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Saturday, July 30, 2016


I love jazz, and that love goes back to the 1950's when I was first introduced to this music genre, a love affair that has lasted all these years.

As a young kid just out of highschool, working as a copyrunner in the Vancouver Sun newsroom, I was often given free passes to show that were in town, namely these were jazz concerts held at an old auditorium down on Georgia Street (the Georgia Auditorium). One of the first concerts I attended with the Stan Kenton band but after that there was a steady array of musicians and artists from the States passing through.  I got to see Sammy Davis Jr when he was still performing with his dad and uncle. But my favorites were the jazz musicians. I saw them all: Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Charley Parker...dozens of them, and thinking about it now I realize how privileged I was to have seen these great musicians.

There were the drummers namely Shelly Mann (I can't remember if I got to see Gene Krupa before he got banned from crossing the border). I had a thing for drummers after that and even had a brief fling with one who played drums with a band at the Penthouse. 

 Stan Getz

 Chet Baker

 But the real revelation came the night Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker came to town on their first West Coast tour. I totally fell in love with Chet Baker and to this day have most of his CDs.  I also loved it when Stan Getz started to play Brazilian jazz and I have his CDs too.

 It was Chet Baker, though, who really influenced me and it was so tragic that such a talented man died in the way he did.  Drugs were the downfall of so many.

Today I went to Pat's Pub to hear an excellent afternoon of jazz with local musicians, Sharon Minimoto and her trio. They played so many of my old favorite tunes.  And when the bass player sang Chet Baker's song "I Fall In Love Too Easily" I felt tears roll down my cheeks and it inspired me to write about those wonderful days back in the '50's when I used to attend all those jazz concerts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


It has been a long time since I last posted anything on CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF.  I got busy with my travel blog or my writer's blog or, most importantly, getting a major novel published.  But today I knew I had to start writing here again.

This blog is mainly for my own rants, for family stories or general observations. That's why it's called "Conversations with Myself". These are my opinions and thoughts, separate from  my writing and travels blogs.

When I went to the pool today for waterfit, my mind was troubled with all the turmoil and nastiness that is going on in the world right now. To add to the horrid wars in the Middle East instigated by that evil group who call themselves ISIS or ISIL and proclaim they are acting on the words of the 'prophet', there is another equally evil and trouble-making person spouting the same kind of hatred below the border of Canada in the United States.. It was bad enough when we had the mis-informed, radical right wing so-called "Christian" Republicans spewing their nonsense, now they are joined by this man, Donald Trump, who has to be the worse individual since Adolph Hitler. In fact, he's very much the same. Hitler was determined to rid the world of Jews.  Trump would like the rid the world (or at least the US) of Muslims. And in doing so, by spewing his nasty rhetoric, he is playing right into the hands of ISIS, creating dissention in the States (and worldwide) causing HATE to raise it's ugly head.  And unfortunately too many ill-informed people are buying it.

I came from a family who were 'immigrants'. (In fact, didn't we all, other than the aboriginal people?) My father was a Welsh coal miner who was forced to immigrate after he lost his mining card due to standing up for the rights of the poor miners. He came to Canada as a farm worker and later became a Baptist minister. My mother's family immigrated from Nottingham England. Their roots could have been Saxon.  My children's father was the son of Ukrainian immigrants. If I could trace his family tree back far enough it would include the genes of the Genghis Khan. In my family tree now, as I trace it down the line, it also includes (through marriages) Chinese, Korean, and Haitian and (through adoption) First Nations.

When I was a child growing up on the Prairies my parents were always feeding, clothing and helping poor migrant workers. I became interested in the First Nations people then too and used to wish I was one of them, not knowing for years what a terrible life they were leading, how their children were taken away and put into residential schools. (It is only now with our new government that something is really being done to investigate and hear their stories for Reconciliation.)

 When WWII broke out and my dad went overseas to act as chaplain in an army field hospital in Holland, I learned all about the hatred of  Hilter and Mussolini and watched in total shock, after the war, when news reels were released of starved, skeletal Jews behind the barbed wire of internment camps, and worse...the piles of bodies from the gas chambers.  This is what hatred does! We fought the war to stop it and we were just lucky that we won.

I didn't know til I was 12 and moved to the Coast about the internment of the Japanese. I learned about that later when realized that my junior high school chum, a young Japanese girl, must have only just been released from an internment camp.  I didn't know about the head tax on the Chinese, either, until much later. How when the men came across the Pacific to work on "Gold Mountain" (as they called BC) they were taxed and were not allowed to bring their families here. Even back in the late '40's and early '50s when my family first arrived here there were lots of lonely Chinese bachelors wandering around the designated areas known as Chinatown ( The Japanese area had been destroyed during the war!)

Now this loud-mouth buffon, DT, is preaching to the gullible Republican right (and any other bigot who cares to listen) that he wants to block all Muslims from entering US, including keeping out those who have been away visiting and making those who live there wear ID badges.  (Just like Hitler did with the Jews!!!)
And unfortunately a great many small-minded gun-toting bigots are listening to his rants and agreeing with him. This man has become as much of a danger to the States as Hitler was to Europe. He must be stopped! In other countries (such as Canada) he'd be charged with hate crimes.  In the States, however, they do nothing. I keep waiting for one of those zillion 'permit to carry guns' folk will do America a favor and pop him off and put the States out if its misery. Of course who wants to die in the electric chair for killing a bad guy?  It seems in the States only the good men like Martin Luther King or the Kennedys or John Lennon get assassinated.

People need to educate themselves about race and religion.  We need to learn understanding, compassion and trust.  These virtues seem to be missing these days. When I was a child I began writing stories about the First Nations people.  At the age of 12 my first published story was about a Dutch refugee girl who was rescued from a camp by a Canadian soldier after WWII. During the 50's I had a  friend who went to the Korean War and came back obviously PTSD. During the '70's I lived with American draft dodgers and army deserters who protested the VietNam war. Later, as a senior supervisor in a daycare I took in children of VietNamese boat people.  Learning how to teach English to kids enabled me later to get work in Greece as an ESL teacher. And during the 70's when I first started to travel outside of Canada and  US I learned so much about people of other countries, cultures and religions. This included trips to Mexico and Central, living for a short while in Guatemala, my first journeys to England and  Turkey. Since 1979 I started travel writing and began traveling regularly to Greece, ending up living there during the '80's and part time in the '90's as well as visiting other countries in Europe and also to Malaysia (a country that is 50% Muslim) South America and more recently to Egypt.

I have had close relationships with Turks, Egyptians, Moroccans, Palestinians, Syrians and Greeks and have been good friends with people from Sudan and South Africa and other parts of Europe and South America and Asia.  And yes, some of these people were Muslim. And all of them were wonderful, kind, intelligent people. I can tell you stories I learned last year from a Syrian friend in Athens about how her niece was dragged off a school bus, raped and murdered and her cousin was seen in a video kneeling, holding out the cross he wore around his neck while he was executed. (Her family are Syrian Christians). Some of her family escaped to Jordan, some escaped to Canada but the rest were still there trying to find safety. I haven't heard the latest news about them. I could have gone to Syria to visit her family back in 1994 but I chose to stay in Greece. And now, I can never go as their beautiful historical country has been destroyed.

So I grieve what has happened to all these people -- the Syrians who are drowning on the boat crossings to Greece, the thousands who are stuck in refugee camps, and other who are trying desperately to escape.
I am so proud that Canada has begun giving them refuge, just as in the past we gave refuge to the people from other countries (In the 50's when the Estonians were fleeing the Russians and came here, my dad let them use his church and we became good friends with many of their families.) It makes me sad and most of all ANGRY to hear the racist, bigoted commentaries being spewed out over the airwaves, in the media and on-line by the likes of Donald Trump and his right-wing supporters.  And then to find people I know -- friends -- putting up the same kind of misguided propaganda on FB or in emails is very disturbing.

I pray for peace.  And right now I pray that Trump is stopped and the wave of hatefulness is stemmed in the States and elsewhere and that soon the evil ISIS can be defeated.  So long as it is allowed to continue the situation will worsen and for sure there will be many, many retaliations by those who Trump has incited in his Race/Religious War.

Thank God I live in Canada.  But I cry for those in the countries that I love, the people who I love, who are being torn apart by this strife.


Monday, December 30, 2013


My family, about 1953
I can't remember the occasion on which this picture was taken, but we are posing in the back yard of our house on Kitchener Street and the whole family is there, including our foster brother and sister and her brother who was visiting. In the front row from the left, I see the youngest cousin, Lynette Humphreys and next to her with the braids is her sister Merilyn. In the second row, from the left is cousin Adele, my sister Jean, my Mom Winnie Filer, my Auntie Grace Humphreys and me. Right behind me on the right is our foster brother Jimmy Dobie. And in the very back, between Mom and Auntie is Uncle Rev. Frank Humphreys, my dad Rev. Fred Filer and on the back left, my foster sister Louella' brother whose name I have forgotten. Luella, age 14, was the photographer.
By looking at us you would never guess that in a few short years there would tragedy. It began with Louella. She was 12 years old when she met my parents at the Keats Island Baptist Camp where Dad was pastor and camp director and Mom was the camp nurse. She had been sent to camp by the Social Services. Every year they sent children who lived in their children's home to the camp. In those days they didn't have so many group homes or foster care and kids from disadvantaged and messed up families were taken into care and placed in this home (somewhere around Marine Drive I think) that was like an orphanage. Luella's father was an alcoholic and her mother had left the kids, as far as I know. Both Luella and her mother were in the Home until my parents met Luella at camp and decided to bring her to our home to live. Her brother, I think, was eventually in foster care too.
Luella was a difficult girl but my parents did all they could for her and she was treated the same as my sister and I. She had only been at our house for about two years when she requested that the Children's Aid take her back. She found my parents too strict and didn't like to obey all the house rules, attend church and behave in an appropriate way. She might have even been stealing money out of the jar where mom kept coins for small purchases at the grocery store. It was with great regret that my parents let her return to the Home. And it was even with more regret when later they learned she had run away from there and was pregnant. Nobody knows what happened to her child but it's assumed it was taken away for adoption. Not long after that Luella ended up in the Girls Home (prison for young offenders) on Cassiar St. 
When she got out of the Young Offenders prison she went into the care of the Salvation Army. One day my mom got a phone call from them to say where Luella was.  She went out and bought some roses and was headed to the Salvation Army home to visit but by the time she got there, Luella was gone.  And soon after, she was incarcerated in Oakalla Women's Prison. She was  17 years old and a drug addict. 
A friend of mine worked at Oakalla as a matron. She was there the day the tragedy happened. Luella was found dead in her cell.They claimed that she died of a brain tumour, but my friend speculated it was likely a drug overdose because at that time heroin was readily available to inmates. I went to Luella' funeral at the funeral home on Powell St. by Gore Ave.  The casket was open. They had dressed her in an older woman's blue dress. She didn't look like the innocent kid who used to live with us. She looked like a worn out old lady.  That vision of her has never left my mind.
Not to many years after this photo was taken, my foster brother Jimmy, who had also met my parents at the Keats Island camp when he was 12 yrs old, found his birth mother and her new husband.  Jimmy had cerebral palsy and was living in the Children's Aid Home when my parents first met him. My parents invited him to come home for the weekend and he misunderstood and thought they meant 'forever'. They didn't have the heart to send him back.  He was the most delightful boy, charming in every way and loved by everyone he met.  Mom took him to speech therapy and he tried his best to be like other kids. He was determined some day to drive a car.  
I'll never forget the day dad enrolled him in Templeton School and Jimmy came home crying. They had put him in the 'special' class with children who were below average and low achievers. He was mortified. It also upset him in later years when people thought he was 'drunk' because of the way he stumbled when he walked. Dad had the school put him in a regular class and he did his best to keep up though it was hard for him to write with a pen. (Nowadays they have computers for kids with disabilities). He managed to get get through junior high and then he got a job as a janitor for Fleck Brothers. 
When he found his birth mother, she was living on a shrimp boat over in Deep Cove with the man she had married. Jimmy was invited to visit them. He was delighted about going, but unfortunately while there he fell on the ladder leading down into the hold and injured his ribs.  It wasn't long after, when the ribs failed to mend, that the doctors discovered that Jimmy had cancer. And it was terminal.
When he died, my parents got messages from all over the neighbourhood from people whose lives Jimmy had touched. Just watching him bravely struggle down the street day after day was an inspiration to everyone. And his bright spirit, beaming smile and good nature endeared him to everyone.
We buried Jimmy's ashes under a tree at the Campfire Rock on Keats Island because that's where he had met my parents.  When he died he left a sum of money which my parents used to purchase the cottage we used to have on Keats.  And at the camp there was a camp cabin named for him with his picture on the wall. 
Of the people in the picture, only my sister and my cousins and I remain. Everyone else is gone now. First Uncle Frank who died far too young after a gall-bladder operation; then my dear Mom who passed away at age 53 from cancer; My Auntie Grace, mom's younger sister, who was my favorite and a most inspiring woman; and then my dear dad who lived to be 90. 
Yes, every picture has a story, and this one had some sad parts to it. But it's nice to look at it and remember, and think about how happy we all were that moment the photo was taken. 
Post note:  When I wrote my play "The Street: A Modern Day Tragedy", set in Strathcona and based on true events, I based the character of "Sally" on my foster sister Luella.  And the play is dedicated to Luella and my former boyfriend Jimmy Bain, who inspired the story. The play was produced successful by Theatre in the Raw and ran for 3 weeks at the Web Cafe on West Hastings St.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

a Remembrance Day story.
This photo was taken of us before Dad left for the war. Mom, Dad, my little sister Jean and me.

I remember the day my Dad came home from The War. We were living at grandpa's house on Cobourg Street in Stratford Ontario where my mother, sister and I had stayed all the time dad was overseas. My grandma had died not long before the war ended. The War was a big part of our lives. Every kid in school had at least one family member: father, uncle, grandpa or brother, fighting overseas. Almost on a daily basis someone in the school would learn their loved one had been wounded or killed. I was lucky. My dad was coming home from The War.

During the four years he was overseas, every night we'd sit at the table in grandma's kitchen and listen to the BBC news on the radio. I still remember that static, far-away sound of the news-caster's voice. On the wall by the table was a big map, and we'd stick pins in it to show us where The Action was. There was a special pin marking the place were Dad was serving as a chaplain in the #10 army field hospital in Holland.

I thought of my dad often during those years when he was away. I remember going to Kingston with my mom and sister just before he was shipped overseas, and his last visit to Stratford when we went as a family for a portrait, dad looking so handsome in his arm uniform wearing his captain's hat and clerical collar. I was about 9 then and my dad was very special to me. I remember, going back to my early childhood living on the prairies, walking with my dad down country roads or visiting farm houses where he knew people from his congregation. I have a picture of myself, age 3, with dad holding me up to sit on a fence so I could pet the sheep. I remember my dad working in his garden, and preaching on Sundays, and telling me stories about his life when he was a boy in Wales, and later working in the coal mines in Caerphilly from when he was 14 to when he immigrated to Canada and met my mom. I had missed my dad so much, and when he was going to arrive home at last, I was more excited than at any other time.

And then, he came home. But it wasn't the same dad I remembered. He was a different dad, still handsome in his officer's uniform, a bit thinner and perhaps more careworn. But he was a stranger. I remember running to my room, sobbing uncontrollably, partly from happiness and relief at having him back again, but also for reasons unknown to me then. I didn't realize til years later just why I had cried. Now I understand it was that he was 'different' because of all he had seen and lived through. I remember later reading through piles of letters he had saved sent to him by parents and loved ones of young men he had buried or who had been wounded. My dad's job as chaplain had been to comfort the dead and dying and their families. He had lived through terrifying and devastating experiences. Once, he told us, a buzz bomb had stopped buzzing right over the hospital. He had thrown himself to the floor and prayed. And thankfully, the bomb exploded somewhere farther away. All these experiences had 'changed' my dad. But really, deep down he was still the same dad I had known before The War, full of compassion and love and gentleness. He won the MBE for his honorable service at the army hospital. And he won the respect and love of everyone he met.

So on this Remembrance Day I still think of that day so many years ago when he returned from the war, that 'stranger', but still he was my Dad. And I think of all the children in the world who are waiting for their Dads to come home from The War, and pray they get back home safely.

 Rev. Capt. R.F. Filer, MBE

Friday, February 15, 2013

FIFTY SHADES OF KINKY: Sex Talks at the Vancouver Museum

There I was in a room jammed with people, surrounded by gizmos and gadgets — everything from nipple tassles and condoms to books of erotic literature.

It was the reception of the opening of the Museum’s edgy new exhibit: Sex Talks in the City.  People milled about, wine glasses in hand, and browsed the display cases of curios, some dating to the turn-of-the-century. It had been suggested to wear something red, so many of the women were tarted up in red dresses, some with up-dos reminiscent of the 30’s and ‘40’s. Even a few men wore ‘costumes’ suitable for the evening.  As it is the Lunar New Year, I thought it appropriate to wear my embroidered red silk Chinese jacket and black velvet pants.


The aim of the Museum is to normalize conversations about sexuality through photos, intimate artifacts and question. One room contains a series of dresser drawers that hold a variety of sex toys, burlesque attire and even some 19950’s mail-order ‘men’s physiques’ pamphlets. One drawer that amused me contained a ‘baby’ (doll) wrapped in a blanket. It seems that one person had told the story of how, when they were a child, they had come home from school one day and discovered a new-born baby in their parent’s bedroom dresser drawer. The baby had been born while the child was at school and because they lacked a proper cradle or crib, the mother had places her newborn in the drawer. From that time until they were an adult, the child thought babies came from inside drawers! (That would definitely be more comfortable than under a cabbage in the cabbage patch!)

Many of these intimate artifacts were once taboo topics but these days they are being talked about openly. The aim of the exhibit is to normalize these conversations between young and old. The exhibit is contained in three rooms, divided between different motifs and topics from the classroom, the streets and to the bedroom, representing everything from Vancouver’s sex trade to teen sexting.
Vancouver Police "rap" sheets, circa turn of the century
One exhibit I found interesting is a wall full of ‘rap’ sheets with photos taken of prostitutes, johns and anyone found in brothels or selling illegal liquor back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in Vancouver. Most of the women ranged in age from 17 to 65. Many of the men were Asian or black indicating some racial profiling at that time.  In the ‘classroom section’, near the display of electric “body massagers” were desks scrawled with questions about birth control asked by students from Grades 4 – 12. An adjoining display explores the phenomena of teens exchanging intimate messages and photos on-line and by texting.

Anything you want to know about homosexuality is there for you to see and read about.  One of the drawers contained a rubbery artificial penis used by a trans-gendered person who might want to pee standing up like a man!  Another display case has creepy, kinky sex tools including a hideous mask and whips. It seems there’s a fairly good-sized community of “Kinks” in the city!
Code words used by "Kinks" to indicate the sex-play has gone too far
Kinky sex anyone? (pretty scary!)
“Sex Talk in the City” explores the changing attitudes towards sex and sexuality in Vancouver. It’s a brave, new concept for a Museum to chronicle topics that have been taboo in the past. Sex education’s evolution is highlighted at the exhibit. Sex-education videos from the 1980’s are there for visitors to view. There’s also a copy of Asha’s Mums, a book about growing up with lesbian parents, banned by the Surrey school board until 2002. And books purchased by the Little Sister’s Bookstore that have been confiscated at the US border.

I couldn’t help but wonder how many other museums would be brave enough to present such an intimate display. Certainly none in those Bible-belt areas of the southern USA.  This display is bound to prompt discussion. There’s a lot there to talk about, and even to laugh, at making learning about sex less uncomfortable.

The exhibit runs until September 2, 2013.  Go and see for yourselves! There’s always something new to learn.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Christmas was always a very special time in our house and one of the best Christmases ever was the one when all the cousins came to stay. We were living at my grandparent's house in Stratford Ontario— Mom, my little sister Jeannie and me — when my father was overseas serving as an army chaplain in a field hospital in Holland. Every Christmas at Grandpa's was full of fun. The aunts and uncles and cousins came from various parts of Ontario and the house was full of laughter and good cheer.

That particular Christmas, because of the crowd, my cousins and I were allowed to sleep in the sun porch room. As usual, we stayed up late, played monopoly and crochinole and Chinese checkers. We had our special Christmas treat: glasses of sparkling ginger-ale (our family's 'champagne') and ate lots of the delicious goodies Mom and Grandma had backed. We sang carols, told stories and finally we were tucked into bed.

Some time after midnight I was wakened by a sound on the roof. I heard jingling bells and a loud "Hohoho!" My cousins woke up too when we heard the stomping of footsteps on the roof. Santa Claus! He was right on the sun porch roof getting ready to come down our chimney to deliver the toys. None of us dared make a sound and ducked under the covers pretending to be asleep.

Sure enough, the next morning there were lots of toys under the tree. Santa had really come! And we had heard him! I could hardly wait for school to resume after the holidays so I could tell my classmates.

The first day back I went to school bursting with excitement. As I entered my classroom I announced, "Santa Claus came to our house. We heard him on the roof!"

"What?" scoffed one of the older boys. "Don't you know that Santa is a fake? He's just pretend. You couldn't possibly have heard him!"

I was crushed! When I went home for lunch that day I was in tears. "This boy in my class says that Santa isn't real!" I sobbed.

My mom was sympathetic but she admitted to me  that Santa really was just a myth.

"I heard him!" I insisted. "We heard him up on the roof on Christmas night!"
"That was Uncle Frank pretending to be Santa Claus," my mother explained.

For me, it was one of my biggest disappointments. I was ten years old, and my fantasy world was shattered forever. I've never forgotten it.

I always tried to keep the myth of Santa Claus alive for my own children for as long as I could. And when I worked as a daycare supervisor some years ago, we always made the Christmas celebrations special for the children.  I'd say "Let's pretend about Santa Claus," and we'd tell the time-worn Christmas fable of jolly old St. Nick and his sleigh full of toys pulled by the reindeer. I still think the Santa Claus tradition is one of the most fun parts of Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2012

CHATTY CATHY GIVES IT UP:How a Talkative Doll Spoiled Christmas

I’ve always been a person, who since my childhood lived half my life in an imaginary world. Believing in Santa Claus was one of those myths, and one that I regret ever having to give up on.
Christmas was always a special time in our house. My Mom and Dad played along with the Santa myth to the fullest, and besides the real Christmas celebration of Jesus’ birth, there was plenty of fun, pageants, caroling, sleigh-rides, visits to see the Christmas lights, and best of all, the yearly visit to see dear old Santa Claus.
When I was married and had my own children, I always tried to make Christmas the same kind of magical, exciting time my parents had made it for me. We decorated the tree, had parties, went to visit Santa in the stores, and took part in all the Christmas festivities in our community. Christmas was always a special, fun time for my children, just as it had been for me.
Then one year, the year my son, Stevie, had turned sic and my daughter, Andrea, was about to turn two, the Christmas fantasy got spoiled. That was the year Mattel put out a new kind of doll—one that talked. Her name was Chatty Cathy, a blonde little cherub with a saucy face. When you pulled the ring in her back, she spouted various lines of dialogue such as “Hello, I’m Chatty Cathy. What’s your name?”  I couldn’t resist buying one for my little daughter.
One Christmas Eve, after the children had been tucked into bed and I had waited to make sure they were asleep, my husband and I started to put out the toys from Santa under the tree. This ritual also involved eating the cookies and Christmas cake the children had left on a decorated plate, and drinking the beer that would help refresh Santa on his journey. After this, we took the carefully hidden packages out of the closet and began to set them up: the usual GI-Joe toys and cowboy regalia for Stevie, the little girl trinkets for Andrea. And Chatty Cathy. I couldn’t resist pulling the ring to her the doll talk. She was so cute| I knew my daughter would be thrilled with her. Chatty Cathy and I chatted for awhile, then I put her in her special place under the Christmas tree.
The next morning, after all the excitement of finding what Santa had left under the tree, opening presents and trying things out was over, I noticed that my son was unusually quiet. I wondered if he was disappointed with his gifts. No, it wasn’t that. Very quietly, so as not to spoil things for his little sister, Stevie said to me: “I know that Santa didn’t really bring Chatty Cathy, Mom. Because I heard you talking while you were playing with her.”
I felt so bad! Chatty Cathy had given away the secret of Santa Claus and spoiled the Christmas surprise for my son. After that, Christmas wasn’t quite the same for Stevie, although we always tried to make it just as much fun. Stevie was a good sport and went along the Santa Claus myth for his little sister’s sake.