Friday, December 23, 2011

cheers to Tib's Eve

This is Toronto. Wanting to be New York? I don't know. Who cares. It's Christmas.

It's hectic and cheerful and bustling and magical. A time of giving and receiving. A time to rest, reflect and be overwhelmed.

Thank God for CBC radio.

This morning on CBC Radio 2 I learned about Tib's (Tibb's) Eve from Tom Power. Essentially, it's an excuse to go out and have a couple of drinks on the night before Christmas Eve. Who doesn't love Newfoundland?

Below are two (abridged) definitions of the phrase from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

tib's eve n. also tips* ~ and, by folk etym, tipsy eve OED tib sb 5 ~ dial (1785-1902), EDD tib(b)'s eve, JOYCE 342 for sense

1. A day that will never come; never.
'it will be Tibb's Eve before you get that done.' If the person asked, 'when is Tibb's Eve?' you would reply, 'Tibb's Eve is neither before Christmas nor after.' I don't care if he's there till Tibb's Eve, he won't get out of that room till he knows every word of his lesson.

2. A day or two before Christmas.
A period when 'anything goes.' It means, or meant once, a specified date, the day before Christmas Eve. Tipsy Eve, December 23rd. What a day! School is out. Christmas has begun... Though I'm only guessing, I've always assumed that the name Tipsy Eve originated from this custom of the men going from house to house on the afternoon of December 23rd to test or taste each other's brew.

I am in no way leaving out CBC Radio 1. Lots of faves there: Ghian, Anna Maria, Randy, Matt, Nora, even Rex. And some shows are repeated on both frequencies. To quote Kathleen Edwards, I love CBC radio one, but CBC radio two is where the party is at.

Tonight, Canada Live aired The McGarrigle Wainwright Christmas - A Not So Silent Night. It is both a Christmas celebration and a loving tribute to the life of Kate McGarrigle who, before she sadly, passed away in January 2010, devised a scheme simple yet effective. That her entire far-flung clan would gravitate back to Quebec for a Christmas dinner each year and hold an annual Christmas concert. She would have be pleased this year with 27 of her family and friends on stage at The Theatre Saint-Denis in Montreal. All proceeds went to The Kate McGarrigle Cancer Fund.

You might want to stop what you're doing and listen to it right now because it ends with the McGarrigles and the Wainwrights singing A Fairytale in New York.

If that doesn't say Merry Christmas, I'm not sure what will.

I am fortunate for many things. Too many to list here.

Living on a street that goes hog wild with lights is one of them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

happy fuming holidays

December 21, 2011

James Corkum
Operations Manager
Oxford Properties
20 Bay Street, Ground Floor
Toronto ON M5J 2N8

RE: smoking at entrances to 20 Bay Street

Dear James Corkum,

This letter, if you are not already aware, is to bring to your attention the fact that people regularly smoke cigarettes outside all entrances to 20 Bay Street. They smoke very near the sign pictured above. I would go so far as to bet five dollars there is someone standing there right now, the North entrance in particular, smoking.

On several occasions earlier this year, while parking and locking my bike near the North entrance, I took the opportunity to ask people if they were aware of the sign. I asked if they would mind moving, about 50 feet west, to the area designated for smokers that has benches and ashtrays and planters filled with mother-in-law’s-tongue.

A variety of responses followed.

“Oh sure, of course,” one woman said and headed toward the benches.

“No problem,” said another two men.

“Sure, sure, sorry,” said another.

“Yeah, I know,” said one woman, and continued to smoke and chat with her friend right next to the sign.

One man simply turned his back and pretended like he couldn’t hear me asking him a question. Behavior not unlike a four year old.

“Oh here,” said one guy who proceeded to take a step down onto the sidewalk, “How’s that?”
To which I replied, “Not very good”. He was maybe four metres away from the door, not nine. Nine meters North of the sign would put him in the middle of two lanes of Eastbound traffic on Harbour Street.

“Do you have a measuring tape?” another one asked. I told him I did and he told me to go get Security if it bothered me that much. I informed the woman at the Oxford Properties office on the main floor and she said that she would ask Security to go have a look.

Others told me that I should park my bike elsewhere, and one person simply shook their head, no, they were not interested in moving.

When I asked them why they didn’t use the smoking area provided, no one answered. I guess it was obvious. It didn’t need to be said.

The answer is that it’s easier to stand right beside the door rather than walk 50 feet.

My question to Oxford Properties is this: Why are you not enforcing the messaging on the sign, in red lettering, on every window next to each entrance of the building which clearly states: No smoking within nine meters of entrance?

The City of Toronto’s website in the Q&A section states:

Q: Are there smoking restrictions outside of buildings?
A: Smoking outside of buildings is not covered by the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, with the exception of buildings such as health care facilities, where smoking is prohibited within nine metres of entrances or exits.

20 Bay is not a health care facility. If the action is not being enforced, why is there a sign there at all?

As someone who works at 20 Bay Street, someone who enters and exits the building on a regular basis, I find these people who stand there and smoke, for the most part, to be offensive, self centered, egotistical, condescending, childish, unpleasant and rude. I really don’t care if they smoke. That is their choice. I care where they smoke. They get away with the disgusting and shameful behavior because they can.

I commute by bicycle for the majority of the year and am forced to breathe in second hand smoke while I park and lock my bike. I find this to be a violation of basic human decency. Common courtesy. Perhaps it is expecting too much for people to have manners, compassion, consideration and respect for each other.

A woman at the 20 Bay Oxford Properties office informed me that Security doesn’t have time to stand out there policing the entrances all day long.

So what else is to be done?

Paint a line on the ground indicating where nine metres ends? Try to embarrass the smokers in front of their peers? Start coughing loudly while pretending to have asthma? I tried that and a woman told me that the pollution I had just ridden through on my bike was worse than inhaling her second hand smoke. This comment is all things laughable, sad and wrong.

I used to smoke. I have close friends and family members who smoke. I get that it’s hard to quit. It was the hardest thing I have ever to do. What I don’t get it why the smokers outside 20 Bay Street assume they have the right to smoke anywhere they want.

This is not a lecture about quitting smoking. This is plea for respect.

To quote the late Christopher Hitchens, from his book God is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything "It [religious faith] will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other."

Much like religious vs. non-religious, I think the argument between smokers and non-smokers is destined to continue for quite some time.

I am not asking people to stop smoking. I am asking that people who choose to smoke do so in a place that does not directly affect those who choose not to smoke.

I want nothing more than to end this issue, this defense, this letter.

We don't always get what we want.

I would feel better if the signs were removed. At least then I wouldn’t have an argument. I could refrain from interacting with the thoughtless people who are in no way concerned about the health and well being of fellow citizens.

Instead, I have decided to make a documentary.

With such proximity to a subject as this, I am unable to pass up the opportunity. I am writer/producer/director who works in the media, marketing and communications industry. This letter appears on my blog.

I look forward to your participation in the project in the coming months.

Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday.


Lana Pesch

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

winter vow

Because my entry to the CBC Winter Tales contest didn't appear on yesterday's shortlist, it now appears below.

Winter Vow

The morning of Monday December 10th, 1990 the world wide web was in its testing phase, Peter Gzowski was smoking cigarettes while hosting Morningside and I made a vow never to spend another winter in Saskatchewan.

This is how it happened.

I woke in the dark, buried beneath my feather tick (a down quilt weighing about eight and a half pounds), to a voice (not Gzowski’s) on the radio that said, “The temperature is minus 30. Minus 47 with the wind chill.”

It was my second year as a theatre major at the University of Regina. I was paying $100 a month rent in an old Victorian house I shared with a three guys (two Dave’s and a Mike) who were friends of my older sister. Photos of Thailand and China and India hung on the walls — all places they had been. I was discovering bands like Moxy Früvous and Skinny Puppy and watching Twin Peaks and Kids in the Hall on TV.

Sunrise was at 8:48 a.m.

It was two weeks before Christmas and I should have been excited about the holidays. I should have been looking forward to going back to my hometown (an hour and a half Northeast of Regina) to eat perogies and cabbage rolls and pig out on my mom’s ginger snaps and scuffles (crescent shaped cinnamon cookies). I should have been relieved I didn’t have to wake up in the dark for a few weeks.

I should have been all of those things, but all I could think was, it’s minus 47 with the wind chill. I made coffee and packed some leftover pasta and a shriveled up apple for lunch.

It helps to dress in layers.

Under my black wool winter coat, purposely three sizes too big, I wore; a tank top, a turtle neck, a short sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a football (Saskatchewan Roughrider) jersey, long johns, jeans, and wool socks over top of thin cotton socks inside my hiking boots.

Anyone who knows the prairies, knows how the snow gets packed so tight it squeaks when you walk on it. It sounds like you are walking on Styrofoam.

You cannot think about summer.

At the car door I fumbled with my giant mitts until I finally pried the handle open. Luckily it didn’t break like last time. Luckily my skin hadn’t frozen, yet. I wanted to take a deep breath but, even inside the car, it was still minus 30.

I decided to hold my breath until spring.

While the engine warmed up, I listened to the radio. “A car stalled on Wascana Parkway is causing some delay. You’ll want to take things slow today paying extra attention to that black ice.” I put the car in reverse. Clunk. The tires had frozen solid. They were rubber cubes of ice.

Minus 47 with the wind chill.

The morning of Monday December 10th, 1990 I made a vow never to spend another winter in Saskatchewan.

And I never have.