Tag Archives: Ontario

Canada 150 – Coast to Boundless Coast

I know patriot comes loaded with whatever hero narrative your country or culture loves and/or hates. For me, it’s somewhat of a slander. It comes with the kind of fanaticism that tears apart populations and upholds borders for the sake of a population’s “purity”.

But I guess in some vague definitions, I am a patriot. Don’t hold it against me. It doesn’t singularly define me—it just happens that I enjoy the expanse of land within the boundaries which enclose my country.

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Inukshuk stands on guard for thee (Northwest Territories)

The entire planet is equally beautiful (obv).  But the way humans have overlapped a political net over the globe, access to that entire planet isn’t always easy and is definitely never free. But for me, within Canada, it’s far easier and accessible (besides airfare, which everyone knows is the country’s biggest scam).

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A little less accessible part of Canada (Alberta Rockies)

It took a calendar and some serious pencil-and-eraser sketching to help me realize that over the two months straddling Canada’s 150th anniversary (July 1), a series of happenstances and conveniences will give me the opportunity to take in five provinces.

It’s so Canadian, you may call it a simple plan (I channeled Steve Patterson for that pun) (I’m also sorry). Two months split amongst British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and (the one I’ve yet to visit) Newfoundland.

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Newfoundland Police File Photo (Credit TV Tropes)

The itinerary isn’t sequential, of course. It’s haphazard enough to keep the suspense tuned to exhilaration. I live and work in two of the provinces regularly, so there is some mediocrity within the timeframe, but I’m on the road enough I can consider any week a trip.

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I can see right through Alberta to Saskatchewan

Winter is the hardest and most unreliable time to get around Canada, so it always makes sense that summers crush in a lot of regional tourist time. If I had my way, I would criss-cross the country in those two months behind the wheel. What’s ¬18,000 km between friends?

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Land of living daydreams (Saskatchewan)

I don’t have my way, which is probably a good thing in this case. Whether I get to see it kilometer by kilometer or not, I still value the freedom I have to travel so vastly, so freely. I know many people do not have that freedom. Some people reading this may not be able to escape beyond what you can search on the internet.

And those traps come from so many different fall-outs of that political netting, and some come from the fall-out of being human. Some people can’t leave their bedrooms because of what is happening within their own skull. Some people can’t leave their home because otherwise they would step into an urban warzone.

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Why leave your bedroom if you had a view like this? (Vancouver Island, B.C.)

With all this talk about boundaries in the news, I can appreciate why so many people cherish boundaries. It is the most practical way to conduct international relations in such a diverse planet. More than that, without the boundaries of the body or the mind, life in its most general sense likely would not persist.

Although I agree with Alan Watt’s aphorism that “Nature is always undifferentiated unity, not unified differences”, humanity’s perception tends towards the latter easier than the former. And that is where boundaries become so potent in the political sense. There is such emotion, such fear, because even if your skin becomes breached, you could be dead.

But being able to travel so widely and so freely—to be able to take in so many different cultures under the guise of one flag—belittles the notion of nationalist protectionism, for me. Many regions or provinces within Canada, as many other countries, have threatened to rise up and succeed, and rightfully so in certain cases. In the end, squabbles are put aside because anyone who experiences the value in being able to rove a mari usque ad mare (from the sea to sea) eventually figures out that fence lines are technicalities more than realities.

 

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Moss covered stone fence on the Eradour Path (Scotland)

 

I think the Scottish have a good sense of this. From what locals proudly told me, tramping across the countryside is perfectly legit as long as you’re respectful.

Which is perfectly respectable. Contrary to popular American myth, there are not droves of gypsies strung out across fields and city parks, waiting to steal jobs or blow up buildings, whichever comes faster.

The nefarious aside, I think all of us strives to break boundaries. Yogi and mystic Sadhguru often speaks about humanity’s calling to break boundaries—and how that possibility can so often become a pitfall.

The mystic in me agrees with Sadhguru. I prefer the boundless. I say, drop all the political, cultural, and personal boundaries. Then we might have the proper perspective to construct and manage these limitations.

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I lay my head alongside your rocky spine

Anyway, I am just super-appreciative that I get to roam from the Atlantic to the Arctic to the Pacific seas. There are enough thresholds to cross already—time zones, jurisdictional boundaries, cultural regions, language barriers, climate zones. But at least there are no walls in my way.

I want to know: Do you have the opportunity to experience your region, country, continent, planet? Is it important for you to be able to move freely?

What I want to know even more: What boundaries do you enjoy breaking? What boundaries do you cherish?

Break the boundary of space & time and comment below!

 

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In Memoriam: Streetsville Jason (Ralph Faustino)

I live a long way away from Streetsville (Mississauga), Ontario now, and it has been some time since I wandered the streets like I used to. As much as that time and place shaped me, I have also moved on.

So it was strange when I was asked me about ‘Black Kramer’ yesterday. If I remembered him. Considering the inquirer never lived in Streetsville and had only ever visited twice—and had never seen Black Kramer herself—I was shocked that she remembered enough to alert me to the Facebook post she saw about the man who was widely identified as ‘Streetsville Jason’.

[Note: Née Ralph Faustino, I have a vague memory of someone telling me his name was Ralph and me thinking it was a joke because even now he doesn’t strike me as a Ralph—a.k.a. Black Kramer because of his tall, slim build and upright hair that I see has since become dreadlock’d. Out of respect, I will refer to him as Ralph going forward…]

Of course I remembered the man. And I had apparently painted a significant enough portrait in her mind that when she saw the post, she remembered too.

But Ralph was like that.

In my teenage years, the man was ubiquitous. At any given time, he could be found floating along Queen Street. He was like an electron—his exact position could never be known until he was observed, and even then, it would differ from one observer to the next. People would talk about encountering Ralph outside the Masonic Lodge the same night that other people would mention they saw him at the Second Cup on Main Street.

I don’t have many solid memories of conversations with Ralph, although some of that is attributable to my state of mind at the time. Like most people, I remember giving him change for a coffee, or cigarettes and a lighter. On at least one occasion, I smoked a joint with him.

[Note: It is irresponsible to share psychoactive drugs with a person suffering from a mental illness…I understand that almost a decade later, so please refrain from any lectures…]

And whenever I imagine the intersection of Queen Street and Thomas Street, the image in my mind is never vacant—it’s occupied by Ralph, in his long coat, shuffling along the sidewalk, maybe even mumbling a little to himself.

In a way, I feel a little guilty about his whole situation because as a teenager he was a novelty. He was an aloof, token ‘homeless’ guy who popped up like Rob Schneider in Adam Sandler movies.

But he obviously suffered from some sort of mental illness. As stoic as he may have appeared, I would guess he was not living in that group home on Thomas Street because he was living his full potential. There are rumors he was a professor, an author, and a father. But the man most of us knew or saw was a humble flâneur, sometimes lively, sometimes detached.

Those rumors of Ralph’s past life could be true—but even if they are not, Ralph was, in a way, a professor, an author, and a father. Just not in the traditional sense.

It is a bittersweet gesture to have so many people pitch-in to try to get a commemorative bench for Ralph. If the community had shown the same coordinated support when he was alive, who knows what turn his life could have taken.

But it is too easy to look back at what we should have done. I think anyone who encountered Ralph was humbled by him. I am sure there would have been the typical ignorant douchebags who made fun of him or gave him a hard time, but I think most of us treated him with the dignity and respect due to any human being. We did what little we could to help his day be a little better. Without knowing it, that made us a little better too.

If his manuscripts are ever found, and they are not already published, and it seems unlikely he will land a bigger publisher…I will happily fund the print & distribution of his work. If they are anything like Ralph himself, they probably have a lot to teach us about being decent human beings.