I am so bored, Issue 16

Bored – Watch these legends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLKvn6WRwQM

I am bored. I never really understood the meaning of “ground hog day” until now. I may only have had one employer for forty-three years but I had varied roles, worked in many different locations, and I met lots of interesting people while I was with CIBC. When I was 18, I worked in rural locations and thought it pretty cool to be licensed to carry a handgun to pick up money parcels from the Post Office. I knew nothing about firearms and I had loaded the wrong ammunition. I was told that if I had ever pulled the trigger I would have blown my hand off.  

Blues legends Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry frequently played the Montreal coffee houses and jazz clubs in 1970 and 1971 and they were regular customers for US money orders at Crescent and St. Catherine where I was working as a foreign exchange clerk. Sometimes they just came in to talk and pass the time. In my late twenties, I worked as an account manager in loft manufacturing buildings on St-Viateur and on Chabanel Street and there I learnt a lot about the pace of business, the need to listen and to “hear,” and the importance of being relevant and alert all while working with clothing manufacturers and importers.  I enjoyed being an old fashioned branch manager, in many ways a job that conveyed more personal power than being responsible for commercial banking for east and north Ontario and where I was conscripted to work on commercial banking’s strategic planning. 

I had the good fortune to spend most of my career in real estate banking courtesy of two Toronto women that convinced the head of real estate to believe in my ability to learn the industry properly and then proceeded to make sure that I didn’t let them down. I have been lucky to have had some of the best developers in Canada as clients and teachers. Real estate industry specialization has provided me the opportunity to have a post-retirement career that has given me an excuse to be downtown one or two days a week, and, the means to travel to Europe frequently. 

It has been about five months since our annual “getaway from winter” was cut short and we came back from London on March 13, two weeks before we had planned to return. I shouldn’t complain.  I like my home and I enjoy my wife and family but the variety that came from being in client offices in the city, meeting with work colleagues, eating in some excellent restaurants, and the enjoyment that I got from planning the next big trip are missing. We can and do go out to shop and to restaurants but those activities are frequently joyless given the necessary but bothersome sanitary procedures: endless hand washing and sanitizing, remembering and wearing masks, finding entrance / exit doors as well as the location of check-out lines, and, following a hodgepodge of directional signs. Then there is the unpredictability of individual temperaments  including my own. I have never spent more time in a 6,000 square foot area and I find that my patience is frayed so I apologize to those unknown people I may have glared or snapped at. I am trying to do better but it is easier to snarl under a mask than it is to flash a smile that nobody will see. 

A simple suggestion: Imagine people are smoking, or farting really bad, and try to avoid breathing it in. 

Click here to read the article on vox.com

Each new day is looking more like the day before and we are closer to Christmas than we are to that March 13 day when we left the UK  to shelter from the pandemic at home. Covid-19 is going to be with us for quite a while longer. It is highly contagious and it is a killer. For many that it infects, there can be serious long term consequences. There are no proven vaccines and regardless of any hype, the ability to massively inoculate populations to the degree necessary for some level of herd immunity is probably 18 to 24 months away. We can’t possibly wait that long to get back to a decent level of normality. I think that everyone wants to rediscover a more social life, fearless freedom of movement, and the enjoyment of travel.  What can get us there:

  • Continued improvements in treatment protocols
  • Acceptance that there will continue to be some level of continued infection in our communities  
  • Observance of the sanitary precautions that I always recite at the end of this newsletter and avoidance of large crowds, particularly in indoor settings. It is important to keep the rate of infection to a level that allows the healthcare system to function properly. It is winter and flu season in Australia and, anecdotally, all of the sanitary measures that are in place for COVID seem to have dramatically reduced the antipodean  incidence of influenza.
  • Continued investment in healthcare system resilience. 
  • Science-based consistent messaging — this interview with Tim Fendly of appliedwayfinding.com provides solid advice on steps that municipalities can take to be consistent and less oppressive. https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-urbanist/455/finding-a-way/  Approximate run time is 14 minutes. 
  • Individual understanding of risk factors and risk tolerance This article appeared in the New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/19/opinion/coronavirus-risk-prevention.html?referringSource=articleShare

What can push us back into lockdown:

  • Non-compliance with sanitary measures. I think that in general, people are pretty good in Montreal. Mask wearing is more consistent now that it is mandatory in indoor spaces.
  • Flaunting the rules for social gatherings
  • Downplaying the seriousness of the virus – I was one of the idiots that originally thought COVID was no worse than the flu; and, if there was a vaccine that worked for a good portion of the population and if there were proven treatment protocols that may have been true but there isn’t a vaccine and while treatment protocols have improved, they are not as numerous or as efficient as treatments available for the flu
  • Believing that there is a miracle cure just around the corner.  Does anyone want to buy poisonous oleander oil from the My Pillow guy who believes that he has a divine platform from which to sell snake oil? 
  • Ignoring scientific advice 
  • Inconsistent guidance – all levels of government have an obligation to have a coordinated, consistent message on required personal behaviours. We should want to protect ourselves but we have an obligation to protect others. 

The same reminders: Shop local, support local businesses, buy from local farms, and support local artisans and manufacturers. As always, wear masks as required, wash your hands, practice social distancing, hydrate, and exercise. 

Cities are in Crisis

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The Co-working Concept, Issue 80

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Co-working space came to mean the notorious We Work model. When I had been asked to opine on co-working I tried to steer the conversation away from the Adam Neumann / Softbank  flimflam growth model. Instead, I suggested that property owners look at usage and users. While I doubted We Work’s ability to survive I […]

The Affordable Housing Conundrum

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Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]

We Should Know Better

August 26, 2023

I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]

Not in My Back Yard

August 4, 2023

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Glasgow – That Dear Green Place

July 31, 2023

We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie  and Norry Wilson.  So,  we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]