Sunday, February 15, 2015

50th Anniversary of the Canadian Flag

I remember backpacking in Europe in my 20's. I was sitting in a park in Brindisi, Italy waiting for my ferry to Greece. It was while sitting with a collection of young backpackers in transition travelling from here to there, that I met a young German woman.

As we were talking, she noticed the tattoo of the Canadian Maple Leaf I had on my lower ankle. I remember the look on her face when she told me that I was incredibly fortunate to be able to tattoo my country's flag on my body as a proud Canadian. She went on to tell me that as a German, she wouldn't feel comfortable doing that. Not because she wasn't proud of her country, but the judgement of others on her for being a proud German. It was crazy to me to think that the actions of the German government from her great-grandparents' generation formed that bias 6 decades earlier, and they still weren't free of that stigma.

That reminded me of today.

Today our Canadian flag is 50 years old. When I was born, our flag was only 7 years old. It actually surprises me to think my parents were born under a different flag, and we have former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to thank for his vision of uniting Canada under a common flag 50 years ago today.

It was a bold move by Pearson to change the flag from the old red ensign to the new Maple Leaf. There  was a lot of resistance from changing the old to incorporate something new. It was the unknown of the new, and the lost identity Canadians felt with their past tying them to the red ensign which created all of this backlash.

In fact, it was a much heated debate for 2 years leading to 50 years ago today, when the new Canadian Maple Leaf flew for the first time over the Parliament buildings. Some of the people I've talked to about that transition remember it was quite heated. We accept our flag as part of our heritage now, yet 50 years ago, this wasn't the case. In fact, the leader of the opposition, and former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was adamantly opposed to the new flag. So much so, that when Diefenbaker passed away, he was buried under the old Canadian ensign. The old Conservative goes down against the Liberal and now 50 years later, very few people below the age of 50 even know what the ensign was.

                                                         Do you recognize this flag?

So 50 years ago today is a part of our heritage. Despite all the resistance against our new, united flag, we all are united in Lester B. Pearson's vision of a unified Canadian flag. So today, I am grateful for Pearson's stand in the face of fierce opposition for us today.

Thank you Lester B. Pearson, and Happy Flag Day, Canadians.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Remembering Pal

One of the toughest days of my life...

Today, I said goodbye to my dog Pal, my best friend of almost 16 years. 

If you're reading this, you're most likely a friend of mine, a friend of Pal's, or a "pet person" who actually understands the grief you suffer when saying good bye to unconditional Love. Because that's exactly what dogs really are. Unconditional Love that you simply won't get from anyone else in that capacity. And Pal was the ultimate giver of that Love to me, and others who knew her. 

Page and I rescued Pal from the Toronto Humane Society back in March 2000. I say we rescued Pal, but that's probably not accurate because I know now that she rescued us. From the moment I laid eyes on this little border collie/sheltie with Baby New Year ears, she had me. We had to come back the next day to pick her up, and I didn't sleep much that night. We woke up early, and were the first in line to adopt her. Good thing, because there were 2 disappointed people behind us that wanted to adopt her. 

So Pal became part of my soul right then and there. 

If anyone knows me, they know that I took Pal with me everywhere I went. She rode shotgun with me, and Loved every drive through we ever stopped at for ice cream or any other treat. She was also the fastest dog I had ever seen! I could've raced her against grey hounds, and they wouldn't have stood a chance. In fact, she had so much energy, I hooked her up a body harness and put my rollerblades on, and she would pull me to work everyday, there and back. It was like I was water skiing behind her, and the look on people's faces watching it was priceless. 

I could tell you story after story about this little dog, about her 9 lives, about her life of almost 16 wonderful years, but I will remember Pal for how she Loved my daughter the most. When Kennedy was born, Pal gave up her normal sleeping space to sleep under Kennedy's crib. When I would wake up in the middle of the night to tend to Kennedy, I would often step on Pal at the foot of the crib where she would be sleeping. Tough little dog...

Some of the most wonderful memories I have are watching Pal herd Kennedy running in my backyard, running and barking at her in excitement, all the while protecting Kennedy in her little border collie way. I would watch my daughter bond with Pal whenever we would sing the Paligirl song to her, and watch her ears dance in acknowledgment, then bring it in for some nose kisses. 

It's sick how much we Loved this dog...

It would be a real disservice to write this and not thank everyone who ever watched Pal, walked her, spent time or Loved her. I know that I was able to share as much time with her because Page thought of Pal's well being. I know that Alison allowed me to bring Pal everywhere. Silja adopted Pal just the same, and Loved her in a way that only Pal needed to be Loved by a female.

I am going to miss this little dog SO much, and if you know me well, you'll know exactly how much. I'm certain to never have another dog whom I will connect with as intimately well as I did with Pal. Sometimes when I would get drunk, I would come home and have her lie on my chest and I would say to her, "OK, there's nobody around... I KNOW you can talk. I won't tell anyone, I promise. Your secret is safe with me Pal, just talk to me." So would tilt her head sideways as she did, and I would smile. God, I Loved that dog...

I'm grateful for the staff at the Toronto Humane Society for uniting us, and for their support and kindness when I brought Pal back there this morning. I am grateful that I got to say the proper goodbye to my furry soul mate. I got to pet, soothe and hold her as we said our farewells as she crossed over.


Farewell my furry friend. Off you go to run in open fields, chasing ball, herding other dogs, sniffing butts and rolling in shit without me yelling at you. Thank you for giving this boy your entire heart, and Loving me and my family. I'll never forget you.

God speed until we meet again Paligirl...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ricky Nelson Remembered

After years of wanting to see the Nelson twins, I finally got my chance to see them perform their “Ricky Nelson Remembered” show at the Avalon theatre at Niagara Fallsview Casino.

The show was a wonderful evening of stories told by Matthew and Gunnar Nelson about their late father, which included video clips, and of course a night of the legendary former teen idol’s music.
But before I go into this, I must confess I was walking into this concert with an expectation of hearing the Nelson twins play the classic hits from their rock and roll heyday back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear “Love and Affection”, or “After the Rain”, from the 80’s hair band which could’ve been mistaken for a couple of Swedish supermodels? Matthew and Gunnar have long since cut their long hair since those days, and I knew that. Still, I wanted to see them be the young rockers I remember from the late 80’s.

But this was called, Ricky Nelson Remembered. So at the end of the night there were no original Nelson twins’ tunes. The show really was about their Dad, no joke, and I almost left the Avalon Theatre disappointed, until Matthew told the story that struck me between the eyes.

Matthew told the story how Ricky Nelson’s classic tune, “Garden Party” was written. Apparently he was playing a 50’s and 60’s show at Madison Square Garden in the early 70’s when the music scene had drastically changed. Instead of the 50’s image he was known for, Nelson now had longer hair, and wanted to be accepted for who he was, not for whom he was in the late 50’s. So he ended up playing a Bob Dylan song, and another from the Rolling Stones before getting boo’ed off the stage by 20,000 fans at the Garden.

Inside every defeat inside of us all, life gives us the ability to see the silver lining if we so choose to do so. So Ricky Nelson chose to see that, and wrote “Garden Party” knowing that we cannot ever please everybody, but we could please ourselves.

And that’s when it hit me. I was holding the Nelson twins as prisoners 25 years in the past. I suddenly got the realization that I certainly wouldn’t want to be held to who I was 25 years ago, yet that’s exactly what I was doing to them. When I had that A-Ha moment, I sat back, stretched my legs out, and enjoyed the show.

That’s when Matthew told us he was a new father. His 4 month old son, Ozzie was named after his paternal grandfather, of Ozzie and Harriet fame. Gunnar had recently gotten married, and inherited 3 daughters in the process. These young men I had seemingly seen only minutes ago, were now transformed into a 47 year old father and husband, and I was free to allow them to be that.

Sometimes, we as fans hold our hero’s to that standard because it makes us feel safe. It reminds us of that special time in our lives when their music inspired when we really needed something to cling to. Instead of allow the artist to grow as an entertainer, and more importantly as a person, we keep them small inside our tiny keyhole view of how we want them to be, so it serves us better.

But watching the Nelson twins play, I got something much more than a night of nostalgia. I got the freedom to allow my hero’s be the people they needed to be for themselves, and their own growth. I’m thankful for the memories they created for me, and I will always have that. That’s the beauty of memories; you can take them with you whenever you want.

This family legacy really started with Ozzie and Harriet, gaving Ricky Nelson his debut, which created the way for Matthew and Gunnar to follow in their footsteps, rounding out 3 generations of entertainers. All of which came out in their show. It was a unique twist, and a fitting tribute.

I’m pretty sure the twins could be doing their own thing. Being the child of a superstar leaves some really big shoes to fill. Not only do the Nelson twins not have the idea of filling in those shoes, they seem comfortable to share them with their roots and acknowledge the talent in their family, which is a damn rare thing in this competitive world we live in. And because of that, I felt the Love in this show.

Ricky Nelson has been gone for almost 30 years now. But I swear he was at that show watching down on his boys singing those songs, keeping his legacy alive. I can’t help but think it’s the most wonderful gift we can give when we put aside some of our hopes and dreams to fulfill someone else’s.
So thank you Matthew and Gunnar for that magical gift. And I hope that in doing so, you’ve also realized that you can’t always please everyone else, but you can please yourself.

Thanks for reminding me of that lesson…