The Past Is The Present

Remember back in the day when it was cool to smoke? Oh man, those sloe-eyed sultry women who could inhale through their nostrils were my idols! Clicking open the shiny silver cigarette case, flicking the gold-plated zippo, inhaling the first whiffs of butane, then “zoopf” the flame itself, six inches high, dazzling in its initial flash, then the first tendrils of smoke curling around a glowing end.

It was pure Hollywood, peeps, and I was a part of it. So were many, many of my friends, starting in our early to mid-teens. There was a law about age, you had to be 16, but no one enforced it. Unless you looked about five years old, no one refused to sell anyone cigarettes. In fact, even if you were five years old, all you had to say was you were buying them for your parent or grandparent, and boom, away you went with a little box of death that in the late 70s cost about $2.

In the 80s, the health and welfare party poopers got real hot and heavy over the health risks of smoking, and in 1988 new legislation was passed requiring cigarette packages to list certain health warnings and it just snowballed from there, peeps. Before long, the age was raised again (and people actually checked ID this time around!), smoking was banned in public places, then in the workplace, then gruesome images graced the boxes. People were quitting left and right, like passengers jumping off a sinking ship. Tobacco companies rallied, but the health conscious boomers were stronger and today, smoking is persona-non-gratis everywhere.

But let me tell you, the uproar! The initial hue and cry! Campaigns about curtailing our rights to choose, personal freedoms, the financial impact on tobacco companies and tobacco farmers, oh the humanity! It was not a popular concept at first. Our health was less important than the income generated from the industry – I mean, how were these rich tobacco families going to continue to live their extravagant lifestyle? Would they have to sell a yacht or two? Perhaps they’d have to forgo a few vacations or budget for Christmas?

Eventually, those companies either rallied and diversified or they died out. But life went on, and the quality of life for many was so much better. Today, we recognize how bad smoking is for us, and the memories of the turmoil of the 80s and 90s, as changes were made, has faded.

I feel like this scenario is playing out again, peeps.

But this time, it’s with meat and dairy.

Think about it: animal agriculture is a huge part of our world. It’s not bread that is the mainstay of cultures around the world, it’s meat. Our diets are meat rich for the most part. Rarely does the average family have a meal that is not meat-centric with a side or two of high-fat carbs.

So think of animal agriculture today as the tobacco industry of yore; and the way people fight to continue to eat meat despite medical organizations and World Health Organization’s (WHO) warnings about the risks of eating meat.

Society at large does not appreciate the truths about eating meat, the same as they repudiated the truths about smoking back in the day.

I can see it now: suddenly, all meat packaging starts to carry warnings as to the health risks associated with its consumption, maybe even gruesome pictures of colorectal cancer and plugged up arteries.

Animal ag farmers and dairy producers are already crying foul as activists storm their facilities and expose their deplorable conditions and abusive methods. They are opening their arsenal of propaganda to fight to maintain their position financially and ethically, just like tobacco companies did way back. Billboards are going up for both sides, peeps, using the highways as battlegrounds, and slogans as weapons.  085ebbd6ec24668f9a2474280167ad5b6620873c46d6d906235fd96444bdfdb4--dr-who-fun-stuff

It seemed like an unwinnable war, for either side, until I recalled the tobacco issued and suddenly saw a resemblance between the two.

Now I know who will win (at least a majority) because the writing is on the proverbial wall, peeps. Been there, done that.

Health and welfare will start to take the lead, as usual; and anti-meat sentiment will raise it’s broccoli-topped head and brandish carrot swords whilst showing the world a better, healthier more compassionate way. I know it, because health and welfare won the war against cigarettes, so I know it will be victorious here too.

Sure, some people still smoke. It is not gone completely. I expect meat eating to be the same. Neither will be completely eradicated until many, many years hence. But I figure it’s a start – and every little step taken is better for the environment, for us, and for our children.

Only 40 years ago practically every man, woman and child smoked. Today, only 20 per cent of the WORLD smokes. That’s fucking amazing, peeps! And guess what – people are living longer – back in the 50s, life expectancy was 52. Today it’s 72. That’s a 20 year difference and probably much of it is attributed to the non-smoking lifestyle choices and changes we have made. After all, we have fewer smokers and fewer incidences of second-hand smoke diseases.  Eat-beans-not-beings.

Imagine if meat were were mostly eliminated – life expectancy could be 82 or 92 – with less to no cholesterol ingested and very few carcinogens absorbed from processed meats, meat-related diseases would decrease drastically.

I changed my way of thinking about cigarettes way back when, and I quit smoking – as did most of my friends. Today, I also don’t eat meat or dairy – same with many of my friends. I adjusted to the changes both times based on new information and education about the reality of the industries and how they affect us and the world at large (not to mention the animals, in the case of animal agriculture).

If you can quit smoking because of the health benefits and what we now know, you can do the same with meat.

Go vegan!

 

 

 

 

Speaking The Truth

I was going to call this post “Speaking My Truth” but I decided my truth was actually THE truth, There are no perspectives here, despite certain people justifying their actions by using this as an excuse: it was what it was and that’s it.

I decided this year would be the year I would speak out, no longer hide the truth, the facts, notwithstanding how weak I might look to some, or how un-credible I might appear to others. One of my earlier posts introduced the subject and every now and then, I feel compelled to bring it up again. It’s part cleansing myself of the nastiness and part needing to let everyone know the truth of the matter. Because so many people still believe otherwise. I, however, have vowed to no longer be silent on the subject, and so I write this post.

As you know, I’m addicted to memes (yet another addiction!) and I found one today which brought a lot of things up from the deep emotional well in which they are buried. Here it is:  67620175_1274369926076683_7670841711261646848_n

My personal emotional emancipation began the day I started speaking about my experience as a victim of domestic abuse. At first, I thought it was my opening up about my addiction to alcohol, but that really didn’t start the healing process for me because that was no secret. I wasn’t opening up and coming clean about my drinking, fuck, everyone knew about that! What people didn’t know about, which for years I was deeply ashamed of, and traumatized by, was the abuse I suffered at the hands of my last long-term relationship.

Speaking out about that was epic, peeps. And THAT is what started the healing ball rolling. Speaking out about that was when my life started to begin again. Admitting that I, a strong, independent, intelligent woman could be so browbeaten by someone so emotionally inferior to me was really hard to do, because I should have known better, I should have been able to stop it. One would think, right?

Well all the known facts today state otherwise, of course. But still, inside me I felt so ashamed and stupid I didn’t want anyone to know. But then something magical happened to me. I quit drinking, changed my lifestyle to vegan, started to write again and do my art again, and suddenly there was a part of me that WANTED to tell everyone. I wanted to scream it to the world. I wanted everyone to know he is NOT WHAT YOU THINK! I wanted everyone to beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I couldn’t be silent about it anymore.

It became of paramount importance that I tell the world just what I went through, and I was no longer ashamed to admit what happened because I realized I hadn’t actually let it happen to me, HE HAD DONE IT TO ME. There’s a difference.

Now, that being said, there are things I will never tell. Things that I will take to my grave. There is enough material to be made public that those super private things don’t need to be announced. Maybe keeping those secrets will impede my healing, I don’t know. Maybe one day, I will speak of them, but not today. Not tomorrow.

In the meantime, this evil, vile man roams the streets, interacting with people as if NOTHING happened; acting as if he is the victim! His psychotic rants and diatribes aren’t aimed at me anymore, as far as I know, although I’m sure I resurface in there now and then as he extolls on his “perspective” (his perspective is fucked, his mind is like a rubix cube shuffled then stepped on by a rhino. His rants always reflected that). Facebook was his favourite place to vilify me while I was with him, and all his friends would sympathize and click “like” and say things like “there are more fish in the sea, brother”…(so I’m a fish??) and NO ONE knew the reality because I didn’t play those social media games. I didn’t publicly retaliate. I kept quiet and fought the battles privately, behind closed doors. 1230046_566098636800431_1402042751_n

Him, though, he is so convinced he is right that he puts it out there publicly and challenges people to “show me I’m wrong” (ugh i so remember these posts) and then because no one engages in his insane tirade, he assumes he has once again proven himself most knowledgeable and therefore superior in his rhetoric.

And all his “followers” have no idea of the reality, of the psychosis, of the irrationality. He’d make a good cult leader, actually, now I think about it. Except he doesn’t have the ambition to follow through on anything, he has no sense of commitment or ethics, and prefers to drop projects half way through blaming someone or something else for his failure. A perpetual victim whilst sustaining his appetite to be the victimizer – because believe me, someone was victimized by him during this – client, friend, lover, someone.

That’s why I occasionally drop a post in about this part of my life, about him and what I suffered at his hands. I have to, peeps. It’s always with me. It never goes away. Every single fucking day I think of him or something he did. I try to put it out of my mind, I do. Mostly I’m successful, but it’s always there. His repugnant presence invades my peace of mind daily and nightly. I’ve never hated anyone in my life; but I hate him.

And I don’t think that’s going to change.

And now some well-meaning peeps are going to suggest therapy. This is my therapy, guys. My letting people know about what happened to me, about him, is all the therapy I need. Just knowing maybe one more person knows the truth is the best therapy I could have.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note, because I am not sad, at all. (Depressed, yes, but that’s chronic) I’m on a better path now; I’m realizing things, gaining friends, developing ambitions I never knew I had. It’s just every now and then, I wake up and I think, I have to talk about it again.

Thanks for listening. And be careful around him. He’s dangerous.

 

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AR Activists Fight For People Too

I often hear “Why are you so worried about animals? What about the human rights issues?” Being a vegan and animal-rights advocate and humanitarian are not mutually exclusive. One feeds into the other in multiple ways.

When I rail against the treatment of agricultural animals at factory farms and slaughterhouses, one thing seems to get swept under the rug: who is committing these atrocious behaviours? We are presented with these clandestine videos of horrific abuse perpetrated on these innocents, and we heave a collective cry of “Animal Abuse” and that is what we tend to focus on: the action of the abuse and the suffering of the non-human animal on the receiving end.

What about the person behind the steel-toed boots and heavy work gloves? Who is he/she? (I will continue on with this article using the pronoun “he” for simplicity’s sake) Why would anyone take a job like this? Are they really ok with this behaviour? Do they behave this way with their own pets or children? WHAT THE FUCK?

I was perusing Twitter this morning and saw a post by @agargmd stating the animal agriculture business is not a friend of minorities and migrant workers and the American diet supports the industries and politicians who continue to oppress these peoples.

BING! I had an Oprah Lightbulb Moment that flashed like stick lightning striking ground.

Of course! An industry of oppression uses the oppressed to fuel it. slaughterhouse-worker

The Guardian states: “Most farm work in America is performed by immigrants, most of whom are undocumented and therefore exploitable. The big agribusinesses that hire these immigrants will tell you that they need an unfettered supply of cheap foreign labor, because they cannot find Americans willing to do these jobs.”

Another quote: “According to a report compiled by Eric Ruark (pdf), the director of research at the Federation for American Immigration Reform (Fair), as of 2006, only 27% of workers hired by agribusinesses are American citizens, 21% are green card holders, around 1% are part of the guest worker program … and a whopping 51% are unauthorized immigrants.”

50 PER CENT are unauthorized immigrants! Holy fuck!

In Canada, upwards of 25,000 migrant workers are brought in legally to do work farmers need which citizens apparently won’t do; the exact number of undocumented migrants was estimated in 2004 as more than 36,000, doing a variety of jobs such as cleaning, nannying, labour and farm labour.

Ok so there is no shortage of illegals to hire for these less-than-desirable jobs in the agricultural industry. These people face working conditions which just barely meet industry standards in most cases, risking life and limb daily. In 2004 Tyson received a citation for an employee who inhaled hydrogen sulfide and was asphyxiated – did I read that right? A CITATION? For a death?

Between 2003-5, Maple Leaf Farms was issued 18 violations and fines for unsafe practices including hazardous machines and chemicals, and a number of other unsafe procedures.

Child labour is a thing too. 57 Guatemalen under-age workers were found at a kosher meatpacking plant in Iowa. What the ACTUAL fuck?

Clearly, this industry is death for everyone: humans and non-humans alike.

These migrant families work in this industry because even an unregulated salary is better than no salary at all. The farmers not only have these people by the pursestrings but also by the heartstrings, as they are working towards a better life for their family than they had in their home country. Unable to legally enter the country for various reasons, they resorted to illegal channels and are forced to take whatever job is available no matter how abhorrent and with no safety net of lawful protocol with which to protect themselves. i24th

So here is one way Animal Rights meets Human Rights.

By policing these industries and advocating for animals, we are also assisting humans caught in this cycle of oppression and suppression. We are educating the public at large not only of the great inhumane treatment of innocent non-human animals, but also the inhumane treatment of men, women and children caught up in this life or death system which functions right under our noses, in our neighbourhoods, down our streets, in our backyards.

Yeah, right there.

And we are blind to it, because we prefer to look away from nastiness and pretend it isn’t happening. Because we see our “food” (read animal flesh) packaged up nice and cleanly in open freezers with little fake parsley garland at the edges and Enya playing on the overhead speakers. Get those rose-coloured glasses off, peeps, there is as much inhumanity being perpetrated in our own country as in those we castigate as barbaric and condemn to outer reaches of civilization.

We are animals too; Animal Rights includes us all.

 

 

 

 

Pizza Reinvented

Sometimes, I think about pizza.

There I’ll be, minding my own business, and suddenly, there is a piece of pizza in my head. A hot, gooey, stretchy mess of cheese and fat. It was one of my most favourite foods.

I’m not gonna lie, peeps, vegan pizza is the one food I have not been able to recreate adequately to satisfy the heart and soul. But staunchly, I stayed the course, eating my rice and beans (which I actually really love!) while everyone else in the house noshed down on that finger-licking perfect pie of my past.

It’s ok – I’m more than happy knowing my food did not contribute to the pain and oppression of the meat and dairy industries – but still, the Culinary Creative Carol part of me was challenged to design a vegan pizza that even a carnivore would love.

It’s like when my ex used to tell me “no” or “don’t do that or else” – what was I supposed to do? Listen? Tow the line? Pfffff  hell no. Challenge accepted!

My epiphany about pizza occurred last week when I went to Toronto with my friend Joanne and her daughter, Tatiana. We had lunch at a pizza place called “Apiecolypse Now” There were a range of different pizzas that looked distinctly unpizza-like except for the crust, and suddenly, the skies opened up and beams of angelic light played down upon us like gentle harp strokes as the beatific choir sang “aaahhhhhhhhh” in perfect, melodic, harmony. jesus

Not really. It was more like a slap upside the head as my brain yelled “Holy shit! I never thought about doing this to pizza! Amaze-balls!”

There were pizza topping combinations I couldn’t even imagine: there was a pizza topped with nachos; there was a big mac pizza; there was traditional cheese style; plant-based pepperonis, bacons, and ground not-meat; there were non-dairy feta cheeses, Notzzarellas, plant-based cheddars, tons of different veggies; different types of sauces; the permutations were endless and delicious and totally, completely, pushed traditional pizza boundaries.

So I realized, it wasn’t about recreating the pizza, IT WAS ABOUT REINVENTING IT! Creating a new type of pizza with it’s own flavours and with its own identity.

So I ordered the most unpizza-like pie on the menu: The Fat Mac (Big Mac copycat). This pizza had a plant-based meat topping, with onions, pickles, cheese, lettuce, special sauce on a sesame seed pie crust. I needed to taste it and see if it really did taste like a Big Mac, and more importantly, decide whether lettuce belonged on pizza! I needed to determine the ingredients used to recreate it at home. If it could be done at home, then I could recreate any other favourite food item into a pizza and revolutionize vegan pizzas completely so they no longer had to compete with the real thing, but could stand apart from and alone as its own entity.

Like I said: Challenge Accepted!

I was wielding my spatula like a samurai, peeps. Herbs, spices, plant-based proteins: check! Flour coated the surfaces, cast through the air like semolina wraiths. Vegan mayo transformed into Mac sauce with a few simple ingredients. Vidalia onions and sammich pickles found new life in a fine dice job. Pizza dough flew onto a pan like a UFO. It was a thing of beauty, peeps. I kid you not.

When it came out of the oven all bubbly and hamburgerly, I added the finely chopped lettuce and drizzled the Mac sauce all over it. The earth was created in seven days, according to Bible thumpers. In this case, Big Mac Perfection was created in an hour.

I did it.

The Big Mac Pizza was born. And I saw that it was good. pizza

OMFG peeps, it was so tasty, if you like Big Macs, which I definitely do. The flavour was identical, but it was healthier (no animal fats, no cholesterol, lower in calories) and no one was harmed in the process. Win-win for all concerned.

And I learned an important lesson. Sometimes it’s better to embrace new things than hold onto and try to recreate old things. Sometimes old things are old things for a good reason, and maybe they should stay old things, because we’ve progressed beyond that.

Frankly, I’m lovin’ it!

 

 

Dairy Is Scary

You are probably seeing the billboards going up everywhere: Dairy is Scary. I’m sure more than a few of you are probably wondering “what the fuck? why is dairy scary? damn vegans!” I mean, you probably have visions in your head of the quintessential dairy farm of yore, with a lovely, green meadow filled with black and white mama cows grazing peacefully, calves cavorting at their sides, being called in twice a day for milking. Cue the classical nature music and butterflies.

In fact, outwardly, it would seem of all the animal products we consume, dairy is the least harmful to animals. Wrong again.

Dairy production is equally harmful to the animals as any other animal product process.

Consider this: Cows only lactate when they have a baby. What? Yes, it’s true. They are a mammal and like humans, only produce milk when there is a baby to drink it. We are not that baby. The calf is. However, the calf is removed from the mother almost immediately and either sledgehammered to death or, if destined to become a veal chop, they are sequestered away in little crates to limit their movement.

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these babies are destined to become veal

Removing the calf from the mother causes undue distress for both – much like it would do if your child were removed from you at birth. Does it hurt them any less because they are animals? Appearances would suggest not. Both animals are frantic to reunite, crying and balling for each other. Imagine about 100 cows and babies separated like this; imagine 400; you get the picture. Not the idyllic pasture scene you imagined, is it.

But first of all, how does the mother get pregnant? Oh ho – it’s not how you think! Forget nature, peeps, it’s all on Farmer Jack’s head. The cow is tied still, and basically a special tool loaded with bull sperm is pushed into the cow’s vulva by the farmer, and the semen is dispensed into the cow that way. The farmer’s arm is shoved into the cow’s rectum and pressure from that flattens out and smooths the way for the “semen gun” to enter the cervix far enough for effective dispensing. This is not “nature taking its course” by any means.

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Milk production

Once all the impregnating and baby nonsense is complete, the lactating mother cow is then pushed into a small stall, hooked up to milking machines, and milked 24/7. She is fed hormones to ensure continued production of milk. She will develop mastitis, a painful infection of mammary glands due to over-milking. She will be fed anti-biotics in large doses to contain the infection and inflammation, but all three will enter the milk stream: hormones, pus, and anti-biotics. She will be in great pain through out this, and will be physically depleted in every way by age five, at which point, she will go to slaughter. Under normal circumstances, her life span would be 25 years.

But it’s ok – she’s just an animal, right?

It’s hard to believe people actually justify this to themselves, but in retrospect, I guess if people can justify incarcerating a certain culture just because they look different, then it’s not too far a stretch to debase a whole species this way.

Dairy is scary:  Scary for the mother cows, robbed of their babies and hooked up 24/7 to milking machines; scary for the babies shoved into small huts restricting movement so they make better veal; scary for people who then consume the milk riddled with an “acceptable” level of PUS and high levels of antibiotics (to bring PUS levels down to an acceptable point) and hormones (to keep mama with milk longer). It’s bloody scary that we go along with all of this and drink this stuff even knowing what we are consuming is not only NOT good for us, but NOT necessary for us for good health.  It’s scary that there are non-dairy alternatives EVERYWHERE and we still reach for the pus-filled, hormone laden, anti-biotic infused boob milk of another animal that is meant for their babies, the same way OUR milk is meant only for ours.

It’s scary that we humans feel keeping animals in this way is appropriate because they are “just animals”. It’s scary because we are able to justify this behaviour to ourselves because we have “always done it” or “well i was raised that way and I turned out ok”. It’s scary because we have done this to HUMANS in the past and justified it to ourselves then as well: concentration camps, detention camps. It’s scary because we are doing it TODAY, right now, to humans with the immigration camps.

It’s scary because people have not made the connection, and continue to refuse to make the connection, that humans are animals too. We are animals, peeps. Our species: homo sapien. Still animals, though. A mere gene or two away from chimpanzees – not human. Do you see? Do you get it? We are a couple of genes away from a non-human animal, one which we use for experiments because they are animals…. as are we.

embryo

mouse embryo. oh wait, no, human…um no it’s a frog….no chicken….crap…

Did you know when we are in utero when we are in the “Phylotypic” stage, our embryo cannot be differentiated from a mouse, a chicken, a frog – basically any vertebrate – visually? Animals, peeps. We are animals. We are sentient animals. And so are cows, pigs, sheep, dogs and cats. We all breathe, eat, procreate, care for our young, protect each other, fight for our families, feel happiness, sadness and fear.

So yeah, dairy is scary, in so many more ways than you can imagine. But that is one thing humans can do for themselves: imagine. We can imagine a better world, one where all creatures are respected and treated kindly. One where we understand we do not need to dominate another living being to survive. One where we follow the wise women’s motto: “Do what thy wilt; an harm ye none.”

 

 

My Travels in Poverty

Since my day spent, in part, with the street people of Toronto, I have been reflecting back to other poverty I have witnessed in my travels.

In Alabama, I saw the folks who lived in the “little pink houses” of which John Mellencamp wrote in his song “Little Pink Houses (for you and me)”, but those folks, although at or below the poverty line, are not the ones that stick in my mind. What comes to mind in the southern U.S. are the government trailer parks with line after line of dingy white trailers housed with multiple families (mostly African American) situated on dusty dirt behind chain link fences, as if incarcerated. Their children ran barefoot and often pantsless (whether by choice or not I can’t say – it was brutally hot, and I know I like to be pantsless at home!) The elderly sat on upturned buckets or ratty lawn chairs keeping watch on the shrieking shenanigans of bare butt children and frenzied dogs, leaping after them. Occasionally, a scarfed grandma would be seen sweeping the ground at the foot of the trailer door, in a never ending attempt to clean away the grime and dust.

I’d never seen poor like that before. Oh wait – yes, yes I had!

In more northern climes, in my own country, many years ago as a youth, I remember travelling through a couple of Indian Reserves. It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz movie, when it starts off black and white and suddenly changes to techni-colour, only this was the other way around. My travels through started off in full vibrant colour and gradually faded into black and white the deeper I got into the Res.

The houses became more dilapidated until every house I saw was no more than wood pieces hammered together. Some were old trailers with extensions built from cardboard, steel and wood. I could see no options for indoor plumbing, electricity, or phones. I kept thinking where do they keep their food if they don’t have electricity for a fridge? It never entered my head I should be thinking “what food?”. I was so young at the time, the reality escaped me.

Did you know that even today, in 2019, just over 600 First Nation communities in Canada and “at any given time one in five of these communities are under a boil water advisory.” What? they have to boil their water prior to consumption? In Canada, in 2019?? What the actual fuck, peeps!

And did you know some of these Reserves are mere minutes away from your neighbourhood? How is it possible you have potable water and half hour from you a whole community does not? How is it possible this has not been addressed by our Canadian standards? Potable water is a RIGHT as laid down in 2010 by the United Nations General Assembly. This is Canada, ffs! How can some people not have clean drinking water?

Then, many years later, I travelled to India for work for six weeks. Yes, India! Me! I know! I am actually so happy I went, now, although at the time I was fraught with every anxiety under the sun (and more, I was also living with dickhead at the time). There I saw a different kind of poverty.

hovels

this was situated next to the building in my neighbourhood

It was the same, but different.

I mean, poor is poor right? You’d think…

Firstly, I soon figured out you could tell have’s from have not’s by their shoes – or lack thereof. Those with money had shoes; the poor had bare feet. It didn’t matter whether they were working or beggars, if they were poor, they went everywhere in bare feet. Even to work. Even if their job was construction, chopping wood, climbing scaffolds, whatever. Unless you were required to wear a uniform for your job, if you were poor, you had bare feet.

I saw construction workers on scaffolds four or five stories high, painting, hammering, and they had no tie offs, no hard hats, no shoes. The scaffold was pieced together bamboo hand-tied with rope, perilously propped against the walls, not the fancy schmancy metal poles with locking mechanisms we have here. I saw construction workers digging foundations for huge mega-apartments side by side with back-hoes, with no shoes, no hard hats, and using sticks and hand-tied shovels to dig.

It was an insurance claim waiting to happen. But guess what, they didn’t have insurance either! If someone lost a foot, or fell off a scaffold and could no longer work, they became beggars. I saw one beggar with his arm broken in three places, healed incorrectly, and he showed us that was his reason for begging, and not working. He had no shoes. He was a beggar but he looked exactly like the working poor there. Hmmm.

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this was upscale, but it was right next to the shanties pictured above

The homes these folks lived in were built of corrugated metal, and pieces of wood, propped up against a million-dollar condominium side by side. On the same street. The juxtaposition amazed me. Here, we have “areas” of town which evolve into luxury, middle class, and poor. There, rich and poor was side by side. There were no “poor” areas. They were mixed together like curry-flavoured Bits-and-Bites.

So you could walk down the street, visit shops, see gorgeous hotels, and then come upon a smattering of muddy hovels, with sari-strewn electrical lines, women making paratha, a high-class mall, a skyscraper tech company, and a line of bodegas with dirt floors and stray dogs. Then there might be a Hindu temple, with flowing palm trees and brightly dressed ladies in saris, sweeping the ground around it with tea leaves, bent over double, and not wearing shoes.

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this lady did the laundry for my apartment building. it was all done under this shanty outside the property on the street

And they smiled. Always. I would walk by and they would gesture for me to take their picture, with big smiles, they would pose in front of their street sweeper or temple or while they were ironing the clothing of the guests at the hotel across the road. They smiled.

They got their water from a local reservoir. It was not drinkable for us, but that is what they used for cooking, drinking, bathing, and washing. They had to carry it in buckets and bowls. Sometimes they balanced the jars of water on their heads and walked. I kid you not. Just like in the movies.

But whenever I asked to take a picture, they smiled, with or without teeth. It was lovely. It made me really happy to take their picture, like I was doing them a favour. I thought about this a lot, afterwards.

Why wouldn’t they be sad? Disgruntled? Jealous? I mean, right next door was a beautiful pink condo, obviously filled with people wearing shoes. I think somehow, even though they knew they were poor, even though they could see wealthy folks beside them, it never entered their head that there was anything wrong with the status quo. That it could, and maybe should, be different. It was just accepted as how it was, and they seemed happy.  One of my colleagues told me it was because they knew people who were worse off and they were just happy not to be in that pickle.

I don’t know. I don’t have an explanation for it. I just know whenever I felt anxious, or down while I was there, I went for a walk and took pictures, and this always cheered me up.

When I left, I left a few pairs of my shoes in my apartment for anyone who needed them.

They were crocs. I don’t think they minded. 🙂

 

 

A Summer Night in the City

I currently live in the ‘burbs, but once upon a time, I lived in the big city: Toronto. I really love it in Toronto. For someone who hates big crowds, this is an anomaly, but then I have never pretended to be anything other than myself: weird.

I actually love the diversity in people and in shops. Where else can you get vegan pizza sitting next to Ali’s Grocery and Cigarettes next to Hong’s Gift Shop next to Satan’s Eye Tattoos next to Mme. Dupont’s Ballet for Girls? I mean, come on, peeps.

So my forays into the city now are pretty special – and fun. Usually I go to see my girl, Moon, but this time, I went with my friend, Joanne, and her daughter, Tatiana. We had a fun day planned, including having some lunch out and a walking tour of Mount Pleasant Cemetery, (fucking blisters ahhhh) a landmark 200 acres in the heart of Toronto. Joanne also wanted to bring along some food and water to spend some time helping out the “homeless” downtown. Beyond giving some change, an occasional Timmie’s card or bag of dogfood (for the dogs) I haven’t really had much contact with the disenfranchised folks of the street.

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not my photo

It was an eye-opener, peeps.

I kind of took a back seat to the whole thing, letting Joanne take the lead in approaching “likely looking” people (and let me tell you, the likely looking people may not be what you think they are). I handed out the pies and smiled a lot, cause, you know, anxious and shit. They were wonderful: friendly, happy to see us, grateful for the food and water. It felt good.

That was the day time.

We still had food left after our tour and decided to go back to the Yonge Street area where there seemed quite a few street people congregating after dark. Of course, in Toronto, it’s not really dark, it’s lit up like a carnival, but it was night and a whole different type of street person was taking up the prime spots.

Cue doomsday music crescendo.

Gone were the chubby little Romanian ladies in babushkas with their little signs; in their place were addicts, gun shot victims, hookers and alcoholics, with dealers and cops peppered in and around them.

I mean, I’ve been downtown at night before. I knew these people were there. But this was the first time I actually spoke to and interacted with any of them.

At first I was nervous. The scene before me was like something out of a TV show. Not Brooklyn 99, I can assure you. These people were no “Doug Judys”. The scene was more like Law & Order or even Mad Max: City Nights. (That could be a thing, peeps! Screen play anyone??)

So we went about and among them, handing out pies and Joanne’s homemade healthy date and nut balls, filling up water bottles, and chatting about them: their life, their situation, their feelings.

Yes, many were drunk or stoned. There were a couple of sex workers, a gun shot victim (shot in the ankle, hand and leg… not sure how that happened).

There were some smooth looking, man-bun wearing, slim square-toed shoe-sporting city slickers hopping in and out among them all, dealing drugs, under the watchful eye of a uniformed policeman. I guess the amounts were not enough to warrant a reaction or maybe it was understood this was home turf for these people, and what goes on at home is private. I don’t know. It seemed very weird to me, but I realize this was not the black and white world we live in, where we always have a comfy bed, good food, and wifi. This was a world of shadows, greys and blacks, cold cement, grit-riddled food, and rats. (Yes I saw a few, running behind where the action was).

I gotta say, though, I was impressed. I’ve known Joanne a very long time; I have always known her to be a kind person, who is truly interested in people. She is one of the few people I know who actually listen whens someone rambles on about stuff, she questions them and shows honest interest in them and what they have to say. ,

So we met a murderer (a real live one!) and his girlfriend, both Natives, and felt our hearts break as the fellow talked about his grown daughter with tears in his eyes (he was charged with murder after he defended his daughter from being raped); we learned the woman had a college certificate. They were not stupid, useless or bad. They were drinking alcohol disguised as koolaid in their water bottles, so I assume the drinking contributed to their situation. They had 2 large bags full of all their worldly possessions, and their “home” was a doorway big enough for the both of them, the sidewalk around them strewn with shards of glass and litter.

And around us, people in Armani and Ralph Lauren went about their business, bypassing the street people in their translucent houses.

We spent a couple of hours in all, sharing food, talking, laughing and even crying with these folks. They are people, just like us. They have children, just like us. They have feelings, just like us. They don’t want to be out on the street, but there is nowhere else for them to go. homeless

On the streets it’s fairly warm, there are always bodies to cram up against for warmth; there’s food (not what we call food, but they get by), they have friends, colleagues, like-minded folks who “get” them, not look down on them; they have their addictions supplied, same as us. They have eyes to see – and they see much more than we give them credit for; they understand the reality of their world and what “we” think of it, but it’s their world, they own it, and they don’t own much else.

Now I am not a religious person, but all I kept thinking as I walked those city streets on this summer night was “but for the grace of god, go I….”

And that’s really the truth, peeps.

 

Tweet Tweet!

Peeps, I just created a Twitter account. Apparently, that’s where all the cool kids go to connect and get noticed in their fields and build their brand.

Since I am trying to build my followers, I thought that seemed like a good thing to do with my blog. If you are interested I’m @BadpuppyBlogs.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, are the basic three; the mirepoix of social media. Just like in a recipe, if you don’t have these three as the basis for your brand, you will not have the fundamental groundwork to be successful. So they say.

I’d had a Twitter account before, and I could never get on top of it. I was lost in all the @s and hashtags and everything moved so quickly, I simply couldn’t keep up with it. It seemed all everyone did was share sports stories or push their brand exclusively. It didn’t interest me, and sure as hell didn’t absorb me, so after a few months I just thought what the fuck, and deleted it.

But supposedly, the more social media platforms you join the better, and it seems EVERYBODY is tweeting crap all over the place. Twitter is proven to be a direct, speedy, and effective way to say your piece and get noticed – if you have the right followers and are following the right people. You see, if you have a list of Joe-Blow buddies on your Twitter, you are basically going to be spouting off your astute meanderings and witty repartee to the people you are already spouting off to on Facebook. They are going to get sick of you and unfollow you, turning your already meagre list of followers into a mere skeleton of non-involved, disinterested rabble.

So I read up on shit, peeps, did some studying of marketing in this online world, and I found a new word: ENGAGEMENT. Not the ring kind, (been there, done that, not all it’s cracked up to be) but the kind where you insert yourself into a tweet with an intelligent statement or humourous retort and trigger others’ response to you. In this way, you put yourself out there for followers to fall in love with your bon mot, then follow you and hopefully “retweet” you to all of their followers and so the movement continues. THAT is how you gain followers and gain popularity.

So I signed in and immediately followed a few significant-to-me organizations: some animal justice accounts, a couple of news accounts, and I started “engaging”.

Low and behold, I got one follower almost right away, someone I did not know, but their handle was very similar to mine. However, it turns out, they are the “first and largest collection of Gay Male Adult Erotica” so that’s something! As the night wore on, one of my comments was getting liked over and over again, (not by Gay-Erotica Guy) even retweeted. I actually had one person comment that what I said should be made into a T-shirt!

Come on, peeps, that’s fucking amazing! Me!! Coining a phrase for a T-shirt that goes viral on Twitter. And that was only my first day.

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Screen shot of my notifications. Champ Titty Sprinkles’ comment was eloquent too, don’t you think?

I will reveal to you my Twitter-famous comment here: “Everything about #ford is offensive”.

That’s it. That’s all. But what a response! Thank god Ford is a dick or my comment might not have gone over the way it did; it might have simply been absorbed into the flux and flow of multiple tweets, into the black Twitter hole of anonymity, and my first experience on Twitter would not have been so exciting.

I’m hooked now, though, peeps.

I mean, I know it will take some time, but I’m really looking forward to interjecting my thoughts in places they wouldn’t otherwise get noticed. I mean how many people can brag they are being followed by the “first and largest collection of Gay Male Adult Erotica” @Badpuppy?

Pffff not too many, I should think.

 

Not Everyone Loves Marineland

This weekend marks a full year since I attended my very first animal rights protest. It was at the same place, Marineland Canada, in Niagara Falls.

I grew up in Niagara, so I am very familiar with Marineland. Our family attended way back when it was first opened and was called Marineland and Game Farm, and it was puny and didn’t have much oomphf. I recall even back then it seemed dirty to me, and chaotic, and I felt sorry for the animals. I was very young.

I attended the park a few times over the years with school trips, or visiting family; as I grew, so did the park. It expanded, added more rides, and acquired more animals including Orcas, seals, walruses, and dolphins. By this time I was older, more cognizant of my surroundings, but it still seemed dirty and chaotic and something else too: sad.

The animals were all sad. All. Of. Them. They had a sense of desperation about them when you viewed them, clamoring for more treats, knocking into you and each other in a frenzied attempt for attention and there was this little voice in my head that said “this is not normal.”

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Nemo and Neptune NOT in their natural habitat

The marine mammals were just as sad. They put on a great show, with lots of leaping about and splashing, but something wasn’t right about it. It was an act. The seals cut through the water with speed, sleek and shiny; the dolphins danced on the pool waves, laughing in their merry way; the orcas intimidated us with their sheer size and razor sharp teeth. Everything seemed super fun and exciting. But it was fake.

I know now, and I knew it then, they were literally putting on the best act of their lives. Their very existence depended on it. And that’s all they could do, instinctively, every single day: exist. Because that’s all they knew how to do in this plexiglass environment with chlorinated water and invisible borders.

Someone took away their choice.

If they are hungry, they must wait until the almighty god of this organization deems it dinner time. There is no thrill of the hunt and chase for these animals, which is a part of their natural lives when they are in the wild. Food is just plopped in at a certain time, and they eat because not to is to die, and they still have a will to live.

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Killer Whales NOT at Marineland or Seaworld. This is where they should be.

If they want to swim deep, surface, and cavort, as they would in the ocean, for miles and miles, with different scenery, they can’t. Their world is a round pool, with limited expanse and depth, infused with chemicals which are not natural to their normal eco-system.

Those mammals which are amphibious, like seals and walruses, are kept in cages when not in the pool. Cages with metal bars and concrete floors. Sound familiar? Yes, the same environment in which we keep the dregs of society who have been judged unworthy of freedom in a court of law and are being punished: jails. These animals were wild caught, they know what an alternate natural life is, and this is where they now live.

ham spec

Photo credit: Hamilton Spectator. Walrus at Marineland Canada

And you know, I look back and I think we know so much more now about wildlife. I mean, back then, I could see how zoos and marine farms were a valuable educational tool and exciting entertainment. It reminds me of the Freak Shows of yore – no longer politically correct – but back then it was something different the “normies” could oogle. In the case of Marineland, the average person did not get a chance to see these unusual animals in real life; learning about them was hazardous in the wild; it was much easier to capture them, utilize them for viewing and entertainment to offset the cost of procuring them, and then study them as well. A twofer.

But we are better now. The technology we now have and world travel allows us to see and study these animals in their natural habitat, and the internet allows us to disseminate this information – in full colour! We don’t need to have these magnificent creatures caged and jailed anymore. But companies like Marineland and SeaWorld are still wild-capturing them and “training” them and putting them on display, forcing them to do tricks for food, keeping them enslaved by their dependency on us in this environment, taking away their free will and their health all for OUR ENTERTAINMENT.

It’s got to stop!

People don’t seem to realize that when humans dominate and subjugate wild creatures for their own ends, it’s showing a disrespect for life. And if humans can disrespect a life in this way, it’s only a hop, skip and a jump before other levels of life are oppressed and that oppression justified – like free speech or body autonomy. Humans are masters at objectifying things to benefit themselves, and sadly we also seem to have this desire to conquer anything we consider to be lesser than ourselves.

At some point we have to stop and consider all other life forms on this earth as equal to ourselves, in their own right. We are not better than the lowly bee; in fact we now know bees are fundamental to our existence. So why should we feel we are better than the mighty Orca and keep them imprisoned and indentured in small pools being stared at by flat pink faces smushed against the glass? Why do we feel it’s ok to keep bears in a cement pit with a few concrete caves and trickle of filthy water and throw marshmallows and peanuts at them so we can laugh at them trying to eat the sticky substance like little gods perched on our holier-than-thou thrones? Why do we feel we have the right to decide what a woman can do with her body if she gets impregnated and doesn’t want it? Oh wait – that’s another debate … BUT IS IT? Is it really?

So when I went to the Marineland Opening Day Demonstration, I was protesting not just against the enslaving of wild marine mammals and land animals, I was protesting our tyranny against all creatures, including US! I was protesting against segregation; I was protesting against discrimination; I was protesting against the “heartbeat bill”; I was protesting against nukes; I was protesting against wars; I was protesting against the ban on refugees; I was protesting against all the evil treatment humans perpetrate on all animals on this earth.

I was demonstrating FOR a new way of living where all creatures are embraced as equal and respected as life; where an individual has the right to choose it’s own path without fear of reprisals from others or government;  where no one has to live in fear of being bullied or dominated in the name of righteousness.

I was demonstrating FOR ALL OF US!