Sunday, July 5, 2020

the bliss of haircuts and Hamilton

Not my happiest place, inside in the AC, but better than the alternative, the suffocating heat outside. Soon it'll lessen and I'll go water the parched garden. It's rosé time, solitary today.

Yesterday, to the market; at 7.45 a.m., there was a lineup outside that moved quickly. Such deliciousness inside, all local.
Though, feeling guilty, later I also went to NoFrills and bought cherries from Washington and mangoes from Mexico - but I promise, I will only buy local produce now till the end of summer.

A few hours later, Helene, a friend of my former hairdresser Ingrid who has closed down her business, came to cut hair in the garden. She does hair for film and TV, and she cut my hair and then Monique's. What a lovely place to have a haircut, on the deck under the pergola. And now my head is lighter. The first time since February! Never has a haircut been so welcome.
That night's treat - I borrowed Anna's log-in and password for Disney+ and watched Hamilton the film. I saw it on stage when it played here in the winter before theatres closed down, and marvelled at its ferocious energy and confidence, its eclectic musicality and originality, overwhelming, breathtaking. Despite the historical complexities it details about the creation of the United States of America, which we Canucks don't know much (or perhaps care much) about, I felt that again about the film. My ex told me recently that Lin-Manuel Miranda, the phenomenal talent who wrote the book, lyrics, and music and also starred as Hamilton for some time, is now a billionaire.

The music! I have "The room where it happened" on the brain and can't get it out! Just one of the best musical moments ever, yet one of many. I defy you to listen to it without snapping and tapping and wanting to dance.


This afternoon, Jane Ellison's 1 1/2 hour class, then cooking some stuff from the market while listening to Eleanor Wachtel. And now the heat has faded, I can open the doors and go water. Only 20 tonight. Tomorrow, only 31. It's going down.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Les Blancs, and scams

I'm on interminable hold with Visa, with that horrible music playing; I was stupidly scammed twice in April, buying stuff to help Anna with the boys - a bouncy castle and a table pingpong set, both, it turns out thanks to my friend Google, scams. My kids tell me Visa sometimes refunds those purchases, so it's worth a try, though they make it as painful as possible to wait. Of course they do.

What's weird is that a tiny package arrived from China today with a cheesy bracelet inside, worth, it says on the package, $5. Maybe there's some law that even if you pay for a bouncy castle, if they send a $5 bracelet, they can't be charged as scammers. Who knows? The description of contents is "hand catenary sofa cloud made with magnets." Aha. That helps!

I thought that I should write something about turning 70, so I started to compile a list of all the ways I've been lucky in life, and then of all the ways I'm not so great. More in the first list than the second, happily, but it's an interesting exercise. I told Monique about it yesterday, and she said, for the second column, "You're too nice, you don't set limits, and it's too easy to take advantage of you."

Yes. True. Viz: sofa cloud made with magnets. But there are plenty of worse flaws on the list than gullible. On the plus side: first of all, being white, female, healthy, smart, half-Jewish half-British in heritage and Canadian in citizenship, with a sense of humour. Can't beat that for lucky genes.

The heat wave continues - we're all stuck inside, it's just too damn hot. 35 degrees yesterday, around that today, to continue into next week. Much much watering to do. Poor garden. But first thing in the morning, before the inferno, it's paradise out there; I do my morning inspection, floating through my personal park. Talk about lucky! Picked rhubarb yesterday and made rhubarb-mango compote for my friend Rosemary's visit, but she cancelled - too damn hot, particularly for someone with a heart condition. So I'll have to struggle to eat it all by myself. Lots of beans and lettuce still, too. Cooked some beans with cherry tomatoes and garlic. Lucky.

Tonight's treat: Anna has shared her Disney+ password with me, so I'm going to watch Hamilton again, this time with Lin-Manuel. The show here was so good, I can't imagine the original being much better, but I'll see. Last night, Les Blancs from the fabulous National Theatre in London - an extraordinarily prescient, timely play by Lorraine Hansberry, finished after her death by her ex-husband - a powerful exploration of the legacy of colonialism in Africa. A bit melodramatic, but a true drama in the best sense of the word.

Joyful news: my friend Margaret in Vancouver is now a grandmother. Son William and wife Christina just had a daughter, Faye Catherine. Margaret and I were pregnant together, with Anna and William. The world moves on to the next generation, and the next.

And then, there's this. Yes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Canada Day - a silent celebration

Canada Day, 2020. How infinitely lucky I feel to live in this country, to have lived here almost all my life. My daughter would be the first to point out Canada's flaws, and there are many, no question. But to me, our namby-pambyness, our colonialism, our forms of racism, are outweighed a hundred times by what is good here, most of all, right now, a sense of shared responsibility for our fellow citizens that is so very lacking to the south of us. The ferocious American need for individuality is what has made their country great, and what is destroying it right now: an inability to see that one small action, say, wearing a mask, may be uncomfortable for the self but is necessary for the greater good.

Thank God, again, for Tommy Douglas.

Mind you, I went this morning to a place I call Planet Rosedale; my friend Carole, teacher of my favourite Y class for 30 years, held a Canada Day class in a park in Rosedale, a 15 minute bike ride away. Rosedale, a 'hood of unimaginable wealth, is barely on earth, as far as I could see - mansions, wide streets, enormous old trees, this lovely, beautifully maintained park - I think my grandsons from Parkdale, with its cluttered, filthy streets lined with often angry homeless people, would be bewildered here. I couldn't help but think, as I rode along the smooth, freshly paved roads, about how ghastly the streets are in much of the rest of the city - along Gerrard to the south of me, for example, barely navigable, so pitted and rutted. But in Rosedale, for some strange reason, magnificent boulevards of fresh flat asphalt.

Inequality war aside, the class was fun; I was the least fit, but no matter, we were together. Carole had posted exercises on trees so we went from tree to tree, doing sit ups and pushups, and I, avoiding any running, though the others were keen. We have missed each other and our routine.
The city and the 'hood are quiet today, on this holiday. I am waiting for the new tenant to arrive, a young woman who'll live downstairs for the month of July. Final shop yesterday to replace the missing towels and bath mats. The place is gleaming.

Yesterday Annie came for lunch - a salade niçoise with green beans and lettuce from the garden, and of course rosé. We watched a webinar together put on by the Friends of Allan Gardens, about pests that eat vegetables. There are so many! I'm terrified. But I've ordered some "food friendly diatomaceous earth" which will fix everything. Stay tuned. Oh, and he also said - apply fertilizer in the morning and kill bugs at night. Your tip of the day.

RIP to Carl Reiner, a happy, loving man who made the world a better place. Listen to his Shakespeare!
Thank God for Tommy Douglas and comedians.

Happy Canada Day to you all. May you have many good laughs today. And so, on into mine.
Carole. She's the grandmother of three grown women and has run 50 marathons. (Hint: She's bionic.)

PS. And she just wrote to say that those roads in Rosedale were just as pitted as anywhere else until recently. I'll take her word for it.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

saying goodbye to Michael Enright

11.45 a.m. Is there a more Canadian experience than this – listening to all 3 hours of CBC radio’s Sunday Morning, with occasional tears in my eyes, as people famous and unknown pay tribute to its extraordinary host? After twenty years on the program, Michael Enright is leaving. I don’t think his departure is voluntary, I think he has been eased out - made redundant, though they're giving him an hour somewhere else. The fact that he’s a superb interviewer and journalist, empathetic, erudite – no. Out. 

I understand perfectly the need to foster new talent and to listen to diverse voices. But to throw out an expert in his prime – IMHO, stupid and short-sighted once again. If it ain't broke, let's break it!

Now I'm laughing as he and Robert Harris sing a Frank Sinatra song, with just the right mix of self-deprecation and absurd courage. So good. He makes it sound so easy. Like Peter Gzowski - one of the last great voices from the golden age of radio. 

I have had to find things to do while listening – I cleaned out a kitchen drawer and the fridge, then moved to the bedroom radio and folded t-shirts and stowed winter stuff, then moved to the office radio and sorted the pile of notebooks and file folders. And now, just sitting listening. But soon I’ll chop the red cabbage and start cooking it, while being informed, entertained, educated, enlightened, inspired. Kept company. That’s what good radio does, and how vital it is, especially now, in lockdown.

Thanks to all involved.

 10.30 p.m. Good news: the sparkling basement apartment is rented for the month of July! A great help. The coreopsis bought and planted not long ago is blooming, but something relentless is devouring the buddleia. More green beans today - soon enough for a meal, along with the delicious red cabbage. At one I did Jane's class from Vancouver, thinking - this pandemic has hurt many. But for me, there have been small blessings, like Jane's class on Zoom; foregoing the hairdresser and learning that I actually like my hair longer; the daily bond with Monique; gardening more; slowing down. No shopping, no gallivanting, just hunkering. Appreciating beyond measure my house and garden to hunker in. 

Watched a bit of Hard Day's Night yesterday for perhaps the twelfth time; it was on TCM. I channelled my 14-year old self while marvelling again at how much they loved each other, how their exuberance and joy bounces right off the screen, how funny they were. "The place is surging with girls!" complains their road manager. "Please sir, can I have one to surge with, please sir?" says John. 

And then I watched I am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin, excoriating about American racism, eloquent and unforgettable. 

This is what I saw first thing this morning. Sending love to you too.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Furnished apartment to rent in Cabbagetown


Spacious one-bedroom basement apartment in Cabbagetown, in the heart of central Toronto, steps from the streetcar and the shops and restaurants of Parliament St., an easy distance to Ryerson, U of T, inner-city hospitals, and downtown, yet startlingly tranquil. The apartment has a private entrance through a gorgeous garden, a high-ceilinged living-room with dining space and kitchen, dressing-room, bathroom with huge shower and washer/dryer, and a bedroom. Fully furnished.

Rent reduced to $1650 a month including all utilities and hi-speed wifi. Someone quiet and reliable with references, please.

If you know someone coming to Toronto who needs a lovely central place to stay, please let them or me know. More info and pictures available.