Something strange happened to me last week, which propelled me this week to bleed. Literally. But it didn’t hurt. In fact, it felt pretty tingly.
Here’s what happened.
Last week I was headed to an event in my grandmothers car. Lately I have had a distaste for driving. I prefer public transit and cycling, but because I live uptown, when I’m in a hurry or running late (which is often), I grab Sitto’s car (“Sitto” is Arabic for granny) and zoom downtown. Transit would take about 1hr 15mins, and cycling would take 90 mins to 2 hours (and leaving me rather sweaty in my cocktail dress and pumps). Driving takes maybe 20 minutes, but I have had several bad experience with traffic cops and traffic court lately that makes me hate getting behind the wheel.
What I hate most about driving is looking for parking. It’s expensive and it’s hard to find. Luckily on this evening I found a spot in a parking lot on the first try, but as I approached the metre to shove in my hard-earned twoonies and loonies, I noticed something strange.
Here in Toronto, when you fill the parking metre, a computerized ticket slides out the bottom and you place it on your dash. As I exclaimed to no one but myself how expensive the price of parking was at this particular lot, I noticed that a computerized ticket was already sticking out of the bottom slot.
I retrieved it and visually scanned it. Usually people discard their expired tickets in and around the metre, so I was expecting more of the same.
This was a ticket that had been fully paid for, and just left there. It hadn’t expired. In fact, it was valid until 7AM the following morning (12 hours later at this point).
WOO HOO! FREE PARKING!
Sometimes, people who swipe their credit cards in the metre think that because it’s taking so long to authorize, the transaction didn’t go through, and abandon the metre. So I scanned the ticket to look for credit card details.
There were none. This ticket was paid for in cash.
So there were three explanations. Either the person who paid for this ticket was horribly inept and baffled by a simple parking machine with clear instructions stickered to it, or this was part of a sting operation/hidden camera show to catch people red-handed taking other people’s parking tickets … or, this was some kind of pay-it-forward act of kindness from another person in my little city.
I spent about 5 minutes looking all around and over my shoulders for an unmarked cop car or a hidden camera crew to no avail, so I ruled that out. That left either someone’s stupidity or someone’s kindness.
And because I like to believe in the inherent kindness of strangers à la Blance duBois, I chose to believe the latter.
I put the ticket on my dash and enjoyed free parking all night.
I kept thinking about this for hours and hours after the fact. Well into the next day and night. It even kept me awake.
I like the pay-it-forward ethos and practice, although I haven’t actually put it into action, as far as I can recall, since I lived in Quebec as a little girl and left money purposefully behind in a park so that some other kids might find it.
I was jonesing for another opportunity to pay it forward, but wasn’t sure how.
As you guys know, I am embarking in a few days on a huge transnational extravaganza to Asia and Europe, so all of my money is currently being funnelled into those activities. So my pay it forward would have to be something beyond the realm of consumerism.
Besides, as the late great John Lennon said, you can’t buy me love.
I struggled with what I could do for days until one night I was engaging in my usual night time ritual of watching Christopher Hitchens debates on YouTube whilst doing Sudoku (both are exercises in improving your brain power, believe you me), when Hitchens proclaimed in one of his debates that his admiration is reserved for people who do good for their fellow human beings for the sheer joy of giving, rather than those who do it in exchange for prosthelytizing about their religion or out of fear of hell and the wrath of God. He said that one of his ways of doing such good was to give blood. He said that it was something that gave so much to your peers, whilst not really taxing you at all seeing as how your body replaces the blood anyway.
So at 11 o’clock at night, I called the Canadian Blood Services, made an appointment, and a few days later went into one of their clinics and donated a pint of my blood. I also signed up to be on the donor list for bone marrow and stem cells.
Okay, maybe the paid parking was just left there by a neurotic space-cadet who had no idea how to navigate even the simplest of tasks. If that’s the case, then they are probably horrible drivers. Horrible drivers cause accidents. Car accident victims almost always need blood transfusions.
The system works.
If you’re reading this, please consider this your invitation to pay it forward in your own way to your community.
And if you do, please let me know how you get on 😉
***The first photo at the top wasn’t actually taken as I donated blood. That was taken back in 2008 when I was hospitalized for three days for acute tonsilitis and glandular fever in London, England. You can read all about that clusterfuck here!
Been in Montreal for a few days, I had to return very suddenly because of family stuff ( 😦 ), but all the posts you’ve been reading for the past week were scheduled to go live before I left. Anyway, this is the view of Montreal at night from Oratoire St Joseph.
Everyone knows I’m an atheist, but I had to visit Saint Nicks on de Castelnau because my great grandfather who came to canada from damascus in 1902 founded this church, so it’s a bit of a family thing. he also founded the first arabic-canadian newspaper in the country. dude was pretty ambitious.
my parents were also married here, and i was baptized here.
not that those two things mean anything, seeing as how my parents are divorced and there’s no such thing as “limbo.”
“The good will do good, and the evil will do evil, but if you want a good person to do evil things, you’ll need religion.” – Nobel Prize winning American physicist Steven Weinberg.
the raccoons on the mountain come right up to you for nibbles and snuggles.
i should at least be glad, despite the circumstances, that i’ve been able to return to montreal three times in one year.
…. you’ll find an altar boy in need of an Altoid and a kleenex.
found on Metropolitan and Kent in Williamsburg.
i love the blending of iconography, as if to suggest that we are swapping one ridiculous outdated belief system for another more modern belief system. we used to pray, now we prey. i mean, i don’t think Transformers specifically is a religion, but i betcha everyone who plays with the toys or watched the old cartoon/new movies is a virgin.
found on north 7th and north 6th in williamsburg, brooklyn
i think street jesus would get invited to proper parties, get laid, and chill the fuck out.
found on the back of a stop sign at 5Pointz
Fairy Tales for the Fatherless
this is either a theistic or an atheistic statement. i haven’t deciphered it yet.
found on Grand in Williamsburg.
i love QI.
nobel prize winning physicist steven weinberg once said, “the good will do good, and the evil will do evil. but if you want a good person to do evil things, that takes religion.”
have a great weekend, my free-thinking munchkins!
Last night, DeadBoy launched his Under The Influence exhibit at the Don’t Tell Mama gallery (on the Ossington strip), and the exhibit is up for the rest of the month. I would highly recommend checking it out, and buying one of his pieces asap before they’re all snatched up. I’m telling all of you now – in a couple years, his pieces will be selling at Christie’s and Sotheby’s for 6 figures. Mark my words. Buy now! Collector items and they’re fucking gorgeous.
See for yourself:
from his “Adore” series.
this is the one Adore piece that hasn’t hit the streets… yet.
does this piece look familiar? it should.
back in October, Deadboy gave me this piece. it was the very first piece of his i had ever found on the street, and to this day, it is still my favourite and means the most to me. sometimes i get pre-menstrual just looking at it…. stupid girlie hormones. (sniffle).
the piece he’s selling is gold instead of white like mine…. it really makes the image pop and gives it a haunting, antiquated quality to it.
BUY IT WHILE THE PRICE IS LOW!
and speaking of “Madonna,” back in 1983 when she was working the club scene like CBGBs and Danceteria in New York, she briefly dated a then-unknown street artist named….
Basquiat! i think this is my favourite piece at the entire exhibit. it’s an homage to one of the first street artists to change and revolutionize the form. Deadboy actually created this on a door he found! i love found-art! if you know anything about Basquiat when he was a street artist, his tag was “samo” with the crown symbol next to it, which deadboy has incorporated here. Basquiat said that “samo” was in reference to art being “same old same old” but the word also is related to racist language (sambo) used during slavery (and for a century afterwards).
Basquiat influenced his girlfriend Madonna so much, that for a brief time, she engaged in graffiti around new york as well. Her tag was… you guessed it…. “Boy Toy.”
Basquiat eyes. I really really want this door, but I can’t actually USE it as a door because I have a tendency to slam my doors when i’m pissed off (which is often. i have a temper).
“thanks for not voting!”
this one guy showed up at the exhibit and said to me that he found this piece offensive because he’s a card-carrying member of the Conservative party. i said, “really? my condolences.”
the dude then went on and on about how he thinks Canadians abuse the health care system because it’s universal, whereas in other countries where they have to pay for it, they don’t go to the doctor as often. i told him he was talking out of his ass, and that caring for its citizens and ensuring the right to life for every member of society should be the first priority of a government.
he said his taxes were too high because of our universal health care…. to which i replied, “oh of course. who cares about the suffering and disease of other people. all you should care about is your bottom line.”
and he goes, “exactly. i don’t care about other people as long as i’m making money.”
and there you have it folks – this one douche perfectly sums up the Canadian Conservative party in one sentence.
he then got all defensive and was like, “i don’t want to debate my political beliefs!”
and i calmly replied, “you brought it up, dude. i didn’t ask for your political beliefs, you offered up the info to me and started ranting. if you don’t wanna debate it, don’t bring it up.”
opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. and while i respect your RIGHT to an asshole, i don’t respect the shit that comes out of it.
the eponymous piece.
la piece de resistance.
that’s goddamn right. ATHEISM FOR THE WIN!
Exhibit A! This FUBAR email I just received (name has been redacted to protect their privacy):
I’m really nobody who means anything to you or for that matter of fact not much to anyone unless they want something from me and as luck would have it I have what everyone wants so I guess I’m somebody, right ? Anywho I read your blog listened to you, and took you in as I became very aware you are me, OK maybe not me exactly but in other ways we are the same. I was born a long time ago with normal parents I think and a normal upbringing, well sorta. What I found out about myself I saw in you, yes in you, you see I am an artist who unlike many who are like me and those who wish they were, another words I am an artist that gets paid to be me. So am I me or a product of my environment ? I tend to think of myself as a plant at times and what does a plant need ? Water for one, some light here and there but most importantly I need love. Now at the moment I am not loved save for those who have what I have what I want but it always seems to have a price tag on it. So I do like myself because I am kind and patient, with a lot of emotions to spill here and there, what I am saying is I would like very much to have a friend like you. I am not asking for anything from you but to be a pal and a pair we would make. But who am I your are asking yourself……hm-mm well I am German of Persian decent (Oh I am not really a ******** I changed my name because so many hate Germans however everyone thinks I am Persian anyways) so like you we are Middle Eastern and I of olive complexion. Look Christine I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences as I am a Shia so I believe I needed to write you. Now this is what could happen from here, 1.) You can except my invitation to become friends or acquaintances or 2.) You can spam my email and wonder as you will was that guy a man I should have known, yet you’ll only know if you write me back and see where this going. Remember I ask of you for nothing that is unless you want to give me some light. Well anywho I bet your busy so I’ll say I have to go to save you the trouble of saying goodbye for now. Peace & Hugs – ******
PS: I found your blog when I was looking for images of Polynesian flowers for a client and there you were, I also want to add that your the prettiest Polynesian flower I found.”
Does anyone else smell Velveeta Barfaroni?
This is embarrassing for us both …. mostly him.
(PS since when did “no worries” become an accepted greeting? Did i miss an internet meme?)
EDIT: hey CBC Ottawa!
i wasn’t selected to serve as a juror, so i can now talk about it.
a few weeks ago, i received a summons from the attorney general to attend jury duty selection. citizens of canada are chosen at random, so anyone can be required to fulfill their civic duty as long as they have never been convicted of a serious criminal offence, are legally sane, are medically able to, aren’t in law enforcement or lawyers, and are 18 years of age.
usually, when people get jury summons, it’s not for a particular case, but for a wide range of cases that they may or may not be selected for. however, this summons was for a particular case, and in it, they provided me the name of the defence and crown lawyers, the two accused, all of the witnesses, and all of the police officers involved in this case.
the reason i was given the names of everyone involved ahead of time was so that i could confirm that i, in no way, knew any of the people involved. if i did know any of the people involved, that would be a conflict, and i would immediately be dismissed.
i was summoned for the First Degree Murder trial of Jermaine Gager and Corey Smelie who are accused of shooting Darnell Grant in 2008 in the Jane & Finch area. Grant, 31, died at the scene. at the time, gager was 18 years old and smelie was 20 years old. they have spent the past 3 years in jail awaiting their trial. back in 2008, they were charged with second degree murder, but since this was now a First Degree Murder trial, i guess the crown must believe they have evidence to suggest this murder was premeditated.
i showed up at the superior court of justice on the morning of january 26th. gager and smelie were sitting in the dock in the courtroom as justice steven clark brought the court to session to commence jury selection, which gager and smelie are allowed to attend and partake in the selection process.
there were about 300 other people summoned to serve for the 14 juror places, so i knew going into this that the odds of me being selected were slim to none. justice clark began reading out a long procedural lecture on how things worked. there was a lot to take in.
when it was read out that gager and smelie were charged with “first degree murder, which is a violation of the canadian criminal code,” my stomach dropped and i felt sick to my stomach. shit just got real. surrounded by the government and law enforcement, i suddenly felt the full power of the authorities around me, their ability to revoke all your freedoms and rights as a citizen, and incarcerate you for life. extremely petrifying stuff that i am having a hard time articulating.
if gager and smelie are found not-guilty, they still have spent the past 3 years of their life in jail, and this trial will no doubt be the defining event of their lives. who could ever get over such an event?
we walk around the city all day, enjoying the sunshine and our freedoms, and we never think (or perhaps, we refuse to confront) that at any moment, we could either be dead, or behind bars. i have never been around violence of that extreme nature. never in my life. i’ve never been around guns, really. i’ve never even seen a gun, unless it was on the holster of a police officer. i have never been arrested, and have never been in jail. being confronted with criminality, especially in this degree, scared the living daylights out of me.
gager and smelie each stood up to plead not guilty to the charges, and then the 300+ potential jurors in the court room were called out by their appointed numbers and vocations, and divided into groups of 25. i was called at random to be in the 4th group of 25. group D. we were told to return the following day, the 27th, at 10am to be interviewed by justice clark, the defence and the crown. we were told that if the crown or the defence said CHALLENGE during our interview for any reason, that it was not a personal attack on us, they were just applying their knowledge and experience, and that they could challenge any juror for whatever reason they wanted.
i returned the next morning, and after being shuffled from room to room to room (even at one point being sequestered in a room all by myself, which really fucked with my nervous nature), i was summoned into the court room.
the only people in the court room were the crown attorneys, the defence lawyers, the two accused, justice clark, the stenographer, a court reporter, a few bailiffs, and some unidentified people in plain clothes sitting in the juror box.
i was told to stand in the witness box.
i handed justice clark my completed juror questionnaire. he said, “good morning, how are you?“
“good morning, i’m doing well thanks.”
he looked over my questionnaire, and in his booming but friendly voice, he quipped that i was only the second person in all the jurors they had interviewed to notice that the form accidentally had a duplicate question on it. in my brain, i wanted to say something cute, but i refrained because my nerves were going off and my knees were knocking.
he said that the trial might start on monday, and if i had a conflict with that should i be chosen, they could work around my schedule.
the bailiff then approached and asked if i wanted to be sworn in on any of the holy texts sitting in front of me. i saw a bible and a koran. there was a few other books there (which i’m assuming were the torah and perhaps an eastern religious text) but i didn’t look. i immediately rejected, “absolutely not!”
so the bailiff said i could give an affirmation.
the court reporter asked me to give my juror number which i recited aloud. then she read out a statement which basically stated that i was affirming to tell the truth to the best of my abilities.
i said, “i do, yes.”
justice clark then looked at the unidentified plain clothed people sitting in the juror box, and a woman there said she had no objections. i am assuming she was perhaps a juror foreperson? or someone who helps in deciding along with the attorneys who can serve on the jury. i never found out who those people were.
the stenographer was sitting right in front of the witness stand (where i stood), and she was sporting a huge afro. it was at this point that i noticed the crown attorneys, who were sitting in front of the stenographer, kept leaning to the side to see me. they couldn’t see me behind the stenographer’s afro. i found this internally funny, but was too petrified to laugh, or even acknowledge the smiles emanating from that side of the courtroom. from where i stood, i couldn’t see the accused gager and smelie.
the defence attorney who had a shock of white hair and a small low ponytail approached the podium and wished me a good morning. i smiled back and said the same. he then read his question out to me, which was: given the nature of the trial, did i feel that my judgement or my impartiality would be affected by the issue of race.
through all the sugar-coating, he was just asking me if i was a racist.
i guess i wasn’t expecting that question, because i inhaled sharply. i then stuttered, “oh gosh” and then managed to say through my disbelief and shaking voice, “n-n-no.”
i recall some nervous giggles in the court room. my nervousness was perhaps charming and endearing to everyone else, but this here pipsqueak was about to die of nerves. i was shitting myself.
absolutely shitting myself.
the defence lawyer smiled and walked back to his bench.
the bailiff then instructed me to step down from the stand and to walk in front of the stand, and face the two accused.
i couldn’t see them before because i was so short. so as i stepped down on the floor, gager and smelie stood up.
we faced each other across the court room. i looked them both in the eyes, not knowing which one was gager and which one was smelie. they were so tall (or i’m just redonkulously short). they didn’t smile. they had massive dark circles under their eyes (3 years in prison, 3 years in prison….), and i had no idea why this was part of the juror procedure. their two defence lawyers stood on either side of them and had warm smiles which contrasted sharply with gager and smelie. the first defence lawyer said he had no objection. the second defence lawyer said she had no objection.
then the crown attorney, who was still sitting behind his desk, simply said, “challenge.”
justice clark then said, “okay thank you, you are dismissed.”
and the bailiff showed me out. in fact, i think i sprinted out of there, because i don’t remember leaving exactly.
once out the doors, another bailiff confirmed i was dismissed, and that i won’t be called for jury duty again for another 3 years at least.
i literally threw my hands up in the air and squealed THANK FUCK!
i have no idea why the crown attorney said challenge. everyone who was directly in line ahead of me was also challenged, and everyone that came directly after me as well was challenged.
as i walked away from the bailiff, i stumbled over to the opposite wall, dropped my bag, and had a nervous breakdown.
my heart was racing, my legs were failing, and my lungs were heaving. i tried dialing my mother’s phone number but my fingers were shaking too much, i literally had to hold onto the wall and steady myself.
i have no idea really why i was so nervous. the whole legal proceeding scared the shit out of me. weeks ago when i initially received the summons, i thought it would be super cool to serve on a jury. i’m a writer, i thought, i can mine this trial for storylines. and it’s an experience! and it’s civic duty to boot.
but considering how petrified i was in that court room, i know now that i would have made a horrible juror.
i probably would have cried the entire time, especially during family member’s tearful testimony, or viewing dead body photos, and so on.
and because jurors aren’t allowed to talk about the trials, i would have probably had to cut off all my friends and family for the duration of the trial, retreat into my mind, get all depressed, and have zero support.
i would have been a nervous emo-wreck of a juror.
thank fuck for dismissals.
i finally managed to pull myself together, and walk down the escalators to the main floor of the court house. there, i finally called mum’s number and told her the news. but even after i got off the phone, got all my gear, and was ready to leave, i couldn’t walk.
scrambling, i found a bench in the main lobby, and shrank into the seat.
i was immobilized for 20 minutes. i just sat there … staring at nothing in particular … thinking nothing in particular. lawyers, bailiffs, jurors, and crown witnesses sauntered past me in slow hazes. footfalls echoed. cell phones rang. elevator doors opened. voices echoed.
finally, slowly, i managed to stand up, and i inched my way to the exit. it had been snowing all morning, a big fat christmas-like snow, but now the sun was coming out. removing myself from the whole thing, i pushed through the revolving doors. standing on the other side, i tilted my head back, and for a very brief moment before running to catch the streetcar, i enjoyed the sunshine on my face.
speaking of demons …
when Voltaire was on his deathbed, priests asked him to renounce the devil . . . so he replied, “This is no time to be making enemies.”
high five, bruv.
i found these stencils all over Williamsburg my first few nights in NYC and when i blogged about them I called them Crucify Mickey Mouse because that’s literally what the stencils depicted. then later on in my stay, i found this definitive above stencil which finally gives a name to the stencils, “the new apostle.” i also noticed a key element of this this stencil that i hadn’t seen before.
there is a hindu third eye at the apex of the stencil.
then a little while later, i found this spray job, also in Williamsburg. it had uncanny similarities to the mickey mouse stencils, but i wasn’t certain at first that they were done by the same person. sure, this said ‘the new apostle” as well, and it depicted a crucifixion, but it wasn’t a stencil, and there was no mouse, and this seemed to be a human being that was cradled by a palm.
then i looked closer.
the third eye.
near east houston, lower east side, nyc
the great Christopher Hitchens, dead at 62 of oesophageal cancer
he came to toronto last year and debated former british prime minister tony blair at convocation hall (UofT), which i couldn’t get tickets to, but it was streamed online. you can watch the entire debate in the below video, and it is a stirring and rousing battle cry for independent thought and the rejection of moral dictatorship. hitchens delivers “hitch slap” after “hitch slap,” as it were, and even makes blair admit that hitchens argument is more powerful than his own.
a great light has gone out. for atheists, academics, philosophers, writers, and essayists everywhere, this is a huge blow.
but if hitchens were here, he’d tell us all to stop being such saps.
this mural, which replicates a stained glass window scene in medieval cathedrals, is in an alleyway near church and queen. notice how the person in religious garb is stabbing himself in the head?
a lot of religious iconography is graphically violent like this. people being burned alive, people getting their heads chopped off, people being crucified, people being speared.
have you ever really taken a good look at a deck of cards? go find the king of hearts in your deck of cards right now, and tell me what he’s doing in that picture.
it ain’t pretty.
due to recent budget cuts, the light at the end of the tunnel has been switched off.
(i photographed this on the TTC two years ago)
i went galavanting down graffiti alley last night, just to see if there was any new stuff. OMG BLOG CONTENT FOR THE NEXT MONTH=DONE.
for love or money?
guess who’s going back to New York?
i’m so fist-pumpin’-excited. this is going be like something out of an Edith Wharton book (minus the fist-pumps, ‘natch).
my gal amber invited me down to house-sit in her swank Astoria pad while she’s in ontario with her family over the christmas holi-daze. i stayed with amber back in the spring during my two-week-long NYClusterfuck (i blogged about that adventure, read part 1, part 2, and part 3! sasha grey! jon stewart! brooklyn graffiti & street art! 5pointz! theatre! williamsburg hipster douchebags!….good god, it was glorious).
my family doesn’t celebrate christmas (atheism FTW) so i’m perfectly fine spending christmas in new york by myself. but really, i’ll be too busy devouring all the amazeballs graffiti in bushwick, cobble hill, DUMBO, and williamsburg to even notice i’m alone. besides, it’s NEW YORK. you’re never alone.
oh and i scored a ticket to The Nutcracker at the New York City ballet on Christmas Eve. #TheatreFagEpicWin
if you live in NYC, let a sistah know. TWEET-UP!
it’s temporary, this place i’m in, i permanently won’t do this again; my belongings scattered all across the hotel floor
i’m house-sitting again downtown. it’s sooooooo sweeeeeeeet. seeing my friends all the time, walking everywhere, coffee shops and writing. my quality of life goes up exponentially when i’m south of dupont.
let’s smooch and cuddle and talk and laugh and listen to music and eat food and have some awesomesauce-fun-happy-times, and not feel obligated to one another.