Opening Statement

Sunday 31 May 2020

My Covid-19 Diary 6: Escape From Toronto!

We're high tailing it out of Toronto! Fast! The CN tower receding in our rear view mirror. Escaping to our summer digs. In South Eastern Ontario. Land o' Lakes. A good 3 and a half hour drive, far away from the big city madness.

Yup! It's official! Ontario Premier Doug Ford surprised us all. Come May 16th, "Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season ...",  allowing, "... access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract."

Hooray! That's us! Janet and I! We have a 40 foot trailer, with a sunroom and deck. 3 kayaks. And a yearly lease on a small plot of land. With 12 maples, on the shore of Lake Mississaganon. 

Think retiree el cheapo chic. Only affordable because we're so far from ahem ... civilization. 

We always spend our spring and summers here. Until Thanksgiving in the fall. Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, seems like this year too.

Seriously! I need to fucking get out of the city! 

El pronto! As far away from as humanly possible. 

Before Premier Ford changes his mind.

Quite frankly, I doubt he did the right thing. The pandemic is hardly over, in Toronto, at least. An extra month of quarantine could've made a big difference. Stopped it from dragging on and on. Through a second and third wave. 

But once again, the economy comes first. The omens and tell tale signs are everywhere. Our strict, safety measures in Ontario have been slowly but surely starting to unravel. Fall apart. For some time now.

Hear the dog whistles? They're everywhere!

Remember earlier? When our Douglas, after warning everybody not to go to the cottage, sneaked off there himself? Or when he warned us against Mother's Day gatherings, then got caught doing just that? 

Or how about when Mayor John Tory got caught without his PPE's? Shaking hands with the huge crowd of Covid-iots? Mingling about in the sun at Trinity Bellwoods park?

Or did you notice the Toronto Police idly standing by? Not wearing their masks or gloves. Not social distancing either.

Sure. Like good Canadians, everybody has long since apologized for their indiscretions! But the word is out, eh! Loud and clear. 

Beware! Our "leaders" are saying one thing. But doing something else. And before we know it, everything starts to fall apart.

Gatherings of 5 people or less? This weekend, saw the largest crowd in Toronto yet. Regretfully, for a cause very close to my heart. A protest march, with which I would normally quite heartily support. 

Yup! Thousands marched through the streets! Protesting against discrimination. In solidarity with our indigenous bothers and sisters. With POC. Demanding a thorough and transparent SIU investigation into the suspicious death a young, mentally distressed, black woman. 

Regretfully, as a senior, I sat this one out. There's just no way I'm marching in a huge crowd. Yelling and working up a big sweat. Not social distancing properly.

Right now, it's a definite health risk. Watch for the Covid-19 numbers to spike.

Nope. I'll let my keyboard speak out for me instead. Here and on twitter. 

And so it goes and on and on and on ....

Here we now are. Far off in the woods. As far away as we can possibly get. 

Alone except for the bears ... The coyotes ... racoons ... rabbits ... and snakes. The huge clouds of mosquitos ... black flies ... caterpillars ... insects and bugs of every sort ....

Hmmmm ... Well, I still feel a lot safer here! 

Much moreso than on our last supply run in the city, getting ready to leave. 

Janet and I shopped 2 more Costco outlets, hoping to avoid the zombie apocalypse, as reported a couple of blogs ago, at Costco Vaughan

Social distancing? Ha!

The angry line-up didn't want to let the first responders to enter the store ahead of them. Much yelling and shouting. Almost a fist fight too. Total chaos ensued, as we were asked to keep 6 feet apart. Impossible while trying to make our way through the impossibly tight and narrow checkout lanes. 

Get this: at Canadian Tire, we were greeted by an old white guy screaming racist insults. It was a decidedly multicultural line up. We're all politely and patiently waiting to get in. He's stupidly yelling at everybody to go back home where you come from, to supposedly stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Screw that! We have a blended family. I bet both sides have been here in Canada a lot longer than his! Divisive shit. He's just trying to pick a fight.

Sad. Very sad. Everything spinning out of control. 

Or think of a tinder box. On a short fuse. Just waiting to explode. 

Add lotsa sparks .... Kaboom!

Hiding from the bears ...

Out here in Land o' Lakes, we've been asked not to shop at the local stores. We're quite happy to oblige. 

We'll make frequent supply runs back and forth to the city instead. Much moreso than in years past. Do it all summer long. 

A small price to pay! 

It's back to nature time! Our "Great Escape from Toronto"! 

After two and a half months in isolation, it's time to get the hell out! As far away as we can! Before we blow a gasket.


Back at our trailer, I quickly load up my bong. Enjoy a toke ... or two ... or three ... or four. With my feet up on the front porch, just communing with nature... 

Sure there's plenty of yard work. Gardening and home repairs too. We gotta get the place ready for summer. But it feels so healthy to be outdoors again. Doing some  physical work. Blowing off steam.

The hordes of bugs? Like the coronavirus back in Toronto, they are everywhere. But easy to spot! A well known and most predictable foe. The discomfort of bug netting? Of always remembering to shut the windows? And doors? In comparison, it's a small sacrifice to make!

Afterwards, I grab my lifejacket and paddle. Roll a big fat joint. Head off for some real social distancing in my kayak, out on the lake. 

Miles from nowhere, with nobody but nobody in sight, I paddle upstream. Under clear blue skies and the bright sunlight, I lay back. Fire up my doob. Drift idly back to camp, atop the gentle current. The swirling eddies. All alone but for the cry of the loon. 

Goodbye Toronto! Hello Summer 2020!

Friday 29 May 2020

Santiago de Cuba 2020 1: On The Beach!

Breeze. Mountain. Sea. 

The very name of the Brisas Sierra Mar says it all! Sums the experience up perfectly. 

But there's a lot more! 

Located on the island's south shore, the all inclusive Brisas has a dumfy 3 or 4 star Caribbean charm. The type the Cubans' pull off with a certain aplomb. 

It's an hour along the coast outside Santiago de Cuba. Nestled among the foothills of the Sierra Maestra mountains. Today, the Brisas is but a faded, decaying relic of itself. It's no longer the once grand resort it originally was during the 1990's. But it's bargain basement amenities, friendly ambiance and natural splendour, keep the Canadian, European and South American guests coming back. Loyally, year after year. Janet, my sister Maryanne and me too! [See LINKS below]

Sure, lots of stuff needs repair. The Brisas is notorious for running out of this or that. Has been since the rolling electrical blackouts and chronic shortages during Cuba's "Special Period" in the 1990's; when the US last tightened it's illegal, economic sanctions against Cuba. Back when I first visited the resort.

Now US President Donald Trump is quietly, once again putting the economic screws to Cuba. Sadly, this year, the living conditions were the worst I've seen since then. 

This visit the Brisas buffet and a la carte restaurants were constantly running out of meat, vegetables and fruit. But there was always a very nice chicken, pork or seafood dinner available. Simpler, more home cooked, less fancy -basically what the Brisas does best. 

Healthy home made fruit drinks were readily available, instead of soda pop at the bar. Plus the local beer and rum still flowed freely. Like during the Special Period, the Cubans always find a way to make do, rather than buckle under, to the Yankee imperialists.

Sure, preservatives and food chemicals are sanctioned by the US, for "political reasons" As a result, most of the food grown in Cuba is natural. Organic. Unprocessed. Perhaps not to some tastes, but very healthy all the same.

Another of Cuba's many charms; There is little or no resentment of us as tourists. Yes, we get the best food. And preferred service. But the Cuban government's joint ownership of the tourist industry makes sure that it's resorts are the economic hub of the local community. Creating jobs and funding public services for the locals, rather than allowing most of the profits to be siphoned off abroad. 

That's a real sore point for the US! But so be it! Viva Cuba!

Sadly, within the last year, Trump has managed to cut off the cruise ships. Along with most of Obama's initiatives to open the island to US tourists. And so the number of guests was down quite noticably this year. Mostly just English and French Canadians. Italians, Germans and Russians too. 

For us, that just meant more beach chairs. Plus we paid a lot less for a week at the Brisas during high season, than we would anywhere else in the Caribbean. Only about $1200 Canadian each with airfare, transfers and most everything included! Even that was kind of pricey by Brisas standards, because we booked our vacation early last fall. 

Prefer to go last minute? $800 is more common. Some charters will get them to wave the single supplement too.

True, some of the guests were upset. Didn't like that lots of Cubans are now staying at the Brisas on the weekend. Enjoying the empty hotel rooms, left vacant as the US embargo tightens it's deadly grip. 

Quite frankly, we enjoyed their company; very friendly, down to earth and unassuming. 

Hey, it is their island. We're just spending our tourist dollars there. Helping Cuba out!

But no matter. Basically, Janet and Maryanne love lying on the beach all day. Safely. Without being bothered! 

The Brisas is definitely the place to be!

True, the dark, finely ground sand isn't as spectacular as Varadero's world famous, white sand beaches. But there's still a calming vista. Lush palms. A refreshing sea breeze. Plus no bothersome hustlers! 

Top notch all the way!

On our morning walk, the local villagers, further along the beach would sell us fresh fruit. We had our choice of Papayas. Mangos. Watermelons. Bananas. Zapotes. Or come back later, for the catch of the day. That often included lobster, which the kitchen staff would gladly cook up for you back at the hotel!

The Cubans liked to swap for clothes and toiletries. Sun glasses. Towels. Money's not worth much to them anymore, since there's very little left to buy in the Cuban stores. 

And so one day endlessly melted into the next under the hot sun. In retrospect, our escape from the Canadian winter actually seems quite surreal. 

Maryanne and Janet were happy to just lie on the beach all day. Frolicking in the sea and sand. While Omar kept the drink glasses full from the beach bar hut. 

I'd snorkel along the endless coral reef. Making landfall further down the coast. Lieing in the sand on the completely isolated shore. Collecting shells. Working on my tan a bit. Soaking in the sun. In my minds eye, I'm still there!

Alas! A week later, we'd be back in Toronto. Stuck indoors. In self quarantine. Just to be safe. 

Little did we know at the time, but the bus loads of Italian tourists we were rubbing shoulders with, were sometimes infected with the Covid-19 virus!

The pandemic wasn't official yet. Just a small, news story, from the other side of the world. One that kept popping up now and again, during our winter travels, on the satellite TV news, back in our room. Something we planned to look into when we got home. Little knowing. Never guessed.

We were quite focused on the moment instead. Glad to just be travelling about. In retrospect, enjoying much happier, fleeting times.

Retired now, I still keep contact with my former Cuban teacher colleagues and their families. Those with whom I worked in Santiago de Cuba. From the Oriente Pedagical institute. Or the Toronto Friendship School. Some are still teaching, or are tour guides now. Many of our former students are still employed at the resorts. Or are retired, like myself, but without many of the material benefits that we take for granted, in Canada.

Of course, we'd also booked a second week in Santiago de Cuba to visit everybody in town. Make our rounds.

My sister Maryanne, a nurse, likes to also join us on our Cuba trips. She'll bring some much needed medical supplies. While Janet and I will bring along a few extra suitcases of clothing, toiletries, and household necessities, mostly just our own stuff now, as we downsize into retirement. Plus I still like to drop by and help out with the English classes at the school. 

More on all of that will follow in the part 2 of my Santiago de Cuba 2020 travel blog. 

Before we left the Brisas, we invited some of our Cuba amigos y amigas out for a visit. 

It's a yearly tradition. We laugh it up. Renew old friendships. Have a big all inclusive party at the resort. It costs very little and we have so much fun.

When Professors Jose, Martha and Aurelio arrived, the first thing I noticed was that they'd lost a lot of weight. Sure, we could tell that the situation was very tight by the sparseness of the food, services and amenities at the Brisas. 

But just how tight only became fully apparent when Janet and I visited Santiago de Cuba, a week later.

Sadly, this visit, conditions at the Brisas were as bad as during the Special Period nearly 30 years ago. That's a pretty, big set back in and of itself. But In town, the actual depth of the crisis was much, more, readily apparent. 

And when we now add the Covid-19 pandemic into the mix? It's only going to get a lot worse! 


Brisas: The Joy of Retirement @ HERE!

Another Brisas Review @ HERE!

Brisas: Back 2 The Beach @ HERE!

Brisas: The Beach Is The Thing @ HERE!

Santiago De Cuba A Go Go @ There!

Friday 15 May 2020

An Intro 2 Santiago De Cuba 2020!

Everyone loves except Cuba. Except the United States. 

What's not to love? Cuba's a very safe and friendly Caribbean hotspot. Featuring gorgeous, unspoiled beaches. Reasonably priced hotels. Resorts. And restaurants. It's a hothouse of trova musica, rap, hip hop, and reggaetron. 

But in 1959, Cuba's "Triumph of the Revolution" or so called "revolution with a salsa beat" also kicked the US mafia, United Fruit and other corporate multinationals off of the island for good. [LINK

A literacy campaign followed. Along with universal medicare and education. Housing for all. A guarantee income. And a socialist constitution. 

Throughout Latin and South America, Cuba became the vanguard of the fight against the Neo Liberal Agenda through til today. Loved and respected for defending it 's independence, at all costs.

Which stateside makes Cuba a rogue state. The party is definitely over. Has been for the better part of 60 years. Under a crippling and illegal US economic embargo, Cuba was often economically isolated, facing chronic shortages of almost everything, for many years.

With the constant threat of military attack, they've also been living in a constant State of Emergency too. Much, much worse than the medical one we ourselves face today.

Remember President Obama's spring 2016 visit to Cuba? An end to all this madness finally seemed in sight, as the two countries began to normalize relations. 

As I reported in my 2015 "Cuba What Do They Think Blog?" , life for the Cuban people, everyday folks people much like yourself and I, began to improve a lot. [LINK]

Cuba even elected a new president. Embraced "sustainable socialism"; with a more open, mixed economy. And welcomed American cruise ships, airline flights and more and more American tourists. Along with the much needed dollars and jobs that brings.

It was a recipe for success, raising the Cuban standard of living. Ending the chronic shortages of food, medicine and everyday necessities from years past. While keeping in tact the revolutions important social gains. The turn around was especially evident during my spring 2018 visit to the Toronto Friendship School. [LINK]

Think of it like this -let's say Cuba was North Korea or China? 

The US would be jumping with joy! Doing cartwheels!

But now, as the Covid-19 pandemic steals everyone's attention, something truly evil is brewing. 

President Donald Trump is taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis to quietly tighten the US economic screws on Cuba. Bigly!

Even medical and humanitarian aid often aren't getting through, including food, medicine and PPE's [1]

Sadly, this year when Janet and I visited Santiago de Cuba, Trumps bullying tactics had already begun, plunging Cuba back into an economic crisis, like I haven't seen since the early 1990's

If you visit this site a lot, you'll know I first visited Santiago de Cuba in 1992. That was during the "Special Period", after the collapse of it's trading partners in the Soviet Union and the Socialist Bloc. As the Cold War ended, Cuba was left isolated and economically bust. 

That's when I began the CSP: Cuban Schools Project, an educational development aid project, to teach English and basic business skills in Cuba. [LINK]

Teaching can be a subversive activity. Canada, like most countries, around the world, didn't join in the US embargo of Cuba. Instead, we've pursued a more measured policy of constructive engagement, to help fix the underlying problems in Cuba. Give them a fair chance.

The CSP helped with solidarity grants from the Ontario Teacher Unions, to build and develop the Toronto Friendship School in the barrios of Santiago de Cuba. We also helped develop the Ingles Para Ti English Instruction workbook, to best reflect the Cuba's special cultural, social, economic and political reality. [LINK]

In 2013, I retired from active teaching. But I still keep in touch with my Cuban teacher colleagues and their families in Santiago de Cuba. 

Like me, most of them are retired now too. Most visits, I invite them out to the resort for a bit. Or spend time in town. Hanging out, making the rounds, sharing memories. Creating new ones. 

But this visit, something had definitely changed. The cruise ships and flights from the US had stopped. So too, the money and jobs. The chronic shortages of anything and everything were back, much like during the Special Period. 

I'd planned to write my Santiago de Cuba 2020 travel blog after Janet and I flew home on March 10th. But a day later, the WHO declared the worldwide pandemic. As our own "State of Emergency" grew, my Santiago de Cuba 2020 travel blog got delayed; again and again and again.

Since then, we've kept touch with our Cuban friends through Facebook and the social media. The crisis has only gotten a lot worse.

All flights to the island are now cancelled indefinitely to stop the Covid-19 spread. Cuba's had to shut down tourism; it's main source of income, as the island leans full tilt into battling the virus. 

Santiago de Cuba 2020 covers our trip to the Brisas Sierra Mar Resort, and our stay at the Melia Santiago de Cuba Hotel. 

I'll include a first hand account on the effects of the US economic embargo before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Surely tightening the economic embargo now, during the Covid-19 pandemic, is unjust! Pure evil! Quite unnecessary too! Please consider the horrible impact it'll have upon everyday Cubans, people just like you and me, as they too fight the deadly virus.

Are they about to become an unfortunate footnote to the Covid-19 crisis, should Trump succeeds?

Hopefully Santiago de Cuba 2020 can help put a more human face on the terrible tragedy happening in Cuba today. And help get the word out!

And so, on with our story .....

[1] News Links + Details @ Teacher Free Speech Spring 2020 News and Views [LINK]

Wednesday 6 May 2020

My Covid-19 Diary 5: Toronto Trippin'

After being on the road, it's hard just staying at home all the time. Though it's only been about two months since we got back, it now seems like a lifetime ago .... 

Last fall, Janet and I hit the open road to celebrate her retirement. First Japan [LINK] and then Florida [LINK]. With stopovers inbetween; back home in Toronto at Christmas, and for a February protest rally or two. [LINK] Before we wrapped up our winter tripping in Santiago de Cuba.

Originally, we'd planned to stick around Toronto for only a month or so. Then go to our trailer in the Land o' Lakes [LINK]. Fully enjoy the Canadian spring, summer and early fall in the great outdoors. 

Instead, the Covid-19 pandemic struck. We've been grounded at home, ever since.

I'd planned a Cuban travel blog when we got back. That was interrupted by the pandemic too. It'll follow shortly. First, a few, more, catch up notes:

Covid-19 is truly, a silent, uncanny enemy. Since our close brush with Costco and the Zombie Apocalypse, I've acquired a real aversion to going outside, even just for our groceries and household supplies. [LINK]

One never knows where the nefarious coronavirus lurks ...

During November, we were in Japan. Apparently, that was before the pandemic struck. We saw some fellow Chinese travellers, but can't recall having any contact with them. 

We regularly rubbed shoulders with the German and Italian tourists In Cuba. Some of of them, as it turns out, were carrying the virus. We seem okay, but being good Canadians, are still staying at home anyway

As seniors, we're at high risk. Plus, who knows who's asymptomatic? Maybe the shopper next to us? The sales or stock clerk?

Better safe than sorry! Since crossing Costco off our shopping list, we decided to try grocery shopping at the nearby Metro Downsview instead. Saw lots of shoppers in gloves and masks. But only about half of them were social distancing. 

There were plenty of signs and announcements over the PA, but it's very easy to make mistakes, when the aisles are narrow. 

Still, it seems like many shoppers simply can't measure and stay 2 metres apart. Or maybe they think that either wearing PPE's or practising social distancing, but not both, will do?

All things considered, I'm not surprised that the infection rate here in Toronto hasn't yet shown a steady decline.

Plus, without proper testing, we've no idea how widespread the virus really is. Where it's spread. Nor if it's always being properly reported either, when there's an outbreak at the stores.

It disturbs me to no end. Sometimes, the tension is almost palpable. Janet's really good about it all, but likes to go shopping anyway. Like a big kid, she just wants to get out. Is going stir crazy.

I feel her pain. But am more hard assed about the safety precautions. Meanwhile, she's stuck indoors with me now all the time. Poor girl!

Still, we've been together almost twenty years. Are apt to verbally spar and squabble at the best of times, as is our way. Fortunately, we're very used to each other by now. We're still keeping it together, quite well. 

It's May now. It's been a very long stretch. Our condo is spacious. Very comfortable. Low maintenance. If need be, we can hang on here indefinitely.

Still, even the overhead flights to nearby Pearson International Airport have now all but stopped. Replaced with a quiet uncertainty among the endless hours of waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting to safely get back outdoors again; the new order of our day. 

Oh to be social distancing way out in the woods, in the Land o' Lakes! In my mind's eye, Janet and I are lounging on our summer porch, with two tasty steaks on the BBQ. I'm toking on a big, fat, outdoor sized reefer. Inbetween frequent kayak trips. Instead of this .... 

And so, we patiently await news on whether trips to cottage country will be allowed come the May 18th Victoria Day long weekend. When Toronto is still the provincial epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic?

And we're still tripping! Kinda sorta! Lately, I've been vaping some lighter, hybrid cannabis strains to rest and relax, legalization style. 

I'm finishing off the last of the Emblem Nebula, that I was telling you about. A little OHM leaves me feeling pretty dreamy and sedate. Or I'll fire up some 808 Headband, for a happy, euphoric buzz. Plus, I enjoy the old one-two punch of a lil' Pine Tar Kush, when it all gets too much. Yummy. Yummy. Yummy.

Last Saturday, a 100 mg THC Smiley Pop had me ... er ... smiling. A lot! That really livened things up!

Come evenings, Janet and I enjoy a pot of Yoni tea; 300 mg THC and 100 CBD per 30 gm pack. That's a lot of tea! 

It's a different kind of tripping, but very calming and relaxing. We'll cuddle together on the couch. Watch TV. Have our fun. Then drift gently off to sleep.

So, as we wrap up two months at home, we're still hanging in there. Hope you are too!

Be well!

Keep trippin' the good way!

David C.


Communist Girls ARE More Fun!

Communist Girls ARE More Fun!
See below ...

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Girls Are More Fun #1

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls are More Fun #2

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Grrrls Are More Fun #3

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Communist Girls Are More Fun #4

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?

Art at the Paris Louvre: What does it mean?!?
A careful analytical study!

Help! I Have No Arms!

Help! I Have No Arms!
Please scratch my back.

I can't find my underwear!.

I can't find my underwear!.
Have you seen them!

Weee! I can fly!

Weee! I can fly!
Look! I can crawl thru walls!

I have a headache!

I have a headache!
And a broken nose.

I have a square hole in my bum!

I have a square hole in my bum!

Here try this, it's very good!

Here try this, it's very good!
No. You have a bird face.

I have an ugly baby!

I have an ugly baby!
No I'm not!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!

Let's save all our money + buy pants!
OK but I need a new hand too!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

Oh no! I got something in my eye!

You don't look well.

You don't look well.
No. My head hurts +I have a sore chest.

Would you like a bun?

Would you like a bun?

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!

Chichen-Itza: Lost Maya City of Ruins!
The Temple of Kukulkan!

Gotta love it!

Gotta love it!
Truly amazing!

Under Reconstruction!

Under Reconstruction!

Temples + Snakes!

Temples + Snakes!

The Snake!

The Snake!
It runs the length of the ball field!