BOOMERBROADcast

Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Are you guilty of smuggling shoes into Canada?


Slowly step out of the car and show me your shoes.

The comments made this week by Donald Trump about scuffy contraband shoes being smuggled into Canada is just too delicious for this Canadian serial shoe wearer to ignore. In one of his latest unhinged rants Trump attempted to horrify patriotic Americans into vilifying Canada and mistakenly defend protectionism. By informing them that Canadians were so desperate for shoes and to avoid Canadian duties (or tariffs as he called them, which are not the same thing) he announced that we make covert trips to the United States to purchase and smuggle their prized and precious footwear back into Canada. Then, in order to deceive those pesky Canadian border security agents, we toss our old straw clogs at the border in Buffalo, scuff up our new made-in-America Reeboks and trip across the border undetected, fooling those filthy Canadian revenuers. What more proof do Americans need that Canada is a terrible place?

I have a confession. In fact, any Canadian who has ever visited the United States would probably admit to being guilty of the same thing. I have purchased shoes in the United States and brought them back to Canada. But I’m confused. I didn’t realize what I was doing was wrong, immoral or unpatriotic. And I certainly didn’t break any laws so there was no need to scuff up my shiny new shoes to fool border security because I’m legally allowed to bring back up to $900.00 in merchandise duty-free after an absence of a particular number of days from Canada. If I exceed the legal spending limits, then I’m prepared to pay duty to Revenue Canada for the chance to pick up something different from what I might find at home. And what sane woman in her right mind would ever scuff up her new shoes anyway?

“Her” shoe closet.

So how is this hurting anyone? I supported American business. I kept border security agents employed by checking my passport and sitting in their little booth to ask me a few simple questions to ensure I’m not packing heat. And the banks rejoiced at the service charges and exchange costs they levied when I converted my Canadian dollars to American. If I hurt anyone, it’s probably China, the mother lode of cheap shoes. And, of course, this whole exercise is moot if you’re a man; everyone knows that men only own two pairs of shoes, one brown and one black—unless they’re under 30 in which case they may also own a pair of runners. Cross-border shopping is a non-issue for men.

“His” shoe closet.

The ironic thing about this whole fiasco is that if Donald Trump actually cross-border shopped like real people, he’d realize that we have far better quality shoes in Canada than they have in the United States. Many of our shoes are Italian imports thanks to our large Italian immigrant population who have created businesses here. See, Donald—immigration is a good thing. The quality and styles of what we can get here are far superior to what most American stores offer and our prices are competitive. No one in the world manufactures better winter boots and coats than Canadians and thanks to our global business practices we have access to imported as well as locally-manufactured merchandise that is far better than south of the border. Just ask Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex who regularly sports Canadian-made brands.

Pssst! Mr. Trump. Wanna buy some protection?

Sorry Mr. Trump. You got some fake news there. You’ve somehow taken the issue of non-existent Canadian protectionism and twisted it into something you hope will justify American protectionism, but you’ve shot yourself in the foot. And unless you were wearing genuine Canadian-made steel-toed Kodiaks, Timberlands, Royer, Canada West, Caterpillar or other superior brands made in Canada, you could be missing a few lower digits. You’re certainly missing something, and that’s not fake news.

 


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A retailer who actually listens to customers. Glory hallelujah!


Monday morning’s Globe and Mail featured an article by Marina Strauss on the front page of Report on Business entitled Holt Renfrew resizes strategy to focus on core markets, brands  that immediately had me high-five’ing the air above my newspaper. Holt Renfrew (for my non-Canadian readers, it’s our answer to Neiman-Marcus) wanted to improve business so they finally did something I’ve been suggesting to The Hudson’s Bay Company in letters, emails and blog posts for years, which they’ve categorically ignored. Holt Renfrew (are you sitting down?) actually asked their customers what they could do better. Remember us? The often ignored customer is retail’s entire raison d’être but few retailers recognize that obvious fact.

Holt Renfrew: new and improved.

I won’t bore you again with all the links to previous blog postings I’ve written about The Hudson’s Bay Company’s missteps that could be totally alleviated if they just listened to me, the customer. Holt Renfrew President Mario Grauso is either a regular follower of boomerbroadcast.net (yeah! right!) or he’s as smart as I am!! He actually invited real, live customers of Holt Renfrew to a meeting and listened to their suggestions on how to improve business. And, to his horror and enlightenment, they told him. Here are just some of the things Holt’s customers wanted but weren’t getting:

  • more sizes that address a wider range of real-life bodies, including half sizes in shoes.
  • greater personal assistance in interpreting trends and styling.
  • better editing of merchandise so the shopping experience is not so overwhelming.
  • improved on-line shopping

To the curb.

Well. Blow me down. Aren’t these exactly the same things I’ve been ranting about for years? Grauso fired about half of Holt’s top executives and corporate staff, and eliminated many brands including Clinique and Michael Kors as well as their HR2 off-price locations that weren’t producing. Grauso is reinventing and repositioning Holt Renfrew to better serve (hold your breath) —yes, it’s true—their customers. Who knows better than we do what we want to lay out our heard-earned cash or credit card to buy? It would seem obvious to most consumers of retail goods but not to The Hudson’s Bay Company and countless other retailers.

The transition for Holt Renfrew will not happen overnight and probably will not be without some pain involved, but I think we’ll all be the ultimate beneficiaries—not to mention the owners of the privately-held business, the already-wealthy Weston family. Ironically, I’m not a prime Holt Renfrew customer (now that I’m retired) as their price points are somewhat beyond my budget, but I admire and heartily endorse their initiative. And I love to browse their store, holding up lovely items to admire myself in the mirror in futile attempts at my quest for a new and improved me.

P.S. OK. I lied about not including links to former postings. Forgive me, but here’s the most recent one, which should tell you all you need to know about my campaign to get retailers to listen to customer needs and wants. It’s all in a day’s work, or should be, for any retailer. (I probably don’t need to c.c. Mario Grauso as he obviously already follows boomerbroadcast.net.)

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/02/18/the-hudsons-bay-company-welcomes-new-ceo-and-this-shopper-couldnt-be-happier/

You’re beautiful mes très chères.


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Do you hear the call of the wild?


When I read Kristin Hannah’s earlier novel, The Nightingale (about a female resistance fighter in WW 2 France), it was obvious the lady can write, which is why I was anxious to tuck into her latest novel, The Great Alone. This story is set in Alaska in the 1970s and is steeped in graphic descriptions of the geography, the wildlife, the people and the unusual lifestyles they embrace. As I was reading the book I was amazed at the depth of research she must have undertaken, then discovered that she lived in Alaska which explains why she has such a deep appreciation and sensitivity for the area.

The main character, Leni Allbright is born to teenager parents (her mother Cora was only sixteen) during the sixties. When Leni’s father Ernt comes back from Vietnam with what would now be called PTSD, his demons surface in the form of anti-social behaviours and domestic violence against his wife. One day he receives a letter from the father of a deceased army buddy stating that his friend had left him a plot of land and a cabin in Alaska. Ernt sees this as the perfect opportunity to escape life and live “off the grid” so he packs his wife and young daughter into an old VW van and they head off for remote Alaska.

Upon the family’s arrival in a small, isolated community in late spring, they are befriended by locals including Large Marge, a former lawyer who has also left the bustle of urban life in Seattle and runs a tiny general store in town. The few people who live nearby pitch in and help the Allbright family set up their homestead on a muddy patch of land with a dilapidated two-room cabin. Life without electricity, running water and plumbing is challenging and in order to survive their first winter they must start growing vegetables, raise chickens and goats and learn basic wilderness survival strategies.

When teenage Leni starts school there are only about half a dozen students of assorted ages in the tiny one-room school. She makes an immediate psychological connection with Matthew Walker who is the same age. His father is one of the town’s founding families and because of their long history and hard work in the area they are somewhat better off and more established than most of the community’s inhabitants.

Leni’s father Ernt soon displays the psychotic behaviours he exhibited back in “the world” and he becomes unpopular with the other members of the community. He’s pegged a trouble-maker and the abuse he inflicts on his wife soon becomes apparent. His only friend is the equally irascible father of his former army buddy. Leni and her mother Cora function in a constant state of fear and tension in an effort to not ignite Ernt’s hair-trigger temper.

I definitely plan to read more books by lawyer-turned-author Kristin Hannah.

A close friendship develops between Leni and Matthew but they must keep it secret from Ernt for fear of serious reprisal. During their early years in Alaska, Leni and her mother Cora adapt and learn to love Alaska as much as the local people and feel they have found the place where they want to spend the rest of their lives. The challenge is how to survive not only the geographical and climate conditions but also the volatile Ernt. Beyond this I won’t tell you any more of the plot as I don’t want to spoil it but I can assure you the narrative is beautifully and sensitively written. Hannah has a deep understanding of life in Alaska and articulates rare insight into the psychology and practicalities of domestic abuse. While the story is distressing at times, it is also fascinating, sensitive and educational.

I found myself wondering how I would cope in such an environment. The story is set in the 1970s long before the advent of the internet and wifi and life in Alaska is not easy. While I like to think I could rise to the challenges I’m afraid I’m now a confirmed city girl. The story is compelling and beautifully written. I highly recommend The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

To order The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

To order The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah from Amazon, click here.

 

 


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Who cares if it’s swimsuit season . . . again?


Seriously??

Many years ago I read about a magazine editor who quit her job at a high-profile international women’s magazine because she just couldn’t face overseeing another annual swimsuit edition. I know how she must have felt because I can’t face another swimsuit season either. All the current magazines are full of tips on how to match a bathing suit to our individual figure types, how to look our best and feel confident. Pages and pages in the fashion mags have been dedicated to the latest swimsuit styles. The tropical patterns and colours are yummy and some of those scraps of fabric cost hundreds of dollars. The Photoshopped models look gorgeous. The reality is grim.

I’ll admit some styles are infinitely more flattering than others, but let’s face it, we’re never ever going to resemble anything close to those pubescent nymphets modelling the various styles featured in the magazine spreads. In fact, most boomers are even reluctant to go out in public in shorts much less a bathing suit. Those with cottages or winter homes in Florida can’t avoid donning a swimsuit occasionally but they’re usually hidden under diaphanous lightweight cover ups when we’re not actually under water.

I’ll have what she’s wearing!

It is virtually impossible for swimsuit designs to overcome what makes so many boomer broads self-conscious about beach wear. No amount of underpinning, tummy panels, supportive straps or bum tuckers will compensate for what nature has bestowed upon us after many decades of living our lives. By the time we’ve tried on dozens of unflattering designs in cramped fitting rooms with unflattering fluorescent lighting, cried a river, paid our dues at Weight Watchers, spray tanned our cellulite and waxed our lady parts to an unsightly, red rash, we’re fed up with the entire exercise. Sure, they tell us to feel good about ourselves regardless of our body shape—easy to say when you’re in your twenties or thirties. I sympathize with that fed-up magazine editor. This summer you’ll find me sitting in the shade and privacy of my back-yard gazebo, wearing elastic-waist shorts and a tee shirt, reading the latest New York Times’ best seller on my iPad mini. The beach is no longer my thing and even if it were, give me a birkini any day.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.


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The irony of drug marketing


The late Anthony Bourdain.

Last night I watched a series of programs about Anthony Bourdain on Gusto TV. During one episode in particular he spoke honestly about his entry into the world drug abuse, heroin in particular. He sat with a group of recovering addicts in Greenwood, a small town in Massachusetts plagued with the problems associated with opioid abuse. A local doctor explained how doctors freely prescribed Oxycontin and other pain-killers for everyday problems like sports injuries, getting wisdom teeth removed and back pain because the drug companies assured the doctors the meds were not addictive. When patients can no longer get legal pain-killers, they resort to street drugs and heroin. It’s a problem no longer limited to big city slums. Small towns are now victims of big-city drug abuse problems.

Nearly very commercial aired during this hour-long show was by a major pharmaceutical company promoting an assortment of remedies for real or imagined ailments. ‘Just ask your doctor’, followed by an exhaustive list of qualifiers. If you’ve ever watched television in the United States (not U.S. stations in Canada with substituted Canadian commercials) you’ll know what I’m talking about. I’ve counted up to 13 drug ads in a commercial break with 15 commercials on American television. Just an observation.


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Mr. Trudeau . . . we have a problem, a big one


Canadian border agents are being pulled from their posts at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and being relocated to rural sites in Manitoba and Quebec. The reason? So many asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are teeming across the border at remote locations that extra border service agents are need to handle the volume. The government is providing food, clothing and accommodation for these illegals while thousands of our indigenous people do not have basic housing, safe, clean drinking water and access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The government’s solution is insane. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from the United States should be turned back, not welcomed.

Illegal asylum seekers awaiting admission to Montreal stadium. Canada should tighten the border to illegals.

Our government is now building temporary housing (at taxpayers’/our expense) at these remote locations to accommodate those illegal immigrants. And now they’re inconveniencing legitimate, legal, tax-paying Canadians at Canada’s largest international airport so they can take care of illegals. That’s just wrong, wrong wrong. These immigrants are crossing from the United States into Canada at weak border points and getting preferential treatment which is unfair to those who go through proper legal channels to gain landed immigrant status. And furthermore, despite the current political climate in the United States, it is not a hostile country compared to Iraq, Syria or Russia. Legal immigrants are relatively safe and do not require asylum coming from the United States while they undergo proper processing.

The appeal of Canada may lie in our generous welfare system and universal health care. These immigrants will ultimately migrate to cities where they may or may not be able to find jobs, further stressing social welfare systems. University dormitories and sports facilities are being refitted to accommodate them while Canadians foot the bill.

The current approach of welcoming illegals and diverting resources to accommodating them completely disregards and disrespects genuine asylum seekers, people truly deserving of our resources. I’m totally in favour of immigration when done through proper channels. Asylum seekers from truly dangerous countries are welcome; the United States does not qualify. While the illegals are being treated to free meals and housing, legitimate Canadians are sitting for hours on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport because there are no border agents available to service them. Resources that could be going to help legitimate asylum seekers, our indigenous people on remote reserves and underprivileged Canadians are being diverted to aid illegals. Where’s the logic in that?


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Dinner at my door thanks to a friendly neighbour


One day few years ago, after my husband retired and after consuming several glasses of a lovely Cabernet,  he offered to cook dinner twice a week. “Now that I have time on my hands it’s only fair that I help out around the house a bit more,” he said in a weak moment of benevolence no doubt brought on by the wine. “How about I cook dinner Tuesday and Saturday nights?” Not being a huge fan of the kitchen arts, I was thrilled, ecstatic even. The next morning, in the light of day I thought he might a) conveniently forget his offer, or b) try to weasel out of it. He did neither and a culinary star was born, sort of.

The first week was glorious beyond my wildest imaginings. He cracked open one of my dusty, neglected Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and delivered a meal worthy of a fine restaurant. During preparation when I asked how he was doing, his response “I’m just waiting for my sauce reduction” was not only music to my ears but a phrase I don’t recall having ever used personally in my entire life. We then spent a lovely hour enjoying the meal he had lovingly and carefully prepared. He was an eager and enthusiastic novice who shared with me in minute detail his tips and techniques throughout the entire meal. But I’m not complaining.

As time went on, he did not renege on his twice-weekly cooking adventures although conversations with friends were liberally peppered with “We’re available any Tuesday or Saturday if you want to go out to dinner or invite us over.” More recently I noticed however, his culinary creativity is largely determined by what appeals to him at Longo’s prepared deli counter. The Jamie Oliver 5 Ingredients cookbook he got from Santa is growing metaphorical mold. But I’m still not complaining.

Our gourmet Tuscan sausage linguine.

Then, this weekend my lovely neighbour Fauzia rang the doorbell bearing one of those complete meal-in-a-bag kits that are delivered with an ice pack directly to your door. Each kit contains pre-measured fresh ingredients for a complete meal you select from an on-line meal preparation company. This one was for Tuscan sausage linguine made with pork which her family doesn’t eat so she kindly offered it us to try. Coincidently, it was Saturday night, not my night to cook.

While I took a nap on the couch (something I am skilled at), honey took over the kitchen, banging pots and pans to assemble the dinner. The commentary about how much cookware was involved was further complicated by the tab breaking off the can of diced tomatoes requiring an assortment of tools to crack it open. Eventually the dinner was ready. It was tasty, cost effective (we’ll get two meals out of it), amortizing out to about $6.00 per person per meal, although thanks to Fauzia, we got it free.

Happy wife; happy life.

It was a worthwhile adventure but he found the preparation more labour intensive than he would have liked, especially compared with picking something ready-made from Longo’s deli counter. “Only the onion was precut!” I was just thrilled to have a night off. And, as part of our arrangement, the cook also does the cleanup. Sort of. Tomorrow I’ll rewash the kitchen floor, rewash the stove top, the counters, the pots and pans and empty the dishwasher. But as Scarlet O’Hara so eloquently stated, tomorrow’s another day, and a night off is still a night off. Sort of.