Gord Downie - A great Canadian and even better Human

Source: Evan Mitsui/CBC

Today Canada and the world lost a great humanitarian.  Gord Downie, lead vocalist of The Tragically Hip, and the voice of the Canadian Soundtrack, lost his battle with cancer.

Cancer sucks.

His music will forever be revered, but his efforts to correct the wrongs that Indigenous people have suffered through for centuries should never be forgotten, and my prayer is that we all will continue that work.

I wrote a post earlier this summer, which discussed the Hip's last concert in May 2016.  That concert united Canada, based on the volumes of people that watched the concert live.

Rest in Peace, Humanitarian.


Top 10 Reasons Tragically Hip’s last concert Is a Life Lesson For Us All

Tonight CBC is showing the Tragically Hip's final concert from Kingston, Ontario. For those outside of Canada, the lead vocalist for The Hip, Gord Downie announced in last May that he has terminal brain cancer.

It’s hard to imagine the moment when Gord heard that news. Likely it was in a doctor’s office which we all know can feel like a cold, antiseptic place.

For people that are diagnosed with a terminal disease, there’s a whirlwind of emotions that come to mind:

“I won’t get to see my kids grow up”

“I won’t get to go on that vacation to <insert dream locale here>”

“I wish I would have done more of <insert anything here>”

“Why me?”

Mr. Downie may have had these thoughts. But somewhere along the way, he decided instead of staying home, spending time with family, or preparing for his untimely end, he decided to celebrate his talents and head out on the road for a tour.

That tour ended in Kingston.

Gord’s unselfish decision to tour with The Hip shows what he thinks about his fans, his country, and the music.

Here’s 10 reasons why tonight’s concert provides life lessons for us all:

  1. Appreciate every moment in your life. While I hope you never have that meeting with your physician telling you that you have a terminal condition. We all come with expiry dates. Act like that, and cherish every moment.
  2. Life is to be celebrated. You have talents that are special to you. I hope that you know what they are, but if you don’t, keep searching. The world needs you, and what you have to give.
  3. “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory” Dr. Seuss. Live in the moment. Be mindful of your daily lives. Don’t live on auto-pilot.
  4. “The trouble is that you think you have time” Buddha. Gord didn’t think a year ago that he may pass away in the near future. No one does. If there’s something you’ve been meaning to do, do it. Don’t wait.
  5. Celebrate your mistakes. Your life and accomplishments are built on not only what you’ve done well, but what you’ve royally screwed up.
  6. Forgive. Don’t carry a grudge against ANYONE. I don’t care what they did to you, or how it made your life Hell. Guess what? Carrying that burden continues the pain of whatever that person did or said. Let it go.
  7. Invest in others. Your ancestor’s ancestor’s ancestor’s (etc.) invested in their children. You’re here because of that investment. Repeat often.
  8. Invest in yourself. Never stop learning. Be the best you can be, and if you have a gift like Gord Downie does, share it with as many as you can.
  9. Have fun along the way. No matter what struggles you may be facing, or could potentially face in the near future, don’t fret them. Have fun. Enjoy your life.
  10. Smile. We don’t smile as much as we used to.

Enjoy the concert, and all the best wishes to Gord, his family, and his ever loyal fans and friends. Everytime you go.

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Want to Move to Canada? Advice from An American Who Did It

So the US Presidential Election is (finally, mercifully, thankfully) over, and the Electoral College results declare that Donald J. Trump is now the President-Elect of the United States of America.

Based on commentary that I've read and heard over the past year or two, people indicated that they would "Move to Canada" if Trump won.  Well, let's see you are committed to that declaration.

I'm an American (and Canadian) citizen.  I was born in a suburb of Detroit many moons ago.  I immigrated to Canada in 2004, and call Toronto my home.  Since I've lived here for over a decade, I have a good grasp on the differences between Canada and America.  

Grab a Timmies, sit in your Muskoka chair, and let Uncle Mike fill you in on what it will take for you to immigrate to Canada.

1. Leave your guns at home.  The Second Amendment doesn't apply here.  Remember when General Washington gave the Brits the middle finger? Well, that created your Independence (of course after some battles, Canada torching the White House, War of 1812, etc.)  Canada doesn't follow America's Constitution, because it's for you guys south of the 49th Parallel, not us maple syrup, mountie hugging, beaver cherishing Canadians.  

Guns are not allowed up here.  Rifles for hunting are ok, but there's paperwork involved.  That's a key point throughout this post.  Get prepared for paperwork.  A lot of it.  So right to bear arms doesn't apply.  

2.  Socialism.  For those of you that paid (somewhat) attention to 9th Grade Government class(In Canada, we call it Grade 9, just like the Barenaked Ladies song), Canada is basically a Socialistic nation.  We care for people in such a way that there are several Government funded social programs, that help people.  Not just poor people, but people with a variety of needs.  How do we do that?

3. Taxes.  We pay them.  A lot.  In Ontario, we basically pay 13% sales tax on goods and services.  I know in Michigan the sales tax is 6%.  So more than double tax.  Have fun with that.  Also your pay check (paycheque in Canada, get used to French-like words, and based on America's love affair with France, that may take some getting used to.) will net you about 70% of your gross pay, if you're lucky.  Taxes are high in Canada.  There aren't all the 1040 loopholes that the IRS allows in America (referred to from here on out as "The States".)

4. Healthcare.  Let's make something quite clear.  Healthcare ain't free.  See item # 3.  Our taxes pay for our healthcare system.  So you shouldn't typically get a bill in the mail for lab work, or services that your insurance company decided not to pay for, because the billing clerk (who hates her job) didn't click the right code, before submitting to Insurance.  

You also normally shouldn't get a bill if you need to visit the emergency room.  However, be prepared to wait in the ER for hours.  Yes.  Hours.  Bet on at least 4, maybe longer.  There's no 29 minute guarantee to be seen in our ER's, baby.  But you won't get a bill (typically) either.

5. Housing.  You know that Tri-Level you own that cost around $150-200k in The States?  In Toronto, that same style home will run you from $750,000 to over $1 Million.  Yes.  That's Million with an M.  Housing prices in Toronto have exploded, as has the population.  The average home price increases about $150,000 per year, over the past 5 years.  There's strong demand to live in Toronto.  It's not because of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I can assure you that.  That demand shows no signs of slowing down, so if you want to live in Canada, plan on renting.  For a long time.

6. Population.  Canada is actually a true melting pot, unlike what The States says it is.  In Toronto there's pretty much every culture on the planet living and working here.  We all for the most part get along without issues (having no guns helps.)  We also don't care what religion you are, and we don't ban Syrian Refugees.  Hell, our Prime Minister greeted the first wave of Refugees at the Airport.  

7. Traffic.  Toronto and LA tend to toggle places on the list of the worst traffic in the world.  Toronto has about 7 million people and they're all either on the 401, The Gardiner Expressway, or the Don Valley Parkway roads.  It takes at least an hour to go 24 miles (39 kilometres...I'll get to the metric system in a moment) across the city.  So you either have to leave really early to beat traffic, or get to enjoy bumper to bumper traffic for most of your adult life.  I recommend podcasts, to learn stuff.

8. Metric system.  Unlike The States in late 1975, that adopted the Metric System as a unit of measurement, Canada actually uses it.  Mind you, you'll find some senior citizens here that will say miles, but for the most part, everyone follows Kilometers (commonly called Klicks) for distance measurement.  Same goes for temperatures.  Unless you live in Windsor, Ontario, get used to figuring out Celcius.  23 Celsius is actually comfortable (approximately 72 degrees Fahrenheit.)  See?  You learned something!

9. Booze.  Yeah, Canadians love to drink.  So do you.  Deal with it.  However, this may be the biggest culture shock to your system.  For you beer drinkers, a case of Budweiser (The King of Beers) that you can get at your local store for $16, will run you $45 here.  Yes.  $45.  24 Cans.  12 Ounces (or 355 ml.)  The hard stuff liquor that you can get for $20 in The States will run you double here.  

10.  Weather.  I'm sure you've heard of Canada referred to as the "Great White North."  There's a reason for that moniker.  It's fkg cold here.  And we get snow.  Sometimes tragedy strikes and we get Snow In Toronto.  The horror.  If you want to leave The States, why are you picking a cold climate?  Mexico is much warmer!