Halloween Prelude

Well, Halloween may not be happening on Church Street (or anywhere else) this year thanks to COVID-19 running rampant, but at least my physiotherapist’s office got into the spirit of things.

On yesterday’s visit I was greeted by this guy:

A Simcoe-Grey-Bruce Adventure

As many know, Vince and I usually take a couple of weeks in mid-September to visit some European country or other. This year our destination was to be Belgium but, as with almost all things in life these days thanks to COVID-19, our plans were forcibly jettisoned.

So…. where could we travel this year? Europe is out, South America is out, Asia is out as well, and the U.S. is definitely out! So, what’s left? I know! We’ll travel in our own country and province this year… geez, what a concept!

We’d heard so many people sing the praises of Simcoe-Grey County, the Bruce Peninsula and the Georgian Bay area, so we figured that that part of the province would make an excellent destination for this trip.

Our trip ran from September 12 to 22. Here’s a few highlights:

Orillia

Huntsville

Collingwood

Owen Sound

Meaford

Wiarton

Tobermory

If you’re desperate for entertainment and would like to read the trip’s daily blog (with lots of pictures, of course) you can read all about the great Ontario Getaway of 2020 here.

Favourite Singers

These are singers whose voices move, soothe and inspire me. Some of the artists I’ve listed with their band’s name; this is in addition to their solo efforts. The “choice cuts” for each vocalist represent either my favourite songs by these artists, or a track highlighting their incredible style, range or crafting of the song.

And now, on to the list…

Karen Carpenter

Starting with the best… Karen Carpenter, a voice direct from the angels in heaven. When Karen died tragically in 1983, a light went out in the music world. She will never be replaced.

Choice cuts:
Superstar, Goodbye To Love, Rainy Days & Mondays


Tracey Thorn

With her husband Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn was the other half of the group Everything But The Girl. EBTG had great success in the 80s and into the 90s. There’s few people who haven’t heard their haunting, wistful Missing from 1994. Tracey has released a few albums in the 2000s, and continues to make beautiful music. For my post dedicated to Tracey Thorne, check this out.

Choice cuts:
Half-Light (Day Version), Protection, Cross My Heart, Missing


Hannah Reid (London Grammar)

Ah, Miss Hannah… my current absolute favourite vocalist. This woman’s incredible voice makes my hair stand on end and my toes curl. Fronting the group London Grammar, Hannah Reid has one of the most engaging and beautiful voices of any artist performing today. What a haunting contralto… her voice moves me in ways no other singer can.

Choice cuts:
Strong, Interlude, Metal & Dust, Big Picture, Different Breeds


Sarah Cracknell (Saint Etienne)

Singing with Saint Etienne or solo, Sarah Cracknell has a voice like golden honey dripping down a pot. There’s something magical about this woman’s voice and, coupled with Saint Etienne’s musical styling, it exudes pure London.

Choice cuts:
Hobart Paving, Goldie (solo), Like A Motorway, Teenage Winter


Justine Suissa

Justine Suissa is a British singer, currently the vocalist of trance group OceanLab (which includes the members of Above & Beyond). She’s collaborated with many of Trance’s prominent producers, such as Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Robbie Rivera and Chicane. Justine has a dreamy, ethereal voice.

Choice cuts:
On A Good Day, Lonely Girl, Miracle, Burned With Desire


Iva Davies

What a beautiful voice this man has. Iva was the voice of Icehouse in the 80s, and has gone on to great solo success in the 90s and beyond. To read my post dedicated to Iva Davies, check this out.

Choice cuts:
Heroes, Heaven, No Promises (with Icehouse), Crazy (Midnight Mix)


David Byron (Uriah Heep)

What a set of pipes!

David Byron (real name David Garrick) was a British singer and songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist in Uriah Heep. His was the voice on the 10 Uriah Heep albums released between 1969 and 1976. At the time, few lead singers in Rock could scream and wail like David Byron.

He lived a life of classic rock and roll excess, indulging in lots of drugs and booze. This, inevitably, led to dismissal from Uriah Heep in 1976 for his increasingly erratic behaviour and excessive alcohol consumption. David made several unsuccessful attempts to revive his career following the split, first with a band named Rough Diamond, then with a solo album and a brief career with The Byron Band.

He died from liver damage complicated by epilepsy on February 28, 1985 at the age of 38.

Choice cuts:
The Wizard, Sweet Lorraine, Rainbow Demon, Rain


Simon & Garfunkel

Pure. Vocal. Perfection.

Choice cuts:
For Emily Wherever I May Find Her, Scarborough Fair/Canticle, The Only Living Boy In New York, April Come She Will, All I Know (Art Garfunkel)


Alison Moyet

A Goddess in my world, Alison Moyet has a bluesy, beautiful contralto. From Yazoo in the 70s till now, she’s had many decades of success singing so many styles of music, excelling in them all.

Choice cuts:
Dorothy, Take Of Me, Winter Kills (with Yazoo), Cry Me A River


Corinne Drewery (Swing Out Sister)

I don’t know much about Corinne Drewery, other than I love her voice. Through the 80s and early 90s she was the silky smooth voice of the group Swing Out Sister.

Choice cuts:
Twilight World, Breakout, After Hours


Dusty Springfield

What more could one possibly say about Dusty Springfield that hasn’t already been said?

Choice cuts:
Am I The Same Girl?, Goin’ Back, Nothing Has Been Proved, Wishin’ And Hopin’, What Have I Done To Deserve This? (with Pet Shop Boys)


Dionne Warwick

Where would the 60s (and beyond) have been without Dionne Warwick and the David/Bacharach writing team? Warwick is the master of vocal phrasing (just take a listen to Promises, Promises).

Choice cuts:
Promises, Promises, Heartbreaker, I’ll Never Fall in Love Again, Do You Know the Way to San Jose?, Walk On By


Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet)

Tony is still workin’ it all these post-Spandau years later and the pipes remain in amazing condition. What a powerhouse voice and amazing vocal range.

Choice cuts:
Through the Barricades, Gold, True, Round And Round


Mimi Page

Mimi Page is an underrated singer-songwriter, producer and composer from the U.S. In the studio she blends her ethereal vocals with piano-driven, atmospheric soundscapes, resulting in a haunting and luxuriant sound. In addition to her albums, she has self-produced and released several film and gaming soundtracks.

Choice cuts:
Porcelain, Secunda (Skyrim)


Joni Mitchell

Ah yes, the one and only Joni… enough said.

Choice cuts:
Help Me, Chinese Cafe, Circle Game, A Case Of You


And lastly, Honorable Mentions for Powerhouse Vocals go to:
Ian Gillan (with and without Deep Purple)
Patti LaBelle
and, of course, Freddie.

Cat vs. Dog — War Of The Diaries

This is an old one, but it’s so very true. Whoever wrote this understands the true essence of cats and dogs.

The Dog’s Diary

8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!

9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!

1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!

5:00 pm – Dinner! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

The Cat’s Diary

Day 983 of My Captivity

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates my capabilities. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies.” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow, but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released, and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird must be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

SOPHIE

March 13, 2008 – July 10, 2020

The Bustle in a House (1108)

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

Emily Dickinson

Our beloved Sophie has left us. Words cannot express how much we miss her; our home is so quiet and still now without her. I struggle to write this post – there’s so much I’d like to say about Sophie, but words are failing me. My grief is enormous.

So many people in our condo loved Sophie and everyone knew her. She was a Celebrity Place girl from day one. Born in our condo building on the Easter weekend of 2008, this is the only home she ever knew. Sophie and her sister Dixie lived their whole lives at Celebrity Place and were a fixture of our complex.

Pack walk through Riverdale Park, September 2013

I will never forget that first year, especially, of Sophie’s life. I wanted her to be a big city girl and not fear city noise and mayhem. To that end, Sophie and I became quite a team as we transversed Toronto from side to side and top to bottom. Together we travelled the buses, rode the subway, up and down store escalators, took in the lunacy of Yonge-Dundas Square, made trips to the Toronto Islands via the ferry boat, visited shopping malls and the Eaton Centre (where she visited her Uncle David, working at Birks). Where I went, Sophie went. In all our city travels together we were only tossed out of two places – Mount Pleasant Cemetery and Shopper’s Drug Mart at Yonge and College Streets! So many places, so many memories… wonderful memories.

In Philosopher’s Walk, U of T, May 2012

Vince and I have lost our best friend. It is heartbreaking for us to say goodbye but Sophie left behind 12½ years of precious memories to cherish.

Thank you, Soph, for coming into our lives; we loved you beyond measure and will never, ever forget you.

Toronto Pride: A Look Back

Virtual Pride: June 26-28, 2020… say what???!!!

As we all know, COVID-19 has squatted over Toronto Pride this summer of 2020 and taken a huge dump. When it was announced that all large events – or any event for that matter – in the City of Toronto would be cancelled this year, including my beloved Pride, I was crushed beyond measure. Toronto Pride will be celebrated this year with “Virtual Pride” which, to me anyway, defies logic. Virtual Pride?? How exactly does one do a Virtual Pride, for God’s sake? No thanks… I want the real thing.

Pride week in Toronto has always meant so much to me and, as a gay man, is an essential experience in my life. In my world, Pride is more important than Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving all rolled into one. No other event brings such happiness, energy, enthusiasm, celebration, vitality and warmth than those few days in late June every year. Even though time and tide have scaled back my activities considerably from Pride weekends past, I still celebrate the occasion and feel joy in my own way on that special weekend.

I Remember…

I believe my first “Pride Day” (as it was then called) was 1985. I have wonderful memories of those early Pride events when they were just a half-day long (always on a Sunday afternoon) and held in Cawthra Park (now the Barbara Hall Park, which has become a haven for junkies, crackheads, crime, muggings and harassment from street trash who have overtaken the place… but I digress…).

Those days, Pride was held within the boundaries of Cawthra Park, if you can imagine. In the late 80s/very early 90s the event spilled into a small section of Church Street above Wellesley, with the epicentre being the 519 Church Street Community Centre. Across from the 519 was the only stage, set up in the parking lot of The Beer Store. At about 9:00 PM that night (at the latest), the police would reopen Church Street to traffic, and cars would resume their usual pace down Church Street as if nothing had happened that day.

I remember those Pride Days as being pretty much a white, male, middle-class event, long before global inclusion and the alphabet soup that now describes our community (LGBTIQA+ or whatever the hell it currently is). From those early Pride Days, I have memories of local gay hero Harold Desmarais singing a personally-penned protest song to Art Eggleton, the then-mayor of Toronto who had refused to proclaim, or even acknowledge, Pride Day (as it was then called). Harold served as the Master of Ceremonies for Pride Day festivities from 1986 through 1989. I also have memories of Jack Layton acting as auctioneer, auctioning local goods and services from a little makeshift stage behind the 519.

As for some of the Pride Day music I remember, local alternative band The Nancy Sinatras played a set for a couple of years at Pride, where they belted out some wonderfully tacky, kitschy and downright rude songs from the stage set up for the day in the Church Street Beer Store parking lot. The Nancy Sinatras were about as “Queen Street West” as you could get in the late ’80s; they were awesome.

In those days, the AIDS Memorial behind the 519 Church Street Community Centre did not exist. I remember the temporary AIDS memorial that would go up for Pride Day each year before the permanent one became a reality. This was a terrible time in our gay history, with AIDS claiming so many men in those early days.

For this post I had desperately hoped to find some photos I had taken of those early Pride events that took place on Church Street and in Cawthra Park. I slowly perused my carefully curated photo albums (physical pictures… remember those?), but alas could not find any shots of Toronto Pride street scenes from the 1980s, at least none that were of any interest. I do, though, have extensive shots of almost every Pride Parade from 1986 to 2006.

Sooooooo, as to not totally lose the Pride spirit this year, in lieu of a physical Toronto Pride 2020, I offer some good bits from years past to put us in the mood and lift our spirits.

I now present to you Toronto Pride, warts and all. Let’s go back…


On Church Street…

Familiar Faces…

I Love A Parade…

The Music…

Simone Denny, Pride 2016
Melissa Etheridge, World Pride 2014 Opening Ceremony
Purple Disco Machine, Pride 2017
Miss Thelma Houston (Goddess, Diva, Patron Saint of Gay Boys Everywhere), Pride 2008
Boney M., Pride 2017
DJ Kitty Glitter, Drag Ball 2019
Corey Hart, Pride 2012
The Parachute Club, Pride 2008
DJ, Pride 2019

Onstage…

Ah, the memories…


This year I’ll skip “Virtual Pride” but will still proudly fly my rainbow flags from the balcony, trying my best to resurrect the spirit of Pride.

I’d like to end this post with a positive, feel-good message from our Ward 13 City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam; I couldn’t have said it better myself:

When the pandemic is behind us, we will come together again. We will fill the streets, the restaurants, the bars, the civic spaces, the dance floors. And when we do it will be the loudest, most colourful, most fabulous Pride celebration in this city’s history. I look forward to joining you on that day.

AMEN KRISTYN!!!

We will rise again!!

See you at Pride next year!

When Insults Had Class

This is an oldie which has been travelling around the Internet for a while, but is worth preserving here. These glorious insults are from an era that valued cleverness with words; an era when the leaders of society didn’t need to use profanity or the middle finger to make their point.

He had delusions of adequacy

-Walter Kerr


He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire

-Winston Churchill


He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.

-William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)


I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

-Mark Twain


He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.

-Oscar Wilde


I feel so miserable without you; it’s almost like having you here.

-Stephen Bishop


He is a self-made man and worships his creator.

-John Bright


I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.

-Irvin S. Cobb


He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others.

-Samuel Johnson


He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.

-Paul Keating


In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.

-Charles, Count Talleyrand


He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.

-Forrest Tucker


Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?

-Mark Twain


His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.

-Mae West


Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

-Oscar Wilde


He has Van Gogh’s ear for music.

-Billy Wilder


I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But I’m afraid this wasn’t it.

-Groucho Marx

70s Canadian Rock

The other day I was doing a little food shopping at Rabba. The store had its sound system tuned to Toronto’s retro station Boom 97.3, and they were playing Spaceship Superstar by Prism. Prism!!… whoa…. the memories started flooding back. Ahh… Canadian rock in the early 70s… it was great.

If you were a teen in the 1970s growing up in Canada, AM radio’s pop and rock music was most likely your lifeblood; I know it certainly was mine. There were so very many awesome artists whose music I totally identified with, and that music was (and still is) integral to my life’s soundtrack.

Interestingly, the music from the 70s that matters to me most was from Canadian artists. CanCon (Canadian Content) played a huge role in the Canadian radio airwaves of the 70s and, for once, CRTC actually did a good thing. Thanks to CanCon, so much good Canadian music got a huge boost on our airwaves.

The Bands

I had to sit down and think about the artists and songs from this special era: who meant the most to me? who influenced me? whose music did I relate to? what songs and groups still grab my attention when I hear them at some random location (as in said food store mentioned above)?

To address these burning questions, I’ve come up with the following:

Michel Pagliaro
Best cuts: Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy (1971), Some Sing, Some Dance (1972)

Prism
Best cuts: Take Me Away (1978), See Forever Eyes (1978), You Walked Away Again (1980)

Trooper
Best cuts: Round, Round We Go (1978), The Moment That It Takes (1979), Two For The Show (1976)

April Wine
Best cuts: Oowatanite (1975), Drop Your Guns (1972), You Could Have Been A Lady (1972), Weeping Widow (1973)

Chilliwack
Best cuts: Lonesome Mary (1973)

Streetheart
Best cuts: Action (1978), One More Time (1982), Tin Soldier (1981), What Kind of Love is This? (1982)

Five Man Electrical Band
Best cuts: Coming of Age (1971), Hello Melinda, Goodbye (1970), Absolutely Right (1971), Find the One (1971), Country Girl (1971)

The Guess Who
Best cuts: Sour Suite (1971), These Eyes (1969), Laughing (1969), No Time (1969), Sona Sona (1974), Hand Me Down World (1970), American Woman (1970), Rain Dance (1971)

The Stampeders
Best cuts: Minstrel Gypsy (1973), Oh My Lady (1973), Carryin’ On (1971), Carry Me (1971)

Lighthouse
Best cuts: Pretty Lady (1973), Little Kind Words (1971), 1849 (1971)

Edward Bear
Best cuts: Last Song (1971), You Me & Mexico (1970), Close Your Eyes (1973), Masquerade (1972)

BTO
Best cuts: Takin’ Care of Business (1974), Blue Collar (1973)

Steppenwolf
Best cuts: Snowblind Friend (1970), Sparkle Eyes (1971), In Hopes of a Garden (1971), Magic Carpet Ride (1968), Born To Be Wild (1969)

And then there were one-off little gems like Mashmakhan‘s As The Years Go By (1970) and A Foot In Cold Water‘s beautiful (Make Me Do) Anything You Want (1972), later covered in 1984 by Helix, a Canadian hard rock/metal band.

Honourable Mention

There were so many other Canadian bands and artists I wasn’t in to, per se, but were prevalent on the airwaves and in our collective Canadian music conscience. Groups such as:

  • Rush
  • Max Webster
  • Triumph
  • Harlequin
  • Crowbar
  • Ken Tobias
  • Valdy
  • Ian Thomas
  • The Bells
  • The Poppy Family
  • … And a lesser known group called Painter, from Calgary, who had a hit in 1973 with West Coast Woman
The Era In Media

There is a really great CBC documentary which closely examines this wonderful period of Canadian music. It’s called This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s, and it’s narrated by Jian Ghomeshi before his big, and very public, fall from grace.

There is also a 4-CD box set entitled Oh What A Feeling: A Vital Collection of Canadian Music which includes cuts from many artists of this musical era. I bought the CD (remember those?) when it came out back in 1996, but I don’t know if it’s still available.

Thank you, Canada, for some of the best music of my life 🙂

A Smile During the Pandemic

It had been a busy and hectic day at work last Friday. Walking home I suddenly spotted something unusual coming toward me in the distance. At first I thought I was seeing things courtesy of my fatigued state, but as it drew closer I see it was…

Pikachu to the rescue!!

Thank you, Pikachu! It was great to have a smile and laugh during our troubled COVID times.

Carol’s Retirement

Goodbye Tension, Hello Pension!

After spending 30 long and busy years working for the City of Toronto, my good friend Carol finally retired.

The IT Service Desk gave her a little send-off, and I was there (of course) to grab a few shots. Here’s how it all went down: