I’ve been thinking a lot about how excited my grandmother was when the year changed from 1999 to 2000. It was so important to her to watch the ball drop in NYC at midnight as the century changed from the 1900s to the 2000s. I think she stayed up watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve that night, and had an alarm set so my grandfather would wake up and celebrate the change in years with her. I am sure he was excited as well, but he wouldn’t admit it. Poppop liked to grump about things like that more than he liked to admit he was excited.
July 12, 1942
I remember my grandmother saying that she and my grandfather never thought they’d see a new century. My Nana was born in 1918, my Poppop was born in 1912. They lived into their 90s, and being alive to see a new century begin was amazing to them. This was during the time the younger crowd was freaking out about the end of the world, and computers not working, and Y2K DOOM, and whatnot. My grandparents just wanted to see a year that didn’t begin with 19.
They saw so much change in their lives. So many discoveries in medicine, technology, media. Cars were invented, and evolved. Television was invented, and evolved. Cures for diseases were discovered and worked. Men travelled to the moon. Computers were created and shrank in size so that they could be brought into your own home. The internet was created. My Nana, in her 80s, used the internet to connect with relatives and friends in Australia, Canada, and Panama. My Nana, who could hardly see in her late-80s, could touch type like the best of them, and could stay in touch, and expand her world just by sitting in her living room. She was amazed and astonished, and took to this new part of life like a fish to water. (My grandfather thought it was all pish-posh and didn’t see what the fuss was about. He liked his newspapers! Though I am pretty sure he was amazed by it just as much as his wife was, though didn’t quite understand how it worked so he just grumped about it. Silly Poppop.)
My grandfather lived through two World Wars, granted he was way too young to even register what was happening during WWI. Both he, and my grandmother, were certainly old enough during the Second World War to know what was going on. My grandfather wasn’t able to serve in WWII as he’d broken his nose in a boxing match and had zero sense of smell, so he was not deemed fit to serve. He had at least one brother who served in the war though. I can’t remember if all of his brothers served or not (there were NINE siblings in total), but I recall hearing about his brother Joe. My grandfather always said that his brother had changed after the war and he didn’t like who he had become. He swore a lot. And I guess he drank a lot. My grandfather didn’t approve of this. I remember being told that Uncle Joe didn’t like to talk about the war. I didn’t understand at the time, I was young, but I get it now. I can’t imagine what sort of toll being in a war must take on a person. No wonder they change. No wonder they might not want to talk about it.
And I keeping thinking about how excited my grandmother was as the century turned over, and how much wonder she had for the world. I can’t stop thinking about her excitement and amazement over the changes she’d seen, and the changes still to come.
And I think: I am happy my grandparents are not alive to see the changes that are happening now. Hate is spreading like a disease. So much anger. So much rage. It’s one thing when history repeats itself by foolishly bringing back fashion trends that were better off left in the past — fashion doesn’t really hurt anyone. (Unless, you know, you get blinded from some god-awful fluorescent-coloured fashion mistake.) It’s another thing when history repeats itself by allowing fear and hatred to flare up and come to a boil, scalding and hurting so many people around it. I am happy my grandparents are no longer here to re-live the terrifying thoughts and actions that are unfolding in the world right now.They’ve been through it once. I think that’s enough.
I wasn’t at all interested in history in school. I didn’t really care. I could never understand how people could be so blind to what was happening around them that they’d let something so disgusting and demonic happen to a group of people based on religion, or skin colour. How could a fear of differences be so strong that you need to eliminate anyone different than you? How is that possible? And yet, I sit here safe in my own home, and see that pot starting to boil again, and boil fast. And I don’t understand how people don’t see the problems with this. I do not understand why so many people think that these thoughts and actions are OK, and normal. I will never, ever, understand why someone would think that skin colour dictates a person’s worth.
I am not perfect. I have my moments of prejudice. I am not proud of that, but it’s true. I think we all do. No one is 100% free of negative thoughts. But I believe that your actions are what matter most. It’s what you do, and how you treat others that will make you worthy of respect and honour.
But at the rate hate and fear is spreading like wildfire these days, I’m scared. I’m very worried. And I am thankful that my grandmother’s wonder and heartfelt excitement about how the world was changing, and seeing a whole new century open up as a blank page waiting for new stories, isn’t going to be snuffed out by the unbelievable sad state of the world today.
If only history would stick to repeating itself with poor fashion choices, because I don’t particularly want to live through an era that will be part of history books of the future under the “bad things that happened” chapter.
Why do we have zoos?
I have been to many a zoo in my lifetime. School trips. Trips with friends. Trips as a kid. Trips as an adult. And though I can recall being excited, “Yay! Going to the zoo!” I also recall feeling awkward once there, watching animals pace in small spaces, or animals who look a little worse-for-wear.
And zoos aren’t something I tend to think about often, or at all. Not even while I am visiting one, and looking at the sleeping creatures on the other side of the glass. Nope. I think, “yay, zoo!” and then I think, “those animals look out of sorts”, and then I just forget about it all.
But zoos have been on my mind recently. Zoos have been in the news for various reasons – births, deaths, escaped R.O.U.S., and so on. And I’m suddenly wondering – why do we even have zoos?
Is it not strange to round up various creatures from all over the world and stick them in one location for humans to come gawk at? We don’t do this for hospitals, senior homes, or jails. We don’t say, “hey! Let’s go look at all the different old people, confined to beds and wheelchairs, today! What fun!” We don’t organize school field trips to jails to ogle the men and women behind bars in their jumpsuits.
So why do we do this with animals? Why do we plunk animals out of their natural habitats and ship them to habitats they are not used to, just so we can look at them?
I get that animals are fascinating. I get that many are endangered. I get people want to be able to study animals, and learn more about them. But do we really need so many zoos? Can we not maybe have a handful of locations, where animals who need to be rehabilitated, or are injured and need to live somewhere safe, can be studied by scientists (and whatnot), and sure people can pay to come see them if they happen to be in the same area. And that money can go towards research about the animals, and to help protect the endangered ones, and for medical help, etc.
Why do we need a safari park in Quebec? Why are we driving around in our cars through fake habitats to look at animals from inside the car? Why are we scaring animals WITH our cars, or possibly hurting them with exhaust fumes?
There’s a place here in Montreal that I have blogged about before called the Ecomuseum. It is a sort of zoo, but they have animals there who cannot be left in the wild, and who are being rehabilitated, and studied. It’s a nice, small place. It’s educational. It’s not the same as a giant zoo with elephants, lions, and so on, in their wrong habitats.
And I don’t have a problem with there being places that can house animals who cannot survive in the wild. Who are being kept in a large enough space that they are safe, and comfortable as they live out their lives. But I am so confused as to why we have this weird fascination with keeping animals in cages so we can spend money to go see them. Isn’t it weird?
Except for Pandas. Honestly, I have no idea how those creatures have managed to survive this long without becoming extinct, because they seem like the dimmest of all creatures ever. Have you watched any of those panda videos that have become viral and pop up on all sorts of websites, and social media sites? HOW HAVE PANDAS SURVIVED THIS LONG!? They need to be kept in captivity because I think they are safer having humans look out for them than leaving them on their own. I think they have survived this long only out of sheer luck – sort of how Harry Potter always seemed to solve the puzzle and survive the ordeals he was put through – LUCK! Not smarts. PURE LUCK!
And I’m pretty sure Yoshi is related to Pandas. I’m not kidding. Finnish Lappandahund YoshiBear.
This is by no means a ranty post about being anti-zoo. I just started thinking about zoos one night while I was having trouble falling asleep (seriously, I could make “Stuff in My Head While I’m Trying to Fall Asleep” a regular feature here) and I was baffled as to why we, as humans, came up with this idea. I guess it’s our stupid ability to feel entitled to owning everything? “Look here! Here is my collection of animals from all over the world! They are MINE! I put them in display cages!” I suppose that’s what the zoo foundation was built upon. But do we really need to collect animals like Pokemon? Or should we turn hospitals, senior homes, jails, and other contained locations of humans, into human zoos?
I was sitting at my desk yesterday, counting down the minutes until it was time to go home, when a friend came over, in tears, to see me.
Bad news is never expected. Bad news comes out of nowhere and punches you in the gut.
A mutual friend of ours, someone I had worked with myself and adored, collapsed at work that afternoon and passed away. Sudden.
I couldn’t breathe. As I made my way home, I began to shake. I was numb. In shock.
I haven’t worked with Shane in 10 years. But when I was at the bookstore, he was one of my favourite people. He was one of My Shippers. I loved the men in the shipping department. They were my gang of protectors. They came to my wedding. They joined me for my Birthday Bowling Extravaganzas. Every time I’d see them at a union meeting, I’d always go over for hugs and gossip.
Shane was always someone I could count on to make me laugh. He was never a doom and gloom guy. Not a chipper, cheerleader fellow, but someone with a sharp wit and sarcastic streak, and someone who always had a joke, or comment to make me laugh.
He lived hard. He played hard. He was Shane. I always thought of him as The Fonz of the group. He was the Cool Guy. Listening to the rock station (always on in the shipping department). He always put a smile on my face.
I went looking through all of my bowling party photos from the early 2000s (I don’t like saying early 2000s! Wasn’t 10 years ago the 90s??) and it seems like I don’t have any photos of Shane’s FACE. Just the backs of his awesome bowling shirts, or him in a group shot with a bowling ball in his face. But then I saw the photo I used for this post, and it was just…so very Shane. The flames on his shirt. So him.
He was a bright, fiery guy. He was flames. He was fire. He was fierce.
And now he’s gone. And I can’t get my head around this fact.
I was just talking to him about a month ago, when we were voting on our new contract at work. I saw My Shippers and went over for hugs and gossip. I hadn’t seen them in too long and I felt sort of guilty about not having stopped by to visit. I had a difficult year, so a lot of things fell by the way-side (like socializing). We talked about the number of years left before retirement. Of My Shippers, I believe he had the most years left.
And now he’s gone.
I can’t even imagine the bookstore, and shipping, without Shane. Shane, Bernie, Sean, Che… they are My Shippers. And I have a huge space in my heart for them. These guys are part of what makes my time at McGill so amazing. I loved spending time in the shipping department. No matter what I was going through, they made me laugh, and feel like I could get through anything. They were like a gang of big brothers who looked out for me.
I love My Shippers.
And my heart feels a little less full with the loss of one of them. Though my heart is full of grief, and love, for my friends at the store who were with him when this happened, and who have to go into work today without him. I am covering them all in love right now.
Your flame was bright, Shane. The world is a little darker without it.
Sometimes a lyric deeply resonates with you. You hear it and your entire world stops. The only thing you know is, “This. This is exactly what I feel but I couldn’t put words to it.”
And it’s amazing how much can change in a decade. And it’s strange what dates we cling to as we keep track of time. Some people have said I should let go of these dates, but I can’t. I don’t want to. They are a reminder of how much of the battle I have fought, and not lost.
Ten years ago today, I was 30. I had just been offered a new job a couple of days prior. Our apartment burned down in the evening.
Ten years ago. So much has happened since then. So many changes. I’m still in the same job I had just been offered. I’m now 40. I own a house.
We didn’t lose anything important in the fire. Shawn was home when the flat above us went up in flames. He was able to get out with the dogs. I came home early from work. We watched firefighters battle the blaze for over 4 hours. We didn’t know where we’d live.
But it worked out. We survived. We got stronger.
Three years ago today, the sky came crashing down. It has taken me a long time to realize that my trauma from this event isn’t just seeing a life end in front of me, in one of the most gruesome ways I can imagine, but also that it was because I could have died. Had I not stopped suddenly, that man would have landed on top of me, and I would not have walked away from this at all. Therapy helped me realize, and begin to deal with this.
My life did not end that morning, three years ago. I might have flash backs and panic attacks, and think I can feel something on me that I need to desperately clean off, but I survived.
The past three years have not been easy. I think a person can only be so strong. And I think experiencing something like this changes a person. Not always right away, and it can be subtle, but there’s change in a person.
There is change in me. I am not the same person I was before 8am on March 27, 2013. I am not. What wide-eyed innocence I still had within me, I think is gone. I don’t trust the world. I don’t trust the city.
Sometimes I worry I have lost my ability to trust ever again.
And mostly, I don’t know where my old self went. I’m not saying I wish I could always stay the same, because that’s not what I want. I want back the parts of me that scattered when the sky fell. I want the parts of me that still believed in whimsy, and magic, and innocence to come back.
I am no longer enjoying things I used to enjoy with my entire being. I hardly read anymore. I don’t seem to be able to find joy in much of anything. I am acting out of character in many ways, and I’m so very tired of…well, almost everything.
I have done so much work within myself, and I know there’s more to do. But I am tired. I am an expert on all things ME. I know myself inside, and out. I am so in tune with my entire being that I can’t tune it out.
I have come such a long way in ten years. I have come even further in the past three years. But somewhere since 2013 I lost parts of myself that I don’t think I will ever get back, and my heart breaks over that loss. Because I was finally starting to like ME. I was finally comfortable being myself.
And now, I don’t know who I am anymore. So much of me has changed. I don’t show it to the world. I don’t tell it to the world. I just know. I know myself well enough to know that who I am, who I was, who I have been, is different.
I have a lot more work to do as I try and figure myself out. What do I like? What do I love? What do I want to do? How much do I want to change, and how much do I want to bury deep down inside?
I didn’t die the day the sky fell, but I shattered into a million pieces, and some of those piece are still lost.
There’s a major, major fire happening down the street from us. I first noticed the smoke out of the corner of my eye through the back door around 4:30pm this afternoon. At first I thought it was a dark storm cloud but then it moved super fast and got bigger. So we went out, around the corner and tried to find the source. It was all just SMOKE. Huge, dense clouds of smoke, yet we couldn’t smell anything. Not a thing. We couldn’t get far because the sidewalks still aren’t ploughed from the snowstorm this weekend and we couldn’t walk in the street because of the traffic. The cops and firetrucks were blocking off the street. We stopped where we were and you could see the orange light of the flames reflecting off the clouds of smoke every so often.
We came home and I searched the internet and posted on facebook about it. We weren’t sure what was on fire. I was praying it wasn’t the gas station not too far from us. Turns out it was an apartment complex down the street. The fire was in the roof. The emergency vehicles are still blocking off the road near our corner and it’s 5 hours later. I have seen photos on local news sites and the fire looked bad. The fire was in the roof.
It reminded us of that time our place burned down in 2006. The fire ended up being in the roof then, too. When the firemen broke the roof with their axe the top of our building exploded. This fire has over 60 firefighters going at it. There is still smoke and 45 apartments have to be vacated. Two days before Christmas.
But the extra surreal thing for me right now is that when I looked back at my blog archive for the post I wrote about OUR fire I noticed something.
Our fire happened on the same day as the day the guy jumped off the building and landed in front of me. Nearly on top of me.
The same day.
Seven years apart.
March 27, 2006 and March 27, 2013.
Shawn was home with the dogs the time the building caught fire (it was in the apartment above us). He was safe, so were Annie and Jinx. It could have been worse. Had I not stopped to see if a truck was going to drive into the loading bay, I’d have had jumper guy land on top of me. But as traumatized I am by his fall and splattering, I was also safe from harm. (Mostly.)
I find myself wondering what might have happened to be on March 27, 1999. I can’t recall anything major or life-threatening. Or March 27, 1992? March 27, 1985?
I know I’m probably thinking way too much into this, but it’s just so jarring to realize that two major events that could have ended in loss of life happened on the same date. It’s weird.
And I feel a little light headed now so I think I’ll take an anti-anxiety pill and go to bed because I just don’t want to think about trauma and sadness and fear and tragedy anymore. Those poor people in the apartment complex. It’s never a good time for something like this to happen but in December, in the winter… it’s one of the worst times. I hope some of the hotels/motels around here are kind enough to open their doors to those in need right now. I can’t imagine it’ll happen, but it would be very nice if it did.
(And side note: Monkey was the first comment on both of my tragic moment posts. Seeing that made me smile because she is one of the most amazing friends. Thank you, Monkey.)
(Extra side note: I’m sorry my blogging has been all depressing as heck lately. I’m working through stuff and it helps to write it out. Christmas is soon so I’ll have something a little more glittery to write about in a while. Thanks for sticking around though if you have been.)