February 26, 2012

In Loving Memory of Dad

Richard J. Kelly (September 1, 1944 - February 26, 2011)

Today marks a year since my dad died. He has been with me every day in my thoughts and at least once a week I have dreamed about him.

I am not sure if it is because he keeps visiting me at night or if it's because I have not let him go. It's been the biggest surprise of my life that I keep seeing him in my dreams. I can't believe how much he stays in my thoughts.

I hope my dad knew how much I did love him, even though I only told him at the very end. That was a surprise too. I had a tough relationship with him for most of my life.

He came into my life in 1978, when I was all of seven. He was "Richard" then. He was seeing my mother and all of a sudden we moved in with him from Ottawa to a hamlet called Breckenridge, 15 km north of Aylmer, Quebec. Dad was a car salesman and he travelled most days of the week so I did not see much of him outside of the weekends, although he was around more in the summer.

It strikes me how much adults are merely slightly gown up version of the children they once were. We carry the luggage of our childhoods whether we know it or not. Since my dad died last year I have been struck by the smallest triggers that bring me back to those days in the late 70s and early 80s that defined the person I would become.

We have no idea what will come to define us. I had no idea how much dad influenced me and my heart all those years ago, and even later--when I would work so hard to define myself in opposition to him.  Dad's passing impacted me far greater than I thought it would.

I am happy that I got to spend his last days with him, and share the things that I wanted to say to him. I think I am blessed for that, and I have no regrets in that regard. But I would love to have another day to sit on the front porch with him in Aylmer, and just be together and talk about work, life in Toronto, and ask him about his business and trips up north.

I guess I miss those simple things more than I thought. He always took the time to ask me about how I was doing, and especially how my work was. Everytime I said goodbye to dad he always replied "Good luck". I wish I could hear him say that again.

He was a flawed person, as we are all. But he was my dad and I miss him terribly. If there is a god I hope he is taking care of my dad. I hope he is at peace.

Dad loved Johnny Cash. So, dad, here is a perfect song for you today: Johnny Cash singing a song by my favourite band, U2. I think dad would like this. Yes...I think so...

February 23, 2012

An Evening in Paris

Today was Mark's birthday and so I treated him to dinner at La Societe, one of Toronto's most opulent French bistros.

Opened last June, the restaurant evokes a Parisian bistro of the 1920s, with a stunning stained glass ceiling, beautiful milled wood details and brass ascents. The tile floor is absolutely gorgeous.

We both opted for the prix fixe, beginning with an incredibly creamy and flavourful duck liver terrine. We also had the same main, a 24-hour slow-cooked flat iron steak. A recent butchery discovery, the flat iron steak comes from the cow's shoulder and is the second tenderest cut of beef. It was perfectly prepared and presented; a succulent medium rare with a gentle pepercorn sauce. For dessert I had the cherry clafoutis tart while Mark opted for the milk chocolate chantilly cream. Both were simply fantastic.

Our only complaint was that the bistro is quite loud. It's a large space, and with all of the tile, wood, and high ceilings, it was tough to hear ourselves talk at times as there is a constant din. Thankfully, the place was only about 75 percent full, so we were not as overwhelmed as we might have been on a packed night.

The din aside, our server was outstanding, and we were impressed with the courteous and professional welcome by the hosts upon our arrival. It was easy to pretend we were in Paris, even if only for a couple of hours.

February 19, 2012

Go East, Young Man (Part 2)

We headed back over to the east side of the city on Sunday morning, with a trip to Riverside, a small neighbourhood within South Riverdale. A gentrified, bohemian strip of quaint boutiques, upscale furniture vendors, and hip cafes, Riverside is home to a great artists walk every summer.

All that nice stuff aside, the real reason I wanted to go to this neighbourhood is that it is home to De Grassi Street, the setting of the excellent CBC shows "The Kids of Degrassi Street" (1979-1986), "Degrassi Junior High" (1987-1989), and "Degrassi High" (1989-1991). As stated on Wikipedia, "[m]uch like its predecessor, Degrassi High dealt with controversial issues ranging from AIDS, abortion, abuse, alcoholism, cheating, sex, death and suicide, dating, depression, bullying, gay rights, homophobia, racism, the environment, drugs, and eating disorders". I have to admit I was rather giddy to finally be able to go to De Grassi Street. It was a sort of pilgrimage in honour of my TV childhood, as curated completely by CBC, thank you very much.

These shows were genuine, moving, and very realistic portrayals of the lives of a group of urban Canadian teenagers. Without a doubt the entire after school teenage show genre owes a great deal of debt to the Degrassi franchise. A fourth show in the series, "Degrassi: The Next Generation", launched in 2001 and is enjoying international acclaim. 

The impetus for going over to De Grassi Street was the very sad news released earlier this week that Neil Hope, who had played Derek "Wheels" Wheeler in all four shows, had actually died five years ago alone in a Hamilton rooming house. It was heart breaking to think of a kid I had figuratively grown up with had such an end.

When I was recruiting for Queen's from 2000-2003 I became acquainted with a recruiter from Western by the name of Chris Charlesworth. Not only was he a fantastic and dynamic guy but we later learned from the modest fellow that he played Scoot 'Scooter' Webster on two of the Degrassi series. We were all so very impressed. I recall he seemed rather embarassed about it all. I am not sure if he knew how much it meant to me to meet one of the Degrassi kids. In any case, he has since gotten his MBA and now runs a consulting firm.

RIP Neil Hope. Thanks for giving us "Wheels".

Go East, Young Man (Part 1)

After putting it off for weeks we finally went to the eastern neighbourhood of St Lawrence Market on Saturday morning to take in the awesome food market.

There are over 50 vendors selling meat, cheese, vegetables, and fruits. We were pleasantly surprised to see St. Urbain bagel shop, which makes the closest thing to a Montreal-style bagel I've had in Ontario. We ordered a half-dozen and devvoured one immediately. Mmmm.

We then walked around the neighbourhood--specifically the Queen-Jarvis intersection, which is home to a great collection of design stores. It was a fun day out, even if the weather kept changing every five minutes.

February 11, 2012

R.I.P. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012

In September 2009 I noted on this blog how happy I was to see that Whitney Houston was releasing a new album, and I was hopeful that she would make a heroic comeback and show all of her imitators what the original diva could accomplish. 

And this evening the sad, sad news that "The Voice" has been silenced. I had Ms. Houston's 1985 debut record on vinyl and I adored her instantly. My gooodness, could that stunning woman sing. 

May she rest in peace. Here is one of my favourite moments of her incredible and inimitable talent, her performance at the 25 anniversary of Arista Records. This is how I will always remember her