Tag Archive | "Canada"

Confessions of a Conservative – Why I Did the Unthinkable


Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau prepares to give his victory speech after Canada's federal election in MontrealFrom David Anthony Hohol…

I grew up in rural Canada, on the Alberta prairies, surrounded by political minded brethren. Members of my family worked as members of the Canadian Parliament and in municipal political positions, as representatives of the Conservative party.  In other words, conservatism was in my DNA from birth. I listened as my newspaper man father, my grass roots conservative farming grandfather, my always polemical Uncle Joe and my cigar-wielding diplomatic Uncle Roy, amongst others, talk of the devastation brought to Alberta by Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Policy throughout the entirety of my childhood.  By the time I was 10 years old, Liberals were already no less than a Western hating hoard. I considered myself a conservative thinker ever since. Then things changed. I did the unthinkable this past Monday. Something at one time I never thought possible. I not only voted Liberal, I voted for the son of Pierre Elliot Trudeau.

Looking back now, it wasn’t the irresponsible spending and soaring debt from those claiming to be fiscally sound or a government that became bigger and bigger by the year from those who claimed to stand for less. It was deeper than that. For me, it came down to philosophical undertows, to the core of who I am, and above all else… who we truly are as Canadians.

First, it was watching Canada’s reputation as a diplomatic and even-handed country disappear into a cloud of hawkish and xenophobic policy over 10 years of a Harper government. Watching what were once smiles and handshakes come my way simply because of the country I call home, become looks of uncertainty while fielding questions about government and aggressive foreign policy – uncertainty I could understand, policies I could not defend. Second, back on home soil here in Canada, after so many years abroad, I returned to see the Prime Minster of my country play upon divisiveness and fear for political gain; fear and suspicion of the world at large, of those who are different, fear of losing homes and jobs, fear of attack and lack of security. As a middle aged man, I had never in my lifetime seen a Canadian politician, liberal or conservative, so blatantly make bigotry and fear a part of his campaign platform. That was American politics. Not Canadian. Not Canadian at all.

Comparatively, I watched Trudeau open his campaign at the gay pride parade in Vancouver, watched his inclusiveness, his open mindedness, as he stood squarely on the liberal principles upon which this country was founded. I watched as Trudeau, throughout the entirety of his campaign, consistently send out a message of unity to Canadians, and the Liberals thus operated on the principle that we can appeal to the better angels of our nature. And that he did, remaining positive, always. When the Conservatives rolled out the  He’s Just Not Ready attack ads and reduced him to having little more than nice hair, I watched him avoid counter attacks, and simply say, “Conservatives are not our enemies, they are our neighbours.” When asked early on in his campaign about his chances of bringing Conservative thinkers over to the Liberal side of the political spectrum, I watched him prophetically answer, “We don’t need to convince them to leave the Conservative party, we just need to show them how Stephen Harper’s party has left them.”

And that is what happened. That is why the Conservative Party is no longer in power. The Harper government stopped being Conservative. They stopped, philosophically speaking, being Canadian.

And then, like so many, I realized I could vote Conservative no longer. I still respect the choice of those who did. I would never attack one’s intelligence or morality for their opinions. Moreover, in terms of Trudeau’s economic policies, yes indeed, they will differ from conservatism, will cost some more and some less, but all of Canada will not drop into the ocean, neither will Alberta, and a Depression will not set in. Echoing Harper’s fear-mongering does not represent us as Canadians. We will go to work. We will carry on with life. We will continue to be a prideful bunch. We will continue to do our best. We will do well. We will continue to be Canadian. And we will do so just as the many generations before us have when dealing with the pendulum shift of Liberal and Conservative governments.

Lastly, let us not forget that throughout the entirety of 20th century Canadians lived under a Liberal government for approximately 70 of those 100 years. By extension, it is an undeniable fact that we are amongst the greatest countries in the world in which to live out the human experience. And one can no doubt draw a line between the two…


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The Sport of Culture



From David Anthony Hohol…

It was 22 years ago when the Toronto Blue Jays last made the playoffs. My grandfather was still alive back then. We shared such a very special relationship and sports played a significant role. From boxing to hockey to baseball, the time we shared during a sporting event, in terms of the tremendous connection we cultivated together and shared with one another, would be second only to the time we spent working the farm together, side by side with our hands and our backs, under a warm prairie sun. I miss him. I’m a middle aged man now, a father; I’ve lost things, gained others, as time and it’s relentless push keeps taking me forward towards our ultimate destination. Back to Back World Series championships for the Jays in 1992 and 1993 were indeed magical years.  My grandfather and I would sit on the edge of our seats and watch every pitch together. Stress together, celebrate together; and simply be together. I can still feel his excitement, hear his laughter and cheers, see his smile: they are memories that will live with me forever and I am blessed to have them.

At the time, I was completely unaware of just how cultural an event it was. I really had no idea what an enormous part sports plays in Canadian culture until I left Canada behind and began my 12 year trek of discovery. More than forty counties later and I could not find a single nation, let alone a region, in which sports played such a central figure in cultural, national, municipal and even individual identity. When newcomers arrive in Canada they are often caught off guard at how much time we spend talking about sports, how many people and their kids participate in at least one sport if not several, and how pro teams like the Flames and the Stampeders are on the front page of the newspapers and mean so much to so many people

From to learning how to play a new sport, to building new relationships at their own or their children’s sporting events, to cheering for Canada’s Olympic athletes, newcomers to Canada often talk of how their involvement in sports makes them feel very much connected to Canadian life. Sports more than just sport in Canada. They have the ability to connect people from different heritages and ethnicities, while providing a safe environment to explore different cultures.

For newcomers to Canada, playing and even watching sports with native or more established Canadians provides the chance to share and engage others about Canada, its culture and its history, helping them learn more about Canadian society and feel more at home. And when Canadians show interest in the sports newcomers most enjoy, the unifying power of sports is revealed.

And with that let us return to October 2015 and the Blue Jays, who occupy a very special position. They are the only Major League baseball team in Canada. Often when a team is successful it pulls together a community or city, as the Flames did last spring here in Calgary. The Jays are in the unique position to put millions of people on their edge of their seats from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the sleepy prairie town of Two Hills to the metropolis of Toronto, and in doing so pull together an entire nation. People from all walks of life and all ages, cheering on what is no less than Canada’s team. When the playoffs start I will look to my right and see my grandfather, think of how lucky I was to make and share such memories with him. And this time… I will also think about how lucky I am to be Canadian.


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No Rest For the Wicked


Snow Covered Forest, Finland - 16

From David Anthony Hohol…

Living in the deserts of the Middle East  has its drawbacks. Some might not consider it such, but I really did miss winter for the decade plus I lived without it. Years passed without feeling the patter of snowflakes against my lip or the squint of my eyes at the rush a cold wind over my face. When I finally had the chance to watch a winter’s morning sunrise dance across the snow, I knew I was once again home. 

Within the realm of my rural Canadian upbringing, after hockey of course, the best part of winter was always ice-fishing. There was no greater joy shared between my grandfather and I, aside for morning chores out behind the barn, than taking the old pick-up for drive out onto the ice. He passed away seven years ago. Sometimes it feels like only yesterday the two of us fished amidst the peace of a winter’s dawn. Sometimes it seems like a thousand years have passed. Allow me to share with you the story of a typical day of grandfather and grandson out on the ice.  Perhaps that way, the memory can be taken off to far away place and live just a little bit longer.     

I jolt straight up out of a dead sleep, like a jack-in-the-box on speed, and slam my hand down on the snooze button. The small, beat-up clock radio, that’s older than I am, says 4:30 AM. My blurred eyes are almost stuck together and my bed feels like the warmest, safest place on earth. All I need is another five glorious minutes. Then, as suddenly as the alarm, I’m startled awake by my grandfather’s traditional fishing day wake up call. “Drop your cock and grab your socks! We got holes to dig!” he blurts out with a laugh.

Ice fishing with my grandfather always starts monstrously early. Looking like a zombie out of a cheap horror film, I clumsily make my way through the narrow bedroom door, and shuffle my still sleeping feet along the green shag carpet of the farmhouse living room. In the darkness, I slide my hand along the cold, oak paneling to find the light switch, and feel the black electrical tape covering a small crack in its casing, that’s been there my entire life. Once in the bathroom, I immediately turn on the water and stick my head under the tap. The icy water cascades over my face and quickly brings me back from the dead. The almost sweet water comes straight from the well, and is always cold and fresh. I then quickly hop back to my room to get dressed, because I know it won’t be long before my grandfather is outside, warming up the truck.

 Before I know it, I’m on my way out the door, armed with coffee and cigarette in hand. The cold air bites my damp skin, as I walk out into the frigid blackness of an arctic January morning in northern Alberta. My breath turns into an icy mist and rolls over my face, as I jump into my grandfather’s reliable, old pick-up. “Look at that sky… nice and clear. Those little bastards are gonna bite today,” my grandfather says with a smile, his gravelly voice always seeming to ring with truths.

We head down the lifeless void that is the highway, and the baron landscape of winter stares at us through the cracked windshield of the Chevy half ton. The only sign of life at five in the morning during the heart of a prairie winter is the wind that whistles through the truck, as we hurtle down the highway at a ferocious one hundred kilometers an hour. The cold and lonely sound of the wind outside the pick-up always makes me feel safe inside the cabin. The subtle smile upon my grandfather’s face always makes me feel warm.

 The two-hour ride always goes by quickly, and we reach Floating Stone Lake in what feels like no time at all. As my grandfather and I drive out onto its surface, the truck’s knobby tires crunch and squeak over the frozen ice and snow. A glacial wasteland appears before us, with no signs of existence, except for the frozen over holes of yesterday’s hearty fisherman. Even though we’re still shrouded in darkness, the sun has just begun to cautiously peak over the horizon, and the sky is turning into a hazy gray. The moon, although slowly fading, is still silhouetted in the misty heaven of the dawn. We drive around the frozen lake for several minutes, until my grandfather decides on a spot to fish. It is his firm belief that the place one chooses to fish is the most important decision of the day. He uses the power of deductive reasoning, sixty years of fishing experience, and a lot of good old-fashioned superstition, before finally making his choice. Prior to heading out on to the motionless tundra, I pour myself a piping hot, jet-black coffee. The steam and rich smell of my mug of morning rejuvenation fill the truck’s cabin, and it’s then we venture outside.

When I first step out on to the ice, I always feel as though I’m walking on the surface of a far away planet. The massive lake seems to go on forever, and the silence that surrounds us is deafening. The quiet emptiness, however, is wonderfully beautiful. No matter what, it’s always a good morning, and the world hasn’t quite woken from its wintry slumber. The air is clean, heavy with the scent of freshly fallen snow, and tinged with the scent of the gargantuan evergreens that surround the lake. At dawn, one could almost believe this place was a certain kind of heaven, far removed from civilization and its supposed sensibilities.



As I chase the last drag of my smoke with a sip of hot coffee, my grandfather pops open the banged up tail gate of the pickup.  Shortly thereafter, out comes our trusty ice auger. It’s a steel contraption, with spiraling blades at the bottom, and a rotating handle up top. One has to drill their way through nearly four feet of ice under their own power, and my grandfather is always the first to go. After slamming the sharp end of the auger into the snow, he begins to furiously rotate the keenly-edged blades, drilling into the frozen surface below. The auger scrapes and spits, as my grandfather bores deeper and deeper into the ice, until finally, he breaks through. The icy water comes rushing up the hole, and for a moment, looks like a small geyser on the surface of the lake. “An ordinary man of my age would never use anything but a power auger, but then again, I’m no ordinary man!” he says with a satisfying laugh.

My grandfather remained a strong man late into his life. Until his body would simply no longer allow him to do so, he worked with his hands and his back. There’s nothing he enjoyed more than getting up at six in the morning to pack hay bails out to his herd, and to trudge twelve-gallon grain cans to his prize steers that went to market come spring. In many ways, he epitomized an iconic form of masculinity and I looked at him as a vision of strength throughout my entire life as a result.

After my Grandfather finishes, I grab the auger and follow suit. With our holes dug, it’s then time to grab our lines and bait. Juicy, plump maggots are always our number one preference, and my grandfather always seemed to have a strange affinity for these little creatures. After carefully puncturing a maggot onto our hooks, down the line goes, and then all we do is wait. As I look across at my grandfather, the wind begins to pick up for a moment and blows across his time beaten face. A small, yet satisfying smile falls under his thin, gray, neatly trimmed moustache. Sitting on his grain can, he reaches into his three-quarter length, green parka and pulls out one extra mild, king size cigarette. As he puts the smoke in his mouth, I notice his jagged and bent fingers. His hands are like stone figures carved with deep creases and wrinkles, a necessitating result of more than sixty years of back-breaking work. As he exhales his first drag, the smoke bellows from the side of his mouth like smoke from a chimney a on a windy day. After rolling over his dark eyes and finely carved crows feet, the smoke disappears over his head.

My grandfather always amazed me, and at times, I looked at him with awe. I often wondered what it would be like to be old, what I would be like to have all those memories and experiences, to see your children’s children grow into adults themselves, and to have lived through wars and entire eras. It was my grandfather that made me look forward to getting older; it was my grandfather that allowed me to accept my humanity. I will forever be grateful.



My dogmatic state is then suddenly broken, when my grandfather blurts out, “There we go!” and tosses aside his fishing stick to pull the fish up by the line.

Hand over hand, he pulls the line up. When the fish finally reaches the surface of the icy water, he tosses it aside, away from the jagged hole. The fat perch wriggles and gyrates on the snow like a newborn baby, its jaws gasping violently. My grandfather then steps on the tail of the great beast with his big black boot, and with stick in hand, smacks the fish over the head. It’s been put out of its misery. Upon standing up straight, he takes in a deep breath and pauses for a moment, to take in the world around him. His eyes carry with them a twinkle, and as he walks over to his grain can to once again sit down and lower his line, his youthful stride is filled with exuberance. At times, I see a young boy in my grandfather when he’s fishing. It fills me with joy and makes feel close to the man like nothing else in the world.

The ritual of fishing- it’s something, that for all its simplicity, holds resplendent moments of beauty and peace. If I ever earn the profound privilege of some day being a father, and if I’m somehow magically blessed with then seeing my children have children of their own, I would take my grandchildren out for a day on the ice. Not only to teach them the art of fishing, but to tell them stories of their great grandfather and what a great man he was. And I would tell them, even though they’ve never met him, he continues to influence their lives, each and everyday.

On the drive back, the sun is now bright, and the sky is a clear abyss. The sun is never brighter than on a clear winter day. The magnificent rays of sunshine dance like a ballerina on the sea of white that surrounds us. The blinding sky, the howling wind outside the truck, and the side of the road that rushes by us, always puts me in a trance. The conversation between my grandfather and myself varies, but as always, includes some discussion of his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs, and what kind of team the Blue Jays were going to have come spring. Soon we will be home.

As we finally reach the one hundred yard driveway to the farmhouse, the house where both my father and grandfather were born, I’m happy. The farmyard, which was in a deep winter sleep when we left, is now wide-awake. The cats and dogs running about, the rustling of the cattle out by the barn, and as always, my grandmother in the big bay window, watching us pull up the driveway, all bring the farm back to life. As we pull into the yard, the cats and dogs surround the truck like children chasing the ice cream man, in hopes of dining on the fish to small to fry. We then unload the pick-up, and I begin to make my way to the house with the fish we have caught. “Take those to Baba and tell to make sure there’s lotsa garlic, I’ll be in after chores,” declares my grandfather.

No matter how big or small the job, my grandfather always seems to be on the go. As he walks out towards the old, worn down barn that still stands tall and strong, I once again think to myself how one very much embodies the other. They’ve both been worn down by time a little bit, but still do the job they’ve always done. They both still offer protection and warmth from the battles of life, and continue to symbolize strength, responsibility, and endurance that still lives and breathes today. As I reach the front step, I hear my Grandfather say with a chuckle, “Oh boy… if there’s no rest for the wicked, I must be the wickedest man alive,” and I smile, as I place my hand of the steel door knob.

Slowly opening the door to the farmhouse, the only door that has always been there for me to open, I feel the warmth of the kitchen upon my flushed face. At that moment, all seems right with the world and as I take off my snow-covered boots, I know deep in my heart, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.  



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Unique Fundraising At Its Finest


From Tom Megginson…

No, she’s not one of those dolls. “Simone” is a Sim — a sophisticated patient simulator used to train medical residents at the Ottawa Hospital, in the capital of Canada.

The Ottawa Hospital Skills and Simulation Centre needs more types of these training models, and they’ve come up with an unusual way to do it: They’ve set up an Aviva Community Fund page to raise public support for their bid for more than $100,000 in Corporate Social Responsibility grants from Aviva Insurance.

The Aviva Community Fund competition allows individual Canadians to put forward project ideas for improving their communities through Aviva funding. This one was proposed by Ingrid Gingras, Partnership and Outreach Specialist at The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. And instead of just asking for the money, the Ottawa Hospital Foundation has developed a whole story about “Simone”:

Although loving her role as a patient simulator, Simone the female simulation mannequin is lonely. With your votes, we will be able to purchase an additional adult simulator – the SimMan, and an infant simulator – the SimBaby. These simulators would provide infinite learning scenarios for our residents (and would give Simone the companionship she deserves). Together, the Sim family would enable medical students and skilled physicians to develop new medical procedures and evaluate the latest innovations in patient care in a controlled environment where mistakes are part of the learning process and are of no risk to patients. 

Vote for our project and help us bring the Sim Family together!

There is even a WordPress blog to play out Simone’s backstory:

You know when you want something so badly but it never happens? That’s sort of how I feel about my love life. I’ve spent too much time watching others fall in love around me and haven’t spent enough time on finding my person.

“She” is currently asking for dating advice:

Holy bananas, I’m going on a date! What to wear?! It’s an emergency. A real-life simulation mannequin emergency. My favourite pink dress is definitely not the ideal outfit this time of year, but it’s what I’m most comfortable wearing. Isn’t that one of the dating codes: wear something comfortable? Help!

My heart is pounding so hard and if I could squeal with delight I certainly would, but squealing isn’t part of my simulation options.

Could this really be it? The moment I’ve been waiting for all this time? My person, my Simmate, my… Manny?

It’s exciting and terrifying all at the same time.  I think this is when I’ll need your Matchmaker help – to get me through these dating jitters, deal with this emotional rollercoaster, and make our love happen.

It’s a little weird, but then again perhaps weird is what it takes for a hospital foundation to compete for crowdsourced CSR funding. Personally, I would rather have my tax dollars paying for this (it’s Canada, after all!) but I am aware that in my cash-strapped province of Ontario, public healthcare providers are scrambling for dollars anywhere they can find them.

Good luck, Simone. You do important work.









Ottawa Hospital Foundation

Aviva Community Fund (campaign page)
The Ottawa Hospital Facebook Page


Originally appeared in oscoscio.org


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Photo of the Week – Prairie Symbolism


Photograph by David Anthony Hohol


The Canadian Prairies of Alberta give you some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring lands in the world. This is often combined with the rustic antiquity of aged homesteads and family farms from years passed. Life as it once was and, despite humanity being in the midst The Digital Revolution, the way it still very much is today, intersecting at a point of beauty.

The picture above was taken from inside a shelter built in the 1920s. The view stares out into the open plains of the prairies and can be symbolic, if one so chooses to look at it that way. Doors and windows have had, throughout art and literary history, much symbolic meaning attached to them. The image of the open door, with no lock or latch, can represent the unconditional nature of our relationship with the physical world, while at the same time revealing our need to internalize existence as a seperate and purely individual entity. Such an image can thus become a conduit into an individuals thoughts and emotions – an image of the human soul.

It could also be just a nice photograph. We’ll leave that up to you…


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Trash And The Monkey


From David Anthony Hohol…

As I drive down the highway, and as it’s been for what seems like forever this time of year, my mind is filled with memories. I am on a long journey to see an old friend. Reggie and I have always been friends. My mom always told me, right up until she died of cancer a few years back, that Reggie and I were the best of friends before we were even born. In the Sloane District on the south side of Chicago, our mothers were neighbors out in the projects. Acquaintances turned into friends when each of them got pregnant with us only days apart. They went to Lamaze classes together, shopped for baby clothes together, and always spoke of how Reggie and I would be friends. On May 14, 1967 Reggie and I were born at the same hospital only seven hours apart and we’ve been friends ever since.

We both grew up poor, even though at the time neither of us really knew what that meant yet. Reggie never knew his father, so only his mom was there to raise him and his seven brothers and sisters. I had a father, but always told Reggie he was lucky. My father’s drinking and the beatings I took, along with my mother and sisters, are things I wish I could erase from my mind. I remember feeling happy when after another week of binge drinking my father slid a shotgun into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Right from the beginning, Reggie and I were inseparable. We learned to talk together, we learned to walk together and we went to school together right from kindergarten. We shared the same dreams, the same troubles and even the same girls some times. Reggie and I were exactly the same, and we will always be just like brothers. We spent nearly everyday together up until we were fourteen years old. It was the summer of 1981 when Reggie left Chicago to go live with his maternal grandparents in Canada. More twenty-five years have passed since that summer and our lives have changed oh so much. Nevertheless, every year since then Reggie and I have met up to spend Labor Day weekend together.

The visits have gone on to include girlfriends, wives and children. Each year we take turns coming up to see the other. This year it’s my turn, and I’m coming up alone, as I have just divorced my wife of twelve years. Each year I drive up my mind always goes back to the last summer’s day we spent together before Reggie moved away, and this year is no exception. I can see that whole day in my mind so clear as crystal, it’s like it happened the week before. Time passed can be a truly amazing thing.


“So ya think you’ll like it up there Reg?”

“I’ll hate it… I know I will. I hate my mom for doing this to me.”

“Too bad ya got kicked outa school… that’s what did it, huh?”

“Yah, I told ya why… my mom has this stupid dream of me graduating high school… like I care. She says I’m the baby of the family and that none of my brothers and sisters finished    school so I’m the last chance.”

“My sisters finished school and my mom’s always on my case about it, but I don’t see the big deal.”

“Well my mom says the only way I’ll ever do it is if I get outta Chicago and go live with my grandparents in Canada. Kamloops… I mean shit, what kinda fucked up name is that?”

“I don’t know what to say Reg… I mean I was there too. I don’t know why I didn’t get kicked out, but I’m glad I didn’t… my mom woulda killed me.”

“I don’t why my mom is making such a big deal outa this for. I mean two of my brothers not only didn’t finish school, but ended up in jail… I’m not that bad!”

Yah, no shit Reg… your brothers scare me sometimes.”

“Principal Marino is a prick! He said that Rydell Junior High didn’t need my kind and that me being there was bad for the school. He said this was his new crackdown and that he was gonna get my kind out and make Rydell a good place again.”

“Maybe he just liked me better… I don’t know.”

“Ah get over it Sean, it’s not that at all! I always get treated differently than you… always. You know how it is. What about the time we both got caught shoplifting from O’Malley’s?”

“Yah I know, that was weird.”

“O’Malley bars me from the store and gives you a warning… what the fuck was that?”

“Yah, you’re right. I remember the very next time I went in there to get us a couple a snow cones while you hiding around the corner outside he told me to stop hangin’ around with your kind, that you’d only bring me down.”

“You told’em off though… that was cool.”

“Yah, I called him a fat tub and told him to mind his own business… fat asshole barred me for two weeks.”

“Yah… that was cool man.”

“Hey Reggie, ya feel like a snow cone? My treat… it’ll be a bon voyage present.”

“Wow, high roller! Hey, if you’re buyin’, I’m takin’. Let’s go. I guess I’ll be waiting outside though.”


Even at that moment as Reggie and I walked up 127th street to O’Malley’s, a convenience store that had been there our whole lives, I thought to myself this would be the last time we would ever take this walk together. I remember the sky was a hazy gray that day and the huge sun was fighting to break through the puffy white clouds that sank all the way down into the cluttered horizon. I remember a warm, soft breeze blew and that the air felt safe and familiar. As we walked up to the front of the store, Reggie said he was coming in. I told him there wasn’t any point in starting any trouble and asked him to just wait outside. At first he said he didn’t care because he was leaving tomorrow anyway, but I somehow managed to convince him otherwise. I went inside to get us two snow cones and I was just about out the door when Reggie stuck his head in.


“Hey O’Malley, how ya doin’?”

“What’s a matter Washington, couldn’t find any cars to hot wire today?”

“Nah, there’s none around. I just stopped in to say one thing to ya though.”

“What’s that?”

“Why don’t you go fuck yourself ya fat pig!”

“You get the fuck outta my store right now!”


O’Malley ran towards us and Reggie and I took off down the street, laughing uncontrollably. Old man O’Malley shouted out one last thing before we disappeared around the corner. “That’s right Washington… run like the little monkey you are… that’s all you’re good for. And you too Doogan… you’re turnin’ into trash. I told you ya would turn into trash hangin’ around with them!”

“Eat shit O’Malley!” I replied as we ran down the street.

Reggie and I ran for almost three blocks until we finally reached Cornerstone Park. Winded from our unexpected sprint, we sat under the forgiving shade of two gigantic elm trees and ate our Dr. Pepper snow cones. Later on, we played some basketball and after that went down to Mayfair Mall to check out the girls. All day long we never once stopped talking. Our topics of conversation ranged from what we would do with a million dollars, to what we wanted to be when we grew up. It was the kind of talk that goes on between kids everywhere; it was the kind of talk that seemed important; it was the kind of talk that was fun. Reggie was my best friend to be sure, but the friends I had back then always seemed to be more special than at any other time in my life. I never again had the kind of friends I did when I was fourteen. Come to think of it … who really does?

At the end of the day I walked Reggie back to his mom’s place, we said our good-byes, and Reggie gave me his grandparent’s phone number in Canada. It was then we made plans to get together the next summer. As it turned out, we did and always have. Nevertheless, as I stuffed Reggie’s number into my raggedy old jeans we really didn’t know if we’d ever see each other again. As I walked towards the street along the cracked and jagged sidewalk, I didn’t turn back because I didn’t want Reggie to see me crying. Years later when I told him, he confessed he was doing the same.

I did go on to graduate, and so did Reggie. I went to a trade school, and today work for the city of Las Vegas as an electrical engineer. Sadly, Reggie’s grandparents died in a car accident less than two weeks before his high school graduation. He was named the sole beneficiary of his grandparent’s life insurance policy, and just as they would have wanted him to, he used the money to put himself through school- law school that is. When Reggie took center stage in that ridiculous cap and gown his mother and I sat in the front row each of us beaming with pride. In the end, I suppose Reggie and I escaped much of what people thought was in store for us. With that said, Reggie will always have to deal with certain things; it was a fact of life he realized much before I did. As the years rolled by, I was better able to see the people in my old neighborhood back in Chicago for what they were. Back then, I could never understand the different way people looked at Reggie and me. As a kid, I would often ask myself why and today… I still do.




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Photo of The Week – Prairie Beauty


Photograph by David Anthony Hohol

The Canadian Prairies are as beautiful as any place on the planet and Alberta may epitomize their essence. Alberta is where the Great Central Plains meet the magnificent Canadian Rockies and contains awe-inspiring mountains, wondrous rolling hills and mystifying flat lands. The altitude provides Alberta with month after month of star-filled skies to wish upon and dream under.The golden fields of wheat and barely that dance in the wind and the grasslands that sparkle with wolf willows or prairie sage make Alberta a place of amazing beauty.

The picture above is a recently turned field of wheat soon ready for harvest centered by a former homestead since abandoned and left to only remind us of a lifestyle that seems so long ago, but in the annals of time is only yesterday. We have come so far, so fast and sometimes we forget as a result; forget that simplicity is the truest form of beauty.


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On The Wings Of Yesterday


From David Anthony Hohol…

The summer, for most of my life, has always meant time on the family farm. Sitting in the same house where my father was raised, the same house in which my grandfather was born, and the same house my great grandfather built with his own hands with timber from the trees atop his land, always grounds me to the world beneath my feet in a way no other place ever can. The sense of lineage is so thick, there are times I almost have to reach up to brush it away from in front of me so as to see the present more clearly and than days past.  While always close to my grandmother, since my grandfather’s passing, she has become my life’s matriarch and a living piece of my soul. I am so very blessed to have reached middle-age and still have her there to greet me with a warm hug and kiss on the cheek, as I pass through the only door that has always been there for me to open. I cherish every minute of our time spent chatting over breakfast or watching old movies like tiny gold coins falling into my open and waiting hands.  Now in her eighties, she still provides me with the only home I have ever known and for that I am a lucky man indeed.

From the second I return from my latest trek across the globe, I see my grandfather everywhere; sitting in his chair that still graces the rustic farmhouse living room, in the corrals behind the barn rolling out hay bales to his cattle, or out in the fields as I drive across the family land in my 1973 Chevy Scotsdale. Perhaps, most of all, I see him alive and well in my uncle, the only of his four children to carry on the tradition of farming and now the fourth generation to do so.

I hear my grandfather’s voice sometimes; sometimes in the wind, sometimes in the rustling of the towering poplar tress that surround the home quarter, but most often when passing through the ever-present herd of cattle grazing the pastures for yet another summer under the golden Alberta sun.

One thing my grandfather and I always did so easily was just talk. The flow of conversation between us was effortless and I’ve often thought it was simply because we loved talking to one another. We could easily talk our way through entire ball games or even a Hockey Night in Canada double-header, but it was while working out in the fields when the conversations between us became somehow special.

Working together with our hands and our backs, we would talk all day long and in turn we each learned about the kind of men we were; the kind men we wanted to be. Two men in the throws of physical labor, working side-by-side, is a very primal, very masculine ritual. When the two men are grandfather and grandson, the undertows of blood and family only serve to heighten the tribal nature of the experience.

Perhaps we never talked more than while hauling hay bales together. Stacking 50 bales in the back of a half-ton is like completing a puzzle, with each bale sliding into its specific place and in a specific position, until the load is complete. Afterward, we drove the load back to the farm for unloading, to then start all over again. During hay season, my grandfather and I would haul thousands of square bales back home from the fields to the northeast corner of the barn, where the stacks would sometimes reach 30 feet high. With my grandfather being in his mid sixties and me in my early twenties, I was often amazed at his stamina. The young strong man that I was was dog-tired after a day of hauling bales with him. Farm work is a good tired though. It’s not nerve tiring, but physically tiring. After a good supper and a solid nights sleep, one wakes up the next day feeling ready for more. Regardless, when hauling bales back and forth all day long, for days at a time, all there is to do is talk. Our topics of conversation were all over the scale and talking about anything and everything slowly turned grandfather and grandson… into friends.

The conversations we had are countless, but two always stand out in my mind and in the end, reveal the genuine friendship we shared with one another. One summer as we were stacking bales out behind the barn, I began to get on my grandfather’s case for not taking his blood pressure pills. He eventually he got irritated and told me I didn’t understand his situation. I then said, “What do you mean, I don’t understand? I understand you need to take the pills to stop yourself from having a heart attack for Christ’s sake. What else is there?”

It was then he angrily replied, “Dave… If I take these pills,” but then paused for moment before he continued.

“If I take this fucking pills, I can’t even get it up… I can’t even be a god damn man… do you know what that’s like?”

I didn’t know what to say, so quietly answered him as honestly as I could. “No.. I don’t.”

After a few minutes of silence, he then said with a smile, “Don’t think I still don’t give it to your grandma once in a while, Dave” and let out a laugh and I couldn’t help but follow suit.

Like I said… we were friends. Beyond the conversations we had were his stories, and boy oh boy how I loved to hear them. Although he would tell me about painful and disappointing times, more often than not his tales were filled with laughter of life. Whether it was the one about a guy he once knew that would shit his pants for a beer or the one about the farting horse, he always had a great punch line. The stories he told about he and his older brothers and their days as boxers however, stand above them all.

Because a farming community could not spare a lot of money for sporting events and because distances were long a far from major centers, small towns depended mostly on themselves for entertainment. It was for this reason that boxing, for a time, was very popular in small towns across the country. I knew that there had been a lot of boxing in the area, but until my grandfather told me stories I had no idea just how incredibly popular it was. The entire town, as well as others from neighboring communities, would pack the town hall to watch professional boxing cards on a regular basis.

My great uncle Albert told me that it was the high school principal, Jack McLaughlin, a boxer of some note in his day, who started the Two Hills boxing club. Boxing became popular not only in Two Hills, but in towns like Vegreville, St.Paul and Bonnyville and it was not difficult to line up a good card, because some of the men in the area became name fighters. My grandfather told me that he and his older brothers, Albert and John, would all appear on the same five-bout fight card sometimes and they would always win, as the Hohol boys had a tough as nails reputation throughout the county. The oldest brother John became a ranked fighter and was an Alberta welterweight champion. My great uncle Albert was also a good fighter, but told me himself my grandfather was the best fighter out of all three brothers. He described him as a natural who surely would have become ranked nationally if he had continued to fight. Sometimes I think that If I could have one wish granted to me, I would choose to go back through time and be there at ringside to see the three Hohol boys all fighting on the same card.

With that said within only a short time all the fighting in the area came to a tragic end. On a hot summers night back in 1944, Two Hills Hall was standing room only. After my grandfather and his older brothers all convincingly won their bouts, all three stood ringside to take in the main event. Two men who had become well known fighters, St. Paul’s George Werenka and Cyclone Fred Taylor from Gibbons, were about to clash in a heavyweight battle. My grandfather told me there had been several weeks of build up for the fight and the winner was expected to move on to the national boxing scene. According to my grandfather it was a hard, tough fight and Taylor landed more punches, but Werenka landed the much heavier ones. At the end of the eighth round Taylor walked over to his corner and sat down. Suddenly he went limp sliding off his stool and laid unconscious on the canvas. Taylor was taken to Edmonton, but died at the entrance of the University Hospital. My grandfather said it was a shaking experience for he and his brothers, as well as the whole town. Werenka was not held responsible and went on to become the Canadian Navy’s heavyweight champion. Shortly thereafter, the Edmonton and District Boxing Commission tightened requirements for staging professional boxing and fairly so. The changes were of a nature that made it impossible for small towns to afford to promote boxing and as my grandfather said, it was as it should be.

This was one of only countless stories he told me over the years and these stories of his youth and his days as a young man were magical to me. They always whisked way to another time and another way of life far away from the world that is today. Even more importantly, his willingness to share not only the stories of his life but his emotions, his feelings and his dreams led me to get to know the man as well as I have ever known anyone in my life, and in return he got to know me. The connection was felt by us both. We were friends and like old buddies we would argue about sports and politics, pissing each other off at times. At the same time we would share the most intimate and personal feelings with one another.

My grandfather passed away on January 20th, 2003. I think of him 10 seconds out of every day and afterward, always think of how lucky I am to have had in my life. Then I realize he’s still right here with me and I journey back into the big wide world, my wings lifted once again by his ever-present memories, and above above all else by the living monument to his life that is the family farm.

Yes. I am indeed a lucky man.


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David Anthony Hohol


Born in Edmonton, Canada, RELATIVITY OnLine’s Editor-in-Chief has a BA in English Literature from the University of Calgary and an MA in Creative Writing, with a specialization in biographical and auto-biographical research, from Warnborough College in Dublin, Ireland. Hohol has worked or studied in North American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and European circles of Education and has been a published writer since 2005. After several years in Japan, working in the city of Tokyo, he currently resides in Dubai, UAE, where he serves as the Vice Principal at the Institute of Applied Technology in Ajman. From Rwanda to Sudan, Iran to North Korea, Hohol has been a visitor to more than forty countries. His global odyssey provides RELATIVITY OnLine with its grounding force of multiplicity.

































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Brown Eye for the White Guy: The White Man’s Burden


RacismFrom Dubai Correspondent James O’Hearn…

In 2005 I married a wonderful young woman named Nerissa D’Souza. Her family is Goan, and though she is Indian by nationality, she spent her entire life in Dubai. When I moved to Dubai in 2006, I moved in with her family, and by 2007 I had become a “traditional” Indian son-in-law, that is, I became the sole earner supporting a multi-generational family.

Embracing my “Indian” identity, I learned to eat spicy curries every day, I fell in love with cricket, I learned to name the major political parities in India and speak at some length about their policies, I became able to hold forth on the differences between the many different religious, cultural and lingual groups in India, and I learned to love Bollywood movies. But even though I am now far more “Indian” than my in-laws will ever be “Canadian,” I have only ever been merely tolerated, not accepted by them.

So what does this have to do with race or racism?

Before I moved to Dubai, my wife and I were in desperate straits. Prevented from finding work on account of a visa mix up, my wife had to stay at home while I worked three to four jobs at a go, dropping jobs and getting new ones wherever I could eke out a few more dollars. After our first child was born, and freshly out of university with a mountain of debt, we hit the wall, so to speak. We had no money left, not enough coming in, and could see no way of rectifying our situation but for one – we had to leave Canada.

When I arrived in Dubai, a few months after I had sent my wife and child ahead of me, I was a nervous wreck. With only a couple hundred dollars to my name, living at my in-laws, and upon their kindness, I felt lower than I had at any point in my life. Yet my wife was entirely unconcerned. Why? Because, as she told me, soon after I arrived, I was “white,” and we were in Dubai.

Three years earlier, when I had lived in Japan, I had my first taste of what it was like to be a “minority.” Words like “minority” and “mainstream” get tossed about so much in Canada, with such specific associations, that it took me a while to see myself as the minority. In Japan I encountered racism every day, from mild examples to extreme xenophobia. But Japan is very homogeneous, and Japan has a long history of fearing and avoiding outsiders, so I didn’t think much of what I saw. The racism was never specific, just a matter of those who exhibited nihonjinron (Japaneseness) and those who did not. You were wither nihonjin or gaijin – Japanese, or Foreign.

But in Dubai, when I again found myself in a minority situation, where the locals only account for up to 10% of the population, the dichotomous nature of racism I found in Japan morphed into something more along the lines of a shattered mirror, with innumerable facets reflecting each other, but each being separate and unique. Here it seemed that race or racism as not something widely spoken about or acknowledged as a social ill, but was actually a functioning aspect of the societal fabric, ubiquitous and universal.

My wife’s faith proved justified, when, inside of a month, I landed the best paying job I had ever had, a job where in only three years I found my salary rising to a level beyond what I could ever hope to earn in Canada. I chalk it up to luck, and serendipity, but sometimes there is a part of me that wonders if I was the recipient of this bounty not because of extensive credentials or experience, but because of how I looked, and how I spoke. Then again, I had experience in the field, and my employer-to-be was facing a sudden manpower shortage. But still, from some of the comments and attitudes I later encountered from other colleagues, I had to wonder, because regardless of the truth of the matter, it is the perception of that truth that carries weight day to day.

As a Canadian, and a product of that education system, it bothers me sometimes, even though I have proven myself at work over and again since being hired, that others might think I am where I am now not so much because of who I am, but because of what I am. But whatever my feelings are in the matter, the fact is, my situation is accepted as the norm here.

A Keralite colleague of mine was shocked, not too long ago, to find out that not only did I not have any “lands” or “houses” in Canada, but that I had debt. As she told me, she had assumed that because I was white, that meant I was wealthy. She had never questioned why I was hired or my qualifications for the job, and simply assumed that I “should” have that job.

Though she worked the same job as I (but in a different department), and earned the same income, and even though what she earns is ten times what I earn in terms of relative purchasing power parity, she did not even really need the money because her family was very wealthy in Kerala. I, on the other hand, desperately needed that job to support my family, to start to make some headway so that we could build a better life for ourselves. From my perspective, I saw my colleague as being privileged, and felt more than a little envy. Yet even with that in mind, my colleague still felt there was some sort of hierarchy at play, that regardless of wealth or upbringing, race really and truly mattered – that everything aside, perhaps I was the one to be envied.

In Canada, my colleague would be considered the “minority,” and I would be seen as a privileged member of the mainstream. Here I am seen as a privileged member of the “minority,” and she was seen as just an “Indian.” And in there lay the irony.

Few in Canada would know this, but there are about as many Keralites as there are Canadians in this world, even though Kerala is about half the size of New Brunswick. And when you take into account the diasporic nature of Keralite society, there are probably more Karalites than there are Canadians by a good margin. With this fact in mind, in the context of globalization, words like “minority” and “majority” really begin to lose meaning, but what about concepts like “race” or “racism?”

Racism, in the North American conception, is a matter of the privileged actively thinking or acting against the less privileged. In terms of academia, racism relates to the white male patriarchy, and pretty much the rest of society. While anyone can have a racist thought, only a member of the majority can be a racist. That is, only a member of the privileged majority can discriminate or alter their actions towards others due to race (meaning also culture/creed, etc) and have those actions be considered racist. That’s because the discourse on race and racism has, over time, devolved to being an issue of black and white (figuratively speaking).

But is that correct? Is that true? If not, then who, really, is a racist? What, then, is racism? What sort of behaviour would qualify as being racist in nature?

When I go shopping with my wife, when we go to a jewelry store, I am often asked to stay hidden, outside, and around the corner. The reason being that if the salesman does not see me, and does not see that my wife has a “white” husband, we will pay half as much as we would otherwise. And when we walk in public, and get into an argument, when my wife yells at me or castigates me in public, I have to restrain myself from replying in kind because to my wife it would appear as if I was talking to her like she were a maid. Why? Because to others, the sight of a white man talking harshly to a brown woman would be seen as such.

Regardless of my being her husband, and the love, children, and experiences we share, the colorblind nature of our relationship falls away the moment we step into public view. We both have to play roles, roles which change and evolve depending on who we talk to or interact with.

By conforming to these unspoken dictates, does that make my actions racist, or examples of common sense? By avoiding being seen by a South Asian salesman in the knowledge that my wife’s colour and nationality will help us get a better bargain, I can hardly claim to be “colourblind,” because I acknowledge differences in race, and I alter my actions towards other based on those differences, which is what racism is.

Which makes me what?


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