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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Love Is Love

The bounty from Victoria's Pride Parade, 2018
In the late 70's I took a trip to San Francisco by myself.

Truth be known, I was following someone there, otherwise I would never have traveled so far alone back then.

That's another story, but you can find out all about about my friend Ted here.

On the last day of my trip, I took a bus from where I was staying into downtown San Francisco because I had booked a seat on the Amtrak back to Vancouver. What I didn't realize was that there was a parade happening downtown that very day. A kind of parade I would never even have imagined at that point in time. There were a lot of people dressed in strange costumes, lots of oiled, tanned men dancing on floats. Strange characters handing out odd tokens to the onlookers. On one float, the men threw out coins, one of which I snagged. It had a logo and the words "Bulldog Massage Parlor" etched into it. I hung onto it for years.

At one point when I was standing there, I heard a very deep voice say hello behind me. I turned around, and looked up. It was a black transvestite, in sequins, on roller skates, handing out pamphlets. I just stared up at this creature, the likes of which I had never seen before. I'm sure he thought *I* was the odd one...

It was an unabashedly happy occasion, people laughed and yelled out and sang and danced in the streets. And I'll never forget it. As it turned out, this was my first pride parade. I just didn't know what that was at the time.

Today, my husband and I made the trek to downtown Victoria to attend the 2018 Victoria Pride Parade, something which has been happening here for the past 25 years. And as the first floats and performers walked past us, we both got a little teary eyed. For me, there were many things that brought those tears. I was thinking about my Uncle Roy, a gay, Danish man who killed himself during the second World War because he was afraid of being thrown into a concentration camp for homosexuals by the German soldiers who occupied Denmark. I was thinking about my friend Lynn who came out to me in high school, but had to keep her secret from almost everyone else back then. I was thinking about my friend Ted, the man I mentioned above, who died of AIDS.

But our tears turned to laughter and applause, watching so many people expressing their joy at being themselves. The costumes were just as bright and crazy, the music and laughter still as loud as it was at that first parade 40 years ago. They handed out colourful beads, lots of candy, Pride stickers, colouring books and postcards. And condoms. Lots of condoms.

One young woman came straight to me and handed me a little plastic bottle labeled "Pride". "Sunscreen!" she exclaimed, seeing my bare arms turning a little pink. "Thought you might need some!" She laughed and rejoined her parade group. And as we were leaving, a little girl who was walking with her Dad as part of the parade, handed me a yellow lollipop. "Happy Pride!" she smiled.

We've come a long way in 40 years. There are still issues to deal with, people with narrow minds and oppressive cultures. Perhaps one day we will have come so far that there really won't be any need for Pride Parades, but I kind of hope they never stop.

Happy Pride Day!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

I Can Hear You Think!

NOT my new hearing aids...
I remember my poor old Uncle George often fussing with his big, chunky hearing aids, trying to adjust the sound up or down, still struggling with the conversation going on around him. During the second World War, his hearing had been seriously damaged from standing too close to the artillery guns. Other than cupping the hands over the ears, there was no protection from the sound of the blasts. And those were only the blasts you were prepared for!

The technology for hearing aids was basically nothing more than sticking two speakers in your ears, blaring everything into them at full tilt. How the technology has changed.

On February 3rd of this year, I finally gave in to my husband's insistence and went to get my hearing tested. The lady who was testing me said that it's usually the complaints of a spouse that bring people in :-) Yes, I admit, I've had some trouble hearing certain things for some time because of tinnitus, a ringing in the ears. I think it annoyed my husband beyond measure to have to repeat himself so frequently. Patience isn't his strong point. But considering what I do for a living, teaching guitar, hearing well is kind of important.

The test takes about an hour, consisting mainly of sticking you in a booth and inserting small contraptions in your ears as you punch a button every time you hear something. Or think you hear something. You hear beeps and buzzes, people talking in noisy bars (well, I imagined it to be a bar to entertain myself), deep sounds, high pitched sounds. You get the picture. And then when the testing is over, you can view a little graph of each ear and its response to sounds, giving you an idea of which frequencies you are not hearing. After that, the conversation steers towards what kind of hearing aids would be best for you, and how they work. I had been researching before the appointment, so I was pretty sure I knew which ones would suit me. So we picked a colour, put in the order and paid for them, and made an appointment for picking them up.

And then I had some time to reflect on it all. It's a bit of an emotional adjustment, I have to admit. All I could picture was my old Uncle George with his big, awkward hearing aids and the stigma of needing them in the first place. How will I look? How will it feel? What will it change in my life?

This past Wednesday I finally had my appointment to pick them up. Again, it was an hour long session, because they have to test them and make any necessary adjustments. They also teach you how to take care of them, how to replace parts, batteries, clean and maintain them. It was a lot to take in. But as soon as she put them in my ears, I heard everything that I'd been missing. I could hear my voice reverberating off the wall in front of me. Suddenly sibilant sounds came to life. I became conscious of every little rustle or movement in the tiny room. Yep, I guess I needed them after all.

When I walked out of the room, I laughed to myself that the first sounds I was hearing were the sounds of Costco customers noisily shopping. I got in my car and heard the key click in the ignition in a way I hadn't before. Wow. It sounds like that. I turned the radio down because it was too noisy. I spoke out loud to myself and heard my own voice in a suddenly strange way.

They are quite small, they are very light, and they are hidden under my hair. The technology allows me to hear the frequencies I am able to hear naturally, mixed with the boost in frequencies I don't hear as well from the hearing aids. I wear them as much as I can to allow my brain the opportunity to get used to the new sounds. When I met up with one of my daughters yesterday, she had to ask me if I had received my hearing aids yet. She couldn't see them. That was a plus.

A few weeks back, I told one of my students, a 10-year-old, that I was getting hearing aids soon. I told him that my hearing aids were going make my hearing so good that I was going to be able to hear what he's thinking. He looked at me for a long time. I think he believed me.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

A Visit To Windsor Castle

Since drawing has become more of a hobby in the last couple of years, I've decided to post some of my work here and tell you a bit about them. To the left is my sketch of Windsor Castle which we visited on the 4th day of our London/Paris/Copenhagen trip this past spring. I'm including the post I wrote on Facebook from London below. I loved the castle, but it was the adventure after the castle tour that mostly sticks in my mind ;-)

London, Day 3 & 4 -- It must be annoying sometimes, being a tour guide. All of us idiot tourists to cope with, asking stupid questions, looking for the nearest bathroom.

As a tourist, though, nothing beats a great tour guide. The ones who know how to tell you a lot without boring you to bits. Who keep you together and moving like herding idiot cows (with apologies to the cows). Who have tickets and whisper boxes at the ready, breezing you through security, all the while with a smile on their faces.

Some don't quite live up to that level. The lady who was our morning tour guide on Tuesday had it all together. She kept us moving with no sense of urgency, told us a little about everything, but not too much, and didn't lose one cow in the process. A real pro.

The guy we had yesterday, well, he still needs work.

We had a heck of a time finding Victoria Coach Station, which was our own doing. Buses are called coaches here, duh. Fortunately we gave ourselves lots of time, and eventually we asked a bus driver (or is that "coach driver"?) and he literally pointed across the street. Duh again.

We found the right coach, got on board, and patted ourselves on the back.

And then our tour guide started speaking. "How many have we got on board?" He had to count several times. "Okay, let's see, where are we off to?" He wasn't joking. I think the guy might have been at the pub a little too late the night before.

The first part of our trip was to Windsor Castle. We had to leave the coach (okay I'm fully British now) several blocks away, walking on an overpass through some twists and turns before reaching the queue for the castle, along with hundreds of other people. Hundreds.

He got us in, through security, and told us to meet us back at the bus at 5 minutes to 12 noon.
Windsor castle was gorgeous, extravagant, opulent. I've run out of adjectives. We couldn't take pictures inside otherwise I would have posted them. And then it was outside to find our way back to the bus.

I was sure it was down one street, and Michael was sure it was down another. We picked my choice. And on and on, and on we went, slowly realizing my pick was wrong. What an awful feeling. We tried desperately to get over to the street Michael thought it was, but towns and cities in the U.K. don't work in grids, the streets twist and turn and bend and sometimes don't even connect at all.
Eventually another lady from our tour came up behind us. I think she had been following us, hoping we knew the way. That was her first mistake.

The three of us tried to retrace our steps. Michael told us it was noon. The tour guide had said that they were going to pull out right at noon on the dot, so our hearts sank. We were only on the first stop. How the heck were we going to get back to London? What were we going to do?

Just then, I spotted a sign that said car park and coaches. Coaches! I know what that is! I started walking faster and faster, leaving the other two in my dust. Coaches!

Somehow we ended up coming all the way around entering it where we had originally driven in. I kept running, yelling back "I think I see someone else from our tour!" And then I spotted our coach. I have never been so relieved (or sweaty, for that matter) in my life.

In spite of the earlier threats, they had waited for us. As we got on, Michael the smart ass said "It's not our fault!" Nobody laughed.

What I learned yesterday:
1. Not all tour guides are created equal.
2. Left and right and sense of direction are totally useless in another city and country.
3. I can, actually, go along time without peeing when I'm panicking.
4. I'd rather be herded like a dumb cow than lost like Mary's little lamb.

Other people got lost on another part of the tour which left us feeling a little less stupid.
Today we did our own walking tour of all of the famous sights we could find. Tomorrow we go on another coach tour.

Oh, oh.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Oh, Canada

Of all of the places I recently traveled to in Europe, one of the most exciting sights for me to see was in the picture on the left.

What? No Eiffel Tower? No Big Ben? No Little Mermaid? Versailles? Juno Beach? Stonehenge?

Oh, yes, I loved all of those historic, amazing, and beautiful places. But the picture you see here is Labrador. It is the first view we had of Canadian soil on our way home.


Compared to the UK, France and Denmark where I recently traveled, Canada is so young. It is so vast. It is so...well...CANADIAN.

I have never seen Labrador with my own eyes before. That picture reminds me of how much of Canada is so remote and void of humans. It also reminds me of how little I've seen of my own country, not because I haven't wanted to but because...well, where do you start? In Europe, you can drive for a couple of hours and be in another country. In Canada, that'll take you about 1/4 the way through one province.

I have driven from Victoria, B.C. to Calgary, Alberta a couple of times before. Once, I took the ferry from Victoria to the mainland, hopped in a truck with my sister and drove to Calgary all in one day. That was literally exhausting. I left home at 5:30am and we arrived in Calgary just after midnight. Europeans don't even know what that means.

On our recent flight back from Europe, we had a 7 hour layover in Toronto. My husband suggested we visit the CN Tower to pass the time, and I had never been there before, so off we went. As we looked out from the top of the tower, I couldn't help but think that, although the CN Tower is higher than the Eiffel Tower, the view wasn't nearly as interesting to me. Toronto is a giant, flat grid of high rises as far as the eye can see. Paris is full of low, old buildings with streets going every which way.

Paris, France

Toronto, Canada
But then again, having lived in Vancouver, I'm used to the look of a big, modern Canadian city. London and Paris and Copenhagen were so completely different for me. Some might say that the towers in Toronto are all so unique and each have their own beauty. I would say that the buildings in Paris have more charm and personality. But of course, Paris has its own section of high rises.

My husband also reminds me that I haven't seen Canadian cities like Montreal where there are communities like that one he grew up in, Boucherville, which is celebrating is 350th birthday this year.

He's right. And that just makes me curious to see more of the country I call home.

Today is Canada's 150th birthday. And although this country certainly isn't perfect, we still have plenty of problems to solve and pasts to reconcile, I can honestly say that I'm proud to be from this country. I appreciate our diversity, our open-mindedness, generosity, and our respect for each other and the soil we stand on. I enjoy the positive way the rest of the world views us. My hope for my country is that we continue to go forward, building on that positive energy, and maybe even become an example to others along the way.

And so from my polite but jubilant Canuck heart, Happy 150th Birthday Canada!

“There are no limits to the majestic future which lies before the mighty expanse of Canada with its virile, aspiring, cultured, and generous-hearted people.” » Sir Winston Churchill