July 22 – U

363/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Wow, only 3 more gratitude posts left including this one!!  When I started this journey a year ago, I was a little nervous as to if I would have 365 people to thank.  I didn’t want it to come down to posts such as thanking my mailman for the flyers he delivers in that they were the ones that led me on to some awesome deal!! ; )  Early on in these posts, I started hearing from friends that so and so had made “the list”.  I didn’t understand what that was until I was told that it was my “gratitude list”.  That put some pressure on me to say the least as there was now a “list”.  I didn’t want it to be a list and I didn’t want it to be some type of contest.  Then I heard that some people mentioned they were in the 80s and others were in the 200s!  I do have to make it clear that I haven’t had an order as to who I thank and thus whatever number gratitude post it was has no relation to ranking.  Most posts are the night before or a couple of days before.  Yes, I saved my dad for his birthday as I did with my children for theirs, my mom was first because well she is my mom but save for them and the final two gratitude posts, no one had a day or a number.  The list by the end of Sunday is far from complete.  I could thank another 365 people who got me to where I am today and this is what today’s gratitude post is about – to all of the people I didn’t name and there are hundreds of you that have impacted me!  So many former students, co-workers past and present, family members, inlaws, bosses, professors, fellow students, random strangers, neighbours past and present, friends, backhanded gratitudees (bullies and the like), service providers, celebrities etc, etc – just so many people who have made me who I am and to all of you un-named in this past year, you are part of this gratitude journey just because you were not personally mentioned here doesn’t mean you weren’t recognized by me.  To all the new people that will come in to my life, thanking you in advance as some of you will change and influence me in new ways.  Thank you to all of you who came along with me on this 365 day journey as well.  Your encouragement and support has gotten me to this end point.

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June 22 – Hold Me Now

333/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  My defining moment came in 1987.  The year prior (1986) I got that amazing job at Expo 86 and the year after (1988) I got married – two amazing life milestones but the one that shaped me probably the most was traveling to Quebec on my own to learn French for the summer.  I had attempted travel (after high school graduation) to Europe with others and that was a nightmare so I was very wary to say the least.  I traveled across Canada on a plane and a train on my own – the train being an amazing experience!  I met people who had lasting influences on me.  I experienced many, many things for the first time.  I basically broke out of the self-imposed shell that protected me!  However, the highlight of the entire summer came from being at the right place at the right time.  I, with a few friends, were supposed to go to a club – a former cathedral converted into a dance place – but we couldn’t get ourselves organized.  We then heard about a band playing in the back field of our campus (Universite de Laval) as a warmup before their performance at said cathedral.  It was all on the hush-hush and only a few people were privy to the information.  I was in the in-group but more on the outside of the inside in that I was not informed who the band was.  I got there.  There were perhaps 20-30 of us and who was performing but only one of my all-time favourite 80s group – The Thompson Twins.  Okay, for you young ‘uns, you have no clue what I’m talking about but they would be the equivalent of say The Black Eyed Peas in their hey-day!  I was in shock.  This was my 80s music.  Tom Bailey (lead singer) epitomized coolness to me (oh, and I tried to model several of my hairstyles after him) and here he was only 15 feet away from me.  Afterwards, they talked to the group of us but I was just freaked out and stood in the back trying to take it all in.  I have never, ever been a fan-boy for celebrity but yeah, here I was freaking the shit out!!  I can’t even remember the songs they performed as it was so surreal and at times I wondered if it happened but yes, it did!  I just happened to be where I was supposed to be and the Thompson Twins were supposed to entertain me on that night.  They were at the top of my 80s musical idols.  I had a love for their music but ever since, ever so more.  Everyone needs their musical, athletic, artistic, whatever it is idols because their talent gets us through things in life but to be able to see them perform in real life is a special experience and it has been the one concert going event (can I even call it that) that has stayed with me until this very day!  As I create a Spotify playlist in their honour, here’s to my musical heroes who I didn’t know were until that night – The Thompson Twins!!

June 8 – tattoo you

319/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  In my adult years, I have loved drawing attention to myself through my appearance.  I am a confident man who enjoys expressing myself in multiple ways – I’ve already talked about my hair (literally the pinnacle of my aesthetic self) but today is about the body art that I adorn myself with and the two gentlemen who so greatly helped in getting me to the point where I got inked.  I have always wanted to get tattooed and would looked longingly at others over the years at artwork that looked incredible in my eyes.  However, the other thing that would catch my attention (or sometimes rather not) was the location of such artwork.  In my mid to late 20s, I decided to go get my eyebrow pierced – yes, it was de rigeur to be so avant-garde (oh how it really wasn’t as everyone had one but not the point 😉 ).  I found myself at Sacred Heart Tattoos on West 10th and the owner happened to be my piercer.  There I am lying down at his station and he’s sterilizing the equipment and putting on his gloves while he’s been conversing with me.  He then just stops and says “You are not getting an eyebrow piercing.  You are not ready for it.  In fact, it’s not you”.  I was shocked.  I didn’t know it but he did.  He was right.  He read my body language.  He told me that he could have pierced me and taken my money but I wouldn’t be happy.  He told me to give it 6 months and if I still wanted it, to come back and he said one more thing.  I would be one for a tattoo – a uniquely placed, meaningful tattoo when I was ready for it.  His words stayed with me for over a decade and a half and every time I thought of getting a tattoo, I knew where I would get it done.  To celebrate my 40th, I knew exactly what I wanted.  Tattoos.  Not one but two.  The names of my kids – things I would never regret.  I designed the font.  Cursive and looks Sanskrit like lettering but the words are in English – Natasha and Ethan the names of my kids as we are Western with an Eastern influence.  Each of them chose the colour of the font – Blue and Green.  I also decided where I wanted them.  Inner forearms.  I took it to Sacred Heart.  Sadly, the owner (whose name escapes me) was no longer there.  I contemplated on hunting him down and for some reason I didn’t but was turned over to the Candyman.  He refined the tattoos slightly.  The date was set, all instructions abided by and I showed up.  Once again, my nerves started showing and he stopped preparation.   I told him I didn’t want them anymore.  He asked the best clarifying question – do I not want the tattoos or rather, do I not want them where I had originally decided.  He hit it bang on.  I didn’t want them on my forearms as they would be too noticeable.  He went through various body areas giving me reasons why they were NOT me.  He was right.  He then told me that I would be the guy who have them start on my inner arm up near my arm pits and work towards my elbows – thus hidden by a full shirt but peek-a-booing beneath a tshirt and sparking discussion because of the uniqueness of the font.  How damn right he was in hindsight.  I got them done (now over a decade ago) and I absolutely love them.  I love the conversations – Ethan is my right hand man since his name is on my right side and Natasha is close to my heart since her name si on my left side.  I love how stylish my ink is.  I love absolutely everything about them!  Thank you nameless manager 😦 and Candyman and thank you Sacred Heart for giving me something that I am proud to wear every single day of my life!

June 1 – strike a pose

312/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  After last night’s emotional, heartfelt and quite draining post, tonight’s is much more subdued and light.  When I was in high school, the classes that I enjoyed the most were some of my electives such as Art and Photography.  I remember taking my first and only photography class at Richmond High in the early 80s.  Mr Waber was my teacher.  The cameras back then had nothing on all the technological advances of today – I mean the word filter was before the fact, not after as it is today 😉  And selfie??  Not even on the horizon LOL.  Editing software – future language!!  I digress, back to Mr Waber.  He started us off with a pin-hole tin can camera and I fell in love instantly with photography as I ended up with an amazing photo because of the perspective it gave.  We had different themes for various assignments and I spent my time engaged in the work.  After that class, unfortunately I never touched a camera except for the occasional family pictures, never for artistic escape.  For most of my life, I wanted to get back into taking pictures and share them but because I was concerned as to whether I had talent and a keen eye, I shied away from it and of course, life just kept getting in the way and I made any excuse to avoid taking up photography again until just recently.  My daughter was enrolled in photo class in her high school and she exceled (winning top photo student).  Her pictures were amazing as she had an amazing digital camera.  Her teacher inspired her as had mine.  I decided then that I would start taking pictures but with my cell phone – this way I could blame it on the equipment if I really had no talent 😉  However, if you know me, you know that I don’t do anything half-heartedly – I put my heart into it and well, I certainly did with photography.  I decided to take a picture a day for a year with monthly themes and post them on Instagram – that was in 2014 and here I am in 2016 three years later and still continuing with that project!!  I have done a month of tattoos which entailed going up to complete strangers and asking to take a picture of their tattoo – I loved that month as I got to hear their stories.  I went around for a month and hunted graffiti which got me out of my neck of the woods but then one month I spent an entire in my city of Richmond taking shots.  I have taken pictures of my martini creations for a month – I had to suffer through and drink them each day (the sacrifices I make for my art 😉 ).  One of the strangest monthly themes involved going up to men and taking pictures of 31 different beards – I was only rejected once!  Thank you for Mr Waber for the initial spark and thank you to all of you who have commented about my photography as it has been a great diversion in life as well as being a way to allow me to express myself and share another part of myself with people.

April 24 – can you tell me how to get…

274/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  Both my parents were immigrants to Canada – my dad in the late 50s and my mom in the early 60s.  They had good enough English skills to be able to get by quite well in the new Western culture that they found themselves in; however, they chose to speak to me and my sister in Punjabi and thought that it was the school’s job to teach us English.  Our elderly next door English speaking neighbours encouraged my parents to let us watch Sesame Street in our pre-school years as they convinced my parents that our oral English language skills would be that much better entering Kindergarten – and they were right.  I remember watching Sesame Street in the mornings – at that time I recall a 3 to 4 hour block of it and then a further hour or so in the early afternoons.   I can honestly say that I was enthralled with the show and what I was learning (although I didn’t know I was learning).  I practiced every word and letter and just sat there – literally in front of the tv (I think I have bad eyesight because of how much I watched).  I remember Oscar, The Cookie Monster and Big Bird, Bert and Ernie and the humans (Bob, Carol and the multitude of others).  I’m sure I subconsciously picked up on the ethnic diversity of the cast in addition to the conscious educational aspects.  I don’t have any hard facts but I really feel that watching Sesame Street gave me the academic edge in elementary school equivalent to those kids who go to preschool.  I also feel that the show gave me confidence in my abilities and that not having English as a first language did not pose a hindrance to my learning in any sense as I had Sesame Street there as my private tutor.  I believe that without Jim Henson’s muppets and the multitude of producers, actors and puppeteers, I would have had an added disadvantage in life.  Whoever says that tv is not educational, I would have to disagree – it can be if the right programmes are watched by the right people – academic learning does not have to take place just in a classroom, it can take place in one’s living room.  Thank you Sesame Street for giving me a very fair advantage that made all the difference in the world for my abilities and my confidence!

April 21 – Prince

271/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I heard about Prince’s death this morning from a friend who came by my classroom.  My heart sank.  I was devastated.  Thankfully, my class was working on individual assignments so I could take time to process.  I loved Prince like no other!  People had/have their musical idols – Bowie, Lennon, Cobain, Mercury, Houston, Jackson – all amazing no doubt but Prince epitomized music for me.  He was my idol.  I love music but his music spoke to me on a different level – it was funk.  It was rock.  It was soul.  And it touched my soul.  I loved his image too and he, other than David Bowie, was a male who kept on reinventing himself with look after look – something I have done since I was a young adult – he made it normal for me as a teenage/young male to change up how I presented myself.  I idolized him.  He also made it acceptable not to have to be hyper-masculine to be a male.  He had attitude.  He oozed confidence and sexual bravado.  He didn’t take shit.  He talked smack about whatever he wanted to.  He wore his androgyny proudly.  He did it his own way regardless of what anyone thought. He was Prince.  Everything about him, I loved – and have come to emulate consciously but more subconsciously.  He produced for other artists and after hearing their collabs (Sheena Easton for one), I became a fan of that artist but the reason was the Prince sound.  His videos were iconic – When Doves Cry and Kiss are etched into my memory as are dozens of others.  His signature voice – the falsetto (Camille voice) morphing into his deep natural voice and the amazing production of his songs equaled perfection.  No matter what you called him – Prince, The Purple One, The Kid, The Artist Formerly Known As, Symbol – you can’t deny his talent.  I didn’t understand how people were moved by a celebrity’s death, someone they didn’t know, until today.  Perhaps it reminds me of my mortality as I grew up on his music in the 80s and now I’m 50 and he was only 57.  Perhaps he felt like a member of my extended family as he was always there musically and visually to get me through life’s moments.  Perhaps his songs resonated so deeply with me as they formed the soundtrack of my teens/young adulthood.  Whatever the reason, I’m gonna miss the musical genius but I take comfort in the fact that I have his music to remind me of his talent and what they meant to me.  I concoct a purple martini in your honour and salute you!

April 6 – 70s tv

256/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.   Growing up pretty much on my own with my younger sister, I didn’t really have many influences to guide me on my choices.  My mom, being a single parent on her own not by choice (as my dad was in Riverview because of his schizophrenia for most of my childhood), was working constantly so me and my sister basically made our own decisions.  My mom would work 6 – 7 days a week so our surrogate parent was the television and me being the senior by 2 years would do the picking.  Television was my escape – I could watch cartoons on Saturdays and I would watch cartoons as I would get out of bed to be ready to get my view on at 8 am with a large bowl of Fruit Loops (or is that spelled Froot Loops – weirdly that latter spelling seems to right).  Right after school, I would rush home to sit down with chips and my favourite 3 – 5 double hour of comedies.  Evenings would be campy tv shows or over the top serials.  My values and morals did not come from Disney books as my mom didn’t know how to read English so most of it came from the television shows that I watched relentlessly and as I reflect back, I am so glad that my role models were so clean cut and simple and the values that were portrayed and thereby instilled in me were of the highest calibre.  I watched Gilligan’s Island and learned about faithfulness, camaraderie, relentless pursuit and spirit.  I watched Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine and learned about believing in your instincts and teamwork.  I watched I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched and developed a sense of curiosity while retaining my naivety and sense of wonder.  I watched Dallas and Dynasty and learned about putting yourself forward and demanding what you deserve.  I watched the Brady Bunch and Partridge Family and was taught about family, bonding and the importance of honesty.  I watched Charlie’s Angels and basically learned about valuing yourself for your looks and your ingenuity.  I get criticized to this day that I am obsessed with pop culture but I don’t deny it – I love it.  I grew up on it.  It shaped me – dare I say for the better when I had no other options and I think that the choices I made for my viewing habits were, for the most part, exactly what I needed to become the person I am today.  Yes, I may be viewed (key word) as less knowledgeable/in touch with the world but I would disagree as I make the conscious choice of living my life with the values of the 70s tv shows that I viewed – a time when everything could be solved within one episode.  Thank you to all the television shows and their characters who had an impact on the person I have become – yes, you weren’t “real” per se but you got me through my tough times so you were real enough for me!

March 28 – escapism

247/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  I love to talk.  I love to express myself.  I love to share my opinions.  I love to be heard!  LOL.  If you know me, you know that all that is true about me.  I also love to watch tv and get involved in any discussions regarding the shows that I watch.  I also love music and espouse the virtues of my favourite artists at any turn.  As well, I’m a fan of books and movies and can find myself in enlightening dialogue regarding characters or plot development.  I think this is what makes entertainment that much better – being able to engage into it further than the initial viewing, listening or reading.  About a decade or so ago, I was a moderator of a music forum with a few others.  New singles and artists were introduced (yes, the days of Napster!!) and threads were opened to discuss the merits or faults about the song and I could spend hours embattled in what I felt was a great song or what should have been a huge hit – I enjoyed making ‘friends’ and being able to have lively debates about whomever was artist du jour.  With books, I’ve entered into forums on a work chat site over the years convincing others of the merits of an author and listening to thoughts about others based on what I read.  Not always are the recommendations great, but they do always allow me to expand my horizons.  When it comes to movies, I go to critic sites and see what others are saying.  I also take to heart word of mouth recommendations from friends who I consider would know my tastes – not always have they been right  – Birdman??  Hated it!!  But the follow-up dialogue was better than the movie.  Finally television allows me to engage with people I would not have had things in common with – there are tonnes of co-workers, hockey parents, gym buddies, and Facebook friends who I can text, email, talk to about the episode and come up with theories around the next episode.  To all of my entertainment friends, I love having you around (whether we agree or agree to disagree) about what we have in common – our love for escapism!

March 24 – superhero!

243/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me.  As the movie version of Batman vs Superman is making it to the big screens (and the initial buzz is sadly negative), I started to reflect on why I, as a teenager, have loved movies like The XMen and Batman – basically superhero movies and I realized that most of the themes are about characters who in their regular lives have struggles and challenges due to various reasons but are able to escape and become something through their alter-ego.  I guess it just resonates with the bullied boy in high school who had no means of escape except through his imagination be it through creativity (artwork), music (escaping into music) or fantasy (movies and tv shows).  I am a fan of the marred hero (some can say anti-hero) who still has flaws and isn’t perfect and probably never will be but does what he or she has to.  The outsider becoming the revered.  The outsider becoming better than those who put him on his path of struggle.  The outsider becoming a true version of himself.  The outsider self-actualizing.  Yes, most see the movie as pure entertainment on a superficial level but I see the movie in a deeper way as I connect to the flawed superhero.  Yes, he may not be the quintessential good guy but he is the good guy in my mind as I feel I know where he is coming from.  Thank you anti-superheroes for connecting with the boy inside of me throughout the years and allowing me to not only see but realize my potential!

March 12 – I-G-G-Y

231/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. I am a 50 year old man and I’m going to admit that I love this female. She’s received a lot of flak for supposed cultural appropriation of African-American hip-hop/rap music because she is white – it’s a bigger issue that is beyond the scope of this gratitude post but let me just say that all sorts of other ethnic music has been interpolated over the years and no fuss has been made – closing can of worms. Back to Iggy – I was a fan of hers well before everyone got to know her through ‘Fancy’ in 2014. Back in 2011, I loved the mixtape that she was on featuring her song ‘Pu$$y’ (oh how I cringe knowing I’m a father of two but music is music – it gets to you regardless of your age). I definitely hoped that her first “real” single ‘Work’ would have hit big (I mean, it’s all India/Bollywood – resonates!!) but hey, it’s one of the things I can enjoy that the masses don’t know about. I also have an affinity towards Amethyst as she gets criticism for not being who she should be – once again, yes, 20 something white female rapper and just turned 50 indo-canadian male but I get it: box don’t fit you so you make the box fit you! That has been my life. I have been told to behave and be one way but why should I? So Iggy, you go for yours. Although, I have heard some sneak previews of next week’s big release of the single ‘Team’ and it looks like the rap verses are few and far between, I hope that is not that case and you do you because if there’s anything I’ve learned in 50 years, you can’t please everyone or even anyone except be you. Get than coin I-G-G-Y and make me enjoy what you put out as I have been enjoying for the last 5 years. I’m so Fancy!