Where are we going again?
Welcome to The Handbasket - Where are we going again?

Barnacle Bill 1 comment

Dear Older White Guy,

I was having such a lovely weekend. Truly. Granted it was the first time in ages that I’d been around that many white people for several days in a row. Sure, it was heteronormative, as far as I could tell, but at least “not hostile” to queer folk.  Well-meaning and good-hearted, as far as I could tell.

You were a real gem. Kind, vulnerable. Funny, willing to put yourself out there and be teased. Respectful, as far as I could tell.

Then, in the final few hours of the event, you had to go and make that racist joke, for no reason, out of the blue.

I felt my heart stop and my face freeze. Really … did I just hear that?

I did. You didn’t get the reaction you were looking for from the people around you and you went further.  I took some comfort that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t laugh and conversation picked up elsewhere.

There is a moment in Marilyn French’s book, The Women’s Room, in which Mira’s “perfect” male partner, Ben, simply assumes that Mira will drop her career and the rest of her life because he has been asked to move to Africa as part of a job advancement. After months of “seeing” Mira as a whole person, his male privilege – so ingrained – simply erases her as an individual and she becomes his appendage. With one sentence.

You “Ben’d” me. You bend me. You bent me.

Heaven knows, I’m not perfect. I’m not proud of the amount of white-classist-racist-privileged-gendered-homophobic crap that has come out of my mouth over the years.  I’m trying to pay attention and I know I’ve done a lot of work. But you … you had no idea what had gone wrong in our budding friendship.

I failed in my personal mission of calling people directly on their crap.  In that moment, I didn’t want to be the strident judgey person who polices everyone’s remarks. It was such a nice weekend, after all. Strident is a word we only use for women, so I should say I didn’t want to be that strident bitch who polices conversation. So I police myself.  I withdrew and stopped investing in connecting with you.  I made a choice to not ruin the overwhelmingly positive energy of  the weekend. For you and for others, that is. Your remark had already slapped a barnacle on it for me. I spent the next several hours trying to picture how to draw you aside and explain what had happened without making the weekend’s good vibes completely dissipate. I’m supposedly good at communicating but I couldn’t figure this one out. And it is still bothering me.

I’m glad you had a great, amazing weekend with no barnacles. I had a really good weekend with some really amazing parts and a serious barnacle that won’t let go.

Putting The Blanket Away 1 comment

I was doing a bit of spring cleaning over the weekend, pulling everything out of a closet. At the bottom of a pile of random “stuff” was Freddie’s electric blanket. In the last year or so of her life, I had put this electric blanket on “low” under her bed and she seemed to appreciate it. After she died, I quickly tossed or donated most of her things except one shirt, one little blanket and this electric blanket.

(RIP Freddie, co-pilot and canine companion for 18 years, 7 months. October 2, 1997 to May 26, 2016.)

It was filthy, I remember thinking at the time, and I didn’t have the ability to figure out how to wash or clean an electric blanket. It seemed a near impossible task to me, figuring out how to clean this polar fleece fabric with wires in it. Like being asked to do some complex calculations in my head. I’ll deal with it later, I thought, and I tossed it into the bottom of a closet. Out of sight, out of mind.

So it has sat at the bottom of this particular closet for nigh on two years. As I pulled it out, I noticed the care label, quite clearly displayed, on the “down” side of the blanket. “Machine wash … dry on low”.

Oh. Not that hard, then. It is all clean now, folded and put away properly in the linen cupboard.

What I couldn’t face, I think, was the cessation of what had become a beloved routine. Freddie needed to go outdoors first thing for her business and I would carry her in my arms and set her down gently on the grass or snow. I’d move the electric blanket, a moisture pad (which was just a precaution between her and the electric blanket), and her bed from the bedroom to her spot by the computer. I’d go back out to see if she was ready to come in. She wasn’t capable of getting very far but she was usually enjoying having a sniff around the grass or snow. She might even bark at some smell or some perceived “thing to be barked at”. Maybe my neighbour Jim would come over and pat her as he adored her, too.  I’d come in and I’d get her breakfast ready. Eventually, I’d tuck her into her spot in her bed by the computer and my day could begin.

She went out for outdoor visits several times during the day. Bedtime would come and the routine would run in reverse, with the blanket/moisture pad/bed moving back to the bedroom.

Caring for this elderly creature felt like a sacred duty and it made me oddly happy and serene. It bears mentioning that my relationship of seven years had officially ended Labour Day 2015, after dragging on painfully for too many years. Caring for Freddie was, for me, a nurturing that fed my wounded soul.

Big Dee arrived in my life in late Fall 2015 and, to be honest, he couldn’t figure out why I was keeping this smelly senior around. I think it wounded his pride to know he was, as dog hierarchy goes, inferior to this old girl. In truth, I think it was not a bad idea for him to learn his place. In his mind, I’m sure, he was hoping she’d head off on a long walk into the woods one day and he’d have me all to himself.

I always thought I’d wake up one day and find that she had died in her sleep. That is not what happened. That last weekend, the long weekend in May 2016, she slipped several notches in function, becoming disoriented, seemingly blind, confused. She was no longer herself. It was time, and I had to make that dreaded decision pet owners (owners? parents? stewards? companions?) have to make. It was hard. It was necessary. And I had to be pushed a bit to get it done.

My desk area has changed and a bookcase now stands where her bed was. A night stand has now filled in the spot in the bedroom that used to be hers. Sally has joined the crew now … life moves on. I think the electric blanket was the last piece of unfinished business remaining from that time.  I’ve put it away now. But that won’t stop me from glancing over occasionally, as I’m sitting here at the computer, and remembering her little face looking up at me, wondering if it is time to go out yet.

Bud Nipping 2 comments

I spent New Year’s weekend with dear friends in Ottawa. For the first time ever, I left my vacation rental, the upper floor of my house, in the hands of complete strangers.

What could go wrong? (She asked with trepidation.)

In fact, some things did go wrong but not nearly as wrong as they could have. There was no significant damage, a few small items went missing, and the cleaning of the unit wasn’t up to a “rentable” standard. Renters are asked to return the unit to the state in which they found it. A few rules were broken (i.e. no fireworks) and they left behind a HUGE amount of garbage. At least most of it was in bags.

After a few emails back and forth, I settled on returning only half their deposit money and using the balance to hire my local and reliable cleaners to put the place to rights. This is, in fact, the purpose of the deposit system.

Here are some takeaways I’ve arrived at from this episode.

a) Emotional response: I just couldn’t confront the relatively minor mess inside, and the bigger mess on the deck. I felt affronted that people wouldn’t read the departure checklist and take an hour to do some simple things like strip the beds and run the vacuum around. I managed to get the deck in shape myself, after animals had investigated the three bags of food garbage left out there. But without help, I simply wouldn’t have gotten to the inside clean-up. It wasn’t a time thing or an “I’m too good to clean” thing. I was offended.

Some of my renters, the ones who are crossing over into friend turf now, asked me over beverages at the firepit last summer if I felt “invaded” by people in my space. I really don’t. It actually pleases me to hear laughter and conversation upstairs, and to see people at the waterfront enjoying themselves. The vast majority of people have been pleasant, respectful and really great to have around. The rental unit itself no longer feels like “my space”.

But, clearly, I feel like I’ve been kicked when I inspect afterwards and find myself underwhelmed with the care taken of the space after I’ve carefully prepared it for the comfort and ease of the guests.

b) It wouldn’t have mattered if I was home. The only thing I might have been able to catch if I were home would have been the fireworks going off. Unless I’m specifically asked, I don’t inspect the place with the renters standing there. On one or two occasions, some groups have asked me to complete the inspection so they could be assured that they would be getting their deposit back. Fair enough. But if I’d been home, I don’t think the outcome of this rental episode would have been materially different.

c) Don’t go there. My reliable cleaners, bless them, are good people who have not much experience beyond the local area. They asked me after cleaning if the renters had been “foreign”. Not thinking, I said yes, and named the country of origin of this rental group. This caused one of the cleaners to launch into a monologue about people from elsewhere.

The speed with which this exchange went from friendly chat to political diatribe was mind-boggling and I stupidly didn’t see it coming. At least I was quick enough to nip the monologue in the bud to point out that the origin of the rental group was not the problem. Maturity, adherence to rules, possibly lack of on-site supervision (they could get away with it), and just plain ol’ “did your mother let you leave your room like that?” … and don’t tell me that there are not home-grown Canadian travellers who have trashed hotel rooms, pensions, and bed/breakfast rooms. Bollocks.

This is the stuff we’ve got to nip in the bud – the finger-pointing and blaming anything we don’t like about a person’s behaviour on that person’s “otherness”. This always defies logic. Hearing it and confronting it is more important now than ever before. Please, if you are reading this, join me in not letting this stuff fester in our conversations because this is how such monochromatic beliefs are formed and reinforced.

Don’t let them get away with it.

Birthday Girl Click Here To Comment!

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, would have been my Mom’s 93rd birthday. As with most Christmas Eves, I spent it with her in mind. I have created a new tradition in which I float a candle down the river on a paper boat on Christmas Eve, in her honour. However, this year, there is 18 inches of thick wet slippery snow on the docks, plus a few layers of ice, and I suspect that Mom would understand me not wanting to join her in the Great Beyond just yet. So I skipped that part.

Instead, I baked. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, date squares and orange coconut chews. I love it when my kitchen smells like my Mom’s kitchen.

One of the bits of math I do from time to time is to consider my current age (53) against what my Mom would have been doing at the same age. When my Mom was 53, I was 13. Yikes. I can’t imagine having a 13 year old, two adult sons, and a full household to run. I don’t know how she did it.  My life is pretty sloth-like compared to hers.

I miss her every day. Her funny wisdom, practicality, and child-like wonder at all the new things the world was churning out.  The endless cribbage games and cups of tea and coffee. I hope she has found some decent euchre players in heaven.

Nesting 2 comments

Usually, when moving to a new place, there is the excitement of setting up one’s living space as suits. Unpacking, finding new homes for treasured things. The wonderful feeling of getting settled.

That didn’t happen in the move up here, October 2011. The whole thing was rushed, complex, fraught with last minute disasters. The first morning, I recall, was really sweet as we had friends helping and I made a huge breakfast and, for a little while, I managed to get my hands on that feeling of adventure and fun, setting up a new home with my partner and kids.

I never really nested, though. That settledness didn’t ever happen properly. Things were never in their right places. Everything felt off, like a chair you really want to sink into, that looks so comfortable, but it just won’t let you.

Rooms kept getting re-arranged. Boxes became like furniture – still packed – and just sitting there.

Much of the last year then, the fun of it, has been the nesting. Every week, sometimes every day, sees some new minor improvement that advances the settling cog one or two notches further.  Today I had a couple of nice local teens, looking for Christmas money, help me for a couple of hours. As a result, just today, I have a linen cupboard placed where I can use it, my spice rack (lo these five years not installed after I paid a mint to have it custom made for my condo) finally installed where it belongs, and a basement that looks … amazing!

basement spicerack

I’m busy creating a workshop in the garage so I can really get going on the nesting. So many fun projects on my list. To reclaim the garage, I’ve had a structure built to house firewood and, when fully finished, to be a tool shed. This will keep firewood and largwoodshede implements out of the garage so I can start to settle there, too.

I have other things I probably should be doing. But the force to reclaim this space is strong in this one, so to speak. I feel like I can’t start my “next big thing” until I’m done this series of smaller things.

 

Winter Transplant 1 comment

Cue, huge intake of breath … and … WHOOSH!

*cough*

That was me, blowing the dust off this blog. It has been a while.

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Confession: I love winter.

supermoon

Supermoon over Coby

I love the crispness of the air, the freshness that new snow lends every vista. I love having a vista, of sorts.

I love the challenge: staying warm, balancing system heat with wood heat, the work of shovelling, snow-blowing, stacking, sweeping. God help me, I even like winter driving. That is to say, I’m not put off by it. Bring it on.  A “supermoon” hung over the east sky a few nights ago, as I was piecing my way through a few squalls to get home. Like a huge bauble, dangling just above the horizon.  Gorgeous.

I love the coziness of a fire when the temperature is plunging outside, the sound of a hockey game on the tv as I go about other tasks. The happy riot at the birdfeeders when I’ve just re-filled them.

The eagerness on Big Dee’s face when he can see me going through the steps of getting ready to go outside: boots, scarf, coat, hat, go back inside for something (my phone), come back to the door, go back inside again for something else (treats), open the door, close it again, grab my mitts, open the door, close it again, go back inside for something (coffee) … eventually, we get outside. He has learned patience.

Up here, the silence is extraordinary. I’m not really one to judge, given that my world seems to get more silent, or muffled, every day. Maybe silence isn’t really the word – stillness.

This is my second winter up here on my own, and it certainly came on quickly.  I thought I would have a bit longer to wrap up my outdoor projects … but, no … the shed isn’t finished and the raised beds still stand. Oi.

The plan, for those who are still following along, was not for me to be here on my own. Yet, here I am. It has, in fact, worked out. I want to say something about the journey up here as part of a couple in 2011, the rapid deterioration, the frantic yet dismal attempts at repair, the denouement late summer of 2015. But … what to say? It did NOT work out.  Anger, hurt, blaming – all the old standards.  I did not blow the dust off the blog to re-visit the minutia of the hash we both made of it.

The fact of my life at the moment is that each season up here is a gift. I wouldn’t have moved up here, independently. It doesn’t make a ton of logistical or financial sense. I had to be given the context to step back into a non-urban life. The fact that the context evaporated pretty quickly left me with a choice:  stay by the river or return to the city. Every cell of my being said, unhesitatingly, “stay”.  So I am grateful for the context, if you will, dragging me up the road and depositing me by the river.

The first four seasons on my own were, quite possibly, the happiest I’ve been for so many years. The absence of tension was palpable. I’d come home from the city and just stand on the landing between the kitchen and the living room, looking out over the deck, and marvel at the opportunity I have to re-invent myself. Re-plant, perhaps. A transplant, happy to find herself in a place that restores and nourishes.

My Faint, Fragrant Hope Click Here To Comment!

My Facebook newsfeed is rife with posted articles on the recent escalation of conflict in Israel. There is a lot of commentary and passionate debate.

I am so NOT an expert on the issue or the history, although I consider myself somewhat well-read.  In a nutshell, the British (self-appointed rulers of the Galaxy and my ancestry of origin on my father’s side) thought it was a good idea to grant the land of Palestine to a highly oppressed, ostracized group (Jews) without sufficient provision for, or acknowledgement or, or discussion with, the then occupants of that land (Palestinians). If someone tried this on my street, there would be hell to pay.

(Oh, wait … the British did try this here … and First Nations peoples are still reeling from our thoughtless and arrogant mismanagement …)

Here are three of the most thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching, articles I’ve read so far:

Israelis and Palestinians have been attacking and killing each other, literally, for as long as I can remember, and I realize now, for at least 40 years before my memories started to form. I was an avid news watcher when growing up and I distinctly recall having some child-like narcissistic fantasy about being the mediator between Golda Meir and Yassar Arafat and being able to make them see that they didn’t need to kill each other’s children anymore. Everyone could be friends … all you need is love … or something similar. After all, how can some parts of the world be so consistently peaceful and other parts be so consistently violent? We should just share some of our Canadian peacenik-ness with the Middle East and all would be well.  Cue patchouli incense.

Fast forward 40+ years and, although I have long ditched the fantasy of being the wise and all-knowing mediator, the map, the patterns, the headlines … the basic gist of what is transpiring looks about the same now as it did then. I understand the complexities and chasms more, now, but the overarching specter of two ancient peoples bashing the hell out of each other looks startlingly similar to what it did on my parents’ fuzzy tv when the news came on.

The Middle East is very hot. There isn’t really enough drinkable water to go around. And many peoples hold that one piece of land is, sacredly and historically, “theirs”.

Until this last item is settled in some way that all parties can live with, literally, I doubt the map, patterns, or headlines will change significantly in the next 40 years.  There is no peace-nik sensibility strong enough to blur the scars, the hurt and the tragedy of that which continues to unfold.

For what small good it does, if you believe in such things as chaos theory, I’m going to light some incense tonight. In memory of all who have died, and in faint, fragrant hope that some solution is imminent.

Dachau 1 comment

The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site is set up to educate with as much clarity and sensitivity as possible while also IMG_2232memorializing the tragic brutality that this ground witnessed. There are multiple sculptures, plaques, monuments, etc. that commemorate the victims and the crimes perpetrated. Newer buildings are on site as memorials, sponsored by multiple faiths that had clergy/leaders/members in the camp, including obviously a Jewish representation but also Catholic, Protestant, and Russian Orthodox. One of the buildings is currently in use as a nunnery.

There is no minimizing, dodging or obfuscating the role of this camp, the first concentration camp, in setting the tone for other camps. Everything that was done elsewhere started here. Given all the things I saw as testament to the crimes and death that occurred … what is really a struggle for me is understanding how vast the network of camps and sub-camps was. We were shown a map of the territories held by Germany at the peak of the war and the map was filled with literally hundreds of locations where versions of this place, in smaller and larger scales, were located. We have heard only of a handful of the usual names – Auschwitz-Birchenau, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau. But there were literally hundreds of camps and sub-camps. I was aghast at the breadth and scope of barbarism undertaken across such a wide geographic area.

Grave to mark ashes of thousands of unknowns (Jewish Memorial)

Grave to mark ashes of thousands of unknowns (Jewish Memorial)

During my visit, it was (mostly) quiet.  People were respectful and clearly there to learn, to try to comprehend, to absorb. Entrance to the site is free. I’d estimate there were a few thousand people there while I was there, so it is well used. There are lots of trees around the exterior of the camp proper, and thus lots of birds singing. That seemed out of place, as if the birds should know better. It poured rain, on and off, and that seemed entirely in keeping with the mood. Our tour group had 15 high school kids from Indiana and it was interesting to watch them go from being “too cool for this” and sort of detached to being really quite sober. I overheard discussion of the use of this memorial site for school groups and it appears that schools from all over Europe and North America make stops here. That feels like a good thing, but it does make it a bit of a challenge for maintaining the appropriate decorum when pre-teens and teens are responding to what they see with humour or (feigned) apathy. I think Dachau has an impact on everyone who visits and I think it is important for as many young people from as many different backgrounds as possible to see it – and I also think that kids don’t always know what to do with their emotional responses “in the moment”.

The Original Pink Triangle

The Original Pink Triangle

It felt oddly synchronous to be looking at the actual original pink triangle symbol, as deployed to identify a homosexual “enemy of the state”, the day after World Pride had  wrapped up in my home city of Toronto. There is no more clear reason to justify the existence of an event like “World Pride” than standing in an original building at Dachau and looking an original wall chart of symbols used to identify people, one of which was a pink triangle. Interestingly, there is a committee of survivors that has a crucial role in determining the types of memorials that will be allowed. A memorial focusing on homosexuals is absent because, in the hierarchy / social structure of the camp at the time, homosexuals were at the bottom of the barrel along with known criminals and other “asocials”. The committee of survivors isn’t comfortable acknowledging the targeting of homosexuals by approving a memorial for this group. When I spoke to our guide about this privately, he suggested that people were waiting for the committee of survivors (which is quite small now) to hand over their legacy to perhaps a more current committee with a more current perspective.  I would have liked to have seen something there as an acknowledgement that gay people were one of the many groups identified as “enemies of the state” – and I also think this can wait until the time is right.  Homosexuals are identified within the part of the exhibit that describes all the targeted groups, and our situation is given as much detail and focus as most of the other groups.

I took only a handful of pictures. It didn’t seem … seemly.

Dachau is just outside of Munich and the typical journey one takes to get there is from the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in Munich. It is a short 10-15 minute ride. German citizens in Munich are extremely sensitive about people coming to visit to learn more about Nazis and about concentration camps. I knew about specific laws around giving an Nazi salute (even in jest, this will get you arrested) and I didn’t realize Mein Kampf was still a banned book. It was odd to be taking a tour with a group to specific sites relevant to WWII and to be scrutinized by the locals. They will listen and try to be sure the guide isn’t Munich-bashing or sensationalizing. Locals are also concerned with Neo-Nazis using specific sites as touchstones for their own purposes. As much as they don’t want their quite beautiful city associated with the rise of the Nazi party, as it happens, this is now a key part of the city’s past. Never mind that the PLO leveraged this association with the murders during the Olympics in 72, which adds another horrific piece to the global perception of Munich. I don’t want to suggest that Munich has had a bad rap – it is what it is – but it is a pleasant place, rich in layers of history beyond the 20th Century, walkable, reasonably friendly – I quite enjoyed it.

There are lots of very subtle, slightly subversive, commemorative elements in Munich. Many bullet holes and other types of damage have

Dodger's Alley

Dodger’s Alley

been left, on purpose, unrepaired, in the architecture, like reminders. Scars. You have to look for these, but they are there. A more deliberate, striking example is a metallic (gold? bronze?) shimmering trail down the cobblestones in an alleyway known as Dodger’s Alley. In the 30’s/40’s, citizens of Munich who walked by a specific Nazi plaque on the corner of one of the main squares had to give a Nazi salute or be arrested for not doing so. There were lots of people who didn’t want to give a Nazi salute. So, to avoid walking by that plaque, many would take a detour down Dodger’s Alley. Nazi authorities caught on to this and started policing the use of the alley, interrogating people found in the alley as to their purpose for being there. If no satisfactory purpose was offered, a person would be thrown immediately into Dachau. Just for taking a detour to avoid giving a salute. Even these people were “enemies of the state”. As to the metallic trail, there is no plaque or explanation. You need to just know, or be told, why it is there and what it signifies. Apparently, there are lots of these sorts of things all over the city, commemorations of resistance. I didn’t have time to go find more, unfortunately.

Four Heros You Need to Know About

Four Heros You Need to Know About

I will close by noting this plaque. It is almost hidden behind a door that leads from the gas chamber into the crematorium. (Please don’t imagine that I typed that sentence with any degree of casualness.) There is a railing in place, making it harder to get a straight on, close photo.  Since it is hard to read, I’ll type out what it says here. They gave their lives – the least I can do is try to get this right.

Here in Dachau on the 12th of September 1944
four young Woman Officers of the British Forces attached to Special Operations Executive
were brutally murdered and their bodies cremated. They died as gallantly as they had
served the Resistance in France during the common struggle for freedom from tyranny.

Mrs. YOLANDE E M BEEKMAN (née Unternahrer)
Croix de Guerre avec Étoile de Vermeil
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force seconded to Women’s Transport Service (F.A.N.Y.)

Miss MADELEINE DAMERMENT
Légion d’Honneur    Croix de Guerre avec Étoile de Vermeil
Women’s Transport Service (F.A.N.Y.)

Miss NOORUNISA INAYAT KHAN
George Cross Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire
Mentioned in Despatches Croix de Guerre avec Étoile de Vermeil
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force seconded to Women’s Transport Service (F.A.N.Y.)

Mrs ELIANE S PLEWMAN (née Browne-Bartoli)
Croix de Guerre avec Étoile de Vermeil
Women’s Transport Service (F.A.N.Y.)

“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall be no torment touch them”

Bravery, compassion and a complete and utter focus on their missions, to the exclusion of all else, including their own lives.  This was a surprise find towards the end of my visit to Dachau – but it shouldn’t have been. I feel like I should know these names and that I should know more about these stories.  Their world, a world in which their skills and dedication were needed at extreme cost, is not that far removed from our current time of social media, popular culture, ridiculous fads and trivial pursuits.

Do not forget.

Psst … True 3D History in Munich … pass it on … Click Here To Comment!

If you are a history nerd/buff and are visiting Munich, you must look up Taff Simon/Dark History Tours. I know of no other tour guide who carries centuries worth of props, artifacts, costumes and even a sword around with him to augment his story-telling. (What a work out that must be!)

I had some plans change at the last minute and found Taff by googling something like “what to do in Munich”. We had an email exchange and he wound up adding me to the end of his long day of group tours for a quick walk around downtown in the early evening. This was above and beyond, in my opinion, and I learned more in that short few hours than ever expected to. I peppered him with questions on such a wide range of historical eras – from ancient tribes in the area to WWII – and he fielded them all. Taff is a trained and experienced archaeologist and historian with a clear passion for all things historical.

They don't make them like this anymore.

They don’t make them like this anymore.

We stopped for a beer – everyone drinks beer in Munich – in the oldest pub in the city. These bricks were hand formed over 600 years ago – some of the finger impressions in the bricks are still visible.

I learned more new facts about the rise of National Socialism in Munich, including the early location of the Gestapo headquarters and the dining hall where Kristallnacht was likely planned and set in motion by all the leading Nazi figures of the time. Other tours take some of the standard approaches, and these are key too – the Beer Hall Putsch, the locations of early Nazi rallies, the struggle of today’s citizens of Munich to acknowledge their city’s dark role in the establishment of the roots of Nazism. Taff adds extra detail to flesh out these elements and make them come alive.

In one of the courtyards towards the end of our tour, he demonstrated what a medieval man of status would look like, pulling out costume items and accessories, all the while discussing the whys and wherefores of each item. The courtyard we were in has historical significance through many periods of time, including being used as a marketplace where men in his style of dress would have been present. It was engaging, fascinating and fun.

Taff is obviously a walking 3D History Channel and it is worth a detour to Munich, if you hadn’t planned to be there, just to hang out with him. If you are planning some time in Munich, you must look up Taff Simon and Dark History Tours. You will not regret it.

Oyster Stew Click Here To Comment!

Ad for Campbell's Frozen Oyster Stew, circa 1961

Ad for Campbell’s Frozen Oyster Stew, circa 1961

My Mom used to buy Campbell’s Frozen Oyster Stew for us to share at lunch. She didn’t do this often but it was a huge treat when she did. This buttery, creamy, slurpy soup with those funny rubbery fishy bits … I loved it.

This is really an odd sort of choice for my land-locked, Southern Ontario farming Mom. I wonder how she got “hooked” on this soup? Why not, if it is going to be a fishy stew, the more popular and known clam chowder?

Anyway –  I quickly learned to love it too, at a relatively young age. And I do crave it from time to time. It hasn’t been available for years, unfortunately, and I wouldn’t know the first thing about trying to make it from scratch. The only oysters I know of are expensive appetizers in upscale restaurants in Toronto. I suppose there are tinned oysters but I can’t imagine putting them in a soup.

I woke up with this soup on my mind and, alas, had none available. I did have granola, Greek yogurt and a fresh peach so I made do with that.

Granola, yogurt, peach and coffee. An oyster stew substitute?

Granola, yogurt, peach and coffee. An oyster stew substitute?

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