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HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

urbanicity complimentary |

take home. enjoy. discuss.

THE DAY I SKIPPED SHABBAT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH A NAZI p.3

+ IN THIS ISSUE=

THE PROJECTIONIST

THE SHILOH EXPERIMENT

FIVE EASY PIECES

HERE WE GO AGAIN!

TWO WORLDS UNDER ONE ROOF

The glory days of the silver screen are alive and well in Westdale. Operated by 74-year old Jim Mair, the singlescreen Westdale Theatre is Hamilton's oldest active cinema - complete with moulded ceilings and projection equipment from the middle of the last century. p.5

It is right to impose parental ideas of gender and gender neutrality on children? According to Angelina Jolie, it must be. According to Lydia Lovric, it's absolutely not. p.6

Controversial, opinionated, and familiar, Hamilton's Mark Hebscher has become a fixture on television sets across Ontario as a CHCH anchor and sports commentator. This month, urbanicity sat down with Mark to discuss Hamilton, sports, and life onair. p.13

Prepare to bid farewell to yet another one of Hamilton's majestic old schools. Were you aware that the Sanford School is slated for demolition? Who needs vision when a wrecking ball can remove the whole issue from view? p.6

The recent development of an arts scene on James St. North is undeniable, but alongside the galleries and upscale retail shops remain multiple social clubs operated by members of the local Portuguese community. Andrew Vowles explores how the two cultures coexist on the same street; sometimes even in the same building. p.7

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HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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urbanicity [ur-buh-nis-i-tee] - noun 1. The premiere interactive forum of constructive, thoughtful, provocative, and local ideas, issues, and experiences in the bay city.

Dear Metro and CBC, welcome to Hamilton! We, as Hamiltonians are eager for more voices that will analyze, discuss, report, and share the news and stories of our great city. We're glad you're here. We're looking forward to hearing your perspectives. We're looking forward to conversing with you, disagreeing with you, sharing your content, and discussing your articles with friends. We're looking forward to seeing our city represented in more media channels than it has been in the past. We do ask a few things of you, however. Please be true to the name you display next to your logo: Hamilton. Please tell our stories and news. Do it accurately and honestly. Tell our stories with integrity and also with excitement. Don't simply feed us your syndicated national content while displaying the word "Hamilton" at the top of your website. Become a part of our community. We are a big city, but we are still a small town. We aren't looking to you for reports about the traffic in Toronto, or for the latest update on the conflict in Afghanistan. We're excited that you're here, but that's because we're excited that more eyes are being focused on Hamilton news and stories. There are only a few different media outlets in Hamilton - don't hesitate to contact us. We're in competition on one level, but on the other, more valuable side of things, we're ultimately all telling stories. Consider us friends. Consider us allies. I hope we're all in this business because above all, we love to share ideas and information with others. We really are excited about the future of this city, and we're excited that you've joined the progress here. Welcome. MARTINUS GELEYNSE | Publisher + Editor

photograph by Dan Banko

FORUM

Each month, the FORUM section will display letters to the Editor. In order to be accepted, letters must include valid contact information and the full name of the writer. Send your letters to: editor@urbanicity.ca Letters are printed as received, without editing. In the spirit of dialogue, it is urbanicity policy to offer space for a reply by the writer of the original article being addressed. The ideas, opinions, and views presented in urbanicity are not necessarily those of its Editor, Publisher, Distributors or Advertisers. We welcome discussion!

RE: “Celebrating the Beauty of the Lister”

GRAHAM’S RESPONSE TO THE RESPONSE:

Graham, thank you for your invitation for me to write about the 'machinations' related to the saving of the Lister. I will take that under advisement and if I do, I will surely forward an advance copy to you. For now I am pleased that I completed your 'tailored' narrative to provide, not my personal view of the story, but THE story. As I think I made clear, a story incompletely told is a story erroneously told. I thank urbanicity for publishing my letter. Oh, and Graham, your reference to 'little people' is also a distortion. Given my humble origins as a young immigrant boy just trying his best in the big city, I would never permit myself to diminish anyone's importance in the way you suggest. I would certainly not call you of all people, Graham, a 'little person'.

Larry,

Best regards, Larry Di Ianni

Sadly, I am not a small person. However, were I a small person, I might be inclined to accuse you of having a hair of superiority about you, but as we know, that would be a bald-faced lie. -Graham Crawford, Hamilton's Ward 1 RE: Doom, Gloom, and Inconvenient Truths (Toby Yull – January 2012) Naomi Oreskes book, Merchants of Doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming, documents at length how not only are the same tactics being used to discredit climate science today as were used to defend big tobacco from links to cancer, but in fact

many of the same people are still directly involved. Absolutely every major scientific body on the planet, including every single national academy of sciences in existence, and even groups like the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, support the consensus understanding of anthropogenic climate change. Denial of the science is still widespread and immensely well funded by fossil fuel industry groups, however. The study "Anatomy of a Silent Crisis" by the World Humanitarian Forum documented 300,000 deaths due to climate change in 2009 alone. Floods, droughts, heat waves and diminished agricultural productivity impacted over half a billion people last year, which should be obvious to anyone paying the slightest attention to world news, including the worst ongoing drought in Texas' entire recorded history and an area of Australia larger than France and Germany combined severely flooded. The US NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) considers a weather event to be 'severe' if it causes over a billion

dollars in property damage, and documented eleven such events in 2011; more than occurred in the entire decade of the 1980s. Locally, I picked fresh herbs growing outside while wearing a t-shirt in the first week of February. How severe and obvious does the reality of climate change have to become before we stop wasting ink pretending it isn't so? The IPCC (intergovernmental panel on climate change) represents the largest collective international scientific effort in human history, and many of its earlier predictions about the impact of climate change on our planet have already occurred, ominously ahead of schedule. Toby Yull's article "Doom, gloom, and inconvenient truths" was an insult to the intelligence of your readers, and a disservice to Hamiltonian aspirations for a future. One can only assume she's living on a different planet than the rest of us. Perhaps like many others she is battling what psychologist Kathy McMahon refers to as "panglossian disorder" - a neurotic tendency towards

extreme optimism in the face of overwhelming evidence of ecological and social unsustainability. Rather than defending an incredibly wasteful and self centred consumerist way of life that demonstrably doesn't make us happy, and demonizing literally thousands of people who have dedicated their entire adult lives to providing all of us with pertinent information about our world, that space in your paper could have documented Hamilton's adoption of Canada's first city climate change charter, and other efforts to face these challenges proactively. When we see less smog and acid rain, it's not because environmentalists are baselessly alarmist, as she implied, but precisely because when the issues underlying those problems came to light, we took them seriously and did things about it. As climate change comes home to roost, we will begrudge every second wasted on denial. For shame. -Michael Nabert

THE CONTRIBUTORS

PUBLISHER + EDITOR CREATOR + DESIGN

jim davis

laura babcock

brian mchattie

lydia lovric

andrew vowles

lesia mokrycke

kristel bulthuis

bill curran

martinus geleynse reg beaudry martinus@urbanicity.ca reg@urbanicity.ca DISTRIBUTION | QUANTITY: 10,000 copies per issue | 12 issues per year | DATE: First Friday of each month | COST: Complimentary DISTRIBUTION LOCATIONS | Downtown Hamilton, International Village, Ottawa Street, Locke Street, Westdale, Village of Ancaster, Town of Dundas, Village of Waterdown, Stoney Creek, Concession Street District, Selected Hamilton Mountain locations, Greater Hamilton Area AD INQUIRIES | ads@urbanicity.ca | urbanicity.ca | 905.537.5928 FRONT COVER “The Adolf Hiedler - Adolf Hitler” by Ramses Duque Anell FRONT PANEL Jim Mair, photograph by Reg Beaudry | Shiloh Jolie-Pitt | Mark Hebscher, photograph by Reg Beaudry | Sanford School, photograph by Reg Beaudry | Jessica Roth's life-drawing sessions CORRECTION In the March issue of urbanicity, the Augusta House ad should have read: 2 for 1 New York Style Wings. We apologize for the error.

kevin makins


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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THE DAY I SKIPPED SHABBAT TO HAVE COFFEE WITH A NAZI

My experience began on a cold, wet, snowy Friday afternoon. Fridays are always a relief for me. Not merely because they mark the end of a long week filled with stress and often extra work hours, but because it marks the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath begins Friday night at sunset, where I typically kick off the way by attending my Synagogue's Shabbat service. Not this week, however. On this particular day, a little over one year ago, I headed to the nearby Tim Hortons to kill some time before the service began. I sat in my usual spot with a coffee while reading Conrad Black's biography of Richard Nixon, The Invincible Conquest. I couldn't have imagined what was about to unfold. As I was reading intently, in near isolation from my environment, a German accent made my ears perk up, for some reason. Having taken German classes at McMaster University, the dialect and accent is rather easy for me to pick up on. I'm always looking to try out the little German I know on native-speaking Germans to hone my grasp on the language and build my confidence, and so I decided this was as good a time as any to flex the language skills I had. The voice belonged to an old man, slender in body type with an all-beige tunic buttoned up to his chin. He was walking hunched over with a walker, wearing a blue ball cap that could have been a few sizes smaller. He was wearing large eyeglasses with visible fingerprints on the lenses. As he pushed his walker around to find a seat, he looked lost and lonely.

When I finally mustered the courage to tell him about my faith, he was very much fighting tears. “Regular Germans didn't hate the Jews,” he said, very emotionally. “It was all Adolf's doing.”

My intentions shifted from wanting to practice my German to wanting to provide company for an old man. As he parked his walker, I greeted him in his native tongue. “Gross Gott,” I said, a German greeting meaning, literally, 'Greetings to G-d.' “Wie Gehts?” I followed up with. How are you? He looked at me and smiled. He asked, in English, if I was from Germany. I told him that I was simply studying German at university and also shared a snippet of my great grandparents' story, themselves immigrants to Canada from the Black Forest region of Germany. He sat down at my table and shared that he had just returned to Canada from Berlin the day prior and was staying at a hotel. After his wife died of a stroke, he sold his home in Burlington, Ontario and moved back to Berlin to spend his remaining years. His name was Fred. At 90 years old (he even showed me his German driver's license to prove it), he seemed extremely sharp. When he moved back to Berlin, he noticed how much he missed Canada. “Things have changed there,” he said. “It's not home anymore.” Fred revealed that as a young man he was forced to join the German Navy where he served on a ship for a year. When the Russians started getting closer to Berlin, he was literally taken off his ship and told he was being reassigned to the German Army, known in Germany as the Wehrmacht. He was given no

training, just a new uniform. His uniform colour went from the blue of the German Navy to the grey of the German Army. In World War II, Fred was sent to the Eastern Front to fight the Russians, which he later admitted was a fight that he felt lucky to survive. Anyone who has read about the battles on the Eastern Front knows how brutal it was. As Fred recounted these stories from his life, it felt as though he was looking straight through me. I could sense an emotional undercurrent biting at his tear ducts. He later surrendered to American soldiers and became an American prisoner of war. “Those Americans are great guys,” he told me. “Every day they fed me and gave me coffee as good as this Tim Hortons,” he said, pointing to his cup, “I love the Americans.” Fred didn't yet know that I was Jewish. I wanted to tell him, but didn't want to to bring about a sense of guilt for what the Germans had done to the Jewish people during World War II and the Holocaust. I knew that men of the Wehrmacht were regular German citizens fighting for their country much like how my grandfather fought for Canada. When I finally mustered the courage to tell him about my faith, he was very much fighting tears. “Regular Germans didn't hate the Jews,” he said, very emotionally. “It was all Adolf's doing.” In fact, he and his father used to buy their clothes in Berlin from a Jewish-owned store.

Adolf Hitler

| Jim Davis

Mid-sentence, Fred stopped talking stared intently towards the parking lot. “You know, I have no right to feel bad for myself when I think about how those Jews were treated,” he lamented. As I reflected on his status as a twice-widowed, 90year old man living in a hotel, whose only son had died years ago, my heart wept. Upon seeing the time on his wristwatch, Fred confessed that it was approaching his bedtime. It was 7:30 PM. I offered him a ride home, but he declined. I could tell he was leery of strangers. We shook hands and parted. By now, my Shabbat service had ended, but I didn't regret missing it. As I sat in my car and watched Fred push his walker down the sidewalk I couldn't help but feel closer to G-d. This chance encounter that cold night between a 90-year old former soldier of Hitler's army and a 27-year old Jew from Canada was my sermon. As Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from G-d. It is a gift only we can give one another”. Fred gave me hope for all that troubles peace in this world. I realized once again that peace is always possible. JIM DAVIS is a writer based in Hamilton, ON. He contributes to a diverse variety of news sources such as Sinai Post, ON-News and Landmark Report. He loves to write about issues concerning politics, religion, free speech and the middle east.


“There is a warning in media relations that you don’t want to chum the waters of a scandal because the media sharks will smell the blood and start a feeding frenzy on you. Bratina’s explosive letter to the Hamilton Spectator wasn’t just throwing chum in the water - he slit his neck and threw himself in the shark tank.” - Laura Babcock HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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POLITICAL PARANOIA What Peggygate is really about, and how to stop it Laura Babcock |

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par-a-noi-a [par-uh-noi-uh] noun

1.

Psychiatry.

An illogical fear or suspicion of people, companies or organizations being consciously against you, and the belief that they are constantly trying to “get” you… the thought process, which is heavily influenced by anxiety and/or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion

Don’t kid yourself - the scandal rocking Hamilton that is known as Peggygate is not just about money. It’s not even really about Peggy. And that is why even after the Censure of Mayor Bratina, a public embarrassment of historic proportions, the real concerns about Peggygate live on. Peggygate is about much more than Peggy Chapman, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, her shocking $30k raise, or the attempts to shift blame to City staff. It’s more serious than that. Peggygate is really about Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina, and what the Hamilton Spectator columnist Andrew Dreschel recently dubbed his “political paranoia”. Paranoia is defined as: “An illogical fear or suspicion of people, companies or organizations being consciously against you, and the belief that they are constantly trying to “get” you… the thought process, which is heavily influenced by anxiety and/or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion” . (Urban Dictionary) There is evidence of this political paranoia dating back to before the word "Peggygate" existed. A week before the Mayor and Peggy made that fateful call to give me, as Producer of the OShow on Cable 14, the exclusive about her raise, I had conducted an interview with them on my podcast (www.laircast.com) where the Mayor immediately railed against the media for their agenda against him - a complaint he had already made in other forums. The subsequent raise to Peggy, the public announcement of it, and the storytelling about its origins weren’t just about fair compensation. The raise was also about sending his critics a clear message that he would defend his often maligned and most valued, loyal employee at all costs. The message may have been sent, but the cost to his reputation was so grave that it made the decision a totally irrational one. His political paranoia was even more painfully on display in the Mayor's now famous missive to the Hamilton Spectator. He was so vitriolic and accusatory that it caused Council to ultimately censure him, and Hamiltonians to inundate me with emails, Facebook comments and tweets - from a former Cabinet Minister who calls the scandal “an embarrassment for Hamilton” to people asking about his state of mind. There is a warning in media relations that you don’t want to chum the waters of a scandal because the media sharks will smell the blood and start a feeding frenzy on you. Bratina’s explosive letter to the Hamilton Spectator wasn’t just throwing chum in the water - he slit his neck and threw himself in the shark tank.

It was such a destructive move that on the Bill Kelly Show on 900 CHML, Bill and I struggled to understand why a smart man would do such an ill-advised thing. The important question is: if the Mayor doesn’t follow through with his post-censure promise of "introspection" and change course how do we stop the destruction that is Peggygate? How do we stop this scandal that is wasting Council’s time, distracting Hamiltonians from other important issues, embarrassing our city, and hurting the Mayor and those closest to him - including Peggy? Council must try to deal with the underlying issues - not just the Mayor’s official conduct with the recent censure. Those underlying issues were laid bare in a candid Laircast chat with Councillor Sam Merulla, where he explained Council's frustration and their plans to run an in-camera intervention with the Mayor (plans that never materialized in part because of the reaction to Sam's comments). Beyond censure, Council needs to deal with the anger and political paranoia the Mayor is displaying. They need to understand why their colleague is feeling so besieged and help him out of his growing isolation. To merely have the Mayor fire Peggy, or punish him by censure is to potentially reinforce what he may already be feeling: that people are out to “get him” and those close to him. Council has shown remarkable solidarity and public support for the Mayor post-censure so far, but is it enough? I am both skeptical and hopeful. Yes, Council can and will continue to function well in spite of all the drama coming from the Mayor’s office - but they shouldn’t. To let it fester is to do a disservice to the citizens of Hamilton, our productivity and our image as a city. We have two years left in this term of office. Censure is a good start, but it alone may not create the meaningful change we deserve. It’s time for Council to get past their justifiable outrage and punishment options, and to find a substantive solution to the real Peggygate problem. Fast. LAURA BABCOCK is a communications expert, strategist, and television current affairs pundit. She has worked as a television producer and television reporter for the CBC, the executive director of The Oakville Chamber of Commerce, and has taught marketing and strategic communications at McMaster University. Laura has spent the last 14 years leading Powergroup to the reputable national firm that it is today. powergroup.ca


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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Media satire from the Great Stadium Debate | Reg Beaudry

FUN + GAMES UNTIL EVERYONE GOT HURT | Brian McHattie

It all began with such hope and positivity. Hamilton had been through two difficult Commonwealth Games bids, arguably winning each one – the first thwarted at the finish line by India's questionable financial contributions, and the second by Federal politics – handing Halifax the bid, only to see them withdraw later on. Still, Hamilton was thrilled to land a key role in the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games, a lesser, but still important international sports event. In rare form it seemed Hamilton had scooped Toronto when the Pan Am organizers awarded our fair city the jewel of the Games: track and field championships to be run in a new stadium. In addition, it was awarded indoor cycling (in a proposed, but illfated National velodrome,) as well as volleyball and bit parts in soccer and swimming. Perhaps most importantly, we were to host the Para-Pan Games after the Games proper: a huge opportunity to re-tool our city to maximize accessibility for all. Then the fun began. Out of the blue, several months after City Council had carefully chosen the West Harbour location with its waterfront perspective and close proximity to the downtown core, the Ti-Cats refused to play there as a

required legacy tenant. This began a one-year fiasco of chasing potential facility sites across Hamilton, alarming various neighbourhoods, testing the faith of constituents, dividing Council, and wasting hundreds of hours of valuable senior staff resources. During my three terms on Council, never has one private company so gripped the Council agenda. Due to the Ti-Cats' opposition to the Council-approved West Harbour site and the time-consuming search for alternate sites, Hamilton lost the track and field events and the Para-Pan Games, resulting in our overall role being minor at best. In short, one professional sports team nullified amateur sports, accessibility improvements, and a great opportunity to profile our City on the international stage. The energy, time and commitment to the Games felt wasted and the citybuilding opportunity for the West Harbour seemed lost. In the meantime, with energetic grassroots leadership working alongside City staff, Hamilton's velodrome preparations were well planned, and strongly connected to the amateur sport community. Despite this, by the time it came forward to Council, the exciting cycling opportunity met a jaded and

frustrated City Council, still smarting from the stadium experience, and unwilling to step up with the necessary funding to meet Pan Am's overinflated facility costing approach. In addition the playing of Hamilton against other communities, and putting Council in not one, but several ultimatum situations only added to politicians' growing lack of trust in the Pan Am process. The result was sadly predictable, and despite last minute efforts, including those of Canada's Olympic cycling athletes and committed community members, the Pan Am secretariat chose another city that had done only a fraction of the preparatory work that Hamilton had already completed. So, when the time came to consider another Pan Am Hail Mary pass, around baseball this time, my response was visceral and vocal: No more dancing with Pan Am on my watch! Although the experience of dealing with the Pan Am Games was generally negative, there are two important lessons that will stand us in good stead in coming years. So what are the lessons? First, we have learned the dangers of chasing high profile, time-consuming, costly sport events involving

During my three terms on Council, never has one private company so gripped the Council agenda. Due to the Ti-Cats' opposition to the Councilapproved West Harbour site and the time-consuming search for alternate sites, Hamilton lost the track and field events and the ParaPan Games, resulting in our overall role being minor at best.

processes that Hamilton does not control (yes Councillor Merulla, you told us…!). Furthermore, we must beware the persuasive populist power of hometeam boosterism. Second: smaller-scale communityled economic development efforts are preferable – with local players and tangible benefits on a sustainable scale – classic examples include Supercrawl and the rejuvenation of James Street North, Locke Street, Ottawa Street and other neighbourhoods. Lessons learned, I believe that there are, in fact, genuine positives that we can take away from the experiences of the last two years. First, it is evident that Hamiltonians have a huge vision for our city. The passionate citizen engagement stirred by the stadium debate was truly remarkable. Second, the West Harbour lands originally purchased for a stadium now afford us the opportunity to ensure development there meets the neighbourhood's “Setting Sail” vision which reflects a new and vibrant mixed (residential and commercial) community, to be built in the stunning setting afforded by the harbourfront. BRIAN McHATTIE is the City Councillor for Hamilton's Ward 1. brian.mchattie@hamilton.ca

the PROJECTIONIST A single-screen film house with sculpted ceilings, a small lobby, and original décor, the Westdale Theatre is Hamilton’s oldest operating movie cinema. It was built in 1935, as the golden era of motion pictures was just dawning. Jim Mair, the manager and projectionist, is only slightly younger than the theatre itself at 74 years of age. The owner of the singlescreen cinema is now 84, and has owned it for over 65 years. In a curious sequence of events, he hired Jim over the phone after the previous manager retired in 1993. He and Jim have still never met in person. The Westdale Theatre was opened at a time when many films were shot and shown without audio, and were therefore accompanied by live music. In fact, the silver screen itself is set against the back wall of the building – allowing no space for a speaker system, though an audio system has since been installed. Today, Jim believes that the original musicians’ pit was covered by the current stage structure. Today, the Westdale Theatre screens a wide variety of contemporary films – many of which receive limited release, as well as Oscar nominations. Additionally, the Art Gallery of Hamilton regularly hosts screenings from their I♥ filmseries at the Westdale Theatre. The theatre projects films using equipment from the 1950s, and the magnificent building has changed little since the 1930s, but the experience of the Westdale Theatre is somehow truly timeless. Jim Mair in the cutting room at the Westdale Theatre, Hamilton ON | photograph by Reg Beaudry


“Despite the mandate of our municipal Economic Development Department to lure the creative class to Hamilton, the very properties that are most appealing to these creative individuals are being demolished at an alarming rate.” - M.G + R.B

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HERE WE GO AGAIN ! | Martinus Geleynse + Reg Beaudry

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is ready to let the wrecking ball swing again. This time, the intended victim is the stunning Sanford Avenue School building. The rationale is that Ward 3 needs more parkland, despite the fact that Powell Park, Woodland Park, and Birch Park are all within a three-minute walk from the school lot. Additionally, according to City staff, the building is in very poor condition. Neither the School Board, nor the City of Hamilton has the money to restore the property. Naturally, therefore, the plan is to demolish it. After all, why would the Board try to recoup some money on the space by selling it to a private developer? In a sad twist of irony, the Sanford School is even in a development fee free zone! Despite the mandate of our municipal Economic Development Department to lure the creative class to Hamilton, the very properties that are most appealing to these creative individuals are being demolished at an alarming rate. Here we go again. A stunning building, a wrecking ball, and no vision.

Sanford School (formerly Hamilton Collegiate Institute) on Sanford Ave near Barton, Hamilton ON | photographs by Reg Beaudry

THE SHILOH EXPERIMENT | Lydia Lovric

take special care to make sure our daughter was wearing something pretty (and wasn't covered in oatmeal). It is perfectly reasonable that Shiloh, having two older brothers, might want to emulate them and hence gravitate towards a boyish wardrobe. It is also reasonable that rather than fighting with a willful child over unconventional clothing choices, a parent would prefer to allow the child some autonomy in that department. What is hugely peculiar though – and somewhat disturbing – is the fact that Shiloh was being dressed as a boy long before she could make such choices for herself. So really, in this instance, it has nothing to do with older brothers or a possible case of gender dysphoria. Shiloh was being guided in this direction from the very beginning – most likely by her mother, who has a long history of odd and questionable behaviour. (Remember when she French-kissed her brother or wore vials of blood?) In Canada, we seem to have our own "Shiloh experiment" in the case of "Storm" - a baby boy or girl being raised by a Toronto couple that have decided to keep their child's gender a secret. The parents also have an older child named Jazz, age six. Jazz is a boy. He has long hair, prefers to wear dresses and his favourite colour is pink. Jazz recently had a fairythemed birthday party. I'm all for diversity and acceptance. But when a youngster is indeed different or diverse, we need to make sure that the diversity is genuine and not rooted in a parent's desire to make political statements at the expense of his or her child.

If you relish a spirited debate, plop a photo of fiveyear-old Shiloh Jolie-Pitt in front of a group of parents and watch the fireworks explode. Shiloh is the daughter of movie star/ humanitarian/home wrecker Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt. And she is almost always dressed as a boy. Whether it's a tuxedo shirt, a Peter Pan outfit or a fedora and tie, the pint-sized celebrity is forever sporting something masculine. In fact, with her cropped hair and penchant for sneakers, it would be easy to assume that she is a he. Some parents claim that little Shiloh is merely going through a phase. They say that she is just a tomboy and enjoys wearing the same clothes as her older brothers and that it's no big deal. Others wonder if Shiloh might be suffering from gender dysphoria or gender identity disorder. Like I said though, Shiloh is only five, so we may not get to the bottom of this for several more years. What is interesting to note, however, is the fact that Shiloh's "cross-dressing" began when she was just a baby. In the first publicly released baby picture of their darling little girl, Brad and Angie chose to dress Shiloh in a grey shirt (featuring a skull and crossbones) and blue pants. She was less than a month old. Later on, when Shiloh was just a toddler, she was photographed wearing a pair of black and white shoes emblazoned once again with the skull and crossbones. One may argue that Angie is merely a pirate or poison lover and that this explains the atypical clothing choices. But the public rarely ever saw Shiloh dressed in anything remotely girly or feminine, even as an infant. Don't get me wrong, when my daughter was a baby she practically lived in sleepers. They were comfortable and easy to take on and off. She also had plenty of stretchy cotton pants when she was old enough to crawl. But most of her pants had cute little ruffles along the bottom. Her shirts were generally adorned with feminine touches - a bow here, a rosette there. And if I knew we were taking photos, I would

LYDIA LOVRIC has written for The Winnipeg Sun and The Vancouver Province. She continues to appear as a guest commentator on a variety of programs, including the BBC, Adler On Line, and CHML’S The Scott Thompson Show. She is currently enjoying life as a full-time mom to three little rug rats. This article was written for urbanicity, and has also appeared in The Huffington Post. Five-year old Shiloh


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

TWO WORLDS UNDER ONE ROOF Vasco da Gama didn't discover a sea route from Portugal to India by being timid. For many Hamiltonians, it might take something of da Gama's spirit to venture into his namesake club on James Street North – that, and maybe the sword wrested from the newly restored statue of Justice on the front façade of the distinctive red-brick building between Cannon and Mulberry streets. Then again, maybe it's the members of that groundfloor club who need to arm themselves before venturing into the artists' studios on the second and third floors. For many long-timers drinking espresso and beer, playing cards or watching soccer or game shows in the club, upstairs is Terra Incognita – a far-off land where models pose nude and where artist gladiators have clashed in something called the “Battle of the Brushes”. Two separate worlds under one roof – or so you might think. Every Sunday afternoon, a dozen or more artists – seasoned and aspiring alike – head upstairs to Jessica Roth's third-floor studio for life-drawing sessions. There they settle on wooden horses or before stand-up easels to spend three hours rendering the human form. Downstairs, it's all chatter and soccer crowd noise. Upstairs, it's all scratching of charcoal and rubbing of colour into paper, with a musical backdrop varying from Bach to Assemble Head. John Martin, a trained artist, had run similar lifedrawing sessions in Toronto for years. One of the first things he did upon moving to Hamilton in 2009 was to troll for prospective members. “I walked around with a clipboard in the rain during an art crawl.” On Sundays he sets up a sandwich board on the sidewalk to advertise the session. There are few walk-

ins – most members arrive through word of mouth. Martin knows the club manager downstairs but says he hasn't attracted any of its members. He sees the building's old-new mix of occupants as an example of a wider push-pull happening on James Street North. “It really is two solitudes.” He'd like to see more mingling, in the building and on the street. “We're all sharing the same space. Recognizing and appreciating differences is the best way to forge connections. Cross-cultural pollination can't be a bad thing, especially in Canada.” Standing downstairs at the club bar, that's more or less what Victor Cadete says, too. His family arrived from Aveira in 1969, the same year that the Vasco da Gama club moved into the former Orange Hall on James Street. (A carved medallion high on the front façade shows William of Orange celebrating victory at the Battle of the Boyne.) Cadete was eight years old then. He spent several years here, returned to Portugal for high school, and then came back to Canada for good. Now he works for himself in construction, laying ceramic tiles. He's also an artist. His paintings hang in Ventura's restaurant across James Street and at Ola Bakery, a block north of the club. He has drawn and painted “since I came from my mom's belly. I was always with pencils, brushes and paints. It was my passion.” He took art classes in Portugal and at the Dundas Valley School of Art. But it was at Mohawk College that he learned to do ceramic painting. Called azulejos, paintings on ceramic tile are a signature art form in Portugal. The works often depict historical and cultural events – a nation's story told on the walls of the country's churches, monasteries, shops, train stations, parks and homes.

They show up in Hamilton, too, including five large window-sized pieces commissioned from Cadete for the Vasco da Gama club over a decade ago. Using blue paint powder mixed with more or less water, he created the works on arrays of white glazed tiles. Two portray da Gama and Prince Henry the Navigator. Others depict a Portuguese caravel at sea and a fortress on the Tagus River in Lisbon. Cadete's favourite shows da Gama's departure from Portugal for that historic voyage to India in 1497. “It's about our culture and history.” He has visited the galleries upstairs and has bought a couple of paintings during James Street art crawls. Referring to the arrival of studios and galleries, he says, “I think it's a great thing. I've learned a lot of things through art. It's good to bring people together.” He's not sure many in the club share his ideas. But then John Agostinho, another long-timer, volunteers that his own daughter is an artist. Anna Agostinho grew up on nearby Ferrie Street. Family reunions, wedding receptions, and baptismal receptions: they all happened at the club. Not that Anna relished it much growing up. Referring to the club regulars, she says, “That generation is set in their ways. I've always been intimidated to go in there.” But then, she says, she was a timid teenager. Funny enough, it was art that gave her confidence, starting in grade nine at Cathedral High School when she painted a portrait of the late Kurt Cobain. “I was always drawing. I was always interested in art. This talent came out of nowhere. ” Now working part-time in finance, she paints in her home studio downtown. She recently completed a mural for St. Margaret Mary School on the mountain. Last year she frequented the Vasco da Gama Hall not strictly to visit the club but to run the Battle of the

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| Andrew Vowles

“We're all sharing the same space. Recognizing and appreciating differences is the best way to forge connections. Cross-cultural pollination can't be a bad thing, especially in Canada.”

upstairs Brushes in a studio upstairs. Along with Lindsay Stokoe, she organized four events there in 2011. “I just love the venue. The artists set up in a circle and the audience can move around and watch as they create. ” Following the timed contest, audience members bid for the works. This year, the battles are being staged at Club Absinthe on King William Street. The event “allows artists to get out of their comfort zone and let go and create,” says Agostinho. For audiences, she adds, it's a chance to watch artists at work, pick up an artwork for maybe $50 and support local talent. For the downstairs club crowd, attending last year's contests might have meant moving out of their comfort zone. Not that many did. “It is two separate worlds,” says Agostinho. “ I don't know if they were intimidated or it was a lack of interest. It's unfortunate.” But then there are youngsters like Pamela Oliveira, tending the club bar one recent afternoon. She also grew up in the neighbourhood. This year, she attended her first art crawl, where she picked up one artist's card, intending to order a print. She was hardly alone, judging by the crowds trekking up and down the stairs during that event. Some of those art lovers have even ventured, unarmed, inside the club for a drink. Says Oliveira: “On nights when there's an art crawl, we open the double doors and get lots of people.” ANDREW VOWLES is a full-time writer and sometime musician, artist and actor. A lifelong Hamiltonian, he lives in the Delta East neighbourhood with his family. javowles@sympatico.ca

- John Martin

downstairs | photographs by Reg Beaudry


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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Stephanie Custance - Berlin

ARTISTS in the STUDIO | Lesia Mokrycke

“…by painting the walls [of the gallery] white, I desired through this act not only to purify the premises but also above all, through this action and this gesture, to make it momentarily into my space of work and creation, in a word, my studio”. – Yves Klein on his exhibition at Iris Clert Gallery in Paris, 1953

The studio is a “safe space” where unresolved thoughts, new ideas and fragmented artworks can be left unfinished for the next day's work.

The phenomenon of the artist's studio is one that has occupied the imaginations of writers for hundreds of years. Since apprenticeship guilds flourished around master artists in the fourteenth century, the artist's studio has taken on many forms. Ranging from Rodin's high profile production studio in Paris, to the small room where Giacometti spent nearly his entire life, the studio provides insight into the working lives of artists. In writing this article, and in light of the artist's studios that are quickly springing up along James Street North, I sought to discover how artists are working in different cities around the world. This month I interviewed Jaclyn Brown in Brooklyn, New York and Stephanie Custance in Berlin, Germany. Jaclyn is a Canadian-born painter who completed her Masters at the New York Academy in the Tribeca area of Manhattan. Stephanie is an American-born fine artist who studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. Stephanie now lives and works in East Berlin. Berlin, like New York is a magnet for culture and creative talent. In both circumstances, Stephanie and Jaclyn rely on a network of other artists and creative people to propel their careers. When asked if the cities they live in inform their studio practice, both artists responded, “absolutely”. An artist's studio space serves as an extension of a certain way of thinking. Unlike a gallery where resolved artwork is on display for the purpose of critique, discussion or sale, the studio is a “safe space” where unresolved thoughts, new ideas and fragmented artworks can be left unfinished for the next day's work. In Berlin, Stephanie works out of the European Creative Center (ECC). The ECC currently houses 350 national and international artists and is the largest galleryand artist's workspace in Berlin. The building is located in former East Berlin, ten minutes from Alexanderplatz. For Stephanie, her practice involves working on her art everyday. This means writing about concepts, working on applications, or sketching. Stephanie maintains that through this daily practice, concepts remain“stable” and it is easier to re-enter the working process. In this way the studio becomes a projection of her working philosophy. As Stephanie outlines, for her, the studio is a space where the continuum between prior ideas and current projects gain latitude. For Jaclyn in New York, the studio is also an important resting space for ideas and artworks. Jaclyn works in a warehouse studio building at 1717 Troutman Street in Brooklyn that overlooks the skyline of Manhattan. The warehouse is affordable and home to several artist work spaces as well as several galleries. Together, Jaclyn and her husband, Jason Talley, share a space of over 300 square feet. For Jaclyn, the studio gives her the same respite from the busyness of New York City that most people gain from

spending time in nature. Jaclyn maintains that although she also enjoys working out of her home, the studio is valuable because it is a neutral‐spacewhere an artist can solely focus on their work and let the rest of the world go, for a time. In terms of the culture of a city, the studio space is also a generator of new ideas, fresh perspectives, community initiatives, and talent. Since Jaclyn has moved into the studio in Bushwick, the neighbourhood has changed. Bars and restaurants are opening and a Manhattan‐based gallery, Luhring Augustine, has recently openeda location close to her building. The Bushwick Open Studio initiative is also a resultof the high concentration of artists in the area. This energy is drawing people from Manhattan, which is an advantage for artists working in Brooklyn. Similarly, the ECC in Berlin is home painters, photographers, sculptors, designers, actors, musicians and other performers. It is a locus for talent in Berlin and is committed to further the growth of the arts in the city. In thinking of creative cities, two principles are important for working artists in every city around the world. The first is that work spaces are affordable enough for artists to occupy them. The second involves attracting creative people with common goals so that support networks grow organically and keep people working. Both Berlin and New York have the advantage of a diverse and dynamic atmosphere. An international environment with opportunities for cross‐cultural exchange and innovation is certainly an asset to a creative career. In Hamilton, on a much smaller scale, the community on James Street North also supports creative initiatives and presents opportunities for people to build support networks. Every artist works differently, and in this way, no two studio spaces will be the same. The important thing to consider is the best way to ensure that artist's studios have the opportunity to flourish in communities that value creative output from their citizens. In Stephanie's words, “a studio space is simply a mindset. It is the sum of the way an artist is able to enter into their work and produce it. I see a studio space as essential to an artist”. For more information on Jaclyn Brown and Stephanie Custance, please visit their sites: w w w. j a c l y n b r o w n . m o s a i c g l o b e . c o m a n d www.sacustance.com LESIA MOKRYCKE received her BFA from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 2011 and a Certificate in Painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2009. Lesia currently works as an artist in Hamilton and has permanent public art pieces installed in the United States and Canada.


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

Fast and easy money

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“FIX IT!”

Some of the cheque-cashing businesses in downtown Hamilton | photographs by Martinus Geleynse

Perhaps the only retail establishments more common than Tim Hortons in our downtown core are cash stores. In the last few years, the cheque cashers, payday loaners, and other money lenders have taken over an alarming percentage of retail storefronts. This is both a problem on its on, and a symptom of many deeper problems in our downtown. Truth be told, I'd prefer boarded windows. At least an empty storefront won't prey on the financially distressed individuals that find themselves addicted to fast and easy money. The interest rates these lenders charge are well into the territory of usury, and the economic benefit that they offer to their surrounding community is virtually non-existent. This is an industry that needs far greater regulation and oversight. However, the very existence of this industry is indicative of far greater issues in our society. As Saturday Night Live's Oscar Rogers would so eloquently put it, “...identify the problem and FIX IT!” - MG


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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THE DOOR IS OPEN A sneak peak at the Tourism Hamilton offices in the Lister Block

Helping you create and realize value in your business. Right here in Hamilton.

Tourism Hamilton is currently moving into their new space in the restored Lister Block. Complete with massive handmade steel doors, stunning lighting fixtures by local artists, a unique wood-look ceramic floor, an event room with a movable island of recycled glass, and many other creatively designed finishes, this new space in Hamilton's most famous heritage building is dressed to impress.

Interiors by TCA Architects | photographs by Reg Beaudry


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | ARPIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

The Royal Connaught Hotel at its peak

Bill DeGrow

Furniture stores on James St. N.

The Pigott building

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Still standing at King + John

Beryl Growcott

Bakery Wagon, 1958

Old City Hall, Lister Block + Zellers

Jack Noble

Jim + Norma Gale

At the top of the incline railway

This picture was taken by the doorman at The Right House. Jack had just come back from serving in the army and it was his first suit in six years, first top coat in six years, and he had just gotten a haircut. They had dinner downtown and fell in love, married, and lived in Hamilton their whole lives. He worked at Hamilton Hydro and they lived on Garth Street for many years. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday. The regal foyer of the Royal Connaught Hotel

Carla setting up “At Home In Hamilton”

The sadly missed Birks Building

IN THE VILLAGE of WENTWORTH HEIGHTS

| Kristel Bulthuis

As the residents of The Village of Wentworth Heights strolled down the Main Street hallway in the middle of January, they started to remember. They remembered what it was like to grow up, work, live and raise families in the great City of Hamilton. The Main Street of the Village had been transformed into a gallery filled with pictures of our beautiful city in times past. As we hung the photos up, our residents started emerging from their home areas to see what was going on. And that's when it started; they started sharing their stories. They went on for a week. The idea behind the “At Home in Hamilton” week at the Village was to celebrate the city that so many of our residents had lived in for 50, 60, and even 70 years. We ran events with names like “Hamilton Then and Now”, “Tim's, Ti-Cats and Steel” and “A Walk Through Hamilton's History”. All of those different programs provided a venue for our residents to remember what it was like to live, work, and raise families in our city. Special thanks is due to Graham Crawford from Hamilton HIStory+HERitage for the gift of prints of the images that provided our residents with the opportunity to remember their city.

THE ROYAL CONNAUGHT

THE PAGODA

“My daughter had her wedding reception the Royal Connaught. It was very elegant. - Beryl Growcott

“This was where we went after dancing. After you close the bar down, you go upstairs to the Pagoda and eat.” - Theresa Coole

“The Royal Connaught was the place to go to dance. My girlfriends and I went every weekend. There was a bar, a restaurant, and a separate dance room. Sometimes we would dance with two or three guys at the same time!” - Theresa Coole

THE RIGHT HOUSE, KRESGE’S + WOOLWORTH’S “We lost our daughter there, she was playing in the racks. We got a harness for her after that! My mother worked at Woolworth's at the snack counter. At the corner of King William and John at the Windsor was where I met my wife.” - Bill DeGrow “I had my first date with my wife and we met up right in front of the Right House. I took that as a sign that it was right!” - Jack Noble

HAMILTON INCLINE RAILWAY

EATON’S

“We rode up the incline all the time sitting on the front of our Model T. My dad owned a riding stable at Sanford and King. You could rent the horses for $1 and take them all over the city. I can remember once, my horse was too scared to cross Main Street at Queen, so I had to get off, and walk him across.” - Bill DeGrow

“Our Eaton's had a wooden escalator which was one of the fastest! There were also women with white gloves running the elevators.” - Bill DeGrow “Eaton's had a green room which was a dining room on the 5th floor. Many out-oftowners went there for dinner. When I came back from overseas (from the war), my parents took me there. - Jack Noble

OLD CITY HALL, ZELLERS + THE LISTER BLOCK “We often went to Zellers for lunch. Quite a lunch counter. The older ladies did their best to satisfy everybody. The Lister Block had a barber shop run by a guy named Roy; he cut hair by day, and was a musician by night. I got my hair cut in the basement of the Pigott Building though.” - Jack Noble “We ran up those steps (of the City Hall) to get our marriage licence. We didn't have to run, but we thought it was more fun” - Jim and Norma Gale

PIGOTT BUILDING “I was a secretary on the eighth floor of the Pigott Building. My husband worked at Tip Top Tailors for a short time too, so we would meet for lunch in Gore Park.” - Beryl Growcott


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

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“I took this picture in 1976 when the Connaught was open and dignified. I just cannot look at it anymore. Didn't Bratina GUARANTEE that work on renovating it would begin last fall?” - BRIAN HENLEY

henleyshamilton1.wordpress.com

| HENLEY’S HAMILTON

GORE PARK | The Connaught Spire. We loved the vibe for a day. We need some drama.

Enlightened, dramatic ideas to re-envision the core of our beloved Hamilton. Why not?

We need some more height + drama in the bay city. Add something tall, sculptural, smugly confident to alter the skyline irrevocably. Gussy up the ugly HSBC bank building, and soon please!

Fix the Commerce Bank Tower at the ground floor. Add bar/retail/shops to animate the street. Add big canopies. Add a big patio. Add signs of life!

Reinvest + re-clad or blow up Effort Square. It is spent, buttugly, dowdy + makes me sad.

Close the street IMMEDIATELY and remove the silly parking. This should be a people place!!! Use big planters like in NYC to keep out traffic. Extend the park to the sidewalk. Allow every business on the Gore’s south side an instant, no-approval-required 30’ deep patio. Imagine bars, restaurants + cafes overlooking the Gore from the old Rave Records Store (variety store now).

Dead-sexy Euro LRT running through the Gore. Tomorrow, please!!!

Bill Curran | TCA ARCHITECTS | Hamilton ON | tcarch.ca


HAMILTON ONTARIO | CANADA | Published Monthly | APRIL 2012 | urbanicity.ca

FIVE EASY PIECES |

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He's known for his strong opinions, Hebsy awards, and his bold presence as an anchor on CHCH. Mark Hebscher is a multi-Gemini Award nominee, and has interviewed everyone from Muhammad Ali to Wayne Gretzky over the course of his prolific media career. Passionate about sports journalism, but always ready to offer his perspective on anything, Hebscher gave urbanicity his thoughts in five easy pieces.

Mark Hebscher gets ready to talk sports on CHCH’s Sportsline | photograph by Reg Beaudry

ON HAMILTON

ON SQUARE OFF

ON SPORTSLINE

ON THE MEDIA

ON STUPID RULES IN SPORTS

"Absolutely the friendliest people I've met. No kidding. Most Torontonians won't even look at you. In Hamilton, they come right up to you and treat you like a regular Joe. The city may be ugly (especially the lower city) but you can't judge a book by its cover. Hamiltonian’s are REAL. Now, if we can find a way to blow up the downtown and re-build it, Hamilton will flourish. As it stands now, it's hard to call downtown Hamilton "beautiful". Oh yeah, and the whole Pan Am fiasco was embarrassing.”

"I've been doing the show for over nine years—the first eight with Donna Skelly as my cohost. People think Donna and I hate each other. Nothing could be further from the truth...we despised each other. No, just kidding. Donna and I get along great, but I think I was holding her back. She will make a great politician some day. She's passionate about people and will go to bat for anyone she feels is being treated unfairly. As for Liz West, I've only known her for about a year, but she's a great co-host and we get along very well. It's unfair to compare her to Donna. They are two very different people.”

“Bubba O'Neil and I have been doing the show since August of 2010 and it's really starting to grow an audience. Seven PM is a tough time for a sports show, but the viewers seem to enjoy it, especially since they can win a prize if they get the trivia question. Bubba is an unabashed Sabres, Bills and Tiger Woods fan. I don't like any of them, so we have our differences. Doing a live show every night is very exciting. I did Sportsline for 11 years at Global, but that was at 11:30 at night. I have a lot more energy at 7:00 PM. Plus, when you get old, it's hard to stay up late.”

“The days of real journalism are over. Everybody is an expert now and everyone's opinion is available. I don't like news organizations that want to get the story "first", and fail to get the correct facts. How many times have we chased a story that proved to be unfounded, uncorroborated and just plain wrong because some idiot read it on a blog somewhere? Whatever happened to verifying a story by seeking out another source to confirm what the first one said? Not these days. We're all in such a hurry to "break" a story. It leads to the public not trusting the media.”

“The dumbest rule is the single point for a missed field goal. Since when does somebody get a 1/3 credit for failing? Hey, three points if you successfully kick the field goal, zero points if you miss it. It's really quite simple. The other dumb rule is in hockey. Make each game worth three points. If a team wins in regulation, they get three points. If it goes to OT or a shootout, the winner gets two, the loser gets one point. This way, you put a real value on a regulation win, and teams won't be playing for a tie in the latter stages of the third period. Oh yeah, one more thing: you should be able to yell as loud as you want when a golfer is about to take a shot. Just like in baseball.”

Downtown Hamilton, viewed from The Terraces on King, with the St. Charles Catholic Church on the left and the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church on the right | photograph by Reg Beaudry

Kevin Makins |

Let me give you a scenario I experience frequently: My wife and I are at some sort of city event, her connecting with people she met months ago on Twitter, me trying desperately to pretend I know how to use it. The conversations are wonderful, but tend to follow a pretty distinct pattern: you meet someone new, you talk briefly about the city (“It's amazing isn't it?” “It's very up-and-coming” “...Totally distinct from Toronto!”), and inevitably encounter the next question: “So what do you do?” Typically, we go around the circle as people share all the exciting and creative projects they are a part of. When it gets to me I put on a smile, and do my best to prepare for the inevitable awkwardness that floods the circle as I respond with: “I'm a pastor.” Now, I don't know exactly why it's such an uncomfortable moment, but it is! Perhaps my new friends are waiting to see if I'm going to explode into a rant about hell or family values or whatever, or maybe it's that I don't quite fit the mental image of a pastor (I'm in my mid twenties and I don't wear a little white collar). Maybe most of all, the pause is simply due to the fact that in spite of all of our education, progressive thinking, and urban values, we simply don't talk much

So when Wal-Mart invades Center Mall, or my neighbour's absentee landlords profit from their ignored properties...I am learning that my default response needs to be taking a step back and intentionally asking, “What does God want for this city, and how can I partner with him in that work?”

about faith, or religion, or God anymore. Unlike previous generations, most of us weren't raised going to church. At most we maybe attended on special holidays or for the odd baby baptism (with the little triangle sandwiches to follow). The truth is that we have inherited a world of materialism, one that treats anything that could be seen as “spiritual” with great skepticism. We simply weren't handed a framework with which to engage the divine, making faith seem irrelevant. For much of my life, this is how I viewed God: irrelevant. I would have said that I “believed” in God, but my Christian worldview was quite narrow. I knew it had a lot to say to individuals (cue highway sign asking you if you have “invited Jesus Christ into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior”), but religion seemed to be silent when it came to city issues such as social justice, creativity and the arts, urban planning, ecological justice and the like. I still believe the way of Jesus challenges us as individuals, but a few years ago I started to understand just how big God's plan actually is. I used to ask what God's plan was for me, but I am learning that he actually has a plan for us. It was the Old Testament book of Isaiah that first

GOD AND THE CITY immersed me into the world of God's desire for the city. Isaiah 65:17-25 talks about what God wants for all cities; that the city would be a place where children can grow and learn, where the elderly are given dignity and honor, where our houses are seen as homes and not just investments or generators of income. The city described protects its most vulnerable citizens, and encourages creative entrepreneurs to work on behalf of the city, not just for their own benefit. That city moves beyond monetary gain and grandeur in order to create a culture of creativity, sustainability, local accountability and simplicity. Health care, economics, neighborhood, local produce, small business, social justice, refugee claimants, art crawls, libraries and coffee shops; it was the writings of Isaiah that broadened my imagination, bringing me into the much bigger story about a God who is interested in all aspects of our lives - especially our life together in the city. So when Wal-Mart invades Center Mall, or my neighbour's absentee landlords profit from their ignored properties, or Lucene Charles and her daughter are threatened with deportation, I am learning that my default response needs to be taking a

step back and intentionally asking, “What does God want for this city, and how can I partner with him in that work?” Theologian Bruce Waltke writes: “The righteous are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves.” Our city needs the righteous. For myself and the church that I am a part of, we see this righteousness most in the life of Jesus, who was willing to give up everything he had in order to advantage those around him. Despite our weaknesses and our failures, this life of Jesus is slowly manifesting itself among us, making us better servants to each other and the city we love. We're finding God is more relevant to our city than we might have thought. KEVIN MAKINS is the pastor of Eucharist Church, a church start up in downtown Hamilton. He also received his MDiv from Heritage Seminary. He and his wife live, love, play and pray in the bay city. You can connect with him and the church at facebook.com/eucharistchurch.


Profile for urbanicity

urbanicity - April 2012  

The premiere interactive forum for constructive, thoughtful, provocative, and local ideas, issues, and experiences

urbanicity - April 2012  

The premiere interactive forum for constructive, thoughtful, provocative, and local ideas, issues, and experiences

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