Friday, September 21, 2018

Macca forever!

A quick update from the Monteal bus station. Here's what's happening: I am sick, my phone isn't charging properly, and the bus to Ottawa I came to get is full, there's another in an hour and a half. My aunt fell out of bed last night, went to hospital by ambulance for the third time in the last week, and has been sent back. My brother and I have found out there's no DNR, so the poor soul will keep being brought back from the brink. There's a torrential downpour outside here, and probably in Ottawa too.

Otherwise, everything's hunky dory.

The weather changed the moment I got on the plane from Toronto to Montreal. It was hot when I packed, and the report said it'd be about 20 and up in Montreal except for rain on Friday, so I brought sleeveless dresses, short sleeved t-shirts, one pair of light pants and a sweater for the hell of it. By the time the plane landed, it was freezing, and it has not warmed up. So first, I got sick - which Lynn thought was also perhaps the stress of my aunt's disintegration and the beginning of teaching - who knows? In any case, suddenly my throat was raw, my head ached, my nose was running, it was a nightmare - I wasn't sick once all winter, and now this.

Luckily Lynn and I had some shopping to do, so I bought long warm socks, a hoodie, a pair of warm pants, all useful for winter but needed right now. It is so much fun to shop with as savvy a shopper as my friend, who's had a lifetime of shopping in France; she's extremely thrifty and has a fierce and trained eye for exactly the right thing at the right price. Usually I dither, but not with her.

We had two meetings with old friends - a visit with Sherry, a university professor and translator who's interested in Lynn's work as Lynn is in hers, and the next day, with Michael Climan, who was the best friend and roommate of our beloved friend and mentor Bob Handforth in the late sixties. We hadn't seen Michael since then, at least as I recall. He is unchanged, a bit greyer, but as funny, sweet, and lively as ever, a wonderful person, long married and a father of two. We got caught up on the last decades of our lives, but we talked a lot about Bob, who was brilliant and creative and prescient. He died of AIDS in 1987 or 88 and haunts many of those who knew him. Robert Handforth has a Facebook page.

But I spent a lot of time in bed at our lovely auberge b and b, trying to get better before the Macca concert, filling myself with Advil and throat lozenges. I'd rented the place because it was only 5 minutes from the Bell Centre, where the concert took place. Lynn liked the Beatles but is sane, not a madwoman about Paul like I am, so she was lukewarm about going to this concert. First, the number of people floored her - the place was packed, perhaps 20,000, and such a diversity, all ages, two, three generations there together, many young people. We were at the back, and behind us, a row of people in wheelchairs. The excitement building, and then the roof-raising roar when he came out - unforgettable. And there he is, slender and handsome and 76 years old, rocking like no one can rock with his incredible band, lots of film and amazing lights and of course the flashpots during Live and Let Die - he never stops, doesn't even take a drink of water, going from screaming rock to tender ballads and the song he wrote with Kanye West, old Beatles, Wings stuff, and everything in between, for three hours. Just extraordinary.

This was the ninth time I've seen him, the sixth time for him solo, and it was the best show yet. But the extra-special treat was seeing my friend singing at the top of her lungs, beaming, laughing, swaying - it did, of course, make me cry. She said it was the best show she's ever seen.

Or maybe my tears were just my raw throat. It's the first time I didn't make a sound during his concert - could not sing or shout, just appreciated silently. Adored from afar, as always. Along with 20,000 or so others.

So - sitting here in the Montreal bus station, coughing, watching the rain outside, on my way to visit my aunt who is dying but not letting go. I am sucking a lozenge and have water and made myself a peanut butter sandwich at breakfast at the b and b this morning, so I'll be fine. I'd rather be home in bed, yes. But - onward.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

notes about Macca and the Little Free Library

I wrote to Liel Leibovitz, the author of the McCartney article I posted yesterday, to tell him how much I liked his piece and my own bond with Macca. He wrote back today, thanking me and telling me he had ordered my book to keep him company until Macca plays next in New York. How nice is that?

And another nice note: a woman in a power wheelchair got a friend to put a note through my front door today. I saw her and spoke to her on the street later. Her letter was on paper ripped from a day-timer, and this is what it said:
Sept. 18, 2018
Dear Little Library:
Wanted to thank you and yours a big greatful thanks for the efforts and energy that you all put into providing this beautiful community assest. When you shut down for a few weeks I was very sad because we thought your frustration level was growing. Do not allow this to happen. If a person steals book - pray they get money to buy what they need or want. It may save houses from break ins or avoid a senior from having their purse being snatched so that the thief can get food and drugs.

From a further prism - lots of poorer people access the books - like me and my grown family and grandsons. They love the books. We "loan" the books to others and it is like a mini book club. Wow the big treat for me is the occasional New York Times especially Sunday.

So thanks for re-opening and keep the free library going. The community loves it and feels darn lucky.
With sincerity, 

Now that keeps a woman going, for sure. The vanishing books are not from an addict who sells them for food or drugs, however; it's a hoarder. I confronted him again yesterday, as he stood in front of my library with a full backpack and large satchel, I'm sure bulging with the contents of all the local libraries that he pillages daily. But yes, I've decided we have to put up with him because even so, people still put books in and take them out. As, in fact, do I.

Thank you, Penny.

First class of the Ryerson term last night - the class limit is 18, and there were 17. A very full class but wonderful, interesting faces and stories, one back from many years ago and two from last term, who feel like old friends.

Packing for Montreal - more time with Lynn and then the two of us seeing Macca on Thursday night, how exciting is that? Staying at an auberge b and b downtown. And then on to Ottawa to visit my aunt, who is not in good shape. Nicole will be staying here to keep the house going. When I get back fall begins for real - courses running, work, putting away the tank tops and getting out the sweaters, piling on more clothing, closing down the garden; the new season will start.

But in the meantime - roses and cucumbers, endless piles of tomatoes and cucumbers, and so - more gazpacho.

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Gospel of Saint Paul

At last, the world is waking up to a powerful truth I have known for decades but others have been slow to acknowledge - that John Lennon, though a musical genius, in no way compares, in accomplishments, skill, and heart, to his bandmate and fellow genius, Paul, aka Macca.

Cool people - guys especially - seem to think it's wimpy to love Paul, because he unselfconsciously sings adoring love ballads as well as screaming rockers, because he loves women and children and doesn't eat or wear animals, because he has tried out just about every musical genre and not succeeded at all of them.

This writer gets it, at last. A terrific article, except for what he says about the left at the beginning, which nearly destroyed the whole thing for me but couldn't.
I must send the author my book, so he can read about a lifelong fan, not a Johnny-come-lately. Am leaving for Montreal this week, for the great thrill of going with Lynn to see Macca at Montreal's Bell Centre. Scream.

Here's today's joy, in the absence of my friend, who's back in Montreal: the north side of the garden this morning.
The fall-blooming clematis on the fence gets me every year, with its swath of scented white stars. Am about to go and pick the season's umpteenth fat cucumber.

Teaching starts tonight, the Ryerson class nearly full. Back in harness. Onward.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

"Let it go" dance party, Eli's protest signs

Sitting with my dear friend on a very hot day, as she wrestles with her brand new if refurbished iPhone (much less expensive than in France) - she has been online solving problems with various experts most of the day but is getting there. I in the meantime went to recuperate from last night's dance party in the hot tub at the Y, and then on to Queen's Park for what was not a demonstration against our hideous premier, but a picnic, a peaceful gathering on the grounds, just to remind them we're out here and not going away. Anna was there of course with her boys, and I was proud to see that Eli had written his first protest signs. His education in democracy begins. Meanwhile, Ben was kicking a soccer ball and trying to squash the bubbles a young woman nearby was blowing for him. Our people.

"I HOPE NEXT ELECTION DOUG FORD LOSES." He told me what he wanted to write and I helped him spell it. We all agree with you, sweetheart.

On Thursday, a thrilling event - former student and editing client Rollande Ruston launched her book "If the Rocks Could Talk" at a gorgeous house on Admiral Road. We worked for several years, going back and forth, and she produced a beautiful book about her childhood in the Gaspé, not just a personal tale but an important piece of social history - she has traced her family back to the 1700's. She was kind enough to speak at length about my class and help in getting her book out, and I spoke of how much hard work and dedication she put into it and how proud I was of her and the book.
And then leapt onto my bicycle and tore home for my 6.30 home class, just made it in time. The term begins, and how glad I was to see those faces and to hear their words.

Last night's Let It Go dance party was a triumph of one kind if not of another. There weren't enough people for me to break even - in fact, I lost $150 on the venture. And I discovered that not everyone enjoys dancing to even one Glenn Miller piece or to an obscure but terrific African musician, whom I'd gone to considerable lengths to discover and include. By night's end there were about 25 people, 10 or 15 fewer than I'd hoped; they were dancing madly, which was a joy to see, but periodically something would come on and clear the dance floor. Except for me, Lynn, and Jean-Marc, who danced to everything. My people. Old friends came, friends from the Y and from the neighbourhood, but I had done too little to promote it. Lesson: I am good at ideas and producing and lousy at marketing. I knew this but didn't fix it.

However, very early, a middle-aged woman came alone, very shy, didn't speak to anyone, but she danced and danced. And she is exactly the person this was for. So I hope it happens again, only next time, the playlist should be by someone younger, and someone else should promote it.
Madame and me getting ready to dance.

This morning, my body ached from head to foot - three solid hours of dancing plus a little bit of worrying about venue, attendance, money, music. A soak at the Y helped, and a kindly protest. Soon Lynn and I will go out to meet our good friend Eleanor Wachtel, who is fitting us into her very busy schedule, and then we'll celebrate our last night together (at least in Toronto - she goes to Montreal tomorrow and I go there Wednesday) with take out fish and chips accompanied by a good Chablis and Randy Bachman on the radio, followed by HBO. And talking. Talking talking talking. She leaves tomorrow. I am already bereft.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

our dictator

The beautiful weather has returned, blessedly. I was sitting here after lunch with the back door wide open when I heard a strange splashing noise and finally located it - a plant saucer left on the railing had filled with rainwater, and now it's full of sparrows, waggling, splashing, drinking. The fat pink roses are back for a second glorious round, everything else still in full bloom - no sense of an ending. Not yet.

Last night was democracy in action - ten people of the thirty or so I'd invited actually came to meet Megann and talk about local issues: the many safe injection sites nearby, transit, affordable housing, bike lanes, and much more - all the stuff city hall should be dealing with instead of fighting this cretinous premier and his bullying ways. Once again, heartbreak. Though I had to laugh this morning - writing to an American friend, I complained about "our dictator" and she wrote back, "Our dictator is worse than your dictator!" This is a contest I'm happy to lose.

Lynn is away visiting a high school friend, so I've been alone yesterday and today, getting back to the memoir, making some of the edits suggested by the most recent editor - honing, cutting, getting the damn thing in shape. In the meantime, I myself am feeling completely OUT of shape. A roll of four or five pounds more than I'm used to sitting around my waist, making every waistband uncomfortable, slower than ever in Carole's class. Is this inevitable aging or is it just my own personal disintegration?

My friend Linda is a brand new grandmother, her first grandson named after her husband's twin brother who died twenty years ago. So pleased to see her beaming face, to hear her sound just like every other grandmother: "I had no idea! I mean, I love my kids, but I've never felt anything like this!" Yes indeed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Old Friends

Two of our dearest friends, Jessica and Suzette, came for dinner last night; we all go back to Carleton University in the late sixties. Jessica became a well-known curator of modern art, and Suzette is an acclaimed screenwriter who lives part of the year in L.A. Together, we are a gaggle of vibrant biddy buddies who go way back and have a great deal to say.

Here are Jessica's pictures of us after dinner:

It made me think of the beautiful Simon and Garfunkle song, Old Friends, so I looked it up.
Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends
Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends
Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy
Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears

How terribly strange to be seventy, we thought way back then. And now here we are, or almost. Unimaginable - and yet we are redefining age as we go. No dust on our shoulders, quiet folk sitting on park benches in this neck of the woods.

And incidentally, speaking of old folk, my aunt is getting better, the pain is less, her brain is fully functional even if her legs are not. How terribly strange to be ninety-eight is more like it.

Tonight, I'm throwing a neighbourhood event for Megann Willson; poor woman, she bravely threw her hat into the municipal ring some months ago and now is facing unprecedented chaos as our dictatorial premier challenges the courts. A nightmare. So tonight, instead of listening to a serious progressive candidate speak about her platform, we will try to figure out if there is actually an election and what has happened to democracy in our province.

Thursday, work starts - my home class, getting me up to scratch before Ryerson launches next Monday, the class there almost full already. What happened to summer? Over in a blink.

It's mild and not actually raining after yesterday's dreadful cold downpour, but cloudy and grey. To cheer me up, I remember Eli on the weekend. He and Holly were looking at the enormous maple tree in my front yard, and Holly asked him, "What do you think that tree would say if it could speak?"
Eli considered carefully.
"WHY AM I STUCK HERE?" he said.

A reminder for those of you in town: this event coming right up.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

André the Anti-Giant

On with our busy week, my BFF Lynn and I, we have places to go and things to eat. And drink. And drink.

On Tuesday evening, a swim in the divine pool of my other friend Lynn and dinner on her deck - a treat to sit between my two favourite Lynns.

On Wednesday, Sam came over to cook us dinner, Holly and Nicole came to organize the garage sale stuff, and then Lynn and I went to one of my favourite events of the year, Gina Dineen's Cabbagetown Short Film Festival. Such a grand community occasion, many neighbours and friends packed in, glass of beer or wine in one hand and a free slice of pizza in the other, to watch short films from around the world. One this year was especially moving - André the Anti-Giant, a doc about a man with severe disabilities who became a standup comedian. If you want to see a portrait of courage and humour in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties, see this uplifting, marvellous film. That is, if the director Kim Saltarski can get it launched, and we sure hope he can.

Thursday Lynn went to Hamilton to visit one of her oldest childhood friends, and I to a staff event at U of T, food and drink and many colleagues. And on Friday, after she introduced me to Aquafit at the Y, which I've never done and is much more fun than I'd imagined, Lynn and I met our friend Ken at Rebel House for lunch. Sam worked there for years, the owner is a friend, and as we sat, he brought a plate of special hors d'oeuvres, "a gift from Sam." All of this delicious in so many ways. On the way home, a tiny bit of shopping at Winners, another thing my friend and I do so well, she especially, a discerning Frenchwoman who likes a bargain.

The shock to come was the weather. Wednesday was so incredibly muggy and hot, it was hard to breathe, and by Saturday, at the start of the Cabbagetown Festival, it was freezing. We piled on layer after layer to survive. Holly and Nicole were here by 8 a.m. to get our garage sale set up, and the two marvellous saleswomen spent the day trying to flog my possessions. At one point, I wept; I'm such a sentimental fool and find it hard to see things my relatives left behind, or that I've owned for years, out on display being pawed over by strangers. Who didn't buy much in any case; most of what went were the records. To my dismay, a lot of stuff came back in at the end of the afternoon, though we did leave a lot on the sidewalk, from whence it vanished.
Much fun with my grandsons at the kids' play area, bouncing in the bouncy castle and drumming and bouncing and face painting and bouncing. Non-stop energy from them, if not from Glamma. And then Wayson came and we had street Thai food for dinner and watched A Monster Calls, a lovely film which made me weep again. Two weeps in one day - exhausted.

This morning, supposed to run the annual 2 k. fundraising mini-marathon, but it was so cold and I so tired that I did not. Another Aquafit class at the Y with my eager friend instead, the two of us bobbing about like mermaids in the little warm Y pool. Anna and family came back for more bouncing and street food, and then Lynn and I had aperitif with Monique and much talk in French.

Next week busier than ever before my friend leaves on Sunday. I have not done any writing work for days. Weeks, really, if I'm honest. But I will get back to it as soon as I can. I will.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

my great-grandfather at Ashkenaz

I guess this is a thrill not many people have - sitting in a crowded room to watch a dramatic film adaptation of a relative's play. My great-grandfather wrote what is considered his masterpiece, Mirele Efros or the Jewish Queen Lear, in 1898. In 1939, his most produced work was adapted into a Yiddish language film, and yesterday, it was shown at the Ashkenaz Jewish festival here.

I assumed there'd be seven elderly Jews and me in the auditorium, but it was packed with I'd say 200 viewers, maybe more. Amazing. The producers knew I'd be attending because I'd offered to speak, even briefly, about the film and the man; as usual, there was no interest, but they did introduce me as his great-granddaughter and biographer. The film has been remastered with English subtitles - still a bit blurry and sometimes the words illegible, but the film came alive. At the start, there's a long shot of the famous bronze bust of Gordin, with a note about his importance in the world of Yiddish theatre and film. How proud I am of the old man! The film had humour, pathos (of course), fine acting - especially its powerful heroine, a warhorse part for generations of actresses. Gordin the socialist feminist created the role of a very clever businesswoman who's also an adoring mother - though he was not a feminist at home; his wife Anna, the mother of his 11 children, was in the kitchen making soup like a good Jewish wife.

I have offered my services to Ashkenaz before, and this time was surprised and even hurt, once again, that the producers have no interest in the playwright's great-granddaughter who happens to live right here in Toronto. It's too bad; I think audiences would be interested to hear about the man and his work. But there you go. I was grateful to see this fine film.

Lynn and I are still having a great deal of fun and rosé. On Sunday night Anna and family came for dinner, and afterward Lynn and I watched Gone Girl, an edge-of-your-seat dark film by Gillian Flynn who wrote Sharp Objects. Last night we saw RBG, a doc about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and what a magnificent, inspiring woman she is. We are eating huge quantities of corn, ribs, Cheesies, and baked potatoes, which Lynn cannot eat in France. We are laughing constantly. And here we are, with two fellow actors, in a play in 1969, playing people frozen like automatons by modern life.
As far as we're concerned, we look exactly the same. But perhaps not.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Stratford - Coriolanus and friends

Fun! Food! Art! Friends! What's not to like about a trip to Stratford?

Wednesday evening we had a Francophone gathering here to welcome Pierre, who brought a bottle of Pol Roger champagne, now there's a classy guy. Drinking rosé and talking about France versus Canada: Jean-Marc an Acadian, Monique a Frenchwoman who married a Canadian and spent her adult life in Canada, Lynn a Canadian who married a Frenchman and spent her adult life in France. Pierre has lived in Canada only a year and just bought the house across the street. When asked what he likes about this country, he replied, "Everything." And we like everything about him.

Thursday morning, Lynn and I got the direct bus at 10 a.m. and were in Stratford by noon. Old friends Anna Stratton, a film producer, and Tom Campbell, a visual artist, picked us up. They moved a year ago from Toronto and now own a light-filled house with a huge two-story studio in the garden for Tom - painting on the main floor and sculpture upstairs.
We had a gabfest, then off to visit two of Lynn's teachers from Chateauguay - Zella, her Grade 4 teacher whom Lynn had not seen since 1958, and husband Jerry, who taught Lynn math in Grade 10. They reconnected through Facebook.

It was a wonderful encounter - they remembered Lynn well and were thrilled to see her again, to hear about her amazing life in Europe; and she told them how fondly she remembered them, how they'd stayed with her all those years. It meant a great deal on both sides. A beautiful warm couple, both with the kind of open face you'd trust on sight with your life.
A walk along the Avon River, where I saw friend Ellen Roseman taking a picture of her husband Edward Trapunski and ran to photobomb them. They'd also come on the bus to see Coriolanus.
A wander through town to a delicious dinner with Anna and Tom; Lynn and I had moules frites. And then off to Coriolanus, directed by Robert Lepage. This Quebecois director is now an international superstar making his debut at Stratford, and about time too. I've had mixed feelings about his work in the past - always brilliant, imaginative use of technology, but sometimes overdone, too much focus on moving things around and not enough on story. Well, here again - this is a difficult play, surely one of Shakespeare's weakest, and the production did not clarify a convoluted, wordy plot. But the production values were stunning, a use of projections with gorgeous backdrops constantly changing - I don't know how he did it, the narrowing of focus like a camera, then widening, then there's Coriolanus driving a car; the interplay of ancient Rome and modern day - sometimes done so awkwardly - seamless, nothing out of place, even, at one point, two centurions texting each other, with clicking sound effects and emojis - hilarious, and it worked. The acting was extremely good, as we'd expect from this fine company.

The most amazing moment of all - the curtain call, when we saw that the set was actually just a box. Everything was done with video and projections. Incredible. Richly satisfying, even if obtuse and dense, more or less incomprehensible.

We walked back to Anna and Tom's, fell exhausted into our comfortable beds, had an enormous breakfast with much talk next morning; our hosts had found a Ralph Fiennes version of the play on film that they said was better for both the lead character and the play itself.

More exploring, then lunch with another of my oldest friends, Lani, who had driven in from Ingersoll to meet us.
There is no one on earth like Lani - one of a kind, eccentric with a heart as big as her small body can hold; today she had a perfect little Lani handbag and pink and maroon streaks in her hair. After lunch we did my essential Stratford shopping at Rheo Thompson, the chocolate store, $45 worth of dark chocolate including my faves, mint smoothies and peanut butter cups. And then once more to the theatre, a matinee courtesy of Lani; I'd chosen the play Napoli Milionaria! before it opened, because of the director, Anthony Cimolino, and the star, Tom McCamus.

Hmmm. Have to say - mixed reviews. An interesting, long play with a vast cast, set in Naples during and just after WWII, about how people survive war, how they lose their souls, or don't, when a society is upended. Could, should, be very moving. But - badly miscast. McCamus is a talented, charismatic actor, but as a voluble working class Italian - non bene. And Cimolino's shrill actress wife as an Italian matriarch - also non bene. A few others out of place, including a young actress who had to play a woman with an uncontrollable laugh, a very difficult part, excruciating. So scenes that should have been moving were hollow and did not work. But still worth seeing, with some terrific stagecraft, including a perfect set and intermission set changes done by actors in costume.

Goodbye to Lan and straight out to the bus for the ride home. We'd bought half a bottle of red to share on the way with a little snack, so the ride was painless until we hit the heart of downtown Toronto at 7 p.m. on the Friday of a long weekend, with an Ed Sheeran concert and Fan Expo clogging an already clogged Front Street - we crawled along for an hour. It was good to get home.
Lynn, who is in charge of our rosé supply, has made friends with the cashiers at the LCBO on Parliament Street.  "Come visit again soon!" the woman said to her today. And she will.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

R.I.P. Ann Ireland

My boss at Ryerson for 20 years was Ann Ireland, a writer who handled her literary career and a big academic job with patience, grace, and humour, dealing with university administrators' bottom lines and complaining writers. Her latest book was launched this spring, and only a few weeks ago, she and I were corresponding about a Ryerson internet issue.

Three weeks ago, Ann was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. She died a few days ago. According to her best friend Sarah, she was at peace.

If there is ever a reminder for us all to live as if each week is our last, it's Ann's story. How grateful I am that it was thoughtful, efficient Ann who kept us all going at the Chang School for so long. My heart goes out to her family.

So - getting caught up. Lynn and I keep busy, and a certain amount of rosé is being drunk, as you can imagine. A certain amount of talking is going on. On Sunday evening we watched the finale of Sharp Objects - she hadn't seen any of it so it took me half an hour to prepare her - what a terrific series! Dark dark dark, a story about twisted, deeply damaged women. Very good television.

On Monday, a documentary, McQueen, about the British bad boy designer, Alexander McQueen, a doc recommended by my friend Nettie Wild, a prizewinning doc maker herself, so a recommendation to take seriously, though even so, I wondered if I'd enjoy a doc about a famous clothing designer. But it was very good, very moving, not what I expected - who cares about haute couture? But this is the story of the pudgy son of a British cab driver who adores fashion from childhood and ends up at far too young an age running Givenchy in Paris - having to come up with many shows a year and burning himself out - "a talent torched by its own incandescence," as says the New Yorker, about McQueen and his countrymate Amy Winehouse.

Lynn and I walked after along Millionaires Row - Bloor Street - Prada, Chanel etc. - and I saw it all through new eyes. Though truly, even after what I learned in the doc, it all just looks expensive and silly to me. Mind-blowingly, ridiculously expensive.

Yesterday's excitement: we went to an arriba dance class at the Y, the two of us trying to keep up with the flashing feet of a too-fast instructor. And then to the car rental place to meet Anna, who drove us to a palace of consumption: Costco. Believe it or not, my first visit there, and as everyone's does, my jaw dropped. A huge jar of Maille mustard for $5.50! Lynn pointed out this was far less than they pay in France, let alone at Loblaws. So much stuff, so very, very much stuff and free samples on every corner. Cheese, tons of cheese. Exciting and eventually, overwhelming.

Now we are about to prepare for a neighbourhood gathering - three of my Francophone neighbours coming for an aperitif with ma copine from Provence. And yes, again, a little bit of rosé will be consumed. It's very hot. Nothing like a cold drink to cool you down.
Denis, some random movie star, and Ken, on the Toronto Islands
Monsieur at work on the deck
Madame at work in the kitchen. Chopping. We do a lot of chopping. And eating, talking, drinking, walking, watching TV, and enjoying every single bit of the day. We've been really good at that since we were teenagers. Grateful to be alive, together, laughing.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

French friends in Trawna

Busy! Busybusybusy. House guests, and not just any house guests, but Lynn and Denis, guests from FRANCE. This means things need to be right. What to do with a couple who have visited most countries on earth? Visits, outings, and meals were planned and executed. And it was wonderful.
- Dim sum with Wayson and two of his own best friends
- A bike ride for Denis with Jean-Marc along the lake to the Leslie Street Spit, showing him architectural and natural sights, and then a long dinner in the garden, on the beautiful Provencal tablecloth Lynn brought, with Jean-Marc and our mutual old friend Louise, visiting from Ottawa. When Louise was ready to go, the friend who came to pick her up turned out by complete coincidence to be an old colleague of Jean-Marc's.
- A ferry ride to Ward's Island with mutual friend Ken, a walkabout, and later, dinner for all of us at Sam's restaurant, with special different cocktails, or a mocktail for the non-drinker, made for each of us by the tall bartender
- Another visit and lunch in the garden with Louise and then a very slow streetcar out to the Beach to visit Anne-Marie and Jim (I joke that I have "four intelligent Catholic friends" - Lynn, Denis, Anne-Marie, and Ken, all practicing Catholics and yet - really really smart! A mystery to me) - a walk around Ashbridges Bay Park, a swim in Lake Ontario, and dinner at their place in the Beach - trout barbecued on a cedar plank and all manner of fresh Ontario produce, including, of course, corn on the cob, which my French friends don't get to eat at home.
- A bike ride for Denis and me to the St. Lawrence farmer's market.
- lunch.
- talking talking talking talking debating talking arguing talking reminiscing talking
- dinner
- oh - and wine. Wine wine wine.

Delicious. Except for a bit of rain, the weather has been beautiful, and except for the appallingly slow service sometimes of the TTC, Toronto was on its best behaviour.  Denis is now in Montreal, soon to depart for France, and Lynn is here with me for three more weeks, her first long stay in Canada for decades. She is currently working in the living room and I in the kitchen. We went to the Y this morning, I to do a class and she to swim. As soon as we got back, I ate a huge lunch, but she has not eaten yet. Our rhythms are different. This means that my Canadian stomach will be hungry again and want supper much earlier than her French stomach, which eats later. We'll work it out.

Our bit of heaven last night - as you know, I like to dance around the kitchen to Randy Bachman on the radio. Last night, there were two of us boogie-ing madly around the kitchen. And then we watched a French movie on the French channel. At one point, she remembered that my childhood dog's name was Brunhilda, Brunie for short - a dachshund - and I remembered that her's was a mutt called Wolf-fang Leroy. We never met each other's dogs, who'd died before we met, but they live on in legend. I have known this woman for 51 years. It's a gift.

My daughter texted from Washington, where she and her boys are visiting her dad - his mother, my ex-mother in law and grandmother to Anna and Sam, died last night. She was in her late eighties and had been suffering from Alzheimers. A powerful woman felled.

And my aunt is still in pain; my brother and I as caregivers disagree about her treatment, which makes everything more difficult.

Would like to tell you more, but I'm full and it's time for my nap.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

the ten minute hurricane

Terrifying - another violent thunderstorm, pounding lashing rain, cracks of thunder - at rush hour. I am in my house wondering again if the sump pump and downspouts will hold, but many thousands of my fellow Torontonians are struggling to get home. And my friends Lynn and Denis are getting on a plane in Montreal, headed here. I have a feeling they might be delayed. The power went off briefly; candles are ready. Luckily my stove is gas.

It has been dark and wet all day, but with several bright spots for me. One is that Toronto city council voted to make a legal challenge to Doug Ford's attempt to destroy it. Local democracy counts!

The other was going with my friend and neighbour Gina to the nearby Children's Book Bank. We had kids' books to give away; I am culling, and extremely painful as it was, I gathered three full boxes of books, board books my grandsons are too old for now - even Ben, who's not that interested in books since you can't climb on them - and others we just won't have time for. So Gina drove us to the Book Bank. And a glorious place it is too - where anyone with a child is invited to come, sit, read, be read to, and go home with an actual book that belongs to them.

This heavenly place has been nearby for years and I've never been there before. But I will certainly be back soon. Small persons in tow.

Chris posted this evocative picture on his blog yesterday
and it reminded me of something I saw downtown the other day. A homeless man had a flatbed cart with a tall frame, loaded with his possessions and also with a mattress; he had obviously grown weary on a street corner, parked, pulled down the curtains, and gone to sleep. We talk about tiny houses - well, they don't get tinier than that. There he was, in his private bedroom at the corner of Yonge and Alexander. And then I guess he rolls up his curtains and sets off, towing his domain behind him.

Speaking of the city's marginalized, since the hideous Ford has also declared a moratorium on new safe injection sites, a band of volunteers has set one up. And I am all in favour, except that this one is close to Anna's house. As she says, she is all in favour too, except that this boulevard was the one part of Parkdale where people were not using. And now they are. A little too close for comfort, as far as I'm concerned. My kids grew up in the inner city and knew far too much too early about human fallibility, and I guess Anna's will too.

Speaking of controversial takes on vital topics, I saw this and liked it very much. It was done by the woman in the picture, an artist. I have come a long way on the niqab, especially after spending a lot of time, last year, with niquabis. But though, yes, women have the right to wear what they want, it rankles in the most visceral way that it's only women who feel they must go faceless.

Have you been watching HBO's Sharp Objects? Just the most riveting TV. After this Sunday's episode, the penultimate, I went to Google and spent half an hour reading about stuff I didn't quite get. Haunting, dangerous, grownup television. Nothing in the world would pull me away from the TV this Sunday at 9, for the final episode. Just as nothing would have pulled me away yesterday at 8 - Carpool Karaoke, James Corden with Paul McCartney. Their brief bit earlier this month was so popular on the 'net, the producers took all the outtakes and did an hour's show. And sheer heaven it was too. SUCH A LOVELY MAN. Funny, self-deprecating, kind. A tiny bit vain. Love. I watched with Wayson, who remembers being in his father's restaurant in Belleville when the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan. He was in his early twenties, but they hit him hard. I would argue they hit me harder, but who's counting?

My aunt is struggling. She is in great pain, which now we think is because her back is simply disintegrating. After 98 years of feisty independence, she is disintegrating, frail, and vulnerable, and it is painful to witness. My cousin wrote, Maybe we should start stocking piling sleeping pills for ourselves. A bit early yet, I wrote back.

Now - fifteen minutes after I began this post - the rain has stopped and the hot sun is out. The trees are dripping, the sirens are shrieking, but the storm has vanished and for the first time today, it's bright outside. The new normal is that nothing to do with the weather will be normal.

And now, five minutes of proofreading later, the sun has gone, the clouds are back, who knows what will happen next?

Sunday, August 19, 2018


I know life is not going to get easier. The world is in a horrendous mess. I'm 68 and health will at some point start to go wrong for me and for my friends. I know that.

So right now, let me cherish this moment, this sublime Sunday morning. It's not too hot, just a mild breeze, sweet air swishing through the willow tree, sleepy birds, distant city sounds. Everyone is out of town; the silence is palpable. Auntie Do is out of hospital and back in her new home, River Park, where she has made friends with three women called Dorothy, Sylvia, and Margaret - her own name and her sisters'. "The whole family is here," she laughed. Anna and her boys are off tomorrow to Washington to spend a week with her dad. Sam is going to the memorial event today of a friend, one of the owners of the House on Parliament; a staff person there told Sam that one of the last conversations she had with her boss, before he died of a heart attack, was about Sam bringing two boxes of chicken wings as a gift for the staff. My son will probably come here afterward, since it's a block away.

May I count my blessings?

Yesterday I met a new neighbour who has just moved in across the street; he introduced himself, I asked where he was from originally, and immediately we began speaking in French. There are now seven of us within a six house radius who speak fluent French; we should have a Francophone block party.

Then Eli and his dad rode their bikes from Parkdale to here - an hour's ride. When Thomas left,  Eli and I had fun for the rest of the day. We went to the Regent Park playground, so well designed, so many ways to test the body.
My gardening helper Andrew came and we planted spinach, arugula, and lettuce seeds. Eli watered. (Today as we walked he bent down by someone's garden and exclaimed, "Is that a cucumber?" I didn't know what a cucumber plant looked like until two years ago.)

We listened to some of "Sgt. Pepper's" and he said, "I get by with help from my friends too." We watched a bit of "Ferdinand" on the movie channel, he ate a massive dinner of the few foods he will actually eat, had a long bath with the pirate boat, and went to bed clutching a picture of himself hugging his brother Ben while I read "Charlotte's Web." I was awakened at 6.45 a.m. by a very young man still holding the picture. He really loves his brother. More playground, the Farm, drawing pictures, "Paw Patrol," massive quantities of food, our favourite dinosaur puzzle. While he watered, we saw the cardinal fly to its nest in the willow, a perfect spider's web glinting in the sun, the bees nuzzling the Rose of Sharon, and I thought, this is why I'm staying in this house. For this.

Now he has gone off with Holly to a movie. His mama has had a much-needed break from him. He is an angel for everyone but her - especially difficult because they are so alike. As I've said to her, if I'd been a strong mother like she is, taking on every challenge, we'd have murdered each other. I was a wuss as a mother, and so we survived.

This morning, as I brushed my very short hair, he looked at me. "Why do you brush your hair when it doesn't even move?" Good question.

So here I am, now alone in a messy house, blessed in every way. Today. This moment.

PS Later: two more treats today. YoYo Ma - and peaches.

Friday, August 17, 2018

raining in my heart

A dark wet day - more flooding in Toronto, what is wrong with our city fathers, haven't they heard of drains? But it's blessedly cool, and the garden is grateful. Spent hours yesterday and today listening to music on the internet, culling songs, looking for great dance music for my dance party in September. I'm finally entering the 21st century musically. Thrilling. (Though never had an i thingie to listen to music with and hardly know how to download. So still in the dark ages. But struggling to move forward.)

Had a wonderful email from former student Jill Weber, a pastor who is living for awhile in England.
I just wanted to let you know that after almost nine months of conversations with a UK publisher, today I finally signed a contract! My first memoir is nearing completion - I hope to be finished the final draft by Christmas. European release will be next summer or fall and North American release some time after that.

I'm also being published in a couple other arenas - writing resources in my field, contributing a chapter for an anthology, even writing material for a spirituality app! Two hours of my work day are set aside for writing of one type or another for publication.

I just wanted to thank you for your class and your memoir writing book that were so formative and helpful to my process. I'm still a young writer, still finding my voice, still culling pesky adverbs. But I believe the foundation you laid for me was instrumental and I am deeply grateful.

Jill didn't need much from me; she was focussed and dedicated from the start. Still, what pleasure to hear I was some help.  

Got this today from Sarah, who took it during her visit with her kids to Anna and her's on Monday. I entitle it "The beautiful woman and some old bag." What a lovely open face and smile that gorgeous young woman has. 
Just got a message from my brother - my aunt has been transferred to the Civic Hospital because of her back pain. She had another fall the other day and was not in good shape, apparently, though when I spoke with her this afternoon, she had not a word of complaint. A fierce and formidable soul is fighting for life. My heart is with her.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mourning Aretha

They're playing that glorious, rich, incredible voice over and over on the radio, and I am weeping. It seems she has always been there, her strength, her dedication, the soaring instrument that could do anything. I've been hearing things I didn't know about her life - that she had her first baby at 12, her second at 15. That child mother grew up to sing at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Got out the one album of her's that has survived my travelling life. Very, very worn. Talk about a Desert Island Disc. All you need.

Thank you, beautiful Aretha, for all you gave. So much, for us all.

My friend Jenny Dean, singer and actress, said it for all of us on FB:
1967. A twelve year old string bean of a girl shaking her skinny white butt in a Swansea laneway singing her heart out with Aretha Franklin. She’s thinking this is the most passionate, uplifting and joyous voice she has ever heard coming from her transistor radio. This is what a woman singing should sound like. Aretha shaking the world, changing everything.

Aretha. Rock steady through the universe forever.


midsummer day's dream

8 a.m. on a beautiful, sweet morning, a reprieve during this sweltering summer. Yesterday, I was in the garden, listening to the cardinal heckling me - where's the @#$#@ seed, slowpoke? We're waiting! So I filled the feeder and the fearless bird swooped in immediately, a few feet from me, his scarlet topknot rising and falling as he pecked. And then he flew to the nearby fence and popped the seed into the mouth of a small brown bird with scarlet tinges. Back and forth he flew, the baby squawking I assume with gratefulness and not the way Eli sounds sometimes as he whines, I don't like this stuff, donwanit.

The drama of life in the garden. The minuscule spider in my bedroom, however, has vanished, and so has his web. No idea what happened to them, how they could completely disappear.

Soon the noises will start. Bell is installing fibre optic cable, whatever that is, and they're ripping up the street nearby. But for now, my oasis.

Monday - my best friend Lynn grew up in Chateauguay, outside of Montreal, and has come in from Provence with her husband Denis to visit friends and family. In July, three of her adult children flew from their far-flung homes - Sarah from Nairobi with her three half-Burundian children, Myriam from Mauritius with her two Muslim sons, and Christopher from London with his partner and their half-Spanish daughter. This international brood went to Banff and Jasper and back to Chateauguay, and then Sarah came to Toronto with her kids to visit an old friend of hers, and us.

I've known Sarah since she was a very small girl; recently she's been head of various third world NGO's including Handicap International in Nepal, then in Zimbabwe, and now in Nairobi. An extraordinary life. Her marriage to a Burundian ended in divorce, so she is the single mother of six-year old twin boys and a nine year old girl. A strong accomplished admirable woman. Eli and the twins immediately vanished into Anna's yard and were soon screaming with laughter; Maude, with no one to play with, got out her iPad while we prepared lunch and Anna and Sarah discussed motherhood today.

A special joy, to meet the children of your best friend's children.
A momentary lull in the action.
Maude has her grandmother Lynn's smile.

Lynn and Denis come to Toronto next week, Denis for a few days and Lynn to stay with me for 3 weeks. She and I met at Carleton University 51 years ago, in September 1967, when I was just 17 you know what I mean, and she, I never let her forget, a year and a month older. Despite homes on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we've enjoyed a lifetime of laughter. No greater gift than that.

Tuesday, a first - I met with a high school student who's off to university in September and wanted to improve her writing skills. She sent me two of her high school essays and we met to discuss how they could have been better and general principles of good writing. How impressed I am, I told her, that you've taken the initiative to learn how to write properly and well.

I gazed at her, so beautiful, perfect unlined skin, thick shining hair, glowing with health and youth - exactly the age that Lynn and I were when we met. We must have looked like that. And inside, we still do.

That evening, I was invited to my other Lynn friend's for dinner and a swim. When this Lynn bought a huge house in north Toronto, she and her husband transformed their ordinary backyard pool into what looks like a small lake, with irregular stone sides and overhanging shrubs and trees, restful and stunning. The day was, as always, breath-suckingly hot, so plunging into that tiny lake was beyond heaven. We floated for an hour, buoyed by pool noodles, before emerging for a gourmet dinner which included a 2014 Corton, because Lynn is an oenophile. And then, since her husband was out and the pool secluded, I took off my clothes and floated in the pool again.

Read my friend Theresa's evocative blog post yesterday about swimming every day in a nearby lake, and I'm jealous of her, of Lynn. The only way to survive these blistering summers is in a body of water. With no cottage and no pool and Lake Ontario flooded with sewage after last week's storm, I am doomed to swelter.

And also doomed to rewrite, yet again, the blessed memoir. Received the report of the young editor, perspicacious and punchy - this works, this does not. Less of this and more of this. A bit of it I don't agree with - there is a generational issue, for example, when I use the word 'retarded' because that is the word we used in 1979 when the book takes place, and my editor recoils in horror. But most of what she wrote is extremely useful. Even as I sigh at the work ahead.

I spent much of yesterday editing other people's writing and then trying to digest the comments of my own editor. Fascinating - that one can be a successful critic of others and yet so in need of those critical eyes for one's own work.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kenojuak Ashevak's owls

An unexpectedly enjoyable Sunday morning. I was up early so decided to go to the Runfit class at the Y. Friday I set off for there midday, and the weather was so beautiful, I turned around, deciding to just run outside and get on with my day. And of course, I didn't. If I don't go to the Y, in my undisciplined way, usually I simply don't do fitness type things. So reluctantly I went this morning, there was a new teacher with fabulous music, and the class flew by. My body hurts, but that's good.

Now listening to CBC's Michael Enright interview an all-female piano quartet called Ensemble Made in Canada. He just played part of the exquisite second movement of the Mozart Piano Quartet #2. Glorious.

Friday's treat - I was messing about at home when I realized that the exhibition of Inuit art at the AGO would soon be over. So I hopped on my bike. This might be the first exhibit of Inuit artists curated by Inuit artists. It featured one of the best known, Kenojuak Ashevak, whose gorgeous birds are iconic - my parents had her images in their home in the seventies, on calendars and prints -  and her nephew Timootee Pitiulak, whose work shows life in the Arctic today. His work is terrific, but hers is stunning, breathtaking, spiritual.
 Owl Sentinel - Kenojuak.

Pitiulak, Computer Generation, 2012. (Note - his computer is plugged into his hat.)

So - summer is rolling by. Visiting with friends Christopher, Jean-Marc, Gretchen, serving everyone gazpacho, as I'm still eating a cucumber- and tomato-based diet. Former student and current friend Gerry Withey (one of her stories is on this website under Teaching) sent me this print of hers; she's now more visual artist than writer. She calls the print Bliss, and so it is; for me, all that's missing is the cat. Right now, I'm reading two very good library books, Florida by Lauren Groff, such powerful short stories, I cannot read them before bed, and The Untethered Soul: the journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer, which just might change my life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

after the flood

Several have written to ask if we're safe here after the torrential rains of yesterday and this morning, that had Union Station under a foot of water and various streets completely flooded. Two men trapped in a flooded elevator had one foot of air left before they were rescued. What a violent switch - from muggy, bright, and very hot, to dark and incredibly wet.
Yesterday morning, the garden looked like this:
The yellow golden glow at the far end standing tall, maybe 8 or 9 feet tall, with the rudbekia glowing gold beneath.

This morning, the golden glow looked like this:
A lot of stalks smashed and broken. But everything else survived, and the basement did not flood. The basement did not flood! Hooray little sump pump, you're my hero. That basement used to fill with water after just a little rain - after something like last night, it'd be horrendous. Not to mention my skylights and roof which also used to leak. As I've written before, my then handyman said I must have offended the water gods in a previous life because of the constant water issues in this house.

But today - so far - high and dry. Not high enough, as my daughter would laugh. But then, it's only 11 a.m.

Monday, August 6, 2018

"Eighth Grade" and "Sorry to bother you" = A+

A pleasure to catch up on movies during a heat wave. Saturday, "Eighth Grade" with Ken, and today "Sorry to bother you" with Sam - both superb, heartening signs of the strength and innovative creativity of the American film industry today.

"Eighth Grade" is a painful look inside the soul of an American 13-year old - very interesting for me since I spent years delving into my own 13-year old self for my memoir. The writer/director Bo Burnham does a great job of bringing an ordinary, rather plain, pimply, shy, yet sensitive and ever hopeful girl to life, depicting her world of the savage cliques of middle school, the vast jungle of the internet that devours her time, the creepy boys she must learn to deflect and navigate. In 1964 I wrote in my diary; she posts a stream of heartfelt, encouraging videos on Instagram where anyone can see them, though probably, no one does. I felt this film in my bones.

My only real criticism is in the persona of her father, who, unlike his daughter, is Hollywood handsome and decent, kind and wonderful. At one point, he delivers the most glorious, loving speech any daughter could ever hope to hear from her dad. As Ken said on the way out, I never encountered a father like that; I didn't know who that was. Me either. When he was 13 in 1948, Ken was battling a growing terrifying sense of being gay in small town Ontario; when I was 13 in 1963-64, my father was telling me I was spoiled, selfish, lazy, and a neanderthal for loving the Beatles. I cannot imagine what life would have been like if my father had said, over and over, how wonderful I was and how proud he was to be my father. Unimaginable.

But aside from this one bit of treacly fantasyland, a lovely, original film. Afterward I told Sam I was glad he and his sister were always the cool kids, confident in school, and he said, "Are you kidding? I had a giant mole on my forehead in Grade 9 and the kids called me Mole Man. The teasing didn't stop till the mole was removed."

I have absolutely no memory of his giant mole or of arranging to have it removed. Hard to remember a time when he was normal size.

"Sorry to bother you" is not lovely at all but amazingly original it is. Hard even to describe - as Sam said, I thought it was going to be about race, about black people versus white people, but it's really about fighting the excesses of capitalism. It's a funny and horrifying social satire, also written and directed by an immensely talented young man - Boots Riley.

A pleasure to be so stimulated and entertaining and thought-provoked in air conditioned rooms.

Aside from movies, I've continued, slowly, my culling of shelves and basement piles, taking the bulky albums full of photos and stripping them, putting the prints in plastic bags or boxes and throwing away the binders. And yesterday, getting out the pile of daytimers I've kept through two decades, going through them quickly to see what happened when, and then throwing them out. The daytimers show just how incredibly busy I was through those years as a single mother of two not easy children in a leaky old house, while also trying to earn a living, write a difficult book, become fit, have a social life and even, occasionally, a love and sex life (what a distant memory THAT is), keep myself, my children, and our pets and garden healthy, go to Ottawa regularly to visit my mother and aunt, and - oh yes - learn Russian and go to the shrink. It makes me tired to think about it.
Also had to deal with a crisis on my street - the Little Free Library outside my house became a flashpoint for two of the book-stealing crazies in the rooming house up the street, to the point that one threatened violence - "I'll kill you!" - to someone who tried to stop him from taking out all the books. So I had, painfully and reluctantly, to shut it down.

It rained, and instead of close and stifling the air is fresh and clean. Holiday weekend over, back to reality tomorrow, only I walk the streets with a new sense of what it is to be 13 and what it is to be a person of colour in a mad, greedy world. The insightful gifts of art.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

the beach, the beach

To bring you up to date on recent stories: first, the tiny spider in my window has remained motionless for days. Nothing has entered his web, and in any case, he and the web are so small and delicate, his dinner would have to be something in the order of fruitflies, which ordinarily do not hang around my bedroom. I have contemplated trying to catch one in the kitchen and sticking it in the web, but I don't think spiders, even very small ones, approve of that sort of thing.

In fact, he's so still, I wonder if he's even alive. But in any case, I am still careful opening my blinds in the morning.

Auntie Do is now out of hospital and in a recovery place; she's not happy there and misses the hospital. She is hoping to regain enough strength to move home in a week or two, and then we will begin the struggle about the next move - to the Unitarian retirement home which will soon have a place for her. That is, whether she will consider it or not.

And - being 68 is great! My energy was tested yesterday and passed. I worked in the morning (had sent the manuscript of the rewrite off to the young editor and then busily rewrote page after page, so have sent her a rewrite of the rewrite), did a muscleworks class at the Y, and spent the afternoon sorting in the basement with the help of Nicole. I am inspired by the CBC documentary about the lunatic hoarder and am truly attempting to make inroads on the junk here, tossing and tossing. But of course, we come back to family photos and memorabilia, CD's and books - impossible. Paralyzed.

After hours of that I was exhausted, settled into my chair with a good computer when at 5.20 the phone rang - Jean-Marc and Richard were biking to the island to swim and have a picnic, did I want to come and if so could I be ready in 5 minutes? I did and I was. It was heaven, cycling down to the ferry and around the island, landing on the beach, swimming in the cool water, dining together, with wine, on delicious salads and dessert. The beach was crowded and noisy, and of course, since it's clothing optional, there were many penises and a few breasts of various sizes, shapes, and colours parading back and forth. A truly unique place.

JM and Richard are celebrating their 22nd anniversary today. All my love to them - the best neighbours ever.

Will this woman ever learn not to grimace at the camera?

Today, Saturday of the long weekend, the city sounds dead. Heaven. I have cleaned some kitchen cupboards (because mice - don't know what to do, hate traps) and soon will head off to see "Eighth Grade" with Ken.  Later, must deal with vegetables - many cucumbers, much kale, tons of basil.

Bill Maher was back last night after a month away. It was riveting and appalling, his guests laying out in horrifying detail just how much trouble the US is in, just how hideous is the Axis of Evil as defined by Maher - Trump, Charles Koch, Rupert Murdoch. Guest Nancy McLean has written a book laying out exactly what Koch is working toward - rescinding various articles of the Constitution to make life much easier and freer for far right billionaires. Apparently, he's nearly there.

Not to mention our planet burning up on all sides, and the ostriches with their heads buried deep.

Hard to reconcile this beautiful hot day with the evil lurking out there. I will put it aside for now. Read in the NYT that we all deserve a holiday from the news. Maybe I should start today.

But how?

Thursday, August 2, 2018


Listening to a CBC documentary about hoarders, crazy people hanging onto stuff that drives their families nuts. An important lesson. Time to purge, girlfriend.

My birthday dinner was wonderful, including five salads made with my very own beans, kale, tomatoes, and, of course, endless cucumbers, and lots of meats barbecued with skill by Thomas. Entertainment by Eli and Ben. Ben told me at one point, about the day before, "I got dung, Glamma!" I wondered if this had something to do with compost, but no, it had to do with wasps.

The next day was lovely, very quiet. I went to Carole's class at the Y, where the whole runfit class sang Happy Birthday. Later, Jean-Marc and Richard came for dinner on the deck, leftovers and rosé, perfect on a mild evening. Many kind messages via FB, phone, and email from dear, thoughtful friends.

Nancy, a student from 2012, wrote to let me know that members of her class still meet regularly, and that she has just posted about my writing book on her brand new blog.

If you’re ready to start writing your own story, here are my suggestions for books on the craft that every writer should read:
Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott. Lamott is funny, passionate, powerful and my favourite writer on writing.
On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King. Need I say more?
True to Life: Fifty Steps to Help You Tell Your Story, Beth Kaplan. Easy to read, funny, with loads of wisdom from a great teacher.
The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. A classic, always on my desk.
Fucking Apostrophes, Simon Griffin. A funny little book that tells you exactly where you can stick your apostrophes.

I'm honoured, Nancy, to be in such fine company - Strunk and White!

Auntie Do is moving right now from hospital to a care facility, to recover. She'll go home from there, but I hope before long to a retirement home. The very stubbornness and independence that has kept her alive for so long is impeding her move to the next step. Stay tuned.

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. -James Baldwin, writer (2 Aug 1924-1987) 

Much, much to do on these long hot quiet days. Here goes.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

wild life

There is something amazing and beautiful in my bedroom. Visible only in sunlight, a minuscule spider has built a web in front of my window, long almost invisible silver threads coming down from the ceiling and continuing to the table below, and there, in the middle of a perfect little web, he or she waits. A dot. I have to be careful, every morning, not to disturb my companion, this tiny artist, hunter, homebuilder.

And yesterday, I was watering the veggies at the back when a male cardinal landed on the birdfeeder not two feet away and began cracking seeds with his beak, spitting out the shell and snapping up the seed inside. Cardinals are usually very cautious, but this guy has no fear, paid me no mind several times through the day, so I got to admire his extraordinary orange feathers with a brown tinge, the bold crest on his head, his black neck and face. How I love the fact that while we humans fuss and fume, the creatures around us go fiercely about their business. After "Endeavour" on Sunday night, (and what a great series it is) I watched the last half hour of a nature documentary about one day on earth, showcasing zebras, dragonflies, sharks, and other magnificent creatures from around the planet. At the end, they talked about urban wildlife and showed adorable raccoon babies knocking over watering cans - in Toronto. Our claim to fame.

Our other claim to fame - producing mini-Trumps whose goal is to tear the city apart, limb from limb. But let's not push up my blood pressure so early on this beautiful morning.

I woke early Sunday and spent most of the day finishing this draft of the memoir, sent it off late afternoon to the young editor I've hired to read it. She doesn't know me or my work, so can come to it fresh. I do have hope, I think it's much better, but we'll see.

Yesterday, got a bi-annual royalty cheque, $121.57 - whee, I'm off to the South Seas! Seriously, it's thrilling that my two latest books, published in 2014 with no marketing whatsoever, continue to sell, however slowly, especially the writing book. Just received a note from the wife of my high school crush, to whom I gave the writing book.
Enjoying your book and find it very helpful and thought-provoking. In fact, I was talking about it to a few people and sent them photos of the cover,  isbn number, the back cover, etc so they could order it. I believe a really great read is one that you have to stop - and put down - and digest - and really think about. That’s your book.

It's my birthday tomorrow; today is about cooking, as we're having the celebration tonight, a small gathering. I went to the butcher, St. Jamestown Steak and Chops, told Mark, the owner who's been a friend since we moved here in 1986, that it was my birthday, and he gave me a big packet of marinated spareribs as a birthday gift. "Sixty-eight," I told him, and he said, "That's how many people are coming to your party?!" LOL.

The sun is shining on the huge patch of towering yellow golden glow, the Rose of Sharon is hosting many happy pollen-coated bees as always, two perfect white gardenia blooms are scenting the air. My aunt will be released from hospital to an extended care facility next week, and then we'll continue the debate about where she will, as I said to her, celebrate her hundredth birthday in two years. My son is at the cottage of a family who are good friends of his, getting a week of much-deserved r and r. (He's on the left; on the right, in a pose I do not associate with him, is Matt, the father of the family and the computer genius who has saved my digital life.)
Anna, Thomas, and their boys will be here tonight, along with Wayson, my dear friend Ken, and my oldest friend Ron from Halifax days, who is one week younger than I. I will give thanks for the breath in my lungs, and that, despite the vile madness afoot in the world, despite the wilfully blind, lying lunatics, the racists, the fascist thugs doing their best to take over - how did it happen, that these loathsome creatures suddenly have so much power? I mean, Steve Bannon in Europe, really? - I will celebrate human goodness, the power of family, the growth of new young citizens of the planet.

I will take them up and show them the tiny dot in my window, another life, as important as ours.