Friday, November 17, 2017

Rediscovering Super Sardines

My travels along the boulevard of “Healthy Eating” have hardly been fast, focused and smooth. Instead, you’ll find patches of burnt rubber, skid marks, lots of tire tracks leading off-road, along with countless, rather shameful detours into the parking lots of such unspeakably delicious destinations as ice cream parlors, cake stores and donut shops. My GPS confirms I am, indeed, on the boulevard, but, to most people speeding past, it appears I’ve stalled, or broken down.

Here’s my reality; I like eating healthy food I like and will not go out of my way to eat healthy food I do not like. I am also exceptionally lazy when it comes to cooking! I’ve been doing decently with the fish thing. The suggestion is that we eat fish twice a week. I’m on it. They are a lean, healthy source of protein and they come with heart-healthy and brain-healthy omega-3 fats.

When my former morning television co-host, Camille, told me I could place a filet of salmon on aluminum foil, sprinkle on pepper and be done, I thought, “sold!” Peppered salmon on a bed of brown rice has been part of my weekly diet since then! I’ve been devouring tuna since I was a child. I used to enjoy kippered snacks, smoked herring, right out of the can. They are packed in oil, which now deters me. I must say, the Pacific mackerel I’ve been eating, canned in China, doesn’t always look that appetizing when it slides out of the tin. Thinking it’s a healthy option, every now and then, I treat myself to a shrimp stir fry in the Montreal Trust food court.

Websites will tell you that when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids, not all seafood is created equal. It turns out the unglamorous sardine is way out in front! Who knew? It packs more omega-3 per 3 ounce serving than salmon, tuna or any other food! It’s also naturally high in vitamin D, which is great for bones because it helps increase the absorption of calcium. Sardines, I’ve learned, offer phosphorus, also good for bones. On top of all that, the tiny, inexpensive, sustainable sardine is a good source of vitamin B12, which promotes cardiovascular health.

How can you argue with that?

The canned version only has about 400mg of sodium, which is not much at all. I’m in the process of rediscovering sardines and I’m buying them packed in mineral water. I can’t remember why, but I stopped eating sardines years ago. Now, not only do I see them on lists of healthy foods to eat, they are being hailed by some experts as an outright superfood! Oh, sardine superfood, my apologies for the snub and, by all means, let’s spend some time together.

On the boulevard of “Healthy Eating”, that's got to be worth a lurch forward.



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Recollections

I got to do so many amazing segments as feature reporter for the former Montreal morning show, “This Morning Live”! My goal each morning was to infotain Montreal viewers by making my segments as visually compelling as possible and fun to watch, which, I must say, made them great fun to do. Over the five years that I did the job, we built up some wonderful relationships with locations in and around Montreal.
Visits to La Ronde were always a highlight for my cameraman, Gilbert Laporte, and myself. Management at the amusement park was always willing to open early and bring in staff as we came rumbling through the gates at 5AM with our camera and microwave truck. They would gladly put me in elaborate make-up and costumes to help promote their popular events. It provided wild visuals for viewers of our morning show and gave me a chance to act like a goofball, which I always love doing.
Over the years, we helped promote several events, rides, shows and anniversaries at La Ronde, including the park's horror extravaganza, Fright Fest! On those mornings, the park would bring in a slew of actors and makeup artists. Our camera would show our early morning viewers a flurry of wandering zombies, ghouls and other assorted creepy beings, live, as I would interview enthusiastic witches and mad scientists.
You can see excerpts from some segments I did at La Ronde on one of my demo reels.


I don’t like roller coasters, but on September 15th 2005, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Monster, I climbed aboard the ride with the park’s media relations person at the time. I managed to speak into the microphone as we climbed to the top of the first 40 metre drop but for the rest of the ride, I closed my eyes, held my breath and didn’t say a word. I guess I was better at promoting some things than others. Gilbert might not want me to admit this, but park officials actually offered to let us do some stuff we were just too chicken to do!
We also helped promote the spectacular fireworks competition that happens at La Ronde. One of the people I often interviewed was Paul Csukassy, the Technical Director of the competition. When my son didn’t have school, he would come with me to some of the locations that our morning team visited. 
One morning Paul arranged to have my son set off a test firework, live on the air. Neither Tristan, nor I, have ever forgotten it! I hadn’t seen Paul for several years but he agreed to be a guest on our show this week! We have a segment called “From The Lookout”, where we meet interesting Montrealers and talk with them about their connection to the city. It was nice to see him again, share his passion for his work and hear about how he started out as a member of the fireworks clean-up team and then worked his way up to Technical Director, a position he’s held for 20 years now.
This past season, Paul worked with legendary Quebec singer/songwriter Serge Fiori on the soundtrack to the final show of L’International des feux Loto-Quebec. Paul talks about the collaboration in our interview, which you can see here (at 22:30).


Thanks to Paul for coming in for this week’s interview and thanks to La Ronde for the great people and great memories.
  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Keep Your Kaepernick

My biggest fear when singing an anthem is to forget a word. If an anthem singer forgets a word, to me, it suggests a lack of preparation, which suggests a lack of respect for the responsibility that comes with singing a national anthem. The anthem signifies, or celebrates, a heartfelt love of country and deep appreciation for all who have made our country worth loving. I think of the tens of thousands of soldiers who bravely fought and sadly died on the battlefield only because they were doing their duty, just as soldiers continue to do now.

Too many singers make a mockery of national anthems by forgetting lyrics, improvising melodies, or showboating with fist pumps, twirling towels and other idiotically inappropriate behavior; then there are the players who kneel during its performance.

I understand Black Lives Matter and the tragic truth is that, to varying extents, no one seems to be hearing the urgency of the message. Change is taking too long and happening at too high a price. The US was founded on the noblest of principles, values and ideals and it is falling short of itself. As an NFL athlete, to kneel during the US anthem before tens of thousands of stadium fans and hundreds of thousands more television viewers, is to slap the country in the face, and I suppose that was the goal. In an instant, the world took notice. Perhaps it was necessary and perhaps it was brave. The racism problem in the United States is terrible and Colin Kaepernick's controversial leap of faith is as good a place to spark change as any.

Singing anthem at Als game
To me though, kneeling during the anthem also slaps soldiers in the face. I see their memory, their service and sacrifice as a sacred untouchable, and their families must feel the same way. The flag and the anthem are symbols of what they built and fortified with their willing or reluctant bravery, blood and lives. To insult them is too great a shame. Protesting the anthem seems like protesting the soldiers and their sacrifices. They did not defend racist cops. They did not fight so that law enforcement could indulge in excessive use of force, brutality, profiling, discrimination and unapologetic murder. They fought for the precious freedom that professional athletes enjoy when they kneel on sidelines.

Maybe some of the soldiers who fought and died would say, go for it, take a knee, have your message heard and you’re welcome. I just think it’s going too far and their legacy of sacrifice is eternally too great to dishonor. Our duty is to honor our soldiers, past, present and future but, certainly, our duty is also to improve our society and I would prefer a way that does not dishonour our Canadian war dead. 

Perhaps I'm attaching too much value to the US anthem compared to the Canadian anthem. Some suggest the US anthem, like the US flag, has been stained and tainted by racism and Americans protesting it are partly protesting its mixed symbolism. People insist the US anthem does not represent to Americans what the Canadian anthem represents to Canadians. I’m surprised to hear that because I’m under the impression our anthems are about noble ideals and the brave people who sacrificed to help bring about positive change which, I suppose, makes it very much about soldiers and, ironically, partly about Colin Kaepernick.

At first the kneeling was more about the cause than the player and then it was more about the player than the cause. Now sideline protests in the US have become clouded, yet fashionable, and seem to be as much about power and posturing for solidarity as they are about presidential pettiness and politics.

I’ve had the honor of singing the Canadian anthem at Alouettes games. To sing it now and see a CFL player kneeling, would make me profoundly sad. I hope it never gets to that. I don’t want the Kaepernick approach to fighting causes to confound our understated patriotism here in Canada. The Alouettes have reached out to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe he'd be a great quarterback in the CFL but to further his cause, it almost seems like he has no choice but to wait for a job in the NFL. 

In the name of important causes, turn your back on cops, courts, legislators and leaders, if you must. Test your creativity.

Leave the anthem in peace.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Parking Pickle

My wife and I grew up in the town where we have our home. Several years ago, we woke up to “No Parking” signs on the east side of our street. We live on the west side. Suddenly, people had the right to park in front of our home, but not in front of homes on the opposite side. We were not consulted or notified and it seemed to us, purely arbitrary that the east side got the signs. There is a bar down the street and patrons are loud and troublesome. The “No Parking” signs help provide relief for people living close to the establishment.

New neighbors moved in across the street from our home. They came with a slew of relatives who drive oversized pick-up trucks pulling large landscaping trailers, SUV’s and a variety of beaters They began parking in front of our home for entire days, several days in a row, leaving late at night only to return the next day.

No one else on the street, possibly in the town, has to constantly deal with unwanted vehicles in front of their home. I complained to our city councilor when she campaigned door-to-door and wrote a letter to city hall. Nothing was done.

I’m not going to lie, as long-time contributing citizens of our town, it affected our peace of mind and quality of life. This year, I wrote another letter to the mayor arguing we were being unjustly discriminated against because we lived on the west side of the street and, as law-abiding taxpaying citizens, we were entitled to the same privileges and peace of mind as people living on the east side.

What a glorious time
The mayor met with me on August 3rd and graciously listened to my story.  At one point, I suggested the city allow parking on the west side one day and parking on the east side the next day, to be fair to everyone.  The mayor decided to put up “No Parking” signs on our side of the street. The signs were put up on August 8th and we were ecstatic; no more unwanted vehicles in front of our home.

What a glorious time!

Yesterday I came home from work to find the neighbor across the street parked in front of our lawn, across from his empty six-car driveway. The “No Parking” sign had been changed and now allowed parking from 7AM to 10PM.

Neighbors had complained. They wanted to be able to park in front of their homes or, in the case of the neighbors opposite us, they wanted to be able to park in front of our home. The mayor had sent me an email explaining there was “a commotion over parking on our street”. As a result, all “No Parking” signs, east side and west side, were removed this morning.  We are back to square one. My wife and I are pretty disappointed. The neighbors across the street once again have the right to park their assorted vehicles, for hours on end, in front of our home. 

The mayor ended his email saying he hoped our neighbors would respect our property. Their driveway was empty yesterday and they were parked in front of our lawn; you have your answer, Mr. Mayor.
All that's left of our peace of mind

I understand our situation is exceptional. I also understand there are far worse problems in life. Still, this is the little aggravating problem we are being forced to deal with by our elected officials. Surely, there are limits to what we have to endure and provisions for reasonableness and fairness. Surely, we are entitled to the same peace of mind and privileges as others in our town who do not have to deal with similar parking issues.

I suggested putting the restricted parking hours on the other side of the street so neighbors and their guests would be able to park in the street and the neighbors opposite us could park in front of their own home.

We have been abandoned by city hall and are on our own again. Living in our town we have always been respectful of our neighbors and we don’t do anything to them that we wouldn’t want them to do to us. Now we’re wondering if we should stoop to parking in front of their home, or start parking in front of our own.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

&^$#*@!*#^&

I fully realize Pete Townshend is not talking about courtesy, but the song title, “Just A Little Is Enough”, certainly applies where this ever-dwindling commodity is concerned.

I took the train into the city yesterday. The train was less crowded because it was heading downtown later in the day. Still, on the ride in, some guy in dark sunglasses was listening to his smart phone without headphones. The sound of his music all the way downtown was %$^&%$#@ irritating. Why is it ok to subject people to your annoying noise and tell me, please, what the &@%!%^$#* happened to headphones? Clearly, he is an inconsiderate, arrogant jerk! I had wanted to get up and change places, but thought my wife, who was sitting with a friend, might accuse me of making a bigger deal out of it than necessary.

See Richard seethe.

The train ride back home from downtown was a little more crowded. 

Me seething
Three seats away, some other idiot kept listening to his phone without headphones and, as an added bonus, another woman six seats in the other direction, yammered on her phone for the entire train ride! Since I was sitting with my wife and one of her friends, I hadn’t packed my own headphones. At one point, Susan consolingly suggested one of them would surely be getting off the train soon. Eventually, the train car emptied out, taking the ignoramus away and his noise with him. My luck, predictably, the yammering woman stayed until the end of the line, her pointless, self-important interjections becoming louder and louder as the train car emptied out.

See Richard seethe.

I would not subject people to irritating sounds, or impose my private blithering phone conversation on people who are not doing that to me. Am I too %^%$#*&^ considerate? I’m not perfect, but basic courtesy I can do. In fact, I barely give it a thought; it just happens because it’s supposed to.

FYI

1) Don’t block the passing lane, move the !@%^$#* over.
2) Pay attention at the traffic light, when it turns green, *&!@^%$ go. 
3) At least go the %$#*&!@ speed limit.
4) Don’t !@^&*%$# cut in, wait in line like the rest of us.
5) Buy headphones, spare everyone else on the train your *&@!^%$ crappy taste and dunce-like behavior.

Is it seriously too much to ask? As far as courtesy is concerned, just a little is enough.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Swig and Swallow

Every morning, I open the cupboard and robotically take down the bottle of multivitamins. I quickly press down, twist the cap, pour out a pill, replace the cap and put the bottle back in the cupboard. I take a swig and swallow. It all happens in less than a minute with minimal thinking on my part. 
I might try thinking for a change.
There is a second bottle in the cupboard. It contains pills for our wonderful West Highland terrier, Spike. They are vision supplements. The bottle is about the same size, and the pills it contains are about the same size as the multivitamins.
Sweet Spike
I have taken down the wrong bottle, realized my mistake and replaced it. That led to me taking down the wrong bottle, opening it, realizing my mistake and replacing it. That led to me, pouring out the wrong pill, realizing my mistake, putting it back in the bottle and replacing it. That led to me putting the wrong pill in my mouth, realizing my mistake, throwing out the wet pill, closing the bottle and replacing it. The wrong outcome seems inevitable.
I might try thinking for a change.
Yesterday, I opened the cupboard, took out the bottle, put the pill in my mouth, and used orange juice to wash it down. As I tilted back the glass of orange juice, my son was reaching over me to get something in the cupboard. I stepped out of his way and when I looked back at the bottle on the counter it was our dog’s vision supplements. I gulped! My son exclaimed, feigning concern, “What did you do?”
Much to their amusement, I had made the mistake of keeping my family abreast of my close calls. In the same instant my son offered his exclamation, I realized he must have switched the bottles. Such dastardly mischief is not a help.
The human mind is quite delicate and it seems to me that mine, is more delicate than any other in our house. Rather than protect me from myself, my family seems intent on having me swallow the dog’s vision supplement. Have they forgotten sweet Spike could end up with a multivitamin in his belly? 
The odds are in Spike’s favor. By the time I take out the pill, whichever one it is, bend down, open his mouth and push it to the back of his throat, there is more time, hopefully, for me to notice incongruities. I fear I am more likely doomed to swallow the dog’s vision supplement than the dog is to swallow my multivitamin! It appears to be just a matter of time.
If my wife and son have their way, it will be tomorrow! I might try thinking for a change, but where would the fun be in that?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seems Like Yesterday

The moments are in my heart and mind forever. I did a small concert two months ago today and was thrilled to have my son come up on stage with me to perform!

Up until that night, I had lived three other “great musical moments”. The first happened when I was a high school student attending a summer music camp run by the McGill Music Conservatory. My percussion teacher had a prior engagement and asked me to sit-in with camp teachers who were performing a jazz concert. I got to drum for Art Maiste and Gerry Danovitch. They let me do a drum solo that got me a standing ovation.

My second “great musical moment” happened during one of my extended family’s annual Christmas gatherings. It started in front of my cousins with me singing the first original songs I had ever written. They enthusiastically encouraged me to perform my songs in front of our parents, who were downstairs. That response gave me the confidence to audition for the McGill Red & White Revue, which was my third “great musical moment”. That night at Redpath Hall, I received a standing ovation, an encore, and a rave review in the university paper.

As a solo artist, in duos, trios, bands, choirs and orchestras, as part of school, performing in my workplaces, and to make money, I have done hundreds of music shows as a singer in groups, as a drummer in groups, as a guitarist in groups, as a percussionist in groups and as an anthem singer. I have performed at weddings, parties, the Montreal tennis event, telethons, Midis Sun Life and did a song at Maison Symphonique as part of a benefit show. I always enjoy performances, but some have proven to be life-changing for me, emotionally and psychologically. I can still visualize segments from what I refer to as my “great musical moments”.


The show in May featured another “great musical moment” for me. A few weeks before the show, I asked my son if he would come up on stage to do part of a song. He was keen. A few years before, he had agreed to come in a recording studio to rap in an original song I wrote for fun, after he agreed to take part. It’s called “Cool Beans” and is on YouTube. He did that in one take, at a faster speed than he’d rehearsed! We were all blown away!

For the May show at Sainte Anne Blues CafĂ©, I thought it would be awesome to hear, and let an audience hear, what his passion for creative expression would bring to a classic song like “Yesterday” by The Beatles. I am honored and touched he agreed to perform, and share his hip hop performance debut with me! He will, no doubt, insist I’m making a far bigger deal of it than I should, but there it is.

Every time I watch his performance that night, I have to remind myself I’m watching the first time he performs for an audience. I’m so impressed and proud – and that’s forever. His birthday was last week. For Susan and I, it packs a flood of memories, and seems like yesterday.