Tuesday, August 16, 2022

giving blood

This was my FB post today:

Beth Kaplan

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Funny story. Went to donate blood for the first time today. Answered 'no' to all their questions, including whether I'd had sex for money and had handled monkeys recently. One yes: had I lived in England from 1980 to 1996? Yes, I said, I went to theatre school in London in 1981-82. I'm sorry, she said, you cannot donate. Mad cow disease. I left and texted my kids about my rejection. Sam wrote back, I knew something was off with you, Kaplan - mad cow disease! Then Anna wrote, Mum, we didn't live in London in 1981! Oh yes — she was born in Vancouver in 1981. I was at theatre school in 1971-72. Went back and explained I was wrong by a mere decade. We laughed. Completely screwed up their paperwork but finally they took my half-litre of blood. I was so impressed by the steady stream of volunteers. I gather in the US, donors insist on being paid. I love Canadians.
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Monday, August 15, 2022

The joy of music and shelves.

A treat from the city: rode to the new parks on Parliament Street because there's music almost every afternoon, and sat for an hour listening to fine young cellist George Crotty play by heart four of Bach's Unaccompanied Cello Suites. Busses, trucks, and cars roaring by, passersby paying not the slightest attention to the world's greatest music pouring out in the middle of Parliament Street. 

Thank you, George. What a feat. I've just finished reading The Great Passion, by James Runcie, set in J. S. Bach's home and bringing to life the circumstances around the writing of the magnificent St. Matthew Passion. Anna Magdalena, his young second wife, is a major character. I loved being at home with the Bachs and their many many children. 

Music also last night - went with Annie to hear friends of hers, musician actors who used to sing as Sweet Lips, perform in the courtyard of a condo building downtown. A perfect evening, with fun quirky songs like Jacques Brel's. Except I confess I left at intermission, had had enough, wanted to walk home to watch the final Grantchester, which was completely ridiculous and predictable and formulaic, but forgiven. Terrible what TV writers can get away with when you're fond of their characters.

Thomas came to assemble a small Ikea shelving unit and do other fixing around here. I'm like Eeyore with the empty honey pot Pooh gave him for his birthday, putting things into it and taking them out - I'm putting things on my lovely new shelves and moving them around. I don't think I've ever been so organized. Should not say this because something's undoubtedly coming to knock it all over, but except for my office with its piles and boxes of papers, the rest of the house, for the first time in my life, is relatively under control. 

Little Miss Organized is going in for dinner: grilled salmon, ratatouille made with garden veg, fresh corn with lime. Peaches, many peaches. Summer. Halfway through August already! NOOOO. 

Sigh.

Visiting too often lately:

Sunday, August 14, 2022

RIP beloved Sempé

Listening to Beethoven piano concerto #3 on CBC - what pleasure. Jonathan Biss, marvellous pianist. They're saying he suffers from extreme anxiety. If I had to perform something that difficult, I would too. 

A tranquil day. My son and his pup may come to visit, the electrician Mr. Wu said he'd fix some wiring, I'll cook listening to Eleanor, do some work. Write to you.

The sad news is that the great French artist Sempé has died at nearly ninety. His work was unique, exquisite, with a joyful sweetness and innocence and yet a clear eye on human foibles and foolishness, but always with love. I have two framed prints and New Yorker covers and books. The only artist comparable is perhaps Steinberg, also marvellous, but who did not have Sempé's celebratory kindness. Thank you, Sempé, for all the pleasure you gave.

Me.

A time that does not exist any more. They'd all be facing a screen playing video games.

Two mornings ago, there was a mouse in my sink for the second time. The poor things must jump down to see what's there and can't get out. I trap them in a glass and release them at the end of the garden; undoubtedly they just come back, because there are droppings on my counters and stovetop. Yesterday, Thomas came to help with various things, and we pulled out the stove and blocked the hole where we thought they were accessing the kitchen — thick cardboard, steel wool, tons of duct tape.

This morning, there were droppings on my stovetop and, for good measure, a half-chewed cherry tomato. Back to the drawing board.

My brother sent two pics this week.

A street in Tel Aviv. Ah, fame.

It breaks my heart this portrait of my dad is hanging on some stranger's wall. And, yes, that my brother and I sold it for so little. However. Mistakes are made. C'est la vie.

Last night I started to watch Belfast and just couldn't. Could not watch neighbours murdering each other for some arcane difference in religion. Changed channels and watched a new doc on Diana, which is footage and voices, no commentary, about her too-short life, an indictment of celebrity culture, the vicious aggressive British tabloids, the media in general. Cried at that, instead, at a shot of Harry's agonized face as he looked at the mountains of flowers, at again watching those boys walk behind their mother's coffin without an arm around them, a hand to hold. The rich are not like you and me.

Doesn't life feel like this sometimes? 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

power outage in Toronto

 5.45. No power. No electricity. The power went out at about 12.30, so over five hours so far. Worried about the fridge, trying not to open it. My phone for once was not charged – now at 17%, so I don’t want to text or check email. A panicked search for matches through junk drawers and tool chest before finally finding a book of matches from one of my son’s restaurants at the back of a desk. Candles ready, one flashlight working.

Apparently ten thousand downtown Hydro customers are without power, including U of T and MTU, the Eaton Centre, the city’s financial centre. People were or still are stuck in elevators. I went for a walk in the ‘hood and talked to a man in a wheelchair at the corner of Carlton and Parliament, watching the amazingly orderly chaos of cars navigating a busy intersection without streetlights. 

“I live in a high-rise so can’t go home till the power comes back,” he said. “I’m waiting here to see a crash."

The power remained on north of Carlton. Another planet. I know this happens often to my friend Chris on his island in the Pacific, but rarely here, in the metropolis. 

Blessings: it’s a lovely evening, not too hot. I’ve had for many years and barely used a fabulous device called the Eton Emergency Radio, which works by hand-powered crank. So I’m able to keep cranking up to listen to the news and hear there’s a downtown power outage caused at the waterfront by a crane dislocating some hydro wires, and they don’t know when power will be back. 

I had nothing scheduled, so don’t have to get anywhere - Anna said, come over if you want, but the last thing I want is to try to get across town. I can sit on the deck and read. There’s lots of freshly-made gazpacho in the fridge and bread and cheese. The main problem is getting stuff out of the fridge and closing the door as quickly as possible.

No landline. No TV. Luckily, CBC radio through my hand crank. I realize once again, as with the Rogers outage, how much we take for granted. What if this goes on? 

You’re safe, you’re home. And just prior, you’d emailed two essays to a magazine and picked a fresh cucumber and a pile of tomatoes. And now I'll go back out, with warming rosé, to read. And wait.

6.15. Listening to CBC’s The World at Six as I crank the handle. The world’s miseries: punishing heat in Europe, Trump, doctor shortages. Could be so much worse here. My house grows darker, the fridge warmer. But there’s water, and a roof, and a relatively sane society. Safety. I know, my daughter would say, safety for YOU, Ms. White Privilege.

7.45. Went to my neighbours Mary and Malcolm north of Carlton, who had power, to charge my phone. They gave me a glass of wine and said, Stay as long as you want. An hour later I heard that power was mostly back on and left to see if it meant my house – and it did. There’s light. The fridge is humming, I’ll check tomorrow to see if anything has gone bad. Life goes on. 

We are so dependent.

I kept this "diary" on Word on my Mac, and now I can share it with you. Because the internet works, and the light I'm writing by. 

We are so dependent. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

complaining about Toronto drivers

OOOF. Got my second Shingrix shingles vaccine yesterday at a time when I had no appointments, in case it hit me hard, and it has hit me hard. Yesterday was okay, but today, I'm achey and fluey and capable of little. This too shall pass. I went back to bed and watched another episode of Borgen. Which is definitely not a flattering portrait of political life. Luckily, it's not infernally hot today, as it was over the weekend. It's heavy and grey, threatening to rain but not actually coming through. 

On Sunday afternoon, I cooked vegetable soup with the one big zucchini from the garden, and Jean-Marc came today to help me eat it. Very healthy and delicious. David Attenborough says the planet is being destroyed by cutting forests for grazing cattle, and we all must cut back on meat. Yes sir. Will do.

I also spent all day Sunday writing an op-ed for the Toronto Star about speeding cars in the city - out of control and dangerous. Worked and reworked from morn till night, got feedback from Ruth and Annie, eagerly sent it in. Nada. Not a word, just as both the Star and the Globe ignored the last essay I sent them. I know this business is about rejection but sometimes it gets depressing. Besides that one, I have four other essays out, and the book with eight publishers.

Nada.

But the Globe did say yes, the garden is beautiful, and Donald Trump is one step nearer accountability. 

I've long said Trump is Pandora. He has lifted the lid and enabled human vileness.

PS Just spent half an hour filing a police report about a driver speeding in a black Range Rover, top speed on Spruce St. where there's a school playground, and then the same guy zipped through a stop sign without stopping or even slowing. I followed him and got his licence: CSSN 040. That's why I wrote the essay - because this kind of heedless driving is an epidemic all over the city. I guess not of concern to the Star.

But I can always cheer myself up: