The Travelling Fair

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photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt – Life Magazine

For as long as I can remember I have been drawn to travelling Carnivals, they fascinate me. I’m not sure what it is about them that calls to me. The smells of popcorn, cotton candy, and candy apples? The sounds of the music, the screams, the roar of the rides? The sites? I mean there is nothing that beckons to the child in a person like the lights of a Ferris wheel against the darkness of a night sky. Maybe it is the idea of the freedom that comes with being a Carny. Always ready to pack up and move on to the next town where anything can happen.

I remember being a kid, and going to a fair with my father, he was also a big fan. I think this fair stands out in my mind so much because it was the only time I saw an actual ‘Freak Show”. I remember waiting in line, listening to the pitchman and being so excited and more than a little frightened at what waited inside the tent.

I came across this article on and it brought that memory flooding back to me. I think the photos are truly amazing. Enjoy

Gus

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/scenes_from_a_west_virginia_county_fair_1938

The Homeless, Dogs, and Ignorance

old brewery

Image from CJAD News

I live just outside of Montreal, Canada. For those of you who have never been up this way it can get pretty cold during the winter. Sure it isn’t Winnipeg but it gets pretty cold. Lately we have been going through a particularly cold snap, where the temperature has dipped down to minus 38 with the wind chill factored in (that is -36.4 Fahrenheit for my American cousins). Anyway you look at it, it’s frickin cold. The kind of cold that makes all your nose hairs stick together when you walk outside and burns your face. I remember seeing a cartoon once where this guy is all bundled up with the caption “Why, Why would I live somewhere where the air burns my face?” Why indeed.

As I was doing my morning exercises the other day I happen to have CityTV’s Breakfast Television on in the background, one of those quasi news/good morning shows. Of course the big news was the cold weather. They cut to a segment about how brutal this weather is on the homeless of the city. There was a young reporter standing in front of one of the city’s main homeless shelter, which is named the “Old Brewery Mission”, talking about how no one will be turned away in these extreme conditions. She went on to say special shuttle buses had been sent out into the city to look for people who needed to get inside and asking for donations of money or warm clothing. I think you get the idea, it being, that people die left outside in weather like this. It is that simple.

So the segment finishes and they cut to their weather person.

A very pretty young lady who is in a brand new café that has opened up in the city. A café named ‘Le Doggie Cafe’. We are watching a dog have a snooze in the cozy, warm café. The first words out of the young weather ladies mouth are “the dogs sure are happy to be out of the cold today”.

My jaw dropped open. Are you kidding me? You went from showing me homeless people who are fighting for a place to have a couple of hours of warmth to literally save their lives to a café full of dogs?

I am not knocking dogs or dog lovers, hell I love dogs. And should you want to bring your dog to a café that is your business. But how desensitized to basic human needs do you have to be to put these two things together. Maybe whoever was programming the TV show that morning should spend a couple of nights homeless. Or better yet maybe they should pick up after the dogs in the “Doggie Café” for a while.

Gus

2014, tough year for Celebrities

images[7]I am not a huge TV fan, don’t follow Entertainment Tonight, or any of those ‘what’s going on in Hollywood’ shows. I do admit to watching TMZ on occasion, it’s pretty funny. In fact I find most of those shows quite curious, I’m not sure what the allure to them is. Although the curiosity of how the upper crust live is nothing new. The poor have wanted to know how the rich live for as long as there has been rich and poor. We have always wanted to know what goes on in the Main House.

I don’t check out who is dating who or who was seen where. My wife and daughters think it’s funny when they talk about an award show that was on and I haven’t a clue. But even me, in my bliss of ignorance noticed how many celebrities died last year. Perhaps I noticed because many of the ‘Stars’ who passed away were people I grew up watching or listening to. Maybe I noticed because the media loves a good death story, it sells. Or maybe I just noticed.

Here is some of the list. Sid Caesar, Casey Kasem (who knows where this guys remains ended up), Ann B. Davis (Alice from the Brady Bunch), Richard Kiel (jaws from the James Bond movies), Bob Hoskins, Elizabeth Pena, James Garner, Lauren Bacall, Shirley Temple, Richard Attenborough, Mickey Rooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman (same age as me! I hate when that happens). There was Ken Weatherwax (creepy kid from the Addams Family), Maya Angelou, Joe Cocker (what a voice),Bobby Keys, Ian McLagan, Jimmy Ruffin ( “What becomes of the broken hearted”), Tommy Ramone, Johnny Winter,  Joan Rivers and of course Robin Williams.

It’s funny,  how, as a society, we relate to the death of these people. We mourn them as though we knew them, almost as if they were part of our distant family. When really we knew nothing at all about them, except for what they wanted us to know.

Of the list above I think the death that effected me the most was Robin Williams. Why would his death have an effect on me? I didn’t know him, we didn’t have coffee on Tuesdays, or play tennis on Sunday mornings. We didn’t call each other on the phone to see how each others families were doing. And when the media told me that it was suicide, good Lord, I was shocked, I honestly was shocked. But Why would this shock me? I have no more of an idea as to what was going on in Robin Williams’s life as to how the universe was made.

Perhaps Williams death touched me because I relate certain of his works with events in my life. I remember talking with friends in class about ‘Mork from Ork’. I remember my daughters watching ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ endless times after our house burnt down. We were living in a very small apartment with very limited furniture and a handful of videos. But we were all alive and together, and Mrs. Doubtfire was making my children laugh (thank you Robin Williams, wherever you are).

Or perhaps we just relate to the death of celebrities because we have all lost someone we loved. Perhaps that’s what makes us human.

Gus

Here We Are Again

images8Q6K6TTCThe end of another year approaches. Some will be happy it’s done, seeing it as a closing. Others look at it as a beginning, out with the old and in with the new. Then some see it as nothing more than a few days vacation. Me? I see it as an opportunity.

A realization comes to you as you get a little longer in the tooth, there are only so many ‘New Years’ left in front of you. Once you come to grips with this realization, and it ain’t easy, you can say to yourself, “ok self, what are we gonna do with them?”.

The trick is to try something new. What is something that you have always wanted to try? Is there something that needs finishing? Somewhere you want to go? Something you have been putting off? It doesn’t have to be something huge, some life changing, epic undertaking, but it can be. Sometimes just by making the decision to do something new will change your life. Sounds cheesy I know but it’s true.

Lets start with me. Last year I learned to play the mandolin. As a result, I am now practicing with 4 people every week making some great music. One of those people is my son-in-law, the jamming has brought us much closer together. The other three are wonderful, interesting, people I would never had know had I not decided to learn how to play the mandolin. Next year we are going to start doing a few small shows together, but even more exciting we are going to start busking. Something I have wanted to do for years.

Last year I knew two people who quit a jobs they could no longer endure. I know someone who landed a job of their dreams. I know someone who proved they were an ‘A’ student. I know someone who took a French class, someone who learned to swim. Big or small these were all new experiences.

So a new year is about to begin. The opportunities are truly endless. What are you going to do? My advise, do something new.

Oh ya, I also just got my Passport, man I think next year will be great.

“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!    

Gus

The White Black Man

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Detroit, 1967. #HandsUpDontShoot

Most of my life I’ve considered myself an optimist. I’ve used this faith in myself, and my fellow human beings to get me through many a hard time. Keep this in mind, I will be coming back to it.

I am what some people call a white, black man (not always in such nice terms, but you get the drift). My mother was a black woman, sorry I should probably say African American Woman, but I am from another time. A time when we referred to African American people as black, so for this story please indulge me. When people realize I am from a mixed race couple they usually say “oh but your mother was not fully black?”. Yes, yes she was. Not half black, not mixed black, she was a black woman, period. She once told me a story about how the nurse in the hospital stood at the foot of her bed holding this blond, blue eyed child. The nurse kept looking from the white baby to the black mother until my mother said “Yes, he’s mine give him to me!”

My hair and my skin have gotten a little darker over the years but for the most part I am mistaken for a ‘white man’, if I may use that term. This had always posed a bit of a dilemma for me as to where I fit in. My Grandmother was fond of saying to me “You’re a little black boy Gus, don’t you be trying to pass.” I did not understand what she meant then, I found out.

I remember once, over 20 years ago in a very white neighborhood in Langley, British Columbia, a black woman came up to me in a grocery store and whispered “I know what you are”. She had a sly look on her face like we had a secret between us that only we knew. I was just try to buy some milk.

Now this works both ways. There is nothing worst than having to tell a group of people who are in the middle of a good old fashion ‘nigger joke’ (I was hoping to get through this without using that word, but I have a point to make) that I am a black man. It sort of puts a damper on the punch line. Once again, you get the point I am trying to make I hope.

Have I known racism and bigotry? Yes. Have I known it as much as someone with much darker skin than I have? No. But for as long as I can remember I have been aware of it. They have been constant companions of mine. I accepted a long time ago that there is bigotry in this world and there is nothing that I can do about it. I simply understand there are people in this world that are very ignorant and I live with it. My Grandfather would say to me “you can’t change their minds Gus, you can only change yours”. So I took this wisdom as the gospel and dealt with it the best I could.

Going back to being am optimist, I honestly believe that there are more good than bad people in the world. I turn a blind eye to the bad and concentrate on the good. Did I stand up for injustice at every chance I could? Have I ‘passed’ now and again when it suited my needs? I wish I could say no. On the other hand, as I grow older I find myself picking up the torch again and again. Standing up to make sure the right thing is done.

I went to an open house at my son’s school not long ago and made a very important discovery about myself. I am not the optimist that I thought I was. I watched children at the school interact with each other, children of all different colors and backgrounds. I witnessed something that astounded me, something that I honestly do not think existed when I was a child. Many, if not most, of these children seemed oblivious to color, race, nationality (call it whatever you like). They just all existed together, they were just kids. I asked my son after the open house, in a round about way, about one of his friends who is of indian decent, to see if he saw any difference between him and his buddy. He said his buddy was older than him, taller than him, a bit faster but he was stronger for sure, haha. It was not even on his radar that his color, or racial background made him different.

So I am not the optimist I thought I was, unfortunately for me there will always be black people, and white people, and Asian people, so on and so on. I cannot undo a lifetime of what I knew. But I can try to let my kids know a world where there are only people. Good people and bad people, but just people.

Gus