Stepping out – Week 6

June 6-12

Part of my plan to take more notice of things around me as I walk will be to stop and talk with people from time to time. I like to chat and last week I had two interesting and illuminating conversations with strangers.

As I walked along Wellington Street I glanced up at the little passageway that is marked “Martello Alley“. It looked colourful so I stopped to take a photo. I always thought that this was an antique dealer’s place and had never ventured in. The proprietor, David Dossett, obviously another extrovert, wearing a shirt splattered with paint, saw me taking the photo and called me in.

Turns out it is not an antique dealer at all but a very eclectic little collection of items that are locally made and paintings and photos and posters made by local artisans. I ended up there chatting with David for over half an hour and only skimmed the surface of all the bits and pieces there are to explore. Got some colourful photos, too. Drop in sometime. David will give you a tour.

As I was walking along the lakeshore there was a group of young men clustered around some kind of apparatus with a remote control. Turns out they are from McGill and are attending a robotic conference at Queens this week. They have been working for four years on a robotic swimmer. Of course I had to stay around to watch them try it out in the water.

The machine, just bigger than a breadbox and with claw-like arms, literally crawled into the water from the shoreline, swam around and then crawled out onto shore. I will upload a short video to Youtube as it is kind of hard to describe.

Stepping out – Week 5

May 30-June 5

I am back home in Kingston and have picked up where I left off exploring my home town after two weeks tramping around cities in the U.K. and Europe.

If you didn’t see what my mission is in the next few months you can find more about it here. My plan is to get some exercise while the weather is good and at the same time take more notice of what is surrounding me. And share photos each week of discoveries I have made on my walks.

This old building was one of the first breweries in the core of old Kingston. It was built by James Robbins in 1793. It underwent name changes from Robbins Brewery to Kingston Brewery to Bajus Brewery and was operated by the Bajus family until the 1920s. The brewing industry was an important part of this district and what is now Rideau Street was called Brewery Street.

Across the street is s dry dock that was opened by Sir John A MacDonald and has been operational since the 1870’s. This week they are preparing it to bring in a houseboat for renovations.

This property has also been the site of boat building since 1676. Metalcraft Marine has used the property since the 1980’s to build Fire/Rescue/Patrol boats that are sent all over North America (like this one that is soon headed to Miami, Florida.)

Lots of flowering trees this week, including these two beauties in front of a house on King Street that was built in 1841. At that time the farm lot across the street (now City Park) was being considered as a site for the Canadian Parliament Buildings.

And, high water levels in Lake Ontario caused a bit of flooding, including the Parking Lot and entry to the Kingston Yacht Club. This mother duck took advantage of the puddle to teach her ducklings to swim.

My friend, Sue, gave me the guided tour around the Rideau Street neighbourhood she lived in as a child. She pointed out the church where her brother used to go to sales to buy Christmas gifts more than 50 years ago and as we approached the church…they had a rummage sale on. Some things just don’t change.

Stepping out – Week 2

May 7-15

I have walked along in front of Grant Hall with its signature clock tower (completed in 1905) and Theological College (built in 1879-80) many times but didn’t realize that it has been designated as “Professor’s Walk” according to a plaque posted where it starts on University Avenue.

I took this quick little stroll along Professor’s walk this week. Past the towers of Grant Hall and Theological College.

I found this gaggle of friends on the street at a garage sale on Saturday. Hot dogs, drink and chips for $4. Proceeds to the Special Olympics.

We miss a lot by not looking up. I was astounded how many buildings in the Kingston core have some sort of turret or tower. It must have been a stylish addition 150 years ago. Some of these I have walked past many times but not noticed. Do you recognize any of them?

McIntosh Castle, below is not really a castle but a big house at the corner of West Street and Sydenham Streets. The curious little glass “widows walk” with windows all around it was added shortly after the house was constructed in the early 1880’s. Local legend has it that it was build so the lady of the house could take her tea up there and have a private box seat for the public hangings that took place in front of the Frontenac County Courthouse across the street.

It was Mother’s Day this week and I spent some time watching this mother tending to her young. She was a bit cautious at first but eventually returned a few times with worms for the baby birds that were under the eve of this house on Earl Street. It took me a while to get these shots. I think the neighbors were likely wondering what the heck I was doing.

This is a row of houses on Sydenham Street that I had never really “noticed” before. Lots of character.

And, of course, I stopped often to soak up the colour of the spring flowers.

Next week will be a change of venue as I tramp around some Northern European cities.

If you missed Week 1 you can find it here.

Celebrating diversity in K-town

As I was heading over to Food Basics to buy some Harvest Crunch (on sale at 2 boxes for $5 this week) I was halted for a few minutes by the Pride parade heading up Brock Street past the market.

The kiss

This photo of a same-sex kiss on the front page of the Kingston Whig Standard in August 1969 provoked outrage. Times have changed for the better in K-town.

 

I had a flashback to 1985, the first year I moved to Kingston, and the uproar that happened when two young men staged a “kiss-in” on the steps of City Hall on August 8.

 
I understand that the LGBT community had been appealing to the Kingston City Council to be able to hold pride celebrations of some sort for a couple of years and were being rebuked.  In order to draw some attention, this kiss-in,  in a kind of make-love-not-war theme,  was organized on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in a kind of combination effort to promote some tolerance of sexual diversity and remind people that love is better than war.

 

 

1246306766_Whig_reaction_to_gay_kiss

Enlarge this photo to see some of the letters to the Whig decrying the obscenity of “the kiss”.

The “ceremony” drew about 400 onlookers and the next day there was a photo on the front page of the Whig Standard.  What followed was outrage.  People threatened to cancel their paper for showing this “excessive and offensive” behaviour.   “ It just made me feel like throwing up.” said one.  “We were disgusted to see those two homosexuals in a loving embrace.” wrote another.

It took several years of requesting but finally in 1992, Mayor Helen Cooper proclaimed a Pride Day in Kingston.   

This year, the walkway in front of City Hall has been painted in rainbow colours and the parade had hundreds of folks who believe that there is strength in diversity walking together through the streets – Businesses, Church groups, Military, police, friends and even our  federal Member of Parliament (who happens to be the son of the mayor of the city in 1985).

diversityWatching the cheerful and colourful parade pass by, it made me happy to know that our society has grown much more tolerant and accepting of diversity.  I was also delighted last week to see this sign on a few lawns in Kingston and around the university.  I am glad that my grandchildren will grow up in a society that acknowledges diversity as a strength, not a threat.

One would hope that we can continue to celebrate our differences – religious, sexual orientation, political, cultural, – rather than see them as divisive.  Who knows, eventually, I may even become accepting of Toronto Maple Leafs fans.

Diversity2

Just part of the Kingston Pride parade celebration in 2018.

Chop Chop

It’s true.

One of my blood relations, my seventh great grandfather, Dominicus Jordan, was slaughtered in 1703 by blows to the head with a hatchet.

This month, in the King’s Town Players production of Blood Relations, I am playing the role of Andrew Borden who, in real life, suffered the same fate.

images

Andrew Jackson Borden,  Lizzie’s father.

Andrew is the more famous of the two, having been found dead, along with his wife Abby, in their Fall River, Massachusetts home on the morning of August 4, 1892. The only people who had been in the house that morning were the maid who was out washing windows and the Borden’s daughter Lizzie. Lizzie’s was charged with the murder and her trial drew the same kind of widespread attention that O.J. Simpson got in 1995 and the out come of “Not Guilty” was received with the same skepticism. Lizzie Borden has become a bit of a legend since that time with the assumption being that she was the one who viciously murdered her parents despite the fact that there was and is no concrete evidence to prove her guilt. borden_4She got off on the “reasonable doubt” claim and to this day that verdict would have to hold. As a gruesome piece of evidence, the coroner had decapitated both Abby and Andrew and their skulls were submitted as evidence at the trial.

I remember skipping to the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an axe. Gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41” when I was a youngster. Her notoriety is of epic proportion.

3d8fc8ee-812c-4fe3-bb8d-5aa7ecf4eacf

Photos of Dominicus Jordan’s musket – Maine Historical Society

My seventh great grandfather’s death is well documented too.  Dominicus Jordan was born in Spurwink, Cape Elizabeth, Maine in about 1655.  In 1675 his family had to leave the district because at the beginning of “King Phillip’s War” their family home was destroyed by the Indians. Dominicus became known during that time as the “Indian-killer” and he fiercely defended his family and property. He was known for carrying a six-foot long rifle slung over his back wherever he went.

That rifle, with some of the barrel later sawn off, is now in the Maine Historical Society Museum in Portland. Gradually peace returned and Dominicus and his wife, Hanna Tristram, returned to Spurwink. Dominicus’ reputation with his native adversaries, however, remained with him. On August 10, 1703, under the guise of wanting to buy some goods, a small band of Indians fell on Dominicus, one of them striking his head with a hatchet and killing him. With Domincus murdered, his wife and six children were all “led through the wilderness to Canada” and kept as prisoners in what is now Quebec. After several years all but one made their way back to Maine.

There are no skipping rhymes about Dominicus but lots of legend.  And I do actually carry some of his DNA. I know from DNA testing on Ancestry that my brother, my kids and I all share some segments of DNA with other Dominicus Jordan progeny.  I am wondering if my DNA will help me to live the role of the unfortunate Andrew Borden.

So…did Lizzie do it? Come out to Blood Relations to see what. you think. The show will be at the Domino Theatre and runs Wednesday to Saturday for two weeks – March 21-24 and 28-31. Tickets will be available online and at the door. I hope my friends will be supportive of this production. And my enemies?  Well they might be excited to see me get hacked.

AM and Gosia

Rehearsing for Blood Relations.

28166684_1602977373082666_7433523581182842755_n

KCFF18 – three more movies – two comedies and one that was unsettling.

Let’s get the unsettling movie out of the way first.

Black Cop has certainly been the talk of this Kingston Canadian Film Festival in 2018.  It played to two sold out screenings to audiences that found it somewhat unnerving.  We were warned when the creator/director, Cory Bowles (Trailer Park Boys) introduced the film, ending with  “Enjoy the film” then corrected it to “Enjoy the experience”.

Black-Cop-movie--623x350The movie, all shot in Halifax, is about a black policeman who is finding his work as a policeman to be challenging when people of color are in trouble with the law, or accused unfairly of being lawbreakers.  At one point when he is off duty, he is “carded” by another cop and treated badly, simply because he is a person of color.  He snaps and starts to turn the tables, stopping white people and being abusive and hostile in his interactions with them. This gave our predominantly white audience a feeling for what it would be like to have the shoe on the other foot, to be suspected and abused simply because of your skin color.  It was startling to experience and a provocative but very effective way of creating understanding of movements like Black Lives Matter.

Both Bowles and the film’s star, Ronnie Rowe, were at a Q&A after the screening.  It was clear that the audience was a bit stunned and needing some time to take it all in and the frank discussion about racial profiling and being a person of color in Canada was both welcome and complimented the film.   Everyone should see this film. Don’t watch it alone. You will need a chance to debrief afterward as there is a lot of overwhelming content to process.

MV5BZTNmOTliNjItMmE2MC00NjFiLTlhODgtZTQ4MTIyZjA5ODA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjU1MDYyMDE@._V1_UY1200_CR85,0,630,1200_AL_The two comedies were both fun but paled in comparison to Black Cop.

Room for Rent, shot in Winnipeg,  is about a young man, Mitch Baldwin (played by Mark Little), who won a lottery, blew all the money (and in the process a lot of relationships) and who is now living at home with his parents.   When his father (Mark McKinney) loses his job and they think they will have to sell the house the family decides to rent a room to make some money. Enter Carl Lemay (Brett Gellman), an assertive loose canon of a guy who complicates Iife for everyone, particularly Mitch.

 

Unknown-5Another Kind of Wedding was filmed in Montreal.  I loved the familiar locations including the bagel shop where Tara Foods gets their bagels.  Kingston was also mentioned by none other than Kathleen Turner.   Even though the line was a bit negative “Who would want to spend a week in Kingston?”, the audience loved to be acknowledged on film by this superstar.

81TuxghYTZL._SX342_

William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat (1981) one of my favourite films.

 

Body Heat (1981) is one of my all-time favourite movies and I have always found Kathleen Turner to be “hot”.  She is now in her mid-sixties and has put on 50 pounds but she still exudes a sultry, classy, confidence that is oh so sexy.    And she is great in this movie as one of the mothers of the groom.

I think the title of this film is unfortunate and not appealing but it has already been changed from Someone Else’s Wedding so I guess the producers are struggling to find a wedding title that has not been taken.

I realized that it takes more to make me like a comedy than a drama.  They tend to be shallow and often work too hard to make us laugh. Wedding movie comedies usually follow a pattern – introduction, complications, affairs, family feuds, disruption, and then a sudden turn around where everyone comes out OK in the end.  This movie also follows that formula but the characters were all interesting and varied and I think that saved the film for me. I liked it better than Room for Rent and it was a light and pleasant way to spend my Sunday morning.

For each of the films that I mentioned today, I have naturally started with where they were filmed.  This is part of the fun of seeing Canadian movies where Canadian cities are presented as themselves, not as a substitute for some American town or New York.   It adds a sort of familiarity to the film that increases the appeal for a Canadian audience.  Canadian locations do look like home to Canadians.  Like our accent or “eh” or “sorry”, we do have a look to our cities and towns that a Canadian can indentify.  What fun to spend the weekend watching films that embrace that.  Thanks to the KCFF18 for providing this treat.

Two more KCFF18 movies

Coming of age movies seem to be popular. Two of this year’s nominees for Best Picture are Ladybird and Call Me By Your Name, both about teens discovering themselves and their relationships, including with their parents. Last year my favourite Canadian film was Weirdos. In all of these films, my aging self is having more trouble identifying with the teens but I tend to do relate to the parents.

Adventures in Public School is also a film in the coming of age genre but with a quirky comedic twist. Liam is a teenager who has been home schooled by his mother (played by Judy Greer – “Say goodbye to these” – Arrested Development) who has educated him but smothered him and protected him from any outside influence, including other kids. He goes to the local secondary school to write his final exams so he can go to Cambridge to become an Astronomer” like Stephen Hawking”  but sees a one-legged young woman at the school who catches his eye, He bombs the test on purpose so he can go to the school to get to know her. Of course, this does not sit well with the mom who then takes it on herself to instruct Liam (who ends up taking the class place of a girl named Maria Sanchez and then having to take all her classes using her name) in what she figures is the usual coming of age stuff like drinking alcohol, sex and smoking marijuana.

The movie is pretty silly but not to the point of being annoying. I found myself laughing a lot and there were quirky little moments that were both humorous and endearing. Not an award-winning film but entertaining and “cute”.

 

Today, I really enjoyed Cardinals. It was a slow burn, somewhat understated film that dealt with a woman released from jail ten years after killing someone in a car accident and being charged with impaired driving.  I thought it was impeccably written and unfolded slowly but with purpose.  Never tedious but always crawling ahead. The writer and directors (Grayson Moore, Aiden Shipley) are two young men whose work shows maturity beyond their years.  I can’t say too much about the plot because you have to experience it as it unfolds. I was trying to find some way of describing how the movie feels – like peeling an onion, watching a slow striptease or lava bubbling up from a volcano. None of those analogies did it justice. I realized that it felt very much like reading a good book. Something happens to advance the plot then there are a couple of pages of descriptive to flesh it out and then you turn the page and there is something else revealed. A jigsaw where you suddenly find a piece that clarifies a section.  I really liked the mood and the performances. The cast includes many talented Canadian actors and an added bonus for me was that one of the lead actors is Grace Glowicki, who I know from hanging out with her on a movie set , Nightrunners, shot in Kenya, three years back.

C1

Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley at a Q&A after the KCFF screening of Cardinals.

Here is a scene from the movie to whet your appetite. Watch for it. I suspect it will eventually appear on Netflix. Also keep and eye on Grayson Moore and Aiden Shipley. They are talented young Canadian film-makers.

 

 

Long time running…

I was never really a huge fan of The Tragically Hip.  I didn’t not like them but I never caught on to their genre and lyrics like so many others did.   I think I was at the edge of a previous generation, more Beach Boys and Beatles. (I was reassured to learn that Gord Downie was a closet fan of the Bee Gees.)

But I did recognize their talents and knew there must be something to their music that appealed so broadly to the generation that followed me.  I did, however, join the rest of Canada Day on August 20, 2017 to celebrate this phenomenonal and truly Canadian  band.

Last weekend I was eager to see the documentary about their 2016 tour – Long Time Running.   It has been shown at TIFF and other film festivals with good reviews and had a few showings at Kingston’s Screening Room this week.

I was surprised what I got from this film.   Someone asked me if it was kind of sad.   Absolutely, it was not.  It was actually a very inspiring and positive.  It goes through the diagnosis of “terminal” brain cancer for the lead member,  Gord Downie,  his initial treatments and struggles to remember things and put sentences together after having his temporal lobe and hippocampus removed surgically and 30 radiation treatments.  (The surgeon, by the way, a Kingston neurosurgeon).

Despite this, Gord was keen to go on tour with the band once more.  Obviously the others were a bit skeptical if this would work but, no spoiler here, they finished the tour across Canada, culminating in the August 20 concert in Kingston, broadcast all across Canada and drawing thousands to Kingston, including our Prime Minister.

It was interesting to see the backstage preparations and angst about this tour but I got a lot of messages from this film that surprised me.

Several themes developed for me.

1.  Never give up.   This guy was sort of written off by a lot of people and was initially in no shape to perform, let along tackle a cross country tour.   But he did.  In doing so, he earned a lot of respect from the public, drew attention to cancer treatment and research, highlighted the plight of Canadian First Nations people and entertained thousands.  Make that hundreds of thousands.  Incredible really.   Maybe his cognitive deficits from his surgery and treatment made him naively bold or brave or fixated.  But what an example to set.   I am sure that his fortitude and positivity has helped many people who have been struck by cancer. And it was a gift to Hip fans to be able to celebrate their 30 year run before it came to a crashing close.

2.  The expression of true friendship.   These guys had worked together for 30 years and were a real team.  I am sure that there were bumps along the way, but it was incredible that Downie’s band-mates dug in and just supported his dream.  It was a huge risk.  Anything could happen.  It could have turned out to be a disaster.   It was incredibly touching to see them kiss each other – on the lips – and hug each other and genuinely show real love to each other prior to each performance. This is the kind of love that is meant by the Greek word, Agape.*  They were all vulnerable and all a team with a mission.  It seemed that egos were set aside.  You hear about this kind of teamwork and friendship but rarely see it so obviously.  It was very intimate material to be shared publicly.   But this support was also quite evident in their performances.   Another lesson for us all.  Downie’s diagnosis and fate overshadowed the rest of the band but they deserve great respect and accolades for helping their friend live out his dream.

3.  This was just so…Canadian.  The whole country was moved by this story.  We all wanted to be part of it.   And thousands were.   Fans bought tickets both to be entertained but also to support this band that was so loved.   And they were also ready for anything.   It could all be cancelled in a moment.  Or fall apart in the middle of a performance.   But no one cared about that.  This was about being part of this team and joining in to keep it going.

4.  It was a lesson in closure.  All good things come to an end.   Concerts, vacations, childhood, holidays, friendships , life.  Things come to an end.  It’s natural. It helps to deal with that fact if we learn to accept it with some stoicism and dignity.   It is helpful to fondly remember good times past and friends and family who have departed.  And maybe it is helpful to others if we acknowledge the end of something, celebrate and share our acceptance.   I think this is what Gord Downie and the Hip did, most graciously and unselfishly.

Little did I know when I wrote this earlier in the week that Gord Downie would die last night, October 17, 2017.  It makes all of the above lessons more poignant and pertinent today.

I took my 15 year old granddaughter to the show on Saturday and we went early because I thought it would be packed.  There were only about 10 people in the audience!  I do hope that more people see this show as it not only provides some concert-like Hip music but it caused me to reflect on many other things – life in general.   I think that is what Gord Downie (and his band-mates) would have liked.

The Hip concert on August 20, 2016 in Kingston was a celebration of the past and acknowledgement of an ending.

Hip Concert pano

* Agape – Agape love involves faithfulness, commitment, and an act of the will. It is distinguished from the other types of love by its lofty moral nature and strong character. Agape love is beautifully described in the Bible.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  1 Corinthians 13 4-7.

 

Lively weekend in downtown Kingston Ontario

Have I said how much I love living in Downtown Kingston?  All these photos were taken within a 5 minute walk of where I live!

This weekend had perfect end-of-summer weather and  the downtown was full of activity ranging from Bollywood to jets to skydivers to a wonderful multicultural arts festival.

Here’s a five minute taste of how the weekend unfolded.   Never a dull moment…or a quiet one.

Rhinos and rainbows

Unknown.jpegLast night I went to see Rhinoceros at the Bader Centre for the Arts.  I knew several friends who were in it but had no idea what it was about.   I was a bit disoriented at first, not sure where it all was heading or why.  Tied together by the notion that there were a few rhinoceroses seen about town and they presented both curiosity and perhaps even threat, the rest of the night was a series of vignettes – monologues and poems and dance and music – that were largely written and performed by local people.

As the evening wore on I could better understand the thread.  Basically it was a comment on diversity in our community and on our streets and, in the long run, we are all unique and in some way a rhinoceros to others.   We need to be tolerant and open in seeing new people or people that differ from us in whatever way.

Now this sounds a bit preachy but that was not how it came across. It was a bit of a grab bag and some of the performances were a bit awkward but all were heartfelt. I was not bored for a minute.  There were so many ideas and thoughts coming at me that at times I felt I needed a bit more time to reflect on what I had just heard.

My friend and I talked about it for an hour after the show and today I ruminated on the theme several times.   This is a great credit to the production.  Theatre can both entertain and cause reflection.  This one did both.

Dave and rhinos 2.jpgAs the actors called out that they had spotted a rhinoceros on the street,  I was reminded of a trip to Uganda in 2013 with my friend, Dave Kay.  We went to a rhino sanctuary where we were out with a guide looking for a few of the (huge) rhinos that lived in the forest there.  We came across a few.  Dave was more brave than I was to get a look at them.  I hung back with my camera – if the rhino charged it would get Dave first.  And our instructions were, if the animal charged to climb a tree.   Can you imagine me scrambling up an acacia with a rhino snorting down on me?  The guide said that when they charged it was usually a false charge and they would stop short.  Usually was the operative word in that sentence for me.   We survived.

Pride 3And to fit the diversity theme, this happens to be Pride weekend in Kingston. Today there was a parade down Princess Street with lots of colour and gaiety in the old sense of the word.

I remembered the first summer I lived in Kingston, there was an article in the Whig Standard with a photo of a same sex kiss-in on the steps of City Hall.  This was seen to be provocative and somewhat astounding.

One report of this incident reads: “Although the ceremony itself lasted only fifteen minutes, it attracted over 400 onlookers and was described as “a kiss that reverberated throughout Kingston.” The public’s responses to the kiss ran the gamut from curiosity to outrage. Most of the crowd applauded, but some showed their disapproval by booing.”

Today there were hundreds of brightly clothed celebrants of diversity in the parade down our main street.  Kids, families, soldiers, church groups, members of parliament.

The rainbow seems to have replaced the rhinoceros.

Pride one