March 11, 2011


It's the way that girl moves.

March 6, 2011


Something I really like about being a grown-up is that I don't have to explain why I do everything I do. One spring morning I got up at 5 a.m. and presented myself at a certain downtown street corner. I took off all my clothing, I lay down on the pavement and I had my picture taken.

Do you know the work of Spencer Tunick? People are often pretty passionate about his art: They love it or they hate it; there's little middle ground.

Spencer is an artist/photographer who has been taking pictures of groups of naked people in public places in hundreds of cities worldwide, since 1992. He juxtaposes the softness of the human body against the hardness of city streets.

Spencer feels sometimes like an explorer and sometimes like a criminal. Most of the time, he feels like an artist who creates his work under very stressful conditions. The nude bodies themselves aren't so controversial, he says. The controversy lies in the fact that he uses the city as his landscape. The conditions in which he creates his work are 'tense, crazed and unpredictable'. His models are 'urban adventurers and he helps them see the world in a different way'. He creates 'memories they will hold forever'.

This urban adventurer saw a notice in the newspaper: “Pose nude for a group photograph by Spencer Tunick in downtown Montréal. Wear loose clothing and no jewelry. You will be nude for a few minutes and the entire event will take 20 minutes. In exchange for posing you will receive a print of the event signed by the artist. If interested, reply by email.” I'm no nudist but I could not resist this unique opportunity.

The event was totally endorsed by the City of Montréal (which might have sucked some of the air out of Tunick's badboy persona, but hey, that's the kind of city this is). Police set up barricades ensuring only we imminent strippers could enter the vicinity. Gawkers were kept at a distance.

2500 people of all shapes and sizes had registered to participate.

Spencer assessed the size of the crowd and positioned the aerial lift from which he would take the first picture. Then we got our instructions: “Remove all clothing, leave it in a pile on the sidewalk and walk westward on Ste. Catherine Street until reaching the trio of police cars. Stand close together, and when you hear the whistle, collapse on the pavement. Fall naturally. Don’t reposition yourself for comfort, and please, no talking. Now get undressed.”

And without hesitation, we did. I didn't want to see anything too gross so I kept my head upright at all times, not looking below anyone's shoulders. I suspect others did the same. It was weird and it was wonderful. But hot and sexy? Probably about as erotic as a meeting of your grandmother's bridge club.

Spencer took three different pictures in the streets next to Place des Arts and on the grounds itself. That's me next to the pole on the right-hand side. I was actually laying across a sewer.

There was a brief delay between each shot but there was no naked mingling. Three times we got naked and three times we got dressed, each time leaving our clothes and shoes in a little pile somewhere on the asphalt.

By the time we disrobed for the last pic, the routine had become somewhat banal, at least to me. I'd grown oh-so-blasé and didn’t make a mental note of exactly where I'd put my clothing. And wouldn't you know it, after the final shot, the stuff went missing.

Swear to god, it was like living in an unfunny skit on Saturday Night Live. Totally starkers, I darted frantically amongst the half-dressed and fully-dressed people leaving the premises, looking for my little pile. It's not so easy to see a clump of clothes on the road when one's view is obstructed by 2500 pairs of legs.

An hour later - well it felt like an hour; it was probably about five minutes - the stuff turned up and I returned home pretty darn pleased with myself.

September 24, 2010


If only I'd seen something like this.

September 13, 2010


Love it love it love it. Newport Jazz Festival, summer 1958.

September 12, 2010


If I'm not an enigma by the age of fifty, admittedly, it's unlikely to happen. But not on account of a lack of know-how. StevieB tripped over a useful lesson on which I keep close at hand.

How To Be An Enigma

Being mysterious is something alluring to many people. Movies, books and the media are constantly cultivating an aura around characters that always leaves you wanting more. So what is it about certain people that makes them so alluring. They are enigmas. Follow these few steps to be an enigma to your friends and family, and be alluring to all you meet.

1) Practice saying as little about yourself as possible when interacting with others. Ask other people about themselves and listen intently without interrupting too frequently.

2) Try to stay away from places where you will run across many people you know. Create a sense that you shop, eat and socialize somewhere no one else knows about.

3) Dress in an understated and fashionable way. Cultivate a sense of fashionable difference from what is trendy.

4) Be nonchalant about most things. Say unexpected things that people wouldn't expect you to say then return to being unaffected and aloof.

5) Limit access to your home and personal information. Take time to cultivate interests in different and off-beat things that others may not know about or think that you would have knowledge of.

It's that simple.

December 4, 2009


Welcome everyone and thank you all for joining us on this very special this afternoon !!

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Brock and Bill have invited us into their home today not to witness the beginning of what will be but rather to celebrate what already is. In the 30-plus years they've been together, their love and understanding of each other has grown and matured. They have decided to live the rest of their lives together as a legally married couple. In doing so, they’ve invited us to participate in the celebration of a union which began when they were teenagers.

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Theirs is a partnership freely chosen and founded on love, friendship, trust and respect. It is a partnership that encourages open communication, self-expression, the sharing of knowledge and most importantly, an enthusiasm for life.

For the record, I am Teresa T and I have been authorized by the Minister of Justice of the Province of Quebec to solemnize the marriage of Brock and Bill on this day, October 24, 2009.

Bill and Brock, you have come to love each other deeply and sincerely. That love has given you the desire to unite in marriage. In this ceremony, you are dedicating yourselves to give happiness and well-being to each other.

Your marriage is an act based on love and rational thinking. It mustn't be based on the vain hope of what the other will or will not do or what he might or might not become. It must be based on the firm belief in your own individual worth and that of the other.

Your pledge today is an expression of your devotion. The words spoken in this ceremony will validate your marriage only if your love and commitment to one another are strong enough to sustain it.

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Brock and Bill, you have invited us to witness the happiness that you have found in each other. Did you come here freely and are you ready to make the pledges to which you commit yourselves to each other in love?


Do you Bill and do you Brock solemnly affirm that you do not know of any lawful reasons why you cannot get legally married?

'We do'

Are both of you prepared to accept one another as your legally wedded spouse?

'We are'

It is appropriate that you, their families and friends, are here to participate in this wedding. The ideals, the understanding and the mutual respect which Brock and Bill bring to their marriage have roots in the love, friendship and guidance with which you have provided them.

Before uniting you in the bonds of marriage, I am required to read to you the following articles from the Quebec Civil Code which set out the rights and duties of spouses:

1) "The spouses have the same rights and obligations in marriage. They owe each other respect, fidelity, support and assistance. They are bound to live together."

2) "In marriage, both spouses retain their respective names and exercise their civil rights under those names."

3) "The spouses together take in hand the moral and material direction of the family and assume the tasks resulting there from."

4) "The spouses choose the family residence together."

And finally,

5) "The spouses contribute towards the expenses of the marriage in proportion to their respective means. The spouses may make their respective contributions by their activities within the home."

Samuel Johnson, distinguished poet and novelist of the 18th century, facetiously described wedding rings as, quote, “a circular instrument placed upon the noses of hogs and on the fingers of women to restrain them and bring them into subjection”.

Times have changed. In the modern era, the wedding ring has come to represent undying love and the continually renewed vows of the married couple.

Their circular shape has long symbolized timelessness. Certainly the operative word for these two guys is “timelessness”, as they’ve been together for their entire adult lives. They can hardly remember a time when they weren’t together - and some of you here this afternoon probably can’t remember it either.

Now I’m going to invite them to tell you the story of their wedding rings themselves:

Back in the early 1980s, Brock and I exchanged signet rings on our birthdays. This didn’t have any particular significance at the time. We just thought it would be cool to exchange symbols of our friendship.

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Today’s story begins about 20 years later, in July 2005. We were on vacation in Provincetown and Bill thought it was time for a ring upgrade. He found just the rings for us at a trendy little shop on Commercial Street.

But the store didn’t have our sizes in stock. They’d have to be ordered from Switzerland and mailed to us here at home. In the meantime, we thought we’d move our old signet rings to the traditional wedding-ring fingers, where we’d eventually wear the new rings. Never mind that the fit wasn’t quite as snug as it should have been. It was just short-term, until the new ones arrived from Europe.

Later that afternoon we cycled out to the beach at Herring Cove. The tide was rising, it was windy and the water was rough. In retrospect, what happened was almost predictable: As we splashed around, the poorly-fitting ring slipped off my finger and disappeared into the water.

We knew it had to be laying just inches from where we were standing, but we couldn’t see or feel it, as much as we squinted in the salt water and frantically groped around in the sand and rocks. It was gone and we were devastated.

But right then, we had a Harold and Maude moment. Harold and Maude is a movie, a dark comedy that came out in 1971. It’s the story of a nerdy teenage boy and a quirky elderly woman who meet in a cemetery and fall in love.

The couple visits a seaside amusement park and Harold gives Maude a token inscribed “Harold loves Maude”. Maude admires it, saying it’s the loveliest gift she’s received in years. Then she tosses it into the ocean with the pledge “So I’ll always know where it is”.

Right then and there we had our own Harold and Maude moment. Something about having just one of the old signet rings between us was unbalanced and just wrong. We agonized for a few moments, silently hugging in the swirling water, tears filling our eyes. Half a minute later Bill said, “It's gone”.

We like to think of our old signet rings at rest together, somewhere in Cape Cod Bay. We’ll always know where they are.

When we decided to get married, we considered exchanging wedding rings. But we chose not to. Because no rings could ever be more significant than the ones we are wearing now. We hope you can now appreciate why.

Do you Bill take Brock to be your lawfully wedded partner for as long as you both shall live?

'I do'

Do you Brock take Bill to be your lawfully wedded partner for as long as you both shall live?

'I do'

For as much as you have declared your love for one another and have agreed to be united in marriage, I, Teresa T, by the power vested in me by the Civil Code of the Province of Quebec, now pronounce you, Brock and Bill, to be legally wedded partners.

And I present to you, family and friends, the newly married couple...

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We all wish for you that this marriage be great and remain so as you continue your journey down the road of life together. We don't know what lies ahead. Nevertheless, as a community we are prepared to help you to make the best of whatever comes your way. We wish for you that you hug each other often, talk, and laugh a lot.

We hope that you continue to enjoy each other as you already have for so long. May you realize that nothing or no one is perfect and that you look for the good in all things and all people, including yourselves.

Remember to treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together in the first place.

May you continue to respect each other's likes and dislikes, opinions and beliefs, hopes and dreams and fears.

May you learn from each other and to help each other to grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

May you realize that there is purpose in your lives and that if you hold onto each other, you will know that things have a way of working out as they are meant to be.

Most of all, may you keep lit the torch of love that you now share in your hearts so that by your loving example you may pass on the light of love to others around you.

Allow me, on my behalf and on behalf of all those present, to offer you our best wishes for your continued happiness. Congratulations Bill and Brock !!

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(photos by Kathleen VanderNoot)

October 15, 2009


Except to say Mom and Dad turned right around re-my upcoming marriage and they did it as abruptly as they'd expressed their initial apprehension. To recap:

Day One: Announce to the 'rents that my companion of 35 years and I were finally going to make it legal. They tell me they have "misgivings".

Day Two: Dad calls with an itemized list of reasons why my marrying Bill is a bad idea. I have him read it to me twice - you know, to be sure it all really sinks in.

Day Three: Dad calls again, this time to apologize for any hurt the first response may have caused and to express their congratulations.

I don't know they why they were so ignorant on Day One and I don't know what made them do the one-eighty only forty-eight hours later. All I know is, they did. I'm not digging any deeper.

October 2, 2009

This column was published last week in the local newspaper of the suburb where I grew up, directly across the river from Montréal.

I imagine Leonardo thinks he's hip to the ways of "many enlightened folks". He's made an astute observation on an ironical occurence, he believes.

Do truly enlightened folks pad their accounts of street crime with preconceived notions of the races of the individuals implicated? When the author draws attention to the purse-snatching - which certainly isn't a big news story in and of itself - and so-called "role reversal", he perpetuates the very stereotype he means to refute.

Shame on David Leonardo. The sad part is he's probably entirely oblivious to it.

I'm re-publishing his words here lest anyone forget that ignorance is still running rampant even in supposedly progressive places.

September 29, 2009


It might actually be easier to find a husband around here than to interpret the forms to be completed before you can marry one.
"Enter the name of officiant only followed by 'designated officiant' for officiant's quality."

Say what? Holy moley. Only in Québec.

September 25, 2009


I'll be turning 50 years old, I'll be joining the Quarter Century Club at work and I'll be getting married.

Oh do I ever want to savour every minute, luxuriating in celebrations of the wonderful life I've cobbled together in spite of having been a complete loser for the first twenty years of it.

And I want the fuss to be over with already. Ironically, while I'm an attention whore, I'm all queasy inside when I'm at the centre of it.

But if I've ever learned anything about the human condition it's that we have to allow for the contradictions in ourselves. No one is just one thing.

Celebrations start this evening. Happy Tank.