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.

 

 

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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.

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Just part of the Kingston Pride parade celebration in 2018.

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.

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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.

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.

I have always enjoyed a good party.

Last fall, my friend Margi McKay interviewed me as part of a Kingston Public Library project to have people select an old photo from their past and talk about it.  You might enjoy listening to the 22 minute interview.  I am happy to have it preserved.  Some day my grandchildren or great grandchildren will be able to hear me talk about my childhood.

And how things have changed in my lifetime.  I feel like a bit of a pioneer.  The TV set in the photo was the latest technology.  Now everyone has this in their pocket.

There is a link below to an edited version of the interview but if you have the 20 minutes, the longer interview is better as it is more thoughtful and complete.  You can access it by clicking on the photo below or here.

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For the shorter edited version you can click here.  It is a bit more rushed and the editing sounds like I have had about 4 cups of coffee prior to the interview.  But in these days of shorter attention span, this works well.  Click here for the abbreviated version.

I talk about 448 Mornington Ave, London in the interview.  It is where the party took place. Here is my brother Bob and I on the front porch of that house about the same time.

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Surprise. I do have a spiritual side.

I have spent the past few days on what has turned out to be a Reminiscence Tour of Huron and Bruce counties, visiting longstanding friends and familiar locations from my past.
I have camped out for a couple of nights at my brother’s cottage just south of Kincardine and on the wall in the living room is a painting that was done by my late mother sometime in the 1960s. This morning when I looked at the painting, I decided to go there, to sit on that beach and see if that rock was still in the water.
For years, our family had a cottage at the top of the hill in the community known as Bluewater Beach. I spent many summers there from about age 5 on. My kids also remember Grandma and Grampa’s cottage well.   
I picked up a coffee in Goderich and a Danish at Culbert’s bakery. I parked at the top of he hill across the street from where Vasiloff’s had their cottage and walked along the road past Hartman’s and Haskett’s and Footwinkler’s and Halpin’s. None of those people are there – most of them are dead. The buildings, most of them drastically changed are there but with different owners they feel empty and foreign.

No one was home at the cottage that used to belong to my family – we had called it Tip Toe Inn –so I went out onto the front yard, sat down and had my coffee there looking out over Lake Huron. The cottage was built by my Dad starting in 1952. The structure remains the same although it is now brown, not white with red trim.

I then took the well-worn path and steps down to the beach.

At the bottom of the hill I could see the rocks in my mom’s painting. It’s true, she did take some artistic license with the size and perspective but the rocks are still there with waves crashing over them just as in the painting.


While I was on the beach, I met a fellow who was wandering along with his dog. He had a beard and long hair pulled back with an elastic. I know he would not call it a man-bun.  He said he had a place at the top of the hill that sounded like it was where Art Johnson, the local woodsman, used to live fifty years ago. He said he spent a lot of his time wandering the beach and kayaking, – a bit like a Robinson Crusoe.  He has built a little hideaway up against the cliff under some trees. His kayak was there, some places to sit and a painting of a whales tail in the water. We talked at some length about the beach, the way the lake changes from year to year but also the way that certain things stay the same. I told him about Benny Daer, the local bootlegger, and Miss Salkeld’s blue cottage tea room. I may have bored him but he listened politely. For me it was a flood of memories. 

This year the water level in Lake Huron is high. Everyone thinks this is an anomaly. But I remember this beach in many years past exactly as it is today. We would have to clear rocks away to make a sandy spot to put our beach towels. Some years there was sand in the water and some years there was not. Some years the shore was polluted with seaweed, other years it was clean.  Some years we would have to walk a couple of kilometers along the beach to Black’s Point to have a good swimming. Along the way we would stop at “the big rock”, another large flat table-like rock 100 m from shore. My new-found friend assured me he knows that rock well. And yet another  “big” rock –in the picture below– at the base of the stairway to the beach was sometimes almost out of the water. But I also remember it exactly as it is now. When I was 10 we would go out to that rock and jump off of it into the water. All the rocks seemed bigger then.
As I stood there, I  reflected how the rocks in my Mom’s painting will be there 100 years or 200 years from now as well. But I won’t. There is something both comforting and disturbing about that thought. How small and temporary we are in the grand scheme of things.
I’m not religious but sometimes I do have a spiritual side. These rocks are as close to God that I can get. They are steadfast, immovable, reliable and enduring. And there is something reassuring about knowing that, although we are only on this planet for a very short time, there is something greater that lasts… and lasts…and lasts.
Addendum: As I stood taking the photo above, looking toward Goderich, beyond the point in the distance,  it reminded me of the time when my “cousins”, my 7 year old brother and I decided on the spur of the moment to walk along the beach to Goderich, maybe 5 km away.  We neglected to tell our parents and, needless to say it took us longer than we anticipated. It was before the days of mobile phones or even a phone at the cottage.  Our parents were frantic and at 4 pm found us walking along the highway in an attempt to head home.  Brother Bob was exhausted. Parents were relieved to find us safely but were pretty angry with us.  As a kid, this just seemed like a reasonable adventure.  As a parent and grandparent I can understand our parents’ panic.

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.

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Docks Part 3 – closer to home – Ontario

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Winter  – Kingston Harbour

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Dock by the Delta Hotel – Kingston

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Confederation Basin, Kingston – early Spring

 

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Eagle Lake dock

 

 

Cousins on the dock

Cousins on the dock – Ontario cottage country

 

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Wolfe Island dock

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Three minutes from my home – Kingston harbour

We have had a delicious smorgasbord of summer theatre in Kingston

It has been a very rich summer for theatre in Kingston with literally hundreds of presentations happening in the downtown core. SFF-2016-Poster-webThe Storefront Festival converted empty spaces into unique venues that offered a wide range of productions over about 10 days.  My favourite was Cul de Sac, a Daniel MacIvor play.  In this one woman show, Anne Marie Bergman, under the direction of Will Britton, presented an engaging story told by several memorable characters. And they were characters indeed.
Blue Canoe, with their usual enthusiasm and energy, presented Chicago at the Baby Grand. This show kept my toe tapping and face in a steady grin throughout.   On a balmy Wednesday night in Market Square behind City Hall,  I enjoyed an evening of Shakespeare – Driftwood Theatre’s Taming of the Shrew.  Outdoor theatre-in-the-round always seems to be the perfect venue for Shakespeare.

AmbroseFor a few weeks,  I worked with a group of Kingston theatre friends on a Single Thread production of Ambrose – Re-imagined.  I  loved this unique theatre experience last year when it was presented for the first time so I was delighted when creator Liam Karry asked me to join the cast for this newly re-imagined  version.  Liam likes to surprise audiences and have them experience theatre in non-traditional settings.   In this show, audience members made a journey through many hidden areas of the Grand Theatre to meet up with characters who have had some connection to the mysterious Ambrose Small.  Ambrose was an Ontario Theatre magnate who disappeared on December 2, 1919 the day after receiving a million dollars for the sale of the many theatres in Ontario that he owned, including Kingston’s Grand.  His spirit is known to haunt the theatre with many people over the years,  actors and employees, having had a ghostly experience in the Grand. The mystery of his disappearance was never solved.

 

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No two audience members at Ambrose had the same experience, ever.  Their exploration of the Ambrose Small history was their own.  Liam told me that he likes the idea that the audience participants are invited to play with us with this material. People who expected to sit and snooze and be entertained may have been a bit overwhelmed  but most of our audience members were wildly enthusiastic.  When they let go and engaged in the process it was delightful and unique – and a lot of fun.   Fun, too for the actors who never knew exactly what was coming next.

 

14047343_1084090548304687_4608973864294042412_oIn mid August  I also took in a Single Thread production of Salt Water Moon that was “staged” on the steps of the University Club, outdoors on a sultry summer evening.  This is a great little play and was wonderfully presented.  The setting was absolutely perfect for this piece.

Kingston has a vibrant theatre community all year around. It takes no summer break. In fact, this summer it ramped up to provide audiences a wonderful selection of productions in a variety of settings.  Thanks to everyone who entertained us so well.

Hip and tragic at the same time

Last night was a remarkable evening in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The Tragically Hip – a home-town band that gained national popularity and became a Canadian treasure had a nationally televised concert will likely be their last.   Lead singer, Gord Downie,  diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, led the band on a sort of “last stand” tour across Canada that culminated in the final concert in Kingston on August 20.

The arena was full and the downtown core in Kingston was packed – really packed – with people from far and wide who watched and sang and danced to the concert streamed live on a large screen in Market Square.   Similar gatherings were held across the country.  This was a big deal for Canadians.

Three things stood out for me about this event.

Pano2Firstly, this had the potential to be a huge security risk.  Over 25,000 people jammed into a market square and flowing into the neighbouring streets and the Prime Minister glad-handing people in the street would not only be a terrorist’s dream in some places but the potential for a few drunk yahoo’s to disrupt it was almost unavoidable.   But it didn’t happen.  The crowd was orderly and … Canadian.   Yes there was the occasional, or not so occasional, waft of marijuana.  But that only led to more singing and dancing and air-guitaring.  There was security around but not that evident. No guns on display.  People checking bags at the entry points to the venue were wearing t-shirts, not uniforms.  Everyone was polite. The energy was all celebratory.

PMSecondly, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau,  an acknowledged Hip fan was there to celebrate with us.  He walked through the mob in Market Square just before the concert and shook hands and took selfies and smiled in his jean jacket and Tragic
ally Hip T-shirt.  His visage only appeared once on the TV screen during the concert when Downie acknowledged him.  And the grip Trudeau has on Downie’s shoulder in the photo of them hugging before the concert was real.

Enlight1Last, but not least, was the courage and determination and resolution that Gord Downie showed in not wallowing in his sorrow and illness but living life to the fullest despite a dismal prognosis.  I was tired from standing the three hours for the concert in the square., How exhausted must he have been after dancing and singing his way through the concert, the last of several this month, despite his recent surgery, radiation and chemo treatments for his cancer.  This, to me, was really something incredible and an example to all of us not to give in to our troubles, but to live every moment fiercely.  We are all dying at some point.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”  Buddha

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