Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Spring in Toronto .. permit me a "Yay!"

For me spring in the city means, among other things, taking Hayley for long wanders in the park. We are lucky. We live in the former North York (of Mel Land as I like to call it) with lots of big ravines and lots of big parks. Lots of walking trails too so me and border collie can go wandering around in search of errant sheep and tennis balls.

We went to one of favorite parks, Cedarvale, that connects on to a ravine trail and has lots of nice big open spaces. Now, this is what the World's Smartest Dog and I are pursuing: open spaces. Hills. Grass. You know, all the stuff from which us urban prisoners are so deprived. I am only one of about three million people in this city but I pretty much figured that other people felt the same way.

Well (and you knew there was a "well" coming) off we go and indeed the park is filled with people. But here's the funny part: all the open spaces in the park are empty save for dogs and their humans. We have all this lovely grass to ourselves. Why? What gives? What are the other, sad border collie-deprived humans doing? Where on they?

They are on the pavement. Sidewalks run thru the park. In Cedarvale there are a lot of sidewalks and they go a good distance. In the little park right by my house, there are sidewalks and they seem to go nowhere; you can walk across the whole park in about a minute. They ripped up a good chunk of the home park (Shermount) and laid down a couple of new sections of pavment that made no sense to me at the time.

Now I am getting it. In our concrete jungle where grass and open space are at a premium, there is one thing people truly desire: Wheels. All kinds of wheels. Any kind of wheels. Wheels on bikes. Wheels on skates. Wheels on boards. Wheels attached to things I first took to be dwarf all terrain assault vehicles but are actually Infant Conveyance Device (ICDs)

I was baffled ( a state that increasingly becomes my natural state). Here we were in Cedarvale park, with all these huge open spaces, fields large enough to play soccer and cricket, and what were people doing? Cramming these narrow walkways, shoulder to shoulder, so they could use their wheels. I understand the desire to avoid cycling/skating/boarding in the streets in Toronto .. I dont even like to drive my car in the streets of Toronto ... but I really was sort of confused.

A beautiful spring day. Warm and sunny after a long and snowy winter. Air that you could breathe without a mask, grass that at the time was dry and almost green, and what did the throng come here to do (come here in their cars to do, most of em)? They came here to go .. and to go fast. There they were, all massed onto that narrow walkway, zipping around as quickly as possible. There is no one in Toronto who does not bitch about the traffic; so here they are in a traffic free zone and they create their own. Really, I just dont get it. Hayley didnt get it either. She is trained to sit on the side of a trail when a bike goes by; she was spending more time on her butt than on the move.

Cedervale park is one thing; its big and the sidewalks are fairly long. Little Shermount Park, by house is another thing. Its small. The new sidewalks really don't go anywhere. But there are jammed too, filled with wheels, wheels just moving for the sake of moving. They got rid of grass in that park, just so we could have more wheels.

This past weekend we had the threat of a transit strike in Toronto. No buses, no subways. Thankfully it did not happen but the possibility had the entire city on edge. No transit!! What shall we do!! This will mean more cars!! More traffic!!! Oh no!! People were frothing at the mouth with despair. The subject of wheels was more prevelant than hockye .. yeh .. it was a big deal. We need wheels they whined, we need them to transport us but if they take away our public wheels the private wheels will overwhelm our city!

So lets get away from the wheels. Go to a park. Relax. Jump on some more wheels. Ride them around in circles.

Whatever. This weekend Hayley and I will return to our park. And we'll use our feet.

Monday, April 7, 2008


Where does inspiration come from?

A couple of recent events have me pondering this question. Event One: Collette has agreed to do a charity walk to benefit breast cancer research. The walk is in September and it is over a two day time period. Event Two: The Greg Awards at St Lawrence College are underway this weekend and I have once again been asked to judge and to present.

Collette has undertaken her crusade to honour the people in our family who are breast cancers survivors. Her sister in law, Nancy, and my sister in law, Eartha, have both come out the other side of the rabbit hole from this terrible disease. It seems just about anyone of a certain age has had some kind of contact with cancer and this particular form of it. Collette was also inspired by her niece Billie-Marie, who has done the walk before and elicited her support.

These strong women, I think, are a source of inspiration for Collette. She has one of the biggest hearts of any human I know, and a powerful urge to help; its why she is so good working with the troubled kids in this world.

Now, this walk is 60 klicks. Over two days. With my physical limitations I could never imagine doing something like that. My one and only experience walking and playing a golf course put me out of commission for two days. Yet here is Collette, someone who is not an athlete (but look how damn cute she it) throwing herself into a training regimen with discipline and alacrity. That inspires me. I know it is inspiring to other people. Collette is shocked by such a reaction; it is her who has been inspired, how could she inspire any one else?

I am thinking that the women who inspired Collette, our sister in laws, may also be surprised that they are a source of inspiration. What they did, in beating this disease probably was just survival. We see it as a fight, a terrible, unfair, one sided fight that they won, thru grit and determination. Inspiration indeed.

That brings us to the Greg Awards. This is the annual video competition for the students of the Advertising and Marketing Program at St Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. Twenty five years ago, I entered that program with all intentions of being a copywriter; without any ego (shut up, I can so not have an ego .. well, for a moment, anyway) I know that I could have achieved this goal. But I met a guy name Tom Harpell, saw my first 3/4" Sony U-Matic edit suite and was fucked for life. Tom inspired me, and does so to this day.

So every year I return to the college to participate in the ceremony and lend my expertise as a judge. (I have to go, they named the editing award after me) Every year I am inspired by what these student, many of them young enough to be my children (oooooh scary thought, VJ's spawn) manage to accomplish with no funds, little time and restricted equipment. They inspire me, they give me a shot of energy. Would they be surprised that some wet behind the ears student could inspire a professional with more than two decades experience?

Probably no more surprised that I am, when some student lets me know that I inspire them. Usually none of them have even seen any of my work. It is the fact that I started where they are, and have come this far, that inspires them, that motivates.

Collette was inspired by the courage of Nancy and Eartha. I am inspired by Collette's dedication and discipline. The students of the Greg Awards are inspired by professional journey. And I am inspired by their excitement, and their ability to see the future as something they can change.

Ah, there we are. That's the inspiration. Changing the future. Nancy and Eartha were thrust into a situation that had a pre determined outcome. They changed it. Collette sees an outcome she wants to come to pass so she is changing her routine and body to achieve it. The St Lawrence students are dedicated to a future that is really only a vision to them.

And me? I'm going to chronicle Collette's journey, I'm going to aid my expertise to the Greg Awards and I am not going to question where it is that inspiration comes from. I'm just going to take it, and carry it with me into the future.

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