Friday, August 19, 2016

It's Not Over When It's Over

She used to call me babes.

Long straight blond hair, tanned complexion, a few freckles on her nose. Eyes that seemed to change colour in the light.

She drove a sports car. A cool chick, the kind I'd hang out with in high school. She'd pick me up at a subway station because I don't have a vehicle.

"Hey babes."

Upscale casual well-made clothes dressed her thin frame. I loved it when she'd toss her cast-offs my way. The red pants I'm crouching in when you see my Facebook picture, those were hers. She never did wear them.

She was the kind of woman (girl) I imagined the Beach Boys sang about I, I love the colorful clothes she wears/And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair. J. reminded me of Jennifer Aniston, of perpetual youth and an endearing lankiness.

She was tortured.

We sat in her car one night outside a meeting. I watched her smoke one cigarette after another. She told me she gave birth to three triplets who all died. She wiped away tears, tears that wouldn't stop.

I could not relate. But I could make her laugh. And eventually, she made me laugh.

My boyfriend and I went out with J. and her husband on a few occasions. Dinner. Sailing. Over to their place. J. came on her own to Hirut Hoot, the comedy show I co-produce. Hosting that night, I felt great to see her laughing with the regulars.

There was nothing I could do. I am ill-equipped myself.

She loved her teen-aged son and encouraged him to get serious about his acting career. Love though, can take on a life of its own. It becomes a shapeshifter.

One day, I had to be honest with her.

"I can't be your sponsor anymore. You're not listening to me."

She stopped coming to our home group. 


"Babes. I have to move out of my house. Can you come over?"

J. stood in a bedroom, piles and piles of clothes surrounding her, persona at her feet.

"Grab a bag."

I hesitated, but started foraging through her belongings. She held shirts and dresses up to my body and nodded 'yes' or shook her head 'no'. Afterward, we sat on the front steps of the empty house. We had coffee and talked about our lives, squinting in the late August sun.


Two years later, I am heading into my meeting when a member asks to speak to me.

"I think I saw J. at the ER. The police brought her in. She was in handcuffs."

He told me about her screams, her bony body flailing as the cops held her. The sputtering about absence. 

Grief caved in on me. 


Four months ago, I received an email from her ex-husband. I'm sorry to inform you that J. has passed away.

I was wearing one of her shirts when I read the email.

At J.'s funeral, shocked family and friends stood like bowling pins. A Catholic priest presided, and to my surprise, expressed mercy and kindness. I didn't know the Catholic rule book had updated its take on suicide. I kept staring at the urn, picturing her blond hair and freckles. She had freckles in her forties. Unusual.

Sometimes, I'll be walking and then stop, amazed by the sun, astonished how light produces colour -- soft greens, gentle blues, permutations of the visible spectrum. Then, above, I see a brilliant yellow bird with specks of black and white, perched on a wire. In my despair, this is what I remember. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Captain America Enters U.S. Presidential Race

(exclusive to Bennettworld)

Captain America a.k.a. Steven Rogers has entered the race to be the next president of the United States.

The patriotic super soldier declared his bid for the White House in a press conference yesterday.

“I am dedicated to the preservation of the American people against the forces of evil,” Captain American said. “I will use my shield to decapitate any army of evildoers to defend our way of life.”

Captain America’s late entry as an independent candidate for the job as President has come as a surprise to politicians and pundits.

“I get that Captain America is an expert tactician and has an enormous capacity for work, I get that. I get that he loves his country. But he is a fictional character appearing in Marvel Comic books. An actor in costume played him at the press conference. For me, that raises some questions,” said conservative political consultant Karl Rove.

A Gallup poll conducted after the announcement of Captain American as a presidential candidate found that a slim majority of Americans would vote for him.

“What this would indicate is that the American people love their cartoon characters,” said Senior Research Director Tyson Caldwell. “Although Donald Trump has held ground for many months, it would appear there’s a new superhero in town.”

Those opposed to Captain America becoming the head of state and commander-in-chief of one of the most powerful nations on earth dismiss the poll as irrelevant.
“I have said it before, but it bears repeating – Captain America is a fictional character created by comic book artists and is the creative property of Marvel Comics,” said Allison O’Donnell, a Masters student in pharmacology at Georgetown University. “Besides, the Super-Serum and so-called “Vita-ray” treatment he has purportedly taken has not had FDA approved double-blind clinical studies.”

Patton Gettysburg, the campaign manager for Captain America is optimistic that his candidate will present a serious challenge for both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. As neither a Republican nor a democrat, America represents a massive constituency exasperated with the other presidential contenders.

“Parties are for poopers,” said Gettysburg. “The American people want a President that adheres to no political party and has no plan, someone who is agenda-less. The People want someone who can speak to their needs on a relativistic, atomic basis.”

When asked by New York Times journalist Jonathan Martin at the press conference what in specific he would do for the American People, Captain America said, “If someone needs their car washed, or they needed me to go pick up some milk for them at the store, I will be there to help. That’s a promise.”
“For all 321,442,019 persons and counting?”
“For all 321,442,019 persons and counting,” said Captain America.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Gravitational Pull of Rob Ford

I am partial to the laws of physics. One law in particular has been on my mind of late -- gravitational pull:
The size of gravitational force depends on the mass of the object being pulled by the Earth. The size of this force is the weight of the object.
A massive object will have more gravitational pull that a lighter object. Case in point, Rob Ford, his own planet, has attracted more people with his magnetism than I have. Can the law of gravitational pull be applied to the phenomenon of Rob Ford?
Yes, is my conclusion. I have experienced it.

A few years ago, the Emanuel-Howard Park United  Church (now called Roncesvalles United Church) in Toronto called upon my comedic services to host a wine and cheese fundraiser. This church is about as left-leaning, LGBTQ-positive, social justice-activist as it gets. Its tagline is "A Radically Welcoming Christian Community". Like any good Catholic, I love the United Church of Canada (no kneeling, no mass). Many of my friends are members of this church, so when I was asked to host, I was happy to help. The gig gave me an excuse to wear a gown with my Doc Martens. Besides, being in alcohol recovery, I have grown fond of church basements.

Our MPP and MP for High Park-Parkdale were in attendance that night, eager to support this church and its charitable works. The organizer told me that she had invited Mayor Rob Ford as well, but did not expect him to show up. I took that as my cue to fire off some Rob and Doug jokes, the lingua franca of the comedy scene at the time. The material went over well with the audience. I then brought up a band that played a couple of songs while getting ready for the next part of the evening's business, the auction.

From my vantage point in the wings, I could see a little commotion in the audience, a parting of the crowd making way for someone or something. I thought more beer was being delivered. That's when the event organizer rushed up to me.
"He's here!"
"Who's here?"
"Rob Ford! You've got to introduce him now!"
After the band finished its song, she prodded me back on stage. Stunned, all I could manage to say was "Folks, please welcome to the stage, Mr. Rob Ford!"

I didn't call him "His Worship". I was too shocked. He crossed the stage with a plaque in his hand and proceeded to give brief remarks of congratulations to the church and its volunteers.
That's when I felt the gravitational pull of Rob Ford, the large man with the ruddy face and blond hair, impeccably dressed in a suit. I could feel his charisma like shock waves. He had a cherub's aura, a bizarre innocence. I marvelled at him as he presented the plaque to the event organizer, one of the main stalwarts of the church. The crowd applauded, and after a few pleasantries with some congregates, the mayor took his leave with his people. 

That gesture of venturing out into lefty territory and paying tribute to people who earlier laughed at jokes made at his expense converted me into a fan of Rob Ford. The fact that he had addiction problems made me sympathetic to him. Was he a good mayor? No, but he was a savvy politician. For better or for worse, he put the city of Toronto on the map and arguably did more for tourism that the billion dollar extravaganza of the Pan Am Games. For a year or so, we all were citizens of Crazy Town, and it was exhilarating -- just ask the media, the late night talk show hosts, the comedians. Mr. Ford didn't have a pretentious bone in his body and was incapable of artifice. He was a comedian's friend, someone not afraid to laugh at himself because if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join 'em. 

When I heard he had cancer, my thought was that the media and those who hounded him would only be happy when he's dead. And now he's dead. I'm not happy. Toronto has just lost one of the most colourful characters this city has ever known. What it has gained though is its newest folk hero. Maybe that's what Mr. Ford was aiming for all along. 

Rob Ford was a force of nature. Denying his affect is like denying magnetism. He had pull.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Congratulatory phone call from Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada to President-elect Donald J. Trump : November 10, 2016



ring ring ... ring ring ...

Trump: What the hell? A 613 area code? Where are you calling from, Bolivia?!

Trudeau: Good evening Mr. President-elect. This is the Prime Minister of Canada calling. 
I would like to extend to you my best wishes on your election as President of the United States.

Trump: Stephen? I want 75 percent of Keystone! I am still not in love with Canadian oil, but I'll do you this favour if you do me a favour -- stop singing and playing piano! You stink, and you're not fooling anyone!

Trudeau: Mr. Trump, this is Justin Trudeau calling.

Trump: Trudeau? Oh ... can you get your daddy on the phone then?

Trudeau: My father has been dead for sixteen years.

Trump: Oh ... I am sorry to hear that. That is not so classy.

Trudeau: I am the Prime Minister of Canada.

Trump: You're FIRED!

Trudeau: Mr. Trump, ah, you, ah, can't do that. I am the leader of a sovereign nation.

Trump laughs

Trump: You are funny! Thanks for the laugh  ...

Trudeau: Wait! Don't hang up! I am calling to say I'm looking forward to strengthening the bonds between Canada and the United States.

Trump: ... who is this?

Trudeau: The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

Trump: Listen Tru-doh. I'm getting to work on that great, great wall between us and Canada and you are paying for it!

Trudeau: Ah, I think you mean the wall, ah, between the US and, ah, Mexico.

Trump: Right! Mexico -- to keep out the drug dealers and rapists! I forgot, Canadians aren't rapists because it's too cold up there.

Trudeau (deep sigh): Anyway, I wish you, ah, and your family ... ... ... all the, ah, ... best .. and again, I look forward to Canada renewing our peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship with the United States.

Trump: Look Tru-doh, I'm a nice guy. I play nice when I don't. We want the same things -- billions of dollars for our families, weather that is pleasant and illegal immigrants and refugees to get the hell out of our countries. So yeah, we'll talk about closing our borders, bombing the f&*k out of ISIS- ISIL whatever, and to bring our jobs back from China so we can make America Great Again.

Trudeau: (pause) What's that, Sophie? ... I have to go Donald, Hadrien just threw up. Bon soir et ferme ta gueule!

CLICK! dial tone

Monday, December 28, 2015

I Was Pierre Trudeau's and Justin Trudeau's Girlfriend: PART II: JUSTIN

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people dead or alive is purely intentional.

I was Justin Trudeau's girlfriend, from October 4, 2015, to October 4, 2015. Some call it a whirlwind, some call it fate, others call it the delusions of a lonely old woman. All I can say, without being too indiscreet, is that it was the best 24 seconds of my life.
Fourteen months sober, anxious and depressed, still detoxing from decades of drug, alcohol, food, gambling, sex, and gardening addiction, I found myself impecunious on the streets of Brampton, Ontario. My skin looked good though. At age 68 I could still pass for a pasty-faced and stooped Jennifer Aniston, or at least that's what one of the strangers tossing coins in my Tim Horton's cup told me as he stepped over my sleeping bag on the sidewalk.
A few loonies the better, I gathered my shopping bags and shuffled toward the Timmies down the street. The drop-in centre wasn't opened for my program yet, so I thought I'd treat myself to a coffee and watch some Timmies TV. I never tire of weather updates or celebrity news because they distract me from the pit of despair I feel in my gut, and  I get to check-in with the pressing concerns shared by my fellow citizens. Is Blake Shelton really dating Gwen Stenfani? If I knew who these people were maybe I'd care more about them, about myself, and about society at large.
As I neared Tim's, I noticed a big bus pull up into its parking lot.  Three men in suits disembarked, all talking on their phones. I thought this unusual. Nobody talks on their phones anymore. Two women then got off the bus, looked around the parking lot, and then started texting on the phones grasped in their hands. 'That's more like it,' I thought. It was then, when I was almost at the Tim's door, that I saw him get off the bus. Monsieur Justin Trudeau -- blue suited, donning a red tie, black hair shiny and full. My knees went weak and buckled. I stumbled into a garbage receptacle and steadied myself. How embarrassing!  One of his handlers spotted me, smiled and waved. He signalled to Mr. Trudeau and then indicated me.
"M'am, let me help you," the handler said as he held me upright. "Are you faint?"
"I'm all right. It's ... it's .."
"It's him, isn't it?  Would you like a picture with him?"
In my six decades plus of living on this planet, I have always felt invisible, unloved, shunted, defective. Fobbed off on foster parents, surviving through the shelter system, toiling as a line cook, slogging briefly as a senior financial analyst for Bear Stearns, I have known what it is to be reviled. To be graced with this kind offer brought tears to my newly sober eyes. I knew Trudeau junior's father; voted for him, adored him, carried his picture in my wallet to show to people. This is my Prime Minister. Now his son Justin sought the top political position in Canada.  After years of living under a dictatorship, the country now had a chance of returning to its natural order, a peaceable kingdom where the wolf dwells with the lamb.
As I stood astonished, Monsieur Trudeau turned to his handler and whispered something to the effect of "I don't want to use this woman as a photo op."  
He approached me, put his hand on my shoulder and looked into my eyes, the cosmos and all its stars in heaven in his gaze. That gaze penetrated my soul and electrified my body. It sent us tumbling into bed, grappling with each others clothes, mouths hungry for each other. His eyes assured me that I was loved.
Trembling, I uttered the word "Justin."  His handler asked me if I had a cell phone to take a selfie. I hung my head and muttered something about it being in the shop. Monsieur Trudeau produced a phone that glistened in the sunny October air and outstretched his arm. I clung to him, hugging his torso as he snapped a shot. I closed my eyes and let the moment lift me, weightless and pure, skyward.
I opened my eyes and looked around. Justin and his team disappeared. Whether they ever got their coffees, I do not know. Sitting in the Tim's after the encounter, coffee and donut laid out like a feast before me, I vibrated with renewed hope and tantric energy. My friends at the drop-in centre still don't believe me when I tell them I was Justin Trudeau's girlfriend, but I know better. Somewhere now, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, le dauphin de Canada  is attending to the business of ruling our land, and on his phone is a picture of himself and me, a stark reminder of his goodness.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

I was Pierre Trudeau's and Justin Trudeau's Girlfriend

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons alive or dead is purely intentional.

I was Pierre Trudeau's  and Justin Trudeau’s girlfriend. Not at the same time. Wait, let me think. …. …. … … ……. ……. … .. no, not at the same time.

I met Pierre in 1996 at the corner of Sherbrooke Street and Rue Guy. I was about to get on the 165 Bus opting for the scenic route up The Boulevard to get to Côte-des-Neiges and eventually Van Horne to board the 161 to Côte-Saint-Luc, when I tripped on my untied shoelaces and into the arms of an older man wearing a cape. “Superman?” I exclaimed. “Non, mademoiselle, -- Pierre Elliot Trudeau.” He righted me against a wall and held me by the shoulders while I caught my breath, which took 15 minutes.  My knees kept buckling and he kept holding me up, until a passerby told us to “get a room”. We did.

The room was around the corner at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the "Grande Dame" of Sherbrooke Street. Ironic that I should be walking in with a former Prime Minister when in fact, I had been banned from the establishment since 1994 -- some trifle about dousing a balustrade with gasoline and lighting it on fire. Pierre lowered himself on the king bed, shrugged, and then loosened his pants. I could tell by his pinched expression and general ennui that making love to me would be just another public service for a man who had given so much to his country.  I grazed his flaked and bony fingers with mine and whispered “it’s okay. Let’s just drink instead.” He ordered several bottles of Dom Pérignon (which I adored when someone else was buying). I drained the bubbly while he stroked my dirty blond hair and watched La Petite Vie on Radio-Canada.  I must confess my memory fails me a bit after this. At some point in the evening I recall Justin Trudeau knocking on the door and imploring his father to leave. Je t’aime papa”, he cried. Pierre did not leave me. Au contraire [from the French for “on the contrary”] dear reader, he listened as I recited poetry I had scrawled on hotel stationery, and caressed my back as I knelt before the toilet vomiting.  Afterwards, I have a vague impression of his thin lips on mine, blowing into my mouth while applying steady compression on my chest with the heels of his hands.  
The next morning I woke up on the floor, fully clothed, pallid and parched, with delirium tremens and a mark on my neck resembling a hickie. The DTs are gone, but the “hickie” remains, In fact, every year on the anniversary date of my rendezvous with Monsieur Trudeau, I allow the faithful to touch the stigmata, which is formed in the image of a middle finger. Suffice to say, I have not washed my neck in almost 20 years.

I will always t’aime Trudeau senior. But you won’t believe what happened almost 20 years later with me and his son Justin!

NEXT MONTH PART II: The Justin Year(s)day.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Recovery and the Pain Conundrum

Pain and Addiction, Pain and Addiction
They go together like dread and affliction
Bet your bottom twoonie
You can't stop both and not go loonie

Have you had the pleasure of visiting a walk-in medical clinic in a major Canadian city lately? I say pleasure, but what I really mean is desperation. No one other than hypochondriacs, citizens seeking non-emergency but somewhat urgent medical attention, or drug addicts go to walk-in clinics. I am in the "all three" category, however I have been clean and sober for a few 24 hours. To say they are depressing is making a mockery of hopelessness. Walk-in clinics are up there with government offices and collision centres, in my books.  My books have pages by the way. Actual physical pages.

A week ago my back collapsed. That's the good news. The bad news is that it has been doing a reverse four and a half somersault pike ever since. All this from falling on my ass while on a standup paddleboard. A standup paddleboard, the things that look so relaxing when gorgeous people drift peacefully on them. They are lethal weapons when boarded by an oaf in ankle deep water. Oh well. At least some kids saw me land hard on my butt and then pointed and laughed.

At the urging of loved ones and others unfortunate enough to be in my vicinity for any length of time, I inched my way over to a walk-in clinic after four days of teeth-grinding pain. I was whisked in rather quickly (an omen?) and left in an examination room, but not before I noticed the sign at reception: THIS CLINIC DOES NOT PRESCRIBE NARCOTICS. A middle aged man came in, a doctor I am happy to report, and we chitchatted for a minute until he said, "What seems to be the problem?"

Since time began, pain has been a part of life. And since time began, those suffering seek to eliminate their pain. Some do it through spiritual enlightenment. Others do it through various medical remedies. Still others do it through acquiring thousands of pairs of shoes. I have approximately eight pairs of shoes, and I say approximately because I only wear three pair. Being in recovery, I am to aim for the highest spiritual plane of being possible because I am supposed to be "awakened". I fall short. On my ass. I pick myself up, and try, and keep trying, but some days the world wins. Medical remedies have served me well when I use them as directed and for the length of time prescribed. I am okay with that. Recovery purists may argue otherwise, but there are certain medications I need.

The not-so-good doctor proceeded to grill me with questions about my history with back pain. I was not prepared for the Spanish Inquisition, although being prodded with soft pillows would have been nice. “What do you do to to deal with your back pain?” he asked, over and over again. Over and over again I explained, “I wait, take a few painkillers, and walk it off.”  
“But what do you DO?”
“I walk it off!”
“What do you mean, ‘walk it off’?”
“I WALK IT OFF. I grin and bear it until the pain subsides.”
“Why are you not ‘walking it off’ now?”
“Because this is no garden variety agony. This is different. Hey – my coworkers told me to come here – it was not my idea.”
“What do you DO?”
“What do you DO with pain?”
“Can you just examine my back please?”
“You DO what?”
“I am not going to ask you for narcotics, don’t worry.”
“DO you know what you DO?”
“I take a prescribed anti-inflammatory, but they aren’t cutting it… I’ll just leave now.”
“What do you DO when in pain.”
And that’s when I broke down in tears. I was looking for some sort of relief, assurance, anything to ease the pain. Compassion would have been nice. I do not cry often due to emotional constipation, so for me to sob was highly unusual. Maybe it had something to do with the excruciating PAIN.

And then he relented. He wrote a note for my employer. And two scripts.
And he got the hell out of the room.

I was not expecting a narcotic painkiller, but I have filled the prescription and use as directed and when essential. Is this relapse? No, this is self-care.
I really like my physio guy. 

Think I’ll just stick to standup, and leave the paddleboarding for now.