We dined in domes, tents, and old Victorian houses. We had five dinners but we only left two tips (and we don’t suck). In between, we walked, we wined, we saw some art.
Blog title courtesy of Jean, who was determined to have some time off after not getting any at Christmas time (beyond the statutory days). We didn’t venture too far from home—Beamsville, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Toronto, Kleinburg, which are all within a two hours’ drive. And it wasn’t, per se, designed as a culinary tour. But it did turn out that way!
Because, you see, I’m still making some efforts to avoid catching Covid. And when it came to selecting restaurants, well, it wasn’t your Mom and Pop fish’n’chips places that offered space. And clean air. Those only came packaged as “dining experiences”. Covid safe(r), it turns out, is kind of delicious.
We left home mid-morning, headed to an appointment at Commisso Estate Winery in Beamsville. Their website promised wine tastings in a “fun, safe, private” environment. I didn’t necessarily trust the promise—so many places just didn’t bother to remove their Covid protocols page once they stopped following it—but I figured a smaller winery in February wouldn’t be that crowded. I optimistically (and pragmatically, given that dinner wasn’t til 7) also ordered a charcuterie board.
It worked out. We ended up being their only customers at this time. Not only that, but their tastings are conducted in a tent that was plenty warm, thanks to gas heaters. After we were seated, we got the history of the place, and overview of the wines.
In the way of the introvert, Zo was never the showiest of cats, but she made up for it in resilience. A few months shy of 19, she’s outlived four other cats, two of which were younger than she.
Jean was at the Pet Valu getting cat supplies (I assume) when he called home about the cat available for adoption there.
“So she’s a little black calico?” I asked.
“You’ve seen her?” replied Jean, confused.
But I had not. I just suspected Jean would find it hard to resist a cat who resembled our recently lost Bob.
I agreed to the adoption of the two year old. It was our introduction to Pet Patrol, from whom we’ve acquired all our cats since. We didn’t then know the advice that you shouldn’t get a cat that reminds you a lot of the one you’ve lost. I don’t think Zoë suffered from the comparison. For one thing, she actually was somewhat similar to Bob.
Zoë’s backstory was that she had been owned by a bit of a cat hoarder and hadn’t been fed the best quality food. A lifetime behaviour of hers, that I assume harkens back to that time, is that whenever she got an especially good treat, she would carry it off into a corner to eat it. That way no other cat would steal it, you see. (Though in this house, I never saw another cat steal a treat away from her.)
Zoë joined a household of two older males, Romey and Sandy, whom we seem to have very few photos of. (It was a different time!) There wasn’t much drama in integrating her. I noted at the time that she seemed much livelier than they.
Zoë, of course, outlived both these guys. We lost Sandy first, to complications of diabetes, Romey later, to mega-colon. I recall trying to tempt Romey with various treat foods when he was ill, and Zoë sweeping in to finish after he did his bit of nibbling. The only time of her life that she got a little pudgy.
Zoë was then a lone cat for while, til we adopted McSteamy and Mocha. Those two took to each other instantly, leaving Zoë the odd woman out—which I think suited her just fine. She was a bit miffed at having them join the household, and never really cottoned to Mocha; they’d sort of natter at each other on a semi-regular basis. McSteamy, though, she appeared to get along fine with. He knew well enough to never attempt to cuddle with her, though he did constantly with Mocha.
She outlived them as well. Mocha we lost to throat cancer, McSteamy later, to lymphatic cancer. As lone cat, Zoë would often choose to sleep underneath the guest bed, which I found a bit odd; who was she hiding from? It’s only occurred to me recently that McSteamy spent his last weeks encamped under that bed. Perhaps she was revisiting his scent.
Jean and I got very close with Zoë during this period of her lone cat-ness, building up rituals: TV time on the couch, morning visits, joining us for meals. Though she was never a cuddle-bunny, we learned to appreciate the more subtle ways in which she showed affection.
After a time, though, I wanted to adopt more cats. But I was very worried about how Zoë would react.
With cause, as it turns out! Though she took to Mac very easily, and indeed seemed to find him a great deal of fun at first…
She took an instant dislike to the shy Gus, leading to months of angst (on my part, and probably Gus’ too) as she bullied him and really slowed down the process of integrating him into the family.
With time and age, Zoë became less enamoured of Mac’s energy, particularly when it was directed at her. And she grew more appreciative of Gus’ more easy-going ways. But their addition enriched her life, as the house became filled with new cat toys, cat trees, cat sleeping spaces, and we added on an outdoor enclosure (initially used by Zoë only!).
For years we used a catsitter named Mike, whom Zoë was very fond of. Upon Mike’s retirement, we used a series of others, none of whom she grew very close to. Some never saw her at all during visits, finding our claims of owning a black calico fanciful.
In general, she didn’t appreciate visitors. Any knock on the door or doorbell ring would send her scurrying for cover. If it turned out to be a repairman or such-like who was going to stay a while, she would stay under cover, sometimes for hours—especially if they were noise-producing visitors.
I’m not sure where she got this extreme fear of strangers, but possibly from the time we were using a home vet? She was the only cat who seemed to respond more poorly to his visits than to going out to see the vet.
The cleaners we used to have come in regularly might not have helped, either, particularly once our regular cleaning person retired and we started using a service. They didn’t physically bother her the way the vet did, but they were noisy, and poking into all the corners of the house, no doubt including getting close to some of her hiding places.
Yet, she’d end up OK with some of the visitors we had: she was fine with my parents, and with some friends who came over more regularly. She’d actually come out and hang. (At a bit of a distance, of course.)
At one point when she was a lone cat for the second time, I got the idea of having someone actually house-sit while we were away, instead of just coming by once or twice a day. Why I thought this was a good idea for a cat who hates strangers…?
The first night, the housesitter reported, Zoë went under our bed and just “cried and cried”. We’d never known her to do that when we were home. We were a bit startled to realize how attached she was to us. The next day, reports said, she crept out a bit more. Finally she stayed out. (At a bit of distance, of course.)
As we added cats, we decided to continue with the house-sitting, though we never knew what we were going to get with Zoë. One time she was pretty good most of the days, then at the end decided to hide in a wall and refuse to come out, even for food. (She was out instantly when we got home. Then we barricaded the wall.)
She’d seem quite accepting of the housesitter for one trip (and it was always the same one, I would note!), then revert to hiding under the bed for days for the next. She’d join the boys for eating one time, then decided she needed food delivery service the next. In what was described as a “miracle”, she actually jumped on the housesitter’s lap once, and stayed there a while. But even that didn’t prove a permanent breakthrough.
But with us, her loyalty never wavered, even if we sometimes had to give her medication, or take her to the vet, or invite noisy people into her room.
We were her people. And that was that.
Zoë really didn’t have too many health problems in her life. She was one of those cats with generally good teeth, though at one point she did have to get one extracted. At times, possibly partly related to boredom the food options at the time, she got a little too thin. She once had some mysterious injury that made it very difficult for her to swallow food. She managed on a liquid diet for a couple days, and it seemed to resolved itself without need of veterinary intervention.
As an older cat, a blood test revealed some issue with her liver. We tried supplements for a while, but they didn’t make much difference, and she got increasingly cranky about having to take them. From then on the liver issue was merely monitored, not ever treated.
In 2020 she was diagnosed with kidney disease. A fairly common cat disease, there’s no cure, but it can be managed to some degree, and some cats live with it for years. Zoë was to fall in this camp, even though our treatment plan was pretty light.
There are special foods you can give cats with kidney disease—but they’re not the tastiest, and tend to a little low in protein. I tried a can on Zoë and she didn’t show much enthusiasm. Another approach was simply to feed them high-quality can or raw food. That is the route we took. Zoë liked variety in her food, and seemed more important that she keep eating a good amount than having a particular nutrient balance in what she took in.
We also put water bowls all over. That girl drank her weight in water daily, it seemed.
And that approach worked, until it didn’t. Until recent months, she largely hung onto her weight. She almost never vomited. Tests showed kidney deterioration, but only at a slow pace.
But then it caught up with her, as it does. She started losing weight. She grew weaker and less able to do things (arthritis also contributed to that). Blood tests showed high potassium levels, so we added a supplement to her food to block absorption, and she was fine with taking that. She also got injections that helped with pain management and mobility.
But none of that was a cure. Gradually her world became smaller. First she stopped going outside. Then she went from jumping on our bed in the morning, to just hiding under it. Then the downstairs visits became less frequent, til they stopped. For quite some time she insisted on jumping up on her kitchen chair, until that just didn’t work anymore and she finally accepted us lifting her on to it.
Heat retention became an issue for her, and she grew increasingly fond of a stereo cabinet that we left on all the time as her personal heater. She could sleep on top of or behind it. Finally the upstairs, her previous refuge, seemed too much work, and stayed mainly on the main floor.
Her fondness for food continued nearly to the end, but as that started to go, we knew she wouldn’t last much longer.
Essence of Zoë
At some point Zoë got spooked about workouts, somehow, and ended up afraid of yoga mats. She would scurry from the room as soon as I picked one up. She was quite dubious of me if I was in workout gear.
When we were eating something she thought smelled particularly good, she’d request a taste by patting me with a paw. If the morsel was to her liking, she’d take it delicately with her teeth (and, as already, reported, jump down to eat in a corner, if it was special good).
She despised getting her nails cut. To be fair, we only started cutting her nails later in her life, when her nails started to in thick and curly, to the point where they grew into her nail bed a couple times. So there was some association between nail cutting and pain there. But man, so angry! You’d think we were torturing her.
Zoë was always extremely well-behaved at the vet, likely as a fear response. Always, that is, except for one time when they cut her nails. “She got so angry!” the vet reported.
She loved playing with string-adorned wand toys.
She adored high places: tops of cabinets, tall chairs, cat trees, table tops.
She could be a pretty good hunter, even into her old age (we’d get the occasional mouse in the house, and she did have her enclosure…)
She required a “blanket barrier” before she would lie down or walk on you.
She had a phase where she was extremely protective of the house against outdoor cats. Seeing one outside, she would fly into rage at the window, making the most godawful noise.
She preferred carpet to sisal scratching posts.
Cranky though we sometimes made her, she was unfailingly gentle with people. She never scratched or bit us, or anyone.
She had great markings, including three orange toes that I never tired of looking at.
She would sneak around on kitchen counters at time, on the hunt for treats.
She sometimes showed affection by licking—faces or hands. Her tongue was pretty rough, but it was still pretty cute.
Now that I think of it, maybe she wasn’t that much like Bob.
I’ll blame Gus the cat for my slowness in getting into any kind of Christmas spirit this year. A few weeks after his pretty speed recovery from the injury above his eye, he suddenly come down with something… He stopped eating, grooming, or doing anything other than shuffling uncomfortably from one sleeping spot to another. It was a weekend, and the vet was open only for supplies, not medical appointments. They suggested taking Gus to the emergency veterinary hospital.
There he got tested for everything imaginable. He had some neurological symptoms—asymmetrical eye pupils, inconsistent results on the “knuckling” test—and few slightly abnormal results on the blood test. Could be infection, could be tumors… He was admitted and hydrated, appetite stimulated, given pain killers, and started on antibiotics. I went home to fret.
Gus responded quite well to the various ministrations, though, and we were able to take him home the next day. He seemed pretty good from that point, though lower energy, and with the uneven pupils persisting a while. We continued the antibiotics for seven days, and a few days later, the eyes improved, the energy back. I brought him in for a final check from our vet, who found that all seemed good, except for the eye on the injured side looking a little irritated.
So she suggested a week of twice daily eye drops. Gus was much better about letting us give him those than we expected. What seemed much more upsetting to him was if we had to chase him down first; he’d sometimes hide for hours afterwards. So we took to surprising him with eye drops. Those done, he continued to seem quite fine.
Jean was complaining that I hadn’t posted anything in ever-so-long—which is kind of true. I’m off for some Christmas vacation time now, so possibly a few posts will be forthcoming. I’ll start here, though, not because it’s most urgent or relevant, but just that it should be good for warming up the writing muscles.
Early in December, we left our house to go to the cinema and see a movie in person! Now, unlike some people, we have done this on a few occasions in these After Times. But I had not realized quite how long it had been since we had visited the Princess Cinema. So long that our membership cards had expired—in July.
We decided that a new membership was probably not a wise investment, even though you only have to see something like three movies a year to make it worthwhile. We just paid the non-member price to see The Menu.
The Menu begins with a small group of people waiting to board a boat to a highly exclusive restaurant on an island. At the centre are Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy of Queen’s Gambit fame, and her date Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). Margot wonders how the restaurant can be profitable with such a small clientele. “$1,250 a person” replies Tyler. Margot is stunned, but since it’s on Tyler’s dime, is game to go along.
Not being a devotee of the “foodie” scene, however, Margot finds the serving rituals and staff manner rather odd. To someone who does do the “foodie” thing on occasion (albeit not at $1,250 a pop), the emphasis on freshness and regionality (when the clients arrive, staff are literally fishing for the scallops to be served later), the open kitchen and extensive table settings, and the elaborate presentation of each course is kind of familiar—but in this movie, also a bit strange. The staff is so disciplined. The rules of dining are so strict. And aren’t locked doors a fire hazard?
And the bread course? I don’t want to spoil what happens there, but while kind of weird and off-putting, it also seems, maybe, possible?
But as hinted in the trailer, the movie then moves on from the merely strange to… rather horrifying. (No soylent green, though!) For the squeamish, I would say, that while there is violence, it was nothing I couldn’t handle—and I’m pretty squeamish. Though I possibly did close my eyes at one moment…
Class issues definitely come up, particularly centred on Margot, the one client in a different socioeconomic class than everyone else there.
And through all this, the movie remains pretty funny. You’re never lulled into thinking it’s a documentary. “Dark comedy”, they say. I guess that’s a good descriptor.
I found it all pretty riveting, from the mocking of foodie culture, to the dark turn, to the various plot twists. Jean was never bored, but he wasn’t sure until if he actually liked the movie. But finally concluded that he did (though he was also left wondering if he should feel guilty about love of fine dining).
I think it would definitely appeal to other foodies, to horror fans, to fans of dark comedies, or those who appreciate movies with originality.
Jean’s Mom, who’d never been quite the same after a stroke in February, passed away in late August. The family decided to have a small memorial service. The date selected was Saturday, November 5.
We left around 10:15 AM, intending to stop over in Sudbury on the way to Timmins. The drive started uneventfully enough; we were diverted by the audiobook of State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny.
But after an hour and a half or so, Jean noted that the car seemed to be losing power periodically, during which it was quite reluctant to accelerate. Maybe just gas quality? he suggested. As we Googled to find the nearest gas station, I suggested options. We still had time before we really had to be anywhere. Maybe we could get the car looked at. Maybe we could rent a car for this trip.
Well, let’s just try gas first, Jean suggested.
And indeed, filling it up did make it run smoother.
For another couple hours, anyway. But then it started doing the losing power thing again. Hills were a problem.
This hasn’t happened in so long, it was almost confusing to see it in the calendar. But we had a concert date on Friday night, then another one on Saturday might.
The first was a Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Pops concerts, Thorgy and the Thorchestra. Thorgy Thor is a classically trained musician who plays violin, viola, and cello (!). And she is also a drag queen who has been featured on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Despite knowing the drag queen part (and not the musician part, actually) before going, this was more of a gay pride kind of event than I was expecting. It was conducted by Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser, who is gay, and in between Thorgy’s comic antics and demonstrations of musicianship, we got the history of gay rights in Canada (to the tune of Oh, Canada) and a documentary featurette about the Brunswick Four, three of whom were arrested for performing a parody song, “I Enjoy Being a Dyke”. This was followed by a performance of said parody.
Thorgy was very funny, and is quite a talented musician, but she wasn’t the only guest performer. Keiko Larocque from Wilfrid Laurier provided vocals on some numbers, and the Eastwood Collegiate Dance Team performed some choreography on others, from ballet to Vogue-ing. Along with a rainbow of humanity, we got a range of musical styles, from Brahms, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky to Rogers & Hammerstein to Cyndi Lauper and Lady Gaga. It was a fun night!
Saturday we had to make the slightly longer drive to Stratford, Ontario to see the Art of Time Ensemble perform A Singer Must Die: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen. The Art of Time musicians are a sextet who play piano, saxophone, violin, cello, bass, and guitar. They seem to specialize in performing new and novel arrangements of popular songs. In this case, of course, it was all songs by Leonard Cohen.
The featured singers were Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies), Gregory Hoskins (of Gregory Hoskins and the Stickpeople), Tom Wilson (of commercials and Lee Harvey Osmond), Sarah Slean (of… Sarah Slean), and Tamara Lindeman (also known as Tamara Hope, apparently). Each singer brought their own style. Page could handle the serious and the light, as he does in all his work.
Sarah Slean flitted happily onto the stage, even though, as she then noted, some of the songs covered were a bit devastating. (“But that’s how the light gets in.”) She also apologized for a voice somewhat damaged by weeks of colds (not that I noticed), which even required one song substitution from the program (but I was happy to hear “Take This Waltz”).
Tamara Lindeman was a bit more earnest, and I believe she’s the one who handled “The Partisan”, the one song not written by Leonard Cohen, though famously covered by him. (Hadn’t actually realized til this that he didn’t write it…) Quite lovely.
Tom Wilson was pretty funny, and possessed the most Leonard Cohen-like voice of the bunch. He covered “Closing Time” and “Who by Fire”. Gregory Hoskins was very intense! His version of “Treaty” was particularly striking.
“Hallelujah” wasn’t on the program, but was performed as the encore, by Page and Hoskins.
I quite enjoyed the whole evening. Jean, as less of a Cohen fan, struggled with the first half but ended up enjoying the second.
(And both performances featured a pretty good amount of masking in the audience. In the case of the symphony, even the musicians were masked—except the singers and wind instrument players, of course.)
The weather gods were smiling on us during our recent trip to Montréal, Québec, which made for a very pleasant five days and four nights (October 2 to 6, 2022). Though we’ve visited many times, we still found new things to do, along with revisiting favourites.
I’ve learned how to do anchor links in WordPress, in case you want to jump to a particular part…
Covid precautions: Got my bivalent vaccine 10 days before leaving, which also happened to be six months since my fourth dose, so that worked out well. Also purchased 3M Aura masks, Enovid anti-viral nasal spray, Salinex Protect nasal spray, and a portable charger.
Don’t go looking for Take one of this post; it’s hanging out in my Drafts folder. Big long post, as yet unfinished, having trouble getting to any point.
Sometimes it seems better to just start again. I think this is what I was trying to say.
There is good news on the Covid front
Mainly, the vaccines are great. In Canada, most of the population has had at least two doses. And yes, people previously infected (a majority of the Canadian population by now) have gained some protection against reinfection, for some period of time.
Also, there are some better treatment options now (Paxlovid). This combination of factors has protected many people against hospitalization or death from infection.
But by some key measures, the Covid situation has never been worse
More Canadians are dying of Covid now than ever. 2022 has already surpassed 2021 in number of deaths, and is well on its way to surpassing 2020’s total.
Covid is the third leading cause of death of Canada. It is five times more deadly than the flu.
Many of the dying pass through hospitals first, contributing the unprecedented level of crisis, with emergency rooms repeatedly closing across Ontario for the first the time in history, and serious problems in other provinces as well. While Covid is not the only reason—understaffing, low pay, structural flaws, etc. are others—it’s a really significant contributor.
Remember why we did all that social distancing in 2020 and 2021? The main reasons? It was to save lives and to preserve hospital capacity. All our efforts are being undone now.
This is happening because the government went too far in removing restrictions
I’m not saying we need a return to the full social distancing of those years. Policies such as business closures, remote schooling, social gathering limits, and travel restrictions had very clear downsides, and given the good news I started with, can defensively be added.
But getting rid of mask mandates almost everywhere; essentially stopping meaningful vaccination efforts after teens and adult Canadians had two doses, and before children had any; and changing the isolation requirements such that the infectious are definitely out amongst us—the damages of all that on society outweigh the minimal individual benefits.
Why are they doing this?
Because it benefits them politically. I’m not going to pretend to know exactly why they think it’s a political winner, but they clearly do.
Being beneficial to a political party’s election prospects doesn’t make it good or wise policy. Doesn’t mean it benefits you personally or the province generally. Doesn’t mean it’s in our collective best interest, long term.
Why should I care, I’m young and vaccinated
The young and the vaccinated are indeed unlikely to be hospitalized with or die of Covid. But Covid spreading so widely is still a problem for that group (which includes me—at least, in the vaccinated part of that category).
Being sick sucks
Those people who dismiss it as the flu—the flu is terrible, what are you talking about. When I had the flu as a very healthy 21 year old, I literally couldn’t get out of bed, I was so sick. I had to call for help!
And I realize some people truly have a very mild acute Covid case, but most people, at least for a couple days, feel pretty damn awful. And some people it’s more than a couple days.
And even if it’s the sniffles… The sniffles also kind of suck! Sore throats aren’t great!
And you can catch Covid again. It’s not a “one and done” disease.
You might need a hospital for some other issue
Our whole healthcare system is built around hospitals. (Probably it shouldn’t be, but it is, and changing that won’t be fast or easy.) And just because you’re unlikely to need it for a Covid infection, doesn’t mean you or yours won’t need it for something else—an accident, a serious infection, a troubling test result, intractable pain, an overdose… And then it’s going to be big freakin’ problem for you personally that you can’t the care you need in the time you need it, in part because of all the Covid patients in there.
It’s affecting other services
While, again, it’s not the only cause, Covid is a definite contributor the flight delays and cancellations that have been the ban of travelers; to supply chain shortages; to labour shortages; and to other cancelled events (most recently for me, a play at Stratford).
Long-term, Covid might still bite you in the ass (metaphorically)
There’s that Long Covid risk, for one. Yes, vaccination does seem to reduce the risk, thankfully, but not to zero! Not even always that low a risk, depending which study you look at. And there’s no good treatment for it yet. Sometimes people recover, and sometimes they don’t.
And then there’s that whole cornucopia of unpleasant diseases you’re at higher risk of in the year following an infection, “even mild”:
Heart disease and stroke (the number 1 cause of death in Canada, so Covid is “contributing” in this way as well!)
Shingles (though there is a good vaccine for this one!)
Immune dysfunction (leaving you at higher risk of catching, among other things,colds, flus, and Covid again)
But what can we do, Omicron is so catchy
You can keep everything open at full capacity while also making indoor spaces safer from infection. We know exactly how to do so. You follow a plan such as this Equity Schools Policy Plan, whose advice would work for pretty much any public space. The key points:
Plan for mask mandates at the start of surges
Improve ventilation and filtration
Support isolation when infectious
How do we make any of that happen?
Well, that’s a bloody good question, isn’t it? Because government sure doesn’t want to do it!
I’d certainly like to try to do something, as that seems more productive than merely fretting or raging.
Contact politicians / public health officials
Personally, for me, writing letters to or phoning government officials is not terribly satisfying, as it feels like screaming into the void. However, they apparently do at least somewhat keep track of what calls / emails / letters they get on what subject, so it’s good if some people express disapproval about the current path.
File a human rights complaint
This group of Ontario Physicians, Nurses, Scientists, and Education Professionals has written this amazing letter, urgently requesting an inquiry into the human rights violations represented by the current policies (discrimination on the basis of age, disability, family status, and sex): https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ceci-kYmOLz19LZHdNCLijnP4Ux4WxRb/view (PDF)
These people have particular clout (and deep research at hand), but anyone can file an Ontario Human Rights complaint.
Support (or launch?) legal challenges
Threat of legal action has caused the Ontario government to act on vaccination (opening up fourth doses, making the vaccine available to children under 5). This parent’s group is raising money to legally challenge the Ontario government’s lack of Covid protections in schools: https://gofund.me/e0a4840d
Do you have a case, or can you support others who do?
Stay home when sick if you can
Our society needs to get past this idea that it’s heroic to work, and that it’s any kind of acceptable to go out in public with an infectious disease. If you are privileged enough to have sick days, to be able to work from home, please do isolate if you feel unwell.
And if it turns out to be Covid, please stay isolated until you test negative on a rapid test.
But an awful lot of people just can’t do that. And now public health has told those people they can head right back to work 24 hours after they start to feel better, no matter that they’ll likely be infectious for many days yet.
Canada needs paid sick days, like other civilized countries have. Consider voting for political parties that support workers, maybe?
With apologies to people who work in these areas (except that this might protect their health), I do think masking should have stayed in place on transit, in schools, in grocery stores, and in pharmacies—in essential spaces, in other words. And I think they need to stay in place forever in hospitals, long-term care homes, and for other medical services.
I don’t know how to make that happen. I’m not about to organize a pro-mask rally.
I’ll do what I can to support mask mandates wherever I can. Currently, a few universities are among the few institutions willing to have them. So instead of giving a donation to Waterloo U, my alumni that doesn’t have a mask mandate, I think I’ll give it to Wilfrid Laurier, the local university that does. And I’m going to tell them both of them why.
And, I’ll keep wearing a mask myself in public indoor spaces. Yes, it’s mainly to protect myself. But I also know that a huge reason most people don’t mask is simply that most people don’t mask.
That is, nobody (or not very many people) wants to be the one weirdo in the mask. An unmasked person surprised to walk into a sea of masked faces might very well put one on themselves (if offered). Someone feeling a bit nervous about their risk of infection but not wanting to stand out alone might then feel the courage to put one on.
Maybe because they feel a solidarity.
Maybe because they think I’m walking around with an active Covid infection, per latest public health guidelines.
You deserve clean indoor air
No, we cannot quickly, widely, and cheaply improve public building’s ventilation and filtration systems such that indoor spaces are nearly as safe as being outdoors.
But most indoor spaces can be improved to some degree by measures that are pretty quick and cheap—opening windows, moving furniture to improve air flow, setting HVAC fans to run continuously, using better furnace filters, adding HEPA filters or Corsi-Rosenthal boxes… That sort of thing. Which can be built on with time.
And any improvement has the potential to reduce the number of people in that space that get infected. Furthermore, improving ventilation and filtration:
Requires no individual action—no masking, no hand washing, no distancing (although layering on these things remains helpful to the individual!)
Benefits health in other ways—improved cognition, allergy control, headache reduction, energy levels…
Is a good investment into the future, a building improvement that remains helpful beyond the purpose of suppressing Covid.
This feels like one of the most positive things that can be done.
I bought a CO2 monitor a while ago, as it’s a useful proxy as to whether an indoor space is well-ventilated or not. But having found out, I really wanted the ability to share the information. And I craved a way to find out without going somewhere first myself, only to be sitting there for hours knowing it’s terrible (which has happened).
While it’s a hot, sticky day today again, there are hints of autumn on the way in the cooler nights, the changing leaf colours here and there, the shorter days. And while some outdoor activities hold an appeal in winter, not quite as many, and not for as long.
So we tried to rack up a few more outdoor events in the later part of August. And by “events”, I mostly mean eating and drinking outdoors. But with some travel and pretty locations involved.
American Express “Front of the Line” offer: Elvis Costello and The Imposters, live at Massey Hall in Toronto in August. Sure, why not get tickets to that? Massey Hall is a great little theatre. And surely everything will be fine by summer.
Tickets now on sale for & Juliet…
Created by the Emmy®-winning writer from “Schitt’s Creek,” this hilarious new musical flips the script on the greatest love story ever told. & Juliet asks: what would happen next if Juliet didn’t end it all over Romeo? Get whisked away on a fabulous journey as she ditches her famous ending for a fresh beginning and a second chance at life and love—her way.
Juliet’s new story bursts to life through a playlist of pop anthems as iconic as her name, including Since U Been Gone‚ Roar, Baby One More Time, Larger Than Life‚ That’s The Way It Is, and Can’t Stop the Feeling—all from the genius songwriter/producer behind more #1 hits than any other artist this century. Break free of the balcony scene and get into this romantic comedy that proves there’s life after Romeo. The only thing tragic would be missing it.
Well, that sounds fun. And hey look, it’s playing in August. We’re going to be in Toronto anyway. Why not get tickets for this the day before the Elvis Costello concert?
“What are we going to do with this?” Jean asked, about the Corsi-Rosenthal box that he’d agreed to build, to humor me. And which had turned out much larger than we’d expected.
Literally four MERV-13 furnace filter duct-taped to a floor fan, a Corsi-Rosenthal box is a kind of homemade HEPA filter. Viruses and other nasties get trapped in the filters, and the fan blows out clean air. Thus replacing bad room air with cleaner air.
I mumbled something about it being useful when we had people over, but had to concede we don’t really have much by way of visitors these days.
“It could also be useful if we ever have to isolate from one another,” I mumbled.
One week later
“Where did you put that Corsi-Paranoid box?” Jean asked, using his “affectionate” nickname for it.
“In the closet,” I said. “Why?”
“We might want to run it for a bit…”
We had a plan (of sorts) that we executed. Jean got the upstairs rooms, running the C-R box. I got the downstairs. Main floor was the masking zone. Windows open. Doors closed. Cats rather confused.
His symptoms started two days after exposure, and were confirmed by rapid test after three. Thanks to four vaccine doses, the worst of it was two days spent in bed, feeling achy and exhausted, and the only lingering symptom a bit of cough. With ongoing positive tests, though, the isolation had to continue quite a few days after he was on the road to recovery.
One week later (August 2021)
Jean gets a call from his sister, reporting that she’s not sure how much more time his mother has. (She had a stroke in February.) He reconsiders his plan to wait until Labour Day before visiting her again.
We’re both tired of the in-house Covid protocols, but having stuck with them this long, it seems important to continue. It would just suck to get infected at the very end, after making so much this effort to avoid it for so many days.
One week later
Finally his test is negative. I have never developed symptoms, and the tests I subsequently take are negative as well. Jean thinks he should visit his Mom.
I had a nice visit with Jean’s Mom in June. (Jean was there too, to be clear!) He’s OK with me not travelling with him this time. I’m OK with doing my Toronto activities with my sisters instead of with him. Brief first hug in two weeks, then we’re each off to different parts of Ontario.
Elvis & Juliet
I’m not one to drive myself to Toronto, so I have to research what transit options have survived the pandemic. It’s pretty sad, people! Via Rail has only a single train running on Sundays, and it won’t get me there in time. Go Bus is a possibility (Go Train does not run on Sundays, why would anyone want to go to Toronto on a weekend), though it’s a convoluted route. Then I find: Flixbus! It’s cheap, the stop is nearby and reachable by local transit, and it’s a direct route to Toronto that gets me there in time.
It’s the first time I have taken transit since early 2020. Except for a bit of trouble finding the actual Flixbus stop, everything went well. Local bus to Ion to and Flixbus, all stops were close to one another (and to my house)., and all were on time. And no big traffic tie-ups on the way to Toronto, either… We actually arrived early.
Despite the heat warning that is to persist all weekend, I do the half-hour walk to my hotel. So many people on the streets! So many people in the hotel lobby! It’s all a bit mind-bendy after two weeks of studiously avoiding everyone, even my husband.
The hotel room is fairly uninspiring, despite its high cost (cheapest decent hotel we could find; Toronto is not a cheap city normally, and it’s still not quite “normal” times), and slightly high in CO2. Can’t do anything about the price, but I am able to quickly improve the CO2 reading by opening the patio door for a bit, letting in all the steamy, humid air!
But then I have to be off. Juliet, and my sister, await.
I grab some lunch on the way. We mwet up at the Princess of Wales theatre (six air exchanges per hour, MERV14 filters, yes I asked). I soon forgot about all that, though, because we have excellent orchestra seats, and the show is so freakin’ fun!
It’s all music by producer / writer Max Martin, so that means songs by Britney and Katie and Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi and Kelly Clarkson and even Adam Lambert...! Between that, and the Shakespearean premise, and the themes of girl power, and being your authentic self, and… I don’t know, I was just so entertained. I would see this musical again in a heartbeat.
Then it’s a nice family dinner with my sister, then a call with Jean back at the hotel. His trip is less entertaining than mine, but between naps (hers), his Mom is happy to see him.
After my hotel patio breakfast, with pigeon companion, I had planned to go to the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). But I checked first, and learned that it’s only open on holiday Mondays, not regular Mondays like this one. It’s another steamy day. I decide to just amble up to the Yorkville area, and take in some of its nice shops, plentiful park seating, cafes, and gelato shops.
Meanwhile, my other sister and I are emailing, trying to figure out dinner plans. Rain was threatening later in the day. I came across a list of covered patios, and found that one was near Massey Hall: the Rabbit Hole, and make a reservation there.
Sis and I meet at the hotel, and walk over. I “convince” her that we want to sit outside, despite the steamy heat. After some water, and sitting, it’s not so bad. And hey, we’re in time for “happy hour” $5 glasses of wine! We both settle on fish dishes: mackerel for me, salmon for me. They are really good! And are their nice, light desserts: the lemon posset, and the strawberry rhubarb trifle.
Then over to Massey Hall for Elvis Costello and the Imposters, with special guest Nick Lowe. Rather good seats for this show as well! (And I’ve finally stopped thinking about air exchanges—mostly.) And it all starts quite promptly.
Though I’m not as familiar with Nick Lowe and his oeuvre, he and his band (who did a few familiar instrumentals) were very good. And he did conclude with “Cruel to Be Kind”!
And Elvis Costello was just fab, and far more chatty than he had been when I’d last seen him live, many moons ago. He praised Nick Lowe, reminisced about previous trips to Toronto, mentioned the El Mocambo, talked about his musician father… And he played plenty of old favorites along with some from the new album and few others he just felt like including (Set list). His voice was still good, his band terrific, and his stage presence compelling.
Tuesday I was on the early Flixbus back to Waterloo. And I had it all to myself! (Except the driver. Which is good, because I can’t drive a bus.)
Two days later
Jean back, me still testing negative, we go out with a couple friends to the local Babylon Sisters Wine Bar. It was great to meet with them, and we were very impressed with the venue, both with the interesting wine selections (very flexible on how you can make up a wine flight), and the delicious food (supplied by Little Mushroom Catering).