Saturday, November 27, 2021

Get Back #1 - be still my beating heart! - and King Richard

Perhaps you can imagine my immense pleasure — I just watched the first episode of the new Beatles' doc Get Back. People are complaining this episode is a bit long, but it won't surprise you to know I was riveted every minute, even when they're bickering endlessly about where their eventual concert should be held. In this episode anyway, Paul is the focussed driving force, the creative energy pushing them all forward. Ringo is the reliable, good-natured backup beat, George the rather sullen, insecure little brother, John a charismatic force of nature with his dark shadow Yoko always beside him; here he's scattered, not pulling his weight.

Judy Steed with whom I watched confirmed, at the end, "Beth, now I understand your love for Paul. His musicality and creativity are incredible. And he's so handsome!" 

Yes. Yes they are, and he is. He never stops. It's beyond thrilling to watch the iconic songs emerge; we watch Get Back, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road, and other Macca songs take shape. But another joy is to watch THEIR joy, the fun they have, the way they leap into old pieces of their own or old rock 'n' roll and make glorious music, over and over again, while their staff mills about and sweet Mal Evans their friend and roadie hovers, ready to jot down lyrics as they fly by. And then he gets to be the hammer of Maxwell's Silver Hammer. 

Spectacular bliss. And two more episodes of Get Back await.

It's been an amazingly full two days for your faithful correspondent. Yesterday I walked downtown to see King Richard with Ken - the story of the father of Venus and Serena, Richard Williams, heroically courageous and a difficult bully. He had to fight to overcome not only the white establishment disdainful of two black sisters from the Compton ghetto but his own community which tried to destroy him. More than a film about the development of two tennis stars, it's a moving portrait of marriage, parenthood, and blind faith. I loved it. Highly recommended. 

Then Ken and I, after seeing an actual movie, distanced, in a cinema, had dinner in an actual restaurant. Like real life! Then, invited by my oldest friend Ron who is studying jazz piano there, I went on to beautiful Koerner Hall to see an Israeli jazz trio doing a Gershwin program. Again, it was wonderful to sit, masked, in that lovely hall to hear real live music. Have to say, however, it takes a particular kind of chutzpah to be a young musician advertising a Gershwin program and then include some of your own compositions, sung in your own really not good voice. He did however play a spectacular Rhapsody in Blue.

So my friends, two great films and a concert. Life is opening up here, just in time for the new variant. 

For your immense viewing pleasure, I give you six-year old Ben's out of focus school picture. Usually he hates being photographed and hides. I guess this time he decided to give it all he had. 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

furnished basement apartment to rent

Can hardly keep myself awake, and it's 2.30 in the afternoon — one of those drizzly, dark days. Luckily I went to the LCBO before the rain started and bought a good French Côtes du Rhône, though I won't open it for a few more hours. Dark chocolate almonds, stem ginger cookies, and more coffee. 

Celebrating the conviction of the cold-blooded murderers of Ahmaud Arbery. At last, after the disgusting travesty that was the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, justice. 

I've a new rule: no scrolling on FB or IG before 5 p.m., when I'm having my first glass of wine and my brain starts to melt. Let It Be is on Disney+ today, SCREAM!, but I'm not going to watch the first episode, because I'm going to see it in a cinema on Saturday with a crowd of other Beatle people. I can't wait. 

Two terrific shows I recommend: the Australian series Wakefield on Crave, about a mental hospital in a remote place and the people who work and are treated there; and Sort Of, a CBC show that's well written, clever, entertaining, starring Bilal Baig as a gender fluid East Asian nanny. Yes, you heard that right. Last night, a doc on the immune system in which I learned that massage ups your immune responses. Must take advantage of that. Also that excessive alcohol diminishes those responses. We get to define 'excessive' for ourselves. 

And sorry to have to do this, but I do: my furnished basement apartment is available as of January 1. In a great location, downtown but tranquil, $1700 a month everything included: high speed wifi, utilities, even bedding. Believe me, for Cabbagetown, that's reasonable. This is how a writer whose books are not on the bestseller lists keeps herself solvent. Please get in touch — — if you know anyone who might be right. 

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

I exist! Alice Neel in The New Quarterly

I was just out front raking a mountain of leaves, had a chat with an elderly man on a bike who'd stopped at the Little Free Library. He was a recent widower, obviously lonely, grew up downtown, told me many jokes. "Trump and Giuliani are in a car. Who's driving?" Answer: "The police." 

If only, I said. 

Luckily I'd just gone through the Library. Someone had left a porno DVD about hot Asians, and we're not talking heat wave. I'd just thrown it in the garbage when my nice friend appeared. A vast variety of stuff is left in the Library, including religious tracts of various kinds, but rarely that. Imagine, someone felt they should share it with others. Yuck. 

Happy news today: The New Quarterly has appeared, with my article on Alice Neel. After so many 'no's', seeing a 'yes' in print is a wonderful thing. My writer self exists.

It's a beautiful magazine full of good writing. Hope you can check it out.

Today's U of T class was a triumph of honesty and craft. Brava, mesdames! Yesterday, I worked with a new editing/coaching client on her memoir about a very complicated family. Afterwards, I received this: It was a huge thrill for me to find just what I was hoping for— an empathetic brilliant insightful voice to give me tools to get on track in this massive new undertaking.

I guess my coaching self exists too.

More old family photos: my dad as he was when my mother met him at a Chopin concert in 1944. I can understand the instant attraction. They talked classical music, until they didn't. 

The army pic is from January 1944, the 27th Medical Training Battalion at Camp Grant, Illinois. There are six groups - hundreds of men in this very long shot; I didn't even try to find Dad. 

And yet, amazingly - I did! Dead centre and turned in a slightly different way than the others. He was 21. 

Sam cherishes Dad's army stuff, including his US Army ration book and honourable discharge papers, so he'll get this too. He was only three when Dad died, but he feels a powerful bond. How glad I am for that.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Protest, and a treat

It's a weekend to protest. My daughter, of course, was at a big rally yesterday in support of the Wet'suwet'en that closed down a major street. She posted today that arresting journalists, as the RCMP did at the protest in B.C., is the work of fascists. I would like to talk to her about what real fascists are and do. The Canadian government and its police forces have made many mistakes and will make more; they've done bad things, no question. But fascists they are not.

I won't say that to her, however. No point.

I went to my own protest, much milder. The transit people want to take a portion of the Don Valley Trail and use it as a parking lot for trains. I'm not kidding. As if we have green space to throw away, here in the Big Smoke. I thought there'd only be a few people at a sad little event, but there was a goodly crowd on this lovely afternoon and lots of signs and a chant: NO TRAINS IN PARKS. I chanted and signed the petition and went home. 

A few bicycle police were keeping an eye on this violent crowd, but no one was arrested. No fascists here. There's another protest later today - a march in remembrance of people in Toronto killed by cars. I'd like to be at that one, but it's across town, and one protest a day is enough. At least for me, though perhaps not for another member of my family.

Last night's entertainment: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I fell into it and couldn't turn it off, though it went on and on. Dave Chapelle made a powerful tribute to billionaire musician and entrepreneur Jay-Z: "Being black in America isn't as easy as it looks," he deadpanned to a huge laugh, and spoke about what it means to black Americans to see a man from a Brooklyn housing project achieve what Jay-Z has achieved. I used to hate my kids' rap and hiphop, until I saw that it's made by marginalized young men creating rhyme on the fly. I still don't like it, but I appreciate its value. Great segments on Carole King and Tina Turner, whom I appreciate much more. You've got a friend. What's love got to do with it? And then there was Macca, introducing the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl was sitting with his little daughter in his lap; he seems like a nice guy. But when he plays, his face is covered with sweaty hair. 

It was a huge spectacle. How I wish we had even remotely comparable noise, star power, and entertainment value in literature. 

Here, with beauty and joy, are four men in a staircase making another kind of music. Don't miss it; it's stunning.

Going through old photos; I'm 19. The hair! I thought I was ugly. 
My family last week - Anna and Sam, my brother Mike and Nancy, Eli and Ben. 

And then this short story, from a town with fresh snow. I love it.

And this cuts VERY close to the bone.
For me, another slice is needed: blogging.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Macca cheers me up, again

Don't know what I can say to make this day better: B.C. is drowning, farm animals are dying in the thousands, people who had to move out because of wildfires have to move out again because of extreme flooding. And yet again, a white vigilante has gone free in the States. I'm reaching the point that I can't read news from there any more, what the Repugs are doing is so reprehensible. Last night Bill Maher talked to Fareed Zakaria who believes that though authoritarian China is moving ahead with incredible rapidity on all fronts, the US has myriad resources and will keep up. Maher doesn't believe it. Neither do I. 

Sick at heart. I guess it's also that it's fall, days are generally gloomy, the trees increasingly bare, the bright colours littering the ground. The real cold is around the corner.

It's also that I've invested in a huge mailing to book club members, trying to entice them to read my memoir and have me as a guest at their clubs. So far, nada. I'm trying, sweet book. And also, that I found out one of my favourite places in all Toronto, the Merchants of Green Coffee coffeeshop not far from here, a wonderful friendly room full of battered furniture and the smell of roasting coffee, has closed and been sold to be renovated. Renovated! Phooey!

I was supposed to go out to two in-person events yesterday - a movie with Ken and a concert in the evening with old friend Ron, the first live cultural events in two years. Cancelled, feeling under the weather, wanted to stay home with my head under a pillow. So I did. 


Really, I'm fine. Judy and I were talking on our weekly Zoom call last week about how it helps to be positive and resilient, and we are. That doesn't mean we don't get hit, periodically, with sadness or fear or a sense that things are pretty dire in the world. Because they are. 

Two dear friends right now are awaiting results of a biopsy.

On a cheerier note, Paul McCartney is everywhere, because the three Let It Be films open on the 25th. As you know, a sighting of him always makes me feel better. Talk about positive and resilient! He was interviewed by the brilliant Terry Gross on NPR, one of the best interviews I have ever heard, not of him, of anyone. She's sharp, direct, insightful; not once does she ask, "And how did that make you feel?"

To really cheer myself up, I read obituaries. The other day, a woman with the last name Smellie. Can you imagine high school? And a man with the last name Jaszczyszyn. Can you imagine how many times he had to spell that, laboriously, over and over? How great to be a simple Kaplan. I just have to shout "K! K!" over and over. But they get the rest.

This morning, riding to the market in a cold wind, loading up — no floods here, no shortages, stacks of produce, everything ticking along - could we be luckier? Except for our lunkhead premier planning to spend billions on a highway to nowhere. My tech assistant Nishat is coming over now to help me with various snafus, and then I'm walking with Ruth. And then I'll light the fire, pour a glass of wine, and read a book. I have nothing, nothing, to complain about, except that occasionally, the world is too much with me.