoncé's performance during the Super Bowl half-time show. No MDNA, I'm sure.

Lots of talk about the lights going out afterwards.

Coincidence?  I've been evacuated from my condo following a water main break that resulted in all the power going out in my building.  A neighbor called me early Wednesday morning telling me that we were "on the news!" and that firemen were going floor-by-floor telling all the residents that the hyrdo-vault had exploded. I vaguely remembered the fire alarm and lights going on-and-off intermittently, corralling Zouk and Liza into the bedroom and going back to sleep. (I was still jet-lagged and "swungover" from SwingCouver and coming home on the red-eye). 

The first fireman was kind of young and cute, and I took a picture from my balcony of the scene outside on Yonge Street.  I heard on the radio that it was a three-alarm fire, and 18 trucks were deployed.  Kind of exciting, but I just started my day as per usual. Then a couple of hours later there were other firemen on the floor, banging on the doors, ordering us to get out as soon as possible, and to take things we may need as we were going to be out of the building for "awhile".  I grabbed my lap-top, BlackBerry charger, and dance shoes and headed to Starbucks.

A few hours later I went back to my building and discovered that residents were being allowed back up to their units to get a few more things, as we were going to be out for at least 24, may-be 48 hours. What?

A temporary shelter was set up at the Toronto Reference Library down the street.  The Salvation army brought in coffee and snacks, and later soup.  My cute gay neighbours had booked a room at the Bloor Marriott Yorkville, which I thought was a good idea, although Rita offered me Shelley's Blow-up Bed in the Topel Temple.

I think I was still hoping at that point that things would get sorted out in a day or so.  I ended up accepting Rita's offer the following night - and the news kept getting worse.  Two weeks! I had to find a home for Zouk and Liza (Doug came and took them to his home in Hamilton), and as I was already going to Rochester for one night, and I extended for another night. When in doubt: dance, eh?

At the same time my ancient lap-top starting to really, really die, so I bought a new computer and am in the process of setting up all my files on the new machine.

Through all this there have been small and large acts of kindness, between neighbours, strangers, and countless offers of assistance from my friends and dance acquaintances.  I feel so humbly blessed.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Shades of Grey Cup

Dear Madonna,

It's Grey Cup Weekend, reportedly the biggest weekend of the year for tourism in Toronto. It's also the 100th anniversary of the Grey Cup, and Toronto is playing.  Go Argos!  Stampeders fans attempted to recreate a 1948 stunt this morning - riding a horse through the lobby of the Royal York - but hotel management wasn't up for that kind of hijinx.

Supposedly my great-grandfather's name is on the Grey Cup, from when it was a university cup and he was the captain for Queen's Golden Gaels - in 1923 perhaps? 

My brother, Michael was born December 1st, 1962 during Foggy Grey Cup.  I believe it was the only time in the Cup's history that the game was cancelled, as the players, much less the spectators and the television cameras, couldn't see the ball.  My parents' plans to go to a Grey Cup party were similarly cancelled when Mom told Dad that they were going to the hospital instead.

My favourite Grey Cup memory was when they came to Toronto for what just happened to be Grey Cup Weekend.  Mom had won the trip - by filling out some entry or survey at the grocery store - which included Via Rail tickets from Kingston, a couple of nights at the Sheraton Centre, and some show tickets - can't remember what.  We were on University Avenue when the Grey Cup Parade passed by, and we ended up following the last marching band up the street to the U of T campus.  I took them to the cafeteria at Hart House where Dad and I ate egg salad sandwiches.  That night after whatever show it was they saw they went to George's - their old jazz haunt - and Moe Kaufman was playing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Loathing

Dear Madonna,

Eleven reasons why I hate November - and how I'm dealing.

1. Those damned poppies.  No disrespect to Rembrance Day, Canadian veterans, nor the sacrifices of all the armed forces and their families, but Dad died on November 11, 1991 - and the first siting of those little red lapel pins  always throws me into a reverie of loss...of Dad, of Mom, and of Mike.

But I still wear one.  I don't buy it from a box on the counter of my local Starbucks. I go to one of the vets and have him pin it to my coat, next to my heart and I look him in the eyes and say "thank you".

2. Pedestrians aren't safe.  The news, yesterday, of four people being hit by cars (two died) was reason to remind everyone of the stats.  Every day in Toronto pedestrians are hit by cars and there's a noticeable spike in November, with the shorter days, and recently there's been rain and wet leaves on the roads.

I'm taking extra care, wearing my orange coat, and crossing at intersections, with the lights.

3. People are sad.  I've been pretty teary myself lately and it seems I'm not alone.  There's also a spike in people seeking help (SSRI's) for depression this time of year. 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has been running a "Defeat Denial" campaign for the last year or so - urging people to get help when they need it.  This is a good thing. (See also #5)

4. It's so gloomy!  It hasn't helped that at time of writing we're still getting over Superstorm Sandy and haven't seen the sun in days, but the daylight hours are dwindling, and will continue to do so all this month until the Winter Solstice in December.

Candles!!  A new ritual is in order, along the lines of what they do at Westin hotels, or the charming "cinq a sept" tradition in Quebec - a time to separate and move from the work-day pressures into a relaxing evening mood.
Candles, I say.

5.  Mourning Mike.  My youngest brother also died in November, and though it wasn't an overdose, drugs and his addiction had taken much of him away from us for many years.

Since Mike's death I've forged a relationship with CAMH and my "dance family" has rallied in support of fundraising efforts every year.  Many of my friends have their own personal reasons for giving generously. I'm just glad we can do something for those still suffering.

6.  Hose.  No, not the kind that delivers water to put out a fire; the kind you have to wear on your legs in cold weather.  Ever since working from home - and *not* working in a hotel - I've been free from the discomfort and tyranny of a panti-hose dress code. (Would you believe at the Sutton Place woman weren't even allowed to wear pants?  My boss, Doreen, changed that!)

Boots - how I love thee!  I can (sometimes) get away with no hose if only my knees are exposed between boot top and hemline. And I feel sexy and somehow stronger wearing boots than in, say, sandles.

7.  End-of-Year Anxiety.  All those things I wanted to accomplish this year? There's no way I'm going to get them done in the next two months.

Prioritize.  This is an opportunity to decide what's really important and what isn't and to let what isn't GO. Without guilt, without regret. Life's too short. (Easier said than done, I know.)

8.  Christmas Blend - blech!  Most people who know me well know that I'm a bit of a Starbucks afficiondado. (Some would use anther 'A' word).  Starting at the beginning of November the in-store marketing changes from "everything pumpkin" to red Christmas cups, signage - and they start serving my least favourite dark roast.

I can spend the extra $ and get a customized Komodo Dragon on the Clover at my favourite Starbucks (the old Lichtman's book store) OR I can start frequenting some of the other coffee places in my neighbourhood - turning it into a bit of a discovery tour, taking a journal with me and using the new environment as a creative catalyst.

9.  Having to choose between CASH Bash and the U.S. Open.

Okay, so I've only ever been to the Open once, with my old partner, "The Meat" a couple of years ago. My new partner, Larry, and I weren't really contemplating it for this year, but I did have to decide between going to the annual dance event in Cleveland with my dance family, and attending an annual reunion with my *real* family - whom I've never even met!  Andy and Tara will be there, but I won't know anyone else, and - get this - there's another Julie Epplett!! Should be freaky.

10.  Christmas-is-coming Angst.  Nothing like End-of-year Anxiety, this is about the expectations and pressures to be part of some big, happy holiday tradition that seems so alien to me, now. I remember adding the box of Christmas decorations to items going up for auction when cleaning out my parents' house, declaring grimly (and Grinch-like) that there will be no more  Christmas.  But like the Grinch, I've found there's no escape. It starts this week, with the afore-mentioned Christmas Blend, and then come the obligatory business lunches and receptions where polite conversation always turns to "What are you doing for the holidays?"

I have options, yes - and invitations - but my heart/head isn't in the right place to accept them. Instead I gird my loins and do my best to embrace the things I still love about the season: personal Christmas cards (so rare these days!), Christmas lights (the city looks so beautiful at night!), finding and giving gifts to the special people in my life.

11. My view. I love the view from my 18th floor condo, looking east over Rosedale and the Don Valley all the way to The Beach, with a sliver of Lake Ontario in the distance. In October it's a glorious riot of crimsons, oranges and golds. Come November the colours are all a bit muted, and the leaves have started to disappear entirely.

There is beauty in change. In the last few years I've had to accept changes in my own body and find the "new" beauty in the mirror. As the leaves continue to fall, a new view will be revealed: of the large Rosedale mansions, and majestic fir trees. Before long, that first snowfall...

...and the beat goes on.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Life Half-Lived

Dear Madonna,

I've been sick for a month now.  Nothing serious, but seriously debilitating none-the-less.  Can't dance.  Can't work-out.  Losing weight (lean muscle mass), lethargic, and depressed.

On top of that, I've been having off-and-on issues with my knees, and the diagnosis seems to be osteoarthritis.


It feels like I've just hit my "best before" date.

I'm mustering up all my energy to keep up with my business commitments and teach on Tuesday nights - very thankful of Shelley's help. But this really sucks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Welcome Back to the "Fascist State"

Dear Madonna,

Two sold-out nights of your MDNA tour at the ACC - congrats!  I'm really, really sorry I'm going to miss your show, but the lunch invitation at the Hazelton Hotel is still open.  I'll be there tomorrow at noon.

Oh - and I heard a couple of stories about the bed you ordered to be delivered to the hotel. My first source said it cost $10,000 dollars - then I saw a tweet that talked about a $100,000 dollar bed. Whatever. I know *exactly* how hard it is to get a good bed; my new one still isn't right .

Last night at the Dovercourt House I played the acoustic version of "Love Spent". I didn't get to dance to it myself (I was busy cleaning up) but I think it was a hit.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

White Hearts to You!!

Dear Madonna,

Happy Belated Birthday!  I got your Birthday Project call for videos, and we even taped a birthday jam for Rita and Janet, but the sound quality was pretty poor.

Coincidentally (?) my brother, Andy forwarded me this gem:


Monday, July 2, 2012

With Glowing Hearts

Dear Madonna,

I know my country and city aren't perfect.  Our Prime Minister is making dreadful decisions regarding the environment, and our mayor is a huge  embarassment - but I am so, so proud that gay rights are recognized and widely supported.

Yesterday was the Pride Parade - the culmination of a 10-day celebration of LBGT rights here in Toronto - one of the biggest in the world.  Michelle had a really intersesting take on it.  She said: "I don't like crowds, and I don't like parades, but attending my first Pride Parade was like discovering the true meaning of Christmas. There's such a sense of freedom to do and *be* whoever you are."

Yay Toronto!  Yay Canada!