Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Biden time: a new world dawns

My son said it well today. "He wasn't my president, it's not my country," he said, "but it was horrible knowing he was there, with so much power. What a wonderful day today is."

A wonderful day indeed. The entire planet surely feels it - well, except for Putin and millions of American insurrectionists who want to smash the world. The lifting, the sweeping away of the cloud of poison gas we've all been forced to breathe for four years - because you could not avoid breathing in the man and his villainous allies. A scumbag right to the end - pardoning a list of low-lifes including one of the most repulsive humans alive, Steve Bannon. Refusing any courtesy to his successor. Sulking, whining, and boasting, as he has never stopped doing, along with his repulsive wife and family. 

Oh thank God. Thank God for the Democrats today, for that wondrously diverse crowd on stage - Mayor Pete with his husband, Eugene Goodman in a place of honour, faces of all colours including the new senators from Georgia ... All of it, wonderful. I was worried about Biden and everyone else in the cold - it was snowing for God's sake - the women in ridiculous high heels, no one warmly enough dressed except Bernie - giving no truck to formality, old Bernie, in his, as someone wrote on Twitter, "Grampa in Vermont jacket." I love them all - Amy Klobuchar, Dr. Jill, Doug and Kamala and their families, the many Bidens, and of course the beautiful, elegant, dignified Obamas. Just seeing them made me cry; look what we have missed. 

I thought Joe's speech was magnificent, and Amanda Gorman the poet - what kind of miracle was that, a young woman so poised, eloquent, and wise? Extraordinary. At another time, it would have felt like a good if overlong and overblown event, in the American way. So many fanfares! But this time, following what the planet has endured for the last four years, it felt like medicine. Like a miraculous vaccine. The beginning of healing.

The NYT said no president since Lincoln has come into office facing more serious problems - including resistance not just from the right but from the left. My daughter the Bernie bro was ho hum about today except for Gorman and Michelle Obama whom she adores. I'm sad she cannot celebrate what Joe Biden accomplished today - a speech that did not spare blame but spoke of hope and healing. A principled, empathetic man who has suffered mightily finally getting his well-earned due. 

Did little else today; Monique chilled a bottle of champagne and we sat outside under her blankets toasting the new administration. I hope tmw life can begin again without constant checking of news to see the latest outrage. Though the other guy hasn't finished outraging us, you may be sure. 

I did do the TDT Zoom dance class last night, but it's not for me. We did pliés. I have not done a plié since quitting ballet at 11. I thought we'd be flinging ourselves about, but we were doing dancers' structured  warmups. Lovely for some, I'm sure, but for me, it's back to line dancing with Gina, where we're just dancing. No pliés.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

words from the wide world: Ajerbaijan, London, Provence, Zurich

An unusual day today: midday I taught the first class of the U of T term, to students who ranged from Vancouver Island and Nelson, B.C., to Edmonton, Montreal, Bathurst New Brunswick, and of course Toronto, to Athens, Greece, and Azerbaijan! Another huge advantage of Zoom - a student in Azerbaijan! It was a fascinating group; I look forward to this term, sitting in my kitchen.

And soon, tonight, I'm doing a Zoom class with the Toronto Dance Theatre. The company is based a few blocks from here; in 1973, I used to take the streetcar across town, from my room in a communal house on Markham Street, to take a class there. Since moving nearby, I've intended to do the same and never have. Usually by 7.15 p.m. I've had a couple of glasses of wine and dinner. Tonight at 7.15 I'll be dancing in the living room with the TDT. We'll see how that goes.

The world is on tenterhooks; it looks like the man will leave office without blowing up Iran or starting a world war - one of the very few things we have to be thankful for. A recent New Yorker cartoon: two people watching television news; one says, Joe Biden is so boring, and the other says, Yes, isn't it wonderful! Yes it is. An ethical man full of heart, trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered nation. I'll be watching tomorrow, along with a relieved planet.

Some gratifyingly kind words from four men, today, about the book: Sasha, a man of Russian background who is researching the life of my great-grandfather in London, England and writes often with questions or new bits of info, wrote that he enjoyed how "Tolstoyan" Loose Woman is. When I wrote to ask what he meant - my great-grandfather was a follower and admirer of Tolstoy - he replied, "I thought that the combination of humour (my partner complained that I was laughing too loudly while reading in bed), the fact that all the exposition, including the entertaining part, was subordinate to an educational purpose, and the disregard for fiction reflected an influence of early Tolstoy."

Love it, Sasha! That you were laughing so loudly is music to my ears. And thanks, that's the first time anyone has linked my work to that of the man I consider the greatest novelist ever. I'll take it. 

My dear Chris, whose blog is to the left: I liked the bit about l’Arche the best; I found that part absolutely wonderful, kind and honestThere was nothing I didn’t like, but to be truthful, the more introspective part at the end, the long inner dialogue about womanhood, marriage and career, was less compelling - not surprising for a male reader. I liked reading the thoughts of an actor about the profession as I am so, so deeply in love with theatre. That is something we share.

Dan, a writer from the south of France: I was deeply moved by your book. Your honesty, self-awareness, transparency and especially personal courage to strip naked on the public square shone through on every page. A life, any life, is necessarily messy; fiction allows us to arrange things (a polite way to say “lie about them”) so they (appear to) make sense. Telling the solid truth must be hard, but is surely immensely liberating (or so I imagine, I've never tried). Thank-you!

Thank you!

And Alan, a fellow Beatlemaniac and musician who lives in Zurich and whom I've never met, went to a cemetery in the snow to find James Joyce's grave and tell him about my book; he made a lovely little film with a poem about Joyce. What a wonderful thing. Tolstoy and James Joyce - what a dinner party! 


Alan, Loose Woman, and James Joyce, in the snow: 

Luckily soon my swollen head and I will be stumbling around the living room making a fool of ourselves.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

let there be fire

A new room has opened up. Throughout my 34 years in this house, the living room has been used for big gatherings, for my home classes, and for watching TV. But in a semi-detached house, the part in the middle without windows is the darkest. I've spent all my years here in the kitchen.

Today, planet living room was made possible by my Valor Madrona gas fire stove. It's not quite finished; the 'driftwood' logs have not arrived. But the rest was installed this morning, and now I think I will not sit anywhere else until April. Merry Christmas to me.

Another important event: I sent 33,000 tentative words of the next book to my favourite editor, Laura Cameron, who has a fierce and perceptive eye. Today I received her remarks. Invaluable - what works and what does not. The most important thing: the material is interesting. A ton of work to do to fix what's there let alone move ahead, but there's hope. 

On the other hand, I had another battle of words with Anna today. Bill Maher was back on HBO last night after two months off; he had the temerity to interview Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's despised press secretaries. It was fascinating to listen to a true believer; she's not an idiot, as she appears, she's smart, and like a cult member, she seems to genuinely believe what she says. But to the woke left, giving her any kind of platform is unforgivable. 

Maher also talked about the woman who was shot during the insurrection, an Iraq vet with a failing small business and huge debts; she'd taken a loan and was paying 165% interest. He pointed out that the Democrats of California are not protecting people from predatory loan sharks. His point was that 74 million people voted for Trump; no matter how wrong they were, we should listen and try to figure out what they wanted and hoped for. Not the violent ones, but so many of the others - ordinary people who for various reasons swallowed the poison. 

But according to the woke left, they're all white supremacists and we should not grant them time. I accused my daughter of being in a bubble just as closed and judgemental as the Trump people's. Fighting words. I adore her and she me. Families disagree. I'm old and she's not. Long may she battle.

Okay, it's so hot in here, I tried to turn off the flames and the remote for the fireplace did not work properly. And so it begins.

Only four more sleeps until President Biden. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

that was the week that was

Who would ever have believed this week? A vicious cavalcade of lies from the most powerful man on earth leading to armed insurrection and murder, the corporate world finally turning on him - Deutsche Bank, for God's sake, when Deutsche Bank turns on you, you're toast. Not to mention a virus killing millions, the entire world confined to quarters ... where am I? Is this planet earth? 

So, since I've been thinking about death, I downloaded a Documents Information sheet from a retirement website and spent a few hours filling it in. Now my kids know where my will and other important documents are; there's a list of my banking info, how to access my passwords. I need to think about cremation and what should happen to my social media after my demise, not to mention the vast quantities of paper I will leave behind. Since death is not - I hope - touch wood - imminent, there's time. But the key thing is done. My kids have Power of Attorney for me for both health and finances, so I hope they continue to be fond of me. My paternal grandmother had Alzheimer's, almost everyone on my father's side died of cancer, and Covid has taken over this province. So who knows what awaits? 

Cheery, I know. But I have no problem talking about my death. It will come. I'll be 110, but it will come, just after, like Diana Athill, I finally become a bestselling author in my nineties. Woo hoo! 

Mourning a favourite filmmaker: Michael Apted, the creator of the "Up" series, documentary filmmaking at its most brilliant. Incredible, to watch those kids grow up, to follow their journeys and compare to our own. A rich odyssey. Thanks to you, Michael. 

It's gloomy again today - not cold, just grey, will be till Saturday, they say. However, there's brightness across town. Anna sent these: the new bed, just finished, with many many stuffies already in place, and a shot of home schooling in progress. Does my heart good. And my heart could use some good these days.

Monday, January 11, 2021

"I was wrong again." The right wing faces reality.

Back to work. Just taught a Zoom class, will teach another Thursday evening; next week, the U of T class too. I was wearing a nice sweater and beads on top, sweatpants and Birkies on the bottom. Zoom works really well, even with a group of strangers meeting for the first time. My internal system is revved up, heart beating faster - showtime! How lucky, after all these years, to love my work so much.

The fallout from Wednesday continues. If my Trump-loving high school friend Dan is an indication, perhaps this is a turning point, a nadir for white supremacists and neo-Nazis and just right wingers like Dan. In 1965 he and I argued bitterly about the Vietnam war, he in favour and I against. Though then we were really parroting our parents, he continued on the right and I on the left; last time he wrote, before the election, crowing about the success of Trump's economic polities and ranting about Hunter Biden, I wrote him off forever. But I got an email Thursday: "You were right. I was wrong again." The invasion of the Capitol was the end for him and his friends. "It made us look like Venezuela." 

He's still hanging on - he wrote subsequently that they still might find election irregularities, and was I not concerned about what the Bidens were doing in Ukraine, and more of the same. I commended him for his humility in admitting he was wrong, but "You've had the Gambino crime family in the White House for 4 years and you're still going on about Hunter Biden! The Kool-Aid is still flowing in your veins." Perhaps it always will, but less than before. That's a start.

What makes me sick, I wrote him, is that their disgusting man behaved abominably and even criminally for years, yet few on their side minded until Wednesday. And many millions still swallow the lies and support him, even support the violent invasion. Way too little, way too late for the Repubs who've finally developed a spine, a conscience, an open pair of eyes. But a start.

My tall handsome son came to visit last night. We hugged. I know, that's taking my life in my hands; I did turn my face away, which is easy because hugging him means my face in his chest. But a hug feels as necessary as food at this point. We had a long deep talk with dinner and watched the first episode of Bridgerton, too fluffy for us both, and the first half of A Life on Our Planet, David Attenborough's life story and a sad chronicle of environmental degradation. A more cheerful rest of the evening for us both - he went to watch football with friends, and I watched All creatures great and small on PBS, about exactly the world Attenborough was celebrating, rural, quiet, in harmony with nature. And a doc on the urbane Alistair Cooke. Grateful for the riches of PBS. 

Excitement across town - the bunkbeds I bought the boys for Xmas have arrived. Luckily Thomas is off this week because it looks like quite a job to put it together. There will be boxes for forts. Onward.