The email was titled ‘are you…?’ and it was from a woman I had worked for when I first moved to Toronto in 1989 to study Architectural Technology at George Brown College.
That summer, a week or so after I had moved to Toronto, I found work with a landscaping company. They owned a nice sized piece of land near Bayfield Street, close to the DVP – Don Valley Parkway. This land was filled with around 20 two-story apartment buildings that had eight apartments in each building. My job was to mow the grass. The company provided me with a garage to store all of their equipment.
After, I had got comfortable with this job, I found that I had time to do some more work and make some more money to pay for my college education and soon I had started my own business, mowing other people’s lawns, pruning hedges and working in people’s gardens. To begin this, I first needed some clients….
One afternoon, I was having my lunch break at the far edge of this apartment complex and I noticed a woman working in her garden. I asked her if she wanted any help and soon I became friends with Karen and her partner Ron. I bought a lawnmower of my own and some other tools and they let me keep my equipment in their garage. Soon, I had a handful of clients throughout this neighbourhood and I was very busy!
By the next year, I had moved on to working in some downtown clubs, bars and restaurants but I still kept in touch with Karen and Ron for the next few years… even after I had graduated and had moved away. I think it was in the winter of 1995 when we last spoke… so it was quite a surprise for me to receive an email from Karen, so many years later.
It was rather easy for Karen to find me… a quick google search and she had found images of many of my artworks, news stories about my environmental efforts and probably even a music video or two.
After we had exchanged a few pleasantries via email, Karen told me about the circumstances that had brought her to remember me…
I will not use the ‘suspected’ criminal’s name in this story (I say suspected because this person is now in the court system and has not yet been proven guilty), as I don’t feel the need to shine any more spotlights on this twisted and evil man! I’m sure that you can do a little googling yourself to read the many stories that have appeared in newspapers across Canada and around the world over the last year. I soon learned that Karen and Ron had the same connection with this man as they had with me and that was why Karen reached out to me… he was also their gardener and did gardening for other people in their neighbourhood and also stored his equipment in Karen’s garage!
This person had worked for Karen and Ron for many years and in the early part of 2018, the truth revealed itself! This is the twisted person who took advantage of many homosexual males in Toronto’s downtown area, for many years! Wherever this man went, gay men went missing. Bodies were found buried in and around Karen and Ron’s home and quickly the police took action.
It is easy to imagine the police suspecting Karen and Ron as having been involved in these serial killings, as it was on their property that many bodies were found! They were not treated with much respect!! When the police arrived, Karen and Ron were given 20 minutes to get their things and leave their home! Karen recounted to me the problems they had just getting their cat back! I felt rather devastated just thinking about the turmoil that had become their lives during this police investigation!
As Karen and I continued to email back and forth, I became aware that she was planning a cleansing ceremony for their home – to happen in the early spring. As I have been involved in many interesting events of the spirit, I completely understood her desires and needs to do this and I told her that I would attend!
Then…. more bodies were found!
Karen and Ron were, once again, told to leave their home as the police continued to find more bodies! It wasn’t until a few months ago, when they were allowed to return to their shattered lives! It was time to heal! It was time to mend! It was time to move forward and rebuild!
A date was set, near the end of September of this year, and I began making plans to attend!
I had a friend living in Toronto, named Yves (we worked together and became good friends while I was studying in Toronto) and he had agreed to meet me at the ceremony. I had also recently reconnected with another friend, named Jason (Jay), who lives in nearby St. Thomas. I asked Jay if he would join me for the car ride to Toronto. And, my son Devon, also came along because I wanted his youthful and innocent spirit to join the positive energies that were coming together on this fateful day.
We arrived at Karen and Ron’s house and they were both delighted to see me and my son and my friends! We hugged for a long time!!!!
I knew that this event would soon be filled with many distractions, and so, before things got underway, I presented ‘Rain…I Don’t Mind’ to Karen and Ron. I explained how storms are a part of Nature and existence and how – afterwards – the rains that come, cleanse and nurture future growth. Since this was their moment of healing and moving on, I felt that the symbolizm in this painting was appropriate!
It was a beautiful gathering with a wonderful selection of attendees. Several religious leaders spoke, local politicians and friends and neighbours. I was very surprised to have gotten involved in a few TV interviews…
There was a small band to add an uplifting spirit to the event and at one time, my eyes welled up and a tear rolled down my face as I thought of all the families who had suffered during the many years that this evil man preyed on the helpless!
To end this story, I want to share some music with you…. as most of you know how much I love music and how much it is involved in my life, in so many positive ways. I want to take this time, to lift up your spirits at the end of this harrowing tale….
This first link to a Youtube video is the first song that the band played at the event….
This song was made popular by The Youngbloods in 1967 and the lyrics, melody and spirit of this song set the tone for this event.
At one point, during the event, I looked behind me where my friend Yves was sitting cross legged on the grass, just outside of the shadows of the surrounding trees. Devon was very busy, pulling grass and scattering it all over Yves… who just sat there, letting the grass fall from his head over his body. Yves had the silliest smile on his face and it filled my heart! I suddenly remembered something from a song and I walked over to Yves, patted his bald head and said, “Now there’s a good guru!!” and then we laughed and I left Devon and Yves to their fun.
It wasn’t until later that night, after Devon and I had returned home to London that I realized that this remark actually had a connection for me and Yves from the time when I was living in Toronto and we worked together.
One day, Yves was hanging at my apartment (maybe in 1990 or 91) and we were drinking beer and listening to music. I had put on a live Donavon CD and the song ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ began to play. Yves had never heard that song before and he was very impressed with the weird sounds and vibrations that Donavon made when he used his voice to make some of the music in the song instead of just singing. During this song, Donavon explained how George Harrison – from the Beatles – had written a verse for the song. Donavon shared, “There were four Beatles, one Beach Boy and the Maharishi… sitting cross legged on the floor. John Lennon walked up to the Maharishi and patted him on the head and said, ‘Now there’s a good guru!’ And we all laughed! And the Maharishi, he laughed the loudest…..”
(Note: This link is not the same recording
as the one I speak about in this story)
So – that evening, this connection came to me. I had not realized when I patted Yves on his head and quoted Donavon who was quoting John Lennon that Yves and I were both connected to this very same song… from so long ago!
Since ‘Rain… I Don’t Mind’ was titled from a Beatles song, and this head patting moment at the ceremony was also connected (in a round about way) to the Beatles, I truly felt that I had made the right choice in artworks to give to Karen and Ron!
Since all good things come in threes, I’m going to leave you with this one last link to another song….
After I had returned to London, and Devon was in bed, I cracked open a beer and relaxed. When I cracked open a second beer, I felt in the mood for listening to some music, so I put my headphones on, cued up some music on my phone’s playlist and went into my back garden to watch the sun set.
The first song was a moving melody by Neil Young and then the song “One Step Closer To Home” by the Alarm kicked in. It starts with a piano line and then a soft acoustic guitar spreads over the notes. The song speaks about journeys and finding yourself in a desperate world. As the song moves forward, it begins to build in dynamics and flavour until suddenly, the roaring bass ignites, drums pound and electric guitars wail and a powerful wave of energy take hold of any listener. For me, this song really struck home as a conclusion to this whole event. The building of the music is like the building of the strength needed to overcome fear and adversity… it slowly builds until it can no longer be contained…. and then it is unleashed like pure love and undaunted soul spirit – raw for the whole world to see!
At the end of this sequence of events it was just the kind of ending that I needed!