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WEEKENDER: Six things to do on the weekend of Sept. 11 & 12



Bang on the Ear play Friday night at Baconpalooza, held at the Food & Agriculture Museum

Pass the Mic Y’all
“If You can feel what I’m feeling then it’s a musical masterpiece/ If you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least/ What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk/ True feelings are shown from the way that I talk/ And this is me y’all, I M.C. y’all/ My name is M.C.A. and I still do what I please/ And now I’d like to introduce what’s up/ I’ll pass the mic to D. for a fist fill of truth” — Pass the Mic, Beastie Boys

Pass the Mic — it’s not just a dope track by the aforementioned Brooklyn trio, it’s also — fittingly — the name of House of PainT’s upcoming urban festival of arts and culture, taking place on Saturday, Sept. 12 at Brewer Park. Various MCs from noon until 11 p.m. will highlight the four elements that make up hip hop — DJing, graffiti art, urban dance, and MCing itself. During the event, there will be popping battles; crew vs. crew breakin battles; and live performances by SOCALLED, Flight Distance, Jazz Cartier, and more, including workshops and discussions on topics related to hip hop and urban culture. No cover before 5 p.m. More info, visit here.

Lansdowne Flea Market
From the organizer behind two of the largest vintage clothing shows in Canada — the Toronto Vintage Clothing Show and the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show — comes a not-for-profit, ‘curated’ market. What’s a curated market? It means some thought/selection has been put into which vendors attend and, likely, what’s presented. 613Flea will include crafts, but also antiques, artists, vintage clothing, and food, all produced by the city’s community of artisans, artists, designers, entertainers, and makers. Held inside Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion, Saturday, Sept. 12 will be the first of four such events this fall: the other three will take place on Sept. 19, Oct. 10, and 17 — with more events throughout the winter months. Opens at 10 a.m., runs until 4 p.m. More info, visit here.

… Need More Fleas?
Buy/sell records, hunt through clothes, check out used books, toys, games, handmade items, art and more at Punkottawa.com’s flea market on Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Bronson Centre from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission: by donation. More info, visit here.

MW-BU146_pfbaco_20140206144353_MGGo Hog Wild
Bacon ice cream; The Baconater — Wendy’s popular fatburger; and the Bacon Bowl: yep, a bowl made out of bacon strips. Quote: “Everything tastes better in a bacon bowl.” It sure does. With the advent of the bacon bowl, the possibilities are endless! Utensils? Plates? Why not a bacon ice cream cone? It’s clear that we’re a bacon nation — which is why we need a party to recognize this distinction. Introducing Baconpalooza: a celebration happening on Saturday, Sept. 12 at The Canada Food and Agriculture Museum. Food trucks, beer, cocktails, BBQ, smoking, and other related demonstrations, and live entertainment — from $20 day/$25 night. The VIP night takes place on Friday, Sept. 11 from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. and includes music by Bang on the Ear, cooking demos, cocktail demos, etc. — $50 tickets. More info, visit here.

Old Ottawa South Annual Porch Sale
Set the alarm for “early”, toss back a coffee, and head off to Old Ottawa South for their annual ‘porch’ sale. Lots of haggling, deals, and great finds to be had (I met my wife there! — no, she was not for sale). It starts (officially) at 8 a.m. and runs until about 3 p.m. There’ll be live music, face painting, and yummy fare at the Old Firehall (260 Sunnyside Ave.) from 11 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. More info, visit here.


Hidden in plain site — Anas Aremeyaw, Africa’s famed investigative reporter, who is the star of Ryan Mullins’ documentary, being shown as the preview for the upcoming One World Film Festival on Saturday

One World Film Festival
Though the One World Film Festival doesn’t officially happen until Sept. 24, the launch is this Saturday, Sept. 12 at ByTowne Cinema at 6:30 p.m. The launch is a chance to preview the Canadian and international documentaries being shown from Sept. 24 to 27, as well as to get a glimpse of upcoming panel discussions and workshops. At 7 p.m., award-winning Canadian director Ryan Mullins’ documentary Chameleon will be shown — a film that shines a light on one of Africa’s leading journalists, Anas Aremeyaw, who has investigated sex-trafficking disguised as a bar tender, uncovered deplorable conditions in Accra’s psychiatric hospital, and posed as a crown prince in order to bypass a rebel checkpoint. More on the film, here. One World Film Festival preview tickets are $10, available here. More info on the preview night or the festival, visit here.



ARTFUL BLOGGER: Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper


Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

Master Corporal Jody Mitic, who served three missions in Afghanistan with the Canadian Armed Forces, details his struggles in the aftermath of being wounded in his book Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper. Photo: Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada

Master Corporal Jody Mitic served three missions in Afghanistan with the Canadian Armed Forces. A renowned sniper, Mitic’s world changed forever Jan. 11, 2007 while on a sortie in Arghandab Valley when he stepped on an anti-personnel landmine the size of a hockey puck. The soldier lost both feet and lower portions of both legs. When he returned home the hard part began.

Back in Canada, Mitic experienced several operations and a lengthy rehabilitation. Because the military had little experience since the Second World War in dealing with catastrophic wounds suffered by soldiers, it often left Mitic more frustrated than assisted. Moreover, severe chronic pain resulted in an addiction to the powerful pain-killer Oxycontin — a habit he later kicked largely on his own.

He also lost his girlfriend. Later, he reconnected with Alannah Gilmore, a military medic who had treated him immediately after the landmine explosion. After that initial encounter, she disappeared from his life for many months, until the two met again at a bar in Petawawa. They are now a couple with two young daughters.

Mitic left the military last year and, a few months later, was elected city councilor for Ottawa’s Innes ward.

9781476795102The details of Mitic’s childhood, love of soldiering, life-altering injury – and his happy ending – are found in the newly published memoir, Unflinching: The Making of a Canadian Sniper, published by Simon and Schuster Canada.

Unflinching is a raw and sometimes brutal journey into the heart and life of a soldier who, as a boy growing up in Brampton, was told by his mother not to play with guns. Well, Jody didn’t listen to mom.

While still in high school, he joined the reserves and in 1997 became a full-time soldier, eventually specializing in being a sniper, picking off Taliban fighters from afar in rural Afghanistan.

The book is to be launched at 7 p.m., Sept. 10, at the Canadian War Museum. For tickets and information, phone 819-776-7000 or visit here.

Written in often salty, locker-room language, Unflinching details the hardships and highs, risks and rewards, of being a soldier. Anyone contemplating a military career would be wise to read this book to see what that life is really like.

For example, Mitic was almost booted from the forces early in his career. He had accompanied a buddy seeking to buy some crack. The two were immediately arrested. Mitic’s role in the affair was so minimal that the police never charged him. But the military made his life hell for months, constantly threatening to discharge him. Mitic persevered. Eventually he was forgiven and the blot on his record erased.

Even after his horrendous wounding, Mitic remained a dedicated soldier. He longed to go back to Afghanistan and work as a gunner on a helicopter. Mitic believed he could do that job with his new prosthetics and even received encouragement from the chief of the defence staff of the day, Gen. Walter Natynczyk. But military bureaucracy intervened, saying he had to pass tests that all combat soldiers face, showing he could, among other things, hike 13 kilometres carrying a heavy pack in less than 2.5 hours.

Mitic knew he could not pass that test. Instead, he took some military desk jobs in Canada and, in 2014, left the forces.

He is, at times in the book, very critical of the military for its unwillingness or inability to deal with his physical and psychological needs upon returning to Canada. After arriving from Afghanistan, en route to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, an officer confided: “Just so you know, we don’t have any idea what we’re doing.”

That captain’s statement was prophetic. The military was simply out of practice dealing with the severely wounded. Mitic soon discovered medical personnel could deal with a sprained ankle, but were almost clueless dealing with the short- and long-term physical and psychological needs of a man with no feet.

“The toughest thing for me, beyond dealing with my own mobility and injury issues, was navigating through a system unprepared for what I needed most,” he writes.

The military simply failed to deliver the kind of rehab, housing and support system Mitic felt he needed to reintegrate to society.

Unflinching, as it turns out, should also be required reading for all the military brass that have the power to change procedures, so that soldiers who have made great sacrifices for their country are treated with the care and respect they deserve and need upon returning home.














SUMMER FICTION: Winner #2 from Short Story Fiction Contest — Theresa Ann Wallace

Camping At Mont Tremblant is one of two short story fiction works, published in OTTAWA Magazine’s Summer 2015 print edition. Theresa Ann Wallace is one of two winners in the our first ever Short Fiction Contest.

Camping At Mont Tremblant
By Theresa Ann Wallace

My dad seemed better. He’d stopped wearing his wool zip-up buffalo sweater in the middle of the muggy Montreal afternoons, explaining to us with a little shiver of his shoulders, “It was 110 degrees in the shade on the Gaza Strip, and after almost a year, my blood’s a little thin.” And for at least a week, I hadn’t heard him in the night patrolling the hallway connecting the front door to the kitchen at the back of our flat.


Photography: Bill Grimshaw

But I still felt like crying as I flapped my hand out the back window of our baby-blue Volkswagen Beetle. My mom was standing on our front steps. She waved goodbye to us with one arm and balanced baby Elizabeth on her hip with the other. Her housedress and face were lit up by the late-day sun. It had taken all day for Dad to pack up, and she looked relieved to see us finally go.

When I opened my eyes the next morning at Mont Tremblant, my dad was shaking my brother Duncan awake. Duncan was thirteen years old, skinny and small for his age. He had a buzz cut and freckles splashed across his face. Dad was dressed in his desert clothes — a soldier’s khaki shirt and shorts and a hat like a baseball cap except it had a squared-off peak. He looked serious. He moved to the next sleeping bag and dug his thumb into the space just above Jimmy’s collarbone. Jimmy, eleven years old and a smaller and skinnier version of Duncan, woke up coughing.

“Up. Get dressed. Then I’ll show you how to wash in the lake. Move it!” He knelt over his kit bag, unpacking army rations and supplies. He had short red hair and a matching moustache. He was squat, with muscles from all the boxing and wrestling he had done while growing up in the Verdun neighbourhood of Montreal. He liked to hold his palms out, study them, then look up at us and say he could kill a man with his hands. We believed him. His wrists were as big around as Jimmy’s upper arms; even his fingers looked powerful enough to crush bones.

“Ann, you’re confined to barracks. You’re too small. Stay with the tent.”

“I want to go home now,” I said. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. The ends of my fingers hurt from chewing my nails to the quick in the night. A beachhead of pink skin that my nail should have been covering throbbed at the tip of each finger. My sleeping bag was twisted around my shoulders. My back felt stiff from lying on the groundsheet without an air mattress or pillow.

A week ago at supper, Dad had gone on and on about the camping trip. He gripped the chrome edge of the kitchen table and leaned forward like this was the most important mission he’d ever planned.

“You’re going to swim. And see wild animals. And toast marshmallows over a campfire you built yourselves!”

“I want to go home now,” I said again, louder and bolder this time. “You said if I didn’t like it, you’d bring me back right away.” The morning sun glowed red on the walls of the tent behind my dad.

“We just got here for Christ sakes,” he said.  He snapped aside the tent flap and snarled up his lips at my brothers. “March!”

Liar, I breathed.

I yanked down the zipper in my sleeping bag and bit my lips shut so that I wouldn’t cry. I was still wearing my sleeveless blouse and cut-offs from the day before. I hunched over to make myself small and followed the boys out. The plastic sandals my mom had bought for me at Woolworths were lined up by the door of the tent. I sat on the ground to put them on and then squatted by the tent. Dad didn’t notice me.

Our tent was in a clearing alongside a beach. The open camping area stretched along the edge of the lake. Behind the campsites was a dirt access road, then lots of trees and the outhouse I’d visited the previous evening, holding my nose and throwing up into my mouth at the terrible smell.

As I watched from the tent, Dad ordered the boys to follow him into the woods. Every so often, they came out with an armload of branches that they piled a certain number of feet from our firepit. By the time they had finished, the sun was up over the trees and my stomach was rumbling.

“Sit down. I’ve put out your breakfast.” Dad pointed to the picnic table. I tucked in across from Duncan and Jimmy, feeling as if I was getting splinters in my legs from the seat. My brothers hung their heads and stared at the Rice Krispies in our plastic bowls. We ate the dry cereal and drank purple juice that tasted like Kool-Aid. Nobody dared ask for milk for the cereal. My dad stood behind my brothers, watching the way he did when he supervised their math homework, ready to cuff both of them on the side of the head when one of them made a mistake. During homework time, I hid in my room. But now there was nowhere for me to go. I curled my toes under my feet inside my sandals and wished silently for our camping trip to end.

Heads lowered, we finished eating without saying a word. “Here, Ann. You go with your brothers down to the lake and wash the breakfast dishes.” My dad handed me a bashed-up metal basin but no dish soap. “Use sand,” Dad said. “That’s the best thing.”

Our next few meals were pork and beans, wieners and rice, and some canned army food that tasted like Klik and Kam and looked like a block of raw hamburger with lots of fat in it. At every meal, my teeth crunched down on more and more sand. It got harder for us to keep the dishes clean by using sand and harder to rinse off all the sand. When Duncan pointed this out, Dad said, “Just use more sand.”

After we learned how to roll up our sleeping bags and tidy the tent for the day, Duncan and Jimmy’s wilderness survival lessons started. Dad stood by the heaped branches they’d gathered. Making circles with his outstretched arms, he said, “Come here, boys. I’m going to show you how to make kindling for a fire.” He took out his special hunting knife. He kept this knife in a little holster on his belt. It had an ivory handle. It didn’t look like a Swiss Army knife but more like a knife to kill animals and maybe even people.

I decided to walk down along the beach even though I hadn’t brought a bathing suit. I was seven years old. I had never been camping or to a beach. And I’d never spent a night away from my mom except when she was in the hospital having my sister. I missed her. I wondered what she was doing just then. She had beautiful jet-black hair and perfect white skin, and she was always kind to me — except for right now, when she’d sent me on a camping trip that should have been boys only.

The day dragged on, with me mostly watching what the boys were doing from down on the beach. The late-afternoon sun moved across the sky. I started to feel hot.

When I looked down at my arms, they seemed really pink. I poked my left forearm with my right index finger. My finger left a white impression. My brain felt boiled. I knew my dad would be angry with me for getting sunburned, so before supper, I snuck into the tent and put on Jimmy’s long-sleeve sweater so my dad wouldn’t see my arms.

The evening passed slowly. I lay awake deep into the night, staring at the roof of the canvas tent, listening to the wind move through the trees outside. I felt alone. My dad’s snoring had a pattern. He started wuffling quietly, then got louder and louder, then stopped and made a whistling noise through his nose. The whistling was exactly like the sound you hear on Saturday-morning cartoons when one of the characters runs off the edge of a cliff and is falling through space. Then he started all over again with the soft snoring. My brothers looked as though they were so weary and were sleeping so deeply, they might never wake up.

The next morning, after a silent breakfast, my dad said, “Boys, go get more firewood. I’m going to find out where I can rent a canoe for the day.” I headed for the lake’s edge again. I heard my dad talking and laughing loudly and making friends with the other campers. The water felt cold on my ankles. The day had turned cloudy. After a while, wavelets smacked against my shins. The wind off the lake bent the trees. Sometimes it seemed to blow in circles. The trees on the other side of the lake were jerking back and forth. The sky above them darkened to blue-black. The lake was the colour of dirt, and the waves had white spitting tops on them.

I looked back at our tent: it was flapping in the wind. The sand on the beach between the water and our tent swirled in the air. I walked faster along the shoreline and remembered Hurricane Hazel. My family had been living in a trailer in Camp Borden, a military base north of Toronto, when Hurricane Hazel killed people and tore buildings apart in the Toronto area. I was born a year later, and I’d often overheard my parents and their friends talk about Hazel. I didn’t really pay much attention. But I knew in some place in my mind what a hurricane was and what it could do. I wasn’t sure if a hurricane was coming now. But I felt a tight ache in my chest, and it got harder to breathe. I needed my mom.

“Ann, come here and help me, for crying out loud!” Dad was tugging on a rope tied to the outside of the tent. His knife was in one hand and a hammer in the other. My legs shook as I ran. Big raindrops spattered on my head.

“Get inside!” A gust of wind pulled his hat off his head and tossed it into the trees.  The tent lifted up. It billowed into the air like a big balloon tugging to get free. Only a few pegs were still in the ground. Our clothes and sleeping bags were tumbling toward the gap between the groundsheet and the tent walls. I grabbed as much of our stuff as I could. Then I threw myself spread-eagled on top of it.

“Duncan! Jimmy! Come back!” My dad sounded mad, like he was that time my brothers accidentally set the back shed on fire.

I could see my dad’s army boots stomping around  outside the tent. He pulled on the ropes and pounded the pegs in. All the while, he yelled at the boys to come back, come back. When the storm died down and the rain lightened up, they did come back. Our father was bent over, breathing hard, one hand on each braced leg as if he’d just run a mile cross-country. Rain braided with the snot hanging from the end of his nose. His shirt stuck to his chest. But he’d managed to keep the tent — and me — from blowing away. I was sitting on the ground beside him, limp and pale, holding onto his shoe with one hand.

My brothers walked slowly toward the tent. Dad looked up.

“Where’s the wood?”

“Oops, we forgot.” Duncan slapped his hand to his cheek as though he’d just developed a toothache. He looked apologetic.

“You got rocks in your head? You’re both so stupid. You’re useless. You left your sister all alone and you didn’t bring back any wood.” Dad butted Jimmy on the back of the head with the heel of his hand and told them both to pack up the tent. Then he started banging and crashing around the campsite, swinging the metal roof rack onto the Volkswagen and slamming things into the trunk.

Except for the sounds of my dad huffing, the car was quiet, the kind of hold-your-breath quiet where no one dares speak. I sat in the back seat with Jimmy. Duncan sat in front. Sand was everywhere — sand on the leather seats, sand on the floor, sand in our clothes.

Dad looked over at Duncan. He’d turned his back. With his index finger, he was drawing quick lines in the condensation on his passenger-side window. A game of X’s and O’s.

“You are such losers. All of you.” Dad swung his head around to look in the back seat. The car bobbled a little. “One time on the Gaza Strip, we were out on patrol and a sandstorm came up. We crawled under a tarp in the back of the Jeep to wait it out. In a sandstorm, you end up with sand in your teeth. In your boots. Up your ass. Everywhere. It blinds you. In the desert, if a sandstorm comes up and you’re away from shelter, you die.

“But Canadian peacekeepers are the best in the world. We did our jobs. And we watched out for each other. Not like some people. Some people would just leave their little sister all alone.”

“Well, we knew she was safe because she was with you!” Jimmy said, smiling bravely at our dad.

“How do you mean?” Dad’s head lifted sharply. He glared in the rear-view mirror.

“We knew she was okay, Dad,” Jimmy said, trying to compliment him. “We were watching from the outhouse.” Jimmy swiped his tongue back and forth over his front teeth.

I was sitting right behind my dad, watching the cords in the back of his neck. They stood out like thick ropes pulled tight. His head and shoulders jerked around.

“What did you say?”

“We stayed in the outhouse to get out of the storm,” Jimmy said, his words slowing down as though he sensed danger but couldn’t quite see where it lay. Dad turned his eyes back to the road. His shoulders squared as though he was bracing himself for hand-to-hand combat. His fingers squeezed the wheel and went white.

“You hid in a shitter? If there was a world war and everyone in Canada did that, what would happen? So if we’re ever invaded, you two will say, ‘Okay, everyone run to the shitter!’ ”

All the way home, we listened to how tough he was and how soft we were. He stabbed his chest with his index and middle fingers when he talked about himself.

“Do you even know what a camp sergeant major is? I was in charge of every Canadian soldier over there. I kept them all safe. I shook hands with the king of Jordan.”

Every once in a while he’d repeat, “But there was no sand in the shitter, was there?”

As soon as the car stopped at our place, I jumped out and ran to the front door. I kicked off my sandals and ran down the hallway to the kitchen. Wet sand speckled the linoleum behind me. Mom was sitting at the table. Elizabeth was beside her in her wooden high chair, smiling and banging a book on the tray so hard, her little blond curls shook. My mom had a teacup in one hand and the other rested on the newspaper in front of her.

When she saw me, she opened her mouth in a surprised “Oh!” and spread her arms out for me. I jumped into her lap. She hugged me close. I saw her look at my dad as though she was confused. He was hurrying right behind me.

“We had a great time, Mom. It was really fun. We wanted to stay longer. But we had to come back home because there was a storm. The tent blew down. It almost blew away, but Dad saved it.” I spoke really fast. I didn’t want my parents to fight. My dad looked at my brothers, his eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, it was good.” Duncan took off his socks and shook sand into the sink. Jimmy, leaning against the fridge, was scratching sand out of his scalp. My mother and father smiled at each other over my head. Then, looking at her all the while, my dad reached out both his hands and took one of my mother’s hands away from where she was hugging me. He held her hand against his heart. We all stayed where we were, not wanting to move on to whatever would happen next.

One of the kids has asked why I don’t like camping. I never could tell a story sitting down, so I have gotten up from the dinner table to act out the narrative: washing dishes with sand, the blowing tent.

I finish and look around the table at my husband and four children. “Quite the family, eh?” I laugh. I was an army brat and proud of it. I ended up resourceful and smart and funny because of all those family adventures. And misadventures. I found out later that after my brothers ran for cover in the outhouse, they took turns standing on the toilet seat lid, looking out the ventilation hole at us and describing what was happening, both of them laughing so hard, they could barely stand up straight. For years, the mere mention of the word “outhouse” would make us hysterical.

“Hey! How come nobody’s laughing?”

My daughter has tears in her eyes, which confuses me. My brothers and I always thought this was an extremely funny story.

Theresa Ann Wallace has been working as a freelance researcher, writer, and editor for over three decades. She lives in Old Ottawa East.


SUMMER FICTION: Short Story Fiction Contest Winner # 1 — Barbara Sibbald’s “Waiting”

Waiting is one of two works of short story fiction, which was published in OTTAWA Magazine’s Summer 2015 print edition. Barbara Sibbald is one of two winners in the Magazine’s first ever Short Fiction Contest.


By Barbara Sibbald

Hot, stale air shoots into Lauren’s face. After whirring madly all day, the heater in her rust-pocked Toyota is now stuck on full-blast. She bangs the dash, fiddles with the levers, and finally opens the window a crack. An icy gust swirls into the car, enveloping her face as she squints at the modest bungalow across the street. A few moments ago, the driveway was bare, pure black edged with neat curbs of snow. Now the asphalt is white. The wind twirls; snow twists through the air, disappearing upward.

Glancing in the rear-view mirror, she barely makes out the two other cars, the two other reporters. They are all waiting for Josef Donajski to get home, but she’s the only one who knows him. He’s a founding member of the 30-year-old Madawan Horticultural Society. She’s written notices for The Madawan Post about his seminars on exotic-bulb sources and cutting propagation. Until recently, he was just this old man with a foreign accent.

Lauren finds it hard to believe this is happening in her town. She thinks of it as her town when she’s talking to outsiders like these two reporters from the city dailies. Then, she’s the one who knows about the mayor’s racist tendencies, the local pyromaniac’s latest brush fire, the town’s waning prosperity. She finds herself speaking with the local twang, the exaggerated, prolonged a’s — “baaag,” “gaaag.” And using the local expressions like “He only has one oar in the water” or saying “Old year’s evening” instead of New Year’s Eve.

But in the end, she’s as much an outsider as these reporters. Even after five years at The Post, people ask where she’s from. She says Ottawa, and they invariably reply, “Oh, so you’re not from the Valley.” As if that explains everything. She knows they’ve drawn a line — you versus us, and don’t even think about crossing.

It suddenly occurs to her that things might be different if she married someone local. There’s always Tim, she thinks.

Snow flies through the open window, melting against her face. She brushes it away with her hand, briefly strays to run her fingers roughly through her hair, then rolls up the window tightly.

Last September, Donajski asked Tim to represent him. Tim gave him the name of a lawyer in the city, someone experienced in international law. He phoned Lauren to tell her about it.

“After he left, the new secretary came in and asked who he was,” Tim added. “She said he gave her the willies.”

(Tim didn’t say how the man made him feel, but then he wouldn’t. He could barely choke out the words to express how he feels about her. He whispered it softly into her hair when she was half asleep, maybe hoping she was asleep. “I love you,” he murmured to the dark.)

“You shouldn’t have told me,” Lauren said. “You’re not supposed to tell me about your clients. It’s un-ethical.” And she hung up on him.

He wooed her back with a graceful spray of deep pink Saponaria backed by towering, shell-like Eustoma — midsummer splendours on a chilling autumn day.

But he didn’t apologize or admit he was wrong. The card was signed by the florist: Love, Tim.

Five-twelve, and it’s dark already. Lauren feels her camera, makes sure the flash is securely attached. The bungalow’s porch light flicks on, illuminating the falling snow. His wife’s home, Lauren thinks. Waiting for him, and he’s late. She must be losing it — flipping her wig, as they say around here.

The neighbours seemed to pity her. Tim’s cousin, who lives next door to the Donajskis, said she hardly ever sees “the wife” — that’s how everyone says it around here, not Joanne or Susan — just “the wife,” like the butcher or the mailman, someone filling a role.

“I don’t think her English is that good,” the cousin said, then hesitated. “But she’s polite, y’know. Always says g’day. Smiles.” Other neighbours said he takes her to buy groceries every Wednesday, waits in the car while she shops. And she works in the yard, raking grass, then dead leaves, shovelling dirt, then snow.

Lauren couldn’t find anyone who has ever had a conversation with her. An odd thing in Madawan, where everyone talks too much, knows too much about their neighbours. No one even knows her first name. She is anonymous, poised on the periphery.

Lauren fiddles with her camera, presses the battery check and shoots off the flash in the dark car, illuminating empty Styrofoam cups, bits of gravel, a hunk of ice. She wonders if Anita got the photo of Donajski at the courthouse. They need one for the front page. They have an overexposed one on file: him posing with the five-pound potato he grew in his garden. People are always wandering in with their freaks of nature — malformed carrots that vaguely resemble Charles de Gaulle, quadruplet radishes joined at the stem, monstrous pumpkins or tomatoes. Despite the poor exposure, there is something unsettling about the picture of Donajski. He stands, back against the bare wall, looking into the camera, holding his potato. Like a surreal police mug shot. Lauren wonders if his wife clipped the news photo and taped it in her scrapbook. Everybody does that.

During last Sunday’s stint in the darkroom, Lauren asked Anita what she thought of Donajski’s wife.

“She’s an odd one all right. Never leaves the house. Has no friends,” said Anita, pressing the enlarger button, exposing a negative. “But who knows what kind of hell she’s from. He brought her over here. From the old country — somewhere in Eastern Europe. She’s probably grateful, you know, for the house and that, clothes, proper food. A little comfort.”

Lauren switched off the safety light, cracked open a canister of film, and wound it in the cold metal reel.

“Do you think she knows?” Lauren asked in the darkness. “Do you think she knows whether he did it or not?”

“No way,” said Anita.

Lauren remembers him standing at the farmers’ market, hands deep in his pockets. Standing in front of dripping pails of red and orange hollyhocks, white lilies, a low card table to one side spilling over with scarlet tomatoes, potent onions, and dusky cucumbers. I touched his fingers when I bought his tomatoes, she thinks, unconsciously wiping her hands on her old coat. They were calloused but well-scrubbed, no dirt hiding in the crevices.

She shakes her head in a stupor; the heat is unbearable. She switches off the ignition and opens the window a bit; it creaks in protest. Maybe he’s innocent, she thinks. Maybe they have the wrong man. Half a century is a long time.

Donajski is accused of murdering 390 Jewish people in a German concentration camp in occupied Poland.

Lauren closes her eyes. Newsreel images of Auschwitz come to her, photos she’s seen of starving men, living skeletons lying on bunk beds, operating tables with drainage holes and huge vats underneath to catch the blood.

Her journalism profs would say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime story, but it makes her sick.

Car lights flash across her face, jerking her out of her stupor. She’s tired, so tired. A dark sedan with tinted windows drives slowly by. Maybe it’s them, Lauren thinks.

They’ve probably spotted us and gone on. Maybe to a friend’s house.

The reporter from The Ottawa Mercury walks toward her car. She unrolls her window but he hops in the passenger side, a wall of cold air accompanying him.

“Do you think that was him?” he asks.

“Could be,” she says. “Court got out more than an hour ago.”

“Where else would he go?” he asks.

Lauren shrugs. As if I’d tell you, she thinks.

Now the reporter from The Ottawa Dispatch comes over. Lauren unrolls her window again; he asks the same questions. She notices traces of icing sugar on his cheek.

“Do you think he did it?” asks the reporter from the Dispatch.

“No,” Lauren says, without hesitating, then wonders why she’s defending him.

“Innocent until proven guilty,” she adds.

“I think he did,” says the Mercury reporter. “There’s too much evidence. They have witnesses.”

The other reporter nods knowingly. “This is the perfect hideout,” he says. “A little hick town in the middle of nowhere. No one would ever suspect. And the gardening is a nice touch.”

Jerks, Lauren thinks as they trudge back to their cars. What could they possibly know?

She shivers, closes the window, and starts the car again, cringing under the torrid blast of air, her eyes drying instantly. She flicks on the wipers, cutting a swath through the snow. Across the street, a light goes on in the living room, shines through the part in the drapes. Lauren sighs and peers at the snow whirling around the bungalow, wonders what Mrs. Donajski knows — how much she knows.

“I’m astounded by his duplicity,” she told Tim yesterday evening. “No one had a clue. He was a guy selling tomatoes.”

Tim looked up from his file. “You never know what to expect with people,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

He closed the file. “The other day, a businessman comes in, a guy I’ve known since I was a kid, respected, former chair of the chamber. Turns out, his wife caught him in bed with her best friend. Her best friend! Someone she’s known for twenty-five years. And they’d been having an affair for the last ten.”

There was a pause between them; he raised his paper again, hiding his face.
“Obviously you can’t know everything,” Lauren continued. “But you can know the important stuff — whether they’re loyal, honest, that kind of thing. You have to, don’t you? Otherwise you’d never trust anyone.”

“Do you want to go to Rosa’s for dinner?” he asked.

Sweat trickles down her sides, into her bra. Lauren unbuttons her coat completely and yanks her collar away from her neck. She peers at her wristwatch: 5:43. Where the hell is he?

She longs to be in her apartment, cooking a cheese omelette and listening to the CBC. Maybe Tim could come over. They spend a lot of time sitting and talking. But it occurs to her that these conversations are really one-sided: she asks question after question. He’s a difficult interview. She remembers the prolonged pauses between her questions and his brief answers. She hears him whispering “I love you” into the night but has never said anything in return.

Lauren shifts her body, moves her head to one side so that the blast of heat jets past her. The dull roar of the engine, the whirring of the heater, the heat itself, lull her.

It’s all so pleasant, she thinks, closing her eyes. The beautiful house on Ross Street, elegant flowers, easy old friends. His life is a sure thing. Comfortable. Me and Mrs. Donajski. Marrying into a sure thing. But now, now, look where she is, trying to believe he’s innocent,  otherwise how can she stay and what would she do — what would I do if I were her … if I were … if I was waiting for him and he comes home from the hearing, home through the back door, stomping loudly, dirty snow flying from his black galoshes. He sits heavily in his chair, stares at his thick fingers, the scar on his thumb where he nicked it with the pruning shears late last summer. I set a bowl of soup in front of him. Nourishing soup that has been simmering all day, first the bone boiling, steaming liquid trapping the marrow’s goodness, then chunks of beef from last Sunday’s roast and home-grown vegetables retrieved from the root cellar —  carrots, turnips, potatoes. I set a bowl down in front of him as I have a thousand times before, and he grunts in — in what? Appreciation? Acknowledgement? Disgust?

“You have to tell me,” I blurt out.

He glares, and his face transforms: he becomes Tim. Tim sitting at his oak dining room table. He says: “You never know with people. You think you can, but you don’t.”

Lauren struggles to wake, then succumbs to heat, hot air, the engine droning.

She is outside the house, barefoot, struggling against the wind; snow pelts her face, yet she sweats. The wind wails in her ears; she leans into it and wades through the drifts to the front door. She taps on the window. Waits. Taps again. She peeps through the glass and glimpses a small woman, Donajski’s wife. She has huge rollers crowning her head. They look like the small orange-juice tins Lauren used to roll in her own hair in a futile attempt to control her curls. Oddly enough, the rollers perched up there make Mrs. Donajski look like a middle-aged Statue of Liberty.

Suddenly the Wife is right in front of her, her face blotchy, her red-rimmed eyes looking into Lauren’s eyes.

“Please, Mrs. Donajski …” Lauren begins, but the woman puts her finger to her lips — the universal sign for silence — then pulls down the shade between them.

Lauren knocks on the window. Knocks. Then hears far away someone calling, “Hey, hey, in there!”

Then she’s coughing, gasping in the piercing fresh air, and a man asks, “Hey, are you all right?”

Her eyelids flutter open — the reporter from the Dispatch reaches across her and turns off the motor.

“You should keep your window open in this old heap,” he says.

She struggles to catch her breath, wheezing.

“I think you got a touch of carbon monoxide poisoning,” he says. “Let me drive you to the hospital, okay?”

“No,” she gasps. “I’m fine.”

He tells her to breathe deeply, pats her back. She sips the cold air tentatively.

“You really don’t look so good. Let me drive you in.”

“No, no, really,” she whispers, embarrassed to be seen like this. She clears her throat, takes a gulp of air. “I’m feeling better already. It’s okay.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” says the reporter, pausing. “Look, Donajski has obviously gone somewhere else. We’re taking off. Let me call someone for you. You probably shouldn’t drive.”

He pauses; her breathing is more regular.

“Anita,” she says. He clicks his pen. “623-4180.”

He scribbles in his notepad. “I’ll tell her to hurry. Deep breaths, now. Walk around if you can.”

She watches him drive away, a nice man after all. Tim was right there: sometimes you really can’t tell. The snow billows through the open door. She holds up her arm and sees a tiny, individual flake silhouetted against the dark fabric. Another lands on top and another, gradually forming a layer on her coat, the floor, and the upholstery. She breathes slowly, evenly. Consciousness comes in small waves. Moving boxes. Laughing with Anita. Galley of type. Fresh ink. Perfect omelette. Tim. She struggles to picture his face and knows her answer. Has known for ages. Tomorrow, she decides, I’ll tell him tomorrow. Tonight I want to go home.

Lauren steps out of the car into the falling snow. The bungalow is completely dark now; the street, still and white.

Barbara Sibbald is an award-winning journalist and news editor at Canada’s leading medical journal. Early in the morning, you’ll find her writing fiction in her Chinatown house. Her three novels include Regarding Wanda, The Book of Love: Guidance in Affairs of the Heart, and Kitchen Chronicles, which was published in 52 instalments at ottawamagazine.com.

WEEKENDER: Six things to do in Ottawa for the long weekend (September 3 – 7)


ACDC: 1990's

ACDC: 1990’s

“We just want to make the walls cave in and the ceiling collapse. Music is meant to be played as loudly as possible, really raw and punchy, and I’ll punch out anyone who doesn’t like it the way I do.” Bon Scott (R.I.P)

Absolutely gone are the days when Ottawa was seen as the city that music tours forgot. Among other big names such as Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift, and Kanye West (to name a few from just this year), we are preparing to welcome legends. AC/DC will be playing at T.D. Place Thursday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m.

Starting out as young, unknown boys in Australia, only teenagers, their success and growth is unquantifiable. As any sort of indicator, the bands last tour six years ago (seeing the members all over 50) was viewed by five million people in 29 countries.

The line-up from the Quebec City and Montreals showing provide promising reviews and feature some of their biggest hits: Back in Black, Highway to Hell, Whole Lotta Rosie, Thunderstruck (who hasn’t used this tune to amp up a workout?), as well as songs from the latest album, Rock or Bust.

Michael Hann wrote in The Guardian after the London show, “Rock ’n’ roll reduced to its purest essence, in doses of flavour so concentrated they seem to set the world alight. If it’s farewell, it’s a glorious one.”

Basically? Do not miss. Tickets starting at $99.50. Forgot to get yours? Head down to Bank St. – according to Bon Scott, I don’t think you’ll have any problem hearing them from the street.
TD Place, 1015 Bank St., 613-232-6767, tdplace.ca

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: Indigenous portraits and copper mementoes



Sayward Johnson uses knitted copper or brass wire to create his complicated pieces of art like these, the Mementos


Black and white photographic portraits of several prominent Ottawa artists and curators have been placed on the walls of Saskatchewan’s main art gallery – the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina.


Lee-Ann Martin, Curator of Contemporary Aboriginal Art at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

These Ottawans include Barry Ace, Frank Shebageget, Lee-Ann Martin, Ron Noganosh, Linda Grussani, Jeff Thomas, Greg Hill, Bear Witness and Claude Latour. The one common factor is that they all have indigenous origins and were photographed by Ottawa’s Rosalie Favell, who has been assembling since 2008 a collection of portraits of important aboriginal artists and curators from across North America. The purpose is to create a photographic record of the movers and shakers in the indigenous art community of our times.

“This is her community,” Michelle LaVallee, the exhibition curator, says of Favell. “This is the community that helped her to come to terms with her own identity.”

Favell is a Metis originally from Manitoba. As a child, Favell was not aware of her own indigenous heritage. In fact, she has started painting pictures, inspired by family photographs, showing young Rosalie wearing feathered headdresses, not to honour her heritage but to dress up in exotic attire, just as kids will don a Spiderman costume. Four of these paintings have been added to the Regina exhibition of 283 photographs. The show is titled Rosalie Favell: (Re)facing the Camera. More of Favell’s paintings will be exhibited in Ottawa at Cube Gallery Oct. 27-Nov. 22.


Artist Ron Noganosh

The portrait project began in 2008 when Favell found herself part of a welcoming “community” of aboriginal artists all doing residencies at the Banff Centre.. She decided to shoot portraits of these fellow artists, including Alex Janvier, Nadia Myre and Frank Shebageget. For the next seven years, wherever Favell went, she continued to shoot portraits of aboriginal artists, curators and other cultural figures she encountered. The “community” just kept growing.

Some of the portraits, all shot against a plain white background, were exhibited in earlier shows at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa in 2012, when Favell won the biennial City of Ottawa Karsh Award, and in 2011 at Urban Shaman in Winnipeg.

This is the first time all 283 portraits have been shown together. Seeing all the portraits at once is a powerful statement. It shows the strength and diversity of North American aboriginal creativity.

Clearly, Favell knows how to make her subjects relax. Most are smiling very naturally. Few strike artificial poses. There’s a definite lack of attitude. The portraits are like interrupted conversations among friends.

“That’s the look I am comfortable with,” says Favell. The point of the project is simply: “Here we are and this is what we look like.”

Favell’s exhibition continues in Regina until Nov. 22.


Sayward Johnson uses knitted copper or brass wire to create his complicated pieces of art like these, the Mementos

A most unusual pair of knitted stockings hangs on the wall of Sayward Johnson’s studio in the Enriched Bread Artist complex on Gladstone Avenue.

The stockings were made from copper wire and then moulded around Johnson’s own feet. It looks like Johnson, or someone else, just stepped out of the socks, which have held their shape, frozen in time, possibly awaiting some Cinderella to try them on and, with a perfect fit, to claim them before running off with Prince Charming.

It is easy to create a narrative for the ghostly stockings. Most of Johnson’s artworks created from knitted copper or brass wire are more complicated; the storylines form only after considerable contemplation.

One wall of the studio is filled with sculptural objects Johnson calls Mementos: “They deal with fragments of memory and how it changes over time.”


Johnson uses a loom with woven copper and red felt to create the dramatic look

The Mementos are roughly circular, hollow objects, fitting nicely in the palm of your hand. They are created by using ordinary knitting needles and spools of thin copper wire as delicate as dental floss. Johnson shapes the Mementos and bathes them in a green patina solution to quicken the rusting process. For the first two weeks or so, the colours and shapes slowly change as the copper starts to deteriorate. Johnson then coats the objects in wax or shellac to stop the evolution. (The copper roofs of the Parliament Buildings go through a similar process in oxidation, changing from an orange-golden colour to green.)

The Mementos were being prepared to for an installation in Johnson’s solo exhibition at Espace Pierre-Debain in Aylmer called Woven Stories and Knitted Mementos. The exhibition runs from Sept. 2 to Oct. 11. This art venue in an old stone court house is normally used for exhibiting fine craft. The quality of the shows is usually high and the exhibiting artists usually established. Johnson, a resident of Chelsea, Que. calls herself an “emerging” artist and is grateful for the opportunity to introduce her unique work to the national capital area.


Another piece from the collection: Woven Stories and Knitted Mementos

A loom sits in one corner of Johnson’s studio. It is the same kind of loom used to create textiles. On the loom, Johnson produces squares of woven copper that, after receiving the green patina treatment, are mounted on felt backing and placed on the wall, looking for all the world like highly textured paintings or cloth. Red embroidery or bits of red cloth peeking through the copper wire add dramatic touches to the resulting abstract images.

Now, it is up to the viewer to create a storyline for the artwork.

Sayward Johnson’s exhibition is at Espace Pierre-Debain, 120 rue Principale, in the Aylmer sector of Gatineau. There is no admission charge. For info, phone 819-685-5033.

Some other shows worth catching:

Russell Yuristy: an Ottawa print-maker, painter and sculptor, has a solo show at Cube Gallery from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4.

The Debutantes: A solo show by Ottawa painter Sharon Van Starkenburg at Wall Space Gallery from Sept. 12-Oct. 4.

WEEKENDER: 7 things to do in Ottawa for your last August weekend (Aug. 27-30)


08-27-Moonface credit Tero Ahonen

Spencer Krug. Photo by Tero Ahonen

Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, Fifths of Seven — these are just a few of the music projects songwriter and keyboardist Spencer Krug has been involved with over his career. He’s an amazingly prolific musician who has been credited on almost two dozen releases since 2003. So it’s safe to say he knows a few things about making good music.

His latest project, Moonface, is a (mostly) solo endeavour. In several of his albums, he relies heavily on the piano as he waxes lonesome about everything from the collapse of a relationship to disillusionment with a once-loved city. He also collaborated with Finnish band Siinai to create Heartbreaking Bravery, an indie rock-tinged album with a brooding, melancholic atmosphere.

He performs at Pressed on Thursday, Aug. 27. Tickets from $13. See Facebook event page for  details.
Pressed, 750 Gladstone Ave., 613-680-9294, pressed-ottawa.com


The Norman Conquests
In 1973, playwright Alan Ayckbourn set himself an ambitious task: to write a trilogy of plays wherein the events in each happen simultaneously. And so, The Norman Conquests was born.

The play follows the character of Norman as he attempts, on three separate occasions, to seduce his wife, Ruth; her sister, Annie; and their sister-in-law, Sarah. The setting is a country house belonging to Ruth and Annie’s invalid mother, with whom Annie lives and for whom she cares. The action takes place over a single weekend as all three women react to Norman’s charms.

The trilogy begins on Friday, Aug. 28 at The Gladstone. It runs until Saturday, Oct. 10. The plays can be viewed independently, but if you want to see all three, consider purchasing a package. Tickets start at $18. See website for more info.
The Gladstone, 910 Gladstone Ave., 613-233-4523, thegladstone.ca


Ottawa Craft Beer Festival
The National Capital Region has seen an explosion in craft brewing in recent years, with breweries such as Beau’s All-Natural Brewing Company, Kichesippi Beer Co., and Bicycle Craft Brewery popping up in the area.

For its fourth year, the Ottawa Craft Beer Festival is bringing in 40 craft breweries, international beers, delicious food from local eateries, and live music. It’s also running brewmaster seminars, holding a 5K run (or walk!), introducing the winners of the National Capital Home Brew Competition, and more.

The brews start pouring on Friday, Aug. 28 and the festival continues until Sunday, Aug. 30. Admission starts at $15. Please note that the event is restricted to ages 19+. See website for ticket prices.
Aberdeen Pavilion, Lansdowne Park, 1015 Bank St., ottawacraftbeerfestival.ca


CFL Fans Fight Cancer teams up with RiderGirl Productions to raise some money for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation. Friday, Aug. 28 and Saturday, Aug. 29 join fellow CFL and theatre fans –  not only will there be a show (of which $1/ticket sold will go to the foundation), there will be a Tailgate Party (where more funds will be raised) – which is arguably the best part of football. The pre-show will have a cash bar as well as hot dogs and sausages to purchase. Tailgate Party at 6:30 p.m., show time 7:30 p.m., and a post-game party to follow the show.

However, this one-woman show (two-time Rideau Award nominee Colleen Sutton) offers fair competition to the typical tailgate.

“A prairie girl is seduced into sports fandom and discovers the rules don’t just apply to the game. Colleen Sutton throws herself into multiple characters as she fights for first downs and flags begin to fly. Loaded with laughs, it’s a fast-paced, physical and trash-talking march down the field that will haul your heart into the game.”

Come in your CFL gear and colours! If you intend to bring your kidlets, keep in mind that there will be some swearing – this is football after all. Tickets start at $26 (tailgate included in ticket cost).
Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave., 613-765-5555, artscourt.ca/events/ridergirl


You had me at fried dough.

You had me at fried dough.

Palestinian Festival Ottawa
Did you know the Palestinian region, the area located between the east shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, was one of the earliest in the world to see human habitation, agricultural communities and civilization?

As I’ve been saying it all summer long, I will say it again: one of the best parts of summer in Ottawa is the plethora of cultural festivals. Let us welcome Ottawa’s Palestinian Festival, returning for the second time to City Hall’s Marion Dewar Plaza!

Running from Friday, Aug. 28 to Sunday, Aug. 30, take part in this free event and learn about Palestine’s language and people, take part in the dance and music, and taste all of the food. Follow the festival on Facebook to keep up-to-date. Family encouraged! Event runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Marion Dewar Park, Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W., palestinianfestivalottawa.com



Montreal band Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – the look will fit right in at Zaphods

Yamantaka // Sonic Titan
Montreal band Yamantaka // Sonic Titan was born when drummer Alaska B and vocalist Ruby Kato Attwood decided to bridge their two cultures through music (Alaska is of Chinese-Irish descent, while Attwood is of Japanese-Scottish descent). They playfully dubbed the resulting sound Noh-wave, after the 14th century Japanese theatre art whose defining characteristic is the use of masks.

Their music is often referred to as prog-rock, but the term doesn’t adequately describe their sound. They bring together eastern and western music styles, and stir the pot further with hints of metal, punk, grunge, and psychedelic.

They perform at Zaphod Beeblebrox on Saturday, Aug. 29. Tickets are $12. See Facebook event page for more info.
Zaphod Beeblebrox, 27 York St., 613-562-1010, zaphods.ca



Harvest Table 2013

Harvest Table 2015 – Savour Ottawa
Harvest Table has grown over the last four years, in attendance and food. For the fifth annual event, courtesy of Savour Ottawa, it will be no different. Held Sunday, Aug. 30 from noon to 2 p.m. in the Horticulture Building at Lansdowne Park, beside the Ottawa Farmers’ Market (a fitting location), come celebrate the local harvest with a multi-course, gourmet luncheon. Harvest Table sees some of the city’s finest chefs partner with local farmers to create fresh, seasonal dishes. Enjoy a family-style feast sharing the company of producers, chefs and other guests.

Tickets are only sold in advance, and it always sells out so don’t delay! Regular tickets are $75, or get the VIP treatment – “Cream of the Crop” – for $90. The extra $15 will get you a guided tour of the Ottawa Farmers’ Market with C’est Bon Cooking and appetizers and cocktails to start the afternoon in style. Purchase online here.

Check out some of the featured local restaurants to get your mouth watering in advance: The Albion Rooms
, le café at the National Arts Centre
, Courtyard Restaurant, 
Fairmont Château Laurier, Thyme and Again,  Creative Catering
, The Red Apron.
Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park, 1015 Bank St., 613 699 6850 ext. 10, savourottawa.ca/events.php




Ottawa act, the Souljazz Orchestra, release their first all-vocal album. Photo by Alexandre Mattar

The new Souljazz Orchestra album—out September 4—continues a theme started long ago with their debut, Freedom No Go Die, released in 2006. Nearly a decade on, the globetrotting Ottawa act continues its power-to-the-people rhythms with Resistance (Strut Records/Do Right! Music). Find it on CD, vinyl, and digitally on September 4.

Resistance finds the Souljazz Orchestra in fine form and thoroughly flexing a new muscle. The band, which began as an instrumental outfit, steps out with its first all-vocal album. It sees keyboardist Pierre Chretien, drummer Phillipe Lafreniere, sax player Ray Murray, and percussionist Marielle Rivard each taking a turn at the microphone delivering trenchant social commentary, political wake-up calls, and mobilizing mantras.

Lafreniere calls for a better life for workers and the poor in “Greet the Dawn,” a hip-strutting call-and-response dazzler that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

“Shock & Awe” has a rat-tat-tat firing-round vocal delivery. Contrasting that militaristic sense are lyrics celebrating revolt and the power of people to come together in the face of adversity. (Check out the SJO’s video for that tune here and grab a free download of this album’s Occupy-inspired tune “Bull’s Eye” via PopMatters).

That vibe carries into “Life Is What You Make It,” while “As the World Turns” shows Marielle Rivard’s vocal chops. Those came to light on the group’s previous album, Inner Fire, when she covered Andy Bey’s “Celestial Blues.”

Keep “Courage” and “Ware Wa” on your dancefloor playlist and wind down with the sweetly contemplative “It’s Gonna Rain.”

This is the band’s sixth release in 13 years. The Souljazz Orchestra’s early albums showed their fluency in Afro and Latin genres along with their deep appreciation for jazz, roots, and the work of Fela Kuti.
Last year, the band released its back catalogue on 180-gram vinyl (we picked our fave tunes from over the years in this post from 2014).

The globetrotting group will continue their travels this fall. An international tour is soon to be announced. The band makes regular stops in France, Germany, and the U.K. Check out this archived Souljazz tour diary for a few laughs).

THIS CITY: Pride Week in the capital


City hall has raised the Pride flag and the celebrations have officially begun!


$5 stubbies from Dominion City Brews at Clover Food & Drink

We stopped by Clover food | drink today to take in some of the festivities ($5 beer from Dominion City + ice cream truffles from Moo Shu, with a special rainbow fruit loops pop).

Most activities will be taking place on and around Banks St., make sure to check out the detailed events page for locations and times to see how you can get involved this week. Much will be covered, from serious topics such as a “Confidence, Consent, and Communication” talk to the light-hearted including a show at the NAC, a family BBQ, and all else in between.

Don’t miss Sunday Aug. 23, the final day of Pride looks to be very promising with the signature event: a parade ending at the beer garden located at Bank & Gilmour.

THIS CITY: Gifted, Naturally



Land lovers The Keddys fell for each other, and this land, over 40 years ago. They bought the first 100 acres of land shortly after they married in 1975 as a way to celebrate their union. Photo by David Trattles

Biologists Paul and Cathy Keddy spent decades buying up land in Lanark County. Then they gave it all away.

The four-wheeler is cherry-red and massive, the kind Canadian Forces use to get around in war zones. On this drizzly summer day, it’s not on an overseas mission, but rather rolling up and down a rocky trail in Lanark County, a half-hour drive west of Ottawa. It’s perfect for travelling through these thick forests, around ancient boulders, past fallen farm buildings abandoned long ago, and alongside marshes where great blue herons nest and rare species of flora grow hidden in the depths. And it’s an essential piece of equipment because the steward of this expansive tract of land, Paul Keddy, a 62-year-old retired professor of ecology, suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and can walk only for short spells.

The ATV comes to an abrupt stop over a boarded culvert. “Just checking for frogs and snakes,” says the bearded biologist, his glasses flecked with rain. This is a ritual instilled by his now six-year-old granddaughter Emma. “ ‘Don’t run over Sunshine!’ ” says Keddy, with a deep chuckle. Sunshine is a frog Emma named last time she accompanied her granddad on an excursion through this landscape.

Assured that no amphibians are being harmed, we roll on into the forest.


The red four-wheeler helps the retired couple move around the expansive property. Photo by David Trattles

Keddy and his wife, Cathy, also a biologist, live on the edge of this land. Technically, they still own it, but the future stewardship of the property, which is about 600 acres (or almost a square mile), is now in the hands of the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) in perpetuity or at least for the next 999 years. The trees won’t be logged; the land won’t be tilled; the boulders won’t be dynamited out of their billions-of-years-old resting places; the herons’ nests won’t be destroyed to make way for condominiums, golf courses, or shopping centres. The rhythm of non-human life will continue, more or less undisturbed, over the coming centuries. Those who might like to make a quiet expedition to observe it — local field-naturalist clubs, school groups, visiting academics and scientists — will be welcome to tread the territory, taking care to leave behind as little trace as possible of their presence.

If American environmentalist Aldo Leopold, author of the 1949 classic, A Sand County Almanac, were alive today, he would hold up the Keddys as prime examples of what he called “biotic citizenship.” He referred to his own book as “a plea for the preservation of some tag-ends of wilderness, as museum pieces, for the edification of those who may one day wish to see, feel, or study the origins of their cultural inheritance.” No doubt Leopold would approve of the land donation, as do many others today — especially those who know how impressive it is that two not-wealthy people, with significant obstacles in their way over the years, succeeded in their goal to leave behind a rich ecological legacy for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. In dollars, the land is worth millions. In ecological terms, the longer it remains wild, the more valuable it becomes.

“We were thrilled,” says Howard Clifford, a founding member of the MMLT and the first donor of land, in 2009, under the trust’s conservation easement agreements. Clifford ran a wilderness school for many years and, with his knowledge and love for the area, has accrued status as “the old man of the mountain.” Clifford’s land is a 1,250-acre expanse of forest and scenic outcroppings with stunning views from the top of Blueberry Mountain, the highest point in Lanark County. He has a deep appreciation of the significance of the Keddys’ land covenant with the trust. “It’s not just 600 acres. At a larger scale, it’s honouring the history of Lanark County and keeping a broad natural corridor intact.”


More than 700 species of flora and fauna call the area home. Photo by David Trattles

The rain is more than drizzle as we arrive back at the Keddys’ home and run for the door. A whimsical human-height wooden frog holding a parasol greets visitors from its spot in the spacious foyer. Framed prints of flora and fauna hang on the walls. A glass-doored wooden cabinet displays a Buddha statue, along with leather-bound works of Buddhist philosophy. The couple’s six cats (indoor cats — no bird hunting allowed) loll on sofa backs, trot silently across the hardwood floors, or leap onto a visitor’s lap. It’s a cozy, creature-loving, live-and-let-live kind of place. Paul Keddy sits at the dining room table, a satellite map of the area spread before him. His fingers trace the green and blue of the map as he recounts the history and raison d’être of the couple’s land purchases.

He and Cathy met over 40 years ago while attending a lecture at the University of Toronto. When they married in 1975, they bought their first 100 acres of Lanark forest, with help from Paul’s parents. (Paul had spent some of his childhood years in Ottawa and Carleton Place; he was born in London, Ontario, Cathy in Toronto). The purchase was a fitting way, they thought, to celebrate their new union. The two had fallen in love with the property after walking through it in spring and finding a huge heronry — over 20 nests — in one of its wetlands. In the initial years, they continued to explore their new property while living in Ottawa and raising two sons (Martin, now 30, and Ian, 27). Paul taught at the University of Ottawa; Cathy was an ecological consultant on land-management plans for public parks and private land across Canada. They built a small cabin on the land and spent summers enjoying the peaceful setting with their sons. “You feel responsible for it,” says Paul, recalling the early days, when logging and development were eating up surrounding land at an alarming pace. “You’d see how one act of stupidity could cause such great harm,” he says of the denuded landscapes and bulldozed wetlands that soon dotted the area. It only made the couple more determined to buy as much land as they could.

Obstacles to their plan were considerable. In 1989, Paul became ill; soon, he could no longer work full-time, a situation that caused both financial and emotional stress. (Paul says some colleagues did not understand his condition.) Fortunately for the family, he was eventually offered a much more flexible position with the University of Louisiana. But before they moved to New Orleans, they built their current house and started expanding their land portfolio, bit by bit. Their eldest son was in high school when Paul took the position in Louisiana; the family returned to the property during the summers. After Paul’s retirement in 2007, the couple moved back to live on their land full-time.

As Paul points out the original property outlines on the map and the subsequent land purchases they made, he and Cathy talk about some of the hurdles they faced in the process. Not only did they take on substantial debt, they met people whose concern for nature preservation was not a priority.

“The last property was the toughest, and we were able to buy it only after the landowner had quite deliberately increased the price and sold the logging rights, just to be spiteful,” wrote Cathy in the April 2014 edition of the MMLT newsletter, which announced the land donation.

Photo by David Trattles

Photo by David Trattles

Some might express astonishment at the largesse and wonder how the Keddys’ sons feel about not receiving what might have been a huge financial inheritance. They’re not bothered: the Keddys have provided easements on the land so that if their sons wish to build on it in the future, they can. Both have fond memories of those summers in the cabin with their ecologically minded parents, though Martin says he and his brother didn’t have quite the degree of appreciation for it as young boys that they have now. It was only later that they understood what their parents were trying to do. “I feel an emotional attachment to the place and wouldn’t have the heart to do anything to it,” says Martin over the phone from New Orleans, where he works in the automotive parts business and where he and his wife are raising Emma and baby Eleanor. (Ian works in the graphics industry in Denver.)

“My parents, being Buddhists, always gave us the option to pursue whatever we wanted. They taught us the importance of letting go of those things you cannot control and learning to deal with challenges,” says Martin. “I get why they would rather do this than spend money on expensive sports cars and luxury cruises.”

Managing land in this manner is definitely far removed from a cruising lifestyle. With carefully developed covenants in place for handling the land in the future, the Keddys and their land-trust partners are “crackerjack stewards,” says Shaun Thompson, a Kemptville-based biologist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. “Most people would not be this forward-thinking,” adds Thompson of the couple’s decades-long commitment to purchasing and ultimately preserving such a large piece of land — especially an area that contains “provincially significant” wetlands and keeps intact a broad, natural corridor for species movement.


Photo by David Trattles

Thompson participated in a “bioblitz” on the property last year, when he and over 30 volunteers compiled a list of the 778 species of flora and fauna that call the area home. Thompson says he enjoyed his day on the property, particularly the find he was rewarded with after wading waist-deep into a marsh behind a wall of willows, through thriving cattails and floating water lilies. Surrounded by the primordial chorus of bullfrogs, marsh wrens, American bitterns, and Virginia rails, he discovered, growing beneath the surface of the water, the lichen known as flooded jellyskin. That discovery alone, of a plant once listed as “threatened” on the Ontario Species at Risk list, means the wetlands must be protected.

Standing beside his red ATV as I leave, Paul lets out a roaring laugh. “I tell my kids I want to be buried Viking-style, sitting in this thing.” As an ecologist and a Buddhist, Keddy naturally appreciates the inevitable cycle of death and renewal — and the rare wisdom it takes to let a pristine piece of nature be, for no more simple, yet profound, reason than because it’s there.

Thanks to two wise, gentle, and determined people, it always will be

This article first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.