Malfunction

Malfunction

it was a costume malfunction

not that I was wearing a costume

but the phrase

has become a catch-all

for any apparel slip-up

a top with

too much cleavage

for the airline

shorts that allow 

the balls to dangle

when sitting down

a mini that prevents

the wearer from bending over

without revealing

more than panties

<>

the source of the phrase

costume malfunction

resulted in a corporate shaming

of a black female entertainer

she was shunned

her records her videos banned

who often revealed even more

than that malfunction made public

took the opportunity

to retire from the public light

she was sick tired bored

of no longer being a person

but a product

whose packaging

had replaced the contents

<>

not that my malfunction

revealed anything in public

it was reserved for private

to invite my carefully chosen view

to put his ‘fun’

into my malfunction

When I was younger, slimmer, more adventurous I had a oversized, mechanic’s one piece work coverall , that buttoned up the front. I would hit my favorite gay bar dance floor wearing that with just a jockstrap underneath. I found wearing it made me feel incredibly sexy. It was fashion look that didn’t catch on though – gay guys were more into little satin shorts & tank tops. 

There some who sported black leather, buttless chaps. But even in these somewhat private spots that naked ass was as bare as men would get. I never saw anyone wandering around with dick out for all to see. Even in my few visits to the baths – towels on outside of one’s room, or the showers, or the actual steam room, was enforced. Men could be on their beds in those little rooms, door propped open enough for passers-by to get a good look at what was offered. 

The showbiz manipulation of body image has a long history for exploiting the assets of its female ‘stars’ but when it came to males it was slightly different. Shirtless was fine but some male stars were discourage from bathing suit shots unless they wore loose trunks. Costume designers were tasked with making sure pants, shorts would never betray what lay beneath. Male actors were tucking their tackle long before drag made it mandatory. 

Body shame runs rampant though North American culture with celebs being praised for looking astonishingly good at 62 in their bathing suits or getting lavished with praise for losing weight & finally looking astonishingly good in their bathing suits. Lists of what not wear over a certain age, in public, unless you looking astonishingly good in a bathing suit.

One of my disappointments in Tarzan, or Beach Party movies was the lack of male bulge. Today’s male superheroes have dynamic abs but Ken doll groins.We can’t frighten teen-age fan boys & girls with such offensive sights. Her superhero bodysuit reveals camel toe while his reveals how well he can tuck.

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Mushrooms

Various mushrooms, fungi I’ve spotted around east end Toronto over the past year of so. Some ahi popped up overnight & were gone by the end of the week. I have no idea which are edible or poisonous – I get my mushrooms from a grocery store. I don’t even know the difference between a mushroom & a toadstool – who does?

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Welcome To Covid Gardens

Covid Gardens – sounds like the name for an old folks home.

Ontario’s State of Emergency has been extended another week rather than another month – I suppose that is encouraging news. Masks have gradually become more stylish & also more frequently worn though seeing people wearing them constantly makes me feel some haven’t fully understood the message. Or maybe I got it wrong – I only wear mine when in transit or in a store or if I have to pass a line up at the beer/wine stores.

The US Presidents mocks reports wearing masks, while shoppers hound a woman shopping without her mask up, store owners get attacked for refusing to let people without masks into their shops, while the mayor of TO ignored social distancing & mask to ask why someone is ignoring social distancing. It is mighty confusing.

I was dismayed by the recent sunny park crowd scenes & was amused by the almost sanctimonious response to it. It certainly gave many an opportunity to indulge their ethical/moral superiority over the covidiots in the park. The fact that many of us are willing to live within the recommended restrictions doesn’t make us saints, or make those that don’t into demons. It’s been 3 months now for people to get the basic message – social distancing & masks make a difference, washing your hands makes a difference. This is not a deliberate infringement on one’s social freedoms but a new way of living to keep ourselves alive.

My social isolation has been gardening now that the weather has warmed up enough. Wedding, trimming & planting. I repotted geraniums that had survived the winter. Bought flowers to create my own hanging baskets. Planted herbs, sweet peas & morning glories. Enough for one week. 

Even managed some more housecleaning & purging. I can’t describe my satisfaction in seeing the garbage men drag away bags of VHS tapes. Better yet seeing some things disappear even before the garbage guys come. I dragged some things stored in our basement by people who have since moved on. Bye bye anodizer, oscilloscope I hope you found better homes while I enjoy my better gardens.

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All pics of the garden – back steps with fresh herbs; various hostas that I planted several years again. Lilacs fresh from my garden earlier this week.

Lunch

 

I’ve seen Lydia Lunch perform a few times. Daring edgy, funny, vulgar & fun. She heads an mp3 collection that includes her Queen of Siam; Dagger & Guitar; & Big Sexy Noise. Also here are Flying Lizards 1, Top 10; Moondog 1, 2; Laurie Anderson: Mister Heartbreak.

 

I’m not sure if heard her perform before I heard Queen of Siam. The music is a mix of retro beatnik, a touch of big band, surf music & spoke word. She doesn’t exactly sing & her spoken style is a slightly detached almost indifference to the words themselves, captivating. but it is all good. I’m always happy to hear this Queen. The other two I have are good & more of the same with the same beatnik vibe. I say beatnik to separate her from the flower power hippy 60’s/70’s.

The same is true for Laurie Anderson. Laurie has more pop in her songs than Lydia, even dueting with Peter Gabriel. The music is experimental yet easy listening at the same time. Not aggressive musically but intellectually stimulating. Laurie presents sharp emotional commentary in a sweet deceptive wrap. Similar to Lydia she is more of a spoken word performer than a singer. Multi-tracking & loop songs wash over you. Serious, humorous but not campy.

Flying Lizards on the other hand are deadpan campy fun. The offer “bent interpretations of pop music constructs.” I loved their deconstruction of Summertime Blues & the album is a delight . Top Ten continues with astonishing demolitions of classic such as Get Up (I Feel like Being A) Sex Machine. These guys fill me with delight.

To round this collection of I added two by Moondog. This is a true beatnik musical rebel. Jazz? certainly not pop. 1 is experimental, unpredictable & avant-garde. 2 is a set of madrigal rounds. He realized a number of recordings in he mid50’s, drawback & returned when Big Bother & The Holding Company did a recording of one of his songs & he started writing & recording again. A true pioneer, iconoclast who influenced Lunch, Anderson, Bjork (to name a few) I should be part of your musical education.

The Milky Way

My bother wanted us to get out of the car. He’d never seen a cow before. Neither had I but I had no interest in seeing a cow. We were on one of my Dad’s Sunday adventure drives. He’d hop in the car with us kids – me the oldest, my bother then our two little sister. Then drive without a goal. 

There were some places we’d see at least once a month. Places our Dad knew we’d like. But at least once a month we’d have no idea where he was taking us.

This time he’d suddenly turned off the highway – nice and smooth paved – onto a dirt road. Gravel pecking at the underside of the car.

Empty fields then forest clumps more empty fields. Up hills then down. A puddle from recent rain at the bottom of this last hill where we made the biggest splash I’d ever seen.

My sisters screamed with glee and fear as my bother shouted. “We’re going down down down. We’re going to drown drown drown.”

We didn’t drown but the bottom of the car scraped something with an ugly grind. At the level end of this lane Dad got out to look underneath.

“Looks fine. Nothing leaking.”

That’s when the cows came over. Only four of them. not in a hurry but slowly they came over to the fnece as we got back int he car. dad started off again and the cows seemed to follow us along the fence as my dad drove slowly. My bother wanted to stop.

So we stopped. Me and my brother got out and stepped over to the cows.

Their gigantic headed drooling as they nodded down to us. The smell of dung was over powering. 

“They stink.” My brother laughed. “They smell worse that you girls.”

My sisters got out of the car. Their eyes bigger than cow eyes. Each of them had half an apple that our mother had cut for a snack later.

One held it up to the nearest cow. Big pink tongue licked out of the saliva for the apples and both my sisters screamed and ran back to the car.

We boys got back in. 

“What did you think was going to happen.” I asked. 

“They don’t have hands to take food from you.”

One sister was wiping her hand on a towel. Smelling it and wiping it some more.

“Now you know where milk comes from.” My dad said as we eased back on the road.

“Milk?” My sister turned pale. She was never fond of milk after that.
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How Dare She

How Dare She

the outrage

at her success

was matched by the publicity

the outrage

brought her success

 

how dare she

a woman

write like a man

how dare she 

use men

the way men used women

 

the obscenity 

of carnality on stage

was too much 

for the male powers that be

when she wouldn’t back down

they shut her down

sent her to prison

sentenced her to becoming

the top box office draw of the decade

despite being a woman

 

her success

didn’t silence her censors

it only made them more eager

avid

to teach her a lesson

to be obedient

to shut her mouth

watch her words

or they would snip the words

so only the censors heard them

 

so she

took her money to the bank

& bid the public

good bye

 

how dare she
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This Isn’t A Compliment

 Discernment

it’s not that it isn’t satisfying

in no way is this a judgement 

of the quality

the quantity

there may be deeper flavours

those aren’t the issues

really

it’s not that there’s a alternative

or some way

of not accepting what is offered

in favour of something else

enough is enough

even if it is only available now 

there is no need to apologize

explain

or delay

what is here

will have to do

this isn’t a complaint 

merely compliance 

taking it in

making the most of it

while admitting

this desire not to have more

at least not more of the same

We live in a paradoxical culture in which we are either polite to the point of codependency or enraged when our desire to control is thwarted. We say or do things we’d rather not do just to spare someone feelings then get pissed if they aren’t grateful enough. 

Often we’re dealing with people who see our disinterest as a person attack. Not to noisily agree with them is seen as arrogant, judgemental closed mindedness. 

Discernment becomes pretentiousness. As the current USA President demonstrates, to be even mildly critical is to be dismissed as an unpatriotic hater – if you aren’t blindly with us you are against us.

This piece is a list poem not one with with a direct plot line, no narrative other than the one the reader imposes on it. So if you didn’t find it had a beginning middle or logical ending – it doesn’t. It respects the readers’ ability to make connections, to find their way without every moment being sign-posted with neon arrows.

Some of the lines are things I’ve overheard, hear on TV/movies, read where people are talking about identity, sexuality, or food. Words have been given a spin but changing a letter, adding a letter etc. Pulling them out of one context & dropping them into another. Like the piece, this chat about the piece feels there is no need to apologize or explain. I’ve discovered that what I say & what you hear can be two different things anyway. 


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Picture Perfect 21

Riding his bike to work Dan was surprised that over the past four days he didn’t mind Sanjay sleeping in the guest room. Having his bed to himself was a pleasant change. No worries about waking Sanjay when he had to go to the can in the night. Not having to pry his arm out from under another body.

The hard part was to not say anything about it. He wrote conversations in his head in which he talked Sanjay into accepting his apology but he didn’t want to have to talk Sanjay into anything. He knew it wouldn’t go on much longer. At least they were warmly civil with each other rather than cold and snarky.

He kept himself in check to avoid saying things that were bitter or hurtful just to teach Sanjay a lesson. So by Thursday Dan was relived to sense a bit of a thaw in things between them.

Though he hadn’t heard anything from Baxter he had been doing his own research on the missing children. He’d printed out articles from newspaper on-line archives. He tapped into school records when he could find them. Some school districts had began to scan and upload class pictures.

Too bad his Dad had cleared out most of the work he had done of that nature. They’d only kept his and Linda school shots. Looking at a couple of those he couldn’t recall the name of a single person in some of them. Not even of the teachers he had had. Much of that memory had been washed away with getting settled in Toronto. The few names he did remember he couldn’t put to faces.

He’d made a more through search of the store’s archives and found a few more old family movies and another file of saucy pictures. What would his mother know about these?

The second set showed the woman’s face in one shot. As is the others her back was mostly to the camera or in profile. In the few full frontals she held her splayed, black gloved, fingers over her face just showing her eyes or mouth in come hither poses. In these she was alone.

They started with the woman dressed in garters, nylons, panties, bra and heels; in each she wore one less garment; by the last one she was nude, spread eagle on a bed – a beaver shot but always wearing heels. He was happy to be spared her dirty feet.

The series started on the studio set but the last few were in a bedroom somewhere. It wasn’t any of the ones in their house, so maybe they took the shoot to a motel. The under lit room had that impersonal look.

There were twenty-two pictures in this set. If it was from a standard roll of 24 that meant there were two missing, maybe a couple that didn’t turn out. The sequence of poses were random enough that he couldn’t guess where the two missing shots might have been.

The body itself was in good shape. He’d guess mid-20’s from the face. But that was hard to tell with the make up the model was wearing. It reminded him of Liz Taylor in Cleopatra – accented eyes and the hair cut square across the eyebrows. No, it was definitely the Betty Page look.

He locked his bike and went into the store.

“Morning, boss man.” Sandy greeted him.

“Morning it is.” He looked at mail by the register. “Paper catalogues! What a novel idea.”

He thumbed through the catalogues. Cameras, camera bags, pants with loads of pockets perfect for any camera man.

“Get a load of these.” He showed the pants to Ushio. “Imagine the clinking sound you’d make with all those pockets filled.”

“How would you keep them up?” Ushio said. “You could never sit down either. You’d have lenses up the butt.”

“Now there’s a camera you need to design.” Sandy said. “The butt cam,”

“It would take shitty pictures.” Ushio laughed.

“The rect-a-cam recked him.” Dan couldn’t stop laughing.

“That asshole sure can take great pictures.” Sandy was gasping for air.

“There was a tripod here a minute ago.” Ushio held his stomach.

“What’s this, Candid Camera?”

Dan caught his breath. It was Stephanie Carter from Quintex. With her was John Kilpatrick, the Unsolved host; a camera woman and a lighting man.

“No. No. Just some crappy camera humour.” Dan said.

This sent Ushio and Sandy into a fit of giggles.

“What brings you and your crew here. Running out of batteries?”

“Didn’t Cyrtys tell you we were coming to interview you?” She said.

“Hi.” John reached out and shook his hand. “I’ll be conducting the interview. This is Francie and Mike.” He introduced the crew.

Dan was a bit confused. He thought Kilpatrick was moving on to another project.

“Uh … Okay. Here?”

“We can start here then move it somewhere more private.” John said looking to Stephanie.

“Cyrtys did tell you we were coming.” Stephanie asked Dan. “That’d I’d be directing the interview?”

“I haven’t heard from him since last week. Unless he sent an email.”

“Nah. The fucker.” Stephanie said. “Just like him. You’re cool with this?”

“This is a work day. How long will it take?” Dan asked.

“Two hours max.” John said. “I’ve done enough of these by now.”

“You’ll have to sign this release before we start though.” Stephanie took out two page form from her briefcase. “Standard stuff.”

“Look, I’m not signing anything without looking it over first. I know copyright law and intellectual property rights. That’s why I don’t do Facebook and the like.”

“What!” Stephanie exclaimed. “I drag a crew here, paying for their time, and now you balk because of intellectual property rights?” She took a deep breath. “We will only talk about Timmy Dunlop. That’s it. We won’t ask about your investigative process but we will certainly make that known as well. It adds to your credibility.”

Sandy looked over the release form. “It is standard stuff, boss, but gives Quintet permission to use the footage in any of their shows not just Unsolved Cold. No mention of payment for other such usage.”

“Think of it as exposure for your business.”

“My business doesn’t need the exposure. Besides you aren’t interviewing me as owner of James Family Photographers are you. That guy only sells cameras. You want to talk to me because of supposed creditability, right.”

“This is more trouble that it’s worth, Steph.” The camera woman said. She and the sound man gathered their equipment and began to leave.

“I’d say do it bossman.”

“Here’s the deal then.” Dan said. “My rate is two-hundred and fifty an hour.”

“Two-fifty!” John exclaimed. “Who you think you are?”

“Someone you want to talk to for starters. That’s what I change any client for my time, materials are extra.”

“What if we don’t get anything we can use?”

“That could happen with anyone you get a release form from right.”

“Right. So where do we go with this next.”

“Start where you were going to start. We got this all on tape anyway. You are agreeing, right.”

“Yes, I, Stephanie Carter on behalf of Quintex Productions agree. Now let’s get to it. We’ve wasted enough time. Your time begins now I presume and not from when we walked in the door.”

“Yes.” Dan looked to John. “What would you like to know?”

“We’re here at the James Photo Depot talking with owner Daniel James.” John read from a script. “Daniel is a photographic forensics expert who has a special interest in the Missing East Coast case. Tell us about your connection to the case.”

“I was watching the episode of Unsolved Cold and recognized the picture of Timmy Dunlop.”

“Recognized it how?” John asked.

“I was in the picture with him. It was a photograph my father took.”

“Stop.” Stephanie said. “Do we have a copy of the picture here? Did you bring one?” She asked Mike as she rooted in her brief case.

“I have the originals upstairs in my office.”

“Excellent.” Stephanie said. “Go up. John you keep talking and Francie you go ahead.

“Look we’re not insured for falling camera people.” Dan said.

“Understood.” Francie said.

They started walking with the crew in front backing up carefully.

“Daniel.” John began. “You’ve become a go to person for the RCMP when it comes to photographic evidence.”

“Go-to? I’m not sure about that but yes, I have assisted on several cases for them.”

“Most recently it was a child porn case.”

“Yes.” Daniel pushed past Francie to open his office door. “I developed soft wear that refines elements in an image for greater clarity and identification. Using it we were able to narrow down the location of some of the photographs that had been circulated.”

John glanced his notes as Daniel got the Timmy photos out of his file.

“Let’s stop here. Everything will be sorted out in editing anyway.” Stephanie said. “Off the record can you tell us how that was done.”

“That info was all in the newspaper. In several of the pictures I saw a similar bedspread but in different room layouts. I isolated that image. That lead us to the manufacturer, to the buyer and ultimately to him.”

“So part of what you do is find details in photographs that the average person might not pick up on.” John asked.

“Yes.”

“Care to demonstrate that for the camera?” Stephanie asked. “It might come in use at some point. I have a feeling.”

“Well, Okay.” Dan agreed.

“We’re here in the office of Daniel James.” John started with the camera on him. 

The camera panned to him. Then to the arm-in -arm photo of him and Timmy that he had put on the table.

“What can you tell us about this picture?” John asked.

“Oh, this is stupid.” Dan said. “I know too much about this picture as it is. I can’t pretend to find things out like that. Besides there wasn’t anything in this picture.”

“Stop.” said Stephanie. “Try a couple of these.” She pulled some photos from her brief case and put them out he table. “Rolling.”

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Wrestling With Connection

Week 7 on The Artist’s Way is about connection to creativity – as opposed to our connection with others. One of things that hampers that creative connection is perfectionism. I have a writing friend who has been perfecting the same thirty page opening to his novel for some ten years now. It has to be perfect so he can send it to an agent etc. He no longer asks me for advice 🙂 I stopped that by telling him it would cost $100 an hour for a minimum of three hours before I would be willing to look at his work-in-progress.

There is a section on risk – the willingness to try & not succeed as we envisioned. For me this is part of the process of letting go of expectations, of control. In recovery they say you plan the plans but the results are in the universe’s hands. I’ve painted rooms one colour only to have the paint dry in a different one 🙂

As with the Ways chapters so far there some sifting through the past for missed opportunities & for good turning points. In my covid house-cleaning frenzy I’ve unearthed old note books, old rough drafts, old photographs. Those photos reconnected me with where I was in my early 20’s, long before I moved to Toronto. I’ve also been reading Old Trout Funnies – an excellent book about a comic book series by Paul  ‘Moose’ MacKinnon that was first issued while I was living in Cape Breton. (https://www.facebook.com/OldTroutFunnies).

Moose was one of my drinking crowd & he included real people (some of whom I knew) in the comics & calendars. In one issue there is even a plug (page 70) for my poetry book ‘Distant Music’ which had been published at the time. So there was actual creative support for me in that community at that time.

 

One of the tasks was to wear a favourite item of clothing for no special reason. All my clothes are favourites, so what I did was to pick some things I rarely wear but save for intimate encounters 🙂 Namely some wrestling singlets & some revealing undies I bought a few years ago. Very snug but also very sexy. Photos “fansonly” 🙂

My Underwear

it seems the best way 

to put out the fire

in your heart

was to run over to a bar

drink till there was 

only a stumble of drunks 

to deal with

there was no way out of it

except to break the windows

push your grandma down the stairs

so what if there weren’t 

any stairs in our apartment

you still get the picture

 

yeah I know

drawing it in crayons

all over the hall to our place

wasn’t a great idea

but you have to admit

it caught the lighting of the fire

without using up all the reds

only the blues

the blues you give everyone

who is lucky enough

to catch you on your balcony

ready to jump

don’t do it

or if you have to 

wait till I get back with coffee

I have to be careful 

the contents may be hot

but wet will always 

put out the flame

it makes no difference to me 

what burns you out of my system

hot coffee or direct flame

 

maybe tossing all your undies 

in the shredder was a bit much

but it seems the only way 

to keep you out of them

to keep you fresh

ready and pliant

not that you wore them 

that often anyway

going commando

wasn’t a rare event

bare-assed at McDonalds

where did you park those buns

yeah not so funny

does it look like I’m laughing

all the way home

to the shadowed moment 

when there once was a dart of hope

now just a bunch 

of empty coat hangers

in a clump 

I can’t pull apart

hangers that once held

everything you ever wore

around the house

out in the street

 

yeah I’m a total liar

I never picked up a drink 

because of you

that isn’t going to happen

wasn’t even tempted

you took something out of my life 

but you left behind 

more that you took

I don’t need to breath 

it’s all up to you now

as if it alway wasn’t

 

I can’t get over

the number of times

I wanted to paint the hall way

that I wanted to use 

your tooth brush to clean 

the coffee machine

so I wouldn’t have to go out 

for a fresh cup to dump 

in your laugh

because I’m sure 

that behind closed eyes

you are smirking like a tried urinal

knowing that you pissed 

me off one too many times

 

you know

if you were here now

I’d probably take you back

but still wouldn’t trust you 

as far as you could throw 

my underwear

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Ghosts and Haunted Stumps Toronto

Pan on the Danforth – good Greek/Mediterranean food

tile entrance to Pan which is still there

Seduction on Yonge – sex no longer sells

Greek City on the Danforth – moved then vanished

corner of Sherbourne & Bloor – soon to be a covid ghost – Timothy’s gone & Starbucks took over – then pandemic

Danforth & Logan – the Tim’s stain refuses to be gone

tree on lawn of house next door

haunted stump & bones of tree professionals came later in the year to remove the stump

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Bye Bye Monopoly

Thanks to the weather this has been yet another week of deep house cleaning, purging & rearranging. That is three mornings of social isolation in which I listen to podcast & dust, vacuum & lose the weight of stuff. The weather has cooperated somewhat with rainy or overcast mornings so staying indoors isn’t so challenging. 

Advances in technology have made the purging process easier – I found a drawer full of those little diskettes that predated cds. Bye. Bye. So much paper that our recycle bin is full to the brim. I can’t wait to see it emptied by the city at the end of the week because I already have more to get rid of 🙂 

The covid crisis hasn’t been personally stressful but I has let me stop & do things I’ve been meaning to do for too long. The meditative power of the walk seemed more spiritually elevating than getting rid of cobwebs (yes there lots of those in not so dark corners). Food a pile of board games : Scrabble, Monopoly etc that hasn’t seen the light of day in over 20 years. I put them near the sidewalk for folks to take & most of them, except Monopoly where gone within a couple of hours. Put the remains out the next & those that didn’t get new homes were unboxed & sorted into the blue bin. Bye bye Monopoly. 

I opted to do this home isolation a few morning a week to comply with the stay home rule. Now that I’ve pulled out the vacuum I am pleased with the sense of peace that comes seeing no dust, no twenty-year-old caches of never-to-be-used paper & to see actual empty space. The house is cleaner. More rooms yet to be done though as I am only devoting 90 focused minute at a time to this process. Who knows how much longer this lockdown might last & I don’t want to do a whirlwind job just to get it out of the way, then have no productive distractions left. Yes, I can eat one chocolate a day from a box of chocolates 🙂

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Photos Don Valley April 23, 2020