Friday, May 26, 2017

So True next Sunday

Come hear some wonderful stories. A good time guaranteed. Check our website if you're not sure.

The Boy in the Moon

At 7.45 Tuesday night I was sitting calmly in my sweats in the kitchen, working, when the phone rang and my friend Annie said, "Beth, where are you?" Suddenly I remembered - I was to meet them at the new Crow's Theatre, not that far away, at 7.30, to see "Boy in the Moon" at 8. Yikes. I threw on some clothes, ran to get a cab on Gerrard, and actually made it on time! The joys of living downtown.

How glad I am not to have missed one minute - what an extraordinary non-fiction play. Adapted from the book by the same name, written by Ian Brown about his severely handicapped son Walker, the play features three actors as Brown, his wife Johanna, and their daughter. They speak to us, they have scenes with each other, and Walker looms over it all as a circle of light. Deeply moving and beautifully done. I, of course, wept. Thanks for not giving up on me, Annie.

Yesterday was biblical - record-breaking rain, all day long. I sat in my office and watched water pouring, not safely through the downspout, but from the roof straight down onto the second-floor deck. The downspout is broken and can't be repaired because there's a bird's nest inside it. I haven't gone close to check, but the winged comings and goings - and squawks - are unmistakeable. Even in the storm, mama kept flying in with supplies. So - I'll have to wait until the babies have flown the coop before repairs.

But there's lots more wildlife to occupy me. A lonely raccoon wants to live on the second-floor deck and has been chased away several times. There are mice in the kitchen cupboards, ignoring traps set by John. Worst of all, though, I was sitting in the kitchen working with a student when I saw movement behind her - bugs, ants with wings, coming out of holes in a decorative pillar at the top of the basement stairs. Horror. I covered the holes, sprayed in Raid and called the termite guy. Yes. Termites. Again. He and his team are coming in a few weeks with their new powerful poison that, he assures me, is harmless for humans and devastating to wood-eating bugs.

The world is too much with me. At least, the animal and insect kingdom. I told the termite guy it was time to sell this wreck of a house and move to a condo, and he told me about a condo job he just did, $400,000 worth of anti-termite work.

Sigh.

My former student, now friend and editor Chris Cameron, has just published his memoir, "Doctor Bartolo's Umbrella," about his career as an opera singer, much of it written for class. Bravo, Chris - it's a lovely book, well-written, funny, poignant. He came to speak to my U of T class on Tuesday and will come to Ryerson in a few weeks. I thank him for that, and for the very nice mention in the book's acknowledgements of me and the Thursday home writing class, nine of whom were here last night to celebrate him, and then to read their own magnificent stories that one day will be in their own books. In fact, Chris just emailed, What a great class last night. Everyone works to such a high standard and all the pieces were rock solid and enjoyable. I got the impression that nearly everyone has a book inside them, whether they know it or not.

Wednesday morning was the English conversation group potluck with the immigrant women of Regent's Park, to break bread together before Ramadan starts. A huge feast - many spicy dishes involving chick peas. One young woman didn't remove her niqab, the only one who doesn't in the room full of women, and to eat, had to lift up the black veil to slip the fork underneath. I don't understand, but it doesn't bother me any more. I like the women a lot, and I think they are enjoying the chance to speak English.

The good people of Montana have elected a man who assaulted a reporter for asking questions. The papers focus on the power struggle handshake between Trump and Macron. Young girls blown up in Manchester. The world grows more and more frighteningly surreal. Makes me want to hunker down and hide. Just me and the raccoons, the sparrows, the mice, and the - ugh - termites.

Monday, May 22, 2017

"I am Heath Ledger"

My garden helpers Dan and Alex came today; Dan has a torn tendon and can mostly just prune and consult, so Alex and I spent 2 1/2 hours weeding, fertilizing, moving stuff around, planting. It's only begun, there's a ton more to do, but at least it's started. And now my body aches.

Yesterday afternoon, heaven - cooking while listening to CBC's Tapestry, and then Eleanor Wachtel interviewing Helen Macdonald, author of "H is for Hawk," such a glorious writer she makes me want to give up. I cooked roast chicken with roast vegetables, ratatouille, red cabbage with apples, and leek and potato soup. Should keep me going for a few days.

Tonight, Wayson came for dinner to help me plough through some of this grub; we sat on the deck enjoying the smell of lilac, and then watched "I am Heath Ledger," a documentary about the beautiful  young actor who died of an accidental overdose at 28. I knew he was amazing but had no idea just how talented - a filmmaker, musician, producer and incredibly talented actor with adoring family and friends and so much going for him - it's just too sad. I remembered an expression I used to love: to burn with a hard, gemlike flame. This incandescent man did. Very glad to have seen the film.


Last night, two TV treats - "Call the Midwife," which as usual had me sobbing, just the BEST television drama, going to the heart of life. And then a doc about Freud, fascinating. Can't beat TV like that. Watching the news, though, never - can't bear to see that travesty of a man sucking up to the Saudis and now to Netanyahu. Makes me sick.

Two people have now read this draft of my memoir and liked it, though of course they're friends and biased; Carol my housemate says she loved it, and Chris my dear friend in Vancouver enjoyed it also. He had a few critical comments which I will take seriously but not many. It's not "H is for Hawk" but it exists, it has something to say, perhaps before long it can make its way into the world. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

turning five

So, yesterday was Eli's fifth birthday party, and yes, the expected multitudes did appear: 18 adults and 19 children, almost all boys, under the age of 10. Luckily the sun was out and they rampaged in the backyard, though a few went inside and wreaked havoc with the toys in Eli's room. All the boys needed was some water guns, a lot of water, and some dirt to make mud. Happiness is. Little Ben kept getting so wet, he needed to be changed three times. After hours of mud, it was time for hot dogs and chicken drumsticks. And then Glamma slipped away, before the orgy of cake and presents. A good time, it's safe to say, was had by all.
New bike.
Watermelon with cousin Dakota - like Eli's older twin
 washing the car
 the female end of the party - colouring the boys' hair
filling the water guns. Lord of the Flies.
 mud
more mud

I have to say, I don't know anyone else who could pull this off. How did Anna get to be so relaxed? She has been a people person since birth, never enough friends in her room. I realize her father is a theatre producer and her mother is also a producer of sorts - my reading series, the Farm Christmas pageant. Without question, Anna is a producer too, of events like these, which she does regularly, where hoards of people have fun and get to know each other and are fed. It's one of her gifts to the world.

Her gift to me, besides becoming a welcoming, wise human being, is two very muddy, happy little boys.

I just heard from her - Eli's other grandmother, one of his aunts, and her four kids stayed the night and are still there. Anna and family live in a two bedroom apartment. "Cousin parties are the best parties!" she wrote.

Miraculous.  She just sent me this, too:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

King Charles III

We just had two days of full-on summer - 30 degrees feeling like much more - and now it's going back to a normal springtime. Which is a relief, because I haven't even had time to bring out my summer clothes yet. Plus good weather is important because my beloved daughter is throwing a birthday party for her older son on Saturday and is expecting 18 adults and 19 children. Yes. She is insane. But Thomas comes from a big family, there are lots of cousins and step-cousins and she wants Eli to know his family. So 19 children, including some extremely energetic boys. Luckily the weather will be good and they'll be outside; she devises all kinds of fun things for them to do. And then there's opening presents and cake, which will occupy them all for at least seven minutes.

Eli is FIVE. How did that happen so fast? I know, that's what boring old people always say. And now that's me.

Have been immersed in teaching work and trying to get the house and my life in order all week, hence not writing here. The cultural appropriation controversy continues to rage; another magazine editor resigned and a CBC producer was reassigned, as a result of their intemperate responses. In one way, the Writers' Union did us all a favour in bringing this important issue to the forefront.

Last week I saw there was a rerun of the second episode of The Handmaid's Tale, the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dark dystopian fantasy, and started eagerly to watch - it has had very good reviews. But I had to turn it off. Dark doesn't even begin to describe it - it's unbelievably depressing, and there's already far too much that's depressing - and terrifying - going on out there. Instead I watched King Charles III, a British production imagining a few years hence when the Queen dies and Charles takes over. He is however out of touch and finds himself shoved aside by his son. Strange to watch Will and Kate and Harry and Camilla, not to mention Charles himself, portrayed on film in a kind of Shakespearean tragedy in blank verse. An excellent production.

But mostly, I, like most of the planet, am preoccupied with something vastly more sleazy, avidly reading the papers for the latest scandal, the latest unbelievable stupidity. And the man never disappoints.