Story Time Wednesday: A Night With Jack White


Our plans had all the makings of a normal Thursday night when my mother and I unexpectedly found ourselves with tickets to see Jack White in Toronto. Being the wiley man he is, my father managed to win tickets for us just over twenty-four hours before the start of the concert. On the night of the show, my mother and I made our way to the Air Canada Centre where we encountered a large group of dissimilarly dressed people. People going to the same concert tend to be similarly dressed, the previous Friday’s One Direction concert being an extreme example of this, but this time it was hard to tell the kind of music that was going to be played based on the attire of the crowd alone. There were typical metal heads, hipsters and even a few people who were dressed like they were ready for a Brad Paisley concert. I didn’t know what to expect walking into the concert, but I certainly hoped we weren’t going to be faced with country music.

When we got into the ACC, we were directed towards what was essentially a private elevator. We talked to a friendly elevator attendant who took us up to the fifth floor, all the while lounging on a stool with his blue cotton girth facing upwards. When we arrived at the box, we were greeted by a perky blonde woman who told us that dinner was a forty-five minute wait but drinks could come immediately. We settled into the cushioned seats with our Caesars and waited for the opening act to come on. After the opening act finished, my mother ordered us both another Caesar while I went for an unsuccessful hunt for a burrito and got a little lost when I insisted on taking the stairs back to our section. A few minutes after I returned to my seat, the lights went down and the show began.

Truthfully, I know more of Jack White’s recent conflicts than I do of his recent album. Given what I had seen of his enthusiasm when he was recently photographed at a Chicago Cubs game, I expected him to be a miserable host for the evening. I was pleasantly surprised by his audience interaction. Given that Bob Dylan was one the solo artists I had seen in concert most recently, I was also pleasantly surprised by Jack White’s intelligibility. Though I could understand what he was saying, I didn’t know what the hell Jack White was playing half the time. Within the first seven or so songs, he covered nearly every musical genre one could reasonably play on a guitar. My mother and I started a bit of a country dance when he started to play what sounded like a square dance song. His guitar solos were often three times longer than the songs themselves but I didn’t mind. I was watching a vampire Jimi Hendrix rock out however he pleased. I wasn’t the only one excited about the show. The teenager boys in the box beside us were on their feet for most of the performance. I even saw a five person mosh pit down in general admission.

By the end of the show, Jack had played nearly every song off of his new album and played a number of The White Stripes’ and The Raconteurs’ greatest hits. He even somewhat inexplicably sang in a fake accent at one point in the show. To mark the transition from the main set to the encore, he came out and played “Icky Thump.” He closed the long encore with an arena singalong to “Seven Nation Army.” It was a great show that surpassed all of my expectations, but the best part of it was his closing words: “You’ve been amazing and I’ve been Jack White.”

Song of the Day: Lazaretto by Jack White

You’re Not Alone


I interrupt this regularly scheduled I’m on a Journey post to bring you something of more immediate relevance. Like people all over the world, I was so sad to hear about Robin Williams’ death. It is heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so much happiness and laughter to the world was unable to find happiness himself. It seems unfair that he couldn’t share in the joy he brought to the world. His death made me reflect upon mental health and mental illness. It can be the case that people who bring happiness to others are unable to find it for themselves. It makes me think that there should be something more we can do for people who are suffering from mental illness, beyond destigmatizing mental illness so it becomes easier to talk about and for people who are going through it alone to receive the support they need.

Admittedly, I’m not the best person to talk about this, as happiness has largely come easily to me and I am not well versed in matters of mental health. The thing I do have is a blog, so it is easy for me to start conversations in the hopes that people who are more knowledgable that I can weigh in so I – and perhaps, we – can learn more. Some of the most amazing people I know have suffered from mental illness and some of them have gone through it largely on their own. That’s one of the things that was hardest for me to take watching others go through it, that they felt alone even when they brought light into my life.

Sometimes the circumstances surrounding mental illness are such that reminding someone how much you love them isn’t enough. Even still, it’s the one thing we can always do. We can remind those around us how much we love them and how much they mean to us, and be there for them so they have someone to turn to if ever they feel alone. We can help them to get the support they need, and try to help them in whatever way they think we can. When it comes down to it, it’s not our battle and we don’t know the kind of fight someone has been through. We can’t just hug someone and make it all okay. We can’t free those who are suffering from the pain they are feeling, but we have to try. Maybe if someone sees the joy that they bring to your life, they can see their own light reflected back to them. May we always have courage to be there for those who matter to us the most.

And if you feel like you are suffering alone, know that someone loves you, even on the days when you don’t love yourself. You’re not alone. Your light is irreplaceable and adds so much brightness to the world.

Rest in peace Robin Williams. May you find the peace and happiness you could not find on Earth.

Song of the Day: Strong by London Grammar

Story Time Wednesday: My Father and the Ethiopians


It will come as no surprise to those who know my family that I inherited my love of doing strange things from my father. Last summer, I found myself with two tickets to see Gogol Bordello at Danforth Music Hall and no one to go with. Since my father had been a fan of Gogol Bordello since I introduced him to the band a few summers ago, I told him about the concert and he said he would love to go. 

We drove along the Danforth on the day of the concert looking for somewhere to eat before the show. We had eaten Greek food recently, so we decided to try some place different. We happened upon an Ethiopian restaurant and decided to stop there. The first thing I noticed when we entered the restaurant was elaborate rugs covering the place. The second thing I noticed was that my father and I were the only white people there. If two tall white people weren’t conspicuous enough, I was dressed like I thought I was a hip-hop artist and I was wearing a fluorescent orange shirt. (In case you do not recall, fluorescents and snapbacks were big last summer.) We were shown to a low table and I thought enough to take off my snapback. My father and I knew nothing about Ethiopian food, so we picked out a few dishes from the menu that looked promising. The woman who seemed to be running the place — she was the only employee we saw — told us they were out of those options. We named a few more dishes and she told us they were out of those too. My father asked her what they weren’t of out. “Goat,” she said. “Then goat it is,” replied my father.

The woman returned a few minutes later with two bowls of soup and two overripe bananas. The bananas were almost completely black, and since both my father and I prefer our bananas to have a bit of green on them, we agreed to eat the soup and leave the bananas. When we finished, the woman collected the bowls and the bananas while we drank our tea in satisfaction. We didn’t have long to wait before she came out with the goat plates and the same overripe bananas from before. We ate the nicely spiced meat, rice and vegetables, again leaving the bananas. When we finished eating, we asked to have the remains packed up. We were given a plastic bag with two packed styrofoam containers and the two bananas, of course. “Those must be some really important bananas,” my father said.

We made it to the Danforth Music Hall just in time for the opening act, a Brendan Canning DJ set. He made no move to introduce himself, so no one other than my father and I knew he was from Broken Social Scene. He spun old reggae records for an hour, proudly displaying the album covers while the songs played. Most of the albums seemed to have been recorded in the sixties. After the most mellow hour I’ve ever experienced, my father left me near the stage to avoid the chaos to come. Gogol Bordello came on and a mosh pit erupted around me. I stayed in the mosh pit until I was covered in sweat — and not my own sweat — and I had been kicked in the head a few times. I moved towards the side of the venue to where my father stood with a group of people who he enthusiastically told me were Ethiopian. In fact, he was helping them to hold up the Ethiopian flag. (Gogol Bordello’s bass player is Ethiopian.) When the final encore was finished, my father introduced me to his new friends, all of whom hugged me and then him. We said good bye and walked out into the summer night smelling of exotic perfume and cologne. We never did eat those bananas.

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of us from that night, so the opening photo is from another time when we were in Toronto together and I was wearing a snapback. 

My father’s birthday is tomorrow, but I wanted to post this as a Story Time Wednesday to surprise him. Happy birthday Dad! I wish you great times, great friends, great music, and very few overripe bananas. I look forward to our next adventure.

Song of the Day: Immigrant Punk by Gogol Bordello

OR Ethiopia by Red Hot Chili Peppers, because it came on while I was writing this

Interview With My Mother


My mother has always been there to support me in whatever I decided to pursue, from the time I was two years old and said, “Mom, I can skate!” and proceeded to waddle across the ice, to the days when I wondered why the hell I chose to pursue an English degree, and I knew that I could only make sense of things if I called her. In recent years, she has transitioned from a mother to a best friend. She is the person I trust the most when I need advice, whether it’s on love, my life plan, or what I should wear on a Saturday night. Though many say we look and sound alike, we are more different than we are similar. This makes her support and her interest in my life even more meaningful. She will listen to me talk about my essays, even if she hasn’t read the books herself, and will listen to my favourite albums with me, even if she doesn’t like them. I know that she will always be cheering for me, especially on the days when I’m struggling. In honour of Mother’s Day, I decided to interview my mother. You hear a lot from me, so I thought it was time you heard from the woman who made and shaped me. Here is my interview with the woman the world calls Lynn, who I am proud to call Mom.

What have you enjoyed most about being a mother?

The joy I’ve experienced over the years watching you grow and develop as your own person, in wisdom and inner and exterior beauty. You are your own unique person, very comfortable and accepting of yourself and I’m extremely proud of that.

What was your greatest fear when you became a mother?

That you would choke on a hot dog! That’s why I cut them up until you were eight years old!

Another other fears?

That I wouldn’t have the answers to your questions when you needed them most. As it turns out, the answers came more naturally then I thought they would. I also wanted to protect you from the sorrows and trial and tribulations of life, but I realized I usually couldn’t and that you would have to figure things out for yourself. I had to trust in you to do this on your own. I sometimes still want to come to your rescue but realize you are grown up now and that I can’t.

You’ve been teaching for thirty years. Did being a teacher prepare you for motherhood?

Being a teacher taught me that there are many unique little individuals out there each with their own personalities and talents. Each one as different as the next. Having taught most grades, it was interesting to learn about the “milestones” children experienced, as well as the struggles as they became more mature. I often thought about these as you experienced these milestones for yourself.

What did you value the most about your mother?

I valued her intelligence.  She was a respected nurse and published writer. I was proud of her . The older I got the more I think I appreciated her.  She had so many friends, quite a diverse group and that says something about a person.  I think she had many friends because she was very open and accepting of everyone. Her compassion for people as well as other living things made her a special person in the eyes of many.

Which characteristics of your mother do you see in yourself?

To this day I am an animal lover like my mother was. I’m also a person who forgives easily. I learned that from her. I inherited a love of fashion and shopping from my mom who learned it from her mom. And now you enjoy it too. (I trained you at an early age!)

My mom thought it was important for us to travel and learn about new places. As a child our family travelled throughout Canada and the U.S., usually by car. I valued this as being really important so we were able to give you the experience of travelling broadly throughout your life.

Which of your characteristics do you see in me?

I think we are both energized by people who value us. We love to be with friends and appreciate them being in our lives. i think you are also a person who will forgive easily. You have the confidence in yourself that I had when I was your age.

What is the most valuable advice your mother gave you?

Trust in yourself and everything else will follow. This gave me the confidence to be who I am today.

What advice would you like to give me?

Be your own person. Be happy with who you are. Be with people who value you and get you and eventually be with the one who adores you. Realize that your dreams may not always be fulfilled but don’t stop dreaming. Take time to smell the flowers and always look for the good in people and situations. Life will always have it’s difficulties. It’s how you handle them and get back to living that will see you through your life.

Mom’s Song of the Day: Happy by Pharrell Williams

My Song of the Day: Ash Babe by Dan Mangan


Story Time Wednesday: Criss Angel, Gene Simmons and Total Drama Island


Much to the horror of my friends and family, I watch very little television. It seems that when the people around me made the transition from watching shows on TV screens to watching shows on their laptops, I made the transition to the nineteenth century and stopped watching moving pictures altogether. Of course, I’m joking when I say that, but I prefer to watch shows on something other than my 13 inch Mac screen, and my parents are the ones with the HBO subscription. Also, it takes a lot of time to keep up with a series, especially if you decide to start watching it three seasons in, and I’ve already dedicated that time to watching basketball. My past, however, is filled with days of binge watching series, made all the more remarkable by the fact that this was before Netflix. My TV marathons were determined by what was on TV, and later, by what was offered in our limited on demand selection. As a result, I watched marathons of strange shows. Here are some of the strangest.


I turned on A&E one day, and began to watch Criss Angel Mindfreak. The show was interesting, so I watched until the end of the episode. Then another episode came on, and then another, and another after that. Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Criss Angel marathon that my mother all too gladly joined in on. It was the middle of the summer when I was about fifteen years old, and since neither my mother nor I had anything better to do, the marathon continued for days. I don’t know why A&E decided to offer all Criss Angel all the time for a week straight, but it wasn’t until their marathon ended that we emerged from our mindfreak-induced trance. We were safe from TV marathons for a while, until the disastrous day when we turned again to A&E.


Just because there was a marathon of it did not mean that we had to spend all our time watching Gene Simmons Family Jewels. But watch it we did, in a series of chairs we positioned exclusively for watching marathons of the show. Now I like “Rock and Roll All Nite” as much as the next person, but there was certainly no need for my mother and I to form our own two women Kiss Army. We became invested in the lives of the Simmons, and would regularly discuss the affairs of the Simmons children, Nick and Sophie. Like our Criss Angel phase, eventually our Family Jewels phase came to an end, if only because A&E ended their marathon. To this day, I’m not sure how many episodes we watched. I realized afterwards that watching staged reality TV was a horrible addiction that could only be avoided by watching something like Antique Roadshow. A week later, I returned to school, and my family started to watch ordinary shows like The Office and How I Met Your Mother. We were safe from strange TV shows for another year.


By the next summer, my family had gotten a digital TV package. I’m not sure if our on demand selection was more limited than it is today, or whether I was secretly trying to find another strange show to marathon, but one day I turned to the Teletoon on Demand section and decided to watch a new show. It was called Total Drama Island, and was a cartoon parody of Survivor. I told my mother about the show, and we began to watch. The show had twenty-eight episodes, and needless to say, we watched all of them. We became obsessed with cartoon love affairs, between Trent the Cool Musician and Gwen the Loner, and between Duncan the Delinquent and Courtney the Type A. Every week, the characters performed a series of challenges, and someone would be eliminated, after either an elimination vote or a horrifying accident. Even at the time, my mother and I knew that our obsession was a little alarming. We watched as many episodes at a time as Teletoon on Demand made available to us, and would check back daily to see if there were any new episodes. Luckily, our obsession came to an end when the season did. We did not continue onto the second season, Total Drama Action, because by that point, my father told us we were scaring him and forced us to watch some more Antique Roadshow.

It wasn’t until I was home for Reading Week last week that I remembered the shows my mother and I had watched. “What was that show we watched with all the cartoons?” my mother asked. I couldn’t recall initially, and then I remembered the summer of TDI. I wish I could say something sentimental about our TV marathons, like how with relationship with my mother developed as the plot of Total Drama Island did, but we probably would have had a better bonding experience if we had watched something normal like Gilmore Girls. At least it has given us something to laugh about today, and taught us the valuable lesson that we can get into any show provided we have access to a few seasons of it. It’s probably best we try to stick to ordinary channels now, otherwise we may end up binge watching shows on the Space channel, and there’s no telling how long it will take to get out of that.

Song of the Day: Try by Pink

For those of you who are wondering how I managed to remember character details from TDI four and a half years after I watched, I’ll admit that I was aided by the “List of Total Drama characters” Wikipedia page. I was a little surprised by the long list of issues that preceded the article, particularly the issue with excessive detail. As I scrolled down the page, I realized that the way my mother and I watched the show came nowhere close to the obsession the writers of this article had. This article is like a Total Drama Island thesis! You would think it was a breakdown of the characters on Game of Thrones! It goes to show you that if ever you are feeling that you are obsessed with a TV show, there is always someone whose obsession exceeds yours. That is, of course, unless you’re the one who writes the Wikipedia articles.