Tag: BBC

Miss Myrtle’s Vancouver: Pomegranates

He smiled. Daroo had always seemed very serious, almost unapproachable. He struck me as being in his late 20’s, and he never cracked a smile. Ever.

Until the morning I put down my only grocery purchase – two large pomegranates. He smiled. I asked if he liked pomegranates, and he answered wistfully “We have two pomegranate trees in the garden, back at my home.” When I asked him where “home” was, Daroo responded “Syria”.  When pressed further, he added “in a small village near Aleppo”. Instantly, I understood the underlying sadness that his face always expressed. Hoping that Daroo might share the story of how he had come to Vancouver by way of Aleppo, asked if we could meet for coffee. He agreed.

Daroo was born in a Kurdish village near Afrin. It sits near the north-west border of Syria and Turkey. The region is called “Kurd-Dagh”, the Mountain of the Kurds. His parents still live there. The village is famous for its bountiful olive, fig and pomegranate trees. Daroo says that once you taste Afrin’s fruit, all others will forever pale in comparison.

“Neighbouring Azaz is also home to many Turkmen and Arab communities. Almost everyone, Kurds included, is Sunni Muslim. Kurdish identity is based not on religion, but on ethnicity and cultural heritage. Overlooking the Afrin River, within sight of the Turkish border, sprawl the vast Roman ruins of Cyrrhus” –  Diana Darke, BBC

The thriving, ancient Syrian city of Cyrrhus was founded in 300 BC, by Seleucus Nicator, one of Alexander The Great’s generals. Its history over the centuries includes Roman, Armenian, Byzantine/Justinian, Muslim and Crusader rule.

Daroo was born into a family of five sisters and one brother, with lots of aunts and uncles. He played with his brother, sisters and friends in the family garden and roamed the streets of his village and Afrin. He remembers that when he was a child, all the members of his family had to sign an Oath of Allegiance to the ruling Ba’ath Party, led by Hafez al-Assad. The family avoided politics, and the community was largely left to its own devices.

Daroo also remembers, that even as a young boy, he knew that he was “different”. He knew early in his life that he was gay. He was not alone – when he eventually went to work and study in Aleppo, he discovered a large, vibrant underground LGBTQ community, where he fit right in. The Hafez al-Assad Regime enforced Article 520 of the penal code of 1949, which prohibits “carnal relations against the order of nature”, and provides for up to three-years imprisonment. Members of that community have been and continue to be jailed, beaten and often executed. Neighbors and even family members continue to inform on others.

Someone reported Daroo in 2008. In jail for 5 days, in an underground cell, he and several friends were packed into “a shithole” where he often had to sleep standing up, hearing endless beatings and screaming. He himself was beaten so severely, that he passed out. The five days felt like five years. His frantic family pooled their resources and paid the local police and judges, expensive bribes. He, his two gay and one transgender friends, were finally released from jail. Even though he was released, he had to go back and forth to court for a year. Fortunately he was given parole.

In 2011 The Arab Spring, which had given so many in the Arab world hope, was hijacked by radicals, but all that the Kurds really wanted, was a secular Syrian Democracy. Life began to change for the worse. Even in the face of all of these challenges, Daroo found something that would underpin his life forever…

Daroo fell in love with the writings of William Shakespeare. He majored in English Literature at Aleppo University. The Bard’s plays transported Daroo to another time, another place – but they also spoke of the very contemporary treachery, horror, loves, lives, wars, births, deaths and laughter that were life in Kurdish Syria. Daroo and his classmates wrote their final exams in 2013. While he sat in the eerily quiet exam hall, with pen in hand, the Russians carpet-bombed the University.

His passion for Shakespeare shaped Daroo’s decision to remain in his family’s Aleppo home, even after they had returned to the relative safety of Afrin, because the Bashir Al Assad – Putin regime stepped up bombardments of Kurdish communities and “rebel strongholds” like Aleppo. On that fateful day in 2013, all around him, many of them friends as well as classmates, 80 students, died. Daroo kept his head down. He kept writing. “I studied so hard and so long I wanted to graduate or die. I wasn’t afraid, I was fatalistic.”

Daroo passed. Aleppo University exams were suspended for a month. Although he didn’t realize it, he was still in shock. The day he was awarded his BA in English Literature, he also received an official notice from the Syrian government, saying that he was drafted into the Syrian military, and must report to basic training. Then and there, Daroo made one of the most difficult decisions of his life. Leaving his beloved family, he fled to Turkey.

Months before, Daroo met a farmer who transported tea and cigarettes into Turkey, in bags on the backs of several donkeys that he owned, in order to support his family, including small children. The man lived in the next village Sheeh, one village over from Afrin. Daroo helped carry some of those bags across the border into Turkey.

His sister had married a Turkish man and was living in Turkey. She had a passport and met Daroo after he crossed the border. He sat, emotionally exhausted, as she drove back to her family home. Daroo lived with his sister and brother-in-law for the next year. They all worked cutting fabric 12 hrs/6 days/per week for 600 turkish lira ($140 Cdn), to survive.

Daroo had applied for a passport before fleeing Syria. Amazingly, a year later, his passport in Aleppo was ready. He stole across the border to Afrin and bribed someone to steal his passport and bring it to him in Afrin. Passport in hand, he fled Syria for Turkey, and eventually made his way to Canada, Vancouver… And a New Life.

To be continued … Pomegranates 1

Footnote. Have never been a chest-pounding smug Canadian, but am very proud of our Country for taking in over 50,000 Syrian Refugees over the past four years. Many people came to Vancouver, and in spite of facing so many challenges, continue to enrich our Community in many ways. Yes, our social support systems are stretched – but life for those who fled the horrors of the Syrian war and impending Kurdish Genocide, is now bearable.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrrhus

Where are Batman and Robin When You Really Need Them? In Honor of Batman Day 2019, Here Is A 2017 Blog Post

Batman Robin and Villains

Have been feeling a bit depressed, irritable and overwhelmed lately, truth be told. Haven’t You?

The World is going to Hell in a Basket of Deplorables. The 2016 Armageddon Election that installed a Traitor, Brexit, terrorist attacks, the Parkland School and New Zealand Mosque Shootings, Putin, Xi, MBS, North Korea, Syria, Palestine, Yemen, South Sudan, Ukraine, Crimea invasions, bombings, floods, earthquakes, forest fires, teachers strikes, drone strikes, melting glaciers, doomed species, political gridlock and enmity, cancer, suicide, death and destruction: The list goes on and on and on…It’s in our faces 24/7/365.

While listlessly draped on the sofa watching TV, quite by accident, flipped onto an old episode of Batman. Holy Bat Cave!!!

BatCave Adam-West-Batman-Burt-Ward-Robin-Batcave

Laughed so hard for the next half hour, at the beautiful uncomplicated silliness of it all, and also cried for the sheer joy of remembering a kinder, gentler time. As a kid, never ever missed a single original show, and the absurdly wonderful humor is even funnier today, than it was then.

So many thoughts and memories: The Villains. Who can forget The Joker, Catwoman, The Penguin and The Riddler?  Their dastardly evil plots were quite benign by today’s standards. The sheer joy with which Cesar Romero, Eartha Kitt,  Julie Newmar, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin and others played their roles, was not lost on us kids. No scenery was left unchewed, no cliché held sacred…KAPOW!!!

Eartha Kitt Caesar Romero Batman Catwoman  Batman the Joker Pie

The sets were absurdly simple and whimsical. Yes, they had a sense of whimsy without cutting-edge technology getting in the way. The props were hysterical. From the looks of the old TV episodes, it must have cost $50 to make a show, excluding actors salaries (which by today’s standards would be absurdly low). That includes costumes and make-up. The wonderful cheesieness of it all, enhanced the shared experience. WE HAD TO USE OUR IMAGINATIONS.

Reminds me of the early Dr. Who and the TARDIS/Phone box from Britain’s BBC. The austere rough-hewn simplicity and boundless fun of its earlier incarnation was equally and wonderfully cheesy. These were after all, the same folks who brought us Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.

DoctorWho_Hartnell_2741758k Bill and Ben The Flowerpot Men

The sheer darkness and introspection of what followed, the Big Screen versions of Batman and Robin, have to a large degree mirrored the ever darkening lens of world events. Early magical Super Heroes like Adam West and Burt Ward, have been supplanted by the likes of Michael Keaton, Christian Bale and Robert Downey Jr., worthy actors in their own right, commanding a larger, brooding stage.

michael-keaton Batman  christian-bale Batman

The gazillion dollar budgets for each new Batman movie and its Super Hero cousins, become more obscene with every film. These budgets could lift several Third World countries out of poverty permanently. But I digress…

The witty repartee flew fast and furious with each Batman TV episode. Even as kids, we knew it was funny and as  an adult, it is even funnier.

Thelonious Armstrong compiled a list of some of “Adam West’s Funniest Quotes as Batman”. Here are a few of them. You probably have a favorite. It’s amazing how they relate to today’s global Gotham…

Batman POW 2Batman SPLATT!

1. “It’s obvious. Only a criminal would disguise himself as a licensed, bonded guard yet callously park in front of a fire hydrant.”  Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin need to be tied to fire hydrants and forced to watch old Batman TV episodes.

 2. We’ve come a long way from the Prime Minister’s exploding cake. Or have we?” Actually Dear Hearts,  we are not even close. Political  character assassinations have become a way of life. In some ways, Mitch McConnell has become the Martha Stewart of exploding cake…

Mitch McConnell Cake Photo

3. “A reporter’s lot is not easy, making exciting stories out of plain, average, ordinary people like Robin and me.” As Comrade Trump and Fox News never tire of telling us, media needs grist for its never-ending 24/7 mill. As Vladimir Putin’s minions at RT would tell you, hacking makes it a hell of a lot easier.

4. Robin: “You can’t get away from Batman that easy!”

Batman: “Easily.”

Robin: “Easily.”

Batman: “Good grammar is essential, Robin.”

Robin: “Thank you.”

Batman: “You’re welcome.”

Batman and Robin 2

Never has there been a greater need for both civility, and good grammar. Bigly! Canadian, American and European politicians are constantly breaking new ground in nastiness. In the Ukraine, they have all-out brawls. But No One has destroyed civility and good grammar with greater zeal and success, than the Traitor-In-Chief, Fake President Trump. Because he is a Very Stable Genius…

Ukraine Parliament 1  President Trump Holds Rally In Phoenix, Arizona

5. “Yes, he moves very quickly for an overstuffed and unlikely Egyptian Pharaoh”  THIS is my new go-to description for Don the Con… with apologies to the late Victor Buono.

Batman Pharoah

6. Robin: “Let’s go!”

Batman: “Not you, Robin. They have strict licensing laws in this country. A boy of your age is not allowed in a drinking tavern.” Haven’t been in a ‘drinking tavern’ in years. Have left all that to Brett Kavanaugh. Funny how in the US you can do your grocery shopping and buy all the alcohol you need at the same time. Here in Cantada, well British Columbia to be exact, we have to go to the government liquor store to buy  champers and single malt whisky. But I digress…

Batman Robin in a Bar

7. Batman “Catwoman, I find you to be odious, abhorrent, and insegrievious.” Don’t know about you, but I just adore that word insegrievious. Am going to make it my word of the month. And how anyone could find the delectable Julie Newmar odious, is beyond me.

Catwoman Batman Insegrevious

8. “Robin: Where’d you get a live fish, Batman?”

Batman: “The true crime fighter always carries everything he needs in his utility belt, Robin.” Am firmly convinced that this is the perfect metaphor for Hero Robert Swan Mueller…

Batman Words 3 Mueller Its Mueller Time Meme

9.  “It is the duty of every good citizen of Gotham City to report meeting a man from Mars in a public park”. Will keep this in mind while watching jailbird George Papadopoulos lie his way through more TV interviews, or during the next wave of Border Patrol and ICE putting more Children In Cages in Trump Concentration Camps, as “illegal immigrants”.

10.   “No, Robin. With my head sticking out of this neosaurus costume, I might not appear like an ordinary, run of the mill crime fighter.”  Said Trumpanzee Alex Jones, to no one in particular – EVER.

Alex Jones Frog

11. .“Bartender, a bit of advice. Always inspect a jukebox carefully. These machines can be deadly.”  This ad hominem always worked well for Brett Kavanaugh, and in various pubs in Northern Ireland.

12. “Let that be a lesson. In future, be more careful from who you accept free lemonade.”  Dear Trumpanzees and Trump Base, Batman was speaking to you!

Batman Robin Lemonade

13.  (after coming through Barbara’s window): “We would have entered the building by more conventional means, but we didn’t want to startle the tenants.”  Am certain this was meant as a cautionary tale re Vladimir Putin and his army of Russian hackers.

Batman Robin Climbing Bldg

All thanks to the Original Guys in Tights, those fearless and pithy crime fighters, The Caped Crusader and Robin.

They weren’t slick or technologically advanced. They just got the job done, and always saved the day. They brought us joy and laughter. Raising a dram to Adam West who will forever be my Batman, Burt Ward who played Robin, Alan Napier, who played  Alfred Pennyworth, and the rest of the glorious cast of unforgettable characters, May the Road Always Rise Up to Meet You!

Alfred Batman Robin in Batcave