Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Tick Tick ... Boom; David Suzuki and Tara Cullis

Yesterday I saw something grey and furry in the yard I thought was a cat, but the birds remained on the ground, unperturbed. Then I saw it's a rabbit, there again today. We've entertained skunks, opossums, an occasional rat, and countless raccoons, but never a rabbit. Should I leave out some carrots? Overhead, a hawk. 

Today was the last U of T class of this term. What a treat; this group was spectacular, every story today evidence of courage and craft. I guess this is one of my contributions to the planet - unleashing many stories that otherwise would not be told. And that should be.

Speaking of stories, yesterday I watched What you won't do for love, a play and film developed by David Suzuki and his wife Tara Cullis in conjunction with two young actors. It's a moving discussion in which we hear about the profound love between these two and have a chance to celebrate the dedication and creativity of Tara as well as her famous husband. She talks about how we need both hemispheres of our brain, the left, the analytic side, and the right, the creative visionary side, but how in our society today, the left is all that matters. 


Deeply grateful to these two extraordinary human beings for their lifetimes of work on behalf of us all. As I wrote to them, I was only sorry not to hear my father's version of events. He always credited himself with introducing Tara to David. But as the film makes clear, they managed extremely well without him. 

After watching, I listed my tiny efforts to help in the fight against climate change: no car, buying local food and second hand clothes, gifts, and products as much as possible, veg garden, tenants to share my house, care with electricity and recycling, even saving water by showering sporadically. But on the con side - travel. Year round avocados from Mexico, blueberries from Peru, tangelos from Florida. Uber! What will we all have to give up to keep our planet safe? 

Another interesting film: Tick Tick ... Boom, the story of Jonathan Larson, the creator of the hit musical Rent, his tortuous journey to success before his tragically early death. It pushes sentiment hard - not a surprise, it was directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, an intensely feeling man - but for anyone interested in show biz, it's a treat.

Went next door last night for aperitif with Monique. She was busy and then away, visiting her family in France for 3 weeks, so it's been a long time since we talked. What a pleasure to sit with her again. One of the great gifts of my upbringing is the ability to speak fluent French, which I hope helps protect my brain against the dementia that afflicted my grandmother. Also piano lessons, which stretch my slow, clumsy brain. ANYTHING that stretches the brain. I have several friends dealing with this vile disease. The horror. 

My grandsons came over on Saturday for dinner and play. They'd just had their vaccines - Eli easily, Ben after an hour of cajoling. But it's done, their first dose. To celebrate, chocolate ice-cream and a game of hangman with Glamma. Eli came up with the word 'emus', which I wouldn't have guessed in years. Ben told us he had no idea how to spell anything so he was just putting down "random letters." Laugh! What joy. 

I've been delving into boxes of old writings and notes, looking for material from and about one of my dearest childhood friends, about whom I've been writing. We invented a world of our own with alter egos and a very complex story. I kept a diary for my alter ego, Helen Foster, and made a photo album for her life with pix cut from the Simpson's catalogue. She was blonde. The best thing, then, was to be sweet and blonde.

This was my imaginary self. Could anyone be less like the actual me, then as now? Sigh. Oh, also, she was selfless and crippled and went to church. 

It's dark most days, gloomy, chilly - the snow has melted but there's frost. The Beatles are back on the charts in Britain; intense discussion continues about the doc. One tweet with which I agree: I’ve never felt so much sympathy for Paul McCartney, trying to get a small flock of extremely sensitive boys with untreated ADHD wearing stinky fur coats to concentrate on coming up with songs on a deadline.

The movie in a nutshell.

Xmas is looming, but so far I've managed to avoid hearing any treacly music. And Benjamin Bunny is in my yard. Magic in the air.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Get Back, Part 3. Human beings gather.

Party! An actual party with human beings. Six members of my home class came over yesterday for our annual Xmas potluck; three more Zoomed in. Those on Zoom were there for it all; we left the computer on the kitchen counter as we stood around eating hors d'oeuvres, on a nearby stool when we moved to the table for the feast, and on a table in the living-room as they read their stories. Peg read her own story and critiqued the others as if she was here with us instead of at home. The miracle of technology. The miracle of human gathering. Of seeing each other in the flesh, not in little boxes, but with LEGS. We know each other so well by now, we're family. My other family was over last night and it was glorious.

Screen shot of the merry band taken by Kathy, who was at home. Sorry, Ruth, you're cut off at the side. What a beautiful bunch: Diana, Curtis, Jennifer, Sam, Rita, Ruth. And at home, Brad, Mary, Kathy, Peg, Helen. Love you all. 

The night before, I watched Get Back, Part 3. Right now I'm listening to Let It Be Naked - the CD of the record the film details, without all the schmaltzy extras added by Phil Spector. Just those voices, guitars, keyboards, drums - sublime. The incredible thing about the film - spoiler alert - is that after watching them hang around schmoozing, joking, eating, smoking, noodling on instruments, arguing, not letting Yoko drive them crazy, trying to figure out what the hell they're doing - they get on the roof and blow the top off the sky. The sheer joy of Paul and John, standing side by side, doing what they've been doing since they were boys - the joy is ours too. And with music they just pulled out of the air the day before. We watch it happen, our mouths hanging open. Genius. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

my boy in the snow, 1997

I mentioned an article in the Globe about my son and snow. Just found it. I like it. Perhaps you will too. Sorry the start is so small; I can't make it bigger, and the second bit is either smaller or the ends of sentences vanish. Infuriating. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Get Back, Part Two, in the snow

Just got an email from a woman who was reading my first memoir All My Loving: coming of age with Paul McCartney in Paris. 

Just finished your wonderful book this morning. Loved, loved, loved your young voice bringing back so many memories of my monkey mind and rollercoaster emotions throughout my teen years. Wonderful, thank you.

Thank you! My dream is that one day, readers will want to know, or to relive, what it was like to hear the Beatles for the first time, to live in a glorious fantasy world with Paul, and to see them live twice in one day. Dream on, writer girl. 

Snow. A lot of snow, and it's snowing still. At 8 a.m. I'm snug inside, in my dressing-gown with a cup of coffee, watching the sparrows and dark-eyed juncos raid the feeder and squabble in the cedars. Yesterday, in the long expanse of white, a flash of scarlet: Mr. Cardinal near the feeder, the only colour in the landscape of white, brown, and dark green. And what a colour.

A lovely moment: in 1996, when Sam was twelve, I had an article in the Globe about a snowy evening when he said to me, "You know what we should do right now, Mum? Have a snowball fight." I wrote in the piece, "Of all the things I'd like to do right now — pour myself a glass of wine while Gabriel Byrne gives me a massage — a snowball fight is not on the list."

But we did, and I lost. On Sunday, Anna came for dinner with Eli, who also proposed a snowball fight. And I lost again. Same garden, same snow, a twenty-five-years older me once more trying to hurl as well as the boy and being showered with snow for my pains. It was a wonderful flashback.

Last night's thrill, Part Two of "Get Back." It's extraordinary to be immersed in their conversations, their rehearsals and arguments and endless cups of tea. I have to say - and you know I am the least prejudiced observer imaginable - that John's constant fooling around gets annoying. There's a vicious undertone periodically to his humour, especially when he's working on one of Paul's songs. George is a sweet man but passive-aggressive. Ringo - how could I have dismissed Ringo all those years? He's patient, open, friendly to all. 

But it's Macca who's working to keep them on track, trying not to be the boss and yet, in a chaotic void of so much talent and ego, having to be so. He just keeps going. The current of energy, the creative tension between him and John is almost sexual; I've long thought that. 

And somehow, out of the chaos and joking and aimless sitting around comes the music, the songs engraved on our hearts. 

From a Rolling Stone magazine review, about Paul: 

He also brings in his girlfriend, rock photographer Linda Eastman. He introduces her to a camera man, then adds, “Linda’s a camera man.” Then he sits at the piano to run through some stunning new tunes: “Golden Slumbers,” “Another Day,” “The Long and Winding Road.” The songs aren’t finished, but he’s just showing off for Linda. He’s determined to dazzle this woman.
(This detail cannot be over-stressed: Paul has already decided Linda is the love of his life. He is correct. They’re inseparable for the next 38 years, until her dying day. At this point, he’s still a young rock star, not to mention the most adored bachelor on earth, but that doesn’t faze him. He has total emotional confidence in this life decision. He is 26 years old. Let’s face it: as a culture, we haven’t even begun to fathom the mysteries of Paul McCartney. The gods made only one of him.)" — ROB SHEFFIELD, Rolling Stone Get Back Review.

How glad it makes me to read that. I've known this since January 1964. 

There's the cardinal again. Welcome, brother bird.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Get Back #1 - be still my beating heart! - and King Richard

Perhaps you can imagine my immense pleasure — I just watched the first episode of the new Beatles' doc Get Back. People are complaining this episode is a bit long, but it won't surprise you to know I was riveted every minute, even when they're bickering endlessly about where their eventual concert should be held. In this episode anyway, Paul is the focussed driving force, the creative energy pushing them all forward. Ringo is the reliable, good-natured backup beat, George the rather sullen, insecure little brother, John a charismatic force of nature with his dark shadow Yoko always beside him; here he's scattered, not pulling his weight.

Judy Steed with whom I watched confirmed, at the end, "Beth, now I understand your love for Paul. His musicality and creativity are incredible. And he's so handsome!" 

Yes. Yes they are, and he is. He never stops. It's beyond thrilling to watch the iconic songs emerge; we watch Get Back, Let it Be, The Long and Winding Road, and other Macca songs take shape. But another joy is to watch THEIR joy, the fun they have, the way they leap into old pieces of their own or old rock 'n' roll and make glorious music, over and over again, while their staff mills about and sweet Mal Evans their friend and roadie hovers, ready to jot down lyrics as they fly by. And then he gets to be the hammer of Maxwell's Silver Hammer. 

Spectacular bliss. And two more episodes of Get Back await.

It's been an amazingly full two days for your faithful correspondent. Yesterday I walked downtown to see King Richard with Ken - the story of the father of Venus and Serena, Richard Williams, heroically courageous and a difficult bully. He had to fight to overcome not only the white establishment disdainful of two black sisters from the Compton ghetto but his own community which tried to destroy him. More than a film about the development of two tennis stars, it's a moving portrait of marriage, parenthood, and blind faith. I loved it. Highly recommended. 

Then Ken and I, after seeing an actual movie, distanced, in a cinema, had dinner in an actual restaurant. Like real life! Then, invited by my oldest friend Ron who is studying jazz piano there, I went on to beautiful Koerner Hall to see an Israeli jazz trio doing a Gershwin program. Again, it was wonderful to sit, masked, in that lovely hall to hear real live music. Have to say, however, it takes a particular kind of chutzpah to be a young musician advertising a Gershwin program and then include some of your own compositions, sung in your own really not good voice. He did however play a spectacular Rhapsody in Blue.

So my friends, two great films and a concert. Life is opening up here, just in time for the new variant. 

For your immense viewing pleasure, I give you six-year old Ben's out of focus school picture. Usually he hates being photographed and hides. I guess this time he decided to give it all he had.