The Walrus Blog

Monthly Archive: August 2011

Tone-Deaf to Death

The immediate, dissatisfying reaction to Jack Layton's passing
Chalk 4 JackJackman ChiuChalk messages for Jack Layton written outside Toronto’s City Hall

A month ago on this blog, I wrote an open letter to Jack Layton in the wake of his announcement that he’d decided to step down from his duties as Leader of the Opposition to focus on his cancer treatment. It spoke of the hope, that very real belief that I shared with a lot of Canadians that Jack and his moustache would be back in Parliament at the end of the summer; but now that we know how his story unfolded, that hope smacks more of denial.

When I started chemo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2001, I was nineteen years old — one of the few patients under fifty at my cancer centre. A social worker put me in email contact with Rachel, a twenty-two year old with a brain tumour who was undergoing treatment at the same time. Rachel described her cancer in a message to me, explaining that her doctors gave her a one-in-twenty chance of surviving five years. With my own nine-in-ten survival rate, I was floored. She followed her explanation with, “Oh well, we’ll see how things go.” She assured me that she would one day marry her boyfriend. I don’t know if it was denial or hope, or if those two things are the same, but I agreed that she would.

We stayed in touch for a few months and shared funny stories of hair loss and the awkward but usually endearing things said by people who don’t know what to say, but as we both carried on with our treatments our emails dropped off. Six months into my treatment I was told my cancer was gone. A month later I got an email from Rachel’s boyfriend letting me know she’d passed away. (more…)

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Posted in The Haulout  •  17 Comments

Related to Illness

Author Michael Harris discusses his cover story “Life After Death” on Calgary’s QR77 radio

Yesterday evening on QR77 AM radio’s The Rob Breakenridge Show, guest host Whitney Deane interviewed author Michael Harris about “Life After Death,” his cover story for the current issue of The Walrus. Use the embedded player to hear them discuss HIV/AIDS at age thirty.

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Posted in Online Exclusive  •  No Comments

“Dear Friends”

A letter to Canadians from Jack Layton

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.  (more…)

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Posted in Open Letters  •  6 Comments

Away from The Wedge and Back Again

With the help of a new larger-than-life host, Much reaches for the bygone glory days of music television
Photograph courtesy of MuchMusicMuchMusic

Damian Abraham is standing on the front steps of the Masonic Temple, a brick landmark in downtown Toronto that was once the city’s premier concert hall. He’s wearing a striped polo shirt and tie-dyed hat with a large, realistic eyeball on the front, which only accentuate Abraham’s physically imposing figure. He’s bald and burly, with a face that can morph from babyish at one moment to seemingly furious the next.

There is a skeletal television crew around him — a box light, a cameraman and one producer talking on his Blackberry, coordinating with technicians at MuchMusic headquarters a few blocks away. Abraham quickly runs through some patter until he’s cut off by the producer, signalling that they’re about to go live.

“Guess who’s baaack?” Abraham opens. This isn’t the first time he’s been in front of camera at this iconic locale. Four years ago, his hardcore punk band Fucked Up was banned from this very building after their live television debut — a performance in a men’s washroom — ended with thousands of dollars in property damage. That was during a live taping for MTV Canada, the network that currently occupies this building. Now he’s back, working for the other music channel in town. (more…)

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Posted in Music  •  1 Comment
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