It’s now 11 years and a week or so since she passed, and now 30 years since that fateful summer when we first met. That special relationship put myself and her children on a path that I never could have foreseen.
I haven’t written much about the kids this year, especially as I’ve only seen them twice. As I’ve explained, they’re not mine through blood or law, but they are of my heart nevertheless. In every way that truly matters to me and to them, we are family, and they’ve taught me so much about how it is to be a proud father.
Terry completed his stage in Las Vegas, and then extended it, and then extended it once again. He’s on leave of absence from culinary school now, simply because he was encouraged to travel and learn under some of the best in the culinary world. He’s in England, doing a stage on a culinary level that simply stuns me. There are no words I can express to describe the heights he will achieve.
Georgia is in year 2 studying law, the very degree her own mother couldn’t complete due to the events long ago. In a moment of face palm humor and frustration, she continues to show the stubbornness, passion and brilliance that her mom possessed. You see, she introduced to me her new boyfriend, another Chinese kid who I swear resembles me a little. But this time, he seems to genuinely love her, and they met through the same law program. Of course, I warned him as a father to take good care of her or else, but he already knew better than to upset her. She’s going to be brilliant, but I admittedly look forward to see her walk the aisle in a white dress.
But that’s not the purpose of this blog, and why I returned to the Days. The real story is why that chance meeting 30 years ago continues to guide my life even now.
As you’ve probably read, I’m running for office now. I wasn’t planning to, but I discovered that I had to. There’s the classic saying, “All it takes for Evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” But while I subscribe to such dramatic thoughts, I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it far better:
I’ve always tried to be a defender for others. I see that the highest aspiration of a person is to serve his or her fellow citizen and found that the problems we see in life is very often rooted in silence. I simply want to serve my city, my home and make it just a little better each day, and to speak out to hopefully inspire others to act and do the same.
Now, I have a chance to serve and make a real difference on a great scale. There are so many causes that matter to me. Education. Equality rights. The future of Calgary. Small business. My friends and family. So many and more… and to make a difference, I choose to stop being someone who spoke from the audience into someone who wants to speak truth to power. This truly unique opportunity has come up, an invitation to run for office and have a voice where it matters.
Why am I standing up for what I believe in, when others could have been content from the sidelines? It was Terry who inspired me. He took the chance and had the bravery to come out to me, telling me a truth where so many other children found themselves ostracized, beaten, abused or even banished as my friend, photographer Kelly Hofer. With this decision, he showed me what true bravery was, and why I fight now.
One summer long ago, my first love and I kissed. It was a cheeky french kiss at a time where I was helpless while pretending to demonstrate mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. It was a kiss full of mischief, joy and bold acts of young love and sweet moments. It put me on a path, through her legacy, that guided me to this moment of perfect clarity and the bravery to act.
To my wife, my friends, my city, the people of Calgary-Glenmore, and the bravery of a young man who I love as my own son, I dedicate myself to serve, to inspire others, and most importantly, I choose to lead. I am Terry Lo, a dreamer fighting to make a great Calgary into reality, and I want to be your MLA. And this is a call to action to all, and I beg of you to stop being neutral or silent. Help me, be brave and stand up and act.
The Story of the Days Before Tomorrow and the Children
(This is more of a personal musing on a life overly lived this past year. It may be of interest, it may not. But in the end, it’s an insight into the life of a quirky lover of Calgary.) Wow. As of Oct 15, I’ve spent 44 yrs. on this dusty ol’ planet of ours. 44 years where I got to see my waistline go from 0 to an astounding 48 and settle on 34. 44 yrs where I had to live with the knowledge of the lives I’ve saved, failed to, and outright lost through tragedy and simple fate. And 44 yrs to see my life evolve once more from someone who served a few to one who found a new path to help. Oh, and 44 yrs where I learned to write in overly sentimentalist terms. Ok, enough with the maudlin style of writing. Overly poetic and melodramatic, though the practice would help me get a job scripting the next Thor movie.
Now let’s see, I turned 44 last week. I’ve helped raise over $40K directly for charity in the last 18 months, and highlighted the Calgary food scene. I’ve left the Investigation business to become a Social Media Manager, and apparently a pretty decent food event creator as well. I’m well regarded in several social media circles, both locally and internationally, and even had a chance to highlight old media skills once more. More importantly, I did this all while wearing pants most of the time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PTLKPx4kHA
In this time, I’ve come to enjoy my new position as a surrogate father to a gay son (go Terry… so proud of you) and a daughter that reminds me an awful lot of her late mom. Dragon boat paddling is still my passion in sports, though as the years go by I’ve started to see that my final years of competition are upon me as my back isn’t what it used to be. I’ve seen some great restaurants come up, and met far more interesting people.
What I have found though… – I’ve definitely become an outspoken atheist. As per my prior posts, I’ve found that the ongoing hypocrisy of organized religion is a far bigger problem than a support. I’m basically burning my political future with this statement, but I would rather be known as being true to my lack of belief than to mollify the sensitivities of theists; – I have so much to learn about being a dad of a LGBT kid. I’m trying though. I’m trying. It’s amazing what that sort of insight has done to my worldview, and I refuse to ever be quiet about their rights ever again as I was during my theist days. If anyone else wants to give me some advice, I’d love to know. – For that matter, I have so much to learn about being a dad of a 19 yr old daughter. In the almost 2 years we’ve gotten back together, she’s had 1 fiance, then a husband, was pregnant, then not, and still managed to succeed in law school. And that’s before I even get to all of the little lessons I’ve been discovering about the mindset of a girl. I always wanted a daughter of my own. Now that I do, I love and cherish her indeed, but I have to admit that it’s been a heck of a roller coaster ride.
The year to come will be a critical year in terms of special plans and personal growth. If you thought YYC Burger Week and YYC Pizza Week was impressive, keep an eye out. This is LITERALLY the start. – A year since the YYC Floods, I love my home city ever more. So where is this post going? I’m really not quite sure myself right now, as when I normally write I do have a tale in mind. Did I learn anything? Probably. Was it anything useful? Probably not. But what I can say… I’m surprised by the numbers of people who I’m proud to call my friends, my family and most importantly, the travellers who follow my path and dreams along the way. For that, I thank you all. And I’ll hopefully see you all soon. Cheers.
“Chef Michael Noble has had one of the most distinguished culinary careers ever for a chef. He is a multiple gold and bronze medal winner for Team Canada in several of the world culinary Olympics, former head chef of Catch (leading to the resto being awarded the Best New Restaurant award a…” – Dec 2010
Those were the words that began my journey into food reviews and blogging in the #YYC community. Since that time, I’ve co-founded a city-wide food event, became a bit of a fixture on Twitter and in person at certain restaurants, and have built a bit of a reputation as the go-to guy for restaurant choices. I’ve written well over 150+ restaurant and related market reviews, some serious and some especially whimsical (my TWO reviews of downtownfood are more than self-explanatory) and made friends at every stop ranging from the chefs (Darren Maclean of downtownfood, Duncan Ly of Yellow Door/Raw Bar, Dustin Schafer of Sky 360 etc), those who I call the established writers (Dan Clapson, Vincci Tsui, Linda Garson, etc) who make a living writing and working in the food industry, to the “next tier”, who are established in their own right but make their bread and butter in other industries. I’ve built a name that’s growing, and I’m honoured to know these people as they’re all fascinating, brilliant in their chosen arts, and passionate about their dedication to food and what I like to call #RealFood.
But while those words above started the journey, it was being awarded “Yelp Elite” status that gave me a voice on what I wrote about, and in some ways how to write even if I didn’t necessarily agree with the full structure. It’s a controversial review website, international in scope, with a structure and a power that in some places can make or break a business. As it’s the one I’ve been associated the longest, I’m going to start this week to give my friends and followers some understanding on the structure, and some thoughts on responsibilities that we all have to consider.
Yelp is basically a review website, with content written by the normal consumer (ideally). Literally 10s of thousands of reviews are written every day throughout the world, for the most part written by the average every day person, on virtually every known type of business from auto body shops to gourmet restaurants. Each reviewer is requested to give a star rating out of 5 (sorry, no 1/2 stars though Yelp really should allow that). The reviews are then analyzed by some special algorithm that tries to determine if it’s a valid review, a fake or even a deliberate attack. As a backup, there’s a small army of readers in San Francisco that reads the reviews themselves, and reviews can also be flagged by other Yelp reviewers. But there are 2 types of reviewers, the regular Yelp member and a smaller group designated as the Elite of which I am one.
What’s the difference between the two? Well, I’d like to say quality of writing and general integrity. A lot of the average Yelp writers tend to make a review about a few of their favorite places, or places that made an especial impression on them. Far more are what I call one-timers, that is they would write one or two reviews in all, all to help out their friend’s business, a popular local hangout, or in a lot of cases, to purposely attack to try to ruin a business with horrific stories, very often imaginary. A Yelp Elite will almost always write about their actual experience, especially engaged with their local community and were selected for what appears in their writing and general personality to be honest overall (though occasionally incorrect). As such, especially as the Yelp Elite tend to be like a small percentage of the greater group, and highly sought for their opinions and reviews.
Now I will write a post on how the reviews are analyzed, how to write one and so on, but for now, I’m going to deal with one thing… what I like to call the Tyranny of the Yelper. Yelp, for better or worse, can seriously help or hurt certain businesses. In really depends on the nature of the business I find, but there have been actual published studies that back this up. As such, there have been offers by businesses to solicit a positive Yelp review from an Elite. Now this isn’t as prevalent in Canada as it is in the US, but there it is for all to see. The Yelpers, through social media, have an unprecedented amount of clout that otherwise didn’t exist 10 years ago. Bad word of mouth can always hurt a business, but through Yelp, it’s magnified a thousand fold in many instances.
Former food bloggers, the Calgary Foodies, were at one time the leading food blog in Calgary. But parenthood has superseded that passion understandably, and their site has since been shuttered. But I had contributed occasionally to their blog, including the review above about NoTAble’s Sunday Brunch, right up to a somewhat negative review I wrote about the last days of Mother Tucker’s in Calgary. It was never published, either on the Calgary Foodies’ site, or on my own.
When it was rejected, I looked at it myself, and then had a few friends’ read it as well. It wasn’t really a horrific review, just one where the age of the place was showing, and that for the very last Sunday Brunch sitting, it was pretty much without hoopla and protocol which was a bit saddening to see after such a long successful run. I never did ask Nolan, one of the foodies why it was never posted, but not too long after, he wrote a post himself about something he had learned himself, that just because you have a voice that people follow, it doesn’t mean it’s a voice that can be used as a hammer. A light flickered on in my head when I read that, and while my review wasn’t one that was slamming a hammer onto a business, it was one that was still negative in tone.
The Yelp Elite, and reviewers in general, have a voice that can do genuine harm to genuine people. A review about a bad experience in a restaurant could be the difference between a mom and pop shop being able to make the rent or shutter the doors. As my fellow blogger and friend, Wanda or @momwhoneedswine likes to state, Everyone could have an off day, or a bad experience. I’ve had some so-so dishes at my favorite places, poor service at my mechanic and so on, but this is something that should be expressed there and then WHILE you’re having that experience to give that business a chance to correct a perceived wrong. Your steak was underdone? Ask them to re-fire it. You don’t think your barber did a good job with your cut. Ask them to touch it up. But do it WHILE you’re having that experience.
Here’s where responsibility comes into play. Too many of us Yelpers and reviewers stay silent about a bad experience, and then take it out brutally on the business in a review afterwards. Again, if honest, a bad experience is a bad experience and if honest, should be reported, but should be done with the knowledge of the potential impact. I’ve admittedly written some pretty bad reviews as well myself, but no one can state that I didn’t at least try to give the business a chance to correct the issue. If the business still went out of their way to be complete jerks, well, so be it. But I’d like to remind everyone that we Yelp reviewers have a power to actually hurt people in real terms. This is our city, and I do my best to support it as best I can. I’d like to challenge the reviewers who are writing something negative that:
1) is the city really better with the loss of this business? Did I try to give them a chance to make amends?
2) depending on the nature and size of the business, am I crushing someone’s dreams? Do I really want to be the cause of the destruction of this venture?
In the 80s, an obituary of a legendary Montreal food writer had stated that she, over the years, deliberately shelved many a review of restaurants because while the experience may have been poor in execution, she knew that to publish a poor review would bankrupt that mom and pop business. I never understood why until I became reasonably well-known in the YYC Food community. There are so many that are literally struggling day-to-day, but have proceeded anyways because it was their dream. I ask, unless it was truly a horrific experience, hold off. Give them a little time. Try them again.
To my fellow Yelp reviewers, especially the Elite, and to reviewers of YYC in general, I know many of you already keep this in mind. But there are so so many of us that don’t.
Next week, I’ll explain the Yelp review model, my thoughts on how it works and the pluses and minuses.
It’s sad you know. The world where I lived in makes so many people paranoid for the stupidest reasons. And when they’re that paranoid, you really have no idea what to expect.
So to make a change of things, I’ve decided to talk about some of the past cases I’ve been in, that a psychologist was better warranted.
First, I’d like you to understand that many of these people genuinely need to have treatment. Of all of the cases I’ve been personally involved in with people I call paranoid, in only 1 case out of 6 YEARS actually panned out as a genuine situation… and even then that went sideways.
Next, if you’re wondering why I even took the cases in the first place, there’s 2 reasons. One, there’s the old saying, when there’s smoke there’s fire. For my “normal” clients, I’ve found that to be accurate. But in the realm of madness, it’s so much harder to tell. I had to give them the benefit of the doubt. Second, sometimes just having my presence and involvement was enough to give a little peace of mind. Either way, here are a few memorable clients or would be clients.
1- Killer lasers from above.
Around 2008 or so, a gentleman came in saying that the US army was after him, even trying to kill him. I admittedly went instantly into “look serious but try not to sigh” mode for obvious reasons. He barely looked like he had $100 total to his name, but I calmly stood by and listened. As for that plane you’re seeing, that’s a C-130 Hercules. It costs thousands to keep in the air. It costs hundreds of thousands to maintain. Inside of its belly is a 100-kilowatt laser capable of knocking hole through a 3’x3′ piece of metal from 20 km an hour, and costs tens of thousands of dollars to fire. But according to the would-be client, it wasn’t flying around New Mexico test grounds or somewhere in Afghanistan. Somehow, it was circling Calgary around and around, for the sole purpose of striking him.
2- Radiation girl
In 2009, this poor girl came into my store and gave me a pretty harrowing take of how an international conglomerate has been purposely trying to kill her. No matter where she would move to, this secret Illuminati was going to send a would be assassin to move into a nearby apartment or house or wherever she was and would dose her with radioactive isotopes. That’s when she requested I find out who was this international group, and to see if I could obtain a lead-lined suit of some sort.
For months, she would come in asking for one bizarre thing after another, but for the most part it was harmless. It was around the time that she started to ask for enough copper to make a Faraday cage and enough lead to line her home against plutonium is when I started to stall. Basically put, she was asking me to procure her tens of thousands of dollars of metal, to combat a supposed beam of radiation or a stick of plutonium that just happens to be lying around that was sent by secret illuminati killers. I couldn’t in all conscience take advantage of this. In the end (well so far at least), she still has her money, doesn’t appear to have been radiation poisoned the last 6 years, and I can sleep at night.
3- From the Tabloid Pages
Now this is something that’s unique. This client, I had honestly thought she was a paranoid schizophrenic. She walked into my office, and told me a story about how things were missing all the time.
Buuut, I hooked her up with a hidden camera, and then had it watch her living room. And wouldn’t you know, she really DID have someone coming into her place. The super of her building was later convicted for breaking and entering and theft, as she was one of many victims in that building while the super padded his income. Mission solved, and that was that… or so I thought.
The following week, she came back, with a video that she stated was conclusive proof that a team of ninjas with camcorders were filming her 24/7 for some secret website. Needless to say, I hate it when my initial thoughts of a person is later confirmed in such a surprising manner. As I couldn’t convince her otherwise, I ended up watching a 30 min video of trees swaying in the wind where apparently there are invisible ninjas. I have to admit, those ninjas were good. Never saw a thing.
4- The Purse Whisperer
This lady came in all perturbed and upset in a manner that was almost worrying. As she tried to describe her problem through her tears and her fear, she described how someone was trying to gaslight her by moving her purse every day a few inches here and there. Please note… I said MOVE, not steal, damage, break or hide… just move.
Well, I tried to reason with her, but there are just some cases that you can’t talk any sense to, so I just gave up and my boss designed a hidden wireless cameras system that did nothing but watch her purse all day long. Being a custom job, it wasn’t cheap, so I hope she found what she was looking for.
That’s enough for now, as there’s plenty of memories of my 6 1/2 years as a Spy/Investigator. In the meantime, I close off this entry with my farewell interview as I walked off into the sunset last month.
Wow. 43. I’m surprised I made it.
In this year, I’ve hit some pretty interesting milestones, some that were kinda expected, but most that had blindsided me entirely. Most have been a true honour to have accomplished or achieved, and some are still pending. But as is, it’s probably going to be one of the most memorable as life goes.
– After years of dragon boating (I started in my late 20s!!!), my team, The Red Eyes Paddling Club, has finally come out into it’s own, and has taken a festival outright. No consolation, B, C, D, E or whatever… it’s a clear outright win. Only a few weeks later, we followed up with that by being clearly the Bronze winner in another. Incredible.
– I’ve taken the social media lessons I learned the summer of 2012 and ran with it. I’ve always been comfortable as being a relatively altruistic type of person, but usually in the shadows. With social media, those same actions have led me into a whole new world where I can actually influence opinion and help on a scale I never could have reached before. (Yes, it’s probably a bit narcissistic as well, but damn it, to me if whatever I can do can genuinely have an impact, then why not.)
– Employment… well… I’m still here at Spy, though I’ve long since branched out into investigations. The difference before was that in the past, I did the work based purely on the odd occasional referral. Now I get regular requests for P.I. stuff all the time (I still pick and choose though).
– YYC Burger Week – now THAT was a hell of an experience. One of the co-founders of an honest to goodness city-wide festival! I had 3 tv appearances while the big brain herself, Sabahat, had 2 tv ones and a bunch of newspaper and radio ones as well. More importantly, we raised over $7000, sold over 6000 burgers, and gave 16 charities and restaurants a ton of free publicity. I’m seriously looking forward to year 2.
– Health – well, there’s always a sword of Damocles out there, but at least I managed to avoid any outright serious illnesses this year thus far. I could be writing this a bit early, but for now, it’ll do.
– Connections – this is a bit related to Social Media, but I’m shocked by the number of connections I’ve made over the year. Honoured with the ING ambassador scarf again, still a Yelp Elite, a member of Awesome Foundation – Calgary’s task force (during the floods) and more, I’m an actual known quantity in the city. And a number of my peers paid me the best compliment ever… that I represent the best that is in Calgary. I was, and still floored by the compliment. There’s quite a few I would say who are far more deserving, but it’s something I hold quite dear to my heart in many ways. As is, it’s inspired me to reach out even more into the Calgary sphere. It’s also inspired my writing, my blog and my new position as the Stories From Our Streets editor of Calgary is Awesome.com.
– Discovery – this was the first year I truly felt that I came out into my own. In one way, it meant that after so many many years of aspiring to be a knight, this is probably the first year I truly feel I am. There was a classic line that I always took to heart, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to stay silent.” Well, once and for all, I took a stand against everything I was against in one way or another…. so much so, that I was described as an activist even. Unfortunately, as I know it caused pain to my family, it also included one final affirmation against what I perceive to be a form of injustice in one controversial HUGE aspect of my life… I rejected religion once and for all, and declared that I am an athiest. From pretty staunch beliefs as a Catholic to a 32 yr journey (starting from the sacrement of Confirmation) to secular humanism, for the first time in decades, I honestly ceased to hate myself in a lot of ways. And in this, I found a new found freedom that I never expected.
– the Floods and Home – Despite living here for 10 years, the floods have shown me for the first time that I truly am home. The pure sentiment of other Calgarians trying to help is something I still can’t forget, and still haunts me today. But, Calgary is truly my home, and I want to do my best to help others aspire to that ideal.
And last and definately not least….
– Terry and Georgia. I still have to keep a lot of info about them under wraps, as I want them to have as much of a normal private life as possible. Right now, my readers of their tale number into the hundreds, but as this story unfolds still, it can possibly explode into far far more. All of the anger, sorrow, loss and tears that came from my very odd relationship with my 1st true love, has developed into a new family dynamic, where I get to try my hand at something very new… fatherhood. I’ll never have my chance to be a father with my own kids, but with T & G, I’ve learned that there are different types of parents and different types of familial love. They’re both still young, and they’re learning the mistakes I made. There’s some even bigger revelations which is coming in the next “New Frontiers”, one that I’ve been afforded a singular honour that I embrace wholeheartedly. And as the years go by, and as they eventually will be revealed to the world entire as my “kids”, I can only look forward to the time to come.
So that was the year that was. As for the year to come?
I’ve got a huge decision coming up. 2014 will be a very different year for me as I’ve found my true passion… one that I plan to follow. Life with progress with YYC burger week, and me growing and evolving in Calgary life… but for now, it’s a story that will be written with every morning breath.
To my friends, family, and my ever patient gal WK…. it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But with all of you alongside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sorry all, there’s plenty more to write about myself, the kids and the storm that’s coming. But, this time I have to say something as my city, Calgary, starts to resume some sense of normal life after almost 2 weeks of extreme floods and loss.
Ok Calgary. It’s been a hell of a last 10 days. Downtown has reopened. Many districts have power again. But a lot of our homes are still damaged beyond repair, some of our favorite haunts are shuttered for months, and time has simply stopped on that flood day at the Sisiska Nation and High River areas.
Most of us have lives to get back to, but if there’s any way you can spare a few hours a week to help our neighbours, I honestly implore that you do. What happened with the flood and it’s aftermath to recover is NOT a sprint, it’s a marathon. Too many of us will be feeling it for months. So as our Mayor said, when the pain really hits months from now, we have to make sure our neighbours know we are there for them.
One last point. English Poet put it best, in the line, “And They Also Serve.” It means that there’s a place for everyone in one way or another. Not everyone has to go tear apart drywall, slog mud out of the basements or clean away debris. There’s the sorting stations of donations around the city, folding and processing the Hell or High Water Shirts, first aid stations, rest stations and dozens of those little things that makes the volunteer army run.
Napoleon said that an army runs on it’s stomach. The same applies here, as how long do you think our volunteers and first responders would last at this pace without the food and water, and the simple pure generosity we’ve been inspired and aspire to. If you can’t help directly, think how much good you’ve done just by giving a few flats of water. But please, over the time to come, just do something.
It’s our country. It’s our city. It’s Home.
Rant over. Good luck and best wishes. – Terry