Stranger than Fiction

What I think when I see frilly coverings in people’s bathrooms

Toilet with frilly white coverings. Caption reads “How dare you speak to me with such disrespect — on this, the day of my toilet’s wedding!”
Tap to view the “bride” at full size.

This ensemble was actually available for purchase at one point — the toilet ensemble and curtain were available for…$225?!

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

What happened with the accordion on Saturday night

Photos of Anitra and Joey posing in front of a neone sign that reads “Odd Birds / It’s ok to be odd”.
It’s OK to be odd. Tap to view at full size.

To celebrate our seventh anniversary, we took a a Thursday-to-Sunday road trip to St. Augustine. We had a great time, mostly because we had each other for company, but also because we brought this lucky charm, which made for an interesting Saturday night:

Joey deVilla’s blue “Valenti” 120-bass accordion.

Celebrating another anniversary

We started the evening here — Sainte-George Restaurant:

Exterior of Sainte-George restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.

It’s a place known for its European cuisine and its outdoor deck with a view of St. Augustine’s fortress, Castillo de San Marcos, and the Matanzas River.

Anitra, smiling with a glass of wine, while sitting at an outdoor table on Sainte-George restaurant’s deck.

We’d lucked out with our early reservation and were able to get an outdoor table with a view of the fort, river, and partygoers wandering (or stumbling) down the pedestrian-only St. George Street.

Joey, smiling with a glass of wine, while sitting at an outdoor table on Sainte-George restaurant’s deck.

“What do you want to do now?” Anitra asked after we finished dessert.

“I figure we should walk around and see where the night takes us,” I said.

With that, we got up and started making our way out of the restaurant. We was starting our way down the stairs when someone called out: “Hey, you with the accordion!”

Interior of Sainte-George restaurant’s upper floor, with arrows pointing to where I was and where they were.It turned out to be a table of eight, two of whom were celebrating their twentieth anniversary. We told them that we were celebrating our seventh, and it was congratulations all round.

“Here, let me play something for you,” I said, playing the first fitting song I could think of — Praise You by Fatboy Slim. It got applause not just from the table but the rest of the room, and the couple insisted on giving me a $20 bill by way of saying thanks.

“Looks like they covered the first round of drinks!” Anitra said as we walked out.

Bagging a discount

St. George Street in St. Augustine, at twilight.

We started walking southward on St. George Street and saw that Cotton St. Aug was still open.

“Do you want to take a look?” Anitra asked.

“I’d love to check out their aloha shirts.” I replied, and we walked in.

Interior of Cotton St. Aug store.

We were greeted by the manager, Bridget, and struck up a conversation. Of course, the question came up — “Could you play me a song, please?” — and I went with the crowd-pleaser, Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, which she recorded on video with her phone.

Anuschka “Lighthouse” handbag.

After the performance, Anitra started checking out their sizable selection of Anuschka hand-painted leather handbags. She picked out the “Lighthouse” design pictured to the right. As Bridget rang up our purchase, she looked at us, said “for the entertainment”, and gave us a discount.

“We’re on a bit of a roll tonight,” I said. We continued on our way south.

Turning music into free drinks

Exterior of Casa Monica hotel.

As we walked past Casa Monica (pictured above), a guy came up to us and talked about a friend of his who played classic rock on the accordion and asked if I did the same. I answered by playing AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long.

A couple overheard the performance and asked if I could play it again so that they could capture it on video for their friend. I obliged, and they invited us inside to buy us a drink at Casa Monica’s lobby bar, the Cobalt Lounge: 

Casa Monica hotel’s lobby bar, the Cobalt Lounge.

We enjoyed our drinks, and after a day that included climbing to the top of St. Augustine Lighthouse, touring Flagler College and the Lightner Museum, and miles of walking, we figured that we’d quit while we were ahead and call it a night.


R.I.P. Gerry O’Kane

Gerry O’Kane onstage with guitar, holding up a bodhran (Irish hand drum) with the Queen’s University Bands logo painted on it
Gerry with a bodhran with the Crazy Go Nuts University’s bands logo, which he painted on it.

T-shirt design: Photo of Gerry in sunglasses, with the text “Sex and Drugs and Traditional Folk Music”.

If you were a local in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in the ’80s and ’90s and enjoyed a pint (or more) of Guinness, chances are you saw Gerry O’Kane play a couple of sets of traditional Irish tunes, along with some of his originals.

I love live music as well as dark and rich beers served in cosy pubs, so I managed to catch Gerry during my first year at Crazy Go Nuts University, at a then-new pub called The Toucan. A couple of years later, I’d live in an apartment above that very same pub, which was near another pub called The Wellington, and Gerry played both places often.

Sooner or later, if you were a student at Crazy Go Nuts University and had any semblance of a life, you’d end up at a Gerry O’Kane show, where you’d learn to shout “Macintyre!” at the appropriate moments of The Old Dun Cow…

Later on, when I graduated and moved back to Toronto, I was still able to catch him when he came to town and played at places like The Monarch:

The exterior of the Monarch Tavern (Toronto) at night.

The Monarch Tavern’s (Toronto) distinct front door, at the corner of the building.

I learned a lot watching Gerry: how to read and banter with the audience, handle the usual cock-ups that will happen during a live musical performance, and of course, I also got a feel for what made traditional Irish music distinct.

Gerry O’Kane onstage, standing with his hands in the air.

It’s largely because of Gerry that I’m familiar enough with the Irish folk repertoire that I can passably back up Irish trad bands when called upon to do, as I’ve done a handful of times, including a couple of numbers with The Jackdaws:

Gerry suffered a stroke in late January, and he passed away earlier this week. Requiescat in pace, Gerry, and thank you for all the music.

Gerry O’Kane in blue shirt and jacket, smiling.

Gerry O’Kane, playing guitar in a small venue in front of a fireplace.

Gerry O’Kane, sitting on a rock by the water, playing guitar.More about Gerry O’Kane

The Current Situation

A message from Arnie to the Russian people

Arnie posted a video of an intense, impressive, and impassioned speech to the Russian people and government. It cites his connection to Russia through his idol, Yury Petrovitch Vlasov, multiple world record-breaking weightlifter, his work on Red Heat — the first American film to shoot on location in Red Square (and hey, who doesn’t remember “COCAINUM!”?)…

…and he even cites the story of his father, Gustav Schwarzenegger, who was a Nazi Brownshirt and took part in the attack on Leningrad in WWII:

Now let me tell you: When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. And when he left Leningrad, he was broken, physically and mentally.

He lived the rest of his life in pain. Pain from a broken back, pain from the shrapnel that always reminded him of those terrible years, and pain from the guilt that he felt.

He also commends the people in Russia who are protesting the war, commending them for their courage (remember, protesting the war can land you a 15-year jail sentence).

The video is subtitled in both Russian and English. It was originally posted on Twitter, but copies have been floating around in various places online, and it will probably become hot “samizdata” if it hasn’t already done so.

As long as we’re watching Arnie sending important political messages, let’s watch his message on the Capitol riot of January 6th, 2021:

It Happened to Me

Tonight’s plans include…DARKNESS! (or: “Dark-ness! No re-funds!”)

Laser-printed notice at movie theater box office informing that “The Batman” has plenty of dark scenes and refunds will not be issued for DARKNESS.Wait — people ask for refunds for darkness?

Here’s the text of the poster, with all its oddly abitrary capitalization (a growing phenomenon) faithfully recreated:



This is a Dark Movie and will
have a lot of Dark Scenes.
We will Not Issue any Refunds
or Re-Admission Tickets due to
DARKNESS as the Studio
informed us this will be a Dark

Of course, you can’t properly mention “Batman” and “DARKNESS” without this playing this tune:

America The Current Situation

Contrary to what his dumbest son says, Donald Trump is not a strong person

Before you buy into yesterday’s statement by Eric Trump — the dumbest of Donald Trump’s sons (and he’s up against some stiff competition) — that Putin’s KGB training allowed him to see that Trump was a strong person…

…consider for a moment these recent headlines of Trump’s inability to criticize Putin in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

Eric Trump is right, but not in the way he thinks. Putin did read Trump correctly, but Putin’s assessment wasn’t that Trump was a string person, but quite manifestly the opposite. Putin knew he was dealing with someone who was half-man, half-marshmallow.

Just look at the differences in their body language at the 2018 summit in Helsinki, where he chose to listen to Putin over the FBI about Russian election interference:

Trump has said far worse things about allies than he has about dictators. He admires dictators, in that way that weak people admire brutality, in the hope that maybe one day, they’ll get to be the oppressor. That’s not strength at all.

Also worth reading: A whole lot of links on Trump, Putin, Russia, and Ukraine

The Current Situation

Ukrainian pianist plays the piano in her bombed-out home one last time

In the video above, Irina Maniukhina, a professional pianist in Bila Tserkva, a town 80 km (50 miles) south of Kyiv, said goodbye to her home by playing her piano before fleeing from further attacks.

I can’t blame her — if it were me, I’d also play it one last time, too. Her playing is quite good, and she’s not playing easy pieces, either.

A bomb had landed about 10 meters (about 30 feet) from the house, which was still standing but strewn with debris. With the notable exception of one of its “G” keys, the piano seems undamaged and only a little scuffed.

Maniukhina started by playing the first few bars of Schubert’s Impromptu Op. 90 No. 2, followed by Chopin’s Etude Op. 25 No. 1.

(It should be noted that Chopin fled Poland shortly before the November Uprising, a rebellion against the Imperial Russia.)

Her daughter Karina recorded the video and shared it on TikTok, where she captioned it with “Do not judge, my mother is a professional pianist and decided to play to let go of this case.”

As her mother played, Karina walked through the house to record the destruction. Here are some stills from that portion of the video:

Here’s a report that includes quotes from Karina: Ukrainian mum defiantly plays piano to ‘say goodbye’ to bombed home in heartbreaking clip.

An excerpt:

Karina said that her mother wanted to play to help forget about the war.

She said: “It wasn’t a sad moment. My mother just wanted to let go of unnecessary thoughts, and I remembered events in our house with a smile.

“She wanted to forget about the war and her worries for our safety. She’s been playing all her life and she even graduated as a pianist.

“Since there was a lot of ash and dust in the keys and everyone was in a state of shock, she could not play for a long time.”