Friday, September 30, 2016

smells from downstairs, in 5777

I'm in my office. My son is downstairs cooking something divine for me and Wayson, who will arrive shortly for dinner; the smell in this house is making my mouth water. Sam just shouted with joy - a small plane was circling overhead, bearing a banner advertising Harry's, his new restaurant, which opens next week. And once it does, he will not be working in my kitchen any more, he will be working at Harry's.

I realized this morning that my body ached, my shoulders and neck stiff with tension - because of yesterday's events. It was terrifying, wondering if that young woman, carrying a huge burden of grief and pain, was all right. A tremendous relief to hear that she took herself somewhere where she'd be looked after. Thank you, thank you to our medical system, which provides a large hospital where people not in physical but in psychological distress will be cared for. May she emerge soon and better.

Our world is not in a good place. The images from Syria alone are beyond bearing, let alone so many other troubled places. Why now are these appalling human beings emerging triumphant - especially Trump and Putin, but many others? A recent article in the New Yorker I haven't been able to tackle yet on the new face of fascism in Germany - a beautiful young woman. Why is racism, sexism and xenophobia flourishing? How is it possible that a man like Donald Trump, mind-bogglingly ignorant and vile, commands an enormous amount of our time and energy?

Stop. Concentrate on the gifts - those smells from the young man at work, creating something wonderful in the kitchen; the roses, the grey sky, the trees still green, the season shifting and the planet turning, as it does. As it has. And then, go back to work.

It's the Jewish New Year. Happy 5777 to you all.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Missing Kat

Suddenly, putting everything into perspective, we are dealing with a crisis. One of Anna's dear friends, single mother of Eli's friend Finn, is missing. She was depressed and in difficulty. We are extremely concerned. Finn spent last night at Anna's and is now with his father. For his sake, we pray with all our might that she turns up soon.

An hour later - Kat is safe. She turned herself in to CAMH, the local centre for mental health, and is being looked after. Thank God.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Annals of Aging Part 1

Hillary continues to inspire, but the giant orange blowhole has not yet disappeared up his own @#$#. Please God make him go away, far far away forever. The editorials in every sensible newspaper are telling him to go @#$ himself, and still, there he is.

I've decided to start a new section of this blog called Annals of Aging, to chronicle my descent into my golden years. No, my ASCENT. Climbing up to a ripe old age, that's a better image.

I have wrinkles that bug me - those nasty vertical cuts above my lips and eyebrows and the ones lining my cheeks. Okay, I'm not shrivelled yet, but there are lines. I'd heard about retinol, the miracle cure for aging skin, so got a prescription from my doctor. It said to start slowly in case of reaction so I did - it seemed fine. Smeared it on night after night and waited for the starry glow of youth to return.

Instead, what started to glow was my wrinkles, in patches of raw red. Though I stopped using the stuff months ago, the lines between my brows and bracketing my mouth are still - not smoothed out, but bright red. Horrible; worse than before. I think there is a lesson about vanity here.


I'm in the obsessive stage with my book - as if it's a helpless infant that cannot be left alone, everything revolves around it. The finish line - at least of this draft, this go-round - is in sight. I think. I love it, my little creation. Will the rest of the world? Who cares?

I do. And here's another brilliant creation - a new canvas by Paul Klee they've just discovered at the Louvre.
I promise I won't do this too often, but ... it's actually a self-portrait by my grandson the genius.

It's the heaven of autumn out there, warm by day, chilly at night, the garden fading yet still magnificent in its last burst of beauty.
I just picked 30 ripe cherry tomatoes. How I'll miss going out and returning with treasure. Soon time to put the garden furniture away and pull out the boots.

Climbing up to winter. Time for a glass of red.

Monday, September 26, 2016

the debate! McKelsey defined.

The debate was fun, and I didn't expect it to be - I ran home (FACT CHECK: she lies - she actually took a taxi!) from my class at Ryerson, got in at 9.25 and turned on the TV. What drama! Impossible to believe, as I tweeted, that we had to waste our time, and even worse, that Hillary had to waste her precious time, listening to that moronic narcissistic imbecile.

Many decades ago, when I was in my early teens, my parents learned about a concept called McKelsey - perhaps the name of the social scientist who developed it, such a powerful concept I never forgot it. You could listen to a person's conversation and check their McKelsey rating - which means, the number of times they said the word "I" or talked about themselves only. A person who responds to any question, any conversation, with talking only about themselves has a very high McKelsey rating.

And Mr. Trump is the quintessential, unparallelled superstar of McKelsey. Everything, every single thing, only about himself. Even at the end - he walked off surrounded by his skinny women and his sons Beavis and Butthead. She dove into the crowd and so did her people - Bill, Chelsea et al.

I know from Twitter that EVERYONE was watching - fun to sit with computer and TV and follow them all. I got to follow a lot of smart people, and now I'm watching the Daily Show while eating peanut butter toast. She may have saved the world. Life is good.

"As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a peace deal, a cease fire, a release of dissidents, an opening of new opportunities and nations around the world or even spends 11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, he can talk to me about stamina." Hillary Clinton.

I understand that many people are hurting and want simple answers to complex questions. But truly, if anyone, anyone, can emerge from this debate and still want to vote for an egotistical moron, I will lose my faith in the planet. Hillary, with 100 million plus people watching, was magnificent. End of story.

my boychik

My Vancouver Chris just sent this, saying it popped up on a site he was reading:
I know that face. I know that face extremely well. He finished his job at The Gaslight on Bloor last night, after two good years there; the local Neighbourhood Watch, most of whom were his regulars at the bar, bought him an $175 bottle of Scotch as a farewell present. Now he's one of the managers at a new-old venture on King St. West - Harry's. Grant Van Gameren, the superstar restauranteur, a school chum of Anna's, has taken over a greasy spoon that's been there for 48 years and has vowed to upgrade slightly but otherwise leave it as the comfortable Parkdale local it has always been. Sounds like the ideal place for a very funny, very tall young man who dislikes pretension and loves to help people be happy and full.

I think his mother, sister and nephews will also enjoy a burger or twelve there. It opens soon.
Bravo, my son. Onward.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

notes on writing

A few work related bits:

This is from a student who's a reader of this blog:
Beth I want to thank you so much for your sharing the other day about the frustration of your friend backing out of being your agent. I can’t convey how helpful and inspiring it has been to read of all your ups and downs in the process of bringing your memoir to birth. I have read—and heard, even from you—descriptions of that slow, forward two steps, back one (or two or five) process, but there has been nothing like reading about your particular experience as it has unfolded to make that all real. So many times I have been surprised, even dismayed, by your experience, but then am always heartened and inspired by your continuing to just push forward. In addition, your insistence on taking the time to make it a great book and not just rush to an OK book has by osmosis helped me to subdue my own impatience and occasional desire to take a short-cut at the cost of mediocrity. Words deserve the best we can give them, and I thank you for being a model of that. 

I don't know about being a model of anything - except perhaps efficiency, dear friend, but thank you for this lovely note

Here's the winner of this year's CBC Non-fiction competition. It's a beautiful story, visceral and strong, written, she says in an interview, in an evening:

And - for those of you dreaming of the wonderful writing life - here's a harsh dose of reality. Okay, so it ain't easy. Well, it's a good thing we don't do it for the money and the fame. Ha ha.

A View from the Bridge, WOTS

I've been thinking more about what my friend Mary said - about my "efficiency" and how do I get such a lot done and get around so much? And there are two very big reasons which might not be self-evident: as opposed to someone with a husband who lives in the Beach, like Mary, I am single, and I live very close to many venues. If I want to do something, I don't have to consult, check calendars, persuade, wait - I just buy a ticket and go. And usually, I set off at the very last minute, because on my bike it's a hop and skip to see a play, film, art show or concert.

This Saturday, I left on my bike at noon for a film at 12.30, and I left that early only because it was sold out. And rightly so - Arthur Miller's "A view from the bridge" in a brilliant National Theatre production, directed by Ivo von Hove, at National Theatre Live. Once again, how grateful I am for this initiative - fantastic theatre at the cinema. This is one I would have liked, like my friends Jean-Marc and Richard, to have seen live, because even on the screen, this Greek tragedy set in Brooklyn  packed an enormous punch. Superb, extremely moving, beautifully acted and directed, just the best. I could have done without the "theatre of mess" shower of blood at the end. Sorry, spoiler alert. But otherwise, great.

And then, hop on the bike and home in ten minutes. That's how I get so much done. Well, and also because I am a multi-tasker by birth. I never leave a room without carrying something from A to B, never go on an excursion or an errand without figuring out if I can kill two birds etc. Friends make fun of me because I am always plotting the most efficient route and time of day to get around. Cannot help myself. I've always blamed that peccadillo on my New York genes. New Yorkers are insane like that.

And anyway - who says I've accomplished a lot in my 66 years? Some people my age have written 20 or more books by now! I'm a sloth, a total slug in comparison.

Speaking of which - Word on the Street today. I was there first with Eli who had a sleepover here last night - lots of fun. But he was not feeling well at the book event so we took it easy - watched TVO Kids events and went to some kids' book readings, where he lay down in my lap and fell asleep. I hope he's okay - his mama came to meet us and take him home. I stayed to go to the grown-up side where, I confess - though I always set out full of joy for this grand event celebrating writers and books - I got extremely depressed. So many books! So many writers! And yet not one of my books there, anywhere. And around this corner, a publisher who said no, and over there a former student I don't want to talk to, and over there ANOTHER publisher who said no. I bought "Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" and "Horton Hears a Who" and went home.

At breakfast, Eli asked me, "Glamma, can you make your arm fart?" How come no one has ever asked this efficient woman that vital question before?

From my editor friend Chris: Beautiful Yiddish saying I just found: To the unlearned, old age is winter; to the learned, it’s harvest time.

Especially cucumbers.

Friday, September 23, 2016

autumn begins

Yesterday, the autumn equinox, was still summer - hot and beautiful. But today it's fall, dank and cool. The authorities say this summer was the hottest on record for Toronto; my tomatoes are proof. Now there's a final flourish - everything is back to blooming, roses, camellias, the bank of late-blooming clematis covering everything, the rose of Sharon never lovelier - just heaven.

However. Life goes on, and the nightmares of the planet persist - Syria, Trump, Putin, the brutal deaths of unarmed black Americans, the hottest summer on record. Hard not to be sad and afraid, even while the smell of the camellias wafts in. But I refuse to take on the world's problems right now, I'm too busy.

At 66, I've never been busier; I need more time per day. There's teaching and assembling the readers for the next So True event on Oct.30 - four gorgeous essays almost ready so far. I spent time yesterday morning with my daughter and her squirmy younger boy -
and on Tuesday night, my own fine boy came to cook me dinner - trout and asparagus poached in white wine with a confit of smoked bacon and apricots accompanied by grilled mushrooms, leeks and baked potato - am I lucky or what?
But most of all - there's my own work. The transformation of my bedroom into my office and vice versa has been an unqualified success; I now see that a lot of my problems getting down to work were because I did not have the right office. I know, excuses, right? But in fact, now I'm happy to go up after breakfast and get down to it, in a bright space that's organized and comfortable. And the memoir is getting there, it's nearly there, and I love love love it, my little creation, my life in words. I've sent a query to two agents, have heard back from neither - obviously so inflamed with passion for my project, they're speechless for the moment.


Never mind, I still have lots to do. Last night at my home class, dear friend and student Mary exclaimed that she reads my blog and does not know how I fit everything into my day. "You're so efficient and organized!" she said. And though I do not usually accept compliments, I will with pleasure accept that one.

P.S. An hour later, I realize I just wrote something silly. Of course I'm not busier now than I have ever been - remembering when I was a young actress rehearsing by day, performing at night, and managing my frantic love life, or, even more exhausting, when I was the single mother of two young children living in a house that was disintegrating around us (and with a garden that was a jungle of weeds.) I was much busier then. But still I feel, these days, as if I can't keep up with it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare hooray

Finding the Jewish Shakespeare: The Life and Legacy of Jacob Gordin

Drawing of man with long beard (Jacob Gordin)Thursday November 17

$4 Drop-In
Writer/actress Beth Kaplan shares an inside look at the life and creative achievements of her great-grandfather, Jacob Gordin, the influential playwright and icon of the Yiddish stage. Includes a dramatic performance by Jack Newman.

I am going to be speaking about my great-grandfather, his life, my search for him and the subsequent book, at the Miles Nadal JCC at Spadina and Bloor on November 17. Doors open at 1, and the short dramatic program will run from 1.30 to 3.00; the fine actor Jack Newman will perform short excepts from Gordin's plays in both English and Yiddish, there will be power point photographs, and, of course, moi. I think it'll be fun. You're invited.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ellen Seligman

Just back from Ellen Seligman's memorial at Koerner Hall - a huge concert hall full of book people, there to honour the life of Canada's most famous fiction editor, whose authors won innumerable prizes, including the Nobel. Speaker after speaker spoke of her dedication and love of her work, her writers, their words. They spoke too of how exhausting it was to be under her meticulous scrutiny - how she inspected every thought, every motivation of the characters, to be sure it was true and the best it could be. Exhausting. Elizabeth Hay, who spoke eloquently, said that when Ellen called about her new novel, she broke out into a sweat, knowing that at least 3 hours of hard work on the phone lay ahead of her, page by page, word by word - and for others, the sessions lasted much longer. A gift to a writer to have that kind of focus and faith. She offered "affection and correction," said one. "The words have been orphaned," said another. Andrew O'Hagan wrote, in a letter that someone read, "She gave us the miracle of pure literary attention."

"The most important people in a publishing house," said Michael Ondaatje, "are the editors."

"If a bomb fell on this room," said Wayson, at the reception afterwards, "Canadian literature would be destroyed." Not quite - that's a Toronto-centric view. But a huge chunk of it would be gone - writers, editors, publishers, publicists, agents ... book people. My people, who don't often gather en masse. One of Ellen's last gifts was to bring them together in this dignified place, to remember her. And not just her work, but her humour and style, her friendship and elegance.

Elizabeth Hay quoted Isaac Babel as saying, "All work consists in overcoming snags." I was thrilled to hear that, as "snags" is a word I use often in my own editing work, urging students and writing clients to make sure there are no snags in their work, no careless moments that jerk the reader from the page. A former student who was there sought me out to say, "When she quoted Babel, I could hear you." Nice to know that in my own minuscule way, I'm doing my best to polish Canlit, as Ellen did.

In fact, I've been in the trenches these last days with my own projects. My friend the agent who was going to take me on decided against it, to preserve our friendship, and I'm sure wisely so. But that meant I was looking for an agent again, or agents, one for the children's book and one for the memoir, which isn't finished but which has a chapter or two ready for showing. So that took a couple of days. It's a full time job to try to sell yourself as a writer - to find an agent and/or get the work out there, publicize it when it's out - let alone try to write the @#$# thing. Brutal. And for almost no money. But there we all were today, all of us in the book trade, because that's who we are and what we do.

Anyway, yesterday I sent the children's manuscript out to one agent, who forwarded it to a colleague, and I sent a query to another. I was depressed for a while before that. Sunday I went to see the Abbey Theatre's "The Plough and the Stars," a brilliant production from Dublin but ye gods, a devastating play, about the destructive power of poverty, alcoholism, colonialism and, especially, a young man's pointless need to fight. I came home sad to find the goodbye email from my friend and faced starting over again. Again.

But outside was a sound - my woodpecker, hammering away at the ivy, taktaktaktaktak. That little bird is my great inspiration. She - he? - just keeps working, day in, day out, digging, exploring. And that's what I, in honour of Ellen Seligman, another kind of woodpecker, will do too.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

my boys and their lustrous brown hair

Apparently, Paul is wearing the same jacket he wore to the opening of "Hard Day's Night" in 1964. Apart from the fact that it still fits - perfectly - imagine keeping it through the upheavals of the last fifty plus years! I've heard that he's thrifty. Love you, Macca. Keep on rockin'. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Eight Days a Week

Please give a sympathetic thought for my daughter, who is camping today with her partner and two small boys - in the rain. Well, it's gloomy and wet but at least it's warm. It's definitely fall, though, the best time of year when we relish the good weather, a day like yesterday, perfect - and the flowers are blooming again in the garden, camellias, roses, the white fall-blooming clematis growing on everything, the scent overwhelming when there's rain. All this so appreciated, because we know what's coming.

A busy week, even though I am not at TIFF. I never go to TIFF, it's too much like work, though I will happily accept an invite if someone asks. But somehow the days fly by even without seeing 46 films in 2 weeks, like some of my friends.

Yesterday, for example, I had to get all around the city which required some planning. So - by bike to the Y at noon for the half-hour weights class, then on to the Miles Nadal JCC for a meeting with Lisa Roy, organizer extraordinaire who has done the power point photos for my talk on November 17, to go over order and what else is needed. Then a ride downtown, leaving my bike chained at Spadina and King, taking the King streetcar west, getting to Eli's school just as he got out. My schoolboy grandson, so proud of all he's learning. He rode his scooter, his mama pushed the stroller and we walked north to the Dufferin Mall to buy him shoes - his toes were emerging from his sneakers. And then we bought sushi and had a picnic in Dufferin Park across the street, where there's a fabulous adventure playground for kids with lots of loose wood, a stream and mud. Eli immediately began feverishly to dig a trench with the other kids, all of whom were digging except one, who was supervising. A supervisor, at 5! He said, at one point, surveying the chaotic jumble of mud-spattered planks, "Well, guys, I think our work here is done."

Meanwhile, Ben climbed everything in sight, including a picnic table he fell from on my watch. A bit of crying but unhurt. Ye gods, exhausting, I've never seen such focus and determination in a baby - not to walk yet, he's still crawling at 13 months, but to climb. Get that kid into gymnastics, or on the Matterhorn.

They set off home to prepare for their camping trip, and, time pressing, I got a cab back to my bike and rode, zipping smugly through Friday rush hour traffic, to Cineplex, to see - of course - the sold out second showing of "Eight Days a Week," Ron Howard's documentary about the Beatles' touring years. FAB GEAR! Sheer joy. There was nothing in it I didn't know, but still, it was incredible to see just how insane those years were - the screaming and frenzy! I was a Beatlemaniac but never a lunatic screamer like that. It's a marvel they weren't seriously hurt, crushed by adoration.

What comes through most clearly is their wondrous humour and warmth, their incredible musicianship and love of playing and love for each other, the fact that even with all that adulation, they never took it too seriously. There's a wonderful moment when a pompous interviewer asks Paul about the "culture" they're promoting and he says something like, "Don't be daft, it's not culture, it's a bit of a laff."

My one criticism - of course - is that the focus is John-centric and does not highlight Paul's strengths as much as John's. For example, in all the concert footage, not a single of Paul's melt-your-heart ballads. However. You know me, I may not be screaming but I'm a mad fan nonetheless.

The very young woman in the next seat and I were both singing soft harmonies of each song, especially during the added show at the end, a half-hour remix of the famous Shea Stadium concert, the first concert of that magnitude ever for a rock band. At the end, she turned to me - all of 30, if that - and asked if I'd been to any shows. So this wizened crone told her about the concerts in Paris '65, a tiny clip of which is shown in the film, and my book. I told her about the moment when I heard the music in January 1964 and everything changed. And she said, it was the same for me - it was decades later, but me too, when I heard their music, I knew it was different and better than anything else. A kindred spirit, 35 years younger but just the same.

And then I attached the lights I'd remembered to bring and cycled home at 9.30 p.m., singing "She's a woman" at the top of my lungs. Happiness is. At home, checked the internet for pix of the opening yesterday - Paul and Ringo, together again, both looking fantastic at 74 and 76.

Today I finished another draft of the kid's book I've been trying to get published and sent it to my friend who is now my agent. Yay! And now to work. So many books to read too, drowning in print, as usual.

More happiness:
Today's crop - little garlics and tomatoes, but look at those cucumbers! As the giant orange blow-hole would say, YUGE.

Smelling Lots Of Wine Makes Your Brain Alzheimer’s Resistant:

Yes. I can live with that. We were discussing the alcoholism of the elderly at the Thursday class here, and someone described me as a "high-functionning alcoholic." That was something of a shocker. But I guess I am, if that means that I'd prefer a day with wine to a day without. But only, of course, for the health of my brain.

Monday, September 12, 2016

pix from me to you

Central Park from above. What a miracle that place is, a giant green rectangle in the middle of a lunatic asylum.
Oh yup yup yup. Please let me be nearby when these two meet again - Macca and Mr. Darcy! MMMM. Even if one of them is, for some incomprehensible reason, wearing plaid.

For me, it's fall, though officially not for a few more weeks. But work started today - I mean, outside work as opposed to inside work, my own writing. Tonight, a wonderfully full class at Ryerson. My privilege to be at the helm and meet them all. One student said she was torn between various classes and then she read one of the articles on this website; it made her cry and she knew this was the right class. "So now I can make you cry in person," I said.

Yesterday, the Cabbagetown Festival, a beautiful day - as was today too, perfect - strolling with the family and Wayson, street food, crafts, the Farm, garage sales everywhere. I bought only one thing - a big castle, with archers and knights and, best of all, TWO DRAGONS, for $10. Eli's Xmas present. My kind of shopping.

May this weather last - sunny and fresh, with a breeze. A blessing.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A United Kingdom

O I love this city. Can you tell? Crazy flawed as it is. So much going on, it's overwhelming sometimes.

In the spring, tickets for a John Prine concert, with Ron Sexsmith, were offered for sale, and for some reason I bought one. I wasn't particularly a Prine fan, but I certainly knew his name and his work, and was interested to see him and the Canadian musician too. So last night, I landed in the midst of a hoard of John Prine fanatics. The couple next to me at Massey Hall have followed him all over North America and that day had driven five hours from northern Ontario. I got on my bicycle and in ten minutes was in my seat.

Sexsmith plays the guitar magnificently and has that odd quavery voice and the face of a cherubic nine year old - when he told us his daughter, in the audience, was 26, I couldn't believe it. Prine, on the other hand, is a little old man, his neck bent sideways by cancer, his voice rough. But his songs are gorgeous - "Angel from Montgomery" et al - his band was sterling and his patter was great. "My granddaddy," he said, "was a carpenter. He'd come home filthy, go up and have a bath, and come down for dinner every night in a 3 piece suit. Didn't matter if we were eating fried spam - he was in the suit." He also sang his famous protest song about how "Your flag decal won't get you into heaven any more." "But your flag decal," he said to the Canadian audience, "WILL get you into heaven." Yeah!

Most enjoyable. When he appeared, the woman next to me yelled, "I love you, Johnny." As did many.

This morning the Cabbagetown Festival started - in the rain. A friend was going to use my front yard to sell her handmade jewellery - decided to come back tomorrow. I went off on my bike (rain turning into oppressive heat) to join a huge crowd at TIFF, courtesy of Jean-Marc and Richard. We saw "A United Kingdom," a stunning film based on the true story - who knew? - of an African prince living in London in 1947 who falls in love with a white Londoner, marries her, and takes her to his country Bechuanaland (now Botswana); they are rejected by everyone, her parents, his family and country, and especially the venal political rulers of England and South Africa. It shows the couple's enormous courage in fighting to remain together despite the poisonous racism of the time. Shot partially in London, which is all rainy gloom, and partially in Africa, all bright yellow and orange, and beautifully acted by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. Stirring and very moving. Yes, a bit too black and white, figuratively, but an important film very well done. And incidentally, the couple's eldest son is still the leader of Botswana.

Of course, it also triggered thoughts of my own parents, who met in 1944 - Dad wasn't black, but he was Jewish, and to my conventional British grandparents, he was strange and frightening. My mother told me that the first time he visited her parents, he sat casually on the arm of a chair and they were appalled. Both families were unhappy about the marriage but they soon came round, especially when the adorable (ahem) Elizabeth was born. Nothing, nothing like what this couple endured.

Home in the hot sun to do a walkabout at the Festival and buy some food to take home - kotha roti, samosas, fajitas, pad thai, mango salad ... Every nationality on earth, it seems, is walking on Parliament Street right now.

So that's my city, three extremely diverse events within a ten block radius in less than 24 hours. And that's just a tiny taste of the stuff going on. What's not to like? Well, transit for one, but let's not go there today. Today - celebration. And eating.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

my classes and the Special Needs Hotel

Dear student writers, just a reminder: the Ryerson class that starts Monday evening is full. I won't know till next week how many are in the U of T class, which starts in early October and runs on Tuesday afternoons, but please check it out - the link is on this website under Teaching. I'm pretty sure there's room if you can free yourself during the day.

As a reminder of how important creativity is in our lives, I had this note from a former student who is coming back to class. She's a university professor, a talented writer who struggles to make time in her busy life for her creative self.

It HAS been too long and not being able to steep in the creativity of others is withering my soul. Even the spouse has noticed and commented that I need to be writing more, and even said he is willing to forego my income if I want to quit sooner than later so that I can spend more time learning how to write. (That defines love, methinks.)

Methinks also. What a lovely story. And incidentally, she lives beyond Niagara on the Lake and told me she is training herself to stay up late so she can drive safely back all that way on class nights. Now that's dedication. That also defines love, methinks.

Just watched a gorgeous documentary on CBC called "The special needs hotel," about the Foxes, a hotel in Britain that provides restaurant and cleaning training and education for special needs young people, most of them with Down's syndrome, others with autism and ADHD. Profoundly moving to see the transformation in those young lives with care and attention, patience and a job. They all triumphed. If you get a chance to see this, don't miss it.

What is life, after all, but a special needs hotel?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Idea of North

Record-breaking heat - 34 feeling like 43! 43 degrees - that's 109 in our old world. And my A.C. has decided not to work. No idea why, but this, dear machine, is not a good day to crap out. So I'm huddled in the living room with the fan and a glass of cold white wine. Could be worse. (The liquor store has no more good rosé. Imagine!)

I do have a U of T event tonight, but I just cannot cycle across the city in 43 degrees, full sun all the way, plus I am just not up for it. Mon dieu, BK not up for free food and wine and meeting with colleagues - something must be wrong. Well - I went to my Y class today, my legs hurt, it's too hot. For once, I will go to the Cabbagetown Short Film Festival, run by my friend Gina, instead of a work event. I'm allowed - have not missed one in the 9 years I've been working there.

Went yesterday with Margaret to the AGO to see "Idea of North," an exhibition of Lawren Harris paintings curated by Steve Martin. There is something annoyingly Canadian about this - that an American movie star discovers one of our great painters and suddenly we all do too. Except that we all knew how wonderful Lawren Harris was - his beautiful paintings of Toronto and then the north. It's interesting that he moved directly from houses to mountains. It all gets a bit religious later, and then weird and abstract, but still, his work is glorious.

I am reading Ian Brown's "Sixty" from the library. I admire his writing, his moving book about his handicapped son and long heartfelt essays in the Globe. But I have to say I dislike this book and am not going to finish it. He writes about how he has not achieved success and is jealous of others, while detailing the many successes of his rich and interesting life. He is trying to be Karl Ove Knausgaard, writing with disarming honesty about body functions and every single depressing and intimate detail of his aging body and mind. But it's not charming, somehow, the way Knausgaard does it, it's just whiney, self-pitying and annoying. A big misstep for a very good writer, I think. 

Right now an Idea of North sounds like a good idea - a blast of cold air would be a big help. But then, it'll come soon enough, and we'll all be pining for heat. O Canada.

Helen Mirren at 70

Readers of my FB page know that yesterday was four-year old Eli's first day of school. And he aced it. There's a long road ahead, but his first day was exemplary. His mama wrote to me, "Both his teachers said he was amazing. Well behaved, listened the first time they told him something, and was a great kid. I said I wasn't surprised because he's always so good for everyone else. She said that's a sign I'm doing a great job. LOL."

Watched last night a program on TVO about success in life, various studies etc., and that they feel now the deciding factor for lifelong success is not resilience or intelligence, but self-control in childhood. The famous marshmallow test. And Eli, though he fights his mama so fiercely, has it. So Glamma can officially cease worrying and live a serene life from now on.


Hot and beautiful. Friend Margaret staying here. The Cabbagetown Festival coming up, tonight a big U of T event with food, wine and colleagues, and later the C'town Short Film Fest. Too busy. Love it.

Here's a heartening picture for your Wednesday of your typical 70-year old woman:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labour Day

A gorgeous Labour Day - my labour was spending time with the small boys from across town who descended and destroyed with glee. We spent a lot of time at the wonderful water park on Wellesley Street, where they got wet and Glamma did not. At one point, a very elderly couple - in their nineties, extremely frail - arrived with their walkers and a caregiver and sat, laughing as they watched the children splash in the water. They had come just to watch the kids play, and their delight was beautiful to see. It brought tears to my eyes, in fact, reminding me just how lucky we all were, to be alive on this beautiful day watching children run through streams of water screaming with pleasure. The woman - so very tiny - was wearing bright purple nail and toenail polish. I complimented her and she said she was visiting some very traditional friends later and would have to take it off first.

By mid-afternoon, Glamma was tuckered out and the family went home. I poured a large glass of wine and sat staring at the garden, where the silver lace vine, for the first time, has burst into massive quantities of bloom.

Tomorrow, Eli starts Junior Kindergarten. First day of school. We went to check it out the other day - he knows the building well because the drop-in he frequented with his mama is there. He'll be fine. And his mama will be very happy to have some time with just a very energetic climbing baby.

Here are some things for you to enjoy, at the end of this great summer. Cheers!

Friday, September 2, 2016

cute boys

Amazing - it turned into September, and I had to put a quilt on the bed and wear my light wool housecoat the next morning. I know it'll go back and forth, but still ... Mama Nature flipped the calendar to Sept. 1 and said, Okay, that's done, moving right along, and turned down the heat.

Went across town to go swimming with Anna and the boys, as the giant public pool near them will close on Monday. It's wonderful they live so close to the lake; we walked on the boardwalk, ate at the restaurant practically right on the beach, and were deafened by the air show practicing right in front of us.
Eli looked for "instering" rocks to throw into the water. And found plenty.

Yesterday, another kind of heaven - I worked on the manuscript all day - well, with interruptions, including dear Wayson who came for dinner. But mostly, blessed solitude. Richard invited me to go with him and Jean-Marc for a picnic and swim on the island and I said no. Working. That's the first time in weeks and it felt good. Today, no work again, but I'll get back to it. Have not done much this summer, but then ... it was summer.

What I just did, instead of working, was to spend half an hour listening to a YouTube video about Paul McCartney's vocal range and tone. Absolutely incredible, from pure, sweet and low to the highest Helter Skelter-type screams, his voice is infinitely flexible - and he wrote all the @#$# songs himself. Sheer genius. Be still my beating heart.
Speaking of which - how's this for a nice-looking guy with a lovely smile? The one on the right. Atsa my boy.
And now it's 10 o'clock and I can go to bed and read. Does life get better than this?