Friday, September 29, 2017

Obama and Harry in Toronto: swoon

Wednesday, so scorching hot we could hardly breathe. Thursday, temperate. Today, so wet and chilly that I turned on the furnace. That is something of a record, that huge a switch in temperature in 48 hours. Welcome to Canada.

I am so immersed in my volunteer activities, it's a miracle I get any work done at all. And many days, I don't. I'm writing a speech to give next weekend at the 25th anniversary of my son's high school, and another for a talk in October, with Powerpoint, in Fairfax, Virginia, plus arranging that trip. I'm finding speakers for the English conversation group, setting up a meeting about our Xmas Eve pageant Babe in the Barn, and spent the whole morning making lists of possible speakers for next year's Creative Non-fiction conference. I have to stop saying yes. Repeat after me: NO. Sorry. I have work to do.


This is a good time for me to do other stuff, though, with the manuscript floating about in two different places. Waiting for the no. Real writers would be starting their next book. I'm making lists of real writers to invite to our conference. And picking the basil in the garden that has to be cooked now, which is the only time I went outside all day. Didn't move all day. Sat here emailing constantly. Bad.

I did cook a delicious Japanese eggplant with garlic and basil dish, however, and spent a delightful hour delving into the file box of my son's life for material for the talk at his school. Did spend a great hour talking to him and eating a superb omelette he cooked for us both, on a quick visit to his old mum. It's a busy busy life, and I would not change a single thing. Except the presidents of the United States and North Korea - those I would definitely change. Particularly because, as a reminder of what can go wrong on our planet, Hilary Clinton was in town yesterday.

Speaking of being in town - the Invictus Games for wounded veterans have been going on all week here, and for sheer joy, how about this picture of the audience for wheelchair basketball? Two of the most adorable manspreading men on the planet side by side. And I'm not talking about Joe Biden, though he's not bad either. What I would like to say is: good job, mothers of these fine men. You done good. (Though truly, look at room taken up by the women's legs and the men's. Vive la difference!)
P.S If you want a smile, go to YouTube and find "B.C. man politely asks bears to leave his backyard." I've tried to put it here but can't. It's the most Canadian thing you'll see all day. Except for the photograph above, in which not a single audience member is paying the slightest attention to two of the most famous men in the world, seated in front of them.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

some crazy stuff

The weather has turned, praise be - it's normal out there, lovely, sunny with a bite in the air. I just sent the manuscript to an agent. So am feeling that bite in the air more than usual.

For your daily smile, today's absurdities from the internet:

Someone wrote, in a great Harry Potter reference, "This is the Platform 9 3/4 of bicycle lanes."


And best of all ... The Snurds. Where are they now?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

and now for the good news: Macca in NYC

We are living, my friends, through a time surreal with horror, when the base side of human nature is not only disclosed but encouraged and lauded. A time when citizens respond to inevitable change not with interest but with terror, revulsion, and violence. May this time pass quickly and vanish. May we think back on the Trump era, shaking our heads, wondering how it happened. May the dystopian literature that's bursting out not be proven true. In the meantime, I cling to newspaper columnists and sharp-tongued comedians to keep my sanity.

In the meantime, all I can do is tend my garden, not just the plants, but the neighbourhood - this morning, the English conversation group in Regents Park. There was a surreal moment when I saw me and my friend Linda surrounded by brown-skinned women, Jesmin, Razia, Nurun, and the others, wearing yards and yards of beautiful material, huge swaths of multi-coloured cloth enveloping their bodies and heads. Some new women came today, younger ones who did not wear the veil, which made me glad. But still, even those who do wear it, when they flip up that black cloth, I see beautiful lively faces anxious to learn English, full of laughter. It's a joy.

And then they flip the veil back down and go back to their lives, their many children, and Linda and I go to the Y for Carole's class where we met, running around puffing and panting and wearing very little. Not something our new Bengali friends have ever experienced.

And then I come home to my empty quiet house and think about the rest of the day, which somehow goes by, much of it sitting here with my fingers tapping - editing pieces for students, for the next So True, writing to friends, this blog, about next year's conference, preparing talks, reading online and on paper, trying to keep my head above the water of my responsibilities. My own work, buried for now. Cooking cleaning volunteering - when it's so difficult to get to work with only that, however did I do any writing when I had young children? The honest answer: I didn't, not very much.

And the New Yorker, another task, that gorgeous magazine arriving once a week in my mailbox. Impossible to keep up. But flipping through today's, I could not help but see this small mention of one of my greatest loves - yes, a mention in the coolest of the cool in NYC.
The New Yorker, Oct. 2, 2017
Night Life, Rock and Pop

Paul McCartney

McCartney’s “One on One” tour has rumbled into its last week in the tristate area. The tour was advertised with billboards featuring a simple image of his signature H√∂fner bass, devoid of his likeness – a cryptic campaign few other rock stars could pull off. McCartney has somehow grown from his association with a band that was “bigger than Jesus” to something even larger: a living, breathing time capsule from possibly the richest, most fawned over period in popular music. He’s also become cooler with age, and his infrequent collaborations with artists generations his junior (including his sitting in as a drummer on an upcoming Foo Fighters record) only further stoke his legend.

The writer is wrong in one thing - Macca has not at all "become cooler with age," he is just the same; it's just that cool people have finally recognized how extraordinary he is. Go Macca. Could you please save the world, while you're at it? 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

reasons to drink

Love this press release from the White House:
Melania Trump embarked on her first solo overseas trip as First Lady when she attended the Invictus Games in Toronto on Saturday. 
Melania visits Canada, that great country overseas. I'm not sure exactly which seas - does Lake Ontario count?

I'm listening to CBC's The World at Six, drinking white with ice cubes, wearing as little as possible in the on-going sweltering heat - the last few days indeed record-breaking, 32 degrees feeling nearer to 40 with the humidity. Tomorrow only 38. The news on CBC is  devastating. Do we even remember Barack Obama, his idealism and grace? Yes we can? It seems a lifetime ago.

I am going next month to Washington D.C., for a talk on my great-grandfather near there, in Fairfax, Virginia. I actually wrote yesterday to the woman producing the event to say - if it looks like nuclear war is going to break out, I will not be coming. I had a nightmare of war starting with me stuck in Washington, just the worst place to be. Hard to believe I'm even saying this. My father spent much of his life fighting nuclear proliferation; I grew up with the words "Strontium 90" and "nuclear proliferation" ringing in my ears. And now - two lunatics with their fingers on the button.

Spare us.

Teaching has started, two very full classes full of interesting people - I love my job, though I come home drained. I am not getting enough done. The manuscript is in limbo. Yesterday was Glenn Gould's birthday. Happy birthday, dear genius.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Word on the Street in the heat

Again, I apologize for the blowing-own-horn that follows, but what I received today via email is so beautiful and means so much to my battered writer's heart that I must share it with you. I've been corresponding with a writer who wants me to work as editor or coach on her next book, so I got her last memoir out of the library and loved it, found it powerful and profound. I wrote to tell her so, and she wrote back that she is reading "All My Loving."

Sometimes I read at night if I can’t sleep. I can usually do that without waking my partner who is a sound sleeper. But I’ve been waking him up lately because All My Loving is so damn funny it’s making me laugh out loud. You have drawn such a wonderful portrait and I am so drawn to her and all her trials. I also realize that over time I forgot the details, not just of us, but of our time, and you have brought all of it back to mind so beautifully, with such virtuosity and detail and intelligence. I am in awe. 

I forgot to adore myself at least as much as I adored Paul, and the portrait of your character is so hilariously potent and magnetic that I’ve now remembered how wildly potent I was too! It’s like reading a really smart love letter and the title so perfectly reflects the warmth that I’ve felt reading it. It is a gift to us on so many levels, and I am grateful.

Not as grateful, dear reader, as this author. As I wrote to her - we send our slaved-over, beloved works out into the world like defenceless children, without knowing if they will ever matter to anyone. So to receive something like this means more than I can express.

Okay, though I'd like to linger here ... moving on. The weather, insane, surely record-breaking heat, broiling, brutal, like a mid-summer heatwave only it's nearly October. And unfortunately, today was Word on the Street at Harbourfront, where there's no shade. I heard someone lamenting the past venues for this great festival of the printed word, and I couldn't agree more - I've been going for decades, since it was stretched out along Queen Street, and then in Queen's Park where there were TREES and real grass. And now Harbourfront where it's very crowded, all the little tents packed together, madness in the heat.

I was there first with Eli; we watched a show at the TVO marquee but mostly he wanted to run up and down the wavy wooden street over the water, so when his mother arrived, we sat in the shade and he ran and slid in the sun with a new friend. He is indefatigable and wherever he goes, he makes friends. Yesterday I took him to the Wellesley Street waterpark and he ran screaming through the water for a solid hour with his new BFF who was certainly on the autism spectrum, at one point punching the jets of water and shouting, "I hate you I hate you!" Eli just kept running and jumping and getting wetter. He'd just lost his first tooth, pulled out by his mama with dental floss, as her father did with her's.

And then a sleepover with Glamma. He climbed into my bed at 3 a.m. and proceeded to thrash about and snore, so I got up and carried him back to the spare room. Once I appreciated having a handsome young man in my bed; not so much now.

Later today at WOTS I met up with Kirsten Fogg, who is also on the committee to produce the creative non-fiction conference next year, and we went about listening to possible candidates for our event and then hiding in shady places. Two more days of this blazing heat, apparently, and then it starts to fade, and soon we'll be complaining about the cold. We're Canadians.

Friday, September 22, 2017

hot, with cucumbers and a rant

It's the autumn equinox, first day of fall, and tomorrow there's a heat warning in effect; with the humidity, the temperature will feel like 39 degrees. It's a full-on heatwave in Toronto, after a mild summer with lots of rain. Absolutely perfect timing - it means so much more to feel that warmth blasting your bones when you know what is lurking around the corner. What's hard to comprehend is the citizens of Toronto swanning around in tank tops when half the world, it seems, is under water or on fire, fleeing slaughter, struggling to survive in refugee camps or battered, smashed, destroyed, buried under rubble. Hard to be anything but grateful, and bewildered at our luck. Not to mention the fact that Canadians have, not a giant orange blowhole of a leader who at the U.N. threatens to wipe out a country of many millions of people, but one who speaks with painful, almost embarrassing honesty about the failure of this country to deal fairly with its indigenous population. What a contrast.

Immediately Canadians leapt onto FB and Twitter to bitch, to say it was "just rhetoric." Jesus God, could we not, for a tiny moment, celebrate a courageous generosity of spirit? Just for a minute or two, before piling on to criticize? It's like, if they're not inflamed, they cease to exist. Bitch on, my angry friends.


Yesterday, John came with his helper, Ricky in his gold high-tops, to do the massive job of trimming the dead ivy branches on the south wall and giving a haircut to the overgrown willow. Tons of work, a wonderful workout, much better than the Y. John was cutting back around my vegetable cage and found a giant cucumber growing outside, unfortunately yellow and so inedible. What a waste! But there are still LOTS more. I just made my grandmother Nettie's "cucumbers in sour cream and lemon" recipe, that I loved when I was a kid. Asked for the recipe in the early years of my marriage and never made it. Now's the time. Delicious.

Then, tea with the old friend who gave me my job at Ryerson 23 years ago and then moved to Vancouver, here to visit her son who now lives in TO. How grateful I am to her for a job I still love, after all this time. She gave me the terrible news that her husband, a dignified, very smart arts bureaucrat who was the model of diplomacy, intellect, and articulacy, is now in a nursing home suffering from Parkinson's-related dementia. The most tragic story. God preserve us all.

I took back a library book today, "Do I make myself clear?" by Harold Evans, editor extraordinaire, who rants wonderfully about obscure or needlessly complex language and provides page after page of translation into good plain English. I picked up two other books, but first, a treat - I've received "Euclid's Orchard," the new book of my friend Theresa Kishkan, a dear blog buddy though we have never met. I can't wait. She is a passionate thoughtful very wise writer, and I'm sure the book sounds just like her. And that Harold Evans would think so too.

Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. -H.G. Wells, writer (21 Sep 1866-1946)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

the reality of real estate

Wow, interesting. Just read my friend Kerry Clare's fascinating post, to the left, under "Pickle Me This"; apparently celebrating not buying a house is a controversial opinion in Toronto and provokes furious reactions. If people travelled more, if they spent time in Europe or southern countries, where a huge percentage of the population rent and could not dream of owning a house, they'd see how much we take for granted here. My father's French friend Jacques, a graphic artist, and his wife Henriette, an office manager, raised 3 sons in a small rented apartment in suburban Paris. But with careful husbanding of their money they managed to buy a tiny apartment and rent it out for many years, until the boys were grown and they sold it to give a small amount to each son toward a down payment. On an apartment.

My children will never own a house in Toronto, at least until I die and they inherit this one, and by then, they'll be so very old, they won't want all these stairs.


As usual I've been relishing my garden, which is my cottage. My neighbour Monique has an actual cottage on a lake, three hours away, so she regularly drives for six hours to sit in tranquillity and swim. I cannot swim here, but an extraordinary green tranquillity is mine in the centre of the city, right outside my kitchen door, and it keeps me sane. Incidentally, 31 years ago my husband and I were able to buy this wreck of a house for $180,000 because I wrote to my childless uncle in New York, who'd told me I was in his will, asking if he would mind giving me the money I'd inherit now rather than later, because after his death I'd be too sad to enjoy it. And he did, providing a good part of the down payment. So I am here gazing at my garden because I was lucky enough to have a generous uncle with no children of his own. And, to be fair, a husband with a good steady job who kept paying our enormous mortgage even after the divorce, so the kids and I could stay here. Otherwise, I'd have been renting too, Kerry, all those years.

Speaking of real estate, those of you who follow the other blogs on this page will know that my beloved Chris has sold his minuscule but perfect Vancouver condo for double what he paid for it ten years ago and is hoping to buy a place on Gabriola Island. So we will follow his adventure into a rural paradise, a man who has lived in Vancouver all his life moving to a remote island two ferry rides away from the city, with lots of interesting people and artists and space and nature - otters! eagles! - but also the isolation of a very small community cut off from the mainland. For me, a recipe for losing my sanity, but for Chris, we hope, the exact opposite, a way to regain his.

My dear neighbour Richard came for dinner last night on the deck, such an interesting man, twitching only occasionally as he reached out to his phone to check Twitter and his various other feeds. We discussed the problem of political correctness; the ridiculous extremes of identity politics was one of the reasons, he said, Trump was elected. I've been dealing with this issue as I work in various ways with millennials, who sometimes, it seems to me, are absurdly over-sensitive to every perceived injustice and slight, bending over backwards to accommodate everyone who might possibly have a grievance. Being white and middle-class and middle-aged makes me a target for their scorn. Obviously the old bag is a dinosaur.

Had my first Ryerson class on Monday, a wonderfully vivid group, as usual. I was glad to see on the class list beforehand that there were 3 men registered, as 2 is usually the maximum; men are rare in my memoir class and very welcome. However, when I got there, I found that one of the men is now a woman in the process of transition. So only 2 official men after all. How interesting life is. How I love my work. It was great to get dressed in my respectable teacher clothes and set off on my bike, riding through the chaotic swirl of Ryerson students packed into the downtown streets. And then to sit in a small room and begin the journey to truth.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

the best tabbouleh recipe

One of those blessed days, rare in a busy life - no obligations, no company, nothing but the sun, the garden, my own little life to tend to. Anna and the boys are still away, Sam is busy and happy on the other side of town, and what I have to do today is fiddle and potter and dither and tidy and edit and, of course, spend just a tiny bit of time right here, plunging into the internet.

Last night, Bill Maher's show, one of the best ever - his guests Salman Rushdie and Fran Lebowitz and later Tim Gunn. Lebowitz, so dry and witty, has no time for Bernie Sanders. "He left New York when he was eighteen!" she said. "Can you imagine being eighteen in New York and saying, no, can't cope with this, and leaving for (she shuddered) Vermont?" She looks like a wise, wizened older lady with badly dyed hair, and I was horrified, after Googling, to discover that she's a few months younger than I am.
This morning I rode to the market fairly early, to find the Mennonite farm butchers were not crowded; they're often overwhelmed with people. They raise their animals without hormones or chemicals, free range, in pens not giant barns, so that's where I try to buy my meat. Though I want to become a vegetarian and try as often as possible to eat meals without meat, I'm not there yet, and today I stocked up on my favourite, pork, most for the freezer - a roast, back bacon, ground for spaghetti sauce, chops, tenderloin. Thank you, brother pig, for the pleasure you will give for weeks to come.

And then both peaches and apples - O happy day, when we can buy both peaches from summer and apples from autumn, the first tart, juicy Macs; raspberries, blueberries, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, new red potatoes, happiness. A heavy load on the back on the uphill ride home.

And so to work - today is cooking day, though I'm working also, editing students for So True, which is almost full already, more than a month early, and of course my own stuff. Just listened to Sheila Rogers while making gazpacho - still using up cukes - then spaghetti sauce, ratatouille, tabbouleh. A tomato based diet this week.

The tabbouleh recipe was given to me by my friend Isabelle in France in 1979. I have made it endless times - it's perfect for pot lucks, for example, particularly as I have so much mint taking over the garden, which is why I made it again today. I realized that the recipe is falling apart.
So I typed it up in my own translated version, and am sharing it with you today. Invaluable. I hope it's useful to you.

Isabelle's Tabbouleh

Prepare 2 hours in advance, for 6 people.

200 grams couscous – 1¼ cups
500 g. tomatoes – approx. 16 oz or 1 lb.
a small onion
a bunch parsley
a bigger bunch mint
6 tablespoons peanut oil (maybe less)
juice of 1 lemon (maybe less, maybe a bit more)
salt, pepper

In a food processor, chop the onion, tomatoes, parsley and mint. In large bowl, mix the couscous with the tomato mixture plus the lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and put in the fridge, stirring from time to time. Add a bit of tomato juice if it's too dry. 

C'est tout. Isabelle says to add mussels, if you want. 

There's a load of laundry drying in the sun, things on the stove, the humming of the fridge and the silence of the city. The tapping of fingers. The gratefulness in my heart. This week, I realized that through the years, I have emailed our beloved family doctor, mine, Anna's and Sam's -  her clinic has a website through which it's possible to reach her by email - with various complaints. So yesterday, I sent her an email, the headline "Nothing's wrong." "We are all well," I wrote, to say that right now, for once, there's nothing to ask or tell her.  

Right now, this minute at dusk on this sweet Saturday in September, nothing is wrong. Except with our dear battered world.

Also discovered my mother's famous recipe for cheesecake, that I have not made for years. Let me know if you'd like me to send it to you.
P.S. Last night, at Madison Square Gardens, Macca had a special guest - Bruce Springsteen. They sang "When I saw her standing there" together. So sorry to have missed that.

Friday, September 15, 2017

nearly there, I think

We're having summer now, in mid-September - hot hot every day, stunning. The roses have decided it's July and are out again in full glory, and so is the fall-blooming clematis, like a swath of white stars climbing up my neighbour's giant pine tree.
Other people are out there busily having lives, especially at TIFF, where Jean-Marc and Richard have undoubtedly seen every soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated film, several a day. The theatre season is revving up, music, art, concerts, even TV. But for this writer, the world is this chair by the back door, the frozen bum on the seat, finishing this opus. Yes, it is nearly finished, at least, I think so. I've written to several friends who might help open doors to publishers and/or an agent. I'm going over and over now, taking out every single word that doesn't belong. Best of all, my home class started last night - wonderful to see those dear writers again - and at the end of class, I read them the first few pages of the last rewrite. They have followed this journey from the start, have heard some of the other beginnings - how many have their been? A dozen, anyway - and so when they said they thought it worked well, that it was much better and ready to go, it was a tremendous relief, a gift. I felt it, though, before they said so. I know it's more solid than it has ever been. Whether that's enough for my "nobody memoir" to interest a publisher, however, in this age of mass confusion in the publishing world, who knows?

In any case, I am hoping to have it finished and out there by the end of the weekend, because on Monday, my Ryerson term begins with a full class, on Wednesday it's the U of T event welcoming instructors, on Sunday it's Word on the Street, and the following week the U of T term begins and the home class continues. I have to tend to the rest of my life. My clothes are in a giant pile in the bedroom, the fridge is nearly empty, the garden is parched, my body is falling apart. Time to put this squalling, demanding baby to bed.

The English conversation group continues with my new friends Nurun, Foyzun, Razia, Delwara, Roshnaza, Rokeya, Moymun, Jesmin, and Neghisti. Our topic this week was things to do in Toronto, and they spoke with great animation about the swim just for women at the Regent Park pool. Twice a week they pull down the blinds so the glass walls of the pool are covered and women can swim in whatever they want. I talked about swimming at Hanlan's Point wearing nothing at all, but I'm not sure they understood, I think that was just too far from their experience. I've been to that women-only swim and many wear t-shirts and leggings, even with only females. However. They're there, that's what matters, and nine of them or so are at our conversation group, chatting, more or less, in English. It's wonderful.

Sam Bee had an extremely moving segment on Wednesday, with the founder of an organization called "Life after Hate," which helps white supremacists overcome their rage and find peace. Magnificent. He said Obama gave them a big grant and Trump immediately rescinded it, of course, but they are crowd-funding. The segment pointed out with statistics how very much more violence in the States comes from white supremacists, not Muslims. But you wouldn't know it from the media. Sam Bee is a lifeline, fearless and full of heart. I adore her.

This is my life, perfectly captured by Roz Chast in this week's New Yorker:

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cabbagetown Festival

What a weekend. I see that Angelina Jolie is in town at the film festival with all her beautiful children, the wonderful Helen Mirren too and George Clooney and all kinds of other stars. Somewhere over there.

Here, it was the Cabbagetown Festival on the most gorgeous weekend for it I can remember - hot with a touch of chill. The streets were packed with garage sales, music, street food, thousands of people ... today, walking down Parliament Street marvelling at the diversity of the huge crowds, I ran into a firetruck with, sitting on the back bumper, five firemen in a row, relaxing in the sun. What a wonderful day, I said, they concurred, and we talked about the peaceful mixing of people from around the world in this blessed neighbourhood. Need I say these firemen were handsome? A great moment, surpassed only by a moment not long before, sitting outside Riverdale Farm listening to a big band play my favourite song in the world, Macca's "When I'm 64." Hot sun, great music, all around booths with a curated show of artisanal products, jewelry, painting, weaving, food ...
 Fresh oysters on Parliament Street.
A transgender stiltwalker, very popular. Where else, O lord, would there be a transgender stilt walker in sexy frontier clothing walking down the middle of the high street?

So yes, it was a good weekend. At the garage sales I found exactly what I was looking for: a red bicycle for Eli for when he visits here, rubber boots and Crocs also for him when he comes, a giant bag of Fisher Price animals for $10, a set of Paw Patrol sheets, and a glow in the dark skeleton Hallowe'en costume for Ben. (I consulted with their mother, who's in Nova Scotia, before all these purchases by text. "@#$# yeah!" she'd write back.)

Some artisanal dark chocolate with almonds and a notebook, of course, for me, and some pretty cards painted by a local artist. And then I discovered a woman on Gerrard Street selling her own shoes - a big-footed woman who runs drumming classes and whose husband lives in Africa - and bought just what I need for fall, two pairs of boots, for $20 each. Hardly worn. In my enormous size. @#$# yeah!
Just one glitch - I registered, as always, for the fundraising mini-marathon on Sunday morning, a gruelling two kilometre run through the 'hood. Sunday morning, I got ready, stretched, and headed out at 9.40 to run at 10. Couldn't understand why a big crowd was gathered and prizes were being given out beforehand. The race, I discovered, starts at 9. As it has for the last 25 years that I've done it. Oh oh, the brain is toast already. So I missed the run, which meant that my legs didn't hurt for the rest of the day. What a shame. Otherwise, fun.

I know, the rest of the world is in such dire straights, it beggars belief - hurricanes, floods, the Rohingya, North Korea. Here in a little corner of the planet, a weekend of bargains, street food - my fridge full of pad thai, tacos, Chinese noodles, Afghani leek and lentil patties - and fun. Thank you.

My friend Gretchen just came over - she'd read the manuscript and had a few pages of thoughtful commentary, nothing too drastic, places where the timeline or the structure were confusing. After we'd talked about the book, we talked about our young lives, where she was and what she was doing in 1979 when I was having the adventures described in the book. Another great thing about being a writer - when what you write triggers memories in a reader, a need to delve into, explore, and understand his or her own past.

@#$% yeah.

Friday, September 8, 2017

gearing up for fall

Last night the police closed down the block outside my house and were patrolling the street with guns and dogs. There's a rumour of someone doing random shootings in Regent Park, and it's possible they thought he - presumably a he - was hiding on this block. Or something else. Anyway, it was pretty exciting and even scary for a bit. So much for tranquil little Cabbagetown.

Which this weekend hosts the Cabbagetown Festival - the streets flooded, not with hurricanes, but with garage sales, street food, shoppers and strollers. I will be shopping the street sales for a bike for Eli and Christmas presents. There's a curated artisanal sale outside Riverdale Farm, and the run on Sunday morning, the mini-marathon, one mile or so, that I never miss. Eating, running, shopping: I excel at two of these.

On Wednesday morning our Regent Park English conversation group started for the fall, and there were nine women, the most ever - almost all as usual from Bangladesh, sitting with us to chat about "What I did on my summer vacation." They mostly visited family in other cities, though one went camping - imagine a family of recent arrivals from Bangladesh in the Ontario woods. About half the women are veiled, though all wear traditional headscarves and draped long robes. But when they come in, they flip up the scarf and there are our friends. I don't understand the niqab, I don't like it, but I do like the women who wear it, at least the ones I've met.

That night was the Cabbagetown Short Film Festival, a fantastic event my neighbour Gina Dineen has curated and organized for 26 years. At the start it was in a pub; now it's held in swanky splendour of the Daniels Arts Centre on Dundas, about 16 films from 2 to 18 minutes long, from around the world - animated, documentaries, dramas, all fantastic, and some of the filmmakers and actors were there. Thrilling, hilarious, a tour of the world without leaving your seat.

Yesterday afternoon, Anna and the boys came to visit. Amazing what two very small people can do to rip the house apart in only a few hours.
The sofa: both fort and trampoline
As you can see - Ben is small for two and Eli is tall for five, but there's a fine brotherhood there.

Last night, as I hosted one of my oldest friends Margaret from Vancouver - we met when pregnant with our older children - we watched a NFB film called "Window Horses" on the movie channel. An odd title for a superb, truly gorgeous film, animated, about a young poet from Vancouver who goes to a poetry festival in Iran and finds herself and her past. Highly recommended; seek it out.

And finally, on the home front - sigh. Sigh. I received a no from the literary agent I wrote to about the memoir, which is just as well, as I also received another book report from a former student and very perceptive reader who nailed the problems - still there - with the first 40 pages or so. Once again, the France stuff is great, getting there not so much. I thought I was nearly done, but I'm not.

So, the autumn to do list:
1. finish the book.
2. find a way to get the book into the world, the worst part of the job as far as I'm concerned
3. teaching: Ryerson, U of T, home class
4. October: prepare a talk for the 20th anniversary of my son's high school Rosedale Heights about the parents' arts council which I helped found
5. prepare a talk with Powerpoint for the Fairfax, Virginia JCC about my great-grandfather book
6. November: the next So True - eight essays to find, edit, finalize, plus my own
7. December: the Babe in the Barn pageant Xmas Eve - meetings about finding babies and cast members etc.
8. End of October: my basement tenant moves out and a new one moves in, much cleaning to do
9. ditto with the attic - Carol is going back to Ecuador for six months and a young Frenchwoman is moving in
10. got to get to Ottawa to visit Do
11. online and in person meetings about the Canadian Creative Non-fiction conference next May that I'm on the conference committee for
Also: food clothing housing exercise health reading friends family and writing this blog.

Otherwise, nothing to do.

Did I mention finish the book? No question, the above list is one reason I've produced so few books. Not just that I was an actress for ten years and a stay at home mother for another ten, but that I get involved in so many things and can't imagine not getting involved. So - the output is slow, but the life is pretty damn interesting. Though it's true, last night I couldn't sleep, thinking of all I have to do. What I did on my summer vacation: worry.

Monday, September 4, 2017

labour day podcasts

There could be not a nicer Labour Day - hot with a breeze, after yesterday's chilly late afternoon rain. And the city is still, except for the air show, blasting around in the sky every so often. And then, still again.

Amazing even myself, I went to Carol's Boot Camp at the Y at 9 a.m. this morning. Carol is my spectacular Wednesday teacher, a woman nearly 70 who looks 50 at most, is off to run a marathon soon - where did she say? Singapore? Dublin? Rio? She has run all over the world. Anyway, I have never made one of her holiday boot camp classes because they start at 9 a.m. and because of the words "boot camp." However, today's was on the green roof of the Y, so I went. And it was wonderful - the Y's roof is planted with wild grasses, and we ran around in the morning sun, most of the participants fast, some of us slowly, and did other boot campy things, some with a great deal of energy and commitment, and some, not so much. I was one of the slowest and weakest. But I was there, exercising on the roof of the Y at 9.15 a.m. on Labour Day. It felt great.

And then, continuing my virtuous streak, I cooked for hours in the afternoon, listening to podcasts while using my own basil and garlic to make pesto and my own tomatoes, garlic and basil to make pasta sauce. I picked one of the biggest cucumbers I've ever seen and made a cucumber avocado lemon salad with my own parsley. For the next few days, I will eat well, little grasshopper. Come on over and join me.

And while I worked, these fabulous podcasts. The Anne Lamott one I've heard before but it bears hearing again, perhaps regularly - she's so funny and wise. And the other - not so funny but very wise. Happy labour day to you all.

Tomorrow, Eli goes to Senior Kindergarten. He's a senior already.

PS. Tears in my eyes. Rosemary, who's read my first 40 pages, just emailed that she will send them soon. I make the occasional small suggestion, but generally I think you’ve nailed it this time – it moves along, without any dragging at all. 

Nailed it! No dragging at all! Can a writer ask for more? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"working very well"

Looking at photos of the flooding in Texas, of the far worse disaster in Bangadesh, feeling so very safe and dry - at least today - in Cabbagetown. How lucky are we, with our relatively stable government, our health care... wait, there are brutal forest fires out west, there's flooding in this country too, there's racism everywhere. But the key word is relatively - we're relatively safe. On Saturday I was riding my bike through Regent Park; suddenly I thought I was in Mecca. There were many hundreds of Muslims gathered in a field south of here, the men in long white robes and little round hats, the women in hijab or niqab. It was Eid, the end of the great celebration, and they were gathered to pray and feast. Extraordinary. My city, open to all.

Today, brunch with the best neighbours on the planet, Jean-Marc and Richard, in their beautiful garden, with other neighbours, such interesting people. I've lived across the street from Susan and David for 20 years, only found out today what fascinating lives they lead, she a cancer researcher and triathlete.  The other couple, two handsome young men, one from Lima and the other from New Delhi, met on Church Street. I love this place. We had a discussion, not just about politics and travel, but about Cabbagetown wildlife - opossum, raccoons, ferocious squirrels - not far away, deer, beaver, coyotes, and one very large cat who terrorizes the whole street. The wilderness of Toronto.

But I'm not much fun these days, still sitting sitting sitting, poking at the manuscript, wanting to finish it and get it out. I emailed the rewrite of the first 40 pages today to Rosemary, uber editor, who has seen previous drafts. After reading a few pages, she emailed, So far I think the revisions are working very well. Much smoother and good momentum.

May I scream? Cheer? WOOHOOOOO!!! Of course, that's after only a few pages. But still, encouraging words. Smoother! Momentum! I'll take it.

Ryerson doesn't start for two more weeks. What a gift. It's almost full already, so it's going to be one of the big big classes. I'll be up for it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Kathy Dawn Lang

A heavenly heavenly day. It has been colder than usual, to the point that riding home from a concert a few days ago in a wool jacket and beret, I wished I had gloves. Gloves, in August! But today there's heat with a cool breeze, and the garden is in full bloom, especially the fall-blooming clematis, like little white stars, bursting out all over. I went to the market this morning to get apples, but there aren't many yet, so I had to make do - sigh - with peaches, peppers, and blueberries. And multi-seed sourdough. And - of course - corn.

In the early eighties, when my parents were living in Edmonton, a colleague of Dad's invited them out one night to hear a friend's daughter sing in a bar. The young singer's name was Kathy Dawn, and my parents were bemused but impressed. She was wearing strange cowgirl clothes and was very funny, they said, but with a magnificent voice. That voice took her places, and the other night, Kathy Dawn, now known as K.D. Lang, was at the Sony Centre where I went to see her.

I have to say - the concert was not my favourite, didn't hold a candle to Bonnie Raitt for warmth. It turned out the tour was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her album "Ingenue," which is full of moody young woman songs. It took an hour before she warmed up and began to sing something lively. She was barefoot, wearing a most unflattering square suit, looking like Wayne Newton. (When I told Carol that, she exclaimed, "I saw her a few years ago and thought exactly the same thing - K.D. is turning into Wayne Newton!")

Many people in the audience were ecstatic, however. Canadian audiences are starting to become an embarrassment, I have to say. If an actor actually remembers his lines - if a singer like K.D. holds a note longer than normal - people explode into rapturous applause and even standing ovations. Phooey.

Okay, enough, crabby old lady, on this stunning day. Yesterday I went with Anna and the boys to the beach near Sunnyside - we ate at the restaurant on the boardwalk, our summer ritual, and played in the sand. Oh little boys and water and sand, nothing better to watch. Now there's the chip chip chip of the cardinal - time to fill the bird feeder. Wayson is having a little nap on the deck, the willow is swaying in the breeze, and life does not get much better than this.