A Brave New Way Home


As the Toronto Star reported last year, there is no lack of controversy as the Way Home festival hits the Orillia area.   This is massive music festival coming to Burl’s Creek, a big open-ground event center, just north of the city.

Complaints from local citizens include the volume of the music, zoning violations when the grounds are used for camping, the re-purposing of prime farmland, garbage, traffic, and other problems.  Essentially, the controversy has been rolling since the property was purchased by its new owners and enlarged.  Check out the highlights from last year:

What’s more, there’s Boots and Hearts, a huge country music festival that comes in August.  Check out the ‘movie trailer’-style video:

Obviously, these are gigantic parties.  Whether or not local citizens are happy with the events in their backyards, it’s obvious that mass gatherings are places for much raucous behavior, drinking and debauchery.  There wouldn’t be much fun at these types of events if those elements were missing.  But yet, we know that alcohol is a BIG part of the down and dirty, and wherever alcohol lives in mass quantities, we have the potential for harm.   Violence, injury, overdose.

This raises the larger issue as to where where social and individual responsibility meet in regards to alcohol.  Do the consequences of consumption belong exclusively to the drinker, or do they also belong to the planners and organizers of the social context, where alcohol is deeply embedded and entrenched?

Summer Cometh with Booze in Hand


Here comes summer, and we’re about to see our favorite activities come to life.  Camping. Swimming.  Festivals and music.  The Beach.  Canoeing. Hiking. Boating. Water-skiing.  Backyard parties and get together’s – Family Reunions.  Okay, maybe that’s not your favorite, but whatever you like to get up to in the summer…I am sure that you’ll notice that so many of these activities have one thing in common – booze.

Summer never met a drink it didn’t like!


When the weather is fine, you got drinkin’, you got drinkin’ on your mind!

Sure, we understand the impulse to let loose, to relax, to enjoy sunny weather and vacations.   But when we encourage restraint (and we’re just about to), we do so for the good of your health.  And of course, there’s a reductionist theory out there that as long as we don’t drink and drive, nothing is amiss.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth – such oversimplification.  Drinking and driving, while idiotic and dangerous, is only one measure of a complex and multi-layered alcohol mosaic, that includes cancer, injuries and falls, impulsiveness leading to sex, STI’s and unwanted pregnancy, aggression, dependence.

At least one of those things you’ve seen.  And if none of the above apply, how about over-eating, needless calories, rash thoughts turned into regretful words, embarrassment, or relationships put under strain…?  Alcohol has many impacts beyond laughter and reduced inhibitions.  And you kinda know it, but your go there anyway – because it’s a habit, or you love it, or it’s what expected, or all three.

So when your vacation or your weekend or your afternoon at the cottage begins…we encourage you to enjoy in moderation, mostly because you know you should, most of the time. To adhere, if you can, to the low-risk drinking guidelines.  Yes – by all means – enjoy your vacation.  You deserve it.

Relax.  Read.  Ponder. Indulge.  Bask in the glow of the sunset and forget every thought.   But also, please, for you…when you crack open that Chianti…come back around and think.  You deserve that too.

Down the Chute to Moderated Consumption

1024px-Big_chute_acansinoI am ruminating on the motivations to cut back on alcohol consumption.   Not just my own drinking, as despite being the primary blog man for this spot, I do occasionally drink.   But for anyone’s drinking.

I’ll guess when we feel the urge to change our deleterious behaviours, it comes from wisdom combined with a dose of vulnerability… or a sense of our own mortality.

I’ll give you a comparative.  When I was a younger man, we used to swim in a run-off channel that ran parallel to the Big Chute on the Severn River.  This secondary channel had been blasted out by dynamite. As such, it had several odd cliffs and high spots where one could leap off, plummet to the water, get swept into the current, and emerge, bobbing up 20 feet away.

Later, in my late 30’s I went to look at the channel, for nostalgic reasons…and gazed upon the perch where I had historically leapt for my life.  I was in shock.   I thought, ‘I must have been insane!’.  Truly, I thought if I had done it but one more time, I would have slain myself, the place being so perilous.

So now, I read this article in the Toronto Star about older folks being urged to reexamine their drinking habits.  Because:

  • As we age, we become more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, chemically, physically
  • We have less water content and less muscle mass in our bodies as we age, meaning alcohol takes longer to process
  • We need to work at little harder to remember, to concentrate on tasks like driving. Impairment makes things much harder
  • Our health on the whole can deteriorate, and alcohol can make things worse.

Now, I am not saying that having a drink is like jumping off tall rocks into a small pool of swift flowing water.  But what I am saying is that if we could look at our drinking from the outside, or with fresh eyes somehow, we might see that the choices of our youth might not match the needs and realities of our more mature selves.

Bread, Beer, and the tough calls to come


In Muskoka, we don’t all live on the lake, soaking up sunshine and lounging on the dock.  When most people think of Muskoka, they think of big cottages, big lakes, big toys and big money. For most of the permanent residents living here, that isn’t reality – it’s as far-fetched as winning the lottery.

Most Muskoka residents work in the retail or service sector, generally meaning lower paying jobs, no benefits and seasonal employment.  Unemployment can make for a long and lean winter.  So many in Muskoka live close to, or below, the poverty line.

So, what exactly does this mean to many of our friends, family, co-workers and neighbours?  It may mean that we have to make some tough choices about dollars. Perhaps you’ve seen the recent PSA’s on TV where they’ve shown this dilemma… someone has to make tough choices… food …or ….electricity… this month?   These choices are made every day by people living on the other side of the tracks within ‘luxury Muskoka’.

If that’s a more genuine picture of life here in the North, I am shuddering to think of choices to come, as Ontario instigates its plan to put beer (and later, wine) inside grocery stores, late this year.  What decisions will grow more difficult, when diapers share the shelf with booze?

Whale Sharks and Sting Rays and Alcohol, Oh My!

sarahI was recently on vacation at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico.  The reason for the trip was to swim with whale sharks and other marine life, of which I did plenty.

It was amazing to swim next to a giant whale shark and look into its eyes, in the middle of the open ocean.  I also saw sea turtles, sting rays, baby squid and beautiful exotic fish.

I’ve been to an all-inclusive resort before and of course, alcohol was ever present, even more so than I remember from previous trips.  I think I was hypersensitive to it, for two reasons:

  1. Within my job as a nurse,  I work to promote the low risk drinking guidelines
  2. I was with my young daughter, who’s becoming more and more aware

Alcohol was everywhere. There was booze in the fridge in my hotel room, at the swim up bars, bottles of wine at every table, and mimosas were offered for breakfast.  Each night there were prizes during the entertainment, all alcohol – either tequila or red wine – and the poor kids that won one such game had to forfeit their prize.

Luckily, we spent most of our time in the water, so my daughter did not witness anything distasteful in relation to other vacationers getting intoxicated.  For certain, it helped that we were in bed a lot earlier than most…

Have you experienced or witnessed any alcohol-related happenings while at an all-inclusive resort?  Tell us your story.

2015Tulum Beach

Is Booze the Main Event?


Sometimes we draw odd lines.  For example, a recent survey reported on by the CBC seems to suggest that we are okay with alcohol being served at public events.  Or folks from Halifax are.  And I’ll make a leap here to imply that this study might somewhat reflect our larger attitudes as Canadians – as the study was pretty rigorous and scientific.

Some events close to home:  RibFest, Lawn Chair Luminata, or  Promenade Days in Barrie. Or in Orillia, there is Movies in the Park, the Mariposa Downtown Stage and the Scottish Festival. Some of these include alcohol, and some don’t – a mix, to get you thinking.

In Simcoe and Muskoka, we have events in high season, as we milk summer to maximize tourism and festival-like feelings.   Can we be blamed for our frivolity, and the desire for a beverage or two?  As in all such things, it’s about moderation.

The same survey from Halifax discovered that 80% of respondents thought it permissible for their municipality to partner with an alcohol company to facilitate an event.   On the other side, there was a majority who didn’t want their municipality to allow alcohol advertising on public or municipally-owned space, such as park benches, or inside arenas.

So, it appears we don’t mind booze being available at these events (in fact, many times, we expect it).  And we are okay with the alcohol companies with their sponsorship money, their banners and tents, their swag and giant inflatable beers, etc etc…as long as they are temporary and when the party is over, they take it all away.

[Blink. Pause. Blink.]

Now, other research has proven that alcohol advertising has bad effects, raising consumption among youth (especially), as it plays a big role in normalizing booze and making it part of our culture.   This summer, this advertising is temporarily everywhere.

Festival Double Take

26774874_lSometimes you see a local story echoed in faraway places.  This is because it’s common for communities to similarly endure the learning curve of new rules and new developments.

Close to home, we have Burl’s Creek, a big mass of land used for events, camping, and other activities.  Recently, the property was purchased by new owners, and immediately they got ambitious.  They acquired additional adjacent lands, and in an effort to put them to use, they promptly made way for two major music festivals for this summer, starting with the Way Home festival, and later Boots and Hearts.

In case you don’t live around Orillia, Barrie, or Oro-Medonte, let me tell you that there has been no shortage of controversy with local residents doing whatever they can to kibosh or limit these festivals.  Coverage has been steady in the local paper and online.

Among local residents, there seems to be concern in regards to noise, traffic, garbage, vandalism, and safety.   Yet, the unmentioned menace is alcohol, especially as recent changes to the Liquor Licence Act allows for more liberal rules for festivals, dispensing with traditional beer tents and allowing for much larger licensed areas.

Let’s face it – as people consume alcohol, their willingness to engage in rowdy or risky behavior increases.  And this concern about festivals is reverberating in places all over – such in British Columbia, where the same loosened rules have created similar concern, and are creating debate about risk versus economic benefits.  Mass gatherings with liberal access to booze seem to be imparting apprehension – are similar things happening in your community?