The beast awakens from its snowy slumber.
The beast awakens from its snowy slumber.
…because photos sometimes just speak for themselves.
Each day only feels right when it starts with a cup of java a.k.a Jet Fuel.
This cup in particular has come a long way, bought it over 20 years ago after driving across Canada and we ducked down to Seattle for a day and hit the original Starbucks in the Pike Place Market. I’m a Maxwell House fan… Starbucks..meh, easy come, easy go with their coffee.
Simply put son, there are hundreds of them. You can find them in copier boxes in the garage, in stacks in the entertainment centre and in almost every nook and cranny of every vehicle we have – they are called CDs.
By the time you start to truly consume, make decisions about and understand the real power of music, CDs, I imagine, will be an archaic form of music delivery for you, just like 8-tracks and vinyl were for me, However, I was lucky enough to build a little vinyl collection too…which I guess will be like hieroglyphs and petroglyphs for you.
You’ve shown an early love for listening to tunes, whether it’s been your mom’s country music or my rock. You’ve wiggled, danced and imitated what you’ve heard, warming our hearts along the way. This has been great to see because music has been a major love and influence for your mom and I.
Ultimately, here’s what I’ve learned about music, it’s like Pete’s Dragon, when you need it most, music will find you.
We build a soundtrack to our lives with the music we scream to, dance to, cry to, think to and drive or walk to. There’s a power to music which I hope will be threaded into your life as it was in mine. Ultimately, here’s what I’ve learned about music, it’s like Pete’s Dragon, when you need it most, music will find you, However, it may not be as obvious as a collosal green dragon right in front of you but it will be there to help, soothe and build you up.
So, given all the above, I have no idea what the fate of my CDs will be as the years go by but I definitely would like you to know about some of them. You’ll learn as time rolls on that The Cult is my favourite band of all-time and among my many other favourites are bands/artists like Led Zeppelin, The Ramones, Joy Division, Metallica, Tool, Johnny Cash, Nick Drake, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, The Tragically Hip, Bonobo, Blue Rodeo, Massive Attack…to name just a few – ha!
I’m going to start randomly reaching into my box of CDs…let’s call it The Versace Music Vault, and write up quick reviews of what I grab. They most likely won’t always be by my all-time favourite artists and that is my point, I took the time to buy them at one time because something about them meant something to me. Whatever it is, like I said, they were like Pete’s Dragon and they found me.
VERSACE MUSIC VAULT Vol. 1
ALBUM: Cuts Like A Knife
ARTIST: Bryan Adams
FAVOURITE SONGS: This time. Straight from the heart. Cuts like a knife.
NOTES: It’s early Bryan Adams and his coolest stuff was his early stuff in my opinion.
ALBUM: Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
FAVOURITE SONGS: F@ckin’ in the bushes. Go let it out. Little James. Gas Panic!
NOTES: Oasis is definitely in my top 20 favourite bands, don’t listen to the haters, this is a good band. A lot of their biggest hits are on albums before this one but this is one of their best. Basically, to me, this album is an example of what a band sounds like which has matured. Now, some of their past hits are among the best songs you will ever bellow during drunken karaoke (Wonderwall) or on long drives with friends (Champagne Supernova). F@ckin’ in the bushes is just one of the coolest songs to blast loud while driving.
ARTIST: The White Stripes
FAVOURITE SONGS: Seven Nation Army. The hardest button to button.
NOTES: When The White Stripes emerged, nothing really sounded like them. Jack White is a guitar wizard and his voice, though far from melodic or with incredible range, is definitely engaging. Seven Nation Army is a badass song, play it before a workout, sports competition or an arm wrestle for that extra adrenaline rush.
ALBUM: Broken Boy Soldiers
ARTIST: The Raconteurs
FAVOURITE SONGS: Steady as she goes.
NOTES: Pretty cool sounding ensemble band, one of its members was Jack White of The White Stripes. Saw them once live and they put on a helluva show.
Canada is set to turn 150 and I figured I’d leave you a note about the Canada I’ve grown to love during my life. What will Canada be in 25 years when you are 27 and it celebrates its next major anniversary milestone of 175 years? What will it mean to you? Will the things I love about it be relevant in 25 years? Will its dark issues and warts be finally set right or improved? In the end, what will you ultimately love about it and be disappointed in?
I must admit, this was originally meant to be a short note…then it became an essay it seems. However, the more I edit it the more I realize that exploring what Canada is, through my eyes, could become an opus-like novel. Maybe that’s a project for another day.
Canada is always home and it has definitely always felt like that for me after I have travelled abroad. I’ve been lucky enough to see countless countries, epic cities and quaint small towns across three continents beyond North America. No matter how inspired I’ve been by the places I’ve seen and experienced, when I’ve touched Canadian soil upon my return, I’ve always been happy to be home.
Canada can be what you want it to be but I really believe, to understand it better, you need to see a lot of it. What Canada means to a Torontonian is very different than what it means for someone in Charlottetown, Quebec City, Winnipeg or Jasper.
Visit Canada’s great cities and you get a sense of how layered The Canadian fabric can be. Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are awesome cities and examples of some of the things that make us great: tolerance, efficiency, passion, sensitivity, multiculturalism, art, music and civic pride. Now realize, there is a laundry list of issues in these cities too, just like all major world cities, from poverty to racism to traffic.
Visit Canada’s smaller towns and you will also see what makes it great. From Bell Island, N.L., to Cobourg, Ont. or Tofino, B.C., these places are just as important to that Canadian fabric I mentioned. The sense of community, tranquility, history and pace in these places will never disappoint and can surprise you.
As with many things you will experience in life, you can find poignancy and nostalgia in many things if you allow yourself to experience them that way. For me, Canada is watching a sunset on the Pacific Ocean, while near Tofino with two of my dearest friends, after driving across the country. Canada is standing on North America’s most easterly point, Cape Spear in Newfoundland, in a fog so thick that besides it being blinding it seemed deafening too in a strange way. It’s about trying to order in French while in Montreal or Quebec City and usually getting a friendly or disdainful smile…be prepared for either and roll with it. Canada is also about experiencing a variety of world cultures and food by hopping on and off Toronto’s streetcars and subways in only one day.
The greatness of a nation can sometimes even be measured by the structures it builds and Canada has some iconic ones to be proud of. The CN Tower, the Confederation Bridge, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Rogers Centre, the CPR railroad, the St. Lawrence Seaway and I’m just getting started here, are examples of Canadian vision and construction excellence. Our gothic revival Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are beautiful and their story is a “Canadian one” in many ways. You will learn about all these in time.
Know this too, Canadian stereotypes of us being a bunch of puckheads (hockey fans), being ultra-polite (we always say sorry even when it doesn’t apply), we say “eh” a lot and that we are always “nice”, have been around since I was child. I suspect they will be around for quite awhile still. Some of these are rooted in some truth…once again, just roll with it.
Canadians are fierce fighters too. When provoked or when the need to get into the fight arises, Canada answers the call valiantly. Vimy Ridge, Juno Beach, Passchendaele, Dieppe, Ortona, Kosovo, the Korean War and Afghanistan, these have been some of our greatest battles, in some, we bled badly but Canada showed the world we will fight when called upon. Our peacekeeping initiatives are just as worthy as well.
Please note, we are not a nation of rainbows, puppy dogs and ice cream, though some Canadians are blissfully always like this. We have dark mistakes we have just started to atone for. What our country did to its indigenous people, in particular through the residential school initiative, is awful. Slowly and just recently, Canada has begun to accept this horrible past and has apologized for it but the road ahead is very long. Respecting treaty rights and helping support the indigenous people of this land is something Canada has failed at. The state of many reserves are atrocious and rival third world nations and…most Canadian do not even know it or acknowledge it. I really hope that by Canada’s 175th we will have made some inroads to better help and support the indigenous communities that need it…I really hope and pray for this.
In the end, Canada is a wonderfully diverse, tolerant, accepting and passionate country. It is has welcomed millions from around the world, no matter their race, religion or socio-economic status. A drive across its massive landscape and how it changes from province to province is awe inspiring. In fact, in the end, Canada is incredible in how it has managed to make itself work. It gave your Italian grandparents an opportunity at a new life and helped shaped me into who I am. Canada will shape you in ways you may not notice for awhile and I hope you will be passionate about this country we call home.
True North strong and free forever.
Nope. I do not see the moon.
Have you ever taken note if you actually notice the sun and moon in your life? Daylight comes when we wake up. Nighttime comes at the end of our day. Those backdrops are a daily given. But, do you actually stop to appreciate the celestial cornerstones in our hectic and sometimes over-scheduled lives?
For me, I do not see the moon anymore in the context of my family. You see, since the last time I penned any prose for those of you who may come across this blog, I lost my father. It was sudden. It was painful. It was not expected. It shook my core more than I ever expected.
Just over two years ago I excitedly re-engaged with my blog after an extended hiatus because I became a father for the first time. I wanted to share my fatherhood experiences in the hopes, that for other first-time fathers, it may just give them some time to reflect, consider their fatherhood futures and let them know, “You are not alone bud, I’ve been just there, here’s what I know about a diaper genie.”
I never anticipated that one of my greatest early lessons about fatherhood would be driven by the loss of my father so soon…so suddenly. It reconfigured everything for me as I embraced my role in being big daddy to my little man.
The anger, sadness and melancholy was not only about how my dad’s passing, a year ago this week, impacted my sister and I. It was about my mom losing her best friend, her husband, the man she carved out a life with in Canada after they both left their lives in Italy. It was also about my son losing his last grandfather before ever getting to know him. My son’s birth unleashed a renaissance for my dad, as grandchildren tend to always do in grandparents. His overwhelming love, happiness and pride was so evident. The roots he helped establish in a country far away from his original family, had just grown deeper with my son’s birth.
It has been a year now of rollicking about in an ocean of sadness and grief and I still cannot think of my son and my father together without my throat clenching up and my eyes watering. They packed in a lot of precious moments in just the 13 months they had together. Though my son will not have any memory of them, thanks to smartphones and our digital edge, there are some priceless videos and photos.
Their last interaction was with my son in his car seat, the engine running in our vehicle, as we were set to leave my parent’s home after celebrating my father’s birthday. It had been a good day. My father had my son giggling as he stole his nose again and again, a fun game in every Italian grandfather’s repertoire. Three hours after that, we are all rushing to the hospital. The next few days would be the hardest my family has ever had to bear. I know, I know, we are not the first family to lose a parent and we will not be the last. This was life unfurling in its sometimes cruel and unjust way.
What have I really learned about fatherhood this past year?
One, and this I wrestle with almost daily still, is realizing the amount of time and opportunities my dad and I wasted being bullheaded. I can jokingly say he is partly to blame for how I can dig in since I picked up that no bullshit, stand your ground when you think you’re right attitude, from him.
I know, it’s a clichéd regret, taking for granted what you have until it is gone. Cliched as it is, it is the truth and it hurts. What I would give for one more day. One more civil conversation. One more time of laughter. One more time of translating something into Italian from English.
The best moments as a dad will not always be about the big Disney vacation or getting your kid the coolest Christmas toy. It will be about the small moments similar to the ones I recall crisply, as if they happened minutes ago, like fishing at the same spot time and time again- each time arriving during early sunrise, a blanket of morning mist still hovering above the grass and canal. Another is watching Formula One races together in the wee hours of a Sunday morning, pulling for Ferrari to prevail. One of my favourites (why, I am still not sure) is an amazingly clear memory of stretching out on the backseat of our Pontiac LeMans, studying the back of my hockey cards, as we waited for my mom to finish her work shift. My dad is smoking his cigarettes, listening to CHIN radio, while doing a crossword puzzle. I can still smell that smoke and leather and recall the buzz of radio voices and nearby traffic as our soundtrack.
I’m convinced now that moments like these are the golden little threads, when woven together, which create the strongest rope…the rope you desperately grasp for as you face the darkness upon realizing there is no more moon.
Photo Credits: Top, Andre Widjaja, bottom, Pochwat Photography
Our first year with the little bambino is now in the books and what a year it’s been. I completely underestimated the learning curve that comes with parenthood. I am not talking about the learning that the little man went through but the learning we went through as parents.
The following is a list of observations for the first-time dads out there who come across this. Hopefully some of it will help you in some way and full disclosure, I in no way think I have figured it all out: