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Take a Walk With Me

Take a walk with me to Colonel Sam Smith Park over here on the west side of Toronto. It’s a very cool but sunny early spring day. Later, when the superstar birds, the migrating songbirds, come through, this park attracts both casual and very serious birdwatchers from all over. It’s early yet for the superstars, but for me even the usual suspects are stars in their own right.

This is my local park and I’ve walked it countless times, but there is always something interesting to look at here, and the environment is always changing day by day.

The red-necked grebes are laughing loudly this morning, sharing some private joke us humans can’t be expected to understand.

It seems the song sparrows are everywhere today. I hear them first, then look over and spot them, often on the top branches of smaller trees.

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City of Plenty

City of Plenty by Artist Lee Godie

We like to live surrounded by art. Periodically we move works around, and pull some out which haven’t been hung in a while. Last week I painted our bedroom and when the job was complete we decided to change up the art on the walls.

Over the years we’ve put together a modest collection of so-called folk art or outsider art or art by self-taught artists – call it what you like. It includes 2 pieces by an artist from Chicago named Lee Godie, born Jamot Emily Godie. Today we hung City of Plenty in our bedroom. We had to be very careful hanging this one as it has a very delicate “Tramp Art” frame.

Lee Godie was active as an artist from the late 60s to the early 90s. She made paintings and drawings and as well modified photos. According to Wikipedia, she lived on the streets, sleeping outdoors or in cheap hotels. “Godie had a unique fashion style and could be seen wearing different swatches of fabric wrapped around herself or fur coats that were pieced together. She also used her paint to transform her appearance, painting “big orange circles over each cheek” and painted-on eyeshadow”. She may be Chicago’s most collected artist. Beginning in the late 60s, she sold her works from the steps of the Art Institute of Chicago, and later moved to the north side of the city. Her work has been exhibited in many galleries and museums including the Smithsonian.

In 1991, Chicago‚Äôs Mayor Daley proclaimed September “Lee Godie Exhibition Month”. The proclamation in part reads (from Wiki):
“Now, Therefore, I, Richard M. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, do hereby proclaim September 6-October 8, 1991 to be Lee Godie Exhibition Month in Chicago and urge all citizens to pay homage to a gifted artist.”

In our front hallway hangs our second piece by Lee Godie,

Painting by Lee Godie

We bought this painting at a Slotin auction as a portrait head, and much to our surprise, we discovered it was folded twice. You can see one fold just under her neck and the other just above her hairline. We don’t know if it was folded by Lee Godie or by a previous owner of the work. As you can see, we re-framed this piece unfolded, revealing it’s full history. What do you think? Was that the right thing to do, or do you think we should have hung it as we bought it?

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What have you missed most during the pandemic?

I really miss getting together with my buddy Ted to play a bunch of old time tunes. Before the combination of pandemic and cold weather shut us down, Tuffy P was joining us on gutbucket as well.

Once we have some consistently pleasant weather, we can set up on our back deck again, where there is plenty of room for social distancing. Since we were last able to play together, I’ve been working hard on learning fiddle, and I have a few tunes I’ll try out next time we break out the instruments.

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Water in the house is only good if it has been refilled in the last 2 minutes.

Rainwater in an old flowerpot sitting on the deck is always delicious.
Muddy puddle water is a special treat + there’s a chance to get muddy at the same time.

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Disaster Movie!

This week’s edition of The Agency Podcast features two guests. We chat with musician, singer and songwriter Jin J. X, who also provided music for today’s show: Brando Blues and Sea of Blue.

We also visit with Indian scholar Arnab Chakraborty about disaster movies and their meanings to our lives and culture. 

Listen right here or find The Agency at all those good podcast places.

Thanks for listening! Email us anytime.

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Sunday Walk With Ted

This week’s Sunday walk was hi-jacked by The Partners.

“Hey, where do you think you’re going?”
“What about us?”
“Yeah, what about us?”
“C’mon, man. It’s a beautiful day. We should be part of your plans.”
“Yeah, what he said.”
“Go on. Get the leashes. We’re ready”.
“Woof, already.”

So I loaded them into the car and off we drove to meet up with Ted at Mississauga’s fabulous dog park at Jack Darling.

There were so many people out today, it was difficult to even find parking at Jack Darling Park. I’ve never seen that before.

The dogs had a blast goofing around with the other canines. The reason I usually sneak away for a walk without them on Sundays is that the Newfs are slow and I want to get some exercise too.

About 50 people at the park said, “he looks like a bear”, referring to George.

After a while we leashed them up, left the dog park and continued our walk through the rest of Jack Darling Park. Lots of birds were flitting about around the trees lining the trail, including many robins.

If you have a dog and you’ve never been to Jack Darling, I recommend a visit. Your pup will appreciate it. It was designed around the renovation of a water filtration plant. There are several trails and levels and even a big sand pit for pups to enjoy. Plus it is huge.

On the way back, I noticed a tremendous number of people out by the lake with little masking or social distancing happening. Worse, there were a collection of the “wrong and strong” anti-vax, anti-mask, anti-government, anti-anti-anti folks out there waving signs at traffic. I’m glad I qualified for a vaccine last week when they opened it up for people 60-64. The pandemic isn’t over yet, and I’ll take all the protection I can get.

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I was out and about this morning and stopped in at a grocery store on my way home. When I came out of the grocery store, I didn’t see my car, a little Honda Fit, in the lot. It was obscured by the vehicle which had pulled in beside me. It was a huge white SUV, way longer than my vehicle and so tall that when I sat at the wheel in my car, the door handle of this vehicle was at my eye level. I was really astonished as to the size of this thing. Maybe it’s an exaggeration but the first thing I thought of was those smaller-sized school buses. When I took a good look around the parking lot, it seemed there were far more SUVs and pick-up trucks than there were cars. It seems we Canadians like our big vehicles, undeterred by factors such as climate change or gas mileage.

My dad used to drive big old station wagons, which I totally loved. Later he switched to a pick-up truck which suited his business much better, and when the business did reasonably well, he also bought a Pontiac Parisienne. I remember that car so well because I ended up driving it. After Dad’s vision deteriorated, it sat in his drive for a couple years without moving. Later, when I needed a car, he offered it to me as a gift. I sunk every cent I had at the time into getting that car road-worthy again, but that vehicle was a money pit for me. Dad used to laugh and say, “I don’t know why you’re having so many problems with that car, son – when I drove it I never spent a nickel on it.” Exactly. Then one night I was stopped by a cop for no apparent reason. She wanted very much to find something wrong. No, I wasn’t drinking. No, I wasn’t speeding. She spotted some rust on the bumper and decided to investigate further. She looked under the mat on the driver’s side and saw the rust hole and took my plates off and ticketed me. Finally she smiled and offered to call me a tow truck.

I can’t tell you how many people are surprised that we can fit two adult humans and two giant dogs in our little compact car. The Fit, which has been discontinued by the folks at Honda, was designed remarkably well to optimize space. We actually have no problem fitting the family in there. As a bonus it is low to the ground – Newfoundland dogs are not great at jumping. Previously I drove a small SUV, a Subaru Forester. I liked that vehicle, but curiously enough, I’m just as comfortable in my compact car and can still carry around anything I need to carry around.

It occurred to me that we live in a time and place obsessed by bigness. Where we live there is a lot of redevelopment, and with very few exceptions the goal seems to be to fill lots with as much square foot of home possible. I recall as a kid going on fishing trips with my dad. We used to occasionally see enormous country homes, some complete with majestic columns and block fences with statues of lions. I used to wonder who would want to live in a home that big. Now we see homes that large routinely shoehorned onto their lots in City neighbourhoods. What’s changed? Why is it that the small bungalows which once were all over our neighbourhood are no longer in fashion? Am I wrong in thinking having more green space around a modest home used to be more sought after than a big home with little space around it? When I say “used to” I mean, which I was growing up in the 60s.

While this is happening, I know there is also a micro-trend toward tiny houses. I don’t think I would do well in a place that small, mostly because I have too much junk in my life and I’m not great at keeping it organized and out of sight. We lived happily in a very small home for 8 years though. It was around 750 square feet. It had a big shed in the back yard, 12X12, which I converted into a painting studio I called The Secret Lab. And it had enough backyard room for a a patio and a modest garden. There was always enough room for a few tomato and hot pepper plants. Even though the house was quite small, being able to enjoy the outdoor space, which while not huge was ample, really enhanced that place. Maybe had we not had the backyard space, we would have felt claustrophobic. Eventually, I think we accumulated so much stuff in our lives we needed more space to put it all. We moved to Long Branch and a home that was over twice the size of our old place on Blackthorn, with a big backyard (perfect for big dogs) but which is less than a third the size of the rebuild next door to our place.

Looking back, I loved that crazy little house, and perhaps living in a small home for years taught me that we don’t need nearly as much as we think we need. It was in an area known as a Portuguese-Canadian neighbourhood but which was in fact like the United Nations. There were people from everywhere, and that was so cool, getting to know people who had come to Canada from different places. Soccer was a big thing there. Our neighbours would set up huge wide screen tv sets with grey-market satellite dishes in their garage to get the big games. They would line one side of the garage with table and a had a bbq going on the patio, and there was so much food and drink and happiness at these soccer parties. It was a bonus they mostly liked my squeezebox playing.

Are you more comfortable in a small, cozy place or do you prefer to to have lots of space, with the huge kitchen and the island and all that jazz? Would you rather drive a big honkin’ truck or a little car? Or perhaps you prefer to get around by bike and public transit?