Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I'm a dog owner. I'm a citizen of my city. Give me my rights.

Toronto city council, an organization that thought by banning legal gun clubs that have existed in this city for a hundred years would stop gangsters from shooting each other, has had yet another stroke of brilliance: Let's ban dogs, leashed or otherwise, from the most popular beaches in the city.

The whole thing has to do with Toronto wanting to acquire a "blue flag" designation of environmental cleanliness for its beaches. I have yet to determine if this designation really means much in the way of pollution but since its international, and people will read about us in the press, city council has a hard on because now the rest of the world, to paraphrase Sally Fields, will "like us, they really really like us" They have yet to study the issue if dogs on the beach, if dog feces, will affect them getting this blue flag, they will get to that study some day but in the mean time, with no clear evidence to support their thesis they are denying me, as a dog owner, my rights to use a public space.

It really is an amazing thing. Anyone who has ever been to the area in Toronto called The Beaches knows the popularity of this area to dog owners; on a weekend hundreds of dogs will amble along the beach. I know people who have moved there because it has always been known as a "dog friendly" area. And yes, there is an issue with people not picking up their dog shit, I've posted several times about that, but the fact is, all these people who go to the beach with their dog .. ARE CITIZENS OF THIS CITY AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED EQUALLY.

Sorry, I'm trying to shout from North York down to City Hall

Two years ago they started posting that dogs were no longer allowed on the beaches, even on a leash, outside of the two designated off leash areas, those being Balmy Beach and Kew Beach. Fair enough, I guess. Dogs had been allowed on leash in those areas before but since the two off leashes are pretty big, I was OK with what I thought was a compromise. And in the winter, dogs have always been allowed off leash on the beaches from the snow fence down to the water line. Now that is all gone.

I quite frankly don't buy the environmental concerns, mostly because it has yet to be proven. The city and the province can't seem to be able to come up with anything conclusive that proves that having dogs on the beaches is a hazard to any one's safety as it relates to the water. Everyone is pulling out the old "we have to think about the kids" argument which is bullshit in this instance. We are supposedly talking about water purity; to me, when they bring up child safety the agenda seems more oriented to safety, to dogs being out of control. Fair enough, I've blogged about that as well, there are too many owners in this town who do not have control over their dogs and we need to address that .. but be honest about it, don't hide it behind the environment.

So we have this dubious argument, that cannot be proven,and this action, of banning dogs from the beaches, that no one outside of this city seems to support. And that seems to be a good enough excuse to take away my rights, because that is really what we are talking about: my rights, the rights of every dog owner. These are PUBLIC lands, to be used by the PUBLIC in any legal fashion, and now I am being denied those rights. It is simply a case where our elected leaders are deciding who gets to use the beach. Yes, you can say I can still use the beach, just don't bring my dog ... well, that is why we go there. We don't go there to swim, the lake is usually too cold and its been dirty a long time, and not just from e coli, but from general pollution. We don't play volleyball and we don't lay around getting skin cancer .. we go to play with Miss Hayley. Isn't that my right? We've always followed the rules .. pick up the poop, keep her on leash in the on leash areas, monitor and control her behaviour in the off leash, avoid heavy traffic areas .. because the rules made sense. This does not make sense.

I want to keep this post brief and to the point. Here it is: Dog owners are being denied rights they once held and I think it is unfair. Surely, city council should wait until they have completed the study that will tell me what, if any impact, having dogs on the beach will have on the Blue Flag label. And surely, they should have waited until more people in this city have had their say; this is just not an issue for the Beaches neighbourhood, it is an issue for all dog owners in the city, many of whom travel some significant distances just to enjoy the beach.

This is a call to arms. If you are in the GTA contact your local councillor and ask him/her how they can deny certain citizens of this city the right to enjoy a public space. Contact Councillor Paula Fletcher, chair of the parks committee who defends this action; ask her how an elected official can so blithely deny rights to thousands and thousands of city residents. If you are not in the GTA contact the provincial gov't and your local councillor, this is not just a Toronto issue. While in Parry Sound a bylaw officer told me that dogs were not allowed on the beach for this very issue .. so you and your dog, or your friends who have dogs, are being denied enjoyment of public spaces to indulge an unproven political whim.

This strikes me as very arbitrary and that is very scary. Think about it; the politicians who are supposed to represent YOU are now denying ME the use of PUBLIC space that I PAY for because it MAY have some kind of detrimental effect on .. um .. something ...

I'm pissed off. I want you to be pissed off too. Miss Hayley is not pissed off. But look at this video and you will understand, that if she can again go back to that beach, she will just be very sad.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Any regular readers of this blog will know all about our beloved border collie Hayley. Well, Miss Hayley was not our own four legged companion, she had a quieter, yet equally significant companion, our cat Gypsy.

It is unfortunate that I have been remiss in giving Gypsy his due on this forum; last night, at age 22 (or so) Gypsy passed away. It was not a shock, he has been ill for a week or so and we knew his string was running out. I think it was a good passing, he was laying on his heating pad, made a little chirping kind of sound and just went.

It is always sad, when you lose a pet. Collette and I lost our first dog, Gigs, over a decade ago, Gypsy was still a young cat then. Both deaths were hard but Gigs was over 13, Gypsy was 22, and that is just the natural order of things.

Gypsy came to us in his own, unusual way. It was at the first house Collette and I lived in here, on our own, and it was late in the fall, towards the end of October. Leaves were down and it was getting cool. Collette was out in the yard, just finishing up some garden/yard work when she heard this small, plaintive sound; she looked in her herb garden and there it was, this tiny, minuscule black kitten. Baby, I mean, just hatched. His eyes had probably just opened and were this dark cobalt blue. There were a lot of feral cats in that area and this was clearly one. Collette saw no sign of other kittens or of mama. Her instinct was to wait to see if mama would come back but it was getting dark and it was getting cold so, being Collette, she brought the kitten into the house ...

We had a dog at that time, our first dog, Gigs. He was a few years old at the time and we were totally dedicated to him and had no intention of getting a cat. I don't describe myself as cat person but I've had a few over the years. Collette grew up with a cat, it was still alive when we first met but we were, and are, dog people.

Still, here was Collette with this tiny, newly born, venerable kitten. She didn't want to leave the cat out in the cold, so her first thought was to bring the cat inside ... Now, let's stop our program here to learn something about our beloved Collette; if she brings a stray into the house, it's going to stay in the house. Forever. That's how we got Gigs, our friend Karen dropped him into our bed one morning and we had him for about 13 years. Hell, that's how Collette got me, she took me home one night and 25 years later, I still haven't left ...

So, in other words, Collette decided to keep the cat. But she just had to convince me to go along with it. She knew she had two points in her favour. One, was the fact that Gypsy was entirely black. I've only owned black cats. The second point was my essential frugalness; Collette and our friend Michele went out right away and loaded up on kitty supplies; food, litter, litter box, collar, etc. Her rationale was that if she had already invested in the cat, I would accept him. As usual, she was right.

He was such a young kitten, so recently abandoned, Collette had to feed him formula from a doll's bottle and she had to teach him how to defecate, by .. stimulating him. He was so small that when we took to our vet to have him checked him over, Dr Bell only charged us half the normal visit rate as he was "only half a cat"

Gypsy was a feral cat and for the first several years of his life, he was an outdoor cat. And a murderer. One morning I was in the bathroom, you know, solving that pesky cold fusion problem, when in walks Gypsy, a freshly slain bird in his jaws. "Here you go boss, you pluck him, I'll fire up the BBQ" He was an awesome mouser. But one thing you need to know about domestic cats who get their dinner out of a can: They don't kill for food. The kill for fun. Gypsy liked to break one of their back legs so they couldn't run away. When he got bored with playing with them but if there was still life in them, he would drop the poor abused rodent in my shoe, so he could find it later. Yeh, I learned to shake out my sneakers before putting them on. Eventually Gypsy became a civilized indoor cat, basically learning that he was small, pampered and no competition for the real wild beasts of the neighbourhood; like most males he got tired of prowling around all night and discovered the bliss of kicking back on the couch with a cold beer ... um, ok, I may be projecting here just a bit ..

Although Gypsy did lose a lot of his feral heritage, it did take him a while to warm up to people As in, someone who had been to our house three or four years into his life, finally seeing him and saying "I didn't know you had a cat" I told someone he was in the witness protection program from all those mouse murders.

Once he matured and calmed down a bit, he got along pretty well with Gigs; generally they ignored each other but on more than one occasion I found them curled up, sleeping, sharing the same chair. Yes, there was the famous incident when Gypsy was still a kitten, he went for one of the dog's treats and Gigs taught him that was a very bad, bad thing .. Gypsy bore the scar from that to the day he died, but other than that, it was domestic bliss. But Gigs passed on, Gypsy enjoyed a few months of solitary bliss .. and along comes a new puppy. A border collie puppy. A I-really-need-to-herd-something-but-I-don't-know-what-Hey-you'll-do puppy... Leave it to say, Gypsy spent a good year sleeping on top of the console TV, out of herding range. But eventually, these two worked out their boundaries as well. We kept attributing Gypsy's long life to an attempt to outlive a second dog ...

Well, he didn't quite make it, but boy he made a run at it. We will miss him but, as we ponder getting a new border collie pup, it is unlikely that we will ever get another cat. Of course, I've said that before ...

Happy hunting, buddy.

Monday, February 9, 2009


A short blog with a longish video at the end. The last two weeks Toronto has been having its version of a winter festival, called Winter City. Quebec City Carnival it ain't but it's something. This weekend there were a few events happening in Nathan Phillips Square, in front of City Hall. Among them was a performance by a Dutch Theatre troupe who calls themselves Close Act.

We'd been having a week or two of temps in the -25 C range but this weekend it went up to + 9 so it seemed a good idea to go down there. Unfortunately Collette was not feeling well and decided to stay home. Which means no lovely pictures to accompany this post.

At any rate, it was a mild night, the square was packed and I enjoyed myself. The troupe used dance, music, costumes and some imaginative human powered contraptions to tell a little underwater fantasy. Its a love story, really, unrequited love, about a fisherman and a mermaid .. or a horny sailing risking all for some tail. That may be my interpretation.

I tried to scope myself out a bit of elevation from which to shoot, on one side of the square. I didn't realize that the entire square was going to be the "stage" with performers and sets moving about, presenting multiple points of action... which is whiny cameraman speak for "I really picked a stupid place from which to shoot" Still, I think the video will give you some idea of what the show was like.

The video is one of the longest I've post here, over twenty minutes, but that is edited down from a 60 minute performance. An hour of some cool staging, interesting music and some athletically gifted performers .. for free. You can't complain. Well, you could, but that would be a way Canadian thing to do.

So here's the video, and you can consider it me capturing an exotic theatrical street performance .. or a pretty average night in downtown Toronto.

Toronto Winter City Festival from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Please note, the word in the title is bonding, not bondage. That will be covered in a later post. Ah-hem.

What this post is really about is the things that people have in common, the things that bring them together, and the things that keep them there. OK, maybe for some of you that could indeed be bondage, but in our household ropes are used to hang pictures.

But what does bring Collette and I together is blood ... and this post is sounding kinkier and kinkier as we go along. What I mean by blood is a blood sport, in particular, the sport of MMA or mixed martial arts fighting. Collette and I are both fond of this sport, in particular the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. And a blood sport it is; fists land, elbows fly, knees pummel. Blood flows. Sometimes liberally. A Maui thai elbow to the forehead is a pretty effective can opener. And Collette and I love it. No argument, no explanation, no justification, we jut love it.

Both of us.

A couple of weeks ago we ordered our first ever pay per view. Although we both love and devour movies it was not a movie, it was a UFC event. There was no discussion about this, no negotiation, we both knew right away that this particular event (two title fights and a truly kick ass undercard) was worth buying. This sport is a shared passion, perhaps even a binding passion.

Why binding? Because although this is an increasingly popular sport, it is not universally so, in fact many people hate it, calling it brutal and tasteless We call those people wimps. Like any passion you may have, it is always special to find someone who shares it. UFC apparently has a growing female following but I still think it's special to find a woman who is truly into the sport; having that woman be the one I live with is a real convenient bonus.

When Collette and I first moved in together, one of the first things we did was vette each other's record collection (yes, young readers, records, flat black discs of plastic from which sound emanated; like a CD, with soul). Out went Collette's Air Supply records. Out went Vic's John McGlaughlin records. One of the things we had in common was Alice Cooper, we each had three records .... but the exact same three records. Goosebumps, raised hair, feeling of soul mates met and maybe that Alice only ever made three really solid records ....

The first movie I took her to see was Harlan Ellion's A Boy And His Dog ... to all my fellow dog/border collie enthusiasts if you don't know about this movie, fair warning: Lassie it ain't. It is a little post apocalypse special starring a very baby Don Johnson and his telepathic dog; this heart warming duo roam the bombed out countryside seeking out canned peaches, porn, and women in such a state of dehydration and emotional despair they make easy rape targets. Then he meets the young lady from the civilized down under, an artificially happy environment where all the males have become sterile. So down goes Don, whose rampant survivor spunk is used to impregnate e the local female population, one girl at a time. Oh, and then Don must make a choice between his dog and the young lady and the movie ends with a cheerful BBQ ... of a sort. I look at it as a comedy.

But a first date, romantic comedy, feminist movie this ain't ... I could imagine most girls turning and running. But we know Collette is not most girls. It has become one of our favorite movies, and we own a copy on VHS as well as a bootleg in DVD We love this movie and some of the plot points and dialogue have become part of our personal lexicon.

Going back to music, this is another thing that binds us. Nothing unusual there, this is probably one of the most us things that people have in common .. or don't, with all the ensuing issues. I've always had a love of the blues, Collette had a passion for Celtic music when we met and she still does. I certainly enjoy that music but it is fair to say that she is more enthusiastic about it than I. But the blues have become another shared passion, especially the music of B.B. King who we have been fortunate to see many times here in Toronto as well as the Women's Blues Revue, about which I have posted before. We each still enjoy musical tastes that the other may not share but I can hear a piece of music and know, without a doubt, that Collette will enjoy it; that is rare, I can only say that for two other people in my life, my brother Ed and our friend Karen.

I've learned, over the years, to concentrate on the things that we have in common, as opposed to the things that we disagree on. Disagreeing is easy, finding those bonds, outside of members of your own family, is rare. Be it a post apocalyptic movie to the devil's music to a guy ripping another guy's arm out of his socket, these are things that may not have brought us together, but the things that bind us there.
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