Saturday, August 1, 2015

IT'S ALWAYS THE QUIET ONES THAT GET YOU

Today is a sad day for me. Today will be the last day I will be walking Shya. Her owner's life situation has changed and he will no longer require my dog walking services. Shya has been a part of my pack since the very beginning, this is our third summer together.


Shya is not the first dog that I've "lost", as in stopped walking, For a variety of reasons I've stopped walking three other dog, a couple of whom were dogs I only walked two days a week and did not have for very long. Recently I stopped walking Hank, a French bulldog. I liked Hank, he was a fun dog with that crazy single mindeness that Frenchies have. I miss him, but it's not the same as Shya


When I first met Shya, an eight year old mixed breed, she was fairly aloof. She was well trained and accustomed to Dogtown but she didn't know me from Adam (or even Eve for that matter) and just didn't see any reason to give me much. She was also known as a problem dog. She got into scraps with other dogs in the park. The walker from whom I inherited this job had Shya in our "time out" cage pretty much every day


Trust is this thing between dogs and humans. Trust is a large component of what we call love. Puppies generally trust the first thing that feeds them. You could say the same about labs and retrievers. For many dogs that I walk, trust just seems to be part of the deal. It's not that way for all dogs of course. It was not that way for Shya.


I think that hesitancy to trust was part of the reason why she sometimes had issues with other dogs. If a dog was skittish, or unessicarily submissive, she didn't trust that behavior. And she was willing to put an end to it


She really wouldn't play with me at first. Perhaps it put in a vunerable position, especially around those other dogs. But I didn't force it. I didn't force anything. I quickly saw what her trigger points were with other dogs and I tried to get to her first, before the scrap started. I kept my voice level, got in front of her but kept my body still and I just let her know "I'm on to you, now let's stop this nonsense" She's a smart dog. Soon, she got it. And soon she got me


Over the course of a year we slowly built that trust in each other. She knew I was there for her. She knew that I understood the things that altered her state and she knew that anytime she actually did want a ball, well, I was the dude that would throw it.

It was a big moment, for me, when I got my first Shya kiss. It was one of many.


I will miss my Shya kisses. I will miss how quiet she could be. And I will miss how that quiet would suddenly explode into puppy joy when I put her favorite ball into the air. There is some possibility that Shya will return to walks in several months to a year. I don't really think that will happen. I hope it does. I'll be holding onto her favorite ball for her











Sunday, July 26, 2015

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO MY BIRTHDAY

Living in the city, you can constantly be surprised

Walking along, going to Destination A, you can be quickly sidetracked by something and wind up at Destination B. Perhaps you will eventually make your way to A, perhaps not. You may end up staying at B or something there sends you to C

You get the point

For me, the unexpected Destination B could be a patio, or a bookstore (yes, they still have those things but sadly not near enough) or a pub or an art store or a bar or ...

You get the point

In the summer, in this city, Destination B, C, D etc could be some unknown (to me) street fest. Every weekend there is something going on. All winter long 2 million people wait, like runners in the blocks, for the sun to come back around so they can burst out into streets that are not clogged with ice and snow

This weekend, for instance, there was the Queen West Jazz Festival, the Pan Am Games celebrations, a north end community festival. These things I was aware of and for one reason or another, decided not to attend

Collette and I did, however, end up downtown, to see a play (more on that in an upcoming post, contain your enthusiasm) and to hit a patio cuz, well, it was my birthday

But a funny thing happened on my way to my birthday.

Crossing by Yonge-Dundas Square we heard music and saw people milling about. There is often something happening there though sometimes its some company needing to tell you how awesome they are

Not this time. There was a DJ up on the stage and throughout the square itself, several breakdance crews going through their motions. Quite without knowing it, we had stumbled upon the Unity Festival, a hip hop fest designed for young people to show off their chops

I am not at all a fan of hip hop music but I do enjoy break dancing street performers. So we stayed and watched for a bit. I had my iPod Touch in my pocket so I shot a bit of footage of the dancers and an area where artists were making some street art. We went up to the Milestones patio above the square and I took a couple of shots up there

Just a little video to remind me: Slow down, take your time, give yourself some temporal space before you need to be at Destination A. Destination B may be worth a few minutes of your time


Toronto Unity Festival (By Accident) from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.





Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MAY THE EYES THROUGH WHICH YOU SEE NOT BE THE EYES OF A FISH

Sometimes it can very illuminating to experience something with which you are familiar, through the eyes of another. The eyes in this case were not in fact fish eyes but they did indeed gaze upon the eyes of fish

Let me explain

This weekend we once again visited the Ripley's Aquarium in downtown Toronto. Collette and I have visited several times and it's one of favorite attractions in the city


This time we went with my sister Marianna and her daughter Tegan. It was fun to watch Tegan experience the Aquarium for the first time. The Aquarium seemed to reward her enthusiasm, I have never seen the octopus so active. Usually in his tank he just seems like a big dark lump. Huh, damn, that rock has arms. Lots of arms


It was also fun to discover all the things one can do with a child at the aquarium.You can put them to work preparing for tunneling the proposed Aquarium Subway extension ...


... or you could put them to work cleaning out the latest and greatest underwater condo units ...


... and if they still need allowance money you could always have them milk the horseshoe crabs



And it's perfectly acceptable to have them shave the stingrays ...


... just don't feed them to the sharks...



... unless of course it's these sharks.



Or you could just watch the video


A Saturday Wtih Some Soggy Friends from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

KINKY BOOTS: IT'S NOT THE GIRLS IN THE BOOTS IT'S THE BOOTS ON THE BOY

It was very appropriate that the musical Kinky Boots here in Toronto during Pride Week. Afterall, it features a book by Harvey Firestein and songs by Cyndi Lauper and is a story about cross dressing, acceptance, gender equality and of course, boots

Thigh high, sparkly, red, 10 inch heeled boots. What some of us would call stripper boots. What the characters in the play refer to as Kinky Boots

The play is set in working class England and opens in the shoe factory of Price and Son, manufacturers of fine men's footwear. Fine men's footwear that no one can really afford anymore and that stores really have no ability to purchase.

The Son in Price and Son is Charlie, a young man who's future (as the heir apparent to the factory) has been so well plotted for him by others (his father) that he has never really thought was his future should actually be. Charlie is a wimp, he just doesn't want to think about his future. Luckily his girlfriend is willing to do the thinking for  him and she thinks they should move to London and get into the real estate speculation game.

There is another son in the story, one who could never realize his father's dream for him and who diverges on to a very different path. At the beginning of the story we meet little Simon, a British schoolboy who has altered his school uniform with a pair of shoes; high heeled shoes

Kinky Boots is a about a lot of things, but mainly it is about expectations. Two boys are expected, by their fathers, to follow very specific career paths. Men are expected to wear pants. Drag queens are expected to be overt "sissies" All of which may be true. None of which may be true

Expectation and perception. We first meet Lola (the drag queen who young Simon has transitioned into) as a dazzling drag queen, moving confidently on her mile high boots, hips swaying with sexual bravado, glittered and painted to the point of anime fantasy. Then she begins to sing.

Alan Mingo has a voice that is soulful and rich, capable of expressing sorrow and reflection yet entirely capable of blowing the roof off the Royal Alexandria Theatre. As Charlie, Graham Fleming is a technically capable singer, he makes all his notes, but his voice is on the boy band side of things and in his duets with Mingo, often gets quickly left behind

Kinky Boots does a nice job of mixing the pathos with the humour but mostly, it's about the humour. The messages are there but you're not hit too hard over the head with them. The stage version of Priscilla Queen of the Desert follows a similar stories; drag queens and their fight for acceptance. Priscilla had its funny moments but its tone sometimes veered into tragedy. Kinky Boots never goes there. It is quite happen to make you think as you are bobbing your head to Lauper's well crafted pop tunes

Boots definitely falls into the "feel good" category of shows. Not giving much away to say things end well. And there are some genuinely funny scenes: A boxing match with the most interesting ring girls ever, a fashion show that had the paragons of Milan gasping and some very unlikely wearers of some very kinky boots

Mostly Kinky Boots is a romp, with lots of big ensemble numbers but of course there are some memorable solos. One of them features one of the most individual, jaw dropping comedic performances I have seen in a long long time. Aj Bridel as Lauren absolutely stops the show with her rendition of The History of Wrong Guys. When I wasn't laughing it was because my jaw was literally hanging open, this woman is a force of nature and she quite easily rattled the roof of the old theatre

I was not compelled, after watching Kinky Boots, to don mascara and stripper boots ... well maybe not the boots. Ahem. Moving on. But the tunes stayed in my mind as did some of the performances. And I will never look at a "female" wearing mile high sparkly red boots the same again






Monday, July 13, 2015

FLOORS, AS WELL AS CIRCUSES

So the Ontario gov't and the City of Toronto built the Athletes Village which I drive by every day to pick up a dog and take her to Dog town

The location is right by the Distillery District close to the intersection of Cherry and Front St. It's a massive complex, take up about 80 acres, and several buildings featuring of hundreds of housing units

The cost for the whole thing, over 500 million bucks

There will be future use for actual Torontonians I'm told. A YMCA, a George Brown college residence and "mixed use" housing. Psssst, that means condos

So half a billion to make the thing, they build it, walk around and say Hey, these concreted floors in the common areas are sort of ugly. Let's spend another million and a half to lay down some pretty carpet. We don't want these free tenants we call athletes getting their feet cold

And by the way, here are some pics of actual units, where actual rent paying tennants, are living







But what the hell, we're winning!


Sunday, July 12, 2015

YOUR PAN AM GAMES UPDATE

We're winning! We're winning! Europe and Asia are not competing but fuck that, we're winning we're winning!

There is no parking at any of the venues, you dare not even look at the Athlete's Village.

Pan Am buses carrying athletes and officials get their own police escorts that stop and wave them through red lights, tickets for the opening ceremony started at 200 bucks a pop; they took place at the Air Canada Centre which has a square outside of it equipped with a giant video screen that they use for Raptor pregrames but they did not use it for the ceremony. Oh no, that would mean the common citizens may be there in the presence of the Important People. Instead, they put the screen up at Nathan Phillips Square .. that does not have a screen. They had to buy one and pay to have it set up, instead of using the existing one at the ACC

At the Athlete's Village, athletes are given lodging, food, a spa, a discoteque, a nice view of the waterfront. In Toronto City housing in Regent Park and Jamestown citizens of this city who pay rent live with broken plumbing, ceilings falling down, rats and gangsters who laugh at the broken security cameras

But we're winning! We're winning!





Tuesday, July 7, 2015

THE RIDE YOU DIDN'T WANT

Hey my fellow Torontonians and Ontarioites it genera, don't you feel great? Don't you feel secure? Isn't it lovely have a provincial gov't that has our best interests at heart?

The GTA is crippled by gridlock. It really really is. We need help. We need more and better mass transit. We keep allowing these massive condo complexes to be built (Liberty Village I'm looking at you) and pouring tens of thousands of more people into the city core.

Great life, I suppose if you live and work in the core; you wouldn't need a car, you could bike or transit to everything. But oh wait, SO many people are being poured into the core there are not enough jobs down town to support them. So, um, what now? Oh yeh they have to move daily in and out of the core to find work

People in Liberty Village (and other places) come out in the morning and have to watch half a dozen fully packed streetcars buzz pass before they come jump on one. And that streetcar will take them to the subway system that is clearly falling apart. More and more delays and on one day, a complete shutdown

So yeh, we need more transit

I contend that bicycles are not mass transit. They help those that live and work in the core, certainly. The fact they are so irresponsible as riders that we have to create these divided bike lanes, often cutting off a traffic lane, does not help the rest of us but hey, they are the Downtown Cyclists, bless them all

So, of provincial govt is working hard and spending 100's of millions of dollars to improve GTA mass transit. Street cars, or LRTs, gosh they do love these things. The St Clair dedicated LRT, whereby they created a separate, slightly elevated street car lane in the middle of the street, and took way too many years to finish, well that keeps the streetcars out of traffic but it also forced many businesses to close and has created major safety issues as people try to cross over them

But hey, we love our LRTs. We love that we ordered a whole new spiffy line of streetcars, streetcars that are way behind their delivery date and when they are arrive, our completely subpar in their manufacture. And, oh yeh, we love the streetcars platforms that are too short for these expensive subpar cars

We love that

But have no fear brothers and sisters, your govt is here to save you. The provincial gov't has announced an expenditure of 10 million dollars that will solve our gridlock problems. Bicycles. Not  bike lanes, bicycles. More bikes

Bixi is a local bike share program. They have stations all around the city  where you can stroll up and "borrow" a bike to get you on your way You can buy a membership or a "casual" rider pass that gives you a code that will unlock your bike This started out as a private business that failed after a year; businesses fail when they provide a service that people don't want, just saying

But wait! City and provincial gov'ts to the rescue! The business is failing because not enough people are using it? Huzza! We'll buy it and run it at a loss. Yeh, you know who's money they used to buy it

So now come the provincials. This service that still does not have an adequate usership? We'll expand it, gosh darn it! Spend 10 million dollars to put even more bikes and stations all over the GTA

So, more bikes. But no extra bike lanes. No licensing, no insurance for bikes. Even the intradimensional lunatics of the bike adovcasy see an issue with this. At least the "more bikes but no more lanes" deal. The bike nuts have their bikes, they really really do. What they want is speshul places in which to ride them

Thank you Oh Generous and Omniscient Govt Overlords. Now, when my car is so snarled in traffic that it cannot move, I can take my ten dogs out of the Subaru and put each of them on their very own ride share bike and we'll all peddle over to Dogtown

Yes indeed Wicked Witch Kathleen, me and my little dogs too




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