Snow White

History gets buried, but not erased. With a little effort and a lot of research, truths long forgotten find their way to the sunlight.

Clyde Wray, a Saint John, New Brunswick poet and playwright did a little digging. Unearthed the stories of Black Canadians who never made it into the history books I read in high school.

In his play, We Were Here—livestreamed by the Saint John Theatre Company Feb. 25-27—Wray gives voice to eight Saint John residents most of us have never heard of.

One of the eight, Cornelius Sparrow escaped from slavery in the U.S. and arrived in Saint John in 1851. He opened a barber shop and then became the owner of the Victoria Dining Saloon, the largest saloon in the city. A local newspaper claimed Sparrow’s saloon was the nicest in Saint John, rivalled by only a few saloons in the whole country.

In the same year that Sparrow arrived in Saint John, Abraham Beverley Walker was born near Belleisle. He became the first Canadian-born Black lawyer in the Commonwealth and the first person of any colour to enroll in the Saint John Law School.

Race issues being what they were, and still are, Walker struggled to build a law practice. While working for a time as a court stenographer, his colleagues ridiculed him in open court. In later years, when Walker was recommended for the designation of Queen’s Counsel, white lawyers who had received the same honour vowed to renounce it.

In Michael Moore’s 1995 comedy, Canadian Bacon starring John Candy and Alan Alda, Canada is portrayed as a “White” country with no minorities. Not true then and not true now.

Our snow may be white, but we aren’t, and never have been.

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Despicable Me

No, not this guy…

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This guy, and his wife…

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Recent inductees to Canada’s Hall of Shame, Rodney and Ekaterina Baker. Honoured for chartering a private plane, sneaking into Beaver Creek—a White River First Nation community of 125 people—and claiming to be motel employees in order to get the Moderna vaccine.

Baker has since been fired from his position as president and CEO of The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. Both he and his wife have been fined for breaking Yukon’s quarantine regulations, and face a possible six months in prison. A court date has been set for May, 4, 2021 at 2 pm in Whitehorse.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan called jumping the line “unCanadian.” I call it unconscionable.

Someone, please, take their maple leafs away. They don’t deserve them.

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Thank You

In grade school—way back in the dark ages—we were taught to write what was called a bread and butter letter. Of course, we were also taught cursive writing back then, but I digress.

A bread and butter letter is simply a thank you to a host or hostess who has been kind enough to have you at their house, or table. Written with pen and ink. Not tapped on keyboard. Not sent as a text. Definitely not a Bitmoji.

Handwritten notes expressing gratitude for hospitality are few and far between these days, and no one was more surprised to receive one than the West Shore RCMP officers in Langford, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

A woman who was arrested, and spent several days in the Langford jail, not only wrote a Thank You note, but gave her accomodation a 4.5 star rating.

As you can see, the woman’s name has been blacked out and the officers aren’t naming any names, but Const. Nancy Saggar reports that she and her colleagues appreciated the kind gesture and were stoked at the 4.5 star rating.

In Const. Saggar’s words, “The point here is that we do treat everybody with respect. Just because you’re in jail, you still have your rights and we’re going to respect that.”

If you’re going to get yourself arrested, you might consider doing it in Langford 🙂

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From the Sea

I’d love to be one of those gifted people who seduce melodies from instruments, but I’m not.

Greg Fleming, a multi-talented musician from St. John’s, Newfoundland, is one of those people. He not only plays the electric guitar, he builds them.

With his Tidebreaker guitars, Greg has created something new—from something old.

Three hundred and fifty-nine years old, in fact.

Time, and tides, and history. Atlantic storms, and sailing ships, and one group of sailors who never got home.

A sunken ship, put together with “tree nails” instead of steel. Bits and pieces dredged off the ocean floor. Timbers carbon-dated to 1661.

Under the ocean for three hundred years, the salt-water infused wood inspired Greg to craft the Tidebreaker guitars, and gives them their unique sound.

“Every time,” says Greg, “I kind of get a little bit of chills when I realize I’m playing a shipwreck that was underwater for 300 years.”

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New Recruits

The Department of National Defence is looking to hire, but don’t pack your bags just yet. They’re not interested in you.

The military has a specific type of trooper in mind…

Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, a training centre for the air force in North-Eastern Alberta, has hired a new battalion—of goats.

The four-legged recruits chomp on weeds and keep the airfields clear. More efficient and more effective than humans at working steep and swampy terrain, the animals seek and destroy…and eat.

The herd of 250 animals spend their days chewing and their nights in a paddock. “The name of the game at an airfield like Cold Lake,” says Captain Mathew Strong, “is to keep the vegetation low and prevent other animals from taking up residence.”

No weed-whackers, no uniforms required.

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Going It Alone

I own a sweatshirt that says…

While it’s true that life is full of rough spots you have to traverse with care, the closest I’ve come to portaging is wheeling my luggage through an airport. Actually hiking through forests hoisting a canoe over my head? That would be a NO.

Zev Heuer has no problem with portages. The fifteen-year-old took his canoe, and his dog, and paddled his way across Alberta and Saskatchewan to his summer job at Churchill River Canoe Outfitters.

Karsten Heuer

It took him two months. Two months of paddling during the day, finding shelter, and setting up camp at night—by himself.

Two months.

According to Zev, “One of the things that’s pretty amazing about Canada is how everything’s connected by water.”

Karsten Heuer

And when it’s not, there is always portage…

Karsten Heuer

Zev is way more Canadian than I will ever be. Our Coureur de Bois ancestors would be proud.

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Latte Art

Not all art stands the test of time; some art isn’t meant to. Ice sculptures, sand castles, and chocolate rabbits come to mind. Why invest creativity and talent into an art form that is ephemeral?

Butterflies only live for a month. Does that make them any less beautiful?

More fleeting than a sidewalk chalk design, Latte Art only exists until that first sip.

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Despite its frighteningly short lifespan, Latte Art attracts some true artists. Brian Leonard, a Toronto barista originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick has carved a career out of food colouring and steamed milk.

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Latte Art is a tricky business, imagine speed painting on a surface that melts. For Brian, “It’s all about creating that one moment of almost near perfection.”

Unfortunately, you won’t find Brian at Starbucks, but he can be tracked down at baristabrian.com.

To the small pleasures in life—L’Chaim!

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Now You See It, Now You Don’t.

At noon and 9 p.m. daily, a giant chandelier descends from under the Granville Bridge in Vancouver. It lights up, spins for two minutes, and tucks itself back into the underbelly of the bridge again.

Why?

Does art need a reason?

Designed by B.C. artist, Rodney Graham, the public art piece is almost eight metres high, and is made of stainless steel, LED lamps, and six hundred faux crystals.

The hefty price tag for the piece is raising some eyebrows—$4.8 million.

Does a city with dealing with skyrocketing real estate prices and the resultant housing crisis need a gigantic chandelier?

Does any city?

Yes. Any city. Every city.

We all need more in our lives than food and board. We need life in our life, fun in our day, and something spectacular just around the corner.

To the naysayers, might I point out that the city did not pay for this Phantom of the Opera installation. Obligated by a city bylaw to provide a public art piece as part of their Vancouver House project, Westbank, the property developer, commissioned and covered the cost of the chandelier.

Yes, the installment has stirred up controversy.

It has also become so popular, that another spin cycle has been added. The chandelier now whirls three times a day, at noon, at 4 p.m., and at 9 p.m.

Next time I’m in Vancouver, I’m taking a peek under the bridge 🙂

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