We all have our own definition of what gets us ‘back to normal’

“When we’re back to normal.”

That’s become the catch phrase of optimism during this COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to gnaw away at us like a dog on a hard, rubber ball. Unfortunately, “normal” is a word with as many personalities as Sybil.

My normal isn’t your normal and Jill’s normal isn’t necessarily Jack’s normal.

For example, I normally awaken when morning is night and night is morning, between 1-2 o’clock.

Outside my eighth-floor window in those small hours, the world is always deeply dark and dressed in a silence disturbed on occasion by the barking of a dog, the skirl of sea birds, the wail of an ambulance siren, or the pained yowl of a tortured soul wandering without direction on the uncluttered downtown streets below.

(I can hear one of the unfortunate souls as I write this, shouting at and into the darkness, scolding demons unseen by the rest of us for their bad manners. “I told you all!” he bellows in a raspy, fractured voice. “I told you all this is how it would end!”)

That’s the cadence to my writing.

I long ago discovered that the small hours are the most productive for the carnival between my ears, and I don’t shut down until 7-9 a.m., whereupon I begin to read and/or watch retro TV shows and/or movies until it’s time to lower my eyelids, which arrives anywhere from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

That’s my “normal.” Very early to rise, very early to retire, not much ballyhoo in between. Sounds boring, I know.

I should point out, though, that I do step into the out of doors once a week for groceries, doctor(s) appointments, a drug run as required or, as was the case this past Saturday, a long walk.

Once upon a time that now seems very, very long ago, my Saturdays would also include an afternoon shift at Bart’s Pub, where I’d exchange giggles and thoughts with a select group of people who’ve somehow determined that there’s merit in spending an hour or two at my corner roost. I’ve often paused for ponder, wondering why they gravitate in my direction, but I don’t dwell on it. I just count it as a true blessing at a stage in life when age dictates that the social herd tends to thin out.

They make me laugh, without fail, their notions are calisthenics for my grey matter and, because I’m a touchy-feely person, I yearn for a return to the close-encounter component of my weekly routine.

I need to hug one of my friends before the grip of prolonged isolation cedes to crippling loneliness.

That, of course, is the peril. As much as many of us seniors are accustomed to living on our own, the longer this pandemic drones on with no end in view, the greater the risk of mental meltdown.

It’s been a month since I last saw any of my friends, and I began to feel the separation with heightened awareness last week when a surge of emotion rolled in unannounced. It wasn’t a ripple. It was a wave, the kind we see here in Victoria during the winter winds and rain—fierce and strong and bashing against the craggy shoreline with violent force. It was five minutes before the final tear fell and my limbs ceased trembling.

I’ve experienced two episodes since, each as harsh as the first.

I wonder, though, were these Patti melts strictly about enforced isolation and distancing, or was there something else at play? Like the loss of life as we’ve known it and the uncertainty (fear?) of what’s on the other side of COVID-19.

I’m completely confident that intelligent people who squint into microscopes will force the coronavirus to tap out, but it’s only a guess what our “new normal” will be like.

Hopefully, it will include plenty of the old, most notably my Saturday afternoon gatherings with Cullen and Jeff and Paul and Donna and Brian and Terry and Lucy. They might not need a hug right now, but I sure as hell do. And when I get it, I’ll know we’re “back to normal.”

So what’s your definition of normal? Sunday mass? A backyard BBQ with all the neighbors? A summer music festival? High school or college finals? Yard sales? Grocery shopping where there’s no plexi-glass barrier between you and the cashier?

Or maybe it’s sports.

“We all want to know when we’ll get our sports back because it means life will have returned to normal,” writes Nancy Armour of USA Today.

It’s a sentiment echoed by Michael Traikos of Postmedia Toronto: “A world without sports is a world we really don’t want to live in.”

Initially, those comments struck me as a hopelessly myopic view of the world. I mean, I haven’t attended a live sporting event since my retreat from the rag trade. That was 20-plus years ago.

But, yes, I still watch sports on my rapidly dying flatscreen. At least I did before this pandemic shut down the planet’s playgrounds.

I am, however, quite picky in matters of sports viewing. Only elite curling and the Canadian Football League rate as must-see TV, and I also make time for the golf and tennis Grand Slam events and horse racing’s Triple Crown gallops. Beyond that, it’s a not-so-much proposition. I didn’t watch a National Football League game last year until the playoffs. I’ll check out the Winnipeg Jets if they drop the puck prior to my early bedtime. Watching a ball game from Wrigley Field or Fenway is an enjoyable time-waster. I also used to catch the highlights and listen to the gab guys on SportsCentre and Sports Central, just to keep up with the flow for my late, not-so-great sports blog. The rest of it? Meh.

Peter Young

Old friend Peter Young seems to be of a similar mindset.

“Sports has been part of my life since Pentti Lund gave me a newspaper job at 16 and Friar (Nicolson) soon got me a radio gig,” the longtime Fort William/Port Arthur/Thunder Bay/Winnipeg sports broadcaster tweeted recently. “Now, sadly, I could care less when the puck is dropped or ball is kicked. Wonder how many feel the same. Now I just want to see my grandson.”

Sounds totally normal to me.

And, finally, this from former wrestler Ronda Rousey on her time in the WWE ring: “Running out there and having fake fights for fun is just the best thing.” Excuse me? Pro rasslin’ is fake? Who knew?

The blessing that is autumn

Autumn, my favorite time of the year, arrived for me yesterday.

I saw her golden splendor, still clinging to tree branches in defiance of Mother Nature’s seasonal dictates, and I felt her crunch under foot as I made the lengthy trek from the concrete enclave I call home to my doctor’s office in homey Fairfield, with its inviting feel-goodness.

Because I live in downtown Victoria and seldom stray any great distance from home and hearth, autumn tends to escape without notice. The sole indicator that she has arrived are the peaks of the distant Olympic Mountains, which have begun to accept dabs of snow that I can see from my eighth-floor apartment. That is not to experience autumn, though.

Shuffling booted feet through piles of leaves is experiencing autumn, as is taking in deep breaths of crisp, morning air during a mile-long walk. There is a zen-like quality to autumn on the tree-lined streets of Fairfield. It is a cleansing, even as her signature colors lay strewn on the ground or piled high on boulevards and street corners.

I love autumn. Yesterday was a blessing.

Day tripping at the White House would be cool if JFK, Nixon or Obama were still there

The White House holds no rapture for me.

I’ve seen it from the street—during a drive-by while working as a travelling hockey writer in a distant lifetime—but I never felt the urge to ring the doorbell and ask for a peek inside.

Just as well, I suppose, because it was near the dinner hour that early-November day in 1979 and I’m thinking that the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW at the time—the gentleman peanut farmer from Plains, Ga., Jimmy Carter, his bride Rosalynn and little Amy—might have been breaking bread and likely were not inclined to entertain a wandering sports scribe from Canada.

So I merely requested that the cab driver ease his right foot from the gas pedal so I might take a lingering look at the shack sitting on 18 acres of presidential sprawl. Scant seconds later, the White House was in the rear-view mirror and we were soon passing the golden arches of a McDonald’s restaurant.

How convenient for little Amy,” I recall thinking. “Ronald McDonald and a Happy Meal are only a block away.”

I reflect on my fleeting, non-eventful encounter with the hub of the free world today because the Pittsburgh Penguins have RSVP’d their intention to drop in on the Trumps sometime during the 2017-18 National Hockey League season. No doubt they’ll have the Stanley Cup in tow and we can only hope that the Resident-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump, won’t mistake it for a spittoon.


The Golden State Warriors, meanwhile, were in ponder of their invitation to touch elbows with Donald J. when the United States president, piqued by the hesitancy of star player Steph Curry, went all Soup Nazi and declared his temporary home in Washington, D.C., off limits to the National Basketball Association champions.

I never promised you a Rose Garden!” he snapped.

Well, okay, the Apprentice President didn’t actually say that. More likely the Commander-in-Tweet called Curry a disrespectful SOB, then sat down to watch a NASCAR race or type out a list of mis-truths for his Paid Pinocchio, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to deliver to news snoops at her next press briefing. (“When President Trump said that some Nazis and white supremacists are ‘fine people’ and that National Football League players are ‘sons of bitches,’ that’s not what he meant. He meant something else entirely and you’re missing the president’s message completely if you think he meant something other than what you think he meant to say.”)

So I’m thinking: If granted the opportunity, would I want to attend the White House to meet this president? About as much as I want a Happy Meal.

There have been 13 U.S. presidents in my lifetime—in chronological order, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Papa George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. I have recollections of all but Truman, whose term in the White House expired when I was barely knee high to Jackie Kennedy.

Of the 13, I thought it’d be cool to meet three—JFK, Nixon and Obama.

Richard Nixon

I was raised Roman Catholic and the ruler-wielding nuns at St. Clements and St. Alphonsus schools assured us that JFK winning the White House in 1960 was a big deal. The reason it was important to have a Catholic in the Oval Office escaped me at the time, but my little mind determined it prudent to resist any urge to challenge the nuns on that issue and, thus, spare my knuckles a stinging rap. But I wanted to meet JFK. Maybe ask him about Khrushchev and air raid drills during the 1960s Cold War. You know, just one Catholic to another. I wept when JFK was gunned down. Still do whenever I see the film.

Nixon was a nasty bit of business and a man for whom I harbored no admiration, but he appealed to a morbid curiosity. I always wondered what made him tick. Picking his brain would have been a trip. I mostly wanted to ask him what the hell he was thinking during the My Lai massacre coverup. Shouldn’t the soldiers responsible for killing more than 500 unarmed, innocent Vietnamese civilians (most of them women, children and old men) be held accountable? He deserved impeachment for that, never mind Watergate, and I wanted answers.

I was sitting at the bar at Paparazzi Nightclub in Victoria the night Barack Obama was elected president. Our American neighbors had put a black man in the White House and pure joy in the form of tears fell from my eyes. I never thought I’d see that day. I’ve always wanted to shake his hand. I really don’t know what I’d say to President Obama, but it would be about peace and acceptance.

For me, any of those three would be worth a trip to the White House. The other 10, not so much.

That hot flash isn’t menopause—it’s shopping mallopause!

Once upon a time, I enjoyed shopping.

santa patti
patti dawn swansson

Had I the wherewithal, I’d likely be a shopaholic with 6,389 pairs of shoes and a wardrobe vast enough to clothe the combined casts of all those Real Housewives shows that stretch from Beverly Hills to New Jersey. Yes, I really did enjoy shopping that much.

Alas, I now am a pensioner of pauperish means. I go on a shopping excursion only slightly more often than Adam Sandler makes me laugh, which, because I do not have the easily fleeced mind of an adolescent boy, is never. Thus, I shan’t be contributing to Lisa Rinna’s or Siggy Flicker’s walk-in clothes closets anytime soon.

Truthfully, there now is only one day of the year whereby I purposely set aside time for expansive, if not expensive, shopping, and that day of the year always arrives at Christmastime, when good fellowship reigns. Except in shopping malls.

It is my experience that joining the fray in a shopping mall at this time of year is an exercise in the group grump. There is no joy to that world. It is festive like tap water is draught beer. Basically, you’re in everybody’s way, and they aren’t shy about letting you know that it is you, not they, who bear the responsibility and burden of blame for any collision.

On Thursday, for example, I made some purchases at a Bay Centre shop. I had yet to put my wallet back in my purse when the woman next in line nudged me away from the counter. Literally. One of my bags toppled to the floor. I bent down to put it upright, then straightened myself and stared at her, expecting an apology. Not going to happen. She pushed past me and plopped her purchases atop my purse.

“Well, excuuuuuuuse me,” I said with the haughtiness of the haughtiest Real Housewife.

She froze me with an equally haughty Real Housewife glare. My body then chose that very moment to deliver a hot flash, exactly the same hot flash as that which I had experienced exactly one year earlier while shopping at Christmastime. In the exact same mall. I undid my scarf. I unbuttoned my heavy winter coat, which came in handy Thursday since what passes for winter in Victoria actually arrived. I dashed down the nearest escalator, then on to the sidewalk outdoors. I wanted to strip naked, but thought better of it. I stood on Government Street, held my coat open wide and happily allowed winter to bite me and whatever bare skin I chose to flash.

“This,” I said to myself, “isn’t menopause, it’s shopping mallopause. Malls make me overheat and make me want to peel off all my clothing.”

(Listen, fellas, I’m all for good will toward men, but I’m reasonably certain that me standing naked on a street in downtown Victoria isn’t what any of you has in mind.)

I never re-entered the Bay Centre. I couldn’t. I never buttoned up my coat again, either. I went to a handful of small specialty shops instead, and then Bart’s Pub, where not everyone knows my name but no real or faux housewives ever bully me. Along the way, a middle-age woman of unknown identity stopped me in a crosswalk and said, “You look really nice.” Her kind words cooled my heating system. My mallopause vanished.

Guaranteed that stranger’s kindness will be the nicest Christmas gift I shall receive this year.

Things that are on my mind this morning…

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

Random thoughts in the wee hours before dawn’s early light…

I keep reading about the United States being the “land of the free?” What makes the United States the “land of the free?” What freedoms do Americans have that we don’t enjoy in Canada? Oh, that’s right, they get to play with guns and we don’t. How’s that working out for them?

I no longer use the phrase “You know you’re getting old when…” I now say, “Now that I’m old…”

As the day when there are 66 candles on my birthday cake approaches, I surrender to the reality that time is running short for me to take my first selfie. That is not, however, on my bucket list, so I shall be ashes in an urn before I engage in that self-serving ritual. I’ll continue to talk about myself, write about myself and look at myself in the mirror, but snapping a selfie is a non-starter.

I really like my dentist, but why does it cost so much to have her peer into my mouth? How do we know dentists aren’t ripping us off?

I find it interesting, also odd, that I can fly clear across an ocean to England for less money than it costs me to fly most places in Canada.

Someone told me that Americans would never be so dumb as to elect Donald Trump president. No? Then explain the voters in Minnesota electing a professional wrestler as governor and the voters in California doing the same with a body builder.

The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?
The Spice Girls: Did I miss anything?

While watching Mel B on one of the late-night gab shows recently, it occurred to me that I could not name one Spice Girls song. So you tell me, have I missed something?

Someone once said, “Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be,” and I agree. Whereas certain of my childhood friends go on Facebook to reminisce about the good, old days, I sometimes wonder if I even had a childhood or good, old days. They drop names I don’t recognize. They write of events I don’t recall. For example, the other day someone posted a comment about walking to high school in a group that apparently included moi. I have no recollection of that. I remember almost always walking to and from school alone or with one of the Lowery girls.

I witnessed the rarest of sightings the other day: Two people sitting in a pub, talking to each other instead of playing with their smart phones or tablets. That was nice.

I was a 10-minute walk from the Royals on Saturday, so I had a choice: Make that 10-minute walk and watch Kate and Will deliver the Royal wave, or sit in the pub and order another pint. I’m pleased to report that that other pint tasted real good.

Why was security on highest alert when Kate and Will arrived in Victoria on Saturday? Were the motorcycle cops and those men in sun glasses and long, black limos afraid one of our homeless citizens would insult the Royals by asking for spare change?

If the cost of rent continues to soar in Victoria, I might soon be one of those homeless citizens begging the Royals for spare change.

I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.
I missed the Royal wave from Kate and Will.

I have nothing against the Royals. I have something against fawning over faux celebrities. Or any celebrities, for that matter.

I tried to watch The Voice last week, but I can’t get past Miley Cyrus. I’m not sure what it is about Billy Ray’s little girl, but she’s a most irritating bit of business. Her nails-on-chalkboard voice is grating and those teeth that look store-bought don’t seem to fit her mouth or face. She’s over the top with her rebel-with-a-cause schtick, too. I’ll pass on The Voice this year now that I know she’s a coach.

On the matter of The Voice, the adolescent bantering between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton became painfully tiresome about three seasons ago. How often do those two mooks have to call each other an “idiot” before the audience and producers decide the schtick is just childish and not funny?

I was a fan of country music in the 1980s, when I hitched my horse in Calgary. That was a wonderful decade for the genre, with the emergence of George Strait and Clint Black and Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson and Randy Travis and Reba and Alabama and Dwight Yoakam and Roseanne Cash and Ricky Van Shelton. So what happened? When did Nashville become a haven for the vocally challenged? I mean, you’re telling me that Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan are mega-stars? George Strait and Alan Jackson were right when they sang Murder on Music Row. It’s a crime what’s happened to country music.

I really like Renee Zellwegger. She makes me laugh.

Paparazzi Nightclub: Accusations of owners’ racism are unfounded and out of line

I’ve often wondered why the stewards of Paparazzi Nightclub haven’t bolted the doors to their downtown Victoria venue and never looked back.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

I mean, we all have a breaking point, right?

Were it I who held the keys to the kingdom, I believe being branded a racist or racially insensitive would be a breaking point. Being told that I’m hosting what “sounds like” a white supremist night and “at best the whole thing reeks of white privilege and a colossal amount of ignorance on your part” would probably be a breaking point. Especially when you plop that atop the steaming pile of ridicule, accusation, false innuendo, malicious gossip and guilt-tripping that has built up over eight-plus years.

But no. Attila Bassett and Terry Bex are still there, opening the doors to Paparazzi seven days a week to provide the local gay community a safe space to express and be themselves.

Those doors will be open on the final day of Pride Week 2016, July 10, for what originally was billed as White Party, whereby patrons are encouraged to attire themselves in white. It has nothing—repeat, nothing—to do with the hue of one’s skin. Trust me, if anyone were to arrive adorned in a white sheet and a pointy, white hood with the letters KKK scrawled above a pair of crudely cut-out eyeholes, they’d be summarily dismissed. And the cops would be summoned.

That reality notwithstanding, toxic, acidic words like “racist” and “white supremist” and “Trump supporters” and “culturally insensitive” and “tone deaf” have been flung about like so much confetti at a wedding. All aimed at Bassett and Bex.

Some among the loud, vocal minority believe any event with the word “white” in the title is too soon after the Orlando massacre, where 49 gay men and women, most of them Latino, were slaughtered in an unparalleled gun attack on America and the LGBT collective. To some, Paparazzi ownership didn’t gauge the temperature of the LGBT community correctly. To others, their reading is accurate. But how soon is too soon? Who gets to decide if one month of grieving is too much or too little? Who gets to decide when we stop the vigils? What makes your timetable right and theirs wrong?

The one thing I know is this: You can call Bassett and Bex many things, but you cannot label them racist or non-inclusive.

Full disclosure: I performed numerous functions for Bassett, Bex and CEO Helina Kinnersley from June 2008 until about two months ago. Do the math. That’s eight years. So I’ve had an insider’s view. I’ve seen the good and I’ve seen and felt the soft underbelly of their operation. Never was there a hint—not even the slightest—of racism, racial insensitivity or exclusion. More to the point, they have hired people of color, transgender individuals, gay men, gay women, bisexuals, queer, questioning and, yes, straight. They have hired Catholics and Protestants and Buddhists and Jews. They have hired short ones, tall ones, round ones and skinny ones. They have hired saints and sinners. People of all stripes are welcomed to work for and with them, and attend their club.

We won’t even talk about the small fortune they’ve spent on upgrades to the nightclub, nor the small fortune they’ve lost.

The point is, I have a dog in this fight and I’m fully onside with Bassett, Bex and Kinnersley.

Saying that, I do not discount the voice or perceptions of others. Perception is reality. If a person of color believes a clothing-themed event called White Party is racist, then that’s what it is. To that person only. Nothing I can say will sway her or his mindset. I’d have more favorable results if I were to try and convince a Christian that God does not exist.

But I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. I’m here to say I find the attack on Bassett, Bex and Kinnersley distasteful and excessive in the extreme. Also out of line. Surely the naysaying natterbugs can deliver an argument free of the Trumpisms that have been prevalent in the White Party discussion. If not, you might not have a gay club to talk about anymore.

Bottom line: White Party was about clothing, not skin color.

Paparazzi Nightclub being proactive in making a gay ‘safe space’ safer

Let’s make something abundantly clear: Attending a gay bar does not mean you are gay. It does not mean you will become gay.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

You might be gay. You might be bisexual. You might be curious. You might be transgender. But in and of itself, walking through the portal of a gay nightclub does not mean you are gay any more than passing through the doors of St. Peter’s Basilaca in Rome makes me the Virgin Mary. (It would make me the Virgin Patti, but enough about my non-existent love life.)

Thus, the disclosure that Omar Mateen had been observed in Pulse prior to turning the downtown Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub into his personal killing field neither confirms nor disqualifies the possibility that he was gay.

Let us, however, for the sake of discussion accept that he was straight. He was, after all, twice married and had a child. Those investigating his habits, movements and possible motives for the shooting spree in which he murdered 49 innocent people and wounded another 53 advise us that, on at least one occasion, his wife accompanied him on a visit to Pulse. That, clearly, raised a red flag vis-a-vis her culpability in the slayings, and it certainly lends credence to the notion that Mateen was casing the joint.

Similarly, he is known to have visited online gay chat rooms. Again, that doesn’t make him gay. Cozying up to gay men and transgender women might have been part of his master plan of mayhem and murder.

This is among the reasons numerous people in the LGBT collective advance the argument that gay clubs should be the exclusive province of their community. Outsiders need not apply.

Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.

First of all, it’s illegal in Canada to bar anyone from a nightclub based on, among many other things, sexual orientation.

Second, how could you possibly monitor it? I don’t walk around with an L or a T tattooed to my forehead. I don’t carry a card that certifies me as lesbian or transgender. My gay friends don’t wear G arm patches.

Third, the stewards of Paparazzi Show/Nightclub in Victoria—Attila Bassett and Terry Bex—would not contemplate turning anyone away from their doors at the corner of Broad and Johnson. It is my experience that they, or their staff, have ushered people from the venue only for bad/illegal/threatening/dangerous behaviour.

paparazzi-night-club“We,” Bassett told me today, “are an LGBTS bar, meaning we welcome everyone.”

The ‘S’ stands for straight. They’re welcome. If you’re among those in the LGBT collective who don’t support inclusiveness, get over it. It isn’t going to change.

Here’s what will change, though: There will be heightened awareness and caution at Paparazzi. Like most, the Mateen massacre last weekend in Orlando “horrified” Bassett. It rattled him to the core and he recognizes the distress and uncertainty it has imposed on the gay community. People are nervous. Frightened. They wonder if Orlando could happen in Victoria.

“Paparazzi is enforcing strict rules,” says Bassett. “No bags in the club. They must be checked at the door, no ifs, ands or buts. Backpacks and hand bags will be checked. We are also getting a metal detector wand and security will be trained on it. Increased staff as well. All staff will be watching for unusual behavior, actions and aggressive behavior. We are a safe, welcoming, no-violence-tolerated club.

“I just don’t want them attacking us. We need to be safe. The metal detectors are mandatory, whether (patrons) like it or not. There will be one at the door and one in the club. Safety first.”

I recognize that I am at risk each time I step outside and walk the streets of Victoria, even though it’s regarded as a very gay-friendly city. I don’t necessarily feel at risk every time I leave my home, but I am at risk, nonetheless.

My friends Brian and Sean, a married gay couple, are at risk each time they feel a mite frisky and share a moment of physical affection in public. Ditto Michael and Paul. Allegedly, this was among the trigger points that set off Omar Mateen’s trigger finger—he observed two men kissing on the street and it offended and angered him.

So, we need safe spaces. Sanctuaries, if you will. Bassett and Bex have been providing that for more than eight years. Now they’re being proactive and making Paparazzi a safer safe place.

Bassett’s sole concern is that his increased safety measures will “anger” patrons. Nonsense. The new policy should be met with applause, not anger.

The bullets flew in Florida but they landed in every gay community

Haters are going to hate. Some of them will buy guns. Some of them will use those guns on the things and people they hate. Like gays.

patti dawn swansson
patti dawn swansson

More than 100 people, most of them presumably lesbians, gay/bisexual women and men and transgender individuals, were gunned down in the small hours Sunday morning. Forty-nine of them required body bags. Some still don’t have toe tags, leaving friends and family to fret, wondering if their loved ones are among the 49 who perished.

Another 53 were injured, many of them whisked to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where overwhelmed and overworked medics frantically went about the task of saving lives just a short distance from the scene of the slaughter, Pulse, a gay nightclub-turned-shooting gallery on South Orange Avenue in Orlando, Fla. They have performed more than two dozen surgeries.

Never before has there been such horrific carnage from a spree of shooting in the United States, a country whose Constitution’s Second Amendment grants Americans, even the disturbed, the right to play with guns.

In this case, there were two weapons, a Glock pistol and an AR-15 assault rifle.

Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, Calif., police, responding to alerts from sharp-eyed neighbors, put the collar on a suspicious man knocking on doors and loitering. They searched his white Acura with the Indiana license plates and discovered an arsenal that included three assault rifles, ammunition and ingredients to build a bomb. Upon interrogation, he informed officers that his destination was the Pride parade and festival in West Hollywood.

We can assume he wasn’t going there to wave a rainbow flag and share warm-and-fuzzy moments with gay men.

Since the bullets stopped flying in Orlando and police possibly prevented bullets from flying and bombs from bursting in Los Angeles, there has been ceaseless talk on CNN and other news outlets about terrorism, the Islamic State and Islamic extremism. Hate vis-a-vis the LGBT collective has been the sidebar.

It shouldn’t be.

The madman, the murderer of at least 50 people in Orlando, didn’t drive two hours from his home in Fort Pierce to Pulse by accident. At last call, 2 a.m. Knowing the nightclub would be congested with gay men and women. He could have picked any nightclub in Orlando, or any nightclub along the way. He didn’t. He chose to wipe out 100 patrons at a high-volume gay nightclub.

And I wept. I imagine many, if not most, in the LGBT collective shed tears.

While it’s true that the bullets flew in Orlando, they landed in every LGBT community around the globe. They struck me, they struck my dearest friends, most of whom are gay men, they struck the people who employed me for 7 1/2 years at a nightclub that, while all-inclusive, is considered a safe space for gays.

I have spent much of Sunday in ponder of these people and Paparazzi Nightclub. It often isn’t easy being gay. It can be frightening. An attack of this sort, even if on the opposite side of the continent, can heighten those very real anxieties, fears that are impossible to explain to those who do not walk in our shoes.

It will not, however, put the brakes on gay pride.

Where I live, in Victoria, the LGBT collective will be out en masse for the annual Pride Week hijinks beginning July 1, Canada Day. There will be drag baseball, a gay dog walk, a Pride boat cruise, a Pride fashion show, the Pride parade and festival, and Paparazzi will be packed.

The haters won’t win. They’ll hurt and, yes, kill us with their bullets and by hurling us off building roofs, but they won’t win. We aren’t going away.

One vibrator (batteries included) away from romance

Apparently, Victoria is the most romantic city in Canada. Been that way four years running, so the folks at Amazon.ca tell us.

newest pic

Well, fat lot of good that’s doing me.

I mean, I hang my bonnet in Victoria. I’ve been here going on 17 years. So where’s the love? Not feeling it, people.

I’m sorry, but when Amazon.ca tells me that Victoria sits atop a list of the 20 most romantic locales in the True North, I have to scratch my head. And it isn’t because I have dandruff. If it’s true that love is all around, it has managed to avoid me like logic and Donald Trump. Last time I had a date, social networking meant picking up a telephone and dialing.

So what gives?

Well, right off the hop, I suppose I ought to explain the Amazon.ca methodology in determining the burg where hearts throb the fastest. Its findings are based on the purchase of romantic novels and relationship books, romantic comedies, romantic music and, ahem, sexual-wellness products in towns with more than 80,000 residents.

That’s a whole lot of libido those folks are looking into, and they’ve been doing it for seven years, the last four of which have found favor with Victoria. More to the point, My Town is the runaway leader in each of the aforementioned categories.

In short, I live in the Land of Lust.

So, again, what gives? I am, after all, a romantic. Hopelessly so.

Most of my fave tunes are ballads. The eyes dampen and the heart strings tug when I hear the Garth Brooks rendition of Bob Dylan’s beautiful Make You Feel My Love. Ditto whenever I listen to Timothy B. Schmit and the Eagles sing Love Will Keep Us Alive. And I totally lose it every time I watch George Strait serenade Harley Tucker with I Cross My Heart in the final scene of the movie Pure Country.

I’ve read romantic novels/relationship books, and don’t even get me started on romantic comedies. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched Sleepless in Seattle, Notting Hill and When Harry Met Sally. After seeing Return to Me for the first time, I watched it again. Immediately. I ran out of Kleenex…then ran out for more.

So sure, on that basis, I qualify as a hopeless romantic.

I do not, mind you, own any “sexual-wellness products,” which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying “sex toys.” Well, if that’s the sole thing keeping me out of the romance game, then I shall rush out and purchase a vibrator for my batteries.

I should point out that I have had ample opportunity to date. Thing is, I’m not into dating men who try to pick me up on the street. Actually, I’m not into dating men at all, which reduces my possibilities to the 76,885 single, separated, divorced or widowed women (2011 census) who live in Victoria. And, of course, those ranks are further reduced when you eliminate the straight women and are left with the lesbians. How many single, separated, divorced and widowed lesbians call My Town home? Likely less than 2,000.

So that’s my dating pool. You’re apt to find more fish in the Sahara. Seriously. And no amount of sex toys will increase those odds.

All of this is not to say I am waving the white flag and surrendering to a life of loneliness. I’m still out there, baby, and I’ve got a fresh batch of batteries just in case.


I’m not afraid of things that go bump in the night…not even an earthquake

No, I didn’t feel the earth move under my feet late Tuesday night, only because I wasn’t on my feet. I was in bed.

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patti dawn swansson

Be assured, however, that I heard and felt Mother Nature shake, rattle and roll 21 minutes before midnight, because a 4.8 magnitude earthquake 17 kilometres north east of your sleepy head tends to attract one’s attention. Talk about things that go bump in the night.

Actually, I’m not sure if it was a 4.8 or a 4.3 shaker. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the former, while Earthquakes Canada indicated that latter. I guess the Canada-U.S. exchange rate applies to not only the loonie but acts of God, as well. Whatever the case, it was, at the very least, an interesting wakeup call. Literally, also figuratively, for those of us who live in Victoria or elsewhere on Vancouver Island.

We know the Big One has yet to arrive, but few, if any of us, live in fear of the island being ripped open like a big zipper. Shakers are part of the gig. According to earthquaketrack.com, we’ve had two in the past seven days, four in the past month and 54 in the past year. Do I hear 55 by the time we all raise our champagne glasses and sing Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of 12 o’clock on Thursday night?

So we get it. One day the earth will open up wide and a tsunami will have us scurrying for higher ground. If, that is, there’s any higher ground left to run to. It is, after all, quite possible that the Pacific Ocean shall swallow us whole.

In either event, we don’t really dwell on it. This morning, of course, many of us will discuss the Thursday night rumble, and perhaps shops that peddle earthquake survival kits will do brisker-than-normal business, but the natterbugs soon will turn their attention to more common quibbles. You know, like the man-made disaster known as the Vancouver Canucks’ defence or the weather.

Be advised that, despite being blessed with the most comfortable climate in all of this vast land, we whinge about the weather like no other peoples in Canada, most notably those among us who have never exposed their flesh to the 40-below bite of a prairie winter. Victoria lifers have this odd notion that, because a 40-below wind chill is a “dry cold,” it’s more doable than the dampness of our 10-above days in late January. Odd thing is, whenever I suggest to the chattering class that the punishment for dissing our winter weather is banishment to Winnipeg, they recoil in horror.

“No!” they yelp. “Anywhere but Winnipeg! It’s too cold there!”

Then put a sock in it, mook.

Anyway, I digress. Back to last night’s shaker, This wasn’t my first rodeo. I’ve lived to talk about a big one in Los Angeles during the 1980s (5.9 on the Richter scale). And a less-ruinous one in Ottawa, also in the ’80s. I’ve felt the earth move under my feet here before. Maybe that explains my ho-hum posture this morning. I haven’t even bothered to check my eighth-floor home for ruinage, because I can’t imagine there is any from a five-to-10-second earthquake. I mean, only Donald Trump can cause significant damage in such a brief amount of time.

The shakers I’ve experienced have never frightened me. They make me sit up and take notice, to be sure, but cats and rats and a run in my nylons are cause for greater dread.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get some more kip and, hopefully, Ma Nature has no more 4.8 or 4.3 wakeup calls planned.

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