Category Archives: Public Talk

Sole Less

Random thoughts of August 27th, 2013 which aren’t exactly what I’d normally share on my blog but these struck me so deeply that I felt a responsibility to my Self to do so…

Ai Weiwei AGO Exhibit reflections from Saturday marked down on Monday but made more sense Tuesday:

I checked out the Ai Weiwei exhibit over the weekend. His work is powerful. But one particular image stayed with me – it was a pair of extremely thin sole shoes wrapped around an empty bottle of wine. It struck me because someone shared a dream with me they had involving sole less shoes. And I had written this poem a day after that:

Sole less shoes

Wrapped around an empty bottle.

Did the liquor wear away the sole,

Or did the sole consume the liquor?


Soulless shoes

Wrapped around an empty bottle.

Did the liquor dissipate the soul,

Or did the soul abuse the liquor?



I got my lunch at my usual spot but took it to go, as I wanted to sit out in the sun.

Picked Dundas Square to nourish my body…

As I entered, under the big Yonge/Dundas Square sign, was a man sitting in a chair, alone, with his shades on, smoking a cigarette.

Even before I came close, I recognized him. I knew his ex-wife and daughter, his in-laws and many of his friends, as he is from the same town as my mama. I suppose leaving a country you grew up in and coming to Canada isn’t such an easy thing for anyone, but for him it must have been particularly hard because he turned to alcohol…. to escape his thoughts? Reality? Fears? Loneliness? I’m not exactly sure nor do I care to guess. Anyway, I remember hearing from other family years back, that his wife divorced him and that he ended up alone, on the street. I’ve actually seen him randomly before, but today when I saw him I looked to try to see him.

He was sitting in that chair, under the big sign, watching the intersection closely, watching people pass him by.

It was then that I had a thought – alcohol, and any form of other substance, abuse allows us to become observers of life instead of active participants.

I suppose that’s a less painful existence but is it an existence?

Is that really LIVING?

I’m not sure, I’ve not gone down that route but all I know is that every alcoholic, substance abuser, addict…they all end up alone.

And it makes sense, doesn’t it?

They’re simply observing everyone else who is participating in living (living – probably not by the addict’s standards, and perhaps not even by societal standards, but I’d say everyone else who is TRYING to make something out of THIS life); the addicts stay stationed in their chair while everyone else is trying to get places, passing them by.

What a way to ‘exit’.

What a sad way to die…on the inside.



I watched a documentary on Basquiat today. He, like many other artists of his time (and unfortunately even now), used drugs, and drugs killed him. What struck me was him, in all of his glory and fame, questioning the quality of HIS greatness, HIS creativity, HIS talent, HIS work, HIS art, WITHOUT the drugs. It struck me because that is what you would expect an observer of life to question. What wore away at HIS soles – the drugs or the pain he carried around and was unable to deal with? What dissipated HIS soul – the drugs or the pain he chose not to overcome?


Substance abuse, of ANY form, hurts and often times kills the abuser. But what the abuser fails to see is that they hurt everyone else around them too.

In the case of that man I saw earlier today, he hurt his ex-wife and his daughter by spending their money (of which was mostly brought in by his ex-wife’s two jobs) to the point where they had no food to feed their child or pay bills or rent. I’m not even going to touch on the psychological and emotional scars that left on both of those women. (Please note, I’m not sharing their story to expose them in any way, especially since I wasn’t there, but to use as an example of REAL repercussions of one’s actions.)

In the case of Basquiat’s story, his ex-girlfriend describes him as becoming violent. He started looking bad. Imagine seeing someone you love slowly degrading BY CHOICE? How could that NOT hurt?!

In the case of the person who dreamt of sole less shoes…all I can say is that this person’s light, in their raw-est, most sober state, lifted my spirit, and my soul, to heights it had never been lifted before.

Our actions DO affect other people.

Substance abuse hurts EVERYONE…especially the children. And they’re left with a permanent scar.

I read a quote by Paulo Coelho today: “You can’t avoid pain, but you can choose to overcome it.”

You can’t overcome pain by being an observer of life. You have to participate and LIVE IT. If YOU are (or someone YOU know is) dealing with substance abuse, PLEASE get help. Stop hurting those around you and your Self.

Love, T


Dr Maya Angelou

Dr Maya Angelou, Roy Thompson Hall, May 25th, 2011

As soon as I heard that Dr Angelou was going to be giving a talk in Toronto, I knew that I would be there. I just had it in my heart that I would be in her presence, even if I was far from the stage she would be on. I knew that I would be lifted and humbled and inspired by her, but what I did not know when I entered the doors of Roy Thompson Hall that evening was that I would make another person, a complete stanger, happy.

My friend Matt and I had decided to see Dr Angelou together. I bought the tickets for three of us – for myself, for Matt and for Matt’s friend. A week or so prior to the show, Matt’s friend backed out and we were left with an extra ticket. I thought about inviting someone else to join us but the weekend before Dr Angelou’s talk, I had gone travelling (my soul food) to New York City. It was the same weekend on which at 6pm that Saturday, the world was going to end and although I knew that wouldn’t actually happen, I just didn’t think about that extra ticket which I had in my possession. Instead, I took in the sights and sounds and smells (some good and some bad!) of the Big Apple and figured out some of my own truth which was liberating to me. But I digress…

Matt and I met outside of the hall that evening as raindrops were just starting to come down sporadically. We hadn’t seen each other in a little while so we were chatting away as we stepped inside the box office entrance of Roy Thompson Hall. I don’t know what was it about the woman which caught my eye. It could have been her pink jacket or her pretty dress with a bright print or perhaps it was that small sign she held up in front of her. I had almost passed her, but something made me stop and take a step back to read her sign. Written on blue paper with a bright blue marker it said something like “If you have an extra ticket I’ll buy it from you and I’ll be very thankful”. So I looked into the face of this pretty lady and I said “I have an extra ticket”. I do not remember if her immediate reply was “Thank you Jesus” or “You do?!” but what I do remember is that her whole face lit up with a huge smile. Her energy was incredible. I came to find out, through all of her excited chatter, that her name was Lisa, she was a mother of three who’s husband had just come to Canada (thanks to her sponsorship), who was short on money but was willing to spend some of it on being in the presence of Dr Angelou that evening. Lisa, with her single-use camera, took a picture with me because she “wanted to remember everything about this” evening as it meant so much to her. I don’t remember how many thank you’s I received from this woman that evening but I was thankful for her smile. Even before Dr Angelou stepped on to the stage that evening, I felt lifted, humbled, inspired and oh so very grateful. Isn’t it amazing to be able to make a complete stranger happy? What a gift Lisa gave me! For it, I am forever grateful.

“They” say that everything happens for a reason and I truly believe that. Although sometimes we look for reasons in things where it’s not appropriate, can you imagine how I felt when Dr Angelou started speaking about how you never know how you’ll affect someone and that you can always do more! And it’s actually true!

I’m not a professional videographer and I appologize for the added noise by my goofy laugh, but I do hope that you are able to get something good out of watching one of my rainbows in the clouds.


Part 3:
Part 4:

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