Saturday, November 28, 2015

up and at 'em

In the airless Neverland of the departure lounge, at the Italian restaurant near my gate, drinking red wine, natch, and eating a very good grilled veggie salad. I got it all done, folks - one tenant out, the next tenant in, returned four books to the library, ate all the leftovers, closed the suitcase, got out. Had a wonderful chat with a woman at the Parliament Street bus stop about Trudeau and the joy our country is feeling right now. Noticed that in my subway car, there were 3 Caucasians, including myself and a man with his black wife and their baby, and the rest were originally, perhaps recently, perhaps a long time ago, from elsewhere - the Orient, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, the Far East. How proud I am of my country.

I think people in this bar are watching the Grey Cup - is that what the football game is that's preoccupying people? I really wouldn't know. It's tied, I can see. As if I cared. Which I don't. No, just asked - it's another cup. The Grey Cup is tomorrow. The bald guy is clapping - I guess it does matter to him.
I have a small suitcase within a big suitcase - can leave all my stuff for the cold in the big one and fly off to Hawaii with the small one. In my backpack is a book and seven New Yorkers, more to read, as usual, than I can possibly deal with, not to mention both of today's newspapers.
I won't see my babies for 2 weeks! Called to say goodbye to Anna. As we talked, she kept interrupting - "Eli! Are you doing a poo? Are you? Tell me!" Oh it's hard work. But she is up for it as no one I know. My son was incommunicado, asleep before his endless shift. And I am wide awake before my adventure. Into the skies. There will be pineapples. Onward.

And in the really good news department:

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has sentence suspended: Swiss official

Friday, November 27, 2015

Woman of the Year

I was riding my bike down Parliament Street this afternoon when my neighbour Gretchen and I caught sight of each other, and she started to hula, hips swaying and arms waving like a madwoman. So I guess people know I'm off to Hawaii. (Though Torontonians have nothing to complain about - the weather once again is extraordinarily mild for November. It's been an amazing month.)

Madness - it's at this point that I regret travelling, having ever travelled; all that matters is to stay home and not move. However, this too shall pass. Laundry, watering plants, leaving lists for Carol who'll keep the place running, trying to figure out what to pack for Vancouver which is much colder than here, strangely, and Hawaii which is much warmer. I keep reminding myself - it's not Kuala Lumpur. If you forget something, it can be replaced.

Here's a photo from the Raffi concert which shows you the energy level of all concerned, - one perky, one not - and from yesterday's visit; we went to the farm, where the goats were nesting in their hay feeder and the pigs were one large clump of bristly reddish pink. So grateful to live nearby.

Last night - "Woman of the year" on TCM with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, their first movie together, and that is some chemistry. He is my new hero. In life he was troubled and an alcoholic, which is too bad, but on screen, he's the ideal man - funny, open, generous, kind - and manly, in the best sense of that tricky word.

Tomorrow before I leave for the airport, my basement tenant Leonie moves out and the new guy, Hadi, moves in. I need to take back four library books - "Hold Still," a memoir, an autobiography really, by the American photographer Sally Mann - interesting because she includes so many photos and other artifacts, but far too long and a bit annoying - she's a big believer in five dollar words; "The Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr, successful memoirist, which has some interesting stuff but boy, she sounds like a crabby person; "The true secret of writing," by the famed Natalie Goldberg, which on my cursory look-through is, once more, far too new-agey for me and seems like an advertisement for the courses she runs at her home in New Mexico; and a novel called "Beatlebone," by Kevin Barry, which I couldn't of course resist, but which is a weird weird imaginary journey with John Lennon, not my thing at all.

This is when I'm glad to have a library card, so I can check out - literally and figuratively - new interesting books but don't have to commit to having them forever in my library. God knows, there are enough books there already. So tonight - finishing as much reading as I can, once I've finished the chores and decided what to put into my suitcase. And then ... onward. Luau, lei, hula, whatever those things mean, I'm about to find out.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

"Haida Gwaii"

It's winter now, cold - frost on the grass this morning, for the first time. All a Canadian body wants to do at a time like this is eat large quantities of carbohydrates and drink alcoholic beverages and doze in a cave. Not, however, an option.

Friday, lunch with a group of old and dear friends at the home of our mutual friend who was diagnosed a few years ago with ALS. She is brave and beautiful, still working hard as a writer. We bring food and cheer and the cold air of outdoors, and love, we bring all the love in our hearts for our friend.

Sunday's extravagance: taking Anna and Eli, and Ben in the Snugli, to see famous performer for children Raffi at Roy Thomson Hall. It seemed a good idea at the time. When my ex-husband got a job at the National Arts Centre, we packed up our lives and drove from Vancouver to Ottawa with Anna, who was two, in the back seat. And all the way, all the @##@ way, we listened to Baby Beluga. Baby Beluga is engraved in my brain and that of countless other parents, many of them in the audience on Sunday. It was wonderful to be there with an original fan and, more than 30 years later, her son, who listens to other Raffi records when he's here - though for some reason, I have neglected to include Baby Beluga among my possessions.

But it didn't work. Roy Thomson Hall is vast, and Raffi was one small man very far away, singing very slowly and quietly, telling corny jokes (one about the yellow pages - this to an audience of kids who have never seen a rotary phone.) These kids are used to screens a foot from their faces, loud and bright and full of action; Raffi needs to up his game, slow and sweet doesn't cut it. The noise in the hall grew increasingly loud as kids writhed and chatted. Eli was completely uninterested throughout, his only observation that the arms of the seats didn't have a hole for our drinks; we explained that a concert hall is different from a movie theatre. We stayed most of the way through until Raffi sang Baby Beluga and we got out of there.

Went across the street to a local pizzeria for a bite; already there was a table of fellow escapees from the concert - four adults and a two year old. The adults were chatting and drinking wine, and the child sat riveted to an iPad screen showing cartoons. I know these devices mean peace for adults, but their use fills me with concern - for the child's imagination, brain, vision and hearing. However. I'm just a fogie. I had brought a book to keep Eli busy, but mostly he wanted to play with the knives.

Monday night's treat, seeing the glorious documentary "Haida Gwaii" with friend Lynn. A magnificent wild island I've always wanted to visit - the only place in the world under the complete control of indigenous people, someone explained. It showed the courage of the First Nations people battling the logging companies, fighting for their forests, their land, their rights. The star of the film, beside the place itself, is Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who is married to a Haida and lives on Haida Gwaii. Not surprisingly, considering her upbringing, she speaks with profound eloquence about the responsibility we all have to try to fix our planet. When I got home, I Googled her talk to the Rio Climate Change conference when she was twelve years ago. A phenomenal woman, beautiful, calm and wise.

And speaking of phenomenal women, today was the last U of T class and we had our last class feast. This group has bonded like no other - a band of sisters. They gave me a lei to see me off to Hawaii - yellow flowers around my neck, as I said goodbye.

Teaching over for the term. Also today, I emailed the current draft of the memoir to my editor friend Chris - it suddenly seemed like self-indulgent nonsense and I need some feedback. So, a break from that. My son had the flu and came home to Mama for a few days, which was wonderful and also messy, my God that man can eat.

Now to sort out my life. I have much to do to get ready to leave town, though right now, I'd rather just curl up in a big furry ball and go to sleep.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Paradise, here I come

Several blog readers have asked about my impending trip to Hawaii. I've not mentioned it before because it seemed barely real even to me - but it must be real, because there's a flight on my calendar next Saturday. My British friend Penny wrote in the spring to tell me an old school friend of hers, Harriet, who has lived for many years in Honolulu, had offered her time in a two-bedroom timeshare apartment Harriet owns on the island of Kauai. Penny is an intrepid, savvy traveller; she put together one of my most memorable trips, around the Cotswolds in her little car, some years ago. But she's not that comfortable on the right side of the road and sent me an irresistible offer - if I rented the car and drove, would I like to share her free apartment?

Well - a week free on Kauai - how could I say no? I decided at the same time to coordinate a visit to Vancouver, where live several of my dearest friends whom I see far too rarely. I used travel points to get to Vancouver where I'll spend four and a half days, then on to Hawaii, overnight with Penny in Honolulu, both of us flying on the next morning to Kauai for a week, then back for a few days, courtesy of her friend, in Honolulu. Home Dec. 17, just in time for Christmas madness.

Wheee! Everyone speaks of Hawaii as paradise on earth and Kauai is the garden island, apparently. Can't wait. But also, Penny and I have a possible writing project to discuss about her sister Barbara, who was my childhood penpal. Barbara died in 1966; she had just turned 16. Her death affected me profoundly, and of course, even more profoundly, the loss of her affected her family and younger sister. I have all Barbara's letters to me and my letters to her, and, more than 30 years later, the start of the on-going connection between Penny and me. Is there a book in Barbara's short yet resonant life? Penny and I will have time, amidst the pineapples and the beaches, to discuss.

Yesterday was wondrously mild, again, but now our idyll is over - it's much more seasonal out there, 7 or so, but still sunny. It's a relief, in fact; out in a light jacket in November, I couldn't help thinking about polar bears.

And further to global warming - I am coming closer to becoming vegetarian like my Macca. Yes, though I've been inching in that direction for years, the final step actually was because of Paul. He was featured in a FB clip about Meat-free Mondays that gave a warning about graphic material and started to show shots of cows on their way to slaughter, so I immediately turned it off. I don't want to see animals suffer, but I don't mind eating them - is there hypocrisy in that? I have not eaten veal for many years and only eat pork if I know it comes from a small local farm - but still, that's not enough. I won't become one of those rigid vegetarians who are hard to feed; my family eat far too much meat for that - and at the moment, I'll continue to eat chicken and turkey and fish. Have to figure this out. I've never been that keen on tofu, but here goes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

bits and pieces

Here's the main difference between France and the U.S.: After 9/11, Americans were urged to defy the terrorists by going shopping. In Paris, the French are being urged to celebrate their freedom from fear by going to cafes and bars and eating and drinking and making merry. And of course, they're going.

Oh to be in Paris now that November is here. If I could, I'd go right now and sit in a cafe all day and night. However. I have work to do, miles to go before I sleep, and anyway, I'm off to Vancouver and Hawaii next weekend. Poor me.

Good news today - I went to see my osteoporosis doctor who says I am now at low risk for fractures, to stop taking the medication and not to come back. What a relief! Now I can fling my body about with abandon. Not.

More good news: it was amazingly mild still, but cold is coming. Still, in the lovely sunshine, the roofers finally came. The first guy I called had told me the repair would cost only $500; he asked for $235 for materials and vanished off the face of the earth. A second guy came and estimated $8000; he was nice and highly recommended by a friend but, as my handyman John pointed out, he came, he saw a woman alone in a big house, he estimated high. The third roofer, Marcel, charged one third of what the previous guy estimated and did a fantastic job. Highly recommended: Marcel Prevost and his team, who are his two brothers and a son-in-law. Please look him up if you need a really good reliable honest roofer. Marcel Prevost Roofing.

And more: after wrestling with Rogers twice and getting nowhere, I insisted on talking to someone more senior, who gave me HBO free for six months. Now there just has to be something good to watch - so far, no luck. Where is Jon Stewart? Come back, Jon, we need you more than those cows do!

My ten seconds of fame: a woman came up to me at the Y. "Were you at the McCartney concert?" she asked. I was, I said. "I knew I recognized you from the giant screens. I saw you several times, dancing away."
"Was that not the best concert ever?" I said.
"It was," she said. A new BFF.

I may take the money I save on my expensive osteoporosis medicine and buy some noise-cancelling headphones to wear around the city. Doubletake and other stores are already playing Silver Bells and the @#$# Little Drummer Boy. I think it's worth investing in sanity, don't you?